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End of the season

posted Jul 8, 2011, 11:00 AM by Clemens Kuepper   [ updated Jul 8, 2011, 12:33 PM ]

Rain, heat, mud and more sand flies. The rain means that the breeding season for Snowy Plovers and the other ground nesting shorebirds and terns is ending now. Last week some heavy down pours flooded the last dry parts of the nesting area. Everything was covered by 10 cm of water. All remaining active Snowy Plover and Least Tern nest were lost and the chicks died in the eggs.

The end of the season is unpredictable for us as well as the plovers. At Bahía de Ceuta the rain season usually starts around already 24 June, but during the first three weeks there are often only showers. Nowadays global climate changes makes predicting the date more difficult even the local shamans struggle to forecast the beginning. Over the last few days many plovers started to gather in flocks or moved to other beaches or other wetlands, a clear sign that breeding is over. We had hoped that at least some more of the Snowy Plover nests would get lucky and hatch because the breeding season this year started very late but it didn’t work out in the end.

Working in a wetland during the rain season is very exhausting. Everything is muddy and slippery, it is hard to move around. Even plain walking requires some effort. The ground is pure, deliciously smelling mud and with every step one sinks ankle deep into it. There are mosquitoes and sand flies everywhere. The repellent does not help anymore because of the high humidity. Even the muddy roads are not safe after rainfall and we have to be careful not to get stuck with the car. Temperatures at night rarely fall below 25°C and without air condition (which does not exist at the field station) it is hard to catch sleep.

We will terminate our intensive fieldwork this weekend. After more than 80 days without a break everybody is tired. The heat, mosquitoes and the long working hours day and night have taken their toll. We love field work but during these days everybody is glad once we can call it a day. At the moment we tie up the loose ends. We have to clean up, prepare the equipment for storage until next season, enter the data into spread sheets and tables. Field work is reduced to the only remaining task: trying to locate and follow the remaining families and identifying the color banded plovers that are still around. A few more chicks will hopefully fledge, so this season will not be regarded as a complete disaster.

We will check the site and the progress of the remaining families once more on one of the next weekends.