Saturday, October 18, 2008

Run - Pause - Run Some More

Ed and I witnessed something marvelous. We’d been cruising in an ATV along the Pacific shoreline when we noticed a flock of small shorebirds ahead. Ed cut the engine so we could observe their behavior.

The entire flock faced the ocean. Each bird balanced on a single tiny leg. They used that leg like a spring to hop about on the damp sand. When a wave rolled toward shore, they turned in a mass retreat using both legs to scramble away from the water. As the wave receded, they made an about-face and scurried back to the damp sand. With keen eyes, they watched the tide repeating their run-pause-run back routine tirelessly. Their display entertained us for awhile before we skirted a wide path beyond their immediate habitat so as not to disturb them. What were these entertaining creatures anyway?

We confirmed by matching our photos to the ones on the Internet that we had seen a flock of the Western Snowy Plover. Since 1993, the species has been on the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Before coming to Oregon, I had never heard of this little bird that likes beaches and barren ground. Once here, I learned there are great efforts to protect this species. In fact, between March 15 and September 15, it is a grave infraction to enter one area of beach near Florence, Oregon considered to be a breeding ground. I found the full recovery plan on the Internet that outlines how the Snowy Plover population will eventually increase ( ). Surprisingly, if the plan is successful, it will take until 2047 for the Western Snowy Plover to be delisted.

I found that only an estimated 2,100 Western Snowy Plovers can be found on the Oregon Coast. Thinking back to our bird-watching experience, I am thrilled to have been able to get a birds-eye view of these rare little birds.

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