With my back to their nest scrape and its symbolic fencing, I spent yesterday watching the beach crowd grow around this one plover nest that I was charged with *protecting* and was struck most by contrasts: the natural dune grass and pebble strewn high beach where the plovers make their nest amid bits of drift sticks and broken clam shells and in front of me the ocean with its equally vibrant and churning masses of bikini-clad sun-worshippers.
It’s a wonder to me these birds manage to survive at all here in NJ, but survive they do. For my first 7 or 8 hours spent watching them, most everyone was respectful of the fencing, so long as they noticed it. Wayward balls and children tended to wander beneath it freely, but most responded nicely to my calls beginning with, “Sweetie… you can’t be in there!” – though there was this one little boy – crossed arms and all – who refused to budge. That’s when the teacher voice came in handy.
Those hours also gave me the chance to watch some bits of plover behavior that I’d not seen before. Mostly I felt badly for the bird left to set on those eggs in the blazing sun; I wonder what it does to occupy itself for all those hours. Every so often I’d notice there were two birds; switching duties, I guess, and I watched the other walk to the end of the fenced area and then fly off to feed in the intertidal zone among the kids playing.
Kite-flying was a problem, as it mimics predators like gulls, but I had a hard time convincing people to move far enough away to not frighten the plovers; plus that resitriction doesn’t seem to be posted anywhere on the beach that I could refer them to. Never mind that the plovers are invisible to anyone without binoculars… I could only find them because I had that stick near their nest to use as a point of reference!
It was a wonderful day at the beach… the osprey and oystercatchers kept my eyes to the sky… and the terns were the perfect background music as they fed just off shore. I’m spectacularly sunburned for my efforts and didn’t want to leave yesterday before the crowds of people did. Funny that I should feel so protective of these birds so quickly.