This is why Nish's story seems eerily familiar

“Everybody is trying to learn as much as they can about Piping Plovers. None of us were around in 1940-something when this happened last time.”

OREGON, Ohio — Chicago-raised Nish has made headlines—and history—by nesting in Ohio at Maumee Bay State Park. But for Toledo birder Julie Heitz, the initial excitement was about adding a Piping Plover to her life list when he arrived. 

“I had tried to see [Piping Plovers] three times in South Carolina, and every time I hadn’t gotten anything,” Heitz said. “I just thought I’d have to go to the Upper Peninsula or to Florida.” 

Nish was alone when Heitz saw him east of Toledo at Howard Marsh. Less than a week later, he was associating with two other Piping Plovers at Inland Beach at Maumee Bay State Park. 

“Local birders were coming out and getting pictures of the bands to see where everybody was from,” Heitz told me. “Then they found out the two girls were from Presque Isle in Pennsylvania.”

I visited with Julie last Saturday morning at Maumee Bay. It was a thrill to see another community embrace nesting Piping Plovers the way Chicago did. On the day I was there, a tent was set up and a group of volunteers and Black Swamp Bird Observatory staff were educating passersby. It was the first day after Nish and Pennsylvania-hatched Nellie completed a clutch of four eggs.

It’s been a crash course for local Toledo birders as Piping Plovers hadn’t nested in Ohio in 80-plus years. 

“It’s just been wild ever since [the nest],” Heitz said. “Everybody is trying to learn as much as they can about Piping Plovers. None of us were around in 1940-something when this happened last time.”

Some aspects of Maumee Bay, a large state park with a campground and a lodge, were very different than Montrose Beach. Some aspects really weren’t different at all, like the large sandy beach tucked away in the corner of a Great Lake. It’s easy to imagine Nish landing there and being comfortable with the site. 

“When Nish was at Howard, it was like ‘I’ve got to get there,’” Heitz says, “and then this happened. I don’t have to go anywhere ever again.”

This post was emailed to subscribers-only on the morning of June 11. You can ensure you never miss a post by becoming a paid subscriber. By becoming a paid subscriber, you support local storytelling and advocacy for birds and their conservation, while covering a portion of the costs of creating this newsletter each week.

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