Piping plovers shy away from Duluth _ again
- Associated Press
- July 6, 2012 - 4:43 PM
DULUTH, Minn. - Piping plovers have been spotted around Duluth this year, but they're apparently not ready to make the area a permanent home.
The St. Louis River Alliance reported four confirmed sightings of plovers on Wisconsin Point and Minnesota Point sand beaches on Lake Superior. One bird even explored a designated nesting area on Shaffer Beach, where a "predator exclosure" had been built to keep out gulls, crows and other animals so that plovers might be tempted to nest.
But none of the plovers who visited in May stayed.
"I'm encouraged," Julene Boe, executive director of the St. Louis River Alliance, told the Duluth News Tribune (http://bit.ly/NtcqIS). "We were told not to expect anything, so this gives us some real hope what we're trying to do might work down the road."
The exclosure and plover monitoring are part of a five-year, $250,000 effort funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore plovers to their natural habitat along the sand and gravel beaches in the area. It's been three decades or more since plovers, which look much like the region's more common killdeer, actually nested in the Duluth area.
Program officials had to rebuild the exclosure after a big Memorial Day weekend storm that sent waves crashing high on the beach.
"It was a learning experience," Boe said. "One thing we hope to do more of next year is public outreach, just to let people know what we are doing and how they can help."
Plovers favor broad sand beaches with no trees. They nest where the sand near shore mixes with small rocks and driftwood, just outside areas of dune grass. Shaffer Beach appears to have what they like, and it's less visited by people, unleashed dogs and predators than other waterfronts in the area.
On Long Island in the Apostle Islands, four plover pairs are fighting summer storms in their effort to nest. Only one pair has successfully hatched chicks, while the others' nests have been destroyed.
"They've re-nested, and another storm hits and wipes out the nest, and they try again," said Julie Van Stappen, chief of planning and resource management at Apostle Island National Lakeshore. "Sometimes they build their nests pretty close to the water's edge, and they are vulnerable to any big wave action. The nests get buried or just washed out."
The four pair on Long Island are Wisconsin's only nesting plovers. The Great Lakes population of plovers is officially considered endangered, with fewer than 70 pair across the region, most in Michigan. There are no nesting plovers on Minnesota's shores of Lake Superior.
Information from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthsuperior.com
© 2013 Star Tribune