Jekyll Island – Wilson’s Plovers

May 5, 2014 at 4:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - Georgia, Georgia, Georgia State Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , , )

Wilson's Plover chick banded by Abby Sterling in 2012

Wilson’s Plover chick banded by Abby Sterling in May 2012

The above photograph was taken by bander Abby Sterling on Little St. Simons Island two years ago.  Here is the same bird I photographed on April 27, 2014 on Jekyll Island, all grown up:

Wilson's Plover, male, wearing leg bands

Wilson’s Plover, male, wearing leg bands

Abby said he was seen on Little St. Simons Island again last June, and presumably he is going to nest on Jekyll Island this year since he was in the nesting area with a mate.  Here’s what Abby says about her banding project:

I’m banding Wilson’s at several sites in Georgia for my graduate research at UGA.  Basically I’m looking at nesting sites, and landscape characteristics to see if there are any features that best explain where birds nest and where they are most successful.  Ultimately, I hope to look at risks (like predation risk and risk of tidal overwash) and see if we can predict the best places for nesting shorebirds, so we can help guide management in Georgia and maybe elsewhere.  So, I’m finding nests, and banding chicks, and then seeing what nests produce fledglings, and linking that all back to the landscape.  I’m focusing on Wilson’s plovers and American oystercatchers, and I’m working on Little St Simons (LSSI), which is an undeveloped privately owned island, and the Cumberland and Little Cumberland Island, a bit further south.  

Dedicated scientists like Abby study how we can best help birds survive, particularly those whose populations are decreasing due to habitat loss or other human-caused reason.  It’s always cool finding a bird with bands, and to discover the story behind them.

Banded male Wilson's Plover running on beach

Banded male Wilson’s Plover running on beach

The nesting area for Wilson’s Plovers is on the south end of Jekyll Island.

Roped off nesting area

Roped off nesting area

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There are signs at every boardwalk access to the beach asking people to keep their dogs leashed and to avoid harassing resting or nesting birds.  Unfortunately this is what I saw that afternoon:

There were three of these unleashed terrorist terriers

There were three of these unleashed terrorist terriers

Dog was leashed, but people didn't bother keeping their distance from the resting shorebirds

Dog was leashed, but people didn’t bother keeping their distance from the resting shorebirds

This dodo just wanted some cool phone pix of 500 birds he purposely scared up

This dodo just wanted some cool phone pix of 500 birds he purposely scared up

Since it was Sunday, there was much more foot traffic than I was used to, since I used to volunteer for Lydia Thompson’s Operation Plover Patrol on Tuesdays or Wednesdays last year.  A few other careless folks scared up the flock of 500-plus terns, skimmers, pelicans,etc. but when they saw me sitting there with a camera and a scowl on my face, they turned around.

Male Wilson's Plover

Male Wilson’s Plover

I saw two pairs of Wilson’s, two additional males, and three females.  Or perhaps one or two of the females were males still in winter garb.  None acted like they had nests or eggs yet, since they weren’t whistling loudly and trying to lure me away from their locations.

Female Wilson's Plover

Female Wilson’s Plover

The setting sun added a warm glow to these birds feeding on the beach.

A bonded pair

A bonded pair

Unfortunately I won’t be here to see the chicks as I did last year, as I’m on my way to Colorado.  Stay tuned for adventures from the road!

Sunset on Jekyll Island

Sunset on Jekyll Island

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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