Anyway, at first we weren't unduly alarmed. Other plovers had stayed later in the past and we have other individual plovers missing a foot that have survived and successfully bred for multiple years. However as October progressed into November and we continued getting reports that the plover was still being seen in and around Warren Dunes St. Park we began to worry. The bird had not molted out of its alternate plumage, leading to speculation that it was in no condition to attempt the migration to the primary wintering area for Great Lakes Piping Plovers, the southern Atlantic coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Additionally it was beginning to get colder and colder and we were becoming increasingly concerned the bird would not be able to find enough food to survive. Finally around veteran's day we decided it was time to attempt a rescue. Getting the proper permits ready for the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago (who have done piping plover rehab in the past) and arranging for them to take the bird in took a couple days. When I was finally ready to drive the 2:30 hours down to Berrien County, the plover suddenly disappeared. It was not seen again for several days, then put in an appearence but then disappeared again. This time it was not seen for over a week and we had begun to think the bird had either died or attempted to migrate.
Finally the day after Thanksgiving (when there were only a couple other people in the office because of the holiday) I got an e-mail that the plover had been spotted Thankgiving evening (making it the latest record ever of Piping Plover in Michigan). As there was supposed to be a winter storm brewing we decided it was now or let the plover die, so we decided to attempt to capture the injured plover. So another biologist who was with our office at the time, Sarah Warner, and I gathered up my mist nets and other gear and drove down to Berrien County. The very helpful birders who had been spending a lot of their free time monitoring this bird were waiting to help us in the capture attempt.
We were greeted by below zero winds coming off of Lake Michigan but soon spotted the plover, hiding behind the only bit of cover on the beach.
|Photo by Charles McKelvy|
Charles McKelvy, who writies for a local northern Indiana, southwest Michigan newspaper called "The Beacher" tells the whole story here in good style...
http://www.thebeacher.com/pdf/2011/BeacherFeb03.pdf just scroll down for the whole story, with the added benefit for readers of a goofy picture of me holding a butterfly net (professional wildlife biologist indeed, lol)
Long story short, after much work and a colloborate effort by all the assembled capture team we were able to guide the plover into the mist net.
|Me getting the plover out of the mist net, photo by Charles McKelvy|