Springtime sun and warmer March temperatures can bring visitors in droves to Oregon’s inviting shoreline. For the western snowy plover, March means nesting. This tiny shorebird, protected under state law and under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), usually begins nesting along west coast beaches in mid-March.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is responsible for managing recreation on Oregon’s ocean shore, overseeing snowy plover management areas and the recreation restrictions that come with the legal agreement between OPRD and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Plovers nest in dry open sand, in tiny, shallow scrapes that are very well camouflaged. Not only are nests easy to miss (or step on), but the bird will abandon its eggs if repeatedly disturbed by activities it considers a threat.
OPRD manages two kinds of beach areas to help plovers survive: sites where they actively nest, and sites where they don’t, but where the habitat has been designated as conducive. Based on this, recreation restrictions vary. Riding bicycles or driving any kind of vehicle is not allowed during nesting season on any stretch of beach managed for plovers. Where plovers actively nest, the dry sand around the nesting area is signed to keep people from accidentally crushing the well-camouflaged eggs. Recreation is limited to the wet sand portion of the beach. Kites and dogs (leashed or unleashed) are not allowed anywhere in active nesting areas until the end of the nesting season, September 15.
Maps and more information can be found at bit.ly/wsplover.
Most plover breeding areas in Oregon range from Florence south to Bandon. In recent years, though, a smattering of nests have popped up at some north coast beaches, a sign that holds promise for Oregon’s and Washington’s plover population overall. The two-mile Nehalem Spit, just south of the entrance to Nehalem Bay State Park, will restrict vehicles, dogs, and kites from March 15-Sept 15, 2016. The northern 3 miles of beach in the park are open to kites, dogs, bikes, horses, and all other recreation.
OPRD spokesperson Chris Havel thanked visitors for their understanding and support of the bird. “Recreation management is a balancing act,” said Havel. “The vast majority of visitors want to protect wildlife and understand that plovers need our help to survive.”