Mr. Black by Jean Carpenter
On July 10, 2009, Paul Goossen of the Canadian Wildlife Service applied a black band to the upper left leg of a piping plover chick and Mr. Black's adventure began. This chick was one of five, from two nests banded at Grand Beach Provincial Park in Manitoba, Canada. Grand Beach is a tourist mecca located on the Southeast shoreline in the South basin of Lake Winnipeg. Paul fastened a Red over Black bicolour band on its lower right leg. This would distinguish it as a bird from Grand Beach. A metal band was attached to its upper right leg, but that solid black band would cement its moniker. Some time in the middle of August, Mr. Black made his approximate 2500 km maiden flight, as the plover flies, to his wintering grounds on the Gulf Coast of the United States.
On June 3, 2010, a plover guardian took four photographs of a piping plover with a band combination unfamiliar to anyone in the surrounding area. The pics were taken on a beach on the South shore of Lake Superior near Grand Marais, Michigan. And there for all to see was the black band on the upper left leg. Mr. Black was back baby! He had flown 1500 km north from the Gulf Coast, but had decided against taking the 800 km leg of his journey back to his ancestral home at Grand Beach. He had managed to battle his way through tornadoes, wind farms and tall buildings, not to mention his natural predators, to complete his first full migration.
On May 18, 2011, yes, you guessed it, Mr. Black returned again from his winter vacation on the Gulf Coast. However, this time he turned up at Port Inland, on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, about 100 km south of Grand Marais and on the North shore of Lake Michigan. And this time he had a mate! Unfortunately, when his mate had not returned for two days it was decided to pull the eggs into a captive rearing program. This would give Mr. Black a chance to re-nest, and re-nest he did with a Great Lakes female. A full clutch of four eggs were observed June 23. Doing the math it was determined the hatch date would be July 20. However, on July 21 no chicks could be found and no eggs remained in the nest. The prime suspect in this tragedy was a red fox as they had been seen in the area previously. To add insult to injury none of the eggs hatched in captivity. Now the question was, could Mr. Black endure the travails of another migration? He had done it twice before and survived vicious weather, tall buildings, telecommunication towers and even the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Could he do it again?
I am ecstatic to tell you that Mr. Black has done it again. He's made it back to Port Inland and he's in love! On May 15, he was observed with a female that had a brood combination indicating that she hatched in 2009 on North Manitou Island in Lake Michigan, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. No nest yet, but monitors (guardians) expect to discover one any day now.
Stay tuned, for Mr. Black, the adventure continues.