Unless you have been spending your summer on the moon or some other planet, you know all about the piping plovers and the beach closures due to their yearly nesting.
Alot of bad press has been given to this small sandy colored shorebird, ranging from t shirts emblazed with "Piping Plovers Taste Like Chicken" to general ridicule of the endeavors to preserve the plovers by radio talk show formats, spurred by public indignation of having beach space closed off.
The piping plover with its delicate appearance and formidable nature has been so much of the quintessential fabric of our Cape Cod beaches for so many years that it would be difficult to imagine a beach without the sound of their musical "Peep!" and the reflections of one of Nature's most impressive creations.
You would have to witness the intricacy of the survival of this bird to appreciate the lengths that Mass Audubon goes to each summer to establish protected nesting areas for these birds, who have been elected to be protected as a threatened species.
That our beach spaces should be sacrificed for the procreation of the plover has caused alot of irritation among alot of those with off road vehicles intent on driving out on the beaches, the most frequent complaint being that these birds ought not interfere with people's enjoyment of the beaches.
And with so much of the beach spaces being fenced off to the public, it is understandable that it would create unpopularity.
But if you spend some time watching this bird you might just alter your opinion.
This seemingly delicate little creature is an incredible blend of bravado with a meticulous loyalty to parenthood with such a dauntless and spirited nature that you cannot help but be won over.
The plover's sandy color blends in perfectly with the sand and makes it somewhat safer for it to escape the view of some of its many predators who are always ready to snatch the eggs which have been deposited in the nest fashioned in the sand.
Then it becomes a continuous vigil for the parents.
Crows, foxes, skunks, coyotes, fisher cats and other birds are but some of the likely predators of the eggs. Given the size of the adult plover, it comes as a remarkable experience to witness the plover courageously dive bombing a threatening crow -- or, better yet, a fox.
Once the eggs hatch and the chicks are immediately up on their little match stick legs, looking like small puffs of cotton as they scurry along the sand, the adults have their work cut out for them.
It takes about twenty six days for the chicks to fledge and this means that every minute of those days requires the parents to be on duty, running along side of the chicks and directing them with intricate calls, often assuming an injured pose on the sand of a broken wing to distract any would be predators from the moving chicks.
The heat of the past Fourth of July week-end found four newly hatched chicks scurrying amidst a sizable crowd of beach goers at a local beach, the plover parents having to oversee what proved to be the ultimate demise of two of the chicks who vanished somewhere along the way.
That it is perilous out there comes as no surprise; when you are as tiny as these new born chicks it becomes miraculous that they survive at all. Yet, each year some of the chicks do make it thru to their flight day.
We live in a world of increasingly more SUVs and crowds -- the plover's tiny but mighty feathered existence somehow means more by comparison to our modern world where everything is fast and large.
And without them to remind us of the possibilities of survival against so many odds, we would be missing something important.