When you think of Mississippi, shorebirds are probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet each year during both fall and spring migrations, over half a million shorebirds rely on the inland wetland habitats found in the Mississippi River Alluvial Valley.
The region historically contained a complex and diverse array of habitats including wetlands, sloughs, oxbows and mudbars that likely supported these birds, but changes to the region’s hydrology through ditching, draining, levees, reservoirs, and channels have altered these systems greatly.
Today there are fewer acres and types of habitats, but managed public and privately-owned lands in the Delta can start to make up the difference by providing important places to rest and refuel that shorebirds require during their arduous migrations.
To engage the managers of these working wetlands, Manomet partnered with the Mississippi conservation group Delta Wind Birds, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture, to host two shorebird workshops in Lambert and Isola, Mississippi, between September 29 and October 2, 2015.
This three-day public lands workshop provided 36 land managers and biologists of National Wildlife Refuges and Wildlife Management Areas with information on the biology, conservation, and habitat management to benefit shorebirds. An additional one-day workshop introduced 18 land managers and private landowners to these birds, and the potential of creating shallow water habitat on wetlands, aquaculture impoundments, and agricultural fields. Both workshops included field trips to local sites where participants, using binoculars and spotting scopes, observed and learned to identify the impressive array of shorebirds on the site.
These workshops are at the core of Manomet’s newest shorebird project, “Habitats for Shorebirds.” This broad geographic conservation endeavor has an ambitious goal of improving conditions on 500,000 acres of interior wetlands and coasts, through applied management techniques, by 2018. So far, management protocols to improve conditions for shorebirds have been implemented on 42,642 acres, with 348,808 acres under advisement for implementation.
Workshops are a great way to help managers start thinking about shorebirds in the context of their current management practices and teach them approaches to ways they can provide effective shorebird habitat on their lands. After the workshops conclude, Manomet staff continue the conversations and collaborations with interested workshop participants and provide technical assistance in their efforts to improve on-the-ground habitat conditions.
“These workshops really achieved a great deal in a short period of time,” said Mitch Robinson, Outreach and Education Coordinator for Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, Mississippi, a participant in the private-lands workshop. “Participants gained a much greater appreciation for the fascinating biology and declining populations of these amazing birds, and learned that they can help, while also fostering a diversity of wildlife on their land, including ducks.”
The conservation challenges facing shorebirds and other waterbird populations are so immense that no one organization can solve this problem alone. By engaging land managers, non-profits and other stakeholders across the hemisphere, Manomet is helping to build the support needed to stabilize and grow shorebird populations.