A respite from all those dead

8 03 2013
Banded bird from South Dakota contemplates the Georgia coast. (photo by G. Graves)

Banded bird from South Dakota contemplates the Georgia coast. (photo by G. Graves)

Though the die-offs continue (Mary Myers emailed to say she spotted another pile of 11 dead Razorbills on Cape Cod this week), it’s time for a bit of live bird news from all quarters. Georgia Graves, naturalist on St. Simons Island in Georgia, has spotted some banded piping plovers on the beach once again! Georgia also documented banded birds last winter as they arrived from parts north, and this year, it’s a new bird, sporting green and white bands and a green flag on its legs. The particular color combo mark this bird as one banded as an adult by a team from Virginia Tech in June 2012 on the Missouri River near Yankton, South Dakota. Last year’s banded bird hailed from Michigan, so St. Simons Island seems to draw migrants from a wide swath of the upper middle west.

A bit farther north, in North Carolina, Stan Rule reports the presence of Sandhill Cranes in the vicinity of his beach near Morehead City. Stan has seen them in the early morning commuting to their foraging grounds near the airport. Beautiful birds to lift your spirits in this unusually grim winter. Stan also relayed the strange story of a local hunter who shot a passing Atlantic Puffin, mistaking it for a duck. This struck me as rather far south for a Puffin to be flying around, and evidently, Puffins are indeed rare enough there not to be on the minds of hunters seeking other, fast-flying quarry. But Stan tells me that the old timers and watermen in the area have seen the birds occasionally throughout the years. This has been a strange winter for puffins, so I suppose nothing should really surprise me.

Sandhill Cranes in North Carolina. (Photo: S. Rule)

Sandhill Cranes in North Carolina. (Photo: S. Rule)




2 responses

8 04 2013
Dana-Zoe Gest

although i have yet to spot any Banded Piping Plovers at the Chelsea Creek In Chelsea, Massachusetts – i did photograph them for almost the entire month of August in 2009 as they and the small Yellowlegs and Sandpipers arrived far enough up the tributary to the Slade Mill and the pond cove formed by the Damn and Gates when it was a working Tidal MIll. just starting in photograpy, and without a Zoom lens only one or two of the entire amount i photographs i took are you able to clearly see and identify them as the PP.
i read much later, that they were considered Rarely Seen in Massasachusetts due to a die-off -to urban construction/loss of habitat, Pollution, and even due to Photographers, whom if they got close enough to the nest they would simply abandon it. now, i photographed from either my window at the Mill which acted as a perfect blind, or from the parallel streets which again kept me at a distance. but this reason for a die-off took me aback. until then i hadn’t thought much about how close i physically was to a nest of any birds or animals, or even if i knew it was a sanctuary. when golden Plovers were found to have nested on Revere Beach, the area was cordoned off with sand fencing, and much local publicity/PSA went out to let them NOT be disturbed. i have to wonder why wouldn’t this go out as a way for us humans to regard birds and animals this way? i think nothing of going out on a whale watch. do i need to re-think this and much more?

10 04 2013

It’s a thoughtful question. We do always have to balance wanting to get people out into the environment and observing creatures with protecting those environments and creatures. By being close to them, we learn to love them and then want to protect them. But the act of observing them, in some cases, can disturb them. You’ve gone farther than many people in thinking about this issue, and your strategy is a good one–keep your distance, and accept that you may be able to get a good shot, but maybe not a great one. As for whale watches, they are generally not as likely to disturb the animals. The problem for the plovers is, as you point out, nest destruction/nest abandonment. It’s different for a whale and her calf who can simply swim away if they so choose.

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