The National Park Service closed Ramp 43 in Buxton this morning to protect a nest of piping plover chicks that has started hatching.
As of late this afternoon, three chicks in the four-egg nest had hatched, according to Randy Swilling, the Park Service’s natural resource program manager.
Ramps 44 and 45 are already closed to ORVs, so effectively now there is no ORV access from Ramp 38 south of Avon to Ramp 49 in south Frisco.
The nest, Swilling said, is located about midway between Ramps 43 and 44, a distance of about a mile.
It is not an area where piping plovers have historically nested.
The ORV buffer for piping plover chicks is 1,000 meters, but it is only 300 meters for pedestrians.
Therefore, Swilling said, pedestrian access is still open north of Ramp 43 and for a short distance south of Ramp 44. Ramp 45 and the Salt Pond Road are closed to ORVs and pedestrians.
The parking area at Ramp 43 will not be affected by the plover chicks, Swilling said, because there is a natural barrier – a dune — between the nest and the parking area.
Today, Swilling said the three hatched chicks have remained in the nest “cup.”
However, it’s possible that they will move from the narrow, steep beach to a better area for foraging.
“It’s going to be interesting to see where the adults take these chicks,” Swilling said.
If the parents move the brood, it is generally within a few days of hatching, he said. He added that the buffer will move with the chicks, so it is possible that Ramp 43 could reopen before long.
This year, Swilling said, piping plover nesting in the Cape Point area has been “about the same as last year.”
There have been seven nests in the area, though most are closer to the Point and in the hook along the South Beach.
The park reported five active broods in its resource management summary that was released yesterday, though Swilling said some chicks disappeared after Tropical Storm Andrea last Friday. Park Service biotechnicians are still looking for the missing chicks, he said.
None of the chicks has yet fledged.
There have also been two nests at Ocracoke’s South Point, with only one active nest remaining.
Some business owners in Buxton are especially unhappy with the latest ramp closure, since all of Buxton is now inaccessible to ORVs at a time when fishing at Ramp 43 has been good.
“It is no longer a national seashore but a gated, closed beach being patrolled by armed guards…,” Bob Eakes, owner of the Red Drum tackle shop in Buxton, said in an e-mail today.
For information on areas within the seashore that remain open for recreational uses, see:
http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/googleearthmap.htm or call 252-473-2111.