The Plover Park Diaries, May 25th

Creating a Monster

May 25th

Todd Pover has created a monster.

It is absolute chaos here now. Plover Park is a zoo. The Park is so overwhelmed by animals that I genuinely feel like I don’t belong here anymore. I’m an early Dutch explorer whose boots just hit these shores for the first time.

The Park’s explosion of life is exciting and delightful, but it is also making the task of monitoring the Piping Plovers increasingly tricky. There are very few options or strategies left to find an effective position to see if Giantsbane & Myrtle still have their four new chicks, without triggering an explosion of violently agitated beach-nesting birds into the air.

I realize now that I took for granted what a peaceful experience it was checking the few humble nests in Plover Park before the arrival of the Least Terns. Sauntering casually across the open flats and patiently looking for each of the Park’s six Plovers was a meditative joy.

Now it is a minefield of eggs, all fused up by the singular mind of the colony. Disturbing just a single Least Tern can easily send every last one of them into the air, creating a chaotic, dive-bombing cloud, shrieking violently and raining poo down on everything that moves. The commotion has the additional, unfortunate effect of making it that much more challenging to mind your footsteps as the Terns swoop you because their eggs laid strewn about in shallow nests in the sand are every bit as chaotic and sloppy as the shrieking cloud of terns above.

Luckily we had just found the nest of the new pair #05, Captain Phillips and Fats, right before this most recent wave of Least Terns arrived. And luckily, Emily was able to trap and band the unbanded Captain Phillips because another unbanded male has just shown up and started looking to create another nest in Plover Park. That would make six pairs. Inconceivable just a few years ago.

Our very own Emily Heiser skillfully examines Captain Phillips and quickly bands him. Welcome to Plover Park Captain.
Emily releases Phil back to the Park before the storm. Some birds take off in a panic. Others just hop out of your hands, stand there, and peep, as if saying “Screw you.” Captain Phillips is that type of Piping Plover.

I could just barely hear this mysterious new male’s tiny courtship peeps out there somewhere in the middle of the forming Least Tern colony today. These Terns are so incredibly noisy. It is going to be impossible to find this nest without sending the Park into chaos. Oh, how I miss the simpler times when a Piping Plover’s peep would cut through the Park’s deafening silence like a clap of thunder on the plains.

Then again, perhaps they won’t even notice me. The Park is increasingly a continual eruption of violent chaos all on its own now. Even from a distance, you can see Piping Plovers fighting other Piping Plovers for turf. And in the kerfuffle, they are disturbing the Least Terns, who then happily join right in. Soon the commotion grows so extreme it sends even the gulls into the air. And then the Oystercatchers, J22 & J23, come peeping noisily right into the middle of it, stomping on everything and turning the whole scene up to 11.

I swear I even saw a Black Skimmer come barking through at one point. I just found a Killdeer nest. And two broods of ducklings. Are you a bird? Are you looking for a place to live? Then come on down to Todd Pover’s Plover Park. You can’t make things any crazier than they already are.

Chaos. A glorious, magnificent mess. Todd Pover has created a monster. A magical monster, but a monster none-the-less.

I’m glad Emily was able to get Phillip banded before the big nor’easter arriving just in time for this Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, the storm looks a little more intense than initially forecasted. Three days of cold winds and rains will surely be a challenge for the seven new babies just hatched in the Park. Thankfully we have experienced adults watching over them.

On the plus side, it should keep the Park quiet on what could otherwise be the busiest weekend of the year.

God speed babies. And long live Plover Park.

I’m no longer welcome here.


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