PLOVER LOVER? MEET SOME CUTE CHICKS ON ABACO


Wilson's Plover chick.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley

PLOVER LOVER? MEET SOME CUTE CHICKS ON ABACO

(*Serious Voice*) “The Wilson’s Plover is the only permanent resident plover found on Abaco, the other species being the winter resident Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover and Killdeer; and the rare transient American Golden Plover. The nidification of the Wilson’s Plover is by common consent among naturalists the most…”

But let’s not get carried away with all that pompous ornithological stuff. There are baby plovers to be considered. Each one exudz adorbz and absorbz admirz. Most of the photos below were taken on the beach at Delphi. Ready? Let’s meet some chicks… But you can’t have them without first having the eggs, can you?

Wilson's Plover nest, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Clare Latimer)Wilson's Plover chick.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley

The Wilson’s Plovers at Delphi generally nest at the north end of the beach, up towards the reef. It is secluded, has good sight-lines and is bordered by pines. On the approach of a predator or human (in this case, me), the tiny chicks are sent scuttling to safety at the back of the beach while the parents prepare to tough it out if need be…Wilson's Plover Chicks Delphi Beach, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

“You ain’t seen me, right?”Wilson's Plover Chick, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

“I know we are caught in the open, but if we stand really still, you can’t see us, right?”Wilson's Plover Chicks x 2, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

One of the most fascinating aspects of bird behaviour to watch is the so-called ‘broken-wing’ display put on by plover parent(s) to distract a predator away from a nest or scrape, and the eggs or chicks in it. Kildeer and black-necked stilts are among other species that do this performance. It goes like something like this: 

“Oh! OW! I am helpless. Please don’t attack me, Apex Predator, for I am but a vulnerable plover…”Wilson's Plover, Delphi, Abaco -  broken wing display (Clare Latimer)

“But kindly follow me as I flap pathetically (moving away from my nest). I can’t fly, you know…”Wilson's Plover, Delphi, Abaco -  broken wing display (Clare Latimer)

Camouflage also plays a part in the protection of these little creatures. This chick is on the rocks at the north end of the Delphi beach, the bit where you begin to wish you’d worn shoes because the rock is so sharp… From 10 feet away, you might well miss seeing the chick completely.Wilson's Plover chick. Delphi.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley

This is one of my favourite shots, also at Delphi, taken by Sandy WalkerWilson's Plover & Chick, Delphi, Abaco (Sandy Walker)

Quite a while ago, I wrote about a Wilson’s Plover family that had made their scrape at Nettie’s Point, the place where the bonefishing skiffs are launched. They chose their homemaking site right where the trucks and trailers turn. Big mistake you might think. But the kind guides built a small stockade of branches round the scrape so that it could clearly be seen and avoided. After that, Mrs WP settled down happily and Mr WP stood guard whenever anyone was around…

The protective stockade in place. Mrs Plover in place. All’s well with the worldNettie's Point, Abaco - Proected Wison's Plover Nest (Keith Salvesen)Nettie's Point, Abaco - Mrs Wilson's Plover on the nest (Keith Salvesen)

Soon after, two chicks hatched, were reared by both parents, and in due course fledged safelyWilson's Plover.Abaco Bahamas.Tom SheleyWilson's Plover + chicks 2.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley

Photo Credits: Clare Latimer (2, 7, 8); Tom Sheley (1, 3, 9, 13, 14); Sandy Walker (10); RH (the rest)

NEST PROTECTION: WILSON’S PLOVERS ON ABACO (2)


Wilson's Plover, Abaco 12

NEST PROTECTION: WILSON’S PLOVERS ON ABACO (2)

This is the second of three vaguely planned posts about these delightful shore birds. They aren’t rare but they are approachable and fun to watch. During the nesting and hatching season, there may even be some gorgeous chicks on a beach near you (a phrase I never thought I’d find myself using). PART ONE identified the typical male and female adults found on the Delphi beach almost any day. 

Nettie's Point, Abaco - Trucks & Skiffs

This post is about nest protection. Not the ingenious methods of  the birds themselves, that will come next time. This is a story of protection by humans. The photograph above shows Nettie’s Point, one of the launching points for bonefishing skiffs being taken out to the Marls, a vast area of sea, low sand banks and mangroves where the fish are found. You hope. The skiffs gain access to open sea via an artificial channel carved out of rock. The early morning trip along it is one of the most exciting part of a fisherman’s day, as he or she sets out with a clean score sheet, a rod and a box of flies. And a cooler box with some food and maybe a Kalik beer or three.

Nettie's Point, Abaco - the cut to the sea

This June, a pair of plovers decided to locate their nesting ‘scrape’ right in the middle of the cleared area where the trucks normally turn. This was by no means a wise home-planning decision, and they might well have found themselves being promptly relocated. Or (worst case scenario) ending up under a large Toyota. But not a bit of it. Instead, these small birds were looked after by the guides like this: Nettie's Point, Abaco - Plover's nest protection

A makeshift castle was built all round the nest to protect it from any inadvertent truck-related tragedies. Meanwhile the male plover stood guard outside the castle, amiably watching the human activities. Nettie's Point, Abaco - Male Wilson's Plover guards nest

I kept my distance but in fact he was quite unperturbed, perhaps sensing that we were not a threat. He still kept a beady eye on the proceedings, though.Nettie's Point, Abaco - male Wilson's Plover guards a nest

Meanwhile, what of the wooden enclosure itself? At first glance, there didn’t look much to report. However, if you look in the centre of the picture, you’ll see the female peeping out from the nest.Nettie's Point, Abaco - Nest protection 2

I very slowly moved nearer, prepared to stop if the male became agitated, or if the female shifted her position. Both seemed quite relaxed, so I took a couple of shots and walked away to leave the birds in peace. Then I went fishing.Nettie's Point, Abaco - Female Wilson's Plover on NestNettie's Point, Abaco - Mrs Wilson's Plover on the nest

As a postscript, Nettie’s Point is the location of a remarkable geographical phenomenon, possibly the result of the cutting of the channel. Along one part of the cut, for about 30 feet, the water level sinks alarming in the middle, while remaining normal at each side. Then it levels out again. This remarkable mid-stream aquatic depression is quite disconcerting to motor through on a skiff, though eventually one gets used to it. Nettie's Point, Abaco - channel water phenomenon(Note: not every fact in this post is 100% true. If you have some salt handy, take a pinch)

SHORE THINGS: BEACHCOMBING ON A PRISTINE ABACO BEACH


Shore Things 16

SHORE THINGS: BEACHCOMBING ON A PRISTINE ABACO BEACH

The Abaco bay known as Rolling Harbour is a 3/4 mile curve of white sand beach, protected by an off-shore reef. The beach is pristine. Or it would be but for two factors. One is the seaweed that arrives when the wind is from the east – natural and biodegradable detritus. It provides food and camouflage for many species of shorebird – plover and sandpipers of all varieties from large to least. The second – far less easily dealt with – is the inevitable plastic junk washed up on every tide. This has to be collected up and ‘binned’, a never-ending cycle of plastic trash disposal. Except for the ATLAS V SPACE-ROCKET FAIRING found on the beach, that came from the Mars ‘Curiosity’ launch. Sandy's Mystery Object

We kept is as a… curiosity, until it was eventually removed by the men in black…

Shore Things 14I’d intended to have a ‘plastic beach trash’, Atlantic-gyre-rage rant, with angry / sad photos to match. Instead, I decided to illustrate a more positive side to beach life – things you may discover when you take a closer look at the sand under your feet. Like the coconut above. Many of these photos were taken by our friend Clare Latimer (to whom thanks for use permission); some by me.

Shore Things 13A LONE FLOWERShore Things 17SEA STAR (DEFUNCT), WITH CRAB TRACKSShore Things 21SEA FAN (GORGONIAN)Shore Things 15WASHED-UP BOTTLE (PROBABLY NOT RUM)Shore Things 12

SEA BISCUITSShore Things 9

Thanks to Capt Rick Guest, who has contributed an interesting comment regarding the sea biscuit with a hole in it. He writes “the (Meoma) Sea Biscuit w/ the hole in it was dined upon by a Helmet Conch. The Cassis madagascariensis, or C.tuberosa drills the hole w/ its conveyer-belt-like radula teeth w/ some help from its acidic, saliva. Probably 98% of all symetrical holes in marine invertebrates are of this nature. Murex, Naticas, Helmets, and many Cephalapods (via a Stylet), are the usual B&E suspects. The Cone shells utilize a modified radula in the form of a harpoon which is attached to a venom tube.” For more on the vicious cone shell, and other creatures to avoid, click HERE

DRIFTWOOD. IT’S LIKE… OH, USE YOUR IMAGINATIONShore Things 5A WILSON’S PLOVER NESTShore Things 11HORSESHOE CRAB (LIMULUS)Shore Things 4SCULPTURE? AN EMBRYONIC SHELTER? Shore Things 3LARGE BIRD FOOTPRINTSShore Things 18MORE BIRD PRINTS AND CRAB TRACKSShore Things 19 CRABUS CUTICUSShore Things 6CONCH SHELLS & OTHER BEACH TREASURESShore Things 8Shore Things 20CRAB HOLE & TRACKSShore Things 22SOME IDIOT’S LEFT HIS… OH! IT’S MINEShore Things 7