PIP­ING PLOVERS

Prince Ed­ward Is­land Na­tional Park, Prince Ed­ward Is­land

Canadian Geographic - - PARK PROTECTORS -

When it comes to con­serv­ing pip­ing plovers in Prince Ed­ward Is­land Na­tional Park, ev­ery egg counts. So, when tidal flood­ing threat­ened to wash away an es­tab­lished nest with three eggs from a beach in the sum­mer of 2017, Kerry-lynn Atkin­son, a Prince Ed­ward Is­land Na­tional Park re­source con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer, didn’t sit idly by. She needed to move the eggs to safety. But how to do it with­out dis­turb­ing the pat­tern of bro­ken shells and rocks the adults use to mark the well-cam­ou­flaged nest? “I de­vised a new method never used in the park, which used a flat pan to move the whole nest and all of the mark­ers around it at the same time,” says Atkin­son. It worked. All three eggs hatched, the chicks fledged and mi­grated south with the adults. The eggs Atkin­son saved were three of only 27 laid in the park last year by just six pairs of plovers. Six has been the av­er­age num­ber of breed­ing pairs to visit the park over the past 10 years, but there was a time when there were many more. Parks Canada has been mon­i­tor­ing the plovers since 1983, two years be­fore they were listed as an en­dan­gered species. Back then, says Atkin­son, they could have 27 breed­ing pairs and a hun­dred chicks run­ning around, which kept Parks staff “pretty busy.” Since then, the pop­u­la­tion has been steadily de­creas­ing. Though ex­tremely good at hid­ing in plain sight, these tough lit­tle birds are in­cred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble to dis­tur­bance from ve­hi­cles, habi­tat loss, pre­da­tion and recre­ational ac­tiv­ity on the beaches, among many other fac­tors. Their con­tin­ued per­sis­tence in the park is largely due to Parks Canada en­forc­ing beach clo­sures around crit­i­cal breed­ing habi­tat and nest­ing lo­ca­tions, dog bans, pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns, and an ex­tremely vig­i­lant mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram that al­lows peo­ple such as Atkin­son a chance to pre­vent eggs from be­ing swept out to sea. “If we can pro­tect eggs through­out in­cu­ba­tion,” says Atkin­son, “we are quite suc­cess­ful at fledg­ing the chicks.”

A pip­ing plover at Prince Ed­ward Is­land Na­tional Park ( this im­age). Kerry-lynn Atkin­son, a re­source con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer at the park, watches for the birds ( be­low).

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