Hey, Lake Superior beachcombers – you can help this endangered bird

Piping plover only nest on beaches where they can find privacy.
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It won't happen this weekend, but before long Minnesota will be free of ice and snow.

Then it will be finally be beach season on Lake Superior. For people, and perhaps even a pair of piping plover.

The plover is an endangered bird that lives on the beaches of lakeshores. It was once common around Duluth and Superior but the St. Louis River Alliance says 1987 was the last time a plover nest was spotted around the Twin Ports.

The Alliance is helping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service carry out its plan for bringing the plover back from the edge of extinction.

They say plover have been seen on Duluth-area beaches in each of the last two years. But each time the birds apparently decided it was not a safe place to nest so they took off.

Plover are looking for a stretch of beach that's undisturbed. In a metro area like Duluth-Superior that's tough to find. But the folks at the River Alliance say they want to show that people and shorebirds can share the beaches.

How you can help

Early May through mid-June is when the plover migrate north from the Gulf of Mexico. So that's when the Alliance and its volunteers put up signs in promising plover habitat letting people know about the rare birds.

They want people (and their dogs) to steer clear of those areas, especially if any plover are actually spotted. But people don't always pay attention. St. Louis River Alliance director Kris Eiles tells the News Tribune about one frustrating experience.

"I was literally putting up the sign asking people not to walk through that stretch of beach and a woman walked by with her dog and let the dog go free," Eiles said.

People can also help by volunteering. On Saturday (at 11 a.m.) the Alliance is having a beach cleanup and volunteer roundup event at the Park Point beach house.

Volunteers will take turns scouting the beaches for plover this spring. If and when the birds arrive, the volunteers would monitor them. And if this becomes the year of Duluth's first plover nest since the Reagan administration, they would watch it around the clock to keep it from getting disturbed by people or predators, the Alliance says.

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