Crowswraith is an unusual place to find a Piping Plover. The large barren hill forming the northwest entryway to Plover Park is about the least ideal habitat in the whole realm. Yet that’s precisely where I first met Octavius Rex in 2020, violently scraping his little heart out and singing garishly to an audience of absolutely no one. It seemed odd to the point of foolishness.
I’d quickly learn from NestStory that Octavious Rex was just a year old. That explained a lot. Hatched in the heart of the Holgate wilderness in 2019, his father was Spicoli of Barnegat Light. A true local. A great story. Hopes were instantly high for the future of this new little plover in this big new Park.
But as the 2020 season progressed, Octavious Rex would lose not one, not two, but three young females he had somehow attracted to his strange little corner of the Park.
It was sad but not surprising. Crowswraith was a dangerous place, and Octavius Rex was a loud, irritating little bully best known for patrolling the dunes and angrily peeping at everyone who dared to walk along the inlet. They never bothered him, or even noticed him, of course. But he never stopped doing it.
Yet despite failing to form a nest, Octavious Rex didn’t quit. Instead, he stayed the whole summer angrily defending his little corner of the Park that no one was interested in while occasionally adding more unnecessary chaos to the real dramas taking place in the Park that summer. 2020 was the year that Giantsbane & Jennifer Jason Leigh kidnapped Stacy & Tatiania’s babies and exiled the pair from The Finger. It was difficult enough to keep track of without Octavius Rex pointlessly spoiling the mix and picking fights with the successful broods in defense of a territory that no one cared about.
He was a bonafide nuisance. But still, you had to admire his fiery little spirit. He acted like he owned that place. And in those inaugural seasons, we wanted all the birds we could find to take ownership of Plover Park.
For better or worse, it looked like that bird would be Octavius Rex.
There was a lot of excited chatter the following season when Octavious Rex first returned to Plover Park. Yet the talk was a strange mix of hope and doubt. Everyone clearly perceived Octavious Rex, with all of his faults, as a longshot but still an underdog worth rooting for.
Apparently, though, Octavious Rex was something much more than that. Our little nuisance had been sprinkled with Stardust somewhere along the way.
It wasn’t long that spring before he smacked the condescension clean out of everyone’s mouths when he stole the true prize; he shockingly and miraculously managed to steal King Giantsbane’s Queen, Jennifer Jason Leigh. It was so strange to see JJL in the sad Rocky Spoils and Mudbloom areas beneath Croswraith. What was she thinking? Everyone wondered. Giantsbane was the King who commanded not just The Predator Pond but The Finger, too, when he needed it, all while stealing others’ babies. Octavius Rex was a goof.
Yet in what turned out to be a catastrophically tragic and traumatic season, little Octavius Rex hatched one of the Park’s few bright spots with Jennifer Jason Leigh. Eleven nests were lost that summer. Only four survived. Even King Giatnsbane gave up in defeat after losing three nests and spending months incubating with nothing to show.
But Octavius Rex fledged three beautiful babies that season, two of whom are still with us: “Man” nesting in Barnegat Light, and “Pi Patel” nesting in Breezy Point, New York.
He was still a little jerk. But he was clearly our jerk. He was the dream of Plover Park fulfilled. Perhaps just not the hero we were expecting.
In the early spring of 2022, Todd Pover and I met up at the Park. Todd was showing off all of the improvements made to the habitat over the winter. As we strolled out chatting and making bets about the new season, we were shocked but not surprised when Octavious Rex suddenly popped out of the shell piles and gave us an angry little peep. He was super early and the first one back that spring. Octavius Rex always acted like he owned the Park. Now, it appeared he actually did. Ache it ’til you make it.
Jennifer Jason Leigh soon joined him, and they once again effortlessly fledged three from their strange little corner of the Park in the Rocky Spoils; Marty Byrde, Ruth Langmore, and Three. The Ozark Brood. Octavius Rex had clearly solidified his place amongst the stars of Plover Park. 2022 was the first year I actually missed him when he flew for the winter to the Bahamas.
And so it’s been a long spring waiting for Octavius Rex to return. But, as the days turn into weeks, there comes a point where hope is extinguished. Octavius Rex is not coming back. He’s gone.
So much for Stardust.
Yet life in the Park continues, and Jennifer Jason Leigh has returned to her former love Giantsbane. We anxiously await their hatch. And the memory of Octavius Rex lives on there as well. I long ago named the prominent water feature “Lake Anchovy” as a nod to his namesake, Octavius Rex, the anchovy from Spongebob Squarepants.
But as the story of Plover Park unfolds and transforms from dreams of the once hypothetical birds that might live there to the very real birds who do, perhaps we need to up the tribute to this special little bird that no one ever expected to love so much.
I propose Plover Park’s primary water feature, now and forever, be known as “The Great Lake Octavius Rex.” You can call it “ORex” for short.
I need to go back and read this all over again. What an account you tell of these amazing Plovers! Sad to hear that Octavious Rex may be lost forever. In as short time he left some rich history at Plover Park.
Thanks for reading
Will be awaiting winning names, and if I had a vote, it would be Charlotte and Louie.
We need to save those for PIPL royalty
I will never get used to them not coming back.
Welp, now I am puddle of tears! Loved that bird, gone far, far too soon. Also wanted to mention that he was beloved on his wintering grounds. He was partial to Fish Haul Creek Park in Hilton Head, SC. We have nearly 30 resights from him there over his three winters! (this is a lot of resights for a wintering plover — most in our database are 5 or less). When he was not reported this winter, I started getting nervous and with him not coming back, the writing was on the wall. Miss our O-Rex.
He will live on in the Park!