HomeEnvironmentMeet Nish and Nellie, Ohio’s first nested pipe plover in 83 years

Meet Nish and Nellie, Ohio’s first nested pipe plover in 83 years

On a warm Friday afternoon in early June, Mandy Roberts couldn’t believe what she saw through the camera. “Something is going to happen!” She called Julie Heitz, a friend and volunteer guardian on duty nearby. “Something!”

A few seconds later, the female lute plover Nellie laid her fourth and final egg. Roberts, Heights, and several other birds watched in amazement, then burst into laughter and high-five. Nearby beach visitors wanted to know what was going on, and soon knew they were in front of celebrities: Nellie and her partner Nish were the first pipe plovers to nest in Ohio in 83 years.

The previous week, local birdwatchers Karen and Warren Leow reported seeing three pipe plovers on the shores of busy Lake Erie in Maumee Bay State Park near Toledo.Experts in Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) is a local non-profit organization that focuses on combining bird conservation research and education. It observes and waits for confirmation of breeding behavior, which shows that birds are not just migrating in the area. The leg straps show that these three birds are all 2020 juveniles and are part of the federally endangered Great Lakes population. The male was married at Montrose Beach in Chicago, Illinois, and the two females were from Presque Island, Pennsylvania.

Within a few days of their arrival, Nis, who was named when they hatched the previous year, began to perform a courtship show unique to the pipe plover. He stood up straight, wandering around in high sprints, trying to woo the newly named Nellie. To delight and entertain hopeful observers, he eventually won her. After the two mated, the conservation community quickly united to protect the birds and their potential nests.

“We know that birds intend to build nests here, when the Black Swamp Bird Observatory had just started operations,” said Kimberly Kaufman, executive director of the Observatory. The BSBO team contacted authorities including the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Ohio Department of Wildlife and Maumee Bay State Park officials to notify them of confirmed courtship. State and federal officials visited the area to verify and assess the situation. However, due to the vast coastline, agencies had to wait to establish a reserve until they knew the exact location of the official scrape, the shallow depressions created by the pipe plover in the sand for their nests.

If the birds successfully nest, the Ohio Department of Wildlife and USFWS require the BSBO to manage the volunteer monitoring program. BSBO agreed to undertake this task, and the nest was confirmed a few days later. Subsequently, USFWS erected a barrier around a large inland beach adjacent to the shore of Lake Erie but separated from the shore of Lake Erie. Interestingly, Nish and Nellie chose a nesting area that is not affected by lake level fluctuations caused by storm surges, which may provide a safer environment for eggs. (The first pair of pipe plovers Return to Chicago Has been dealing with flooding in 2019 for more than 50 years. )

That night, Kaufman recorded the first piped plover egg laid in Ohio since the 1930s. The next day, the agency installed a wire predator guard called “exclosure” above the bird’s nest to protect the eggs. Only five days later, Nellie laid the famous fourth egg, which turned out to be a litter of whole eggs, and the birds began to hatch formally.

It turns out that finding volunteer monitors is easy. More than 100 people volunteered to participate in the first week of BSBO’s online registration. “Everyone gathers around these birds,” Kaufman said. “This is the most incredibly tense but wonderful experience.”

BSBO’s research director Mark Shieldcastle said that volunteer monitoring is essentially a large-scale community science project, a key component, and the “eyes and ears” of USFWS. By observing birds in shifts and recording their behavior, people learn to distinguish between what is normal and what is a sign to contact the authorities. The agency can then make more informed decisions to help the two succeed.

The monitoring personnel have noticed the pattern during the incubation period. Although Nish and Nellie rotate almost every hour throughout the day, taking turns sitting on four speckled eggs, Nish tends to take over five hours each night. Nellie is usually incubated alone overnight. In addition, Nish doesn’t seem to mind leaving the nest unattended more frequently during shifts, while he eats snacks nearby, or scares Killdeer away too close.

The ombudsman also provides outreach and education to the public to obtain much-needed support. “It’s really important to educate the public because we closed most of the beaches and they need to know why,” said volunteer Jack Burris, who worked 12-hour shifts on the first day and the plan is still Under development. “Birds are critically endangered because of humans. We have taken away their habitat, so they chose some of our habitat, and we will let them have it.”

The Great Lakes population of Pipa plover officially confirmed Included in the “Endangered Species Act” in 1986, When there are less than 20 pairs left, they are all in Michigan. (The Great Plains and Atlantic populations are currently listed as threatened populations.) Historically, there are an estimated 500-800 pairs in this area. In the early 1900s, with human hunting and development, the population began to decline, and in the second half of this century, beach recreation, habitat degradation and predation continued to threaten the survival of this species.


From 2000, the population of the Great Lakes region had only 30 pairs, and in 2017 this number increased to 76 pairs.


However, since its listing, the breeding population of Great Lakes Pipe Plover has increased to around 60-80 pairs, which is mainly due to the hard work of various organizations. Great Lakes Pipeline Plover Protection TeamThe population of the Great Lakes Region increased from 30 pairs in 2000 to 76 pairs in 2017, which is the highest record since the launch of the program. This year, 72 unique pairs have been identified — 8 more than in 2020 — and have records in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Ontario.

“This is very exciting,” said Jillian Farkas, USFWS’ Great Lakes Pipeline Plover coordinator. Farkas attributed the success of the program to monitoring and conservation efforts, predator management, community support, and captive breeding programs, which are critical to replenishing wild populations.

It is also important to ensure that the new pair returns to the nesting site in the first year; if the nesting is successful, a pair of pipe plovers are more likely to return to the same location. “Every bird is important,” Fakas said. “So we can do anything to try to increase their success and make it as simple as possible to get them back after the winter season that we are trying to do.”

As for Nish and Nellie, if all goes well, their eggs are expected to hatch around July 4. “Things will become very loose over a period of time because they can move as they please,” Shieldcastle said of the chicks, who he described as “a bit like puffballs running around on toothpicks.”

Until then, volunteers will continue to monitor the couple and their nest from sunrise to sunset. New friendships are established among dedicated groups, and the larger community seems to have fallen in love with their new residents.

Looking back on the efforts so far, Kaufman hopes that this experience will eventually have a greater impact. “In such a situation, if you have a single bird or a pair of birds, what always impresses me is how they motivate and inspire people,” she said. “If we can generate so much support and excitement for two birds, we should be able to do this for birds on a larger scale.”

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