Published on June 4, 2021

Coastal Waterbird Conservation in the South East

Piping Plovers engaged in courtship behavior on a beach (by Derek Garvey/Mass Audubon)
by Derek Garvey
The Piping Plovers must know its prom season, because they're out on the beach doing their own version of dancing! From late spring into early summer, these birds engage in a graceful courtship behavior often referred to as "high-stepping." The male lifts its legs high up and marches behind the female to gain her affection. 

Each year, coastal waterbirds such as Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and American Oystercatchers return to their summer homes on the Massachusetts shoreline. 

If you're lucky enough to visit the beach this time of year and throughout the summer, make sure to be on the lookout for fenced areas and be mindful of whistles coming from birds in the sand. Piping Plovers are well-camouflaged while nesting on our beaches and coastal dunes!

Opportunities in Conservation

Mass Audubon's Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP), in partnership with town officials and private landowners, has worked for decades to successfully rebuild dynamic populations of these previously-dwindling species. Through stewardship and outreach, we work together to protect the habitat that is crucial for coastal birds to nest in and raise their chicks.

Our program provides wonderful on-the-job learning opportunities for anyone pursuing a career in conservation biology. Mass Audubon and its partners protect about 50% of the nesting beaches in Massachusetts, and an additional 22% are protected by staff who have received training through the CWP. 

This summer, we feel very fortunate to have returning staff leading our on-the-ground efforts, to have trainees from previous years joining our staff, and to be welcoming new biologists to the program.

Learn more about our outreach, education, and how you can support our trainee program. Interested in working with us this season? Consider applying for a Coastal Waterbird Field Intern/Trainee position!

Meet Our Biologists

ALLENS POND (Dartmouth)

Ally Lague is happy to be working with these fascinating birds again for the third consecutive year in Mass Audubon's South East region. She monitors and reports on nine beaches inhabited by nesting shorebirds across Dartmouth and Westport, MA. The season is well underway with new Piping Plover nests being discovered every day.

Carissa Rego was a CWP trainee last summer, and has returned this year as a shorebird field monitor. She is very excited to be working with Ally again, and to be able to advocate for and protect these birds that cannot do so for themselves.

Pit Wang graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on zoology, ecology, and vertebrate conservation. He is currently obtaining an MS in Conservation Medicine through Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. His strong background in the evolution of vertebrate species, especially various predator species, are a great asset in his work with the Coastal Waterbird Program. He enjoys telling people how cool animals are.

Chris Duff recently obtained his Masters Degree in Biology from Tufts University school of Arts & Sciences, and this will be his first summer with Mass Audubon. In addition to the Coastal Waterbird Program, Chris will be helping with the South Coast Osprey Project, breeding bird surveys, nest monitoring, and the Baywatchers water quality monitoring program.

NORTH RIVER (Marshfield)

Hannah Masood is happy to be back for her third season as member of the Mass Audubon CWP team after a few years away working with secretive marshbirds on the southern coast of Louisiana. Hannah monitors six beaches from Hull to Marshfield, MA.

Derek Garvey is joining Mass Audubon for his first year with the Coastal Waterbird Program. Derek is a South Shore native, and a marine biology graduate from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. Derek will be working with Hannah to monitoring shorebird nesting on beaches from Hull to Marshfield.