Out in the beach doing Nest Detection Surveys

Snowy on the Move!

During my internship training, I was introduced to a group of birds that were not as colorful nor sang beautiful melodies in the mornings. This group is known as the shorebirds or wading birds. It took a while for me to comprehend how and why these birds are so important in maintaining healthy ecosystems worldwide. Although they lack the attention-grabbing colors and songs of other birds, if you look closer you’ll realize that they, too, possess unique adaptations that make them one of the most amazing migrating creatures you’ll ever see! This week I spent my time learning more about them, and I decided that participating in the World Migratory Bird Day at the Lincoln City Festival would be the perfect opportunity to teach the public about such special birds. The idea is to share information about the different species of shorebirds that may be seen along the Oregon coast, and to promote the conservation and protection of their populations and the habitats they depend on.

 

One special little shorebird that I am focusing on is the Western Snowy Plover. To really understand what makes this bird so special I just had to see one in real life. Therefore, when the opportunity arrived to do a nest detection survey at one of the Snowy Plover nesting sites I jumped right in! It is a completely different story to learn about this bird at a training in a classroom vs. actually looking for them out on the beaches. Luckily, that day we were joined by a Western Snowy Plover expert, or at least someone who had years of detection survey experience. I learned that finding the pigeon-like tracks of the plover is harder than it seems when you have other bird tracks all over the place. But once I got a closer look at the tracks I knew what I was looking for. We were able to follow the tracks for about a quarter mile. About an hour in, I had lost hope of finding a plover nest or seeing a Snowy Plover at all. Suddenly, just behind a small dune, we spotted a female. Western Snowy Plovers have a very peculiar behavior during nesting season. When she noticed us, she immediately walked in the opposite direction of the nest. From our location we could not see the nest until we got closer, followed the tracks, and then “Oh my God!” there they were – three grape-sized eggs almost blending right in with the sand in a small depression or scrape that the male had made for them. We were filled with joy and excitement, but quickly settled down in order to take GPS coordinates and some pictures, and then left so that we didn’t keep the mother away from the nest for too long. The male, which we had not seen earlier, was actually far away near the beach wrack line guarding the eggs from a distance. That has been, by far, one of my favorite experiences so far, and I only hope to learn more about these wonderful birds as the season continues.

 

Three Western Snowy Plover eggs in a shallow scrape in the sand. The male decorates the nest with pebbles and shells to attract a female during the breeding season.

 

Araceli Morales
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