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Slow breeding

posted May 12, 2011, 10:12 AM by Clemens Kuepper   [ updated May 19, 2011, 3:33 PM ]
Now it is official. The breeding at Bahía de Ceuta is late in 2011. By 12 May last year we had already 15 families running around in the salt works and many more nests close to hatching. This year: zero. It looks like there won't be any chicks soon either. Our most promising clutch was eaten a few days ago by a racoon. We hoped it would hatch within the next few days. The next candidate is about a week away from hatching. This is bad news given that chick survival is usually poor for those who hatch in June. But maybe the plovers this year will be more lucky then previously. The temperatures are still not too high and the water seems not to be evaporating as fast. Until now we have found 25 nests and we suspect that there are a few more around although the parents have so far been successful in giving them away to us. Only three of them were lost to predators or flooding. The Least Tern breeding has also picked up lately. This weekend more than 30 new nests were found. Nesting Least Terns are pretty aggressive against intruders and often chase nest predators away.

After the frustrations of last week we made good progress on a number of other fronts. The parcel with field work tools has been released from customs and was finally delivered. The first part of the promised money was paid, which means that the field workers can now stop with their diet. I just got the confirmation that the Snowy Plover has finally been formally split from Kentish Plover by the American Ornithologist Union, so it is now officially a species in its own right - which is more great news!

But most importantly our 'Plover Watch' is online. On this page we will make you take part in the fates of our six celebrity plovers 'Snowie 1' to 'Snowie 6' (we are not very creative with names but want to let the plovers do the talking...).
The six plovers, three males and three females were all caught on their nest and we will update their sighting maps and stories over the course of the season.As you can see they have already had quite an adventurous life in the past. Some of them we know since they hatched at Ceuta, others have been around before we started to work at Ceuta. Over the last five years we have observed most of them during their struggle for reproduction and survival and the outcome has been very different. Actually two females are already successful grand parents and their are still going strong.  Tragedy has already hit Snowie 1 and Snowie 2, their first nest was eaten a few days ago. What will happen next? Is the bond between Snowie 1 and Snowie 2 strong enough that they try to start a family again or will they split up and try their fortunes with a different mate? Will the other Snowies be more successful?

Stay tuned, Snowy Plovers fates are unpredictable but always exciting.