Article by Mark Andrews, photos by Mark Andrews and Ed Konrad
Over the years, Seabrook Island Birders have written many articles to highlight the importance of our island’s beaches for federally Endangered/Threatened Piping Plovers. In the September 2020 edition of The Seabrooker, we explained that Seabrook Island hosts many migrating and winter resident Piping Plovers, and featured the life stories of some of those birds.
Most of the banded Piping Plovers on Seabrook are part of the Atlantic coast or the Great Lakes nesting stocks. The Great Lakes birds are the most endangered with only 60-70 nesting pairs remaining. While these numbers are so low that researchers have named many individuals to track them, they represent a 5-fold increase from the 12 breeding pairs found in 1990! Achieving these gains has required intensive efforts by biologists to monitor the progress of each nest and to step in to save eggs and chicks when it appears that a nest might be lost to high water or the loss of a parent. This process is referred to as Captive Rearing. There were 39 captive reared chicks incubated, raised, and released by the Great Lakes program in 2020.
Since August, we have observed eight banded Great Lakes Piping Plovers on North Beach. Three of these are from this group of 39 special captive reared chicks. Mark Andrews told the stories of the first two, “Joe” and “Big VB,” in a Seabrook Island Birders blog post in September. But then a third captive reared Piping Plover was seen here in October. In an incredible moment, these three very special birds were seen together on October 11, 2020! We call this third Piping Plover “Red Yellow” from the bands on its leg.
We learned from Alice Van Zoeren, Researcher with The Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, “You’ve found yet another of the 2020 captive-reared chicks. Of,RY:X,Y/O came from a nest at Grand Marais, MI. This summer we had many more adult females than males and, in several instances, females began nests without pairing, with males that already were paired and had nests to attend to. This was one of those instances. A plover can’t successfully incubate eggs alone, so when it was clear that she was giving up on incubation the eggs were collected and captive reared. This chick was released on 8/5 near the south boundary of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.”
You can help us in our efforts to observe and record the bands on Piping Plovers and other seabirds and shorebirds. This activity, called resighting, is what links the birds back to the researchers and requires many hours of careful and accurate observations. We cannot be out on the beach all the time; the more eyes we have on these birds the better. In the Seabrook Island Birders story below, we review the steps we take to protect birds while we work near them. If you’d be interested to learn about helping with resighting on North Beach, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and Mark Andrews will be in touch with you.
We would like to share the stories of two of the 39 captive reared chicks seen on North Beach this fall. Read the Seabrook Island Birders’ September full blog story.
Read more about these special birds, in an article published in the Sierra Club magazine, including Joe’s sighting on Seabrook Island. Remember when you read the article that “Big VB” is the grand-chick of footless “Violet.”
Read the September 2020 Piping Plover article written by Ed & Aija Konrad in The Seabrooker (see page 5).