Nineteen is a prime number – too large and too small…

Last Saturday I walked 3 miles along Point Reyes Beach from North Beach to Abbotts Lagoon with the Point Reyes Plover expert. She does this regularly during Western Snowy Plover breeding season. She also covers other regions of the Point Reyes Snowy Plover breeding area. This day we were on the lookout for 5 Snowy Plover chicks that had hatched recently.

She prowled for birds while I gleaned the plastics that wash ashore on a regular basis.

After creating a small depression in the sand and lining it with mostly light colored rocks to increase the stealthiness of the nest, a female plover will lay 2-4 eggs directly on the sand. Most times she lays 3 eggs.

Three Western Snowy Plover eggs in a scrape (nest)

About 28 days later, if the sea has not washed away the eggs, ravens, crows, coyotes, raccoons, skunks or weasels have not eaten the eggs, off-leash dogs or errant humans have not trampled the nest, the birds emerge form their cocoon. Plover chicks are “precocious”, meaning that they are out of the nest and cruising for food within hours after hatching.

Mother plover leaves to go find another mate, father plover begins a month-long odyssey attempting to ensure his brood learns to eat, and keeps from being eaten.

Researchers consider a chick fledged if it survives 28 days. The last 3 years at Point Reyes have seen 7, 8 and 5 chicks fledge (2010, 2009, 2008). There are an estimated 5000 plovers, period.

Western Snowy Plovers are on the endangered species list. This means that they are in danger of going extinct. Extinct means there are no more plovers. Ever.

Dog owners, please keep this in mind the next time you want to let your domesticated, far from extinct pal run off-leash in this area.

Beach driftwood architects, enjoy building your complex driftwood structures. But, once you are done, please dismantle your work-of-art. Ravens use these structures to rest and look for prey, including endangered plovers. Don’t make it easy for ravens to further reduce the dwindling numbers of snowy plovers.

The park plover expert knows when each plover egg is laid and when each chick hatches. Finding all plovers present and accounted for each day is a good day.

Last Saturday we found all 5 chicks, plus fourteen adults for a total of nineteen birds.

I found a small bag of plastic trash, including nineteen plastic beverage bottles.

Nineteen plastic bottles, nineteen too many

So, depending on one’s perspective, nineteen is too small, and too large.

Please use one metal bottle for your drinking water needs.

The coastodian

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