Wilson’s Plover Mid-Season Update 2017
CONSERVATION: Plover Patrol
By Yank Moore, JIA Conservation Coordinator
Wilson’s Plover nesting season is in full swing here on Jekyll Island and the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) Conservation Department has been busy continuing the advancement of shorebird monitoring efforts with the help of the Jekyll Island Foundation. We have continued our robust nest monitoring program to better understand the importance of Jekyll Island’s beaches and dunes for Wilson’s Plovers, a shore bird listed as “Threatened” by the State of Georgia. This has been a productive season already with 13 nests and counting, six of those have made it to hatching and one is still incubating.
The pairs of adults are taking advantage of the dunes at the southern tip of the island that were hit hard during Hurricane Matthew. This area is now recovering well, leaving plentiful expanses of young vegetation and low rolling dunes that are ideal nesting habitat for the Wilson’s Plover. We have also documented the nests of at least four Willets, which is a larger shorebird that can be seen on our beaches year-round. These birds nest further back in the dunes in dense vegetation clumps making them a lot harder to find. At least one of these nests hatched a couple of chicks, which is a first since the Conservation Department started monitoring nests two and a half years ago.
As far as the chicks go, we have color banded a total of 11 Wilson’s Plovers so far and hope to band a few more. The color bands allow us to specifically identify each individual chick making it easier to monitor their success up to fledging, or the time at which they fly for the first time. We are still seeing quite a few of these banded birds feeding in the runnels and are optimistic that we may have better success than the last couple of years. Always remember, if you enjoy Jekyll’s beach with your dog (or cat!), never allow them to chase birds, keep them on a leash, and respect the “no pets” area on the south end of the island. These rules are in place to keep Jekyll’s beach a haven for birds like the Wilson’s Plovers that may one day be lost if not for careful stewardship.