The journey of Of,GL:X,Y…as best we can piece it together.
One of the fascinations of working with individually marked and identifiable Piping Plovers is being able to piece together parts of their life stories and behaviors that we would otherwise be unable to discern.
One such story has developed recently…
Of,GL:X,Y (“named” for her bands. Left leg – Orange flag, Green, bLack. Right leg – X for USGS aluminum band, Yellow) hatched in 2011 at Silver Lake State Park, south of Ludington, MI, and has nested since 2012 near the mouth of the Platte River in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. She has only been reported once on wintering grounds, in January of 2013, on an island off the coast of Louisiana. Because Piping Plovers are very tied to their wintering, as well as their breeding territories, it’s likely that she spends winters in that area and began her journey north from there.
This spring she didn’t return to Sleeping Bear Dunes at the usual time. Her mate from the past two summers, 14-year- old BO:X,g (Left leg – Blue, Orange. Right leg X for USGS aluminum band, light green) waited here alone for a mate to arrive.
On 5/2 and 5/3, David Bree, Park Naturalist at Presqu’ile Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Ontario, spotted and photographed her 420 miles (675 km) east of her usual summer destination. He reported his observation to firstname.lastname@example.org and our tracking of her travels began. It’s possible that the persistent northwest winds this spring blew her off course. She was seen at Presq’ile again on 5/8, but by 5/9 and 5/10 she had traveled 120 miles (190 km) west where monitors at Wasaga Beach, Ontario, observed her. Then, for an unknown reason, she returned to Presq’ile Provincial Park for 5/12 and 5/13.
Four days later, by 5/17, she had traveled 420 miles (675 km) back to Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. She was first spotted here by monitors on North Manitou Island, only 25 miles (40 km) as the plover flies from her usual nesting spot. By the next day she had found her way back to her old summer home at the mouth of the Platte River in Sleeping Bear Dunes, and was seen hanging out near her old mate BO:X,g.
I wish I could say it was a match made in heaven, however on 5/19 she was gone and BO:X,g had taken up with a one-year- old female who arrived here first. Now we’re hoping to hear that someone has seen her in a new location, and that she’ll soon have a new mate and be laying eggs.
Stay tuned for updates. Hopefully her story will continue.
Thank you to all the monitors whose detailed observations and diligent reporting have made it possible to piece together this story of Of,GL:X,Y’s spring travels.
Alice Van Zoeren – Summer Plover monitor, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; University of Minnesota Non-breeding sightings coordinator for Great Lakes Piping Plovers