“I GET AROUND”: PIPING PLOVER TUNA’S GUEST POST (3)
Hi again, readers of Mr Harbour’s blog. Tuna here. This is part 3 of my diary. I’m 4½ months old now, and getting on famously here on Abaco. Especially now the big wind and waves have gone away [Hurricane Joaquin – ed]. Someone called me ‘Abaco’s favourite plover’, which really fluffed up my feathers. I’ve started to explore a bit and meet more birds just like me*. Turns out they are all Travellers from the North too – what are the chances? [100% – ed]
*How do I know what I look like? Well it’s easy. When I am chomping meat strings in the sunshine on the edge of the water, there’s a picture of me in the water doing the exactly same thing at the same time only upside down. Like these two friends of mine here.
I do a lot of running about on the beach. Back and forth. Up and down. Into the water and out again. It’s a busy life. And I’ve only got little legs. In case anyone worries that Michelle’s 4 smart rings hurt me or get in the way, I never feel them. They are just a part of who I have always been since she picked me up the day after I cracked out.
I’ve met lots of birds that are different from me, too. Some live here all the time, others are Travellers from the North too. I’m relying on Mr H here to show you some of the guys I hang out with these days. We all kind of mix up and if you don’t try to find meat strings where the bigger birds want to find them, it’s very friendly. Actually they are all bigger than me!
Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Wilson’s Plover (all on Abaco)
I’ve made my first trip to a different beach. I decided to fly round and explore, and I saw lots more sand so I flew there and stayed a couple of days. Like a little holiday. A nice man [Keith Kemp] saw me there and told Mr H about my coloured bands. That’s how he knew I’d moved and he told my watcher Rhonda so she didn’t go looking for me on my home beach and get worried that I wasn’t there. Then I flew back there after a couple of days and Rhonda found me there again yesterday.
Tuna on his vacation from Watching Bay to Winding Bay. Note meat string in #1
I’ve got a new game I’ve been playing when Rhonda comes to see me. She sits down on the beach and puts shells all round her in the sand. So I come over and have a look at them (once I pecked the cloth thing she sits on. Urrch! It wasn’t food). Then she uses that thing that makes a plover noise [the focus sound on her camera – ed] and I put my head on one side to listen.
There’s another reason I put my head on one side. Sometimes really really big birds fly over the beach. Huge dark ones. I like to keep an eye on them. I think they may be trouble. So I put my head on one side so I know exactly where they are in the sky until I feel safe.
This is me back on my beach after my trip. Green on Blue (L); Black on Grey (R) = TUNA
This is a New Friend on my beach, one of 3. They don’t have any bands but they are Travellers from the North like me. In this game I lie low in a hole in the sand and my NF rushes at me kicking sand up like a crazy bird. Fun, huh?
More news from me soon. Cheeps from Tuna.
TUNA’S FIRST 4½ MONTHS
- JUN 10 Hatched Edwin B. Forsythe NWR (Holgate Center), New Jersey
- JUN 11 Banded & measured by Michelle Stantial
- JUL 05 Fledged
- AUG 28 First sighted on Abaco – preliminary ID
- SEP 16 Seen again on the same beach – ID confirmed
- SEP 22 Last sighting before Hurricane Joaquin
- SEP 28 Paula (Tuna’s mother) re-sighted on Joulter Cays, Andros
- OCT 03 Tuna safely back on the beach again after Hurricane Joaquin
- OCT 20-23 Expedition to Winding Bay (ID there on Oct 22)
- OCT 24 Found back on Watching Bay beach
NOTE If you ever wondered why birds are banded and what on earth use it is, the answer is in this story. Banding & tagging enables detailed research at both ends of the migration which in turn enables protection of the species and conservation of threatened habitats. There are only 8000 PIPL left. Degradation of the breeding grounds or the overwintering grounds – let alone both – may result in extinction. This seems to have been a good summer for the piping plover; let’s hope the winter treats them well so that this summer’s chicks like Tuna will be able to breed safely next year.
This Diary extract shows how an individual banded bird’s movements can be monitored within its chosen area, so that a picture can be formed of its habitat choices and range.
For details of all this season’s PIPL sightings, check out ABACO PIPING PLOVER WATCH
CONSERVE WILDLIFE FOUNDATION of NJ
Credits: photos Rhonda Pearce, Keith Kemp, Craig Nash, Tony Hallett, Keith Salvesen; thanks to bander Michelle Stantial, birder & ‘Tuna Watcher’ Rhonda Pearce, CWFNJ & cohorts, Matt Jeffery and all other providers of info snippets; Birdorable for the cartoon; and Xeno-Canto for the recording
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