It’s Too Much. And It’s Not Enough.

Nobody on the road. Nobody on the beach. Except for Michelle Stantial. On her only night off each week.
Because Myrtle Matters.
Even though it is a dark, damp, dreary Sunday night, Michelle’s job is to shine a little light down the Road To 200. So she heads up to join us on LBI and welcome Dobby’s unbanded mate Myrtle to the Specie’s Ambassador Club while she has the chance. Having had a taste of LBI, Myrtle could easily become part of our Island family for life, just as we did at some point. It’s good to know your neighbors.
Despite the long drive, the cold dampness, the need for some rest, Michelle still shines bright and doesn’t lose sight of the true magic of what she is really doing here. She has the presence of mind to grab the only two humans on the beach for miles: two teenage girls lost in another world with headphones on who probably are only out on this awful evening to get away from their parents. And then she shares the most precious wonders of beach with them by letting them participate in Myrtle’s release. These are the moments down the shore we never forget and treasure forever. These are the moments that expand our understanding of what the beach really is. Michelle is changing the future of the Island and of the itty-bitties, one vacationer at a time.

It’s all too much sometimes, the excruciating highs and lows of working with such an adorably frustrating endangered species as the Piping Plover. Thankfully, it is never enough. There is always more that can be done to help bring them back to their natural balance, and it never gets old. The more you get to know these little gems of the Island, the more you fall for them. The biggest problem facing the Piping Plover is probably that so few people who love the coast have even seen one, let alone realized just how cool they are.

I wonder if the scientists both sigh and cry when a new nest pops up. It’s surely a thrill and proof that years of hard work is paying off, and it’s also another adorable pair of treasures to giggle at. But it is also another fence to build, another exclosure to erect, another family to have to keep an eye on, and another tiny, often preventable, tragedy just waiting to happen . Mo’ PIPL, Mo’ Problems.

And Then This Happens

Murderball. Welcome to the Recovery. You’ve got to be kidding. It’s too much. And it’s never enough.

For those of you skimming along at home, this is the part of the post you don’t want to miss: another nest has popped on the front beaches of LBI. You read that right. Just as little local Dobby & his mate Myrtle recently heeded Tufters’ call to come and share the beach, to be bold, and to live among the people, another itty-bitty couple has taken the bait and set up a deluxe ocean front home on our beaches.

No rest for the weary. Since both birds are unbanded we don’t know know much about who they are or where they come from. Time to meet our new neighbors!

Meet Elizabeth

The first order of business when meeting new neighbors is to barge into their homes uninvited and install some low profile tracking devices so you can keep tabs on them. While banding our wild neighbors can seem offensive on the surface to some, the actual scientific, philosophical, and common sense arguments against it completely fall apart when you really dig deep into the realities, their predicament, and our options for giving them one last chance before they are gone forever.

The Piping Plover have been inadvertently flushed down the toilet by our recreations and vacations down the shore. Now, imagine you saw a Piping Plover being pointlessly and accidentally flushed down an actual toilet while on vacation. How would you feel about intervening to help then? We put collars on our dogs and rings on our spouses for similar reasons. And our dogs & spouses, unlike our endangered local animals, are totally replaceable!

If banding still bugs you, and you’re not willing to just take RFTN’s word for it, I offer this: volunteer for one or two seasons with a beach nesting bird program. Reserve judgement, and observe first hand. I’ll wager you’ll become even more vigilant than I have trying to eradicate the totally understandable and forgivable, but also irrational and ultimately destructive desire to just leave our disappearing wild animals alone while we needlessly obliterate them. We already tried doing nothing, for a very long time. They all died. So let’s try something else!

Michelle Stantial watches our new friends carefully.
David Tatoni (DATA) and Abby Darrah (ABDA) from team SUNY carefully investigate these little pirates’ treasures.
Meet Elizabeth. Garrr!!!
Sweet Release. It’s over in a flash. Elizabeth now wears her rings so we can know her, now and forever. DATA: always smooth as silk. You look like a boy from Abercrombie & Chick.


Meet Jack

A few days later Michelle returns for more of the same.

Like any great leader, Michelle watches Jack carefully from a distance, noticing what a handsome rogue he is, while everyone else does the tough stuff.
An all star team of RELI and Kyle Dudgeon (KYDU) from team SUNY, volunteer Kelsie Grover (KEGR) from the Saltmarsh Habitat And Avian Research Program, and Meghan Kolk (MEKO) from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ do the delicate work.
Meet Jack. Another Plover To Turn Our World Upside Down. Garrr!
Sweet Release. Kelsie Grover (KEGR)  had the distinct honor of releasing Jack. I wanted to get a great photo for her to thank her for all she does, so I positioned myself in advance. When the time came, I yelled across the beach, “I’m going to countdown 3,2,1 and then you’ll release. Ready?…” But all she heard was “3,2,1!” so released Jack, and the moment was gone forever. “No biggie,” I told her. “I’ll fix it in Photoshop.”
It’s too much.

Welcome To The Recovery. And welcome to LBI, Jack & Elizabeth. I think you’re gonna’ like it here. When it comes to our tiny treasures reclaiming their rightful place along side of us on the Island, truly, it is never too much.