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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Piping Plovers and Least Terns of
the Great Plains and Nearby

A draft protocol for assessing piping plover reproductive success
on Great Plains alkali lakes

Methodology -- Section C

Marking nests

Unless predator exclosure fences are placed over nests (Melvin et al. 1992), some sort of visual reference is needed to relocate nests. Ideally, nest locations are recorded in relation to natural features such as unusual rocks, pieces of driftwood, or unique vegetation patches.

If marking is necessary, conspicuous markers such as flags should not be used because they may draw predators such as corvids or raccoons (Procyon lotor) to nests, as might also footprints or other visual or olfactory cues (Picozzi 1975, Bart 1977).

For markers, two or three flat rocks or pieces of driftwood can be stacked to a total height of 8-10 cm (3-4 in). Or use wooden tongue depressors, which provide a marking surface for nest numbers, if needed. Other practical markers include short shrub or forb stems.

Two or three markers can be placed in line (with the nearest >9 m [>30 ft] from the nest) to indicate direction to the nest. A compass bearing to indicate direction can be recorded on a base field map but seems less reliable.

For permanent databases, nest site locations should be recorded, after nesting is completed, by using a global positioning system (GPS) receiver.

Previous Section -- Section B - Nest finding
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Next Section -- Section D - Nesting chronology: initiation, hatching, and fledging dates

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