Piping Plovers in the Great Lakes Region experienced two very good years in 2012 and 2013, thanks to the efforts of concerned naturalists practicing effective management strategies. One individual involved in this recovery effort is Vincent Cavalieri, a wildlife biologist and the Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Coordinator for the state of Michigan. Vince is the featured speaker at ASK’s monthly meeting on Monday, March 24. He will share his photographs, data, and experiences related to the efforts to stabilize the Piping Plover population in the region. The Piping Plover, an endangered, robin-sized shore bird, is a welcome sight each spring in various locations along the Great Lakes shores. In particular along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore it is considered by many as deserving of the red carpet treatment. “They usually come back in mid-April and we close off the places where they nest,” said Vince. “We close enough habitat where they won’t be disturbed, a few hundred yards, and post signs and psychological fencing like twine to let people know.” He indicated that such practices do not prevent people from walking on the water’s edge and that part of the success of the recovery effort has been educating beach goers, especially about controlling their pets or driving on the beach.
Vince, a Michigan native who spent the first 18 years of his life in Iron Mountain, earned a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University and then left the state for a Master’s in Wildlife Ecology at Oklahoma State. His first position following his education was a Federal project related to the Lower Rio Grande Wildlife Refuge, and then he returned to Michigan four years ago to work toward Piping Plover recovery. “I started birding as a young child and I have been interested in the Piping Plover for a long time,” he said. From memory he ticks off data about the bird as if he is reading from a fact-checking website: listed as endangered by the federal government in 1986; as few as 12 pairs at one point; 58 pair in 2012 fledged 121 chicks; 66 pair in 2013 fledged 124 chicks; 1.87 chicks per pair in 2013. He notes that a lot of chicks die post hatch in the first 10 days due to predation but says efforts to help are in place, like keeping the beach clean of garbage that attracts predators and placing wire cages around the nests. The goal before down listing the bird in Michigan is, according to Vince, maintaining over 150 pairs for five years with a chick success rate of over 1.5 per nest.
While the Piping Plover has three small populations of Plovers—in the Great Plains, on the Atlantic Coast, and along the Great Lakes—fewer than 5,000 individuals exist worldwide. Michigan is taking the steps needed to improve those numbers. So don’t miss the March meeting at 7:30 p.m. at People’s Church on 10th Street to learn more about this bird and the efforts to save it. The presentation is preceded by a social gathering with light refreshments at 7:00.