All about Hoofbeats & Footprints

Meet 6E4 a Piping Plover

Meet 6E4 a Piping Plover that I discovered while laying on the wet sand of the Bolivar Peninsula last week.

Whenever I’m observing and photographing a flock of shorebirds, I’m also on the search for those that are wearing jewelry. As those that are wearing jewelry tell a story. A story of conservation and scientific research of our avian friends. While some of these tags are too small to read even with an image that can be zoomed in, the shorebirds have these lovely and legible tags.

While at the 17th Annual Galveston Featherfest, one of our outings was to visit the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake Jackson, Texas. They held a special bird banding session so that participants can see how they go about banding birds for research. Throughout the property there were fine mesh nets and someone walked the nets every 15 minutes or so to pick up any birds that might have been caught and bring them to the banders in a small sack.

The gentlemen responsible for handling the bird had to be mentored by a senior bird bander for a number of years before he was able to become a certified master bander. With nearly 20 years of experience one could tell how adept he was in handling each bird and making the full assessment of health, fat content, size, etc of each one.

Being able to watch a bird banding session it make me appreciate even more the importance of us understanding our avian friends. While the bird may be stressed briefly, they are handled just for a few minutes before they are released to go on their own way.

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When I found 6E4 I took as many images as I could to make sure I had all angles of his/her tag to read later. Then I entered in the discovery on two different websites. The first one is with the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center who provide you a certificate if they are able to locate information on the bird.

The next group is Banded Birds Organization whose combined efforts track shorebirds. It is this group that lead me to a Piping Plover specific website as the Piping Plover is considered endangered in the Great Lakes region and threatened in the remaining portions of their range.

For 6E4, s/he has had quite the story. As an adult s/he was banded in 2015 on the Missouri River near Price, North Dakota. In 2018 s/he was observed nesting near the same location. Then s/he was found on holiday in Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo Mexico in February and March this year before I discovered her last week on the Bolivar Salt Flats. Interestingly enough, 6E4 likes to stop at Bolivar as s/he has been seen at the near exact same time at the same place.

While it may seem like one is looking for a needle in the haystack, finding a banded bird is quite exciting.

6 replies »

  1. The image drew my attention to the post and the content is really interesting and informative.

    So good to read about the efforts by different organizations in bird research and conservation.

    Luckily, I live in a place, where, we are blessed with a great diversity of bird species and a healthy Eco system.

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post 🙂

    • I truly appreciate your thoughtful comment and appreciation of this blog post. You do live in a very special place with incredible wildlife and natural areas. Enjoy it as much as you can Sreejith. Thank you.

  2. I saw this image at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center today. I’m impressed that you were able to photograph the bird’s tag and I’m glad that you received an award.

    • It’s always my quest when I’m with shorebirds Mark as their tags I can read. I should go back through my archives and dig out the ones I’ve received in the past and have them in one place. It’s fun to get the certificate. Thank you so much.

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