PLOVER APPRECIATION DAY 2018: ABACO’S 6 TREASURES


Wilson's Plover Chick, Abaco, Bahamas (Tom Sheley)

PLOVER APPRECIATION DAY 2018: ABACO’S 6 TREASURES

Every day of the year, or so it seems, at least one worthy creature has been awarded an ‘Appreciation Day’, a special day when a particular species has its profile raised and awareness spread around. It certainly seems to be the case with birds; I’m going to assume that it applies to all the other classes of animal – mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates, each with their own worthy candidates for recognition. Except for no-see-ums, obviously. And fire ants, I hope. You’d think standing on a nest while taking photos just once in a lifetime would be a lesson. I’ve done it twice… Anyway, yesterday was Plover Appreciation Day 2018.

PLOVERS ON ABACO

Until recently Abaco had 33 recorded shorebird species but since the first-ever sightings of a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER in 2016, the number has risen to 34. Of these, a mere 6 are plovers: 

  • Black-bellied Plover                        Pluvialis squatarola                      WR 1
  • American Golden Plover                 Pluvialis dominica                         TR 4
  • Wilson’s Plover                                Ochthodromus wilsonia             PR B 2
  • Semipalmated Plover                     Charadrius semipalmatus            WR 2
  • Piping Plover                                    Charadrius melodus                     WR 3
  • Killdeer                                              Charadrius vociferus                    WR 2

The codes tell you, for any particular bird, when you may see it (P = permanent, WR = winter resident, TR = transient); whether it breeds (B) on Abaco; and your chance of seeing it, graded from easy (1) to vanishingly unlikely (5)

The best-known of the 6 Abaco plover species is the Wilson’s Plover, because it is the only permanent resident. The American Golden Plover is a rare transient, but we luckily have a photo of one (below) taken on Abaco. All the others are winter residents and easy to middling hard to find.

The Piping Plover is the most interesting species, with a mere 8000 left in the world. There is a vigorous conservation program to protect them and their habitat, both in their breeding grounds in the North and their southern overwintering grounds. Their summer breeding range is in Canada and the Great Lakes, north-central US, and the eastern seaboard. In winter they migrate south, many to the Bahamas – and Abaco is one of their preferred homes. We count as many as we can between August and February, report the banded ones, and find out their origins and histories

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER  Pluvialis squatarola   WR 1

Non-breeding plumage (as you would see normally it on Abaco, without the black belly)Black-bellied Plover intermediate plumage. Marls. Abaco Bahamas. Tom Sheley

 Breeding plumage – and the reason for the nameBlack-bellied Plover (breeding plumage), Bahamas (Linda Barry-Cooper)

AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER  Pluvialis dominica  TR 4

American Golden Plover, Bahamas (Tony Hepburn)

 SEMIPALMATED PLOVER Charadrius semipalmatus WR 2

Semi-palmated Plover, Bahamas (Tony Hepburn)Semipalmated Plover (f nb), Abaco - Bruce Hallett

KILLDEER Charadrius vociferus WR 2

Kildeer, Abaco - Bruce Hallett

PIPING PLOVER  Charadrius melodus WR 3

Piping Plover, Bahamas (Tony Hepburn)Piping Plover, Abaco Bahamas (Peter Mantle)Piping Plover, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

WILSON’S PLOVER Ochthodromus wilsonia  PR B 2

This permanent resident plover is a year-round presence on the Delphi Club beach, where in summer they nest and raise their tiny fluffball chicks. They are especially significant on Abaco as the only breeding plover species – it’s the only chance we get to see plover nests and chicks… (see header image and below).

Wilson's Plover, Delphi Club Beach, Abaco - Craig NashWilson's Plover, Abaco 12

RELATED POSTS

PIPING PLOVERS

50 WAYS TO PLEASE YOUR PLOVER

WILSON’S PLOVERS (1) ‘Dream Plover’

 WILSON’S PLOVERS (2) Nest Protection

 WILSON’S PLOVERS (3) Scrapes, Chicks & Broken Wings

SEMI-PALMATED PLOVERS

Photo credits: Tom Sheley (1, 2); Linda Barry-Cooper (3); Tony Hepburn (4, 5, 8); Bruce Hallett (6, 7); Peter Mantle (9); Keith Salvesen (10, 13); Sandy Walker (11); Craig Nash (12); Charmaine Albury (14)

Piping Plover, Abaco Bahamas (Charmaine Albury)

‘CHECK OUT THE WEB’: SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS ON ABACO


Semi-Palmated Plover, Abaco (Alex Hughes)

‘CHECK OUT THE WEB’: SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS ON ABACO

“Semipalmated”. You what? Come again? Ehhhh? My reactions to the word until embarrassingly recently. In fact until the steep learning curve involved in writing a bird book made some all of the terminology clearer. Plovers and sandpipers both have semipalmated versions, and I’ll take the semipalmated plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) first.

Semipalmated Plover, Abaco (Woody Bracey)

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?

A small shorebird with a grey-brown back and wings, a white underside with a single black neck band, and orange legs. They have a brown cap, a white forehead, a black eye mask and a short black bill with an orange base to it. And feet to be discussed below.Semi-palmated Plover WB P1001211 copySemipalmated Plover, Abaco (Tony Hepburn)

WHERE DO THEY LIVE?

Their summer home and breeding habitat is on the beaches and flats of northern Canada and Alaska. They nest in scrapes on the ground right out in the open. In the Autumn these little birds set off on long journeys south to warmer climes until Spring: the coasts of the southern states, Caribbean and South America. On Abaco, they are fairly common in certain areas including the beach at Delphi. Like other plovers, these  birds are gregarious and will mix in with other shorebirds – which can make them hard to pick out in the crowd.Semipalmated Plover, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

GET ON WITH THE ‘SEMIPALMATED’ BIT, PLEASE

‘Semipalmated’ refers to the partial webbing between their toes. There are different degrees of palmation, as these handy graphics demonstrate:

Semipalmate: in practice, very hard so see in the field e.g. plovers & sandpipers semipalmate

Palmate: full webbing across the ‘front’ 3 toes, e.g. gulls

palmate

Totipalmate: all toes are fully webbed e.g. cormorants

totipalmate

Nonpalmate: please supply own imagination 

Gregarious flight: there are sandpipers in the mix (clue: long bills)Semipalmated Plover, Abaco (Alex Hughes)

WHAT DO THESE BIRDS EAT?

Semipalmated plovers are much like any other small shorebird foraging on beaches and foreshores. They eat insects, crustaceans and worms. Here is a bird in a promising place for its preferred diet.

Semipalmated Plover, Abaco (f, nb) Bruce Hallett FV

ANYTHING ELSE TO LOOK OUT FOR?

Like other plover species – Wilson’s and Killdeer for example – a semipalmated will  use the ‘broken wing’ ploy to lure a predator away from a nest and the eggs or chicks in it. As it flops about pathetically on the sand looking vulnerable, it actually moves gradually further away from the nest. If it comes to the crunch it is able to take wing rapidly, leaving a very puzzled predator behind.Semipalmated_Plover,_broken_wing_display (D Gordon E Robertson)

Semipalmated plovers flying with 2 sandpipersSemi-palmated Plover AH IMG_0612 jpg

Credits: Alex Hughes (1, 6, 9, 10); Woody Bracey (2, 3); Tony Hepburn (4); Charles Skinner (5); Bruce Hallett (7); D Gordon E Robertson (8);  Bird foot infographics people.eku.edu AH IMG_1637 copy

WORLD SHOREBIRDS DAY – ABACO’S 33 SHORE SPECIES (3): PLOVERS


Wilson's Plover & Chick, Delphi Beach, Abaco - Sandy Walker

Wilson’s Plover & Chick, Delphi Club Beach, Abaco (Sandy Walker)

 WORLD SHOREBIRDS DAY – ABACO’S 33 SHORE SPECIES (3): PLOVERS

Over the last 2 days, 20 of Abaco’s 33 shorebird species have been featured, LARGER SHOREBIRDS followed by SANDPIPERS. The third part of the series concentrates on the 6 plover species found on Abaco. First, I’ve repeated the main Abaco shorebird checklist of 26 species (birds previously featured in bold), with each bird’s ‘availability’ code. I am disregarding the 7 species listed under the checklist because (1) they are transients or vagrants and your chances of encountering one are slim to remote; and (2) because in 16 months I was unable to obtain photos of any of them taken on Abaco, which can’t simply be because they are not photogenic. I still haven’t managed to deal with the shonky formatting, so I’ve given up on that…

The codes will tell you, for any particular bird, when you may see it (P = permanent, WR = winter resident, TR = transient, V = vagrant); whether it breeds (B) on Abaco; and your chance of seeing it, graded from easy (1) to vanishingly unlikely (5).

  • Black-necked Stilt                         Himantopus mexicanus              PR B 3
  • American Avocet                           Recurvirostra americana           WR 4
  • American Oystercatcher          Haematopus palliatus                 PR B 2
  • Black-bellied Plover                          Pluvialis squatarola                      WR 1
  • American Golden Plover                 Pluvialis dominica                         TR 4
  • Wilson’s Plover                                  Ochthodromus wilsonia              PR B 2
  • Semipalmated Plover                        Charadrius semipalmatus          WR 2
  • Piping Plover                                      Charadrius melodus                      WR 3
  • Killdeer                                                 Charadrius vociferus                    WR 2
  • Spotted Sandpiper                      Actitis macularius                         WR 1
  • Solitary Sandpiper                       Tringa solitaria                            WR 2
  • Greater Yellowlegs                       Tringa melanoleuca                      WR 2
  • Willet                                                   Tringa semipalmata                    PR B 2
  • Lesser Yellowlegs                          Tringa flavipes                              WR 3
  • Ruddy Turnstone                          Arenaria interpres                      PR 2
  • Red Knot                                            Calidris canutus                           WR 3
  • Sanderling                                        Calidris alba                                  WR 1
  • Dunlin                                                 Calidris alpina                              WR 2
  • Least Sandpiper                            Calidris minutilla                         WR 2
  • White-rumped Sandpiper       Calidris fuscicollis                        TR 3
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper         Calidris pusilla                              TR 2
  • Western Sandpiper                      Calidris Mauri                                TR 2
  • Short-billed Dowitcher               Limnodromus griseus                  WR 1
  • Long-billed Dowitcher                Limnodromus scolopaceus         WR 4
  • Wilson’s Snipe                                 Gallinago delicata                         WR 3
  • Wilson’s Phalarope                      Phalaropus tricolor                        V 4

The other 7 species of shorebird recorded for Abaco – all transients or vagrants – are: Upland Sandpiper TR 4, Whimbrel  TR 4, Hudsonian Godwit V5, Marbled Godwit V5, Buff-breasted Sandpiper V5, Pectoral Sandpiper  TR 3, Stilt Sandpiper TR 3

PLOVERS ON ABACO

The best-known of the 6 Abaco plover species is the Wilson’s Plover, because it is the only permanent resident. The American Golden Plover is a rare transient, but we luckily have one taken on on Abaco. All the others are winter residents and easy to middling hard to find. All except the American Golden Plover may be found on the beach at Delphi or the rocks at either end. The Piping Plover is the most interesting species, with a mere 8000 left in the world and a vigorous conservation program to protect them and their habitat. Their summer breeding range is in Canada, central US and the eastern seaboard. In winter they migrate south, and Abaco is one of their homes. At Delphi we are very fortunate that every year some choose the beach for their winter retreat.

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER  Pluvialis squatarola   WR 1Black-bellied Plover intermediate plumage.Marls.Abaco Bahamas.3.12.Tom Sheley edit

You  may well wonder why a bird with such a very specific belly-related colour designation has a white one in the photo. It’s because this is the non-breeding plumage (in fact, intermediate), so I have borrowed from Audubon Magazine (‘tip of the hat’) to show a non-Abaco bird in its breeding plumage. Black- Bellied Plover (Audubon Magazine)

AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER  Pluvialis dominica  TR 4American Golden Plover, Abaco - Tony Hepburn

 SEMIPALMATED PLOVER Charadrius semipalmatus WR 2Semipalmated Plover (f nb), Abaco - Bruce Hallett

KILLDEER Charadrius vociferus WR 2Kildeer, Abaco - Bruce Hallett

PIPING PLOVER  Charadrius melodus WR 3Piping Plover, Abaco - Bruce HallettPiping Plover, Abaco - Tony HepburnPiping Plover, Abaco  - Tom Reed

WILSON’S PLOVER Ochthodromus wilsonia  PR B 2

This permanent resident plover is a year-round presence on the Delphi Club beach, where in summer they nest and raise their tiny fluffball chicks (see Sandy Walker’s wonderful header image). I’m posting in some detail about these because it’s a while since I featured them. Links to other relevant posts are given below. All the following photos bar 1 were taken on the beach at Delphi.Wilson's Plover, Delphi Club Beach, Abaco - Craig Nash

The photo below was taken by Tom Sheley at Nettie’s Point, the skiff launching point for the day’s bonefishing on the Marls. The plover pair had made a scrape and nested there. They chose a tricky place to do so –  it was just where the trucks are turned after off-loading the skiffs. So the guides built a protective driftwood enclosure to protect the nest and prevent tragedy. The plovers, unfazed by the human proximity and activity, raised their family safely. I mostly saw the female on the nest within the square wooden pen, with the male usually close by, standing guard protectively. 

Wilson's Plover, Abaco Bahamas - Tom Sheley

This plover, photographed on the Delphi beach, is performing a typical ‘broken wing’ display, a tactic used to draw predators away from a nest site. The bird makes itself appear to be wounded and vulnerable, and flaps pathetically about on the ground… gradually getting further from the nest. If the going gets tough and the predator gets too close for comfort,  the plover gets going by unexpectedly flying off. Wilson's Plover, Abaco (broken wing display) Clare Latimer - Version 2

TWO MORE FROM THE DELPHI BEACHWilson's Plover, Abaco 12 Wilson's Plover, Abaco 11

RELATED POSTS

PIPING PLOVERS

WILSON’S PLOVERS (1) ‘Dream Plover’

 WILSON’S PLOVERS (2) Nest Protection

 WILSON’S PLOVERS (3) Scrapes, Chicks & Broken Wings

Photo credits: Sandy Walker, Tom Sheley, Audubon, Tony Hepburn, Bruce Hallett, Tom Reed, Craig Nash, Clare Latimer, RH