Nature Notes: The plover show

Nature Notes: The plover show

In a scrubby, little vacant lot with piles of broken concrete, glass and scrap iron, with weeds growing here and there among the tufts of the ever-resilient dune grasses, a clear call is heard that is always a smile-maker. It's the chatter of mating plovers as they dart this way and that, positioning themselves to see or be seen, and putting on their best show of feathers and size and song, all in the hope of attracting a mate and the prospect of family life ...

These plovers, or killdeer as they are also called, are perhaps most famous for their antic of dropping a wing to the ground as if hurt and then luring predators away from a nest with eggs or chicks. Once clear of the nest area, they will flutter fly and stagger as if trying to escape, all the while moving away from their nest area. This is a fairly effective diversion technique against bobcats and feral cats and for the Friskie-laden bored housecat, but not at all effective against foxes and unleashed dogs. Unleashed dogs will sniff out the plover nest every time and for the little chicks or unhatched eggs, it's curtains. (During the spring and early summer nesting season, keep'em leashed okay? Momma plover thanks you!)

The chattering and cooing and rattle of plovers mating, defending their turf and protecting their young broods is a really special song. If there is a similar song around here it would have to be the song of the kingfisher. Both species are pretty shy and yet both will take the high ground and make themselves heard.

We have to consider ourselves pretty fortunate to live near these spectacular nature events and in the case of these plovers, you barely have to leave the comfort of home to enjoy the sights and sounds of these little "two stripes."

Plovers are commonly found in scrubby, open areas bordered with tall grass or brush. Airports, parking lots, ballfields, or any open areas that might have some tasty insects are good habitat for plovers.

So keep your ears up for that distinctive, "Keeer, keeer, keer," and you'll know you may be about to see the plover show.

Just a note: The snowy plover nesting on the beach at the far north end of the Long Beach Peninsula, as well as beaches to the south of us, is in danger of becoming extinct here because of beach traffic and unleashed dogs. Be smart, give a damn, and let them have their needed privacy.

• Check out our new weekly wildlife/habitat Quicktime Mini-Movie on the web at: http://home.pacifier.com/ sparks/wildlife!!.html

• Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

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