On a recent visit to the Bahamas, we 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 one another and to the birds’ world.
We saw Kerri Dikun from Audubon New York, Lindsay Addison from Audubon North Carolina, and Marianne Korosy from Audubon Florida come together in the Bahamas as part of Audubon’s international alliances team to help protect and preserve one of the world’s largest wintering grounds for piping plovers. 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. The passion and tenacity of the scientists was clear. But as I talked with them, I came to understand that something important had happened here: Their view of coastal protection grew because they were able to connect with others along the flyway. Their worldview shifted. They were moved, and they moved us. I asked them, “What do you want people to know about these birds?” This is what they had to say.
Long Island Bird Conservation Coordinator, Audubon New York
“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 protecting them each summer and experience their every trial and triumph firsthand. 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 await their return in the winter, it’s evident they’re still ‘our birds’—the ‘our’ is just bigger now.”
Coastal Biologist, Audubon North Carolina
“I would like people to know about and be amazed by migration. Piping plovers are extremely true to their nesting and wintering sites. 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 Territories, near the Alaska-Canada border. I often think shorebirds know better where they are in the world than people.“
IBA Coordinator, Audubon Florida
“Andros Island hosts many miles of sandy mudflats where piping plovers can feed undisturbed by beach volleyball, sunbath- ing 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.”
You can see more of the work these dedicated scientists are doing online at audubon.org/bahamas2014 and learn more about Audubon’s International Alliances Program and partnership with the Bahamas National Trust.