Craig Watson, ACJV Assistant Coordinator and Piping Plover Finder!
For the second winter Craig Watson, ACJV Assistant Coordinator and Caleb Spiegel USFWS Region 5 Division of Migratory Birds, coordinated and carried out extensive surveys for Piping Plover and other shorebirds in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). Craig and Caleb partnered with TCI Department of Environment and Coastal Resources, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, SWA Ltd (local consulting firm), Big Blue Unlimited (local eco-tour partner), and U.S. Geological Survey. Shorebird surveys are a critical component of the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (AFSI), a hemispheric partnership for the conservation of 15 Focal Species, including Piping Plover. This work spawned from recent work conducted in the Bahamas to locate wintering Piping Plover, and because TCI is a part of the Lucayan Archipelago to which the Bahamas belong, it was thought that Piping Plover may winter there. Significant numbers of Piping Plover were located in the Bahamas, and with Caleb’s expertise from the Bahamas work and his ability to recognize suitable habitat on Google Earth, locations throughout TCI were chosen to survey. Ninety-six Piping Plover were located in the winter of 2016, three of which were flagged and from the northeast United States and eastern Canada. Additionally, over 3,000 individuals of 17 other shorebird species were recorded, most of which were relatively unknown in TCI prior to this census. This information has led to the proposed expansion of several National Parks in TCI and the proposed expansion of the RAMSAR site in TCI.