For the Western Snowy Plover, the nesting season is from March 15 – September 15. They can nest multiple times in this six-month period, which helps their nesting strategy. If their nest fails, they still have time to re-nest, giving them a chance to have a successful nest. If their nest succeeds, they can have more chicks. In this past week alone, there have been over 8 hatchings. Portland State University Plover Monitors have been banding the newborn chicks. The monitors let us know that more nests have been found outside of the nesting areas, which have already been roped off. Since more nests have been showing up on the beaches along the Siuslaw, the wildlife team was called out to help put up more ropes and signs along with these habitat areas. The area that needed roping off was out at the Spinreel Campground all the way to the outlet of Tenmile Creek. This time we were able to bring out more field rangers with us, which was great, so they could get a chance to see what the wildlife work out on the beaches was like.

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A quick recap on the Western Snowy Plover’s nesting strategy. They are open shore-nesting birds, which means they nest on the flat, open beach and within the dune vegetation. There generally isn’t much vegetation or driftwood around the site. The nests are shallow scrapes in the sand that may be lined with small fragments of shells or other debris that can be found along the beach. These nests are hard to find because shorebirds like the western snowy plover rely mainly on concealment for their defense against predators. These birds and their eggs are well camouflaged against the sand because of the coloration. But before these eggs are laid, the male goes around and makes a bunch of potential nests in the sand. He makes a few circular scrapes in the sand, and the female will choose the one that she likes the best. Most of the snowy plovers are loyal to their sites; if they were successful at a site one year, then they will return to that same site the next year. If not, they will move to another site and hope for success there.

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The roping work continues even at this point in the breeding season, so hopefully, our plovers are successful and there are more nests to be found. Going out and roping off with the wildlife team means that they are still trying to have a successful nest. If we can help give them every opportunity available, then hopefully their numbers will improve by the end of the season. More nests and more surviving chicks will make for a good nesting season for the western snowy plover.

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