Visiting Wilson’s Plover Picks Choice Vineyard Beachfront

by Lanny McDowell on May 21, 2012


The BiodiversityWorks team is vigorously embracing their mandate to protect shorebirds on Martha’s Vineyard. The work they do is important and they obviously take that work seriously.  This spring’s nesting season for shorebirds is in full swing and all the activity of Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers requires researchers to cover a lot of ground, most of it over sand and on foot, checking on the progress of pair bonding, nesting, egg laying, and the hatching of new chicks.  The work they do is the only way that endangered and protected birds which use the beaches to raise young are actually physically separated from human, canine and vehicle disturbance, as well as from more natural predation from skunks, cats – feral and otherwise – harriers, gulls and crows.  This is achieved, in the case of Piping Plovers,  by constructing wire exclosures to keep the bad guys away from the eggs, brooding parents and very young chicks.  In order to do this, many miles are walked daily to access the nesting locations of identified pairs. This often requires the success of earnest and tactful approaches to property owners to grant access to habitats the public otherwise has only a minimal chance of reaching.  Last Friday, May 18, Luanne Johnson discovered a lone female Wilson’s plover on one of the long private stretches of beach on the south side of the Island.  She was familiar with the species, first of all, because she is a shorebird researcher and birder, and, secondly, since she had discovered another Wilson’s back in June of 2005.

I checked Vineyard Birds II, the bible of sighting records here on the Vineyard.  It mentions one spring record for Wilson’s Plover here on MV earlier than the 2005 report. That was on the 24th of May in 2000, a sighting by Scott Hecker, now of the Goldenrod Foundation up in Plymouth.  Thus, it looks like Luanne’s discovery last Friday is probably an early record for MV.  Most of the older records occurred in the fall, not in the spring.

I do realize that the title of this blog is a tease, in that I coyly cannot divulge the exact location of this rather rare visitor, because the politics of private beach ownership of our fair shores discourages inviting the public down the windy dirt roads, through the locked gates and past the manors and onto jealously guarded beachfront.  Like it or not, that’s just how it is and, sometimes, with the right credentials and honorable purpose, especially conservationist, species-saving purpose, we have the opportunity to go there.  A Wilson’s Plover, on the other hand, simply has to stop flying and call that same beach home, for the time being at least.

Way cool bird!  Lan

Note on photos: There is an illusion of some black markings on this bird, which results from shadows thrown by a clear and strong midday sun (May 19, 2012).

Wilsons 051912-17

Wilsons 051912-16

Wilsons 051912-15

Wilsons 051912-14

Wilsons 051912-13

Wilsons 051912-12

Wilsons 051912-11

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Edie Ray 05.21.12 at 12:41 pm

Great write-up and as ever wonder pictures. Thanks Lan!

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