National Guard Welcomes Newest Members to its Ranks

Piping Plover

Photo credit: Eric Sambol, Conserve Wildlife Foundation

The Sea Girt National Guard Training Center (NGTC), located in Sea Girt, New Jersey, consists of 48 buildings located on 168 acres along the beautiful Atlantic Coast. Since 1885, NGTC has provided training and instruction to New Jersey’s soldiers, airmen, and law enforcement professionals. This spring, the training center became the home to a nesting pair of piping plover (Charadrius melodus) birds named “Joey” and “Hamlet.” Plovers are sparrow-sized, coastal dwelling birds that typically nest and feed along coastal sand and gravel beaches. Found only along the Atlantic Coast, and surrounding the Great Lakes, the piping plover derives its name from the bell-like whistled peeps it uses for communication. The inland populations are endangered and the coastal population is listed as threatened according to the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

In 1984, the piping plover was listed as an endangered species in New Jersey, and in 1986, the Atlantic Coast piping plover population was listed as threatened in the United States. They remain one of New Jersey’s most endangered species.

This sand-colored pair, Joey and Hamlet, first appeared along the beachfront at the NGTC in 2019. Joey and Hamlet were responsible for producing two chicks that fledged that year, a feat that had not been recorded in the installation’s history and the first nesting activity observed in that area in over a decade. Piping plovers are especially susceptible to human disturbances because they are ground-nesting birds that make their home on open, sandy shorelines—the same beaches people value for residential and commercial development.

The good news is that in 2020, Joey and Hamlet were again successful in producing three fledglings which are being closely monitored and will be eventually banded and tracked. The monitoring, along with conservation efforts such as beach maintenance, habitat restoration, interpretative signage, and wildlife control measures are all part of the NGTCs Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP).

Brinkerhoff Environmental Services, Inc., in partnership with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, and Owen, Little and Associates is responsible for implementing the monitoring under contract with the New Jersey Department of Military Affairs.