The incidental plover and taking a summer break
Bahamas sighting adds to the mystique of a magical species
Birding wasn’t my primary purpose while I was in the Bahamas last month. The reason I phrase it this way is because when submitting a checklist to eBird, you can check the box for “Incidental,” which is described as “birding wasn’t my primary purpose.” The reality is that we frequently see birds while doing something else, whether it be gardening, playing golf, or running an errand. These are incidental sightings.
On occasion in the Bahamas, I bumped into a few birds. My family’s patient with me when I ask to pull the car over to check something out.
At Governor’s Harbor, there’s a spit of land along the harbor that runs out to Cupid’s Cay. You can see interesting waterbirds on either side of the spit of land. There’s a wooden structure on one side that’s the home of the popular Friday Fish Fry. It’s not much of a spot, other than you’re staring at miles and miles of teal blue water that stretches all the way to Nassau. There’s a curved section of sandy beach that’s filled with detritus, wrack, and jetsam.
Here’s where a bunch of Ruddy Turnstones were gathered, with a large Black-bellied Plover in nonbreeding plumage. I pulled out my little superzoom video camera and placed it on a rough-hewn wooden fish fry table and began filming the big plover. It was a decent shot, and I was feeling good about it. There weren’t any other species present, though. No specific purpose in mind, not even this post, it was just filming a neat bird and the water lapping at its feet.
Days later, I was back in Chicago sifting through videos from the Bahamas. I opened the video of the Black-bellied Plover. The instant I hit play I realized that there was another bird in the foreground of the clip. I did a double-take. I thought I was seeing things. I replayed from the start of the video and watched again. And again. In front of the Black-bellied Plover, about 100 feet from me, was a smaller bird that blended in with the sand and seashells perfectly. It was as clear as day on the video, though. It was a Piping Plover.
All this time and I’d never seen a Piping Plover on the wintering grounds. And I suppose I still haven’t since this sighting only took place via video. Though, as you may know, I’ve seen Piping Plovers a lot on Great Lakes breeding territory.
It’s worth noting that no one quite knew where Piping Plovers wintered on the Bahamas until about a decade ago. Bahama plovers have a special tie to Chicago: Rose’s mom was Bahama Mama, a bird that wintered on the island of Abaco.
Yet this incidental sightings was a special and unexpected encounter with this species, the talisman of a few special beaches, Charadrius melodus, the Piping Plover. You may watch the video here:
Imani returns home—and stays a while
Almost as soon as I hit ‘send’ on last week’s post about Imani, yet another astonishing chapter took place in his story. You might remember that Imani is one of Monty and Rose’s 2021 chicks. As recently as 10 days ago, we didn’t know if Imani had made it through the winter or if we’d ever see him again. Then he turned up on a beach in Duluth, Minn.
Last week Imani abruptly showed up back at Montrose Beach, where he hatched last year and fledged along with Siewka. Imani’s still there as of yesterday, too, though there’s no sign of a female around as a potential mate.
Imani hung around long enough to be present during the commemoration of Monty and Rose and their offspring that took place at the beach Wednesday. Despite the threat of severe weather, more than 100 volunteers and plover fans attended the ceremony at the Montrose Beach House. There were many wonderful tributes shared in the news coverage of the ceremony:
“Let this be the template for conservation going forward,” said volunteer Raed Mansour. “Let’s protect the river, the lakefront, our parks, our forests. Let’s bring hope and faith and joy and wonderment to all of Chicago.”
The reality is that the loss of Monty and Rose isn’t the end of the story. It may just be the beginning.