I really must say that I might be the luckiest person in the world.
Working with an endangered species means that we get to do something important for conservation every day. These little birds have captured the hearts of many of us, and it’s incredibly rewarding to be working towards a common goal with a lot of inspiring people.
So what are we actually doing out here? Well, some of the threats to beach-nesting shorebirds include loss of habitat due to human recreation and coastal development, but the most immediate threat that we encounter on a day-to-day basis is the presence of predators. Many predators of piping plover eggs and chicks such as crows and foxes tend to thrive near humans. We often find their tracks on the beach, and we see evidence of their presence when a nest is lost to a predator.
While the nests are important and we monitor the fate of each one, our job this summer is to figure out what’s happening to the chicks, which can be a bit more tricky. Piping plovers are “precocial” meaning that they leave the nest bowl and begin foraging on their own within hours after hatching. Piping plover chicks are capable of moving 1 1/2 miles during their first day of life (yikes)! That means that monitoring and following their movements to find out their fate is nearly impossible!!! However, Emily and I are on the case, and we’re spending the summer trapping and banding adults and chicks to try to figure out where those chicks are going and what might be happening to them after they hatch.
Being away from the bees and the chickens and the garden (and Paul) in New York isn’t easy, and I often miss the cabin, and the farm, and the central New York air. But I’m really lucky to have someone who understands how important this work is, how much these birds mean to me, and who keeps the homestead going while I run around on the beach for the summer. Mostly, I just want to say to Paul, “Thank you,” because I feel really lucky to get to do what I do.
We might just have the best job in the world.