It’s not a standard job title: piping plover technician.
For nearly a year, Sarah Forestiere, a 2018 graduate of Finger Lakes Community College, has monitored two nesting pairs of the federally endangered shorebird at Sandy Island Beach State Park on Lake Ontario, for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Only 60 nesting pairs are known to be scattered throughout the Great Lakes.
She has kept records of the birds’ activity, taught park visitors about piping plovers, and set up snow fence around their nests to protect their eggs and the chicks, which she describes as “cotton balls that weigh the same as two pennies.”
All this made Forestiere qualified to recognize that a visitor to Sandy Island on Sept. 13 was a plover, but not a piping plover.
She checked guides and concluded it was a snowy plover, common to the southern and western U.S. and the Caribbean. She confirmed her find with an amateur birdwatcher, Matt Brown, who encouraged her to post it on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird app.
It caused an immediate stir.
“The snowy plover observation was significant for birders and ornithologists as it represented the first record of the species for the state of New York and one of only a few dozen from the northeast and Great Lakes area in general,” said Jay McGowan, multimedia collections specialist at the Cornell Lab.