Quick! Someone quilt an itty-bitty baby blanket for Tacey, and light Tufters an itty-bitty cigar. That’s right: Everybody’s favorite Piping Plover couple, Tace-ters, has successfully hatched four little furry peanuts out of those gorgeous eggs they made this spring. And while we’re celebrating, let’s give some high fives to Lord Of The Flyway Todd Pover and the team at The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ for all the assistance they gave to see these eggs through.
But hurry: we only have a few short hours to wrap up these celebrations, because these beh-behs are about to go completely, and totally, rogue.
Piping Plover are what you call precocial animals. That’s a fancy science term that means the itty-bittys would rather die than let their parents choose what they eat. Within just a few short hours of hatching, even before they’ve figured out things like how their “legs” work, PIPL chicks leave the relative safety of their nest bowl to start nom noming freely around the beach. While science can’t tell us exactly why or how Piping Plover became this way, we can turn where we often turn when science fails us: mythology. See last year’s Legend of Itty The Bitty to learn the truth about how PIPL became precocial animals.
There is nothing quite like taking an infant to the beach for the first time. Eager to get a jumpstart on sharing with our children the greatest joy in the world, well meaning parents will lube up an infant in 6 gallons of sunscreen, put on some extra thick diapers and tiny little plastic shades, set up a dedicated umbrella and towel, then plop the child down to experience the magic. All is usually good for about five minutes until, suddenly, the infant lurches forward, falls face forward in the sand, rolls sideways, and within moments looks like a Shake-n-Bake (TM) Chicken dinner. The horrified parents soon learn that sunscreen attracts sand as well as it repels radiation, and that infants have zero sand management skills, so fill their eyes, ears, mouth, and nose with gobs of sunscreen-sand paste before anyone even realizes what just happened. But not before the infant has attempted a little precociality itself and shoved a few other things in its mouth, like a fetid mussel shell or maybe a cigar butt.
While Tufters and Tacey are smart enough not to slather their newborns in sunscreen, they do have other concerns. Primarily that everything else on the Beach wants to either eat or skwoosh their infants. So for the several weeks before these babies learn to fly, Tufters and Tacey (Tace-ters) will face the most challenging part of their parental duties as they attempt to keep their rogue chicks from going totally rogue and getting lost, skwooshed, or eaten.
The following video is the very definition of precociality, a fancy word I think I just made up. This is the first, sweet moment where the first of Tace-ters babies goes rogue and leaves the relative safety of Tufters’ warm belly for the very first time, to discover the life it was born to live: a life on the Beach.
Enjoy this brief moment of adorable magic before the dangerous chaos begins when these itty-bittys discover that the fence is an exclosure keeping things out, and not enclosure keeping them in.
Congratulations & cheers to you, Tace-ters!
On a personal note, I will confess that witnessing this scene reduced me to a blubbering buffoon on the Beach. The best part about the Beach is that it is a place full of surprise and wonder and magic. Sometimes it takes a form of massive power, even destruction, and sometimes it is tiny, and frail, and just plain adorbz. But the Beach has a way of continually giving us those experiences we will never forget and will always treasure. Watching a tiny PIPL crawl out onto the Beach for the first time, against so many odds, was a crown jewel of those experiences for me. I was overwhelmed by the recognition that our local animals are such a huge part of our heritage. They are our treasure. Their lives are the conduits for so much of that surprise, and all that wonder, that makes the Beach so special.
So here’s wishing everyone a very, very Magical Summer, and hoping you get the chance to go a little rogue yourselves. Just don’t go full rogue. Nobody goes full rogue. That’d be too dangerous.