HARWICH — The piping plover chicks nesting on the east end of Red River Beach have fledged, and the town will soon remove concrete barriers placed across a section of the parking lot to protect the state and federally protected species.
“I have some fantastic news to share,” Rebeca Linhart of the Massachusetts Audubon Society informed Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski on July Fourth. “When visiting Red River today I found all four chicks on Pleasant Street Beach [ in Chatham] across the stream in the marsh behind the beach. I then watched each of the chicks fly way up and over back onto [the] Red River side. With that observation, we can call these chicks officially fledged and flying! Such fantastic news.”
The town was required to close access to one-third of the beach parking lot and the dune section of the beach on the east end when the chicks were first observed at the beginning of June. The town's department of public works was called in to place concrete barriers across the east section of the parking lot. Fencing was also installed to keep people away from the plover nest.
Usowski informed selectmen that under the law, when piping plover chicks hatch, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife can determine that up to a 1,000 meters around the nest can be closed off to vehicles, including parking lots and beaches. However, the town reached an agreement with the state and Mass Audubon to close off only 400 meters, lessening the public impact at the town's largest beach.
Based on the activity of the plovers at the east end of the parking lot and use of a large access path allowing the tiny birds passage to and from the marsh behind the lot, Mass Audubon in mid-June determined 50 percent more of the parking lot could be open to vehicles.
Linhart on July Fourth removed two sections of fencing from the beach and all the low chick fencing on the western edge of the beach, but the fencing on the eastern side was left in place because that is an area the chicks are using.
“We would like to leave this nursery area fenced for them to have some refuge,” Linhart stated in her email to Usowski. “We also would like to leave the adjacent fencing up because there is a lot of vegetation here that is providing cover for the chicks.”
Over the past month the town was required to provide monitoring when raking the beach, which required that a person walk in front of the beach rake when the DPW was cleaning the beach. Linhart stated in her email that the escort is no longer necessary now that the chicks are able to fly.
As of Monday, the barriers at the east end of the Red River Beach parking lot remained, but Town Administrator Christopher Clark said the barriers are not taking away parking spaces, just blocking access to the cul-de-sac. He said the barriers will remain in place a few more days to allow the chicks to fly more efficiently. He anticipated that the DPW would remove the barriers by the weekend.