It was just one year ago, on July 7th, 2015 to be precise, in a small, humble corner of barren overwash in the wilds of the Holgate Refuge when four young PIPL chicks were born unto the Island. Their parents, Ron & Hermione, would put everything they had into raising these four itty-bitties that summer, as they had sadly lost their first nest earlier that spring when a big, hungry fox nom nom’d it. But like any good Islanders, especially Holgate residents, faced with disaster, Ron & Harmione did the only sensible thing. They united and rebuilt.
By August 1st, 2015, Ron & Hermione successfully fledged all four chicks from their second nest: Dobby, Severus, Hedwig, and Sirius. A major accomplishment for any of LBI’s hard working PIPL families. That fall when the cold winds arrived and closed the 2015 summer forever they would all leave Long Beach Island on their mysterious migration to warmer places southward, which we can assume they journey by following all the old people.
As the days grew shorter and 2015 came to a close, we probably would have wondered amongst ourselves if we might ever see them again, if it weren’t for the fact that only a few biologists and researchers even knew they were born out there in the Holgate Refuge; the last of LBI’s wilderness. Luckily one of those researchers was Michelle Stantial, who carefully banded the young chicks with colorful leg bands, one year ago today on their name day, as part of her awesomely brave study and in hopes that one day we might see them again and unlock some of the many secrets of our disappearing Piping Plover.
In the spring of 2016 there were whispers of a young, rogue Piping Plover who was tearing it up on the front beaches of LBI. Peeping, scraping, loafing, and doing the Plover Pokey all over the place; with youthful vigor but astounding cool. And soon those whispers turned to fevered gossip as it appeared this handsome, young rogue had caught the eye of an elegant and graceful ingenue when she fatefully stopped one night to rest on our beaches during her long, spring migration back north.
Her migration would end, just like many of ours, right here on LBI. Within a week the two were inseparable.
Thanks to his adorable bands, it was clear this was Dobby; the oldest and bravest of Ron & Harmione’s united & rebuilt second brood. He is 100% local. Not only did he not die during the winter but he made it all the way back to LBI and, apparently, clearly understood this is the finest place to raise a family on the East Coast. Having found a soulmate in Myrtle, he was off to a good start.
Yet hopes were not high this spring for these youngsters. This would be Dobby’s first nesting season, and perhaps Myrtle’s as well. Success favors bold, but also the experienced. What’s more, Dobby had apparently heeded the call of Tufters, the Lord Of The Lighthouse, and desired to live among the good people of LBI, right under our vacationing feet. For whatever reason, he passed on the safely gated community of the Holgate Refuge where he was born, and even the relative safety of Barnegat Light State Park, and decided to set up camp right next to a volleyball net, just behind a lifeguard stand, right out on the front beach among us. “Dicey” does not even begin to describe this maneuver. Perhaps it was the boldness of youth, perhaps inexperience, perhaps a bit of both.
Yet Dobby & Myrtle were clearly in love with each other and with the Island, and they spent a happy spring on the beach courting each other.
And that was the moment our beaches came back to life.
I still can barely process it. Nothing smells quite like the recovery of the wild beach as taking a morning stroll on LBI and almost stepping on some PIPL eggs. I pinched myself to make sure this was not a dream. Ouch. Nope. Not a dream.
Finding fun things on the Beach is one of life’s tiny, never-tiring thrills, but such a find as this is simply magical. Your mind suddenly spans time as you are transported back a century, to a wild, unspoiled Island. An Island we have never known. Beaches teeming with cool creatures and untold wonders. Then just as suddenly, you are snapped back to reality when you realize how many times over this nest will get stepped on, run over, spiked with a volleyball, and covered with a cooler full of sodas and sandwiches during the next few months. I almost wanted to smash the eggs right there and trade a tiny, known tragedy for a potentially more tragic, unknown one. Unreal!
Thankfully, a large bulldozer came barreling straight towards these very special eggs and woke me from this mixed dream-come-true and total nightmare.
Time to call in the big guns.
So Welcome to the Recovery. This is the Recovery, in your face. I’ve heard little birds say we are on the brink of an epic recovery of our unfairly crushed local treasures, but I didn’t really believe it until I almost stepped right on the proof.
Our own locally-born-n-bred Dobby and this awful little nest dropped right in the middle of a public beach is an early milestone on the Road to 200. I would guess some people see this as a terrible thing, and might hope that Dobby & Myrtle would choose one of the many more-easily protected places in NJ like Holgate, or Sandy Hook, or even Barnegat Light State Park. But that is only because they can’t see the Road to 1,200… to a future of a funner, smarter, braver, more magical, and more honest coast that is teeming with life.
I suppose I believe that because I just know there is a beach where we can vacation and PIPL can be adorable and we can both be better off for it. Just because we can’t do it now, or don’t yet know how to, doesn’t mean nothin’. I know I was born to live here, and I know they were too. We can figure this out.
Whatever the case, Dobby is undeniably a local. And thanks to Michelle Stantial and the SUNY study, I didn’t have to make that, or any of the genealogy in this story up, perhaps for the first time ever. And we all know being born and raised on the Island is a trump card for all kinds of special rights and privileges. So, respect!
Dobby, Myrtle, Todd Pover, Rebecca Linhart, and Michelle Stantial are so far ahead of the curve in terms of making the beach even more awesome for everyone who loves the shore, it is hard to comprehend. If for some reason you don’t yet see that, keep trying. You’ll be much, much happier when you finally do!
Welcome to the Recovery. It’s time to start keeping your eye out for little Piping Plover chicks running around your beach chair. As far as Readings From The Northside is concerned, that is the highest goal of The Recovery.
Get ready to Share The Beach, because this is The Recovery. In your face.
Oh yeah, and Happy Birthday Dobster!