Piping Plovers in sunny Florida

26 11 2008
Banded Piping Plover on Siesta Key (photo courtesy of Rick Greenspun, Sarasota Audubon)

Banded Piping Plover on Siesta Key (photo courtesy of Rick Greenspun, Sarasota Audubon)

 This story comes to us from Michelle van Deventer, who assists in coordinating SEANET’s Florida branch:

“On September 26 during a SEANET survey on Lido Key in Sarasota Florida, Ruthellen Piepert spotted a piping plover sporting several bands and an orange flag.  The sighting was reported and the fascinating details about this little plover are below.  I also spotted this same banded PIPL on nearby Siesta Key a short time later, along with another similarly banded juvenile PIPL.  These sightings were again reported to the banding agencies and details are below.  What a great opportunity to learn about the individual history of these birds, which are part of the federally endangered Great Lakes population.  It’s also exciting to provide useful wintering info to the researchers involved and help them fill in the gaps on where these birds go when they leave the breeding grounds.” 

When our Florida colleagues reported these banded birds, they received the following information from Francesca J. Cuthbert, Head of the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota:

“Thanks so much for your excellent report on one of our Great Lakes Piping Plovers. This bird has an interesting story. It came from a nest in Grand Marais, Michigan. This location is on Lake Superior. During incubation, the nest was abandoned after the adult male died accidentally. The eggs were taken into captivity at the Piping Plover captive rearing facility at the University of Michigan Biological Station near Pellston, MI. The eggs were artificially incubated and they hatched successfully. When the chicks were about 30 days old, they were driven back up to  Grand Marais and released back into the wild. This occurred last summer so your bird is about 4-5 months old. Thanks again for your report. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I hope you find some more banded birds this winter.”

Banded Piping Plover Stretching

A second Banded Piping Plover, this one stretching (photo by Michelle van Deventer)

And regarding the sighting of the second banded plover on a nearby beach, 

“Thanks for the additional report. This second bird is also a captive reared plover from last summer. It is a sibling of the one reported earlier. So, the story is the same. The unusual part of the story, however, is that is
very rare for birds who are together on the breeding grounds to winter together (maybe we don’t have enough data on juveniles, however). What we know is that the parents do not winter together and the parents do not winter with their offspring. This is a rare case where 2 siblings appear to be wintering together.”

And the dead bird is…

25 11 2008

…A Red Breasted Merganser! Thanks to you brave souls who took a guess. I chose this picture because without the head, a bird with this appearance could easily be confused with a number of other species such as White-Winged Scoter, Bufflehead, and Scaup. The distinction here can be made based on the details of the white wing patch (also known as the speculum).

Merganser in flight (photo courtesy michaeldanielho.com)

Merganser in flight (photo courtesy michaeldanielho.com)

In the photo of the merganser in flight (left) note the thin black band running through the center of the speculum. Now compare that with the speculum on the White-Winged Scoter (photo below); in this species, the speculum is just one uninterrupted white band.

Bufflehead and Scaup show still more variations in speculum appearance. This illustrates the particular importance of stretching out the wing when taking photos of beached birds. Details like the black line on the merganser wing are difficult to appreciate when the wing is left in the natural, folded postition.

White-Winged Scoters in flight (photo courtesy of world.std.com/~eva/nantucket.html)

White-Winged Scoters in flight (photo courtesy of world.std.com/~eva/nantucket.html)

Name that dead bird II

24 11 2008

OK, so that first one was a warmup. Jack is correct, it is an Oldsquaw (also known as Long-Tailed Duck). Since that one was soooo easy, here’s a headless carcass. Try your hand at this one, found by Dennis Minsky (WB_39) on Cape Cod in November. Dennis’ identification on the card in the photo has been obscured so you have a chance to challenge yourself. Have at it!


Name that dead bird

20 11 2008

Mystery bird, dorsal viewMystery bird, ventral viewThis find was made by Diana Gaumond (WB_02) on November 11th. Try your hand at an i.d.! (You can enter your guess as a comment.)

SEANET goes to Canada

17 11 2008

logoI’ve only just returned from beautiful Quebec City Canada and the 3rd North American Sea Duck Conference. There were droves of duck-loving scientists, wildlife managers and other parties lining up to hear the latest and greatest news on sea ducks. SEANET gave a presentation on the recurrent die-offs of Common Eiders that occur with some regularity on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The presentation reviewed previous hypotheses that intestinal parasites called acanthocephalans were to blame for the deaths. It also covered our current research suggesting that this isn’t the case. Also covered was our plan to investigate a mysterious virus discovered in the eiders that may be linked to their deaths (but we are still working on money to do that, sigh.)

To see all the other presentations that were given at this weeklong conference, check out the conference schedule at: www.seaduckconference2008.org/pdf/Conference_Schedule.pdf

Scavenging gulls on SEANET beaches

10 11 2008

This report comes to us from Jenette Kerr (WB_36) on Cape Cod:

Common eider at the water's edge.

Common eider carcass

“The only dead bird I discovered today had been washed in on the tide and was being nibbled on by a young gull at water’s edge. My first thought was to leave the gull to eat in peace but since this was my only dead bird of the day, I wanted to document it. Because the carcass was partially submerged and quite chewed up I declined to haul it in to shore for measurements. I also didn’t want to make the young gull think I was going to take this tidbit home for myself. So I just took a couple of pictures. (Picture 2) is of the gull who clearly was a bit put out that I interrupted his snack.”

Forlorn gull missing his lunch

Forlorn gull missing his lunch

We are interested in knowing more about the phenomenon of carcass scavenging out there on SEANET beaches. If you catch someone in the act of scavenging, please snap a picture (or multiple pics) of the culprit and send it to us with your best guess as to the species doing the scavenging. Dr. Julie Ellis is particularly interested in whether it’s Great Black-Backed Gulls or Herring Gulls doing most of the carcass mangling out there.

How to post a comment

7 11 2008

All are welcome to post comments or questions here at the SEANET blog. All you need to do is look at the bottom of the post about which you wish to comment and click on the red link that says “No comments” or “1 comment” or however many prior comments there are on that post. You will be taken to a screen where you can type your comment. You will need to provide your first and last name (or your seanet database i.d. if you prefer). You will also need to provide your email address, but this will NOT appear anywhere on the site for people to view. Then you just click “submit comment.” After that, the comment will be sent to me for approval. Finally, it will appear on the blog for all posterity! Try it out!

Halloween beach shocker

5 11 2008

Here’s an ominous Halloween find by Jerry Golub NJ_51. Chance encounter, or All Hallow’s Eve message deposited by the great black backed gull that was observed poking holes in this skate?Halloween beach find

SEANET goes 21st century!

4 11 2008

Hello to all our dedicated SEANET volunteers! Welcome to our new blog. On this site, we will be able to post volunteer photos and stories, offer opportunities to brush up on your dead bird i.d. skills, and otherwise hone your considerable natural talents. If you have suggestions for things you’d like to see on our blog, please let us know. As always, we welcome your input!