Erosion may be a significant concern for beachfront homeowners, but other species of Cape Cod dwellers are also finding themselves threatened — not by loss of sand, but by its deposition. The birds that mate and nest at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, south of Chatham, Massachusetts, have enjoyed safe harbor here since 1958, when a breach split the Monomoy peninsula from the mainland. Then the island itself split in two during the Great Blizzard of February 1978.
In November 2006, however, the peripatetic sands of the region’s barrier islands linked the southern tip of Chatham’s South Beach peninsula to the northeastern tip of South Monomoy. The new land bridge is now an access route for hikers and nature lovers, but also for predators.
According to wildlife biologist Monica Williams, by last fall one adult female piping plover (a threatened species) had been killed and her eggs abandoned — a significant loss when only 21 nesting pairs exist in the refuge. In 2007, refuge managers had to remove 19 coyotes to protect eggs and chicks during spring nesting.
However, the new land bridge won’t wash away at the end of the season. “It’s been expanding,” explained Williams. “So unless there’s a big storm that could take it out, it doesn’t look as though it’s going away anytime soon.”