The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

I'm a Plover, Not a Fighter

Posted by | July 28, 2013 | Filed under: Opinion
Piping plover chick photo. © National Park Service

The following was originally published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 7/28/13.

A defenseless nest, an unleashed dog, and in twenty seconds, tragedy.

Why? Why my little chick?

My family has had a summer place up here for thousands of years. Sure, the water levels have risen, the traffic certainly has built up, and there are more dogs, garbage, and Frisbees than there used to be, but we still come back every year, generation after generation, because we love it here. Is there any better place to raise a family?

Each spring, my husband Bill and I leave our winter home in Florida and fly, on our own two wings, the 1,160 miles to Scarborough. It’s right up I-95. We have our favorite rest stops along the way, sure, but the final arrival at our dune on Pine Point is always the highlight. Bill scrapes out a good spot beside a tuft of grass, we hit the sand bar for some local seafood (you haven’t lived until you’ve had baby Maine shellfish in June), and, before you know it, in a couple weeks we’re taking turns sitting on a few eggs.

Which hatch, God willing, into the sweetest, cutest, little puffballs. Maybe only a mother could love her little hatchlings, their spindly little legs, their useless wings. But I need to believe that someone else out there cares, that we don’t live our lives in vain. Does my baby’s death matter at all in the grand scheme of things? Bill and I are minor players, as far as we know; entire ecosystems don’t depend on us.

But our children certainly do.

Or did.

I don’t fault the dog. Dogs will be dogs. Faking a broken wing was the best I could do. I tried, God knows I tried, but it wasn’t enough.

He was just a chick. What did he ever do to anyone? He was just starting to fend for himself, find his place in the world, test his little wings. I miss him so much.

There are fewer than 50 plover families coming to Maine nowadays. There used to be more, but I don’t see them as much. Maybe they found somewhere else to go. Maybe we have our heads in the sand; maybe we should change with the changing times. We hear the Canadian Maritimes are nice… but I don’t think we could ever go anywhere else. Maine’s in our blood.

And now our blood is in Maine. Why?

His loss hurts so much, but I know I’ve got to move on. If we make it back to Florida through the fall hurricanes, we’ll be back up here next spring to try again. What choice do we have? It’s our nature.

Sometimes, I just wish it wasn’t so hard.

 

Nik Charov is president of Laudholm Trust, the nonprofit partner of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine (where some piping plovers recently hatched). His Sunday Journal Tribune column, “Between Two Worlds,” ventures forth from the intersection of art and science, past and future, fauna and games. More at wellsreserve.org/twoworlds.

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