A nesting platform initiative for endangered birds in Maryland’s coastal bays is a huge success

A nesting platform initiative for endangered birds in Maryland’s coastal bays is a huge success

The Conservation Partnership is celebrating a successful breeding season for Common Reds

When it opens in May 2022, the artificial island is complete with bird feeders to attract nesting waterfowl. Photo by Archer Larned, Maryland Coastal Bays Program

A partnership between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Audubon Mid-Atlantic and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program announced another successful year for an innovative conservation project to protect three of Maryland’s endangered colonial nesting waterfowl. Common tern, Royal Ternand Black SkimmerA floating, wooden-framed platform deployed in Maryland’s Atlantic Coast Bays spawned a very successful Common Tern colony this summer until volunteers safely returned it to shore this week.

Now in its second year, the project provides a floating timber-framed platform as a nesting site for endangered colonial waterfowl, which have declined by 90-95% due to sea-level rise and erosion since the mid-1980s. their natural barren sand nesting islands in coastal bays. The second year of the project was a great success. The platform was successfully used for nesting by 155 pairs of Common Terns, an increase of 132 pairs compared to the first year, making it the largest breeding colony of this species in the Coastal Bays in 2022.

“I had the great pleasure of walking with partners this June to view this island from a safe distance, and I applaud the ingenuity behind this important effort,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “Watching the birds adopt this island has been an incredible experience and gives hope for the future of this species.”

This year it turned out that the raft was being used by grasshoppers from several different locations. Two grasshoppers from Poplar Island, Maryland, Hampton City, Virginia, and Argentina all nested on the raft. 80% of the 2021 nestlings returned to the raft for the 2022 nesting season. The project team also expanded in 2022. The Maryland Coastal Bays Program used funds provided by USA Wind to assist the project with Ph.D. Archer hired Larned as Shorebird Habitat Coordinator.” We monitored the platform during the breeding season. Platform-mounted remote-controlled cameras showed Common Terns initially spawning in April. In a short period of time, the nesting activity started and the numbers show the success of the project.

Dave Brinker of the Maryland DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service has been monitoring colonial nesting waterfowl populations in Maryland since 1985.

“This summer’s highly successful breeding colony on a habitat raft demonstrates the value of providing extremely critical artificial breeding habitat as an interim solution to maintain populations of Common Terns in Maryland’s Coastal Bays.” Brinker said. “However, in order to fully restore and maintain populations of grasshoppers and skimmers in coastal bays, it is essential to restore and maintain former sandbars lost to erosion. To achieve this, we will need a long-term strategy that allocates locally mined sand to restore the island.”

The Maryland DNR provides technical assistance, materials and funding through federal Pittman-Robertson funds the state receives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Eligibility for these federal funds comes from Maryland Program Open Space funds, which are used to purchase land for state Wildlife Management Areas, and the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species fund (state income tax check).

“It’s truly impressive to see firsthand the tremendous progress this effort has made to protect and provide habitat for our endangered nesting birds,” said Maryland DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. “We hope this investment is just the beginning of a long-term effort and strategy to restore this critical habitat along the Atlantic coast.”

Audubon Mid-Atlantic and Audubon’s Seabird Institute Provide technical support and assistance with planning, coordination and raft construction under contract with DNR. The Maryland Coastal Bays Program helps provide local support, planning, coordination and local volunteer assistance.

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