A record number of piping plovers are nesting on Duxbury Beach this year, but so far the town has no plans to close the over-sand vehicle access areas, although other parts of the beach have been declared off-limits because of the birds.
According to the Endangered Species Officer, Mike Pforr, as of last week, there were 20 piping plover nests on Duxbury Beach, with two to three more pairs of the diminutive shore birds arriving this week. Piping plovers are a protected species under the Endangered Species Act. Along the Atlantic coast, the birds are designated as ‘threatened,’ meaning that they will continue to decline in population if they are not protected. The Endangered Species Act prohibits taking, harassing or harming the piping plover or its habitat.
If all of these birds stay on the beach and nest, there could be up to 22 nests on Duxbury Beach, Town Manager René Read told Duxbury selectmen at their meeting Monday. The nests will begin hatching in early to mid-June.
“As of this time, there are no nests that will directly impact the first or second crossover beach access ramps,” Read said.
However, if any birds nest along the off-road vehicle area, or ORV corridor, then access will be restricted “as is mandated by state and federal law and the Duxbury Beach Management Plan,” said Read.
Last year, there were a total of 17 nesting pairs of piping plover on Duxbury Beach. From June until July 2013, the town closed the entire off-road vehicle section of the beach, most of the resident’s pedestrian beach, and much of the public bathing beach at Duxbury Beach Park, or Blakeman’s, because of the record number of piping plover nests and their locations.
Currently, an area of the front beach near Blakeman’s is restricted and fenced, with warning signs. Other areas, too, are expected to be restrict-ed, such as an area between the town boardwalk north to Blakeman’s on the front beach, an area near Blakeman’s south lot, part of the front beach north of Blakeman’s, the south end of pedestrian beach before the drive-on beach, and areas near high pines in the dunes.
Piping plovers return annually to nest on Duxbury Beach and over the past few years their numbers have been increasing. In 2009, there were 11 nesting pairs. In the past five years, the birds have doubled their numbers on the beach and are now at 22 pairs.
Read promised to keep the public updated as conditions change on the beach or if closures to the ORV area become necessary. Information is also available at the Duxbury Harbormaster's website or by calling that office.