People and Plovers

Andros Island by David Yarnold

On a recent visit to the Bahamas I saw the true power of working along the Flyways of the Americas, the core idea of the vision of a new Audubon. The flyways along which birds migrate connect us to each other and to the birds' world.

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Sandwich Terns by Walker Golder

Marianne Korosy from Audubon Florida, Lindsay Addison from Audubon North Carolina, and Kerri Dikun from Audubon New York came together in the Bahamas as part of Audubon’s international alliance team to help protect and preserve one of the world’s largest wintering grounds for Piping Plovers.  

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Marianne Korosy, Lindsay Addison, and Kerri Dikun (left to right) by David Yarnold

These birds, which breed and migrate along the Atlantic Coast, were the thread that drew us all together to collaborate on the sands of the Joulter Cays.  

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Piping Plover by Walker Golder

The passion and tenacity of the scientists was clear. But, as I talked with them, I came to understand that something important happened here: their view of coastal protection grew because they were able to connect with others along the flyway. Their world view shifted. They were moved and they moved us.

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Kerri Dikun by David Yarnold

“For those of us who work on the breeding grounds, it’s sometimes hard to let go of the belief that Piping Plovers are “our birds.” We pour ourselves into the protection of this species every summer and experience every trial, tribulation, and triumph of these birds first-hand. But I want people to know that after seeing them on the wintering grounds, imagining their arduous journey to get there, and meeting the dedicated people who anxiously await their return in the winter, it’s evident that they’re still “our birds,” the “our” is just bigger now.” – Kerri Dikun, Long Island Bird Conservation Coordinator, Audubon New York

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Kerri Dikun by David Yarnold

“I would like people to know about and be amazed by migration. Piping Plovers are extremely true to their nesting and wintering sites." – Lindsay Addison, Coastal Biologist, Audubon North Carolina

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Kerri Dikun and Lindsay Addison by David Yarnold

"They return to the same sand flat every winter and nest on the same stretch of beach every summer. We've seen one little Piping Plover at the same inlet in North Carolina every winter for six years. She flies there from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore without a map or a GPS unit. There's a Semipalmated Plover that winters on a beach near where I grew up that arrives in the same week every fall from the Mackenzie River Delta, Northwest Territory, near the Alaska-Canada border. I often think shorebirds know better where they are in the world than people." -- Lindsay Addison, Coastal Biologist, Audubon North Carolina

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Roosting Shorebirds by David Yarnold

“Andros Island hosts many miles of sandy mudflats where Piping Plovers can feed undisturbed by beach volleyballs, sunbathing visitors, ATVs, low-flying hang gliders, or gulls attracted by picnic leftovers. These special places, where Piping Plovers and other shorebirds can feed and rest in peace, are vital to the survival of this species.” - Marianne Korosy, IBA Coordinator, Audubon Florida

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Marianne Korosy by David Yarnold

Protecting Piping Plovers on their nesting grounds is very important to species recovery, but we also need to think about the species and the habitat it uses during migration and over the winter. Until very recently little was known about the locations used by Piping Plovers in winter. The 2006 discovery of 400 Piping Plovers in the Bahamas by the National Audubon Society, Environment Canada, and the Bahamas National Trust triggered a closer look at the nation’s 700 islands and roughly 2,000 cays.

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Piping Plovers by Lindsay Addison

During the 2012 census, researchers found over 1,000 Piping Plovers--perhaps 20% of the entire Atlantic Coast population--concentrated in one small cluster of Bahamian islands--Andros Island, the Joulter Cays, and the Berry Islands. The census filled in a huge gap in our understanding of these engaging and imperiled birds.

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Map by Wikimedia Creative Commons

This winter, National Audubon Society staff from along the Atlantic Flyway with support from the International Alliances Program went back to the Bahamas to help locate additional sites that are important to Piping Plovers and other shorebirds.

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Red Knots and Other Shorebirds by Kerri Dikun

The data collected not only increases our knowledge of shorebird wintering habitat but will also be used by the Bahamas National Trust to determine whether the area should be designated as a National Park.

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David Yarnold

Participants came from across the Audubon network and included not just Kerri Dikun, Lindsay Addison, and Marianne Korosy, but Mark Labarr of Audubon Vermont, Corrie Folsom of Audubon Connecticut, Walker Golder of Audubon North Carolina, and representatives of partner organizations including Melissa Mimbi of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Denny Moore from the Bahamas National Trust.

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Marianne Korosy, Peg Olsen, Eric Carey, Joy Hester, Jane Alexander, Tavaris Thompson, John Beavers, Lawrence Glinton, Neil McKinney, Matt Jeffery (left to right) by David Yarnold

Audubon board of directors member Jane Alexander traveled to the Bahamas to witness Audubon's rich history of wildlife conservation and international collaboration.

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Audubon board of directors member Jane Alexander by David Yarnold

Audubon's involvement in the Bahamas streches back to the turn of the century when Audubon undertook efforts to save the West Indian Flamingo from extinction.

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Mark LaBarr by Walker Golder

Partnering with the Bahamas National Trust since its creation in 1959, Audubon's focus on partnerships and people is evident across the hemisphere.

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Bonefishing guide Louvans Seymour by David Yarnold

This winter Audubon and the Bahamas National Trust formalized that partnership with a memorandum of understanding that will protect key wintering grounds for the Piping Plover and other priority bird species, within the Bahamian National Parks System and in key non-National Park land throughout the Bahamas.

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Toolbox by Lindsay Addison

This is the true power of Audubon as we harness our expertise along the flyways to be able to effectively steward birds like the Piping Plover at the scale that they live. By connecting the great work that we are doing in the U.S. with our work internationally we can truly make a difference in the conservation of our birds.

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Tracks by Walker Golder