Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Piping Plovers’

Piping Plovers and Researchers Return to The Bahamas

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
PROTECTING PIPING PLOVER HABITAT CRITICAL PART OF CONSERVE WILDLIFE FOUNDATION’S WORK

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

We talk quite a bit about “site fidelity” in connection with our beach nesting bird project. And for good reason, whether it be on the breeding or wintering grounds, these birds, like most wildlife, are strongly connected to specific places and types of habitats. Not just in the general sense; many piping plovers return to the same precise site year after year.

Aerial view of one of several hundred Bahamas islands and cays, with tidal flats, highly suitable piping plover habitat, visible stretching around the island.

Aerial view of one of several hundred Bahamas islands and cays, with tidal flats, highly suitable piping plover habitat, visible stretching around the island.

 

We were reminded of this the last several days as we made our way around Abaco, The Bahamas, in search of wintering piping plovers. Having made a number of trips to Abaco since 2011, we have started to narrow down where it is likely we will be able to find them: the Green Turtle Cay Gillam Bay flat at low tide or the adjacent upper beach hummocks at high tide, Casuarina Point to forage at low tide, a number of the main island’s southern oceanfront beaches for roosting, to name a few. We are still finding new sites, not previously surveyed or documented, but we now have a much better idea of what to look for and on what tide or wind condition.

 

The catch is, this only works if the habitat remains intact and suitable. Back in New Jersey, we know this well, as many of the formerly suitable sites for beach nesting birds are lost forever to development or are highly disturbed by recreational activities so the likelihood of reproductive success is low even if they do choose to nest at those locations. Sadly, our breeding pairs of piping plover are relegated to a limited number of suitable sites, which is not a good recipe for recovery of this endangered shorebird.

 

With its hundreds of islands and cays, many undeveloped or lightly settled, we may be inclined to think this is less of an issue on the wintering grounds in the Bahamas. And relatively speaking, this might be true to some extent, but it would be unwise to believe this will always be the case. Economic forces are a driving factor there, as in anywhere in the world, so the lure of development and commercial use of resources is strong in the Bahamas as well.

Black Flag "K2", a Canadian breeder and one of six color marked piping plovers observed on wintering grounds on Abaco, The Bahamas, this past week by CWFNJ's Todd Pover and Stephanie Egger.

Black Flag “K2”, a Canadian breeder and one of six color marked piping plovers observed on wintering grounds on Abaco, The Bahamas, this past week by CWFNJ’s Todd Pover and Stephanie Egger.

 

Fortunately, there is also a strong incentive to protect shorebirds in the Bahamas. The tidal flats and shallow water habitats that shorebirds use are also important for bonefish, conch, and other fisheries that are important to the local economy and provide jobs. Furthermore, birding and wildlife-based activities are increasing an important part of the tourist sector. However, In order to sustain those activities and opportunities, ecosystems must remain intact and pristine.

 

A number of organizations, local and from abroad, are diligently working to designate more protected areas in the Bahamas. One of the top priorities now, an effort being led by the Bahamas National Trust and National Audubon Society, is to protect the vast flats area in the Joulter Cays, Andros, which are especially important for shorebirds such as the piping plover. On Abaco, where we have been focusing our piping plover work, Friends of the Environment  is strongly advocating for protection of East Abaco Creeks, Cross Harbour, and more recently The Marls.

 

During a survey this past week on Man-O-War, one of Abaco’s offshore cays, we were able to locate a banded piping plover that had originally been marked on its breeding grounds in Canada. In discussing the bird with a local resident who had first spotted it, she was surprised that the bird was remaining in the same spot ever since she saw it two months ago. This was site fidelity illustrated in its truest sense, and in the same vein, the researchers in Canada are already anticipating it will return to the same site to nest next spring. From what we know about piping plovers that is highly likely…as long as we remain committed to protecting the habitat they use.

 

Piping Plovers Plunge to Record Low in NJ

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Photo Credit: Asbury Park Press/Nancy A. Smith

Photo Credit: Asbury Park Press/Nancy A. Smith

Pairs of piping plovers — small, critically endangered shorebirds that dart along the sand in search for food — dropped to a record low in New Jersey this year. Just 92 pairs nested in the Garden State, down from 108 last year, BUT the beach-nesting birds spawned a high number of fledged chicks — 1.36 per pair, the third-highest figure since 1986 and above what’s needed to grow and maintain their population in the long-run.

Last week, Asbury Park Press Reporter Todd B. Bates discussed the issue with Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager Todd Pover.

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Flying Fish Brewing Company Serves Plover Pale Ale, Highlights Importance of Piping Plover Conservation Programs

Monday, November 10th, 2014

“Beer, Birds and The Bahamas” Showcased the International Link
between the U.S. and The Bahamas for Piping Plovers

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Todd and Stephanie explaining the Piping Plover Bahamas Project to guests at "Beer, Birds and The Bahamas."

Todd Pover and Stephanie Egger explaining the Piping Plover Bahamas Project to guests at “Beer, Birds and The Bahamas.”

On Thursday, November 6, over 85 guests attended “Beer, Birds and The Bahamas,” a fundraising event organized by Flying Fish Brewing Company and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation biologists, Todd Pover and Stephanie Egger educated guests about the Piping Plover “Bahamas Project” and showed the connection between The Bahamas and the U.S. for the endangered beach nesting bird species. One-night-only Plover Pale Ale was served and guests had the opportunity to attend brewery tours and play Plover Quizzo. The winners of Plover Quizzo received prize baskets full of Conserve Wildlife Foundation and Flying Fish Brewing Company merchandise.

“Events like ‘Beer, Birds and The Bahamas’ fulfill the purpose of creating a community space inside the Brewing Company,” said President of Flying Fish Brewing Company Gene Muller. “Our audience and Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s audience go hand in hand. People who appreciate wildlife and the environment also appreciate sustainably produced beer.”

“This innovative project is based on partnerships in both New Jersey and the Bahamas – bringing together distant communities who still share a strong commitment to education and a personal connection to their beaches,” said Conserve Wildlife Foundation Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager Todd Pover. “In the same vein, the event at Flying Fish Brewing was an exciting partner-driven way to promote the project.”

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey’s Piping Plover Bahamas Project supports the recovery and long-term survival of Piping Plovers by identifying critical Bahamas wintering habitat for Piping Plovers and other shorebirds of concern on the islands of Abaco and Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Conserve Wildlife Foundation collaborates with a local Bahamas environmental group, Friends of the Environment, to engage the public and increase local awareness of the critical role played by the Bahamas in the full life cycle of the Piping Plover.

The Atlantic Coast population of Piping Plover has been federally listed as threatened in the U.S. since 1986 and endangered in Canada since 1985. Although migration and wintering protection is one of the five main recovery tasks in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Piping Plover Recovery Plan (USFWS 1996), until recently protection has primarily been focused on the breeding grounds. Furthermore, population monitoring is well understood on the breeding grounds, but winter use is not as well documented.

Over the past five years the importance of the Bahamas as a major wintering site for Piping Plovers has become increasingly evident.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and other partners aim to identify critical wintering habitat, provide education and outreach to school children and the public, and build local capacity for future surveys and protection of Piping Plovers in the Bahamas. For more information, please visit our website.

Flying Fish Brewing will donate proceeds from the sale of Plover Pale Ale to the Bahamas Project by Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.