Plover patrol

My friend Elizabeth is up from Washington, DC, for a visit. As long as she was in New England, she wanted to go to the beach. We got over to Horseneck Beach in Westport by 8 a.m., and walked all the way up to the Westport River. On the way, I saw a young man looking intently through binoculars at the base of the dune.

“Looking for plovers?” I said.

He turned around, and I saw that his cap said “NWA Staff.” He was indeed looking for piping plovers, and he is one of the field biologists who keeps an eye on the plovers. He recently graduated from University of Indianapolis with a degree in wildlife biology, and is here in Massachusetts counting piping plover chicks until the grant money runs out.

He was a native Hoosier, and we got to talking about the differences between Indiana and New England. “People are a little more uptight here,” I said. He nodded, and said he had noticed that. He said, “I’m a little more laid back” than native New Englanders.

Then the three baby piping plovers, along with two adults, came out onto the beach, and we stopped talking for a while to watch them. Two other adult piping plovers came along, and started harassing the baby plovers. “I wish they wouldn’t do that,” he said, shaking his head. Apparently, these two other adults were not breeding, they were just harassing the babies of the other pair. I said, “Yeah, birds sometimes just aren’t very nice animals.”

He said that these babies were 20 days old, and all three had survived. “This pair did really well,” he said. The babies should be able to fly within a week or so. After that point, they will be able to escape from marauding predators and humans, and their odds of survival will go up. Here’s hoping they make it for another week.

Farther down the beach, I saw another three baby piping plovers.