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:
A 1000-MILE GREAT LAKES ISLAND ADVENTURE
There are three birds in this shot. Can you find them all?