Monday, March 4, 2013

Piping Plovers on our doorstep

There have now been several reports of Piping Plovers seen in New Jersey in the last week. In the first few days of March they have made it as far as the south side of Long Island. We are looking at a relatively early date for returning individuals if there are enough eyes in the field to find one this week. Please let us know when you find your first of the year individual by sending us a quick email at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com. If you have the chance to take photos of any of our birds over the course of the season, with respect to the birds as the number one priority of course and always at a safe distance, we would love to see them as well and publish some here in our blog.

For those of you new to monitoring keep in mind that these are migrant individuals and that the official beginning of the season will not be until April. Until then we have some time to study the Piping Plovers and get to know them well by sight, sound, and behavior. Here is a photo of an adult bird on a Connecticut beach in June.

The sand and debris can help you see that this is a small shorebird. It's bright orange/yellow legs can move rapidly over the sand and it often takes short runs with quick stops to look for food and monitor its surroundings. It is the color of the sand above with bright white below. It has a small head and a short neck that features one ring around it with this band going across the chest, sometimes complete for males and sometimes broken on females. Adults also have an orange bill with a black tip plus a black patch on the head. You will often find them foraging along the tide and seeking shelter higher up the beach in a dune. They are probably best known by their very clear peeps which can be heard well in the field.

Take a trip to your beach soon and see what you can find! You never know, perhaps you will spot the first for the year, an unexpected number of birds, or perhaps even a banded individual.

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

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