Hey guys, welcome back. Shortly before I left NYC for St. Louis, I took a weekend trip to the Hamptons, which for those unfamiliar is all the way out on the eastern end of Long Island. It was an amazing trip, and I managed to get some birding in too. While walking along the beach at Maidstone Park in East Hampton, I suddenly saw a small blob of sand moving. It obviously wasn’t sand, but today’s bird! The sand-colored piping plover blends in so well, that had I been looking for it, I probably wouldn’t have seen it. As it scurried away, I managed to get two decent shots of it, and even those look like papparazzi shots!
The piping plover is a small shorebird that looks like a paler semipalmated plover. They are federally threatened in parts of their range, federally endangered in others, and internationally on the IUCN’s Red Watch List. Along the Atlantic coast, where they’re preferred beach habitat leaves them susceptible to harassment by beach goers, dogs, and habitat loss. In addition to the Atlantic coast, they can be found in the Great Lakes, and in the Prairie Pothole Region. For those maybe unfamiliar, the Prairie Pothole Regiond is an area in the north central US, and south central Canada that contains thousands of shallow wetlands and ponds that form in left over depressions (or potholes) left by the glaciers. Included in this region are parts of North and South Dakota, Montana, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, among other states and provinces.
These populations winter in different areas with the inland populations tending to winter further south than the Atlantic Coast breeders. Like most plovers, they probe the wet sand and mud for invertebrates using their run-stop-probe-repeat style of foraging. Unlike many other shorebirds though, the piping plover tends to forage alone and tend to stay a bit farther from the water’s edge than most. These birds are one of the big reasons many beaches now have areas of dunes with restricted access, and we try and help these threatened birds bounce back. Next up is my last life bird of New York, which might have also been my first? See you then!