If you followed along yesterday at The Little Egg Cam and witnessed the first hatch of the season in Todd Pover’s Plover Park, then you know things went pretty smoothly. The only small glitch was the slightly slow hatching of the fourth egg.
Experienced, expecting piping plover are like master chefs. They time their eggs perfectly. Only not to eat them all at the same time, but to brood them all at the same time.
The goal is to make sure all of the eggs hatch on the same day despite each one being laid about a day apart. This makes the little babies all about the same age, strength, and skill level, making it much easier to keep the family together when wandering around looking for food. If there is too much of an age gap (and just a single day makes a huge difference in the smartz and skillz of these tiny chicks) then you’ve got the oldest going completely rogue and running off with the parents giving chase, while the youngest is flopping around in the sand just trying to keep up. This is why the adults don’t really incubate their eggs until all of them have been laid. As you might remember from the recent story about finding Jimin’s nest, Jimin and Maya spent the whole day over a mile away from their first, tiny egg lying naked on the front beaches of Barnegat Light.
Of course the old pros Giantsbane and Myrtle nailed the same day hatch, with the first three eggs being sheer perfection and all hatching within a tiny window of just a few hours. It was just that last one.
It was a huge relief when it finally hatched at sunset, but as the night dragged on it became a little worrisome. Giantsbane was in the exclosure brooding the chick all night while the rest of the family finally left the exclosure and were never seen on camera again. They had moved on. While this does happen, it is not an ideal situation to have the brood split like that; for the obvious reason that you have only one parent having to take care of the other three chicks out there roaming the wild beach at night at just a few hours old with absolutely no clue what’s happening.
And at daybreak, the fourth chick was still in the nest bowl. It wasn’t unexplainable, but maybe just a little worrisome. This was amplified by the fact that you could hear, on The Little Egg Cam, not the sound of Myrtle gently calling to her chicks and gracefully leading them through the rich valleys of Plover Park, but the sounds of a piping plover singing courtship songs in full mating mode. There shouldn’t be any piping plovers in courtship in the park.
Unless of course, a pair had lost their nest and were planning to renest. Ruh roh.
It was comforting that, generally, it would be unusual for Giantsbane and Myrtle to renest if they still had one chick. But really, really longtime Readers might remember that Tufters and Tacey did this exact same thing at Barnegat Light State Park many moons ago before the golden era of Plover Park! After losing three of their four chicks, they renested and treated that remaining chick like an ugly stepchild. It was tough to watch. We don’t want to live through that again!
Thankfully, as the day broke, The Little Egg Cam registered some activity, and the tiny chick could be seen crawling out of the nest bowl and peeping like crazy. Check out this adorable short clip of the tiny, fourth chick finally leaving the nest bowl for the first time this morning, and listen for those tiny peeps. That’s the chick, not the adults!
Congratulations to Giantsbane & Myrtle and their new family: the first family, of Todd Pover’s Plover Park.
And now I gotta go. Someone needs to figure out who the heck is in courtship in Plover Park!