Alberta Piping Plover Predator Exclosure and Population Monitoring Program 2004
Lance Engley, Dave Prescott and Roy Schmelzeisen
Nest depredation continues to be a significant limiting factor to the Great Plains piping plover population. Previous studies conducted in east-central Alberta and in the United States have shown that the use of predator exclosures can significantly reduce piping plover nest depredation. Since 2002, predator exclosures have been applied to as many nests as possible in Alberta with the goal of increasing nest success and ultimately enhancing fledging success.
As a part of this program, annual surveys are conducted on core breeding lakes in order to better gauge population numbers and movement. These surveys complement the International Census conducted every five years. They also provide researchers with an opportunity to re-sight piping plovers banded in Alberta in previous years, as well as those banded in other jurisdictions. The information collected from band recoveries assists wildlife managers in determining dispersal patterns as well as adult and juvenile survival and complements the banding program being undertaken in Saskatchewan.
Two types of predator exclosures were used during the 2004 field season. Both were very similar in design. The only difference in the two was that one design was prefabricated by a steel manufacturer and reinforced with 3/16 gauge steel and the second type was built in the field by researchers. Both exclosures were small, quick to apply and proved very effective in protecting piping plover nests from potential predators. A total of 71 nests were found in 2004. Of the 70 with known fate 87.1% of exclosed nests hatched (54/62) and 50.0% of unexclosed nests hatched (4/8). Mayfield nests success was calculated to be 6.1% for unexclosed nests and 78.2% for exclosed nests.
Population inventories were carried out on 38 waterbodies. A total of 134 adults were located during the course of these surveys. Over one quarter of all birds were located on Muriel Lake. Piping plovers were located on three lakes for the first time. Broods were monitored regularly and fledging success was calculated to be 38.0%. One hundred and four young were banded and 63 band re-sightings were recorded during the summer of 2004.
In addition to the fieldwork associated with this project, presentations were given in a variety of forums including to cabin owners and at 11th Annual Wildlife Society Conference.
All activities carried out during the course of this project were done in support of the “Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Plan 2002-2004”. In particular, these activities were conducted to address Section 5.3 Productivity Enhancement, Section 5.4 Information and Education and Section 5.5 Research of the Recovery Plan. Results from this project will be presented at the next Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team meeting to seek endorsement for the continuation of this project in 2005.