A small sandy-colored egg on a Cape Cod beach has broken a big record.
The egg, laid by a piping plover, was spotted this week on a private beach in Hyannis Port on Tuesday, making it the earliest on record for plovers, wildlife officials say. The previous earliest plover egg statewide was seen on April 17, though the year is unclear.
"Typically, we don't find most of our nests on Cape Cod until the last week of April, so this is particularly early," said Rebecca Harris, director of the Coastal Waterbird Program at the Massachusetts Audubon Society. "Usually, we find our first nests on Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard."
A two-egg nest was found on Nantucket on Wednesday, Harris said, and other eggs have been reported.
"It's hard to say whether there's going to be a huge rash of nests this early. So far we haven't found a ton," Harris said. "But certainly it's significantly earlier than we've ever had before."
Some eggs are laid in late April or early May, but the season typically peaks in mid-May, Harris said.
It takes piping plover chicks about 25 to 30 days to fledge, or are able to fly. During that time, portions of affected beaches close to traffic.
If everything works out, the egg in Hyannis Port would hatch in mid-May and fledge before the end of June. That would mean people hoping to celebrate July 4 on the sand might not be affected by partial beach closures.
Nests can be washed away by storms or wiped out by predators.
Harris said the nest in Hyannis Port is expected to be home to a full, four-egg clutch.
"Our staff is going out there today, and there probably will be a second egg," Harris said.
On the beat
Columnist Adrian Walker says UMass Dartmouth is shaken after revelations that one of the Marathon bomb suspects was a student there. Read more