Piping Plovers Won’t Stop Hampton Beach’s 4th of July Fireworks
The fireworks are a go for the Fourth of July, despite the nesting piping plovers still being close by.
The endangered birds are nesting on north area beach, which is near where the fireworks are launched. The Hampton Village District in conjunction with New Hampshire Fish and Game canceled several displays already, including the one celebrating the annual Sand Sculpting Classic.
Fish and Game officer Brendan Clifford told Seacoast Current that he gave the green light for the Fourth of July display on Monday.
"They're on the edge of where they might be disturbed and they might not. We're going to do some monitoring to see how they respond," Clifford said. "We suspect the birds are going to be able to tolerate it to a point. Birds have different behaviors. It's the same pair as last year. They put down a really late nest so they're on eggs this year."
If those chicks don't react well to the display on the Fourth, some displays later in the season could be canceled. Displays are scheduled for every Wednesday in July and August.
Helping the Plovers Handle the Fireworks
Fish and Game also made some recommendations about the display itself, including suppressing the sound of the fireworks with "smaller booms," limiting the time to 15 minutes, and roping off areas to create a buffer between the birds and the crowd.
Clifford said it's been a good year for the piping plovers. Two birds have fledged so far, and another group is expected to reach that 35 day milestone by the end of this week.
"It's looking positive right now. We have some chicks that we've lost for unknown reasons. We haven't had any documented ones being stepped on or anything like that, but sometimes they disappear. Hopefully we'll see them again," Clifford said. "Sometimes they disappear for a couple days and they show back up if they're hiding in the dune grass."
The piping plovers took a liking to the north area of Hampton Beach in the spring of 2020, when the beach was closed to the public due to the pandemic. Some have come back in 2021 and again in 2022 despite those areas being reopened to the public. These birds have even earned a special nickname.
"We joke and call them 'urban birds.' This is where they happen to nest, and it's what they've become accustomed to. Some birds might nest on Plum Island or the National Wildlife Refuge, and they might never have to deal with people and fireworks. They may not be as tolerant as these birds," Clifford said.
Clifford said none of the nests this year have completely failed. He credits volunteers to helping the chicks gets to the water's edge and overall become more tolerant of humans.