I have heard a lot of talk recently from town people here who seem to know nothing about piping plovers, one of our endangered guests of our beach habitat for a few months.
These little birds are endangered mainly I would guess because they nest right on the beach; you and I know this is crazy, though more than one summer tourist has spent the night on the beach – but to set up house there? Maybe on a wild beach in the tropics, but on a beach where tens of thousands sit and swim on any given beautiful summer day?
But that’s what these birds do, and since they are federally and state protected, we have a duty to obey the law and be proud that these little birds choose our beach, a barrier beach with a fragile ecosystem behind it, to share with us. Our beach has been designated a critical habitat for these little guys by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Of course on the beach they are prey to foxes and dogs, and the chicks are a morsel for crows and black back gulls, and yet they seem to survive on our beach, since we trap the foxes in the dunes and ban dogs during their brief stay here.
Adult plovers don’t feed their chicks; instead, from almost the instant the chicks are hatched, they are on their own, finding their own tiny insects amongst the seaweed, hunkering under their mom or dad or in a hole when threatened, and looking very much like a part of the sandy beach.
Plovers come here in late March or early April and are gone in August, sometimes sooner, depending if storms or predators wipe out their nests and the adults have to begin nesting all over again.
Since plovers are guests of our town for a few months, we ought to welcome them, protect them, and feel honored that our beach is safe and clean enough for them to be here with us.