The Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team came to town on the morning of July 20 to band Monty and Rose's four 2021 chicks. The unique numbers and color combinations on the bands ensure that plovers can be tracked throughout their lives. If not for the bands, we wouldn’t necessarily know that Monty and Rose’s chick Nish has gone on to nest in Ohio this year.
After the banding, I caught up with Stephanie Schubel, Field Lead for the Conservation Team which is affiliated with the University of Minnesota. Stephanie and her colleagues have been traveling all around the Great Lakes at a breakneck pace this spring and summer. Here are excerpts of our conversation:
BD: Can you describe for us what the Conservation Team does?
SS: We run the project to try and reach the goal of 150 pairs of Piping Plovers. How we do that is all the things involved: exclosures, enclosed areas, monitoring, banding and education.
BD: What is the hardest part of this? It seems you’re everywhere at this time of year.
SS: The hardest part is the travel. I always have my phone on, so monitors that know me, anyone on the project--Fish and Wildlife, the University of Minnesota--my phone is on every day including Sundays.
It’s such a short season, but it’s constant. It’s like a high. It’s thrilling, but it’s also tiring. Part of the fun is going to these places and meeting all these wonderful people who are so inspirational. It’s hard, but it’s also awesome.
SS: On Friday, Rachel who’s a field tech who works under me at Silver Lake (Michigan), texted me at 7 o’clock at night and said, ‘I have sad news. The male’s not here and he was here yesterday with two chicks. And now there’s just one chick here that’s 18 days old, and there are fox tracks everywhere.’
It was heart-crushing in one way to know that this male is probably gone who was a great dad. It was sad to hear. But there was also the possibility of taking in that chick and saving it. There are sad things and hard things that happen, but there’s also always something hopeful going on in the project that keeps you going.
BD: Where do Monty and Rose and Chicago fit into this for you?
SS: This is definitely amazing! When they moved here for nesting, a lot of people were like, ‘No way, this is not going to happen.’ Even I might have been like, 'good luck with that.' Then when they did, all the people came together from all over the city to protect them. My heart just grew. To watch and see how successful it’s been over the years and now Ohio and all the wonderful people. If this can happen here we can make this happen anywhere, really. This is a huge city and there’s all kinds of things, all kinds of emergency situations that can happen to a little plover. All the support we’ve had from all the agencies and all the people, it’s totally inspirational. It’s a high point for sure.
We’re definitely making progress toward the goal. We’re going to get close and keep working at it no matter what. We’re getting more and more people involved in the whole journey and that’s great. That’s what Chicago shows.