22 November 2010

Terns and Plovers Get Consideration by Airboaters

When the "Thunder on the Loup" airboat races were held on the Middle Loup River, there was special consideration given to endangered Least Terns and threatened Piping Plovers breeding in the area.

"With all the flooding on the Elkhorn, Loup and Platte river systems, the birds had moved upriver on the Loup and found nesting habitat," said Robert Harms, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "There were quite a few nests," in the area of the airboat races.

Surveys for the birds had occurred earlier in the summer, as well as 2009, so this section of the river was a known nesting area.

Harms, and Joel Jorgensen and Michelle Koch, biologists with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, met with the airboaters to determine if the race noise and activity might cause any harm to the threatened and endangered birds.

There were nests within a half mile of the race route, but none along the race route, Harms said. "We didn’t have to change a thing, but we thought that the more they knew, the better."

Informing them of the birds nesting further up the river, helped them realize the importance of not running the airboats in that particular stretch of the channel.

The races occurred on the weekend of July 31 and August 1, west of Fullerton.

Following the event, Harms made a visit to the site to evaluate the situation.

"The nests and birds were still there," he said. There was no sign of human activity in the nesting area.

"Having the pre-race meeting generated some good will, and resulted in a positive situation," Harms said. "The birds were able to continue their nesting activity and the airboaters had a successful event."