Great Lakes Piping Plovers
Monitoring and Protection
One of the most important parts of the GLPIPL Recovery Effort is on the ground monitoring and protection. We rely on dozens of people (paid and volunteer, new and experienced) to observe the birds on the beach from the time they arrive in the spring until the last one leaves for the winter. These monitors first hike the shorelines looking for territorial plovers. Then spend hours searching for nests and helping USFWS to protect them with wire "exclosures" that keep the eggs safe. They then check on the birds daily (or nearly so) at most beaches allowing us to monitor the status of their nesting attempts, try to resolve any issues that arise, and to react quickly to certain situations (a new nest that needs an exclosure or an abandoned nest with eggs that can be rescued and taken to the captive rearing center).
Monitors are also the public face of the Great Lakes Piping Plover recovery effort. If you visit a Michigan beach especially where there are nesting plovers, you may see a Piping Plover monitor. They will be the one with a spotting scope and binoculars. In addition to their job of protecting plovers they are there to give information about the Piping Plover Recovery Team, how beach goers can help and about the lives of the plovers in that area. Don't hesitate to ask them questions or ask for a close-up look through their spotting scope.
Nest exclosures have dramatically increased the breeding success of Piping Plovers. These wire "cages" that are put over plover nests reduce the egg predation rate significantly. The spacing of the wires is large enough for an adult plover to run through but small enough that the paw of a fox or raccoon can't get to the eggs. The net over the top of the exclosure prevents gulls and crows from eating the eggs.
Unfortunately, once the chicks hatch the exclosure is no longer useful. The chicks are precocial which means that within a couple hours of hatching, they are running around feeding themselves. The plover family leaves the nest and never returns, though they usually stay nearby. Once they leave the exclosure we are much less able to protect them from predation, though we continue to watch over them until they can fly in order to do what we can to protect this vulnerable time of their lives.