How Geocaching Helped Us Find a Piping Plover

How Geocaching Helped Us Find a Piping Plover

My husband Deryl and I spend much of our leisure time exploring the great outdoors. Our love for birding and photography has taken us to many locations in Ontario and beyond. In the past few years, we have added Geocaching to the mix. Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunting “game” that uses a GPS device to find hidden containers in both rural and urban areas. Some people describe it as using billion dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods. After signing the log in the container to prove you found the cache, geocachers go on-line and write about the experience.

Deryl regularly checks “e-bird” to discover the location of birds we would like to add to our Annual and Life Bird Lists. I then check to locate nearby geocaches and load the coordinates into my hand-held GPS device. Geocaching provides us with a chance to get exercise while travelling and has taken us to numerous trails and Conservation Areas that we hadn’t known existed.
While on a mini vacation to Fort Erie, searching for a geocache helped us to find 50 Monarch Butterflies resting on some bushes before continuing their southern flight across Lake Erie. I have never witnessed the mass migrations at Point Pelee, but this discovery seemed just as exciting!

We travelled one May 24 weekend to Columbus, Ohio where we discovered Highbanks Metro Park. This jewel of a park was free to the public. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we found a pair of Barred Owls at a nest site. Other highlights included a male Hooded Warbler, Summer Tanager and Acadian Flycatcher. Of course, we also managed to find several geocaches in the area.

After crossing the border back into Canada, we stopped for a stretch at a Conservation Area outside Windsor. Soon after locating another geocache, we discovered a Blandings Turtle, with a feather in his cap, sunning on a log.

Although we often include Peers Wetland in our weekend wanderings, I found my first ever Bronze Copper Butterfly because I wanted to find a new geocache hidden at the wetlands.

I have always thought young kildeer to be absolutely adorable. While searching for a geocache near Lake Erie, a juvenile fluffy killdeer ran across our path and hid amongst the long grasses.

One year we decided to visit the Alymer Wildlife Management Area to look for Tundra Swans. While signing the log for an on-site geocache, 2 Bald Eagles flew towards us and landed in a nearby tree. I wrote about this adventure and 2 geocachers who read the log on-line rushed out to the site to see the Eagles. They sent us a note to express their thanks and excitement!

Getting back to the Piping Plover….
We headed to the Bruce Peninsula for a summer vacation and were hoping to find a new life bird, The Piping Plover, which had recently started nesting along the Lake Huron Shoreline near Sauble Beach. Deryl’s research indicated a specific parking area. As I was scanning online for nearby geocaches to find on our vacation, I read a cache log saying that some geocachers had found a roped off beach area, monitored by volunteers, protecting an endangered species! They had unintentionally found the Piping Plovers!!! If we had followed our original plan, we would have been 5 km off the target and likely would have given up our search.

To date we have found numerous birds as a result of geocaching and look forward to more exciting finds in the future!

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