These diminutive birds migrate south from the Midwest, some from as far away as Michigan. We’ve been able to see colored leg bands on some pipers, allowing us to determine where they were banded.
The lagoon is tidal, and the times of survey trips (by boat) were varied to put us on the sandbar at different stages. Sometimes the only way to observe the birds without disturbing them was to set up in the water.
Numbering only about 6000 individuals, Piping Plovers are sensitive to habitat loss and disturbance at both ends of their migrations, as well as along the way.
Shorebirds probably prefer the sandbars to mainland or island beaches, because it’s harder for predators, like feral cats, to reach them there.
Piping Plovers and Least Sandpipers
Piping Plovers breed up north, only coming south to find adequate food supplies and safety. Unfortunately, boaters often use the sandbars for picnics and dog walking.
Here are some other birds frequently seen on our surveys.
Least Sandpipers and Black-Bellied Plovers have very similar winter plumage. The sandpipers have yellow legs; the plovers, gray.
Sanderling, with leg bands
Sanderlings in flight
Ruddy Turnstone among the litter
Ruddy Turnstones also have a very different winter plumage, but they blend in well with the wrack line, if not the litter.
I’ve posted large-format copies of these and other photos on my gallery.