Thursday, July 29, 2010
Piping Plover Nest
I'm spending a week at the beach in the Hamptons. Every morning there are student volunteers who comb the beach looking for the tiny eggs of the endangered Piping Plover. When they spot them, they erect poles and strings to keep beach goers from accidentally stepping on the them.
The nests of the piping plovers are so exposed that if they weren't protected by humans, the species would stand very little chance of surviving. When pairs form, the male digs out several "scrapes" (nests) along the shore, usually near the beach grass. (This guy placed his right in the middle of the beach.) As you can see from the picture, the scrape is really just a small depression in the sand. The female checks out the scrape, and if she decides she likes it, she'll decorate it with shells and beach debris to "camouflage" it. Once it's ready, she'll allow her fellow to mate with her.
This couple's idea of camouflage isn't exactly what you or I might think of as a good hiding place -- another reason the piping plovers need human help. Females usually lay 1 egg every other day for a total of four days, so this might be just the beginning of their brood. Incubation is usually 27 days. It's quite warm here in July, which may be why mama isn't sitting on the egg full time. I saw her wandering around on a sand dune nearby and I didn't need to get too close to get this shot - just put my lens on zoom. Interesting, right?