Conserve Wildlife Blog

Plovers in Paradise

November 4th, 2013

The Bahamas Blog – Trip 1, Day 1

By Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager and Stephanie Egger, Wildlife Biologist

BahamasFlyingToday we arrived on the island of Abaco in the Bahamas to start our piping plover project, which was made possible courtesy of a grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. It was mostly a travel day to for us, nonetheless, still exciting  to finally be here to start a project that was has been over a year in the planning.

We will hit the ground running tomorrow with a visit to a local school, participation in a round table discussion with stakeholders on tidal flats conservation, a piping plover survey, and filming for an educational video. And that’s just the first day!

So while we still have time to catch our breath, this is a good opportunity to review the purpose of our trip here.  Over the course of the past two decades, considerable resources have been put into the recovery of the Atlantic Coast population of piping plover, a federally threatened species, with most of the effort taking place on the breeding grounds in the U.S and Canada. Recent research has revealed that the vast majority of the population winters in the Bahamas. Furthermore, there is a growing realization that recovery and long-term sustainability will only occur with full life cycle conservation – protection during the breeding, migration, and wintering phases of the piping plover’s life.

Nessie is a piping plover that was banded in Stone Harbor, New Jersey this past summer. She was last seen in NJ on July 2 after her nest failed. On September 29 she was resighted on Abaco, Bahamas.

Nessie is a piping plover that was banded in Stone Harbor, New Jersey this past summer. She was last seen in NJ on July 2 after her nest failed. On September 29 she was resighted on Abaco, Bahamas.

Where does the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey fit into the picture? We participated in the surveys conducted in the Bahamas in 2011 that helped establish the importance of the Bahamas as the major wintering site for piping plovers. We have returned to Abaco (and Grand Bahama) each year since then to conduct follow-up surveys and continue to build local partnerships. And, of course, we play a central role in piping plover monitoring and management at breeding sites in New Jersey, where we are based. Our biologists, Stephanie Egger and Todd Pover, have over 25 years of piping plover experience between them.

Our goal for this project is to significantly increase the awareness of the link between the Bahamas and piping plovers, focusing on the public in the Bahamas, where the piping plover story is just beginning to be known thanks to groundwork done by the Bahamas National Trust. We also hope to help build local capacity to complete future surveys and advance conservation of piping plovers and their habitat. The first phase of the project will be completed on Abaco, where a strong conservation ethic and network of partners exists, but we hope to expand the effort to other islands in the future.

Our primary partner on the project is Friends of the Environment, an Abaco based conservation organization with strong links throughout the island and a great track record, especially with their education work in the schools. We are also partnering with Loggerhead Productions on the development of a video. It is great to be back in the Bahamas to see some old friends and to forge new partnerships in the name of piping plover conservation.

 

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