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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 J



Investigators should use the highest quality, waterproof optics to minimize eye fatigue and provide the best resolution available. An investigator may spend 8 hr/d and possibly 400 hr/breeding season peering through binoculars or spotting scopes at plovers on nesting beaches, sometimes under poor light in early morning or evening.

Ten-power binoculars with large objective lenses (≥42 mm) are suitable for most field work; 8-power binoculars are preferred by some, especially when viewing beaches from a boat.

Spotting scopes are often the tool of choice where vantage points are available. Small scopes (15-45x; about 0.75 kg [26 oz]) and accompanying lightweight tripods can be easily carried in fanny packs, but standard scopes and tripods seem more stable and thus more practical under windy conditions often encountered.


Where access is adequate, boats can be used to efficiently census adults, find nests, and count chicks. The 3.7-m (12-ft) long, flat-bottomed johnboats (30-35 kg [65-75lb]) work well because they can be used on all but the most shallow alkali lakes (water depth to 10-12 cm [4-5 in]) and are sufficiently stable to allow binocular viewing under light winds (15-25 kmph [10-15 mph]). Canoes also may be useful and can be more easily carried by one person.

Plovers seem to more readily accept dark-colored rather than light-colored boats. Oars or paddles should be painted with a dark, dull finish.

Anchors attached to both bow and stern are raised and lowered through self-locking guides to hold the boat at an orientation appropriate for viewing. Life preservers should be on board and may be required.

Previous Section -- Section I - Reporting measures of reproductive success
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