When last we reported on Old Man Plover’s last chick, it was sitting quietly on a beach amongst some driftwood and cobble on a beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes fresh from being released from captivity. It faced numerous challenges; including predators, storms and potentially a lack of stopover habitat, just to reach safe wintering grounds. Now just a little more than a month later we have some exciting news to report. Peter Brannon a birder and photographer spotted the chick, whose band combo is abbreviated Of,B/OO:X,G at Fort De Soto Park on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The Gulf Coast of Florida, along with coastal South Carolina and Georgia are the three most important wintering grounds for Great Lakes piping plovers. The chick made the more than 1,200 mile journey from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, to Fort De Soto Park all on its own without having to learn the route from a parent, just as all young piping plovers do. Reaching a safe and quality wintering site, like Fort De Soto is an important and essential step for a young plover in order for it to survive and return to the Great Lakes to breed.
Additionally another captive reared chick, released at the same time as Of,B/OO:X,G was also spotted last week at Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia (approximately 1,000 miles from the release site this is another winter haven for Great Lakes piping plovers) by long-term plover monitor Pat Leary. To have two captive reared plovers from the same release spotted so soon after departing from the breeding grounds is definitely an encouraging sign for the long-term survival of these birds. It is also a positive affirmation that working together the many conservation partners that helped make this story a success, including the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Detroit Zoo, University of Minnesota, University of Michigan and monitors and volunteers on the wintering grounds can help bring the Great Lakes piping plover back from the brink of extinction.