The Plover Park Diaries, June 3rd

Announcing The Holy Grail

June 3rd

It is impossible to miss that there is a whole new Kashi Davis this season. I’m not sure what exactly is going on with our fearless (co) leader from NJ Fish & Wildlife. She has adopted a strangely positive outlook regarding even the darkest moments, almost bordering on a deranged, naive optimism. I’ll guess it’s just some defensive strategy to keep her mind and spirit, along with all of ours who depend on her for leadership and inspiration, from utterly cracking. 

I’ll happily drink that Kool-Aid right now. Thanks, Kashi, it’s refreshing.

That nor’easter was catastrophic by almost every measure of awfulness. Plover Park essentially lost everything. Giantsbane & Myrtle lost all four of their newly hatched chicks. ORex & JJL lost two of their three in the storm and the third the day after. I watched poor Stacy and Tatiana lose two chicks on cam while they were still hatching. It was about as brutal as it gets.

And then there are the eggs. Stacy and Tatiana abandoned their last two, and Captain Phillips and Fats have left behind a full clutch of four which weren’t even all that buried. So maybe they’ll still go back to them. Or maybe not.

And then there are the Terns. The storm utterly destroyed dozens of nests. 

So we are essentially back at zero.

But as the whole new Kashi Davis describes it, we had a super early season under our belts anyway, so now we will have a somewhat late season. The Piping Plovers will take a few days to gather their wits and renest. They are a little more thoughtful, strategic, reflective, I suppose. On the other hand, the Least Terns don’t give a hoot about anything and are already furiously busy laying new nests chaotically all over the Park. I think some of them even started before the rain stopped. 

It’s a setback, but it is certainly not over until the fat chicks have fledged.

So I’ll see the whole new Kashi Davis’ potentially naive optimism, and I’ll raise it by suggesting we might even be better off. Because today I saw something which, if it indeed comes to pass, will make the horrific events of the past week seem like a small price to pay.

I saw two pairs of Black Skimmers scraping near Alf Breed’s sound system. When I first saw the Least Terns scraping in courtship in front of those speakers, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But I couldn’t help it. And I can’t help it now either.

A pair of Black Skimmers join the decoys and the soundbox at Plover Park. Can you spot the real ones?

Because even just a single pair of Skimmers nesting in Plover Park would mean that Todd Pover’s Plover Park had achieved The Holy Grail: a single nesting site hosting all four species of our imperiled, native beach-nesting birds.  

It would be an extremely rare honor in New Jersey and a miraculous achievement for Barnegat Light. Plover Park is a habitat restoration project. I can’t imagine a beach more restored than one with Piping Plovers, American Oystercatchers, Least Terns, and Black Skimmers. It would be effectively restored to the wild and indescribable paradise it was hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of years ago. People would drive hundreds of miles to see it. Some would even get on planes. And that would probably be OK because it is so well protected.

No matter what other outcomes lie in wait, a single nesting pair of Black Skimmers at Barnegat Light State Park would be the first in a long, long time. So long, someone has to look it up to know exactly how long. That’s how long.

The whole point of NestStory is that it focuses on what you see and not what you imagine might be happening. Just because you watched everything die doesn’t mean it’s over. And just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it’s dead. So the best thing we can do is look as carefully as possible at what is lying right in front of us and keep good records. Then, in time, with our data, we will determine our fates when it is all over.

Our fate is still up in the air

In the meantime, The whole new Kashi Davis is choosing to see the hopeful. So, following her lead, I will too. 

And I think I see The Holy Grail.

Welcome Home.


  1. Crying tears of hope as I read this. Jim, your gift of storytelling never ceases. Thank you for sharing the gift of Plover Park through the gift of your words.


  2. Will be Waiting on the next installment, and hoping for good news. Thanks for keeping us in the loop. That restoration project is gold!


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