Plover Update 2021

Piping Plovers

Written by Sherry Gigous July 2021

Pipling Plover Chick, Photo by Sheen Watkins

Adorable little balls of fluff are coming to a beach near you! Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is home to several pairs of nesting piping plovers (Charadrius melodus). During this nesting, small birds will begin appearing until August. At this time, these endangered birds must be given extra protection. Visitors may notice certain areas will be cordoned off and dog leashing rules strictly observed. (For reference: dogs should be on a 6-foot leash, closely controlled, and kept in designated areas. Restricted areas are clearly marked and fluid, depending on where Plover are specifically locating.)

Because these little white and sand-colored birds with black neckbands and bar patterns on their foreheads (these markings, only present during mating and nesting time, gradually fading away along with the bright orange of their legs during the rest of the year, and orange beaks turning black) lay four creamy colored, dark brown flecked eggs in open sandy pebbled areas, there is a greater chance of them being stepped on by humans. Human disruption, in general, may cause them to leave their nest, young and eggs vulnerable.

Both male and female of the lifelong pair incubate the eggs, for 27 days. Hatchlings, looking much like cotton balls have feathers and are able to move and leave the nest within hours of hatching and will walk and run on the beach. They will be able to fly after about 28 days but will stick with adult birds through migration. 

The Piping Plover voice sounds like, “peep-lo” or simply “peep.” Their diet consists of insects, crayfish and small mollusks due to limited vegetation growing on sandy beaches. Plovers are very territorial and will approach unsuspecting humans and attempt to “walk” them past nesting areas. Sometimes they feign a broken wing, such as their Killdeer cousins. If you see this particular behavior, please distance yourself as quickly and as much as possible from the area. You can also help by not burying trash or food on the beach that might attract predators.

It’s nothing short of miraculous so many of these birds choose the Great Lakes to build their families. They were hunted nearly into extinction by 1900, primarily for sport and gathering feathers for the hat industry. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, saw the Piping Plover population recovered to a 20th-century peak in the 1940s, only to decline again as human development and recreational use greatly intensified in coastal habitats. That decline led to Federal Endangered Species Act protection in 1986. In 1996, there were thirty-two pairs in the Great Lakes population. Today there are seventy-five to eighty pairs. As recently as 2017, there were 41 of them calling SLBE home. This is your National Park Service at work!

For more information about Piping Plovers in Sleeping Bear Dunes:


Photo by: Sheen Watkins 

Tick Warning for 2021



By Sherry Gigous, FSBD Volunteer 

Park Rangers at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are adding ticks to their list of things to keep an eye on and educate visitors about this summer season.

Some of these little guys, who hitchhike on bushes tall grasses and other vegetation are so small that they are not visible to the human eye or are extremely difficult to spot. They can be smaller than poppy seeds! They also have the ability to transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis.

Photo from Mlive

Photo from MLive Article, Tick Explosion Underway in Michigan.

PARK Superintendent Scott Tucker, along with Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department, is focused on following preventative safety measures against ticks before they even have a chance to bite. This includes wearing long sleeves (tick gaiter sleeves will enhance safety) and long pants that can be tucked into boots or socks if possible. Light-colored clothes will make it easier to spot ticks. Use insect repellent that includes 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. Consider wearing clothing treated with permethrin. Inspect yourself for ticks after being outdoors. Pay particular attention to skin folds. Put clothes in the dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any remaining ticks. 

Check for any bull’s-eye patterned rashes. And if you find a tick, a tick-removing tool will help remove it intact, leaving no parts behind. Friends of Sleeping Bear will donate 150 such tools to Park staff this summer.

Unfortunately, even with the best proactive practices, illness may still be transmitted from ticks. A Friends volunteer became infected with Lyme disease after hiking the Kettles trail last year, even though she had worn long clothing, found no ticks on herself, and had no warning rash. A few weeks after returning to her home downstate, she visited her local ER thinking she was experiencing a heart attack and has suffered malaise, neurological pain in her neck and the base of her skull. She has been diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Even with fairly successful treatment, she continues to have Lyme-related rheumatoid pain in her knees. If you are feeling unwell for no explainable reason after recently visiting an area where ticks are prevalent, it’s important to follow up in diagnosing possible tickborne illness.

Don’t forget about your fur babies either! Make sure you discuss tick prevention with your veterinarian.

Be tick smart to stay safe and have fun at SLBE this summer!

For more information, see the MDHHS Tick info sheet. 


Read Sherry’s other healful posts about Morells and Potosky stones

Beach Stairs Repair

Friends Supported Park Project. 

Getting the Park ready for Summer!


Along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, there are several access points to Lake Michigan. Three beach access stairs were installed in 2012 at Lane Road, 2013 at No-Name Road, 2014 at Sunset Shores Drive. All were damaged by high water levels and waves over the last 2 years. All of these stairs were closed off to visitors last year due to the damage.

Read More

Plover Update-Winter 2021

This time of the winter it is hard to think about warmer weather and Piping Plover, but our nesting pairs are starting to show up in Florida, their winter residence. Reports of piping plovers from Sleeping Bear Dunes have come in, including from Bunche Beach, Big Marco Pass, and Anclote Key, Florida, as well as Kiawah Island in South Carolina. It is good to see plovers surviving down south! Learn more about Piping Plover on the NPS website and follow Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort on Facebook to get real-time updates on what birds have been sited where.

2020 Donations to the Friends


Many individuals 70 1/2 years old or older may donate up to $100,000 each year to charitable organizations directly from their IRA, without that donation being counted as taxable income when it is withdrawn, whether or not they itemize their tax deductions.

In March, lawmakers approved the CARES Act, which allows some Americans to deduct up to $300 in charitable donations from their taxable income when they file their 2020 tax returns in 2021, whether or not they itemize their tax deductions.

If you wish to claim your donation to the Friends as a tax deduction, you should consult your tax, legal, and/or accounting advisors beforehand.



Earth Day and National Park Week

We celebrated National Park Week with a look back in history, past projects, and future plans to work with the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore to protect natural resources and heighten visitor experiences. 

This year is also the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The purpose of Earth Day is to support environmental protection and we can work together to protect our natural resources. Everyone can make an impact on preserving earth’s resources through individual volunteering keeping natural spaces clean using Leave No Trace principles

Be prepared, travel on safe and durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, and respect wildlife and each other. 

There are so many reasons to be conscious when visiting the National Lakeshore and to remember these principals while enjoying your time at the park. We help the park preserve natural and historic sights, advise safe visitation to help foster the natural habitat of an endangered bird, the Piping Plover, and create educational materials to share why this location is so special. 

One such project was the creation of Interpretive Sign Areas around park interest points and along the Pierce Stocking Drive. This project involved the collection of geologic and historic information about this popular point of interest never found in one spot before and inspired the idea to create a book. Our book, The Life of the Sleeping Bear is now a fundraiser for us to be able to further support park programs. 

You can also visit our site before you visit the park to understand what trails and beaches to explore next. 

We can always use helping hands around the lakeshore. Now, this year we are awaiting when we can get back to help the land we love, but you can sign up to volunteer at any time, just fill out our Volunteer Application

Digital Park Visiting

During these times of Stay at Home and social distancing, there are many ways to explore the park and learn more about your favorite sites or prepare to explore some new locations for the next time you visit! 

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail IMAP outlines the entire Heritage trail, key sites, and park facilities along the trail. You can explore the entire length of the trail by clicking any point on the map and a photo of that area will come up on the right side of the screen – walking along the trail, digital, in any season. 
A video tutorial about how to use the IMAP can be found on YouTube.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Virtual Visit Showcases all points of interest in the park; viewpoints, campsites, and historic locations with links to learn about the history and importance of protecting each site. 
Follow these links below to download Sleeping Bear Dunes mobile app for both Apple and Android.

National Park System Virtual Visits provides links to many more of the National Park system’s 400+ parks and monuments. 



COVID-19 Update

Updated July 25, 2020 – all Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has reopened The visitor center and has resumed Fee Operation. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) resumed the collection of entrance fees Saturday, July 25, 2020. The $25.00 park entrance pass allows everyone in a private vehicle to recreate in the National Lakeshore for seven days. Passes may be obtained at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, MI, daily from 9:00 a.m.

to 4:00 p.m., and at the Platte River and D. H. Day Campground offices, daily from 9:00 a.m. to

9:00 p.m. Park passes are also available at self-pay stations located at many of the beach road-ends as well as local area businesses will also resume selling National Lakeshore, including Manitou Island Transit (at their Fishtown gift shop), Crystal River

Outfitters, Honor Trading Post, and Riverside Canoe Trips. The Dune Climb and Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive entrance stations remain under construction and will not be able to sell passes until later in August.

You can visit select Museum sites at Glen Haven and Port Oneida with proper social distancing protocols. 
The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive will be CLOSED
while the entry station continues to be worked on. 
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is open and maintaining operations based on information from the CDC, state governments, and local health authorities. Check out the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information on your national parks.
The Park has also created a new mini-Visitors Guide with additional information you may need while visiting the park during this time.
The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive will be open on weekends, starting July 11th but will be closed to all traffic on weekdays when the construction at the drive entrance will make it unsafe to enter. Visitors should also be aware that in order to provide for social distancing the narrow boardwalk to the Lake Michigan Overlook platform has not yet been installed. Visitors with limited mobility are encouraged to enjoy the spectacular views (and shorter paths) at the Dune and North Bar Lake Overlooks for now.

Park Rangers will be at the drive entrance from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each weekend to answer visitor questions.

The visitor center will be open daily from 9am-4pm with CDC guidelines in place including social distancing (at least 6 feet) and face coverings. The number of visitors allowed in the building will be limited. Services will be limited to visitor information, restroom use, and purchasing sales items through America’s National Parks, our cooperating association. We are requesting payment via credit or debit card.
Campground offices will be open daily from 9am-9pm with the same safety practices as the visitor center. Camping reservations for Platte River and D.H. Day Campgrounds will reopen via on June 23rd. The first loop (sites 1-31) and site 85 at D.H. Day Campground are currently closed through July 21st due to flooding. Extensions to these closures are possible as staff continues to monitor the water level.  Park rangers will be available at the Dune Climb under the green tent to provide information daily from 9am-4pm as well.
Follow these links below to download Sleeping Bear Dunes mobile app for both Apple and Android.
Our participation in National Lakeshore events will be determined by the guidance of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore management.
The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working service-wide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the park is announcing additional modifications to operations in response to guidance from the CDC, United States Public Health Service, and the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department. For further information about park closures, visit:
If you see any safety concerns that may require immediate attention, please fill out the safety report on our website. 
And please, e-mail any questions to
Stay healthy, 
Friends of Sleeping Bear Executive Committee 

High Water Impact

As we have witnessed for the past months, Lake Michigan has had higher than usual water levels which has caused erosion problems at some of the stairs going down to the Lake (Lane Rd, No-Name Rd, Sunset Shores). In each case, the sand has been washed away at the bottom of the stairs. When built, the bottom step was at ground level. Now they are all about 3 feet above ground (or water) level. One (No Pets) signpost at CR-669 has almost washed away.
The Park will schedule time in the spring to dis-assemble these stairs and replace them where appropriate. The Friends will provide funding and volunteers to work with them to do the repairs. Stay Tuned for updates to dates to which the park may require help. 
Please be aware when visiting that the beach is both difficult to get to in some places as well as the ground is very icy. Please be advised that the trails and beaches will continue to be slippery with on and off snowmelt. Take additional precautions by using trekking poles and crampons or other ice-grabbing additions to shoes. 

The History of the Dunes Area

This year, as we will be celebrating the park’s 50th anniversary in 2020 and are celebrating the Park’s past, present, and future. The park was authorized by Congress on October 21, 1970 to protect the natural environment and historic landmarks. There is so much to love about this area, from it’s unique and beautiful landscape to the history of the area during the turn of the century boom of the area was a transportation hub. 

This year, Friend’s volunteers put together a book that celebrates the history of the Sleeping Bear Dunes area with beautiful photographs by local artists to showcase historic and educational information. The book, The Life of the Sleeping Bear is now on the bestseller list by Horizon Books. You can still order your copy of the first edition, but the books are going fast. 

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