On Saturday, April 5th I was able to participate in an event called the Snowy Plover Mud Stomp. This event took place at the Moss Landing Wildlife Area, which is right across the street from our Jetty Road surveying site. It was a very special experience because this area is normally closed to the public, due to the Snowy Plovers using this habitat for nesting sites.
Upon hearing about the mud stomp, I wasn’t completely sure of what to expect but the name sounded intriguing. On the day of the event I met with my supervisor, Amanda A., at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve and we loaded up a truck with rain boots and headed over to the Moss Landing Wildlife Area. When we arrived, there were already several people present- ranging from local volunteers to Point Blue Conservation Science staff.
I quickly learned that the event was being led by Carleton Eyster, an avian ecologist with Point Blue, who has been monitoring the Snowy Plovers at this location for quite some time. After some quick introductions from all the participants Carleton explained that the purpose of the mud stomp was to provide habitats for the Western Snowy Plovers to nest. He explained that the imprint of the boots we were creating were an adequate size for Snowy Plovers to create suitable nests since they are ground nesters. After these brief introductions we began our stomping journey.
Soon after beginning, we encountered a Western Snowy Plover female on her nest. Both the plover and her nest were very inconspicuous and were camouflaged very well since Snowy Plovers often line their nests with shells. It was a really great treat to get to see a Snowy Plover since Carlos and I have not encountered any during our shorebird surveys yet!
As the mud stomping went on I learned a lot about the Moss Landing Wildlife Area and how it is a critical habitat for many bird species. The tide in this area is controlled, allowing for a better chance of survival for the Snowy Plovers nests. Aside from Snowy Plovers there were a lot of other shorebirds present on this day- there were a lot of Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Semi-palmated Plovers, and Least Sandpipers.
It was a beautiful day and a gratifying experience knowing that by doing something as simple as stomping on mud we were helping our little Snowy Plover buddies.