Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Piping Plover - Litchfield Beach - South Carolina

This past August during our vacation to coastal South Carolina, I awoke early one morning to walk the mile and a half or so to an inlet where a great amount of birds hang out.  I didn't come back with great pictures for my effort that morning, but as I was reviewing my work last week, I stumbled across this banded shorebird.  It was mixed in with a bunch of other things, including many semi-palmated plovers, but this bird looked different.

I'm not up on piping plovers all that much, but I do know they are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the endangered species act.  It turns out that there are two listings for the species- The birds that nest along the Great lakes are listed as endangered, while the rest of the birds, including the prairie nesting birds of the northern great plains and those that next along the Atlantic shore are threatened.

Now, if you look at the bird above, it's a bit of a crap shoot trying to discern what exactly the colors are on the left leg.  Purple?  Blue?  Orange?  Red?  The green on the right leg is a little easier.  Being fairly uncertain that this even was a piping plover, I sent the above image to researchers at the University of Minnesota.

Sure enough, I received an e-mail back from Alice Van Zoeren, and after a few exchanges, she did confirm that this bird was a piping plover from the Great Lakes Population.  By identifying the color band combinations, she was able to tell me that this bird, a female, was hatched at North Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 2012 and returned and returned to breed in Leelanau State Park in 2013, a site which had not seen breeding activity for Piping Plovers in 10 years.

It's always a good idea to pore over all your bird photographs, even those that normally wouldn't be a keeper, to check for bands.  You never know what you might find.  And now, three months later, I can add another bird to my life list.  Plus, I've added just one more bit of information to help the researchers understand more about the Great Lakes populations of this tiny little bird.


Want to take a look at the whole uncropped image?  How many species do you see?  Which ones?