My first encounter with a Piping Plover was in the early 1990s. My husband and I were walking the shoreline at Lloyd Neck on Long Island when I stopped short, realizing I was about to step on four bird eggs! "What bird nests right on the beach?", I thought. We backed slowly away, and seemingly from out of nowhere a bird emerged from the shells and sand and went and sat on that nest! What great camouflage; I was hooked!
My field guide identified that bird as a piping plover. I began noticing more and more shorebirds--another favorite became the American Oystercatcher--but my thoughts kept going back to the tiny Piping Plover. How will it successfully nest on that beach when more people come out to the beach as it gets warmer? I resolved that if I saw an opportunity, I would try to help.
Fast forward many years. After retiring, I found the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds was looking for volunteers to monitor Piping Plovers on the Connecticut shoreline. I jumped on it, and what a great experience it was! Not only did I get to observe Piping Plovers, American Oystercatchers, and all the other creatures that share the shoreline, I got to educate beachgoers about them. I found that most people had no idea these treasures of nature inhabit our beaches --they blend right in and try to steer clear of us. But once people knew, most of them cared.
I’m no longer volunteering at AAfCW but I still look for the birds. When a friend suggested I write a children’s book about my experiences, I jumped on the idea. I’m hoping that it helps make people--especially children --aware of the wondrous creatures that live on or near our beaches and inspires them to Share the Shore. Ellie’s Day at the Shore is available through Amazon and BarnsandNoble.com.