This morning at 5am found all three adorable balls of fluff zig zagging in and out of their roped off area. All was going well and I had planned to leave at 6:30 for work when the beach rake arrived on the scene. At the very moment the roaring rake was passing in front of the roped off safety area, the chicks decided to head to the water. It was harrowing trying to herd the chicks back up towards the wrack zone and at one point I lost sight of one. The rake passed twice in front of the sanctuary and both times the chicks were in extreme, extreme danger. The beach rake driver is super conscientious and stopped for Papa Plover when he ran in front of the rake, but not in a million years would a chick have been seen. I think eventually the chicks will learn to run in the opposite direction of the giant noise-making machine, but at this stage of development, they are running directly towards the beach rake. Additionally, while the rake drama was unfolding, half a dozen gulls flew in. I don’t know if they were there to check on what was tumbled up by the beach rake, or if they knew the babies were vulnerable as both parents were trying to herd the chicks away from the rake.
After writing this post, the next order of business is emailing Dave from Greenbelt and our conservation agent Ken Whittaker about the beach rake. I sincerely hope it can be redirected to stay on either side of the safety zone, traveling behind the beach through the parking lot road to clean both sides, but completely avoiding the area the PiPls are using as their morning and night time sanctuary.
Thirteen-day-old Piping Plover chick looking mighty confident.