Piping plovers were first documented nesting on Long Island in the Apostle Islands in 1974, and one to two pairs continued to nest on Long Island through 1983. Then, after an absence of 15 years that coincided with a regional collapse of the population, a rebound started in 1998, but with no more than one pair recorded nesting in the Apostle Islands most years until 2006.
Coinciding with a regional resurgence of the population, breeding numbers in the Apostles began to increase. From 2006 to 2020, three to six pairs of piping plovers have nested in the Apostle Islands, with pairs fanning out to two additional islands as high water levels and severe storms have eroded available breeding habitat on Long Island.
Partnerships with tribal, state, and federal officials have been key to monitoring piping plovers in the islands.
Sumner Matteson, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Sumner Matteson has worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for the past 40 years as a non-game biologist, conservation biologist, and avian ecologist. He wrote the state’s recovery plan for the Trumpeter Swan and directed the reintroduction of Trumpeter Swans in the state for 25 years. He has also focused much of his career on the ecology and management colonial waterbirds, including all four of the state’s endangered terns.
In the Apostle Islands, he has conducted colonial waterbird and shorebird surveys on all the islands (and along the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior) every 5 years since 1974. During this period, he first discovered Piping Plovers nesting on Long Island and Chequamegon Point (in 1974) and has returned annually to document their occurrence there while observing a small increase in nesting numbers and distribution in the AINL. His talk will focus on the conservation history and future of this beach and dune obligate in the islands.