2018 Piping Plover Season- Oscoda/AuSable
By Peggy Ridgway
This season proved to be interesting, challenging and rewarding. Interesting because this was the only known nest site on the Lake Huron side of the U.S. It was located on the beach just south of the AuSable River mouth in front of a condominium complex.
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The male was captive-reared last summer at the University of Michigan Biological Station near Pellston and the female hatched in 2017 on the west side of the state. Both were first-year nesters. The female selected a perfect location to nest…high and dry along the beach. Throughout the incubation period, invading waves due to strong northeast winds failed to reach the precious four eggs.
However, several natural predators including Ring-billed and Herring Gulls were constantly on the scene.
Furthermore, a fox family lived close by and often roamed the beach at night. This nocturnal fox challenge was the most difficult to monitor. Just a few days after hatching, only one chick remained. It was determined that the fox must have consumed three of the chicks during an evening prowl, as the chicks were all observed just the night before they disappeared. The remaining chick was named “Survivor.”
Condo residents were aware of the challenge the gulls presented to the remaining chick and after getting input from the plover monitors, decided to create their own scarecrow and placed it on the beach where most of the gulls gathered. After several days, “Gulliver” the scarecrow was most effective in keeping the pesky gulls away.
Survivor was banded and departed about three weeks after birth. Hopefully, it will be sighted on its wintering grounds and reported to researchers.
The parent female was spotted in late July along the South Carolina coast.
One of the rewarding moments during this season at this location was the sudden and brief appearance of a plover that was banded at Tawas Point in 2012! It still wore its “chick bands” and therefore has never nested or been re-branded as an adult. It was only observed that one but memorable day!
Many thanks to Arno Poerner, Arnie Leriche, Chris Coulon, Ed Cole, Phil Odum, R.C. Laugal and Peggy Ridgway for their almost two-month devotion to monitoring the plovers. A special thanks to Arno Poerner and condo residents Todd Palgut and Dave Witkowski for their fabulous photos.
The condo residents are also very much appreciated for their patience and willingness to learn more about this federally endangered species and help this became a success story.