<Click any image to see more photos from the trip.>
If you’ve braved the cold winds on Louisiana’s beaches recently you might have seen a few small, nondescript shorebirds called piping plovers among the mixed flocks along the surf’s edge, out on the tidal flats and huddled against the cold in tire tracks in the sand. But if you’re like most of us, you may not have noticed them and probably didn’t recognize them if you did.
For that you need a sharp eye and a biologist’s skill, as John Spohrer and I discovered on Elmer’s Island last weekend. Delaina LeBlanc, Migratory Birds Coordinator for the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, and BTNEP Coastal Bird Coordinator Natalie Waters have both, along with special permission to access the entire island to survey and study this threatened species.
Our job was to provide photographs to support their research. Not just any photos of piping plovers, but piping plovers with bands on their legs. Because band colors and placement reveal where along the upper Great Lakes, Midwest and Northeastern Coast the birds nest, improving their understanding of migration patterns and population trends.
With their help and guidance we also managed to see and photograph a variety of other wildlife, including this peregrine falcon, white pelicans and much more.
We left with dozens of images of banded plovers and thought-provoking photographs of startling contrasts: abundant wildlife, offshore platforms turned golden at daybreak and porpoises riding bow waves for shrimpers followed by flocks of hungry gulls.