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Ceuta Plovers go Facebook and Twitter

posted Apr 18, 2011, 8:20 AM by Clemens Kuepper   [ updated Apr 18, 2011, 9:24 AM ]
Facebook and Twitter - the pinnacles of social networks. Until now I thought I could live very well without them. I rather like to be social over a beer or two. Turns out that I was wrong... Actually, I feared that if I join facebook and start to tweet it will suck me up, I can quickly get addicted to these things. But to spread the news of the Snowy Plovers in Ceuta I will face my devil and have joined now both communities. With the help of Kevin and my wife I'm suddenly exploring a completely new world! Social networks provide  amazing opportunities to stay in touch and interact with friends and strangers with whom you share an interest and I want to promote the Snowy Plovers. But I need to guard myself to go not over the top. Social networks and twin parenting - I can see another conflict coming up the horizon.

Fieldwork has finally started. Medardo is already at Bahía de Ceuta and I'm keen to hear the first news of the season. Did the plovers start already breeding? When was the first nest laid? When will the first chick hatch? At Ceuta these things are pretty much unpredictable, but it is safe to assume that breeding has already started. Usually, Snowy Plovers initiate breeding in February, but at the old salt works plover love usually starts a bit later because most of the breeding areas are still covered by brackish sea water. With the higher temperatures and lower tides in April this water starts to evaporate and to retreat. As soon as the first areas are dry Snowy Plover males will establish territories and each male tries to charm a female and convince her to breed with her. Because there are more males than females you can imagine that females can afford to be a bit choosy, but they can't wait too long, because the chances for survival are highest for the chicks that hatch earliest. This is because with the high temperatures the water evaporates incredibly fast and soon there will be little food left which has to be shared by many families. Even worse for the Snowy Plovers at this time, Wilson's Plovers who are also breeding at Bahía de Ceuta will have their young and competition and fight for survival becomes fierce. We have some ideas how to fix many of these problems by managing the water levels at the site for the good of the ground nesting birds.

But the improvement needs substantial financial resources and first an agreement among the land owners and land users. This is right now the biggest problem. The breeding site itself is owned by the Mexican government. According to federal laws, everything that is covered by tidal water is federal properties. But private persons and companies can buy concessions to use the land. And the land around the breeding site is owned by somebody. All parties who claim to be owner are to a certain extent committed to conservation. But the ownership of the surrounding is disputed and there are some people who use this uncertainty to push their own agenda. Last year we witnessed illegal invasions of people who just put up a fence around a patch of land they liked and started to develop the land. This means they destroyed the native threatened and protected vegetation and we had to fight and lobby hard to stop them. Anyway, without clarity it is hard to plan the future. But we are motivated and hopefully will succeed!

And here comes where website, facebook and twitter will be really useful. We want to make more people all over the world aware of the situation. In this way we can increase pressure on government and land owners to do more for conservation. And obviously share our excitement about Snowy Plovers and the other creatures at Ceuta.

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