I was stumbling around Barnegat Light when I happened to find this piping plover egg yesterday; which turns out to be the first of the 2021 season or something.
O.K., O.K., so that is a little bit of an over-simplification and way too subtle of a humble-brag.
The actual story is that I had spent the entire afternoon working on some experimental nest mapping features for my all-new NestStory, Version 9, software in an attempt to predict the location of where the first egg from Maine to South Carolina would be laid this year, had an extreme epiphany, immediately refrained from imbibing, set my alarm, went to bed super early, and sped over to Plover Park @ Barnegat Light at dawn to make absolutely sure I found this egg before anyone else did.
Because being first is awesome, especially the bragging rights that come with it, and most, most especially when you have the ability to brag shamelessly and publicly on Readings From The Northside. So suck it everyone. First!
But truth be told, the real glory I was seeking was not that which comes with finding the first nest on a habitat as special as Barnegat Light, a region as special as Ocean County, or even a state as special as New Jersey… I wanted to feel the joy of entering the first piping plover nest of the 2021 season into my super-special NestStory software.
When I first created NestStory for and with my friend Dr. Michelle Stantial, we were young, energetic, and full of naive hope and enthusiasm. We just assumed everyone who works with endangered birds would love to use our creation and instantly see how much it advances science and helps birds. And so we were shocked and caught completely off guard when we found the exact opposite. Back when we started, most people were disinterested and skeptical at best; rude and downright hostile at worst!
It was the most painful rejection of a gift I have ever experienced. (Editor’s Note: this post will become legend for combining a shameless brag with an actual pity-party. Epic!)
But somehow we stuck with it, and focused on the needs of our few users, and cherished the support of those people and animals who benefited from our efforts and sacrifices. Now, years later, NestStory is growing so big I sometimes wish we actually failed much earlier, because to fail now that so many people and animals depend on us would be infinitely more painful and disastrous.
Here in 2021 we are rapidly approaching the point where we will have more than half of the entire global breeding population of piping plovers in NestStory. And sitting at the top of this growing pyramid of bird data, my personal NestStory Desktop shows something no other user gets to see: everything. So claiming “first” for Barnegat Light, for LBI, and for New Jersey takes on a whole new dimension. I’ve been telling you for years that Barnegat Light is the most important habitat on the planet and is destined for greatness as the heart of the recovery. Now I’m proving it. First!
As far as finding the first egg here, I certainly stole the honor from my mentors Todd Pover and his shining protege Emily Heiser (and BALI’s amazingly cool new monitor, Jess); all of whom, I knew, would find it that day if I didn’t hustle. Just the fact that both of these luminaries were planning to visit Plover Park on the same day was enough confirmation that this would be the day and this would be the place. Todd Pover finds eggs in his sleep.
But my instincts and motivations were just and good.
Just an hour or so after I logged 2021 BALI NEST 01A into NestStory, my desktop dinged with a second egg found in Massachusetts. Thankfully NestStory’s realtime, rock solid, and fully auditable data collection leaves no doubt who won this round. The honor was short lived, but the reality is eternal. We are, forever, first.
Barnegat Light’s Plover Park is a miracle. Todd Pover and Brooke Maslo built not only a treasure for LBI, or New Jersey, or even for the coast, but for the entire species of piping plover.
And with that, we are off. Hijinks are sure to ensue; and tragedy lies in wait, lurking everywhere in the dark shadows of the Park. There are already more stories to share than I could ever possibly find the time to tell you. If you have any burning questions, ask in the comments.
If you want to share in the thrill, please, please, please be the first to make a small donation to the The Little Egg Foundation so that we continue to support all of the new users clamoring to get into NestStory this season. We really need to your help because biologists are cheap and poor and we are exhausted.
Oh yeah, and one more thing, in case you missed it… FIRST!