Little Bird, Big Questions

February 23, 2014  •  3 Comments

<Click any image to see more photos from the trip.>

Banded Piping PloversBanded Piping PloversHuddled against the cold in a tire track in the sand, East end of Elmer's Island, Louisiana. 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.

Banded Piping PloverBanded Piping PloverElmer's Island, Louisiana 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.

Peregrine Falcon TakeoffPeregrine Falcon TakeoffThis bird stayed ahead of us as we moved south along the beach, flushing several times before we could get close enough for a shot. Persistence finally paid off. 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.

White Pelican LiftoffWhite Pelican LiftoffBay side mud flats, Elmer's Island, Louisiana Getting close enough to the shy, elusive plovers for good documentary photos was challenging, tiring work that renewed our appreciation of the countless hours invested by BTNEP's dedicated surveyors.

Offshore Platform at DawnOffshore Platform at DawnGrand Isle, Louisiana 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.

Typical sights on Louisiana’s fragile coast where science confronts difficult questions about how to preserve and protect wild places in the face of our insatiable hunger for energy and food. Porpoise and Shrimp BoatPorpoise and Shrimp BoatJust offshore near the east end of Grand Isle, Louisiana

 


Comments

Mary Brewer(non-registered)
A positively awesome presentation of photos and information on the Piping Plovers. We are fortunate to get a peek at what you see when you go out to do a photo shoot. Absolutely beautiful pictures!!
Delaina LeBlanc and Natalie Waters(non-registered)
Thanks Russ for helping get the word out about Piping Plover research! It was great working with you!
Thelma Coleman(non-registered)
Awesome and educational story of the piping plovers. These are the wonderful stories that we need to hear about this great state and how we are trying to capture the natural beauty of the wildlife that we are honored to share the coastline with. Thanks for sharing Russ!
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