Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
2013 Field Season Summary – Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region, November 1, 2013
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Adult piping plover at Monomoy NWR.
Adult piping plover at Monomoy NWR. - Photo Credit: Yianni Laskaris/USFWS

The following update is a summary for the 2013 field season at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). The data within this summary is current as of 1 November 2013. The following information is subject to change as the data is reviewed and finalized.


Beach Nesting Birds
- A total of 52 pairs (97 nest attempts) of federally threatened piping plovers nested on the Refuge during 2013. Fifty pairs nested on South Monomoy Island, one pair was located on North Monomoy Island, and one pair on Minimoy Island. Refuge-wide, this is an increase in the number of pairs from 39 in 2012. The reported increase in the number of pairs this year is likely an overestimate. Poor weather resulted in less frequent monitoring, and this, combined with high levels of crow and grackle predation, often made it difficult to distinguish between new pairs and renests. Nineteen piping plover chicks were documented as fledged and overall reproductive success was very poor at 0.37 chicks fledged per pair. This was a decrease from a productivity of 1.38 chicks fledged per pair in 2012, and a sharp drop from the recent Refuge record of 2.33 chicks fledged per pair in 2010. Low productivity this year can be attributed to a combination of intense predation by American crow, common grackle, coyote, gull, and unknown avian predators, coupled with low chick survival rates, and poor weather conditions. The productivity achieved this season is not considered adequate to meet recovery plan goals.

- A total of 7,526 common terns nested on the north tip of South Monomoy Island in 2013. This is a slight decrease of 236 pairs from 7,762 pairs in 2012. Reproductive success was excellent at 1.65 chicks fledged per nest (based on a subset of 245 A-period nest attempts). Although productivity was high, predation was a frequent occurrence in the main colony on both eggs and chicks. Common nest predators included American crow, great black-backed gull, herring gull, and northern harrier. Coyotes were less of a problem in the tern colony this year than they have been in recent years; this is likely due to the fact that the colony has once again become separated from the mainland. This year there were no common terns nesting on Minimoy Island. This absence is likely due to habitat loss caused by the previous winter’s storms, which eroded the main nesting dune. This is a decrease from 344 common tern pairs that nested on Minimoy Island in 2012. Habitat loss on Minimoy Island continues with frequent overwash events occurring throughout the season. No common tern nests were found on North Monomoy Island in 2013. This area is also subject to frequent overwash and no longer contains much suitable nesting habitat.

-Eight pairs of federally endangered roseate terns nested on the Refuge in 2013 during the A-census period (7 in 2012, 12 in 2011, 9 in 2010). Seven roseate tern nests were located in the main common tern colony on the north tip of South Monomoy Island and a single nest was located south of the main nesting area near field camp. One of the adults from this southern nesting pair was believed to be a roseate-common tern hybrid. The chick hatched from this pair confirmed this belief, displaying both roseate and common tern characteristics. No roseate terns nested on Minimoy this year, which is a decrease from the 6 pairs nesting on the island in 2012. The roseate tern attraction project that began in 2009 was continued this year. One sound system accompanied by nesting structures was placed near field camp slightly outside the main tern nesting area and nesting structures were also placed near the main colony. The sound system was operated during daylight hours from mid-May through July. A new type of teepee-shaped nesting structure modeled after those used on the Ram Island nesting colony in Buzzard’s Bay was used in the colony this year. One tee-pee structure was used by roseate terns. Twelve roseate tern chicks on South Monomoy Island were banded with standard metal bands. Nine of the twelve chicks were documented as fledged, with an overall productivity of 1.13 chicks per pair.

- In 2013, 974 pairs of laughing gulls nested on South Monomoy Island, a 121% increase from 441 nesting pairs in 2012. Overall, productivity was estimated to be good based on the number of large chicks observed in the colony. Ten laughing gull nests (19 eggs total) were destroyed due to their close proximity to one of the roseate sound systems and nesting structures. Adult laughing gulls were observed taking common tern chicks later in the nesting season. Additionally, a high number of laughing gull kleptoparasitism was observed. If laughing gull numbers increase beyond 1000 pairs, some non-lethal control to limit nesting may be necessary to decrease their impact to nesting tern species.

- A total of 261 least tern nests were censused in nesting areas on the Refuge during the 2013 A-census period (June 5-20). No B-census was conducted. This was an increase from 52 nests counted during the A-census period in 2012. Productivity was not measured, but was qualitatively estimated to be moderate as many fledglings were documented on South Monomoy Island. This is an improvement from 2012’s productivity which was qualitatively fair.

- A total of 150 black-crowned night-heron nested on North Monomoy Island in 2013, a slight decrease from 163 nests in 2012. Sixty-two snowy egret nests and 16 great egret nests were also counted during the census on North Monomoy Island this year; moderate increases from 33 Snowy Egret and 7 Great Egret nests found in 2012. There were no wading bird nests found on South Monomoy Island this year.

- There were no black skimmer nests located on the refuge this year. This is a decrease from the one pair that nested in the tern colony on South Monomoy Island in 2012.

- A total of 22 pairs of American oystercatchers nested on the Refuge in 2013: 9 pairs on North Monomoy Island, 8 pairs on South Monomoy Island, and 5 pairs on Minimoy Island. This is a small decrease from 26 pairs in 2012. Overall reproductive success was excellent with 0.91 chicks fledged per pair. This is an increase from 2012 when 0.35 chicks fledged per pair. Predation of oystercatcher nests was low during 2013, and may be attributed to an absence of coyote from the refuge early in the season. Nest overwash continues to cause impacts to the nest success of American oystercatchers on the Refuge, especially on Minimoy Island.

Horseshoe Crabs
Monomoy Refuge is an important spawning area for horseshoe crabs in Massachusetts. In 2013, 384 horseshoe crabs were tagged on Morris Island and South Monomoy Island with the help of several volunteer groups. Tagging efforts took place during the months of May and June. Sightings of tagged horseshoe crabs should be reported to the phone number listed on the tag itself. Volunteer lead resighting surveys were conducted on the mainland portions of the refuge year to increase the rate of tag reporting. Spawning surveys were not conducted on the Refuge during 2013.

Monomoy Shorebird Project
The Refuge will be partnered with Conserve Wildlife for the 5th consecutive year this year to capture migrating shorebirds with the objectives of recapturing previously banded shorebird species, and equipping juvenile Red Knots with geolocators to gain information on migratory patterns of hatch year birds. A separate press release with the results of this project will be made available later in the season though a blog with information about the project can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/9a9msr4.

Monomoy Refuge Banding Station
Monomoy Refuge Banding Station (MRBS) was established for the first time in 2011 and is being continued this year by refuge volunteers. The banding station located around the Monomoy Point Lighthouse is the first effort at capturing and banding landbirds that use the refuge as a stop-over site during southward migration to non-breeding areas. Data from this study will be presented in a report to the Refuge by the end of this calendar year. More information can be found on the banding station website: http://monomoybirds.org/.

The Refuge staff wishes to thank the many dedicated volunteers, school groups, conservation partners, and the Friends of Monomoy for their assistance and support with biological surveys, maintenance tasks, and public outreach efforts. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities at the Refuge year-round. If you would like to become a volunteer at the Refuge please contact Kate Iaquinto at (508) 945-0594 ext 13.

Contact Info: Kate Iaquinto, 508-945-0594 ext. 13, Kate_Iaquinto@fws.gov
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