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 of nests. 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.
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 Great Lakes beach 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, What beach users can do to help, and about the lives of the plovers in that area. Don't hesitate to ask them questions.
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 a crow, a gull, or another predator can't reach the eggs.
Once the chicks hatch, the exclosure is no longer useful. The chicks are precocial, which means that within a few 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 the chicks from predation. 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.
Monitoring doesn't end when Piping Plovers leave the Great Lakes for their winter territories. Other dedicated observers keep an eye on them and report their locations and activities during the 9 months that they spend in the south each year.