The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Sunday, August 4, 2013


One of the components of my new adventure
[A 1000-Mile Great Lakes ISLAND Adventure]
is to explore and take part in research projects 
on Great Lakes islands.

In July, I had the privilege of assisting
 with the conservation of the endangered 

This diminutive shorebird has been dwindling in numbers due to loss of habitat and increased predation.

The majority of the Great Lakes population of piping plovers nests in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

This year there were nine nests on North Manitou Island
 and one on South Manitou. 

Male piping plover on South Manitou Island

I spent three days on South Manitou watching for the nesting pair there and their chicks.  

Then, I went to North Manitou Island to assist the naturalist Alice Van Zoeren in keeping track of the population there.

Dimmick's Point is closed during nesting season

Using the big scope to find

and identify the little birds

Naturalist, Alice Van Zoeren, near a nest exclosure

Since this bird is endangered, there is funding in place to help restore their numbers. One of the most effective tools researchers have is to identify the nest early and protect them from predators with an exclosure (called that because its function is to keep things out). Adult birds can get in and out to take care of the nests, but predators cannot get at the eggs. 

This intervention alone has increased the hatching success from ~30% to over 90%. Researchers will also take steps to collect any eggs that are abandoned and transport them to a biological station in Pellston -- run by the University of Michigan -- where eggs are incubated and chicks taken care of until they can be released into the wild again.

This is a piping plover nest (no eggs)

Dimmick's Point on North Manitou Island

Watching over the piping plovers was fascinating, difficult work.
The full story of my island adventures will be in my next book:

There are three birds in this shot. Can you find them all?


  1. Wonderful work! I wonder if I've seen these birds. I was a Sleeping Bear last summer...I don't think I saw any. But are there other birds that look similar in the region?

  2. These birds are pretty distinctive, but can blend in easily with their surroundings. They will also stay away from people if they can. There were several nests on the mainland this year along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, one was quite near the Maritime Museum.

    Be watchful as you walk the beach and I'm sure you'll see them at some point. The chirping they make is like the sound of a bell. Their Latin name, Charadrius melodus, is in part from this melodious call.