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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

A Plover, A Plover, My Kingdom for a Plover

By Steve Zmak
May 2017

Whenever I'm walking one of the southern Monterey Bay beaches, I'm always on the lookout for the rare and elusive Western Snowy Plover. The first time I was able to record them was 3 years ago in Sand City on the site for the contested Ghandour Resort—I found 3 there nesting, and you've probably seen those photos here in the Chapter blog, Chapter mailings or MC Weekly articles on the subject. Snowy Plovers are often confused with the much more abundant Sanderling that runs in flocks up and down the water line. I thought that was what I was photographing again at Marina State Beach about a half mile south of the Beach Road parking lot on April 16, 2017. I was thrilled when I got home and could view them on my big display, and could see the ID tags around its legs distinguishing it as a threatened and endangered species. Although the Western Snowy Plover's habitat stretches along the entire U.S. west coast, most of it has been disturbed by one development project after another. It's not just the development footprint that runs the little birds off their nesting grounds. It's all the people and dogs drawn to once wild beaches that the developments sit at the epicenter of. Although Marina State Beach has strict leash laws, fenced habitat restoration areas, and a no drone fly zone during the March to September breeding season, it is rare to see these regulations followed by local beachgoers or out-of-town visitors. In reality and practice, it seems like we've already accepted this bird's extinction. The Ventana Chapter's ongoing campaign to block coastal developments like the Ghandour Resort in Sand City may be one of the last battles for the Western Snowy Plover's survival.

Snowy Plover
(Photo: Steve Zmak).