Wildlife managers and scientists from across New York gathered in July to share research findings and to discuss information needs for the conservation of freshwater wetlands, waterfowl, and other marsh-dependent birds. Jonathan Cohen, ESF adjunct professor Michael Schummer, and their incoming graduate students Justin Droke and Adam Bleau participated in the 2-day workshop that was funded by the SUNY 4E Networks. The ESF team will be embarking on a project with the New York DEC this year to examine the winter ecology of mallards and the American black duck. The latter has seen ongoing population declines over the last 60 years.
By the early 1980's, habitat loss, human disturbance, and increasing predator populations combined to make the beaches of the Great Lakes unsuitable for nesting by the piping plover. The entire region contained only 16 nesting pairs when the species was placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act in 1985, and after 1984 the species completely disappeared from Lake Ontario except during migration. Thanks in large part to conservation efforts led by Dr. Francie Cuthbert at the University of Minnesota, there are now 70 nesting pairs in the Great Lakes and piping plovers are starting to expand into deserted portions of their former range. In 2015, for the first time in 31 years, piping plovers nested on the shores of Lake Ontario. Under the protection of the New York DEC, two eggs hatched at the eastern end of the Lake and one of the young survived the dangerous 25 days from hatching until first flight. At the invitation of Dr. Cuthbert and the DEC, Dr. Cohen and members of his lab placed colored legbands on the chicks. We will now be able to identify the fledgling when, hopefully, it has a nest of its own. In this way, the growth of the recovering Great Lakes population can be tracked and further opportunities to protect habitat can be identified.