‘Pitch in’ Scarborough – Volunteer as a beach lifeguard
As a community, Scarborough residents tend to be very involved. Each year, the town benefits from hundreds of volunteers who devote countless hours to programs designed to make Scarborough a wonderful place to live. One such program is the Voluntary Beach Watch Program, which aims to protect the endangered piping plovers that nest on beaches each summer. Volunteers visit the beaches daily from mid-May through Labor Day to educate swimmers about the birds and the city ordinances that protect them. Monitors also check plovers’ nests and chicks to help the city and wildlife officials understand how the birds are doing.
Piping plovers are listed as an endangered species in Maine and a nationally threatened species. They nest on many Maine beaches from Kittery to Georgetown, but their numbers have been declining due to habitat loss and predation by wildlife and pets. Many Maine coastal towns are working in partnership with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) and Maine Audubon to coordinate beach watch programs similar to those in Scarborough, and those efforts are paying off. Maine’s plover population has rebounded in recent years. Every year, from 2018 to 2021, a record number of plovers chicks left the beaches of Maine. When birds take flight, it means they have developed wing feathers large enough to fly, making them more likely to escape predation and other threats. According to Maine Audubon, 2021 saw a total of 125 breeding plovers pairs on Maine beaches and 213 chicks survived to fledge.
Volunteer beach lifeguards are an essential contribution to the restoration of Maine’s piping plover population. City staff and wildlife officials cannot be on Maine beaches all the time during nesting season. Volunteers serve as essential eyes and ears on the beach, watching for birds, speaking with visitors and reporting issues to the appropriate parties when needed. Volunteers receive special training to learn how to identify plovers, nests and chicks; discover the management techniques used by IF&W and Maine Audubon; understand the City’s rules and ordinances that protect plovers; and educate swimmers about birds.
If you would like to “pick in” as a beach monitor, please complete the online volunteer form at tinyurl.com/plover2022. Questions about the program can be directed to Jami Fitch, Scarborough Sustainability Coordinator, at [email protected] or 207-730-4035.
If you are unable to volunteer as a beach lifeguard, there is still much to do to help Piping Plovers:
Keep your distance from the pegs and string areas on the beach – these are the areas where plovers are most likely to nest.
Avoid playing beach games near plovers’ nests and chicks.
Avoid flying kites, surfing, biking, and flying drones within 650 feet of nesting areas.
Watch where you step – adult plovers and chicks blend in very well with the sand!
Fill in all the holes dug on the beach.
Pick up the waste and throw it in the bins provided in the car parks.
Obey the signs indicating the times when dogs are and are not allowed on the beaches.
Follow the restricted area signs on the beaches. Keep dogs out of restricted areas at Higgins and Ferry/Western beaches and leashed in Pine Point restricted area.
Thank you for doing your part to protect Scarborough’s endangered piping plovers.