Piping Plovers Being Watched in Hampton Beach, NH, for Conflict With Fireworks
Tiny newborn piping plovers are again a threat to the Fourth of July fireworks at Hampton Beach.
The fireworks scheduled for the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend were canceled because of the endangered birds, who have eight nests in the north area beach. Four nests so far have hatched, NH Fish and Game Officer Brendan Clifford told the Hampton Beach Village District during their recent monthly meeting.
There are another six nests on south beach area and six in Seabrook, according to Clifford.
After hatching around Memorial Day, Clifford said one group moved north to the area to Boar's Head to an area with a buildup of seaweed. Two of the chicks died, likely because of an especially cold night. The others are doing very well and growing faster than expected because of the constant availability of food, according to Clifford.
A Second Group is the Threat
A second group near Bernie's Bar is of concern for the fireworks displays scheduled for the Fourth of July, because they nested later than hoped. They typically hatch 27-29 days later, according to Clifford.
"Sometimes it can be prolonged. If they're disturbed a lot or they're forced off the nest, the eggs might not incubate or grow as quickly," Clifford said. "But if they hatch on schedule, it will be the last week in June, sometime in that window. What they've done the last couple of years, they've moved their chicks down to south beach."
If that move of a quarter-mile happens as expected, then the display on the Fourth of July can go on as scheduled. The move last year saved the Fourth of July display in 2021.
"If something happens and they're still incubating on the Fourth of July, then it will be an issue," Clifford said.
Avoiding Future Piping Plover Conflicts
Clifford said New Hampshire Fish and Game is following the recommendations of the federal Endangered Species Act.
"They're not regulations, but recommendations for beach managers. Anybody who allows recreation on their beach and has plovers must account for them being there," Cllifford said.
The state could avoid conflict with the plovers in the future, but Clifford said is is expensive.
New Hampshire could apply for a Habitat Conservation Plan from the federal government, which Massachusetts has already done. Approximately 1,000 piping plovers are in Massachusetts.
"There has to be a net benefit to the birds, but you can have less management. You can discourage the birds from nesting where they are now where they're impacting fireworks," Clifford said.
Within just a few hours of hatching, piping plover chicks are able to walk and feed on their own, but the first few weeks of life are critical because the chicks are small and hard to see.