(Colleen) Take a good look at this picture.
What do you see? lt appears to be just a sandy beach. But is
that all? Look real close now–Not just a beach after
all! Turns out this section of Jones Beach on Long
lsland is actually home to one of the nations threatened
species– cute little shorebirds known as piping plovers.
(Annie McEntyre) People describe them as, when they first come out,as cotton balls on
Q-tips. They are sand-colored,they have one neck band,
short, to the ground. When they move, they move really quickly.
We call them floaters because you don’t even see their legs
moving, they just seem to float along the sand.
(Colleen ) lt’s the job of people like Annie McEntyre to protect
the habitat of these fast little creatures and to track the
whereabouts of adult plovers with their chicks across sections of beach.
(Annie) We’re gonna go around here into what we call
section 4. We’re gonna look for Sal who’s watching a pair
that has younger chicks than the ones that we just saw.
(Colleen) Scouting plovers is no small task when you consider
how tiny these shorebirds really are. And because they blend
so well with their surroundings,it’s often by movement alone
that they’re spotted. A favorite hiding place for plovers
is the wash-up of eel grass along the shore called the rack.
(Annie) The rack is a really important foraging area…
because…pretty much they feed on marine invertebrates.
So, the rack is a really fertile source for marine invertebrates.
(Colleen ) True to form, Anniespots a pair of adult plovers
along the rack line. (Annie) See them moving across…approaching…
pretty far–75 meters–a little bit to the right of
that blue barrel, bluebucket. We have the adults
and where the adult is, the chicks aren’t far away.
Sal’s smiling too,so there they are. We should probably walk from here. Ok.
(Colleen) lt’s easy to get excited about tracking the plovers–the process starts in early spring
when volunteers like Lynn Bammann and Chris Schmitt comb the
sand for signs of life.
(Lynn Bammann ) Starting out in April we went looking
for their nests. And what you’re looking for is just
a slight depression in the sand, and criss cross the sand
until you find one.And it’svery exciting when you see it,
tiny little sand-colored eggs. And then once the eggs
are hatched, we start watching their movements along the beach, where they’re foraging so
we can keep an eye on them to monitor their progress and
see them till the time that they’re old enough to be
on their own. (Annie) Oh, the chick is right here.
Two chicks? They look newborn. They might be a day old. They look little.
(Colleen ) A plover is considered fully fledged when
it is just 25 days old. But there are many obstacles which
could prevent a bird from even making it that far.
(Annie) Look at all the tracks all over the place here.
See them all? (Colleen) Avian predators like crows and gulls,
along with foxes and raccoons are a huge concern for
plover enthusiasts. (Annie) So right here you can see there’s
a lot of fox tracks. These larger ones going up
the dune. And then the plover tracks are crisscrossing
all across here. lt shows the two species using the same area
to raise their young. The fox will eat the plovers
if they can, they’ll eat the eggs if they can.
(Colleen ) Fence-like cages called exclosures are built
early in the season in order to keep plover nests protected and
predators out. But animals aren’t the only threat to plovers.
The tiny birds prefer the open sand and gravel areas that beaches provide–the same
beaches enjoyed by you and me.The difficult task is
balancing the recreational desires of humans with the need
to protect the threatened piping plover.
Efforts to restore and protect plover habitat include string
fences like this one to help discourage humans from
disturbing plover nests. (Annie) We put in this symbolic fencing, we
call it symbolic fencing because it’s not a real fence, it’s
not going to keep someone out if they want to go behind
it. By and large people respect it. They understand
that that area is protected for the endangered species.
(Colleen ) And the efforts are working. (Annie) As we find the nests,we number them
in the order that we find them,so pair number 1 was
the first nest that we found. As the season goes
along like this year, we’ve gotten up to 24.
Last year we were at 21, the year before that we were
at 18. So even here we’re seeing our numbers improve.
(Lynn) I think with birds like this to me the most intriguing
thing is that they have such a hard life. They live out here
on the sand. They don’t have any protection… and they’re so tiny…and yet through whatever
odds there are, they’re still able to make it…
and I find that just fascinating.