A Summer on Coatue

By Neil Foley, NCF Coatue Ranger/Shorebird Monitor

Those who have had the opportunity to visit Coatue this time of the year know how gorgeous and interesting the property is, separated from the bustle of downtown and covered in windswept cedars, blooming native flowers, and flocks of birds.  The beautiful beaches and marshes, wealth of interesting wildlife, and native plant communities are a treat for lovers of nature and great scenery for those wishing to spend a relaxing day at the beach.  As a birder and an appreciator of coastal ecosystems, the last few months on Coatue have been very enjoyable for me.  I have loved exploring the habitats of Coatue, watching the great birds that nest all over the property, and interacting with many visitors by boat and 4 wheel drive vehicle.

An American oystercatcher chick

An American oystercatcher chick

13 pairs of American oystercatchers nested on Coatue this season.  Despite harassment by gulls and high tides washing nests away, these attentive parents successfully fledged a total of 11 chicks.  We managed to band 4 of the chicks before they were able to fly off.  Hopefully we will see these newly-hatched oystercatchers making nests of their own in a few years.

An adult American oystercatcher being banded

An adult American oystercatcher being banded

The piping plovers on Coatue were very unsuccessful this year. All three of our nests failed due to gulls, crows, and high tides.  While there is little we can do about these natural causes of nest loss, we can hope that our protective fencing improves their chances next year.

An adult piping plover

An adult piping plover

One interesting success story on the beach this year was the large colony of beach nesting double-crested cormorants.  The colony was recorded in May at 340 eggs in over 100 nests, a dramatic increase from the 42 nests observed last year.  These hardy birds have a tendency to experience sharp population booms if there is enough available food.  There are also very few native predators on Nantucket, making it likely that this colony will continue to grow in size.

Double-crested cormorant chicks

Double-crested cormorant chicks

The Foundation’s Department of Science and Stewardship has focused efforts on the removal of several invasive plant species on its properties across Nantucket, and Coatue is no exception. There are many interesting plant communities on Coatue and many important native plants to protect.  This summer, I spent a lot of time removing horned poppy, a non-native, invasive flowering plant from the Black Sea region and Mediterranean Europe.  Over the course of July and August, I pulled over 11,000 of these poppy plants with some help from a few of our fantastic volunteers.  This huge number of now-evicted plants makes a significant dent in the invasive species count on Coatue, but the battle is far from over!

Horned poppy

Horned poppy

All in all, I have had a blast living and working on this beautiful property. Through the course of the summer I have learned so much about this island and the cool birds that are found here as I experienced a lot of the natural wonders that Nantucket has to offer.  Thank you to those who have come out to Coatue and shared their experiences with me.  I am looking forward to coming back!

Neil Foley (NCF Coatue Ranger/Shorebird Monitor) releases a just-banded American oystercatcher chick on First Point

Neil Foley (NCF Coatue Ranger/Shorebird Monitor) releases a just-banded American oystercatcher chick on First Point

 

 

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us! www.nantucketconservation.org

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