Andros, Bahamas – The Joulter Cays, located in Andros just north of the settlement of Lowe Sound, is well renowned as a fly fishing paradise with some of the highest quality bonefish habit in the world. It is also becoming known for the expansive sand flats, which provide safe habitat for thousands of shorebirds, including the largest congregation of the endangered piping plover. The Joulter Cays are the landscape for the most recent piping plover research and banding project.
The Joulter Cays are an incredibly important area for the piping plover, the National Audubon Society (NAS) traveled to the Joulter Cays and other areas in Andros to work with The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Park Wardens to conduct a bird banding exercise to gather more data about the distribution of the bird in The Bahamas.
“It was a great learning experience to work with the team of scientists,” said Stephen Smith, BNT Park Warden. “Holding the piping plover, which I learned is an endangered species, in my bare hands was a great feeling. Then assisting with the banding of these endangered birds helped me to better understand the importance of wildlife conservation and the need for laws to protect wildlife.”
The goal was to band 20 birds while in Andros. Two scientists, Daniel Catlin from Virginia Tech and Melissa Bimbi from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked together on the project starting at Stafford Creek and working their way toward the Joulter Cays. In addition to the scientists, the team was comprised of Walker Golder and Matt Jeffrey from the National Audubon Society, Catherine Wise of PBS Newshour along with her camera crew, Stephen Smith, BNT senior park warden and Liz Brace, BNT education officer.
The team started at the Blanket Sound flats, where after three full days of survey and banding efforts the team successfully captured and banded one piping plover, due to the elusiveness of the birds. The team then moved to the Joulter Cays, where three birds were banded. The last stop was Cargill Creek, where the team was able to band 16 piping plovers.
The Audubon has been a huge supporter of the BNT and have helped the BNT to study the piping plovers and other species such as Flamingos and White-crowned pigeons in The Bahamas, for many years. The BNT is hopeful that this bird-banding project will help convince the Government to declare the Joulter Cays as a national park. Visit the BNT’s website to learn more about the Joulter Cays, and share you voice on why this should become a national park.