Let the Snowy Plover Party Begin

Welcome back to this week’s episode of, “What is Janne up to?”

 

As I mentioned last week, I am finally out in the field with Biologist Robert Patton and surveying Western Snowy Plovers (Charadrius n. nivosus) down at the Tijuana Estuary. Snowy Plovers are one of my favorite shorebirds and getting to be out in the field with them is definitely one of the coolest things I get to do. Other than being adorable, Snowy Plovers are also a threatened species and have suffered population declines due to loss of habitat and human disturbances.

 

Snowy Plover in breeding plumage courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds.

Snowy Plover in non-breeding plumage courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds.

I did get to see my first Snowy Plover nest, which is really exciting. However, I have yet to spot one on my own, so I can’t wait until my eyes become experts at spotting them! Snowy Plovers nest along sandy beaches and their nests are a single depression in the ground. They like their nests to be in an open area, slightly elevated, that is unvegetated or at least sparsely vegetated so they can spot any predators that may be coming. Usually, there will be pieces of driftwood that they use to protect the nest from coastal wind gusts, and they can line their nests with shells and other debris. As you can see the eggs blend in pretty well, and if you are not looking at them it can be quite easy to step on a nest and decimate the eggs. For this reason, it’s important to respect Snowy Plover nesting habitat by staying out of roped off areas and keeping your dog on a leash. However, our roped off areas don’t delineate every single Snowy Plover nest, so be sure to be aware of the your actions on the beach during Snowy Plover breeding season. We can’t control the ravens, coyotes, and other animals that prey upon Snowy Plovers, but we can minimize the stress that us humans place upon these birds.

 

Two Snowy Plover eggs in a nest.

If you want to know more about the ecology and life history of the Snowy Plover, the Recovery Plan by US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Birder’s Conservation Handbook, and the California Bird Species of Special Concern are all great resources.

 

One surprise visitor did show up to the party: we saw one Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva) mingling with a couple of Black-bellied Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola).

Pacific Golden-Plover courtesy of Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds

Pacific Golden-Plovers are pretty uncommon in North America, but can winter and migrate in small numbers along the Pacific Coast, so it was cool to get a look at one. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but I have yet to master the art of taking photos through my binos.

 

I had a great time being out in the field and can’t wait for the season to progress and for the chicks to start hatching. You’ll be getting a lot of Snowy Plover updates, so brace yourselves!  See everyone next week!

Janne Torres
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