For any wildlife photographer with an interest in photographing nesting Common Terns, Laughing Gulls, Least Terns and Piping Plovers and you are visiting or live near the town of Plymouth then a visit to Plymouth Long Beach should be on your radar. Located just down the road on Route 3A from such famous tourist sites like Plymouth Rock, Mayflower II and very near Plimoth Plantation. It’s a six mile round-trip if you walk from the parking lot or if you have a 4×4 vehicle with proper permit, that would get you closer to the North end of the beach. As a photographer or birder, this is where you’d want to be as this is the location where the majority of the birds are during nesting and the shorebird migration during August and September. Another option for accessing Plymouth Beach is to take Plymouth Watersports’ Beach Ferry which is what six of us (photographers) did this past Saturday. If you have a group and do not have a 4×4 and permit to drive out the access road on Plymouth Beach this is a GREAT option. Our group arrived at 5:00 AM with a pickup time of 10:00 AM.
During the summer nesting season large numbers of Common Terns and now in the last 10+ years Laughing Gulls can be found towards the tip of Plymouth Long Beach. Least Terns are found in much smaller numbers however they do not nest that far down the beach, Piping Plovers on the other hand can and will nest almost anywhere on the beach. In most years a pair (maybe two) Arctic Terns and possible a few Roseate Terns can be found nesting with the Common Terns. Late nesting Black Skimmers are also found however the Skimmers to my knowledge have not been successful in fledging any young in the past many years. That said there is a pair that are just within the last week attempting to nest and have a clutch of eggs. WOW!
An interesting note on Plymouth Beach, Arctic Terns and Black Skimmers. Plymouth Beach is the Southern most location for nesting Arctic Tern and the most Northern location for nesting Black Skimmer. Both of which I have photographed on Plymouth Beach, Skimmers as recently as August 3, 2013.
August is a great time to see and photograph migrating shorebirds on Plymouth Beach. Likely species are Piping Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin and Black-bellied Plover. Possible species are Red Knot, Marbled Godwit, both Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs and on the Bay side maybe Willet, Oystercatcher and Whimbrel. It’s also a very good location for terns and in August with four species being possible in one day and five if you get really lucky. Common Tern, Least Tern, Roseate Tern, Black Tern and the needle in the haystack Arctic Tern.
On my last three trips to Plymouth Beach (July and August) I recorded some video of several species (Piping Plover, Skimmer and Common Terns) and put together this short video. It shows an interesting feeding behavior by an adult Piping Plover, nesting Common Tern and a fledgling Common Tern.
I have been on the Advisory Board for the Goldenrod Foundation for several years and have enjoyed my collaboration with them in helping to promote photography trips to Plymouth Beach. Three of the last four years I have helped to organize what we call the Plymouth Beach “Photo Round-up”, this year it was held on July 19. There were eight of us, we arrived at 5:00 AM and departed around 7:30 PM, a very FULL day of photography. Click here or photo below to see some photos from this years group.
Finally I would encourage anyone with an interest in helping to protect barrier beaches but at the same time supporting public access then the Goldenrod Foundation is organization you should think about supporting. Please “Like” them on Facebook and check out their web site.
Take care and remember please help to protect wildlife and wild places.
Shawn P. Carey