The search for the elusive snowy plover…Part 2.
By: Sabrina Cobb
On our continued quest to locate and monitor snowy plover nests, we discovered a second nest on Dauphin Island on May 11th. Dauphin Island is a barrier island located 37 miles south of Mobile and is approximately 166 square miles. This island is known as a prime location for resting neotropical migrants. The section of the island where the nest was located has not had any snowy plover nesting activity in recent years and was a welcomed surprise to our team. Usually the species likes to nest in and around the dunes where there is little vegetation; however, this pair decided to nest right out in the open, on the beach! Finding the nest in such a location is a great reminder that beach-nesting birds will nest anywhere they see fit.
To help minimize human disturbance and bring awareness to the presence of nesting activity, we decided to fence off an area around the nest giving the snowy plovers the space they need in incubate the eggs. From then until hatching we performed nest checks every week. During our nest checks we diligently take notes on the environment in which the nest is located. This means we are constantly monitoring the weather, assessing the susceptibility of the nest to tidal over-wash, documenting human disturbance seen from tracks in and around nests, and noting any predator tracks. Some disturbances we noted at this location were human tracks walking along the perimeter of the fencing and several fox tracks. Even though the area appeared to be somewhat busy, on May 27th all three eggs had hatched successfully! We have since been closely monitoring the behavior and movements of the adults and chicks. During our last couple of surveys only one chick was seen with both parents foraging and hiding among the dunes. It is possible the other two chicks were silently hiding, and further monitoring will allow us to assess the progress of the chicks.
*Quick update on our first snowy plover nest mentioned in “The search for the elusive snowy plover…Part 1”: Chicks were last seen on May 25th; however, the adult snowy plover has been sighted exhibiting territorial behavioral cues in the form of calls and constant circling of specific areas along the site. We have also noted a couple of areas where an abundance of snowy plover tracks and possible chick tracks were. Locating these birds can be quite tricky, but we are continuing to monitor the site and hoping to spot the chicks again soon.