BYOB: Apparently, Mr. Smalls Rides A Moped… and Mercedes

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“Are you messin’ with mah stuff? Yeah… no. Back off, buddy. Tufters? He gone. You’re on Smalls’ turf now.” Enjoy this very special photo of the mighty Mr. Smalls at your feet, getting all up in your face at the Lighthouse. It’s not often you get to see a Piping Plover from directly overhead. Thank goodness I had the right camera lens on.

While PIPL are definitely the friendliest and most curious of all the shorebirds, they can also be pretty aggressive little buggers when circumstances call for it. Like when you try to mess with their stuff. Their classic line of defense is the “Broken Wing Display” during which a PIPL will feign a broken wing, grabbing your attention, distracting you, and slowly leading you away from their treasures. Please don’t say “Oh, just like Killdeer.” Killdeer are like the cheap, knock-off version of Piping Plover. (But feel free to say “Oh, just like Piping Plover!!” when you first learn of the Killdeer’s Broken Wing Display!)

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Captain Jack demonstrates a proper Broken Wing Display. Notice how he keeps his distance, facing away from us, slowly luring us away from his Pirate PIPL treasures (pronounced TRAY-zures)
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Lord knows what Smalls is thinking here, standing right at our feet and facing us down at the Lighthouse. We could stomp, kick, or tickle him if we wanted. Maybe he doesn’t understand the point of the Broken Wing Display, how it works, or maybe he just doesn’t care. He is not “leading us away” from anything. He’s just getting up in our face and acting like a thug. Whatever the case, he is surely one bold, crazy, little PIPL. Respect.

So what might Smalls have to protect? Apparently, Mr. Smalls has a Mercedes.

No, not the car. Most people know that Smalls rides a tiny Moped, and often leaves LBI to tear up the beaches of Island Beach State Park whenever he needs a little “Mr. Smalls’ Time,” or just feels like showing off.

It appears that, against all odds, Smalls has actually found a girl who was willing to stay with him for more than just one night. Time to call in the big guns and see what’s going on here.

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The Great Michelle Stantial from SUNY-ESF has returned for another season of hijinx in New Jersey, trying to figure out why Piping Plover die all the time. Hiding in the dunes at Barnegat Light State Park, Michelle trains her scope across the inlet to make sure Smalls is riding up and down the beach at IBSP on his tiny moped, trolling the fisherman and telling them that “Anglers Taste Like Garbage.” He’s surely going to get kicked one of these days. He’s really asking for it.
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But in the mean time, Michelle Stantial (MIST), Rebecca Linhart (RELI), and Josh (JOSH) from team SUNY take advantage of his absence and prepare to trap Smalls’ mysterious new lady while he is safely out of sight.
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Michelle watches while RELI & JOSH spring the trap.

So what type of woman could possibly love a thug like Smalls? Apparently, a young one.

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Meet Mercedes. “I believe in him,” says Mercedes. Oh boy.

That Smalls would love to have a young, impressionable, and gorgeous young PIPL like Mercedes at his side needs no explanation. Add to that the fact that Smalls has always claimed to be searching for “a classy broad,” so we can be sure he spit out his werm when she first told him her name, “Mercedes.”

But what could Mercedes possibly see in a tiny thug like Smalls? That will remain a rhetorical question for now because the science shows us Mercedes is too young to know the true answer.

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RELI carefully weighs and measures Mercedes.
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She notices something very distinctive about her wing.
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First, she shows us the buff, light colored tips on the darker feathers.
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Next, the distinctive wear-n-tear on the edges of Mercedes’ feathers.

These are sure signs that Mercedes is a very young “second year” female, meaning she was born just last summer, and has come back early to get a taste for the world. After the first year, Piping Plover molt, replacing their feathers quite frequently so you won’t see this kind of wear-n-tear. After the first year, it becomes much more difficult to age a Piping Plover. But this seems conclusive: Mercedes is just a babe.

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After a quick checkup and banding Michelle & Josh let Mercedes fly back into the park and back to her man, Smalls. Let’s hope he can take good care of you young lady.

And her band combo? What could be more fitting for a young, rebellious, party girl setting out early to experience the world: B (Blue), Y (Yellow), O (Orange), Blue (B).

BYOB.

Welcome to LBI Mercedes. Things just keep getting stranger.