Updated: Mar 22
Presque Isle State Park was the only known breeding location for this shorebird up until the 1950’s, when Piping Plovers abandoned their nests. Because other locations around the Great Lakes also lost nesting pairs, this species’ subpopulation was listed as federally Endangered by the USFWS, which provided resources and funding to restore habitat and protect nesting sites from recreational use. These intensive conservation methods paid off as the population began to recover across three Great Lakes states – but Piping Plovers continued to ignore Pennsylvania as a nesting site. Habitat work at Gull Point Natural Area of Presque Isle State Park increased the likelihood of nesting Piping Plovers, and to every wildlife lover’s joy, two pairs of Piping Plovers did return to nest at Presque Isle in 2017. They were absent from Pennsylvania as a breeding bird for over 60 years.
The Erie Bird Observatory is contracted by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to monitor the birds six days a week from April through August. If you think it’s a boring job, check out the drama from the 2021 nesting season: https://triblive.com/local/regional/endangered-piping-plover-at-presque-isle-nests-with-3-females-2-chicks-fledge/ Monitors said it was nothing they had ever seen before!
In addition to monitoring the Piping Plover nests each day, protecting the nests from visitors (Presque Isle is the most highly visted park in our state), and removing invasive plants and woody vegetation, the Observatory conducts a lot of other bird conservation and education programs that teach people about birds and how to help them. The Observatory will use their share of the Blitz funding to cover the expenses of an intern. The intern is trained in field skills and gets hands-on experience in bird conservation. If they have sufficient skills, they may be approved by the PGC as a secondary observer for routine Piping Plover observations. In June and July, they assist with bird banding three days per month. Presque Isle State Park hosts several colonies of Bank Swallows along eroding banks on the outer side of the park. These are often disturbed by beach goers and beach nourishment activities; EBO works with DCNR to survey these colonies on a regular basis and reduce disturbance, largely through the efforts of this intern. The internship is a paid position, so this allows students to acquire valuable experience while also supporting themselves through the summer months.