Piping Plover Surveys at the Niobrara National Scenic River

The Niobrara National Scenic River is an interesting ecological area as it contains six different types of ecosystems, providing a large number of habitats for many different types of plants and animals, specifically birds. This area is home to several endangered and threatened bird species, including the federally endangered piping plover. Because of the population status of piping plovers, the Niobrara National Scenic River conducts surveys on them to keep track of how their population is doing in the area. A few weeks ago I was invited to join in on one of these surveys. During the survey, me and a couple of the biological technicians went out on the river to look for piping plovers and their nests. This basically consisted of us going out on the eastern part of the river in canoes and canoeing a stretch of the river that’s about 15 miles. The plovers like to nest on sand banks within the river that are at least five or six inches above the water, so that was the type of habitat we looked for. After canoeing on the river for about 5 hours, we finally found a nest! This was especially exciting for me because I had never seen a piping plover before. We also got lucky that day because we got to see both the male and female of this nest. After finding the nest, we recorded its coordinates and the number of eggs. It was really cool for me to be able to experience doing the plover surveys. Although canoeing the river was pretty difficult because we had to navigate all of the sand banks and figure out where the deeper water was, it was a blast nonetheless.  

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