Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Bahamas Piping Plover Project’ Category

Piping Plovers in the Bahamas

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Our Work isn’t Done – the Ongoing Importance of Band Resighting

 By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Earlier in January, I attended the Abaco Science Alliance Conference to make a presentation about recent conservation and research developments for piping plovers in the Bahamas. This marks the eighth year, starting in 2011, either solo or with CWF staff and other colleagues, that I have been able to follow piping plovers to their wintering grounds in the Bahamas to conduct work to better understand and help recover this at-risk species. And in another sense, to be an international ambassador for piping plovers.

Todd Pover, CWF Senior Biologist, busy searching for piping plovers on the flats in the Bahamas

Over that time, the focus of those trips has varied widely, including conducting surveys for the International Piping Plover Census in 2011 and 2016, improving our understanding of how piping plovers use the various habitats, engaging students with our Shorebird Sister School Network from 2014-17, helping Friends of the Environment, our primary partner there, integrate piping plovers into their educational/school programs, building conservation partnerships, and even producing a video. Tremendous positive changes have occurred in that time with regard to awareness of and attitudes towards piping plovers in the Bahamas and some significant conservation progress has been made, most notably the establishment of several new national parks by the Bahamian government that help protect piping plovers and other shorebirds.

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Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey “2015 Annual Report” Released

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

CWF Releases its Second Annual Report Using a Story Map Format:

2015 Annual Report


Technology has proven to be vital to Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s work protecting rare wildlife species over the years. Our biologists depend greatly on modern technologies to band, track, and share online the journeys of wildlife. Our webcams broadcast the most intimate behaviors of nesting birds and bats across the web. And we seek out ever-evolving communications technologies to spread the word about the inspiring stories of wildlife, from social media and infographs to e-books and Story Maps. These technologies offer newfound abilities to share complex data on multiple levels, while still incorporating the awe-inspiring photography and videos that bring wildlife’s stories to life.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is excited to offer our 2015 Annual Report in a unique format that utilizes one of those technologies – Story Maps. In the past year, we have explored the lives of seals, eagles, and freshwater mussels with Story Maps – and the annual report allows all of our projects to be highlighted in this interactive format as well.

Visit the multiple pages within this Story Map to learn about Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s many projects and partnerships in 2015, and the imperiled wildlife species in need of our help. Find examples of the innovative and dedicated leadership of our biologists and volunteers. And take an online journey across the state to learn how our projects made a difference in all corners of New Jersey in 2015 – a great year for wildlife in the Garden State!


 

Bahamas Revisited

Sunday, February 21st, 2016
Piping Plover Research and Conservation Five Years Later

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

CensusPine2

 

The wintering segment of the 2016 International Piping Plover Census has just wrapped up in the Bahamas. This marks six winters of my own involvement with piping plover conservation work in the Bahamas – starting with the last international census in 2011 – so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the changes I have observed in the years between the censuses.

 

First and foremost, we now know much more about how many piping plovers winter in the Bahamas and where they are located, including some areas where there are particular high concentrations of piping plovers and other shorebirds. This knowledge is due to the significant increase in survey effort put forth by partners in the Bahamas during the census, but also surveys conducted by Bahamas National Trust and National Audubon Society, as well as our own work at Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF), in the years since 2011 to supplement the earlier surveys and better understand how piping plovers use the sites.

The author, CWF's Todd Pover, scoping out  piping plovers during the census.

The author, CWF’s Todd Pover, scoping out piping plovers during the census.

 

This is demonstrated by the results of the 2016 census. As just one example of how this extra research paid off, in 2011 when we visited Casuarina Point on Abaco for the census, we knew from local birders and e-Bird that piping plovers were frequently seen there, but not that it was only for a narrow window during low tide to forage, nor that depending on wind conditions or disturbance, they could be at another more remote flat across Cherokee Sound. So in 2016, we had surveyors in place at the correct tide AND in both locations at the same time, thus allowing us to record 26 piping plovers, instead of 0 in 2011. Using similar information gathered across the island we found 178 piping plovers in 2016, compared to 76 in 2011 (and 82 on Eleuthera in 2016 vs. 30 in 2011).

The CWF 2016 International Piping Plover Census team for Abaco and Eleuthera: Pam Prichard, Todd Pover, Stephanie Egger, Michelle Stantial, Emily Heiser, Brendan Toote (left to right).

The CWF 2016 International Piping Plover Census team for Abaco and Eleuthera: Pam Prichard, Todd Pover, Stephanie Egger, Michelle Stantial, Emily Heiser, Brendan Toote (left to right).

 

Even with some oversights like those, the 1066 piping plovers tallied in the 2011 census revealed that the Bahamas was one of the most significant wintering locations for piping plovers, second only to Texas. And with band resight data, we now know that the Bahamas is THE most important winter location for the Atlantic coast population (as compared to the Great Lakes and Great Plains populations). Although the final count for the 2016 census is not complete yet, it has already topped the 2016 figure and will account for a good part of the remaining unknown wintering birds and locations. New surveys in the Turks and Caicos, more intensive surveys in Cuba, as well as the Southeast/Gulf Coast U.S. (which is critical for all three populations of piping plover) should make this the most comprehensive and informative survey to date.

 

While improved census results are important, one may reasonably still ask how the census is going to translate into better conservation. The Bahamas is a good example of what can be done with the data  last year the Bahamas government set aside the Joulter Cays as one of a series of new national parks, to a large degree based on its importance for shorebirds, especially piping plovers, as a result of information initially gathered from the census and follow-up surveys. This marked the first time shorebirds played a significant role in such a designation, so this is a watershed event for shorebird conservation in the Bahamas (and the Caribbean).

 

I have noticed other “sea changes” in attitude on a smaller scale. When I first visited the Bahamas (Abaco) during the 2011 census, aside for some birders, piping plovers were little known by the public there. Now when I come, I am recognized as the plover guy and piping plover bumper stickers can be spotted around the island on golf carts and trucks. There is even a new post card, entitled “Birds of the Bahamas” that has a piping plover side by side with a flamingo, the national bird. And there is refreshingly little of the rancor we sometimes have in the states over their protection – the habitats piping plovers use in the Bahamas, especially tidal flats, are also important for valuable resources, such as conch and bonefish, and other marine species, so protecting them is less of a conflict.

birds of the bahamas postcard

 

The important role the Bahamas plays in the piping plover life cycle is now much better known by the public and other stakeholders. Many of the participating partners have not only provided technical shorebird expertise during the surveys, but worked hard to provide education and outreach towards a long-term conservation goal. One area my colleague Stephanie Egger and I are most proud of in this realm is our Shorebird Sister School Network, where we pair up schools and students in the Bahamas and in New Jersey, using piping plover migration as the link. Now in its third year, this project is working to create a new generation of young conservationists (and piping plover lovers)!

 

This is not to say our work is done. There is still more to learn, a banding study is being conducted to help us better understand survival compared to other wintering (and breeding) regions, more detailed aspects of site fidelity, and how birds move around sites within islands. Still, piping plovers are no longer a novelty in the Bahamas as was largely the case when I first came in 2011. The challenge over the next five years will be how to harness the increased awareness and knowledge to aid recovery of this endangered species.

 

A special thanks to Friends of the Environment, who have been our piping plover partner on Abaco from the beginning, please check out all the great work they do! Also to the Disney Conservation Fund and The National Audubon Society for funding, as well as Bahamas National Trust for other support and the conservation work they do in the Bahamas in general. Thanks to the U.S. Geological Survey, sponsors of the International Piping Plover Census, for supporting CWF’s inclusion in the surveys. Thanks to Rolling Harbour Abaco for setting up the Abaco Piping Plover Watch this winter to help us keep track of piping plovers and raise local awareness. Thanks to those who participated in the CWF led 2016 census on Abaco and Eleuthera: Brendan Toote, of the College of the Bahamas, Michelle Stantial, of SUNY – ESF, Pam Prichard, and CWF’s own Stephanie Egger and Emily Heiser. And finally, thanks to our local citizen scientists on Abaco who participated in or provided valuable knowledge for the 2016 census, especially Ali Ball, our “super” volunteer!

 

 

Learn More:

 

Todd Pover is the Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Traveling the Flyway in Search of Piping Plovers

Thursday, May 7th, 2015
CWF BIOLOGIST HEADS NORTH TO CANADA ON CONSERVATION MISSION

By: Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

 

Grey Flag EP, a marked Canadian piping plover  and one of the stars of the weekend.

Grey Flag EP, a marked Canadian piping plover and one of the stars of the weekend.

 

My trip to Canada this past weekend, completed a circle of sorts for me. Over the course of my two decade career studying and protecting Atlantic Coast piping plovers, I have traveled to nearly all of the breeding states in the U.S. More recently, I have expanded my work to their wintering grounds, visiting states in the southeast U.S. and extensively in the Bahamas. But there was one big gap in my piping plover conservation work beyond New Jersey – Atlantic Canada, which, by itself represents an entire recovery unit in the federal recovery plan.

 
“So you chase plovers around the world,” someone said to me in Canada this weekend. Well, not for the sake of just seeing them in different locations. What I am “chasing” is knowledge and partners. I am seeking information about to how we can improve our breeding program in New Jersey by observing what works (and doesn’t work) in other parts of the range and developing partners to help further conservation across the range.

 
The story of how I finally ended up in Canada illustrates just how connected piping plover conservation is on an international scale. This past winter, CWF’s Stephanie Egger and I resighted a number of marked piping plovers in the Bahamas. Among those were plovers with engraved flags indicating they bred in Atlantic Canada, marked as part of a long-term research project to try to determine survival, site fidelity, and wintering distribution, among other things. One of the plovers we observed was Grey E4, seen on a small quiet beach on Spanish Wells, Eleuthera. I dutifully reported the band the same evening we observed it and in a few hours the researchers responded it was banded as a chick the previous season in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. When I returned from field work the next day, I had an inquiry about the sighting from a small newspaper back in Nova Scotia, an unusual occurrence, especially so soon after reporting the band. A nice article resulted, a little excitement was generated, and that was the end of story for us on that banded bird.

 
At least it would normally be the end of the story. Over the course of the next few days and then weeks, I noticed that White Point Beach Resort, the breeding site where “E4” originated from, was frequently posting about the Bahamas resighting and in general about their plovers. After sleeping on it awhile, I finally decided to reach out to them; my curiosity was peeked about what was driving their enthusiasm. What I found out was that they genuinely love their plovers (of course, they do), but they are also interested in marrying conservation and commerce. Instead of it being an adversarial situation as often happens, a fear that having an endangered species would limit activities on their beach, the resort viewed the plovers as “value added” – something their guests would be interested in and maybe even come to the resort to experience.

The beach at White Point Beach Resort, a piping plover breeding site in Atlantic Canada, and host of International Piping Plover Day

The beach at White Point Beach Resort, a piping plover breeding site in Atlantic Canada, and host of International Piping Plover Day.

 
And they recognized the bands as a way to tell and sell the story. I couldn’t agree more, the bands provide a means to promote piping plover conservation on a personal level through storytelling. Piping plover banding projects are never undertaken lightly; trapping and marking birds involves some risk, and the prime motive for banding always has to be in the name of research to aid management and recovery. But once the birds are marked, we have an opportunity to use them for other purposes as well.

 

Post and sign designating a piping plover breeding sites in Canada.

Post and sign designating a piping plover breeding sites in Canada.

Having instantly bonded over our shared connection to E4, one thing led to another, and we decided to try to partner…in Canada, no less. It started small, but White Point Beach Resort reached out to the local piping plover community and research network, and eventually a whole weekend of activities was planned. May 3 was declared International Piping Plover Day and billed as a day for “banding together to celebrate partnerships.” Working in coordination with Bird Studies Canada, which oversees and implements the piping conservation and research projects in this region, an informative program, including updates on the Canadian banding project and breeding success in Nova Scotia, was presented as part of the weekend.

 

My role was to tell a little more of E4’s “story” and provide a big picture perspective that included the wintering and migratory portions of the piping plover’s life-cycle. Other highlights for attendees (and me) was a chance to view White Point’s resident pair of piping plovers, including Grey EP, who had just returned to the site to nest once again this year and is the “father” of E4. We even posted and fenced the nesting area of the resort’s beach.

 

Now that I have completed my travels across the piping plover’s entire Atlantic coast range, I have a flyway scale perspective of the conservation efforts and the challenges we all share. Ironically, the wider my view has become, the more I realize that in the end it comes back to the local view. Conservation works most effectively at the local level, the “stories” connect us on the local level, and we care most passionately about our local piping plovers. Another way of saying Think Globally, Act Locally.

 

It was an honor to be part of International Piping Plover Day in Nova Scotia this past weekend. I consider it something of a piping plover “diplomatic mission.” A special thanks to Donna Hatt and Wendy Coolen of White Point Beach Resort for organizing and hosting the event and to Sue Abbott of Bird Studies Canada for her coordination, as well as everything she does for piping plover conservation in Atlantic Canada.

 

Todd Pover is the Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey “2014 Annual Report” Released

Friday, March 27th, 2015

CWF Releases its First Annual Report Ever Using a Story Map Format: “2014 Annual Report

By David Wheeler, Executive Director

Technology has proven to be vital to Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s work protecting rare wildlife species over the years. Our biologists depend greatly on modern technologies to band, track, and share online the journeys of wildlife. Our webcams broadcast the most intimate behaviors of nesting birds and bats across the web. And we seek out ever-evolving communications technologies to spread the word about the inspiring stories of wildlife, from social media and infographs to e-books and Story Maps. These technologies offer newfound abilities to share complex data on multiple levels, while still incorporating the awe-inspiring photography and videos that bring wildlife’s stories to life.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is excited to offer our 2014 Annual Report in a unique format that utilizes one of those technologies – Story Maps. In the past year, we have explored the wonders of American oystercatchers with our first Story Map – and now the annual report allows all of our projects to be highlighted in this interactive format.

A screen capture of one of the pages of the CWF 2014 Annual Report Story Map.

A screen capture of one of the pages of the CWF 2014 Annual Report Story Map.

Visit the multiple pages within this Story Map to learn about Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s many projects and partnerships in 2014, and the imperiled wildlife species in need of our help. Find examples of the innovative and dedicated leadership of our biologists and volunteers. And take an online journey across the state to learn how our projects made a difference in all corners of New Jersey in 2014 – a great year for wildlife in the Garden State!


 

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