Can’t Get Enough of the Snowy Plover!
You know what time it is? It’s blogging time! I just got back home from an amazing Western Snowy Plover presentation and training event in Nehalem Bay State Park, which is located on the Oregon coast approximately 120 miles/three hours from my bunkhouse. Drive for another hour north and you’re in Washington! A decent journey for sure. Thankfully, I had a fellow intern to help me out, ARACELI! (In case you read my last blog, you might remember her from the station we conducted for a fourth grade field trip). We talked to our bosses and they agreed I could stay over night at her bunkhouse in Hebo, thus preventing me from having to wake up early in the morning to drive for three straights hours. I don’t know about you all, but my circadian rhythm falls more under the nocturnal spectrum. Definitely not an early bird (get it, since I’m in a shorebird internship? Hahaha….no? *leaves room*). The journey to the state park was short and allowed us to briefly explore northern Oregon for a little bit.
The first order of business upon arrival was a presentation given by a wildlife biologist on Snowy Plovers. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d learn much from the presentation, since my first two weeks in Oregon had focused on background research of the area and the Snowy Plover. Plot twist: I was wrong and learned so much more. For example, did you know Snowy Plovers leave pigeon toed (slightly inward feet) tracks in the sand that are indicative of the bird? How about that Snowy Plovers perform a bobbing (moving up and down) motion that should be considered as a warning that you’re too close to their nest and you should slowly back away? ORRRRRR maybe you knew that you can tell them apart from the similar looking Semipalmated Plover by their behavior? Don’t worry, I didn’t know it either. What made it so much better was the wildlife biologist who gave the presentation. She exuded so much excitement and passion for the tiny adorable shorebird, that it was nearly impossible not to fall in love with the Snowy Plover. This strengthened admiration made it a bit tough to hear about the many challenges they face. Habitat loss, human disturbance, and increased predation are the main causes for their decline. However, it’s great to hear that the collaborative efforts and strategic planning in Oregon has produced great results. We’re at 250 breeding adults, and each one is producing at least one successful hatchling each year!
After talking about Snowy Plovers for three hours (the time flew by), it was time to practice some surveying methods! Unfortunately, the Oregon weather was rainy as usual and it was too windy and drizzly to go outside (it’s still raining as I’m writing this!). So, we improvised. The event coordinator was prepared for the weather and taped up some images of the survey site and had us “survey the landscape” to practice what we’ve learned. We practiced identifying the Snowy Plover’s distinctive tracks, spotting their camouflaged eggs, identifying signs of human presence (such as footprints), what to document in our data sheet (time, date, weather, number of birds, etc.), and where to submit our data. It was a fun way to circumvent the less than ideal weather.
We wrapped up the event by learning that our monitoring efforts and the data collection are very crucial to Snowy Plover preservation. The state park will use our data for their reports, and analyze it to gain a better understanding of the Snowy Plovers in their location and develop protocols that cater to that respective population. Just as important, I left with a stronger sense of stewardship for the dunes where I’ll be monitoring the tiny shorebird. It’s this feeling that I strive to share with the visitors and audience down there. Facilitating the connection of people to nature and all its wonders in the area they call home is the best way to ensure this species’ conservation. Once that connection is made, it’s easier for people to appreciate the world around them and care for it. I can’t wait to begin shorebird monitoring to gain a better understanding of the dunes and share it with the public. Onward we go!