Dowitchers munch on insects in a flooded field in Washington State during a September 2007 pit stop between their Arctic summer breeding grounds and southern winter retreats.
When the Skagit Valley's wetlands were converted to farmland at the beginning of the 20th century, most of the 50,000-odd shorebirds that stopped by each year were forced out. Of the 53 shorebird species that breed in North America
, more than half are at grave risk, according to the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan.
Now an experimental flooding project in the valley has restored this lost shorebird habitat--and the concept may work in other areas where shorebirds are threatened, conservationists say.
"This idea has the potential for wide application, and I think it is absolutely relevant," said Laura Payne, a wildlife ecologist based at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Photograph courtesy Kevin Morse, the Nature Conservancy