Today we’re hearing from piping plover with pink leg band 85. He’s been spotted in several places along his migration journey and would love to share his story as he arrives home to the Atlantic Coast.
Hey everyone! I’ve had a lovely winter vacation in the Bahamas enjoying the crystal clear water and white sand beaches. I’ve eaten my fill of tiny invertebrates in the sand and the changing sun has let me know it’s time to fly. I’ve flown over one thousand miles now and I’m quite exhausted, but it feels great to be home on the beaches of Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.
Within no time, I revisited my favorite hangouts. I love feeding at the water’s edge and reuniting with old flocks of friends. I recently found my mate, Maverick, and we plan on nesting here this spring.
A couple winters back, I was outfitted with this showy bracelet, lucky number 85. Scientists use it to monitor our population numbers, as we dwindled to 790 pairs in 1986. How scary! Luckily, as of last season, we were up to 1,941 pairs along the Atlantic Coast, with the help of the Endangered Species Act and conservationists. Did you know there are still fewer piping plovers than polar bears? There’s more work for us ahead.
Forsythe is one of a handful of national wildlife refuges that provide safe havens for me and my friends. Outside of these areas we face a lot more people—and pets too. We try to deter those who wander too close to our families by feigning a broken wing (See below photo by John Van de Graaff). Our sand-colored eggs hide well from predators, but can easily be stepped on. While many people, and even their furry four-legged companions, can be gentle giants, it’s exhausting work keeping our chicks out of their way.
The cool and crisp waters and wide sandy shore are the perfect places to share with family. Maverick and I hope to have four little eggs in the nest this year. Being my third breeding season, I’ve got parenting down to a science. We’ll spend equal time sitting on the nest, but I’ll wrangle the chicks while their mother forages and regains her strength. This time can be chaotic, having babies running in every direction only hours after hatching.
We do have some concerns for our little peeps as they grow. Our sandy-colored crew blends into the shells making us hard to spot for some, but also leaves us vulnerable to getting trampled. If that’s not frightening enough, predators like cats and raccoons are drawn to the trash and scraps left behind by others enjoying the shore. Dodging all dangers is a grueling task at best, but thankfully we’ve got biologists and volunteers on our side. My family and friends feel safest on our nest and foraging in the sand without many disturbances. We look forward to our busy summer months on the Atlantic coast and hope our children can experience the same when they return here next spring.
By following some specific steps, we can share the beach with piping plover adults and chicks to help them survive.
- Follow the guidance on signs and respect all areas fenced or posted for protection of wildlife. Your actions can benefit sea turtles, terns, American oystercatchers, and black skimmers, among other animals.
- Watch these entertaining birds from a distance.
- If pets are permitted on beaches used by piping plovers, keep them leashed and away from birds. Keep your cats indoors.
- Remove trash and food scraps from the beach, because they attract animals that might eat piping plovers and their eggs.
- Do not feed animals on or near the beach.
- Volunteer as a piping plover monitor, ambassador, or educator on your local beach. Tell your friends and family how to help.