Point Blue has been monitoring and supporting conservation and outreach efforts for this species since the mid-1970's and continues today. We are currently studying and tracking plover populations in Monterey Bay, Oceano Dunes and Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The Western Snowy Plover has been listed as threatened since 1993 and is a California Species of Special Concern. Since their listing this species' population has been recovering due to conservation efforts, but there is more science, conservation and outreach to do.
Snowy plovers are adapted to live on beaches and their survival is threatened by heavy human use of this habitat. In all of our study locations, we focus on monitoring nesting biology, population tracking and improving management for this federally threatened species.
We have focused much of our efforts on figuring out what helps and hurts plover nesting success and what influences survival of adult and young plovers. We have learned that plover egg and chick loss varies widely from place to place and from year to year, but we have seen some trends. For eggs, we have seen that strong winds, high tides, and trampling by humans destroy them, but predation by foxes, ravens, skunks or other predators usually outweigh all other factors. For chicks and adults we are seeing that predators, severe weather, and disease all contribute to annual mortality.
Since 2002, we have seen ravens colonize the coast from San Mateo to San Luis Obispo counties by exploiting human infrastructures and food sources. Once absent from these areas, now ravens destroy plover nests along many miles of beach. This information helps inform education and management efforts to decrease predation pressures.
In 1993, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Snowy Plover on the U.S Pacific Coast as a threatened distinct population segment under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A decade later, this designation was challenged under a 1996 USFWS rule more precisely defining a distinct population. To argue for preservation of the listing, Point Blue's Lynne Stenzel and Catherine Hickey summarized decades of data collected by Point Blue biologists, volunteers and colleagues.
When the 2004 petition to "delist" this population was released, Point Blue was primed to respond: our comprehensive data showed that the coastal population segment is distinct and requires continued protections under the Endangered Species Act.
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Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (W.A.T.C.H.)
Point Blue supports, WATCH, a Monterey Bay Aquarium sponsored summer program for high school students at Pajaro Valley and Watsonville High School with an interest in science. The students are exposed to a variety of science professionals throughout the Monterey Bay, including Point Blue biologists who study Snowy Plovers in the area, and spend a lot of time in the field. For more information visit Monterey Bay Aquarium's Teen Programs page.
Watsonville Wetlands Watch (WWW)
Point Blue snowy plover biologists work with WWW restoration specialists and provide support for school programming. WWW is dedicated to the protection, restoration, and appreciation of the wetlands of the Pajaro Valley, especially involving members of the Watsonville community and the students of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. For more information about WWW, visit the WWW website.
The Annual Mud Stomp Volunteer Opportunity
Point Blue Avian Ecologist, Carleton Eyster and Elkhorn Slough Foundation Reserve Docent Coordinator, Amanda Ankenbrandt, coordinate this public event to raise awareness of and create habitat for Snowy Plovers. Participants stomp shallow divots in mudflats to provide nesting sites for the Western Snowy Plover which lays eggs in shallow depressions in the ground or in beach sands above the wrack line. The footprints also provide disruptive ground cover that can help plover chicks, which are flightless for their first month, to avoid predators.
This event is now part of Point Blue's Monthly Bird & Conservation Walk schedule in April. View our 2013 Stomp photo album on our Facebook page.
Explore our resources and recommendations for birders and nature lovers for plover friendly beach recreation tips and more.
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