HARWICH — With the coming of spring each year, piping plovers follow close behind. Sure enough, they have returned to Red River and Bank Street beaches.
Piping plovers, considered threatened on both the Massachusetts and the federal endangered species list, have been seen along the Nantucket Sound beaches over the past couple of weeks.
Melyssa Millett, assistant conservation agent, said staff observed one pair on Red River Beach and two pairs in the Bank Street Beach area. No eggs have been seen in nests, she added.
To protect the threatened species, the town ropes off the plovers' nesting habitat. Ropes have been put in place on the east end of Red River Beach and sections of the Bank Street Beach. Millett said the town monitors plover activities along the public beaches, and Massachusetts Audubon handles private beachfront properties. The conservation department has representatives checking on the plovers on a daily basis, she said.
The posted signs accompanying the rope read: “Piping plovers and their chicks on this beach are protected by local, state, and federal law. Persons may be fined or arrested for killing, harassing or in any way disturbing these birds.”
The plovers arrived a little early this year, Millett said, but that is not unusual for Red River. Once eggs are observed and young chicks hatch, the monitoring becomes a little more intense. The town often uses barricades along the east end of the Red River Beach parking lot to keep vehicles and foot traffic away from the meandering chicks until they fledge.
Last year the chicks dragged their feet a little bit before taking flight. They usually fledge by mid-July, but it was the beginning of August last year before they lifted off. That had some people complaining about the inability to park vehicles along the east end of the beach parking lot. With the early arrival this year, officials hope the young plovers will be airborne by the Fourth of July.