two back-to-back storms that drenched the islands with rain had little
impact on the established bird and turtle nests along the Cape Hatteras
National Seashore, according to the National Park Service.
Depression Bonnie brought record-breaking rainfall of up to a foot to a
number of areas along the islands, while Tropical Storm Colin, which
breezed through the Outer Banks on Tuesday morning roughly a week
later, added approximately 3 more inches of rain to areas that were
But the absence of storm surge
-- as well as no drastically high tides or high winds -- are credited
for the fact that the majority of nests along Bodie Island, Hatteras
Island, and Ocracoke Island came through unscathed.
Swilling, the seashore's natural resource program manager, reports that
no turtle nests were damaged during either weather event.
the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has 30 turtle nests along the
beaches, which includes one on Bodie Island, 15 on Hatteras Island, and
14 on Ocracoke Island. This is actually a big jump from the June 2
weekly resource management report, which recorded a total of 13 nests,
including one on Bodie Island, seven on Hatteras Island, and five on
There was also little damage reported to
existing bird nests, with two exceptions. Some colonial waterbird nests
were flooded along Cape Point, and also along Bodie Island spit. In the
Bodie Island Spit area, three different colonies had fairly substantial
decreases in nesting and breeding activity.
also noticed a lot of coyote activity in the area, however,” noted
Swilling, “so it could be a combination of bad weather and predator
activity [at Bodie Island Spit.]”
A recent closure
was also reported about halfway down Ramp 45 in Buxton as piping
plovers and their chicks moved west from their original nest more than
800 meters away, but Swilling said there was no way to know if the
movement was storm related, or simply a natural movement towards
different foraging areas.
The term “colonial
waterbirds” refers to terns and black skimmers, which are birds that
tend to nest in groups as opposed to out on their own – like
American oystercatchers or piping plovers, which produce “solitary”
“They’re very gregarious, and tend to
nest in large numbers together – it’s a ‘safety in numbers’ kind of
strategy,” said Swilling.
He also noted that
because this wave of storms hit so early in the year, the chance of
impacted nests being able to bounce back is fairly high. “It’s still
early enough in the breeding season that any nest [that had damage]
could be re-breeding soon,” said Swilling.
knowledge of what nests have been impacted are part of an islands-wide
survey that the NPS conducts after every major or even minor storm that
brushes through the area.
Before a storm looms,
the NPS does not disturb or move the nests in any way. “There’s no
special steps we take when storms approaches, because it’s a natural
event - a natural occurrence,” said Swilling. “Instead, we take a ‘wait
and see’ approach, and go out after it has passed to assess the damage.”
soon as the park feels it’s safe to resume normal operations, we’re
back out there in full force with our resource staff along with law
enforcement to assess any impacts,” Swilling said on Wednesday.
“Yesterday, everyone was in the office, and this morning, they were out
on the ground, doing assessments.”
said that the primary concern when it comes to storms is tidal overwash
and storm surge. “Normally, a big impact comes from tidal overwash and
high tides – the heavy surf, and the heavy winds,” he said. “High winds
can also play a role because they can cover up a nest, and cause the
birds to abandon them.
“We didn’t get significant
impact from [these factors] during these past two storms, and that was
our saving grace here. The water levels came up a little bit at Cape
Point, but overall, we’re holding our own.”
the number of total nests that are currently present this year versus
last year – which includes colonial waterbirds, oystercatchers, and
Wilson’s and piping plovers -- Swilling said that the numbers are
“Everything so far is the
same as last year. The birds seemed to start a little earlier this year
because we had such a mild winter. As a result, they were able to
establish territories earlier. In terms of numbers, however, we’re
about the same.”
seashore used its new buffer regulations to allow an off-road vehicle
corridor to pass through an area near Cape Point where a pair of
American oystercatchers had established a nest. The corridor
allowed the Point to remain open to vehicles for more than a month
longer than the previous several years, but ORV access was closed on
May 11 when colonial waterbirds began exhibiting nesting behavior in
the oystercatchers near Cape Point are raising three chicks that
hatched in late May and take 50 to 55 days for fledging. The parents
and their chicks are featured in the short video at the end of this
article -- which was posted on the seashore's Facebook page on June 1
and credited to seasonal biotech Michael Villalobos.
to the latest seashore resource management report, there have been
eight piping plover nests to date -- six at Cape Point and one each on
north Ocracoke and south Ocracoke. As of this week, the two nests on
Ocracoke were still listed as active, while there were no active nests
remaining at Cape Point. There are, however, two active broods in
the Cape Point area.