It’s not often that I combine two wonderful moments, but this column is an exception.

Just last week, our local AuSable Valley Audubon, a chapter of Michigan Audubon, celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Officially known as the Iosca Audubon Society, the group has expanded to include many members in both Iosca and Alcona counties. Yes, in 2007 it was renamed AuSable Valley Audubon (AVA).

Over the years and through various efforts, enthusiastic and energetic members have helped educate the local public about the wonderful world of birds in our region. The Tawas Point Birding/Migration Festival focuses on the wide variety of bird species that inhabit or migrate through our region. Numerous training seminars throughout the year bring the participants even closer to the huge variety of winged wonders of our area. Bird building activities, along with bird feeding tips, allow kids and adults to build or learn how to attract a variety of species even closer for backyard viewing and enjoyment. Seasonal public excursions to certain woodlands and water bodies allow you to further explore and expand your scope.

The Kirtland Warbler and the Great Lakes Plover are among the unique species that inhabit the area during the breeding season. Fortunately, thanks to international protection and concentrated efforts to restore nesting habitat, Kirtland’s numbers have increased and were recently removed from the endangered species list.

On the other hand, high water levels along our beaches since 2018 have unfortunately destroyed much of the nesting habitat of the endangered plover. However, in the spring of this year, the lowering of the water level in the banks again attracted the pike.

In the first few weeks, my male and female decided to tie the knot and set up a beach nest in front of the Huron Sands condominium in AuSable. Leg bands indicated that the third-year male was from North Manitou Island and the first-year female was from Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Researchers soon informed me that this was the only plover nest located on Lake Huron for the entire 2022 season. It was like this couple came to help celebrate AVA’s 50th anniversary!

I quickly enlisted a few local birders to help keep an eye on the place. Moreover, some residents of the apartment were immediately interested in this rare event and also wanted to be trained on daily duty.

I am forever grateful to the apartment board members and many residents for their cooperation and watchful eyes during the 2 1/2 months of the venture. The roaches were treated like royalty and the human effort to protect them was amazing! Moreover, cleaning of the beach, which is normally allowed for human use and enjoyment, was delayed for several months to give the bird families a place to raise their precious brood.

Buzzards lay only four eggs per season and right on the open beach. Therefore, the life of these shorebirds is full of danger both day and night. Many terrestrial and aerial predators prey on eggs and delicate chicks. All four eggs hatched, but soon only 3 chicks were wandering and feeding on their own, carefully guarded by both adults.

At 15 days of age, researchers arrived from Pellston and banded the remaining chicks. They now had an individual identity that could follow them throughout their lives. However, two weeks after hatching, they were still unable to fly, foraging along the beach under the protection and watchful wings of both parents.

Then, within a few days, the female left (normal behavior) and only the male remained to protect them. It was also a critical time for the chicks, which were guarded by only one adult.

Three or so days later, two chicks were seen, and then only one. In the third week of July, an observer told me she was thrilled to see the remaining chick fly about 10 feet for the first time. Then we all knew the time was coming for him to be in the air and safer from predators.

The adult male leaves after this stage of development and leaves the chick to its fate. On July 25, monitors could not find the chick anywhere, and we knew it had begun its solitary journey to wintering grounds somewhere along the Atlantic coast.

On August 15th, I received a happy message from the researchers that our adult male plover had been spotted on his way through New Jersey to warmer regions. This was another milestone of migration.

What a wonderful way to celebrate our 50th anniversary as this endangered species returns to our shores to nest and raise a new generation for their future as well as our education and enjoyment!

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