Western Snowy Plovers (Part VII): The Future

Without human assistance, Western Snowy Plovers might have already vanished. As it is, the future looks better every year.

Part VII – The Future

In summer 2007, for unknown reasons, the breeding population of Western Snowy Plovers (WSPs) crashed 21 percent from the prior year high of 1,719 birds. By four years later they had almost fully recovered to 1,715 birds. Barring additional collapses, continued population recovery is promising. So far, Summer 2012 is looking to be even better than last year.

Taken without context, simply recovering back to the level attained five years earlier does not sound like great success. But compared to the Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) 1995 study, which found a 20 percent decrease from the 1980 level, simply treading water is a major success; rebounding 26 percent (from 1362 birds in 2007 to 1715 birds in 2011) is sufficient for exultation, with mugs of beer all around.

PRBO is currently monitoring the breeding colonies and banding nestlings at Ocean Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area in San Luis Obispo County, Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, and the shores of Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. They work with government agencies in each area to promote the conservation of the plover and its habitat.

In Los Angeles County, protection at winter roosts is in place in three locations: Surfrider Beach, Santa Monica Beach and northern Dockweiler Beach. The fences have signs informing the public about the Snowies. As yet, we have not been able to establish winter roost protection at the Zuma, southern Dockweiler, Hermosa Beach or Cabrillo sites.

Gary Page, founder and head of PRBO’s WSP Project, puts his hopes for the future of the Western Snowy Plovers succinctly: “Snowy Plover population recovers and no longer needs to be listed.”

For that to happen, the birds need the cooperation of the human population with whom they share the beach. We need to back off from them, just a little bit, and give them room to carry on their lives, to nest and raise their young, to forage for food, to rest and to sleep without the threat of being trampled at any moment. We need to stop removing the wrack (sea vegetation) lying on the beach near their nesting and roosting areas. We need to keep our dogs, our boisterous children, our vehicles and our trash away from them.  If we can do that, most likely they’ll be able to bring off their own recovery without additional interference from us.

We hope that now that you know the Snowies are there, and why they’re there, you too will come to appreciate them and watch out for them. They need your concern.

Many thanks to the following people who answered questions and supplied background information: Gary Page and Frances Bidstrup, PRBO; Tom Ryan & Stacey Vigallon, Los Angeles Audubon Society Western Snowy Plover Project, Lu Plauzoles & Mary Prismon, Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society.

Sources and recommended sites for additional information
Western Snowy Plover – Tools and Resources for Recovery

Western Snowy Plover Natural History and Population Trends

Appendix B. Birds of Malibu Lagoon
Dan Cooper, Cooper Ecological Monitoring, Inc.

Los Angeles Audubon Society – Western Snowy Plover Conservation Page

The Western Snowy Plover in Los Angeles County, California
Ryan Ecological Consulting

The Western Snowy Plover in Los Angeles County, California: January to August 2010
Ryan Ecological Consulting

Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory (Two Excel spreadsheets)
2010-11 California Winter Snowy Plover Survey.
2012 Summer Window Survey for Snowy Plovers on U.S. Pacific Coast with 2005-2011 Results for Comparison.

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