July 3, 2013

Piping plover chicks at Ramp 43
about a week from fledging

By IRENE NOLAN


The four piping plover chicks that hatched from a nest near Ramp 43 on June 13 are still in the area and foraging around a pond near the ramp and occasionally in surf on the ocean beach, according to Randy Swilling, natural resources program manager for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The three-week-old chicks, Swilling said, are a week or so from fledging.  Piping Plover chicks usually fledge in about 28 days.

So there is a chance that Ramp 43 could be re-opened by the end of next week or soon after.

All of Buxton has been shut down to off-road vehicle access since the piping plover nest hatched on June 13.  Ramps 44 and 45 were already closed. 

Currently, there is no ORV access between Ramp 38 on the south end of Avon and Ramp 49 on the south end of Frisco, a distance of about 10 miles.

Pedestrian access is also reduced.  Ramps 43 and 45 are closed to pedestrians. Ramp 44 is open to pedestrians to hike out to the ocean beach but access, once there, is limited.  The closure of Ramp 45 behind the Cape Point Campground means the folks staying there must drive to another area for access.

If you want to hike out to the beach, you can park at the area near the fish tables at Ramp 44.  The road to Ramp 43 is closed at the fish tables.

Swilling said that so far, two piping plover chicks have fledged in the Cape Point area.  In addition to the brood at Ramp 43, there is one other brood of chicks out toward the Point. He said he did not know how many chicks were in that brood, but he said it was fewer than four.

He added that several piping plover have tried to re-nest – unsuccessfully – and that it is getting late in the season for re-nesting by the birds.

“It could happen,” he said, “but time is running out.”

At this point, there have been no other successful attempts at nesting by piping plovers in the seashore.  All of the action has been at Cape Point.

Even if all of the chicks now on the ground in the Point area fledge, the total for the year will be the lowest since 2009.

Unless there is another successful nest, the highest number of chicks that could fledge this year would be seven to nine.

Fifteen chicks fledged in 2010, 10 in 2011, and 11 in 2012.


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