Tropical Storm Andrea is knocking the heck out of our nesting shorebirds. As an example of the damage: I went out to the beach to a colony of nesting shorebirds I have been watching and photographing for the last few weeks. The high tide, large waves, surf, 45 mph winds and heavy rain had taken a heavy toll. The Snowy Plover scrape (these birds scrape out a depression in the sand, call it a “nest” and lay their eggs in it) which was due to hatch any day, had been washed over and was gone.
The Black Skimmers have been courting and “nesting” for a couple of weeks, so most of them had eggs in their scrapes, but would not have started hatching for another two weeks. There were about 100 scrapes; today after high tide I could count only 30 skimmers that were high enough on the beach to still be on scrapes and there were eggs all over the place in the wrack line on the beach. Those 30 skimmers were really hunkered down in their scrapes, but they looked pretty miserable. Many of the rest of the birds were hunkered down up in the dunes away from the surf and somewhat protected from the wind, blowing sand and rain by the dunes and vegetation.
There were about 25 Least Terns on scrapes, several with chicks (varying in age from 1 day to 3 weeks). Last count was 14 chicks. Today there were no scrapes left and I could find only 8 chicks. Six of the chicks were older chicks and seemed likely to make it; there was one mid-size chick and one very young/small chick that I watched make its way up from the wrack line to a waiting parent that tucked him under her wing. They gradually made their way to the protection of the dunes and vegetation growing in/on the dunes.