The beach steward approached me politely. "Do you see them?" he asked, pointing to what appeared to be a tiny clump of sand. "The snowy plover chicks, do you see them?"
And once my eyes figured out what to look for, I did. They were fluffy and small, puff balls on stick legs, running crazily around the sand. They were, I have to say, incredibly cute.
On earlier walks I'd noticed the roped-off sections of sand. Every beach has these areas now, for sea turtles or shore birds. But this was the first time I'd seen the animals a sanctuary aimed to protect.
"They're an endangered bird," the volunteer said, "And these chicks have just hatched." Apparently, the tiny birds feed on insects only three to five hours after they hatch. They are independent little creatures, highly suited to survival, except that they camouflage themselves so successfully that beach walkers accidentally step on them. More beach walkers mean fewer adult snowy plovers.
"We've increased their survival rate by 80 percent," the volunteer said, explaining how he sits beside their nests for a few hours every week, keeping watch on the young birds. "Sometimes the mama birds buzz me, or even peck at me."
Not a problem
though, he shrugged, then gestured at the beach around us. "Not a
bad place to sit for a few hours. ... And the babies only need about four weeks until they're big enough to be safely on their own."
"Here, read this," he said, handing me a brochure. "You'll become a snowy plover expert."
I wouldn't go that far. But I sure have become a snowy plover fan.