Asbury Park Press, 6/30/2007
Beach sweeper strays, killing endangered bird

State and federal officials are investigating the death of an endangered piping plover chick found Sunday in a Sea Girt beach-raking machine, officials said Friday.

It is the “first incident of its kind confirmed in New Jersey in recent memory,” said Darlene Yuhas, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Another plover chick is missing, and the plovers’ parents evidently abandoned the nest, which had an egg in it, Yuhas said.

“We feel terrible that . . . this bird was killed,” said Sea Girt Borough Councilman Raymond D. Bogan.

The mayor and Borough Council have directed the public works department to investigate what happened and “take whatever corrective measures are necessary and make sure it doesn’t occur again,” Bogan said.

The DEP has issued Sea Girt a notice for violating a coastal permit and “they likely face . . . additional enforcement action, but we’re still assessing what that will be,” Yuhas said.

The piping plover incident follows efforts by the DEP, volunteers and others to re-establish and protect a beach nesting area for plovers and endangered least terns on the boundary of Sea Girt and Spring Lake near Wreck Pond.

The site, a disappointment last year, has been very active this year.

“I am greatly saddened by the situation,” says an e-mail from Nancy Maclearie-Hayduk of Spring Lake Heights, a volunteer who oversees other volunteers who monitor the site.

She found the dead chick after searching the debris in the beach rake equipment, her e-mail says.

“In the face of all of the obstacles these (plover) chicks have to overcome, a beach rake should not be one of them,” Maclearie-Hayduk said in her e-mail. “It is little wonder that they are endangered.”

Last year, New Jersey had 116 pairs of piping plovers, according to Yuhas.

Plovers are the size of robins and blend in with sand, according to the DEP Web site.

Nearly 1,000 pairs of least terns, which are gray and white and have yellow bills and black-capped heads, were spotted in 2002, according to the DEP Web site.

Law enforcement officials in the DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s New Jersey Field Office in Pleasantville are investigating the plover incident and coordinating efforts, Yuhas said.

Under DEP coastal rules, mechanical raking is not allowed from April 1 to Aug. 15 in beach areas designated as endangered bird nesting areas, she said.

The DEP reminded Sea Girt about the raking restrictions in a June 6 memo, Yuhas said.

In her e-mail, Maclearie-Hayduk said she “had been at the beach the evening before (the Sunday incident) observing the plover chicks.”

“When I arrived in the morning, the first thing I noticed was that the beach was freshly raked,” she said. “After an extensive search of the site, the chicks could not be located. I then searched the debris in the beach rake equipment.”

“The chick was approximately a day old and part of a brood of two chicks,” Yuhas said. “The second chick was also discovered missing but hasn’t been recovered,” and based on brood behavior, “it’s likely that it met . . . the same fate as the recovered dead chick.”

Bogan said “I don’t know what happened to the second bird, and I don’t think it would be responsible for me or anybody else to speculate.”

He understands that the abandonment of the nest happened after the baby plover was found.

The borough has had a policy for some time “in which we don’t go anywhere near the no-rake area,” and it sounds like a public works employee made a mistake, Bogan said.

“It is not a purposeful act,” he said.

The DEP invests “a great deal in protecting these birds . . . and we did issue that memo . . . reminding them of the raking restrictions, so frankly, it’s sad,” Yuhas said, stressing that many volunteers help protect the birds.

This story includes material from previous Asbury Park Press articles.
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