So let’s be honest here. Three pairs, and six, or maybe even eight, trading card piping plovers… they ain’t all gonna’ be superstars.
It is certainly a noble human aspiration to continually work towards equality for all, and a big, fat gold star for each of of us. But we have to remember to not be too hard on ourselves when we fall short. Nature is certainly conspiring against us. The natural world can seem awfuyl cold, cruel, and inequitable compared to our ideals, our dreams, and our visions of how things might be.
In contrast with the gushing descriptions of Tatiana’s astounding beauty, or Octavius Rex’s youthful vigor and determination, Jennifer Jason Leigh might seem like a bit of a dullard: just another run-of-the-mill, boring-old plover.
But then we take a look at her stats and see she has fledged an astounding 8 chicks even though she’s only had 2 nests. Compare that with Tatiana’s single fledge and ORex’s zero.
Now, granted, three of those chicks were outright stolen from Tatiana and Stacy last year. But they still count as Jennifer Jason Leigh’s because even while Tatiana hatched them, JJL (for short) did the heavy lifting of keeping those chicks alive through the end of summer. And in the Game of Plover Park, fledges are the only points that matter.
While the flashier birds in Todd Pover’s Plover Park might steal the headlines, hearts, and eyeballs, a quiet, humble, unassuming bird like Jennifer Jason Leigh is actually winning the game by fledging chicks and recovering the species from the brink of disaster. As I see it, she does this by pairing herself with big, bold males like Pete McLain and Giant’s Bane, and letting them be the thunder while she performs her duty as the life-giving rain. She’s like the billionaire you never heard of.
Piping plover are generally thought to mate for life, but Jennifer Jason Leigh has now been with two males who seem to take a new mate each season. Her first, Pete McLain, was lovingly known as “Kick ‘Em To The Curb Pete” for always taking new mates, and her second mate, the big bully Giant’s Bane, has had three mates in as many years even though his first two (Bree Bree and JJL) are both both still alive, both on Long Beach Island, and JJL is even right there in Plover Park just a hundred or so yards away from him!
Perhaps JJL just has that ability to play a perfect second fiddle; the chords beneath the melody. Whatever the case, there is no doubt she was integral to the success of her last two nests and we should expect big numbers from her this year.
But can the young and inexperienced Octavius Rex play an effective lead to such a powerful supporting actress? We shall see.
Stay tuned. There is never a dull moment in Todd Pover’s Plover park. That’s for sure!
If you love those quiet, unassuming moms who don’t care about the spotlight and instead do astounding work in the shadows, putting family and outcomes first, then Jennifer Jason Leigh just might be your bias.
Fun Fact #1:
Constantly writing notes about “Jennifer Jason Leigh” using NestStory on a cellphone is annoying. Most people call her “JJL.”
Fun Fact #2:
JJL was mom to two different K-Pop Broods including chicks RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, World Wide Handsome, and Jungkook from the Korean supergroup BTS. Suga, J-Hope, and Jimin have all been seen since fledge. Suga nested successfully at Island Beach State Park in 2020 and is back again for a second year. Jimin is also in the area and might just make JJL the mother of two returning, first-year, male nesters. (Spoiler alert: I saw Jimin not two hours ago copulate with his potential mate. I’m considering this a done deal, and only a matter of time. Prepare for eight trading cards.)
Fun Fact #3:
JJL’s nest with Pete Mclain in 2019 was technically the first nest in Plover Park. The three chicks RM, Suga, and J-Hope were some of the fattest, healthiest baby plovers ever fledged from Barnegat Light and demonstrated clearly how important the project is and how much removing human disturbance and providing good, natural, foraging habitat can make the difference in the recovery of the species!
Fun Fact #4:
Jennifer Jason Leigh got her name from the actress in the 80’s movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High because she replaced Phoebe Cates (also from that film) as Pete McLain’s mate in 2019. Phoebe Cate’s fledge Spicolli (named for Sean Penn’s character in the movie) is the father of JJL’s current mate, Octavius Rex.