Date: 5/4/18 6:49 am From: Tyler Stuart <tylerhstuart...> Subject: [cobirds] Piping Plover habitat at John Martin Reservoir may not sustain population
This is a very popular weekend for birders to visit southeastern Colorado. Tomorrow, May 5, is also Cornell Lab's "Global Big Day," which this year is bringing particular attention to our world's shorebirds. Among southeastern Colorado's specialties is Piping Plover, a federally-threatened species, which was first documented breeding in the Lower Arkansas River Valley in 1989. Estimates of Piping Plovers in the vicinity of John Martin Reservoir reached a high of 25 individuals in 2016, with 10 known breeding pairs, thanks to the conservation efforts of Duane Nelson and countless volunteers.
However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have not support efforts in 2017 or 2018 to maintain the John Martin Reservoir breeding grounds of Piping Plover or Least Tern (a federally-threatened species), despite saying they would do so. As a result, salt grass has begun to cover the rocky shoreline and islands on which these birds nest.
Further, USACE and CPW have not taken steps to (at least) seasonally protect the nesting areas from human activity. A Colorado birder recently witnessed fishermen attempt to launch a boat from the only mainland plover nesting habitat, and when the wind picked up and shifted, the fishermen waited on the plover beach with their boat (and Piping Plovers present) for several hours. As of yesterday (5/3), two Piping Plovers were present on the shoreline, and nesting is imminent. Without proper signage and protection for the birds, those fishermen would not necessarily know that what they did is in all likelihood considered "take," and is illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
I am asking that if you have seen the plovers or terns in the past, or hope to see them in the future, *please write to Sandy Vana-Miller (<sandy_vana-miller...> <sandy_vana-miller...>) *at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and express your concern that USFWS is not holding the Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado Parks & Wildlife responsible for maintaining and patrolling the habitat. Estimates in the past two weeks suggest that only two nesting Piping Plover pairs are present, with a total of five or six individuals at John Martin Reservoir (potentially more at other local reservoirs, though the habitat is limited at those as well). Least Terns have had an even more tenuous situation in SE CO in recent years, though it is too early this year to know the exact consequences of the lacking protection. Although, both of these populations have fluctuated over the past three decades, and presumably before, we cannot count on their rebound if we do not take steps to ensure their future in southeastern Colorado.
Wherever you are birding this weekend, take some time to appreciate what an incredible variety of birds we get to see in Colorado, and think about what you can do to help them thrive.