“Gary, you have to come right away to the golf course,” a Bethpage State Park superintendent demanded. “There is a piping plover nesting near the ninth hole.” He was concerned because this species of plover is a federally threatened species and if he was correct, the area would have to be closed off to afford protection for the nesting bird.
I knew that the likelihood of a piping plover nesting on a golf course is as likely as me winning the lottery because it nests on beaches along the shore and the golf course was miles from any shoreline. However, its relative, the killdeer looks the piping plover and will nest far from the water in the most unusual places – on flat rooftops, in railroad yards, on athletic fields and in parking lots.
Recently, I saw the killdeer eating snails, small shrimp-like creatures and aquatic insects along the edge and in the mudflats of Lake Tsala Apopka. I have also observed this bird in the empty lots in our neighborhood eating beetles, crickets and grasshoppers from the wild grasses and plants that grow there.
How in the world did it get its name? I have not found the origin of who named this bird, but I suspect it was some hunter many years ago who thought the bird was telling him to kill the deer. Do not accept this as fact though; it is merely a conjecture on my part. The bird actually it sounds more like “killdee, killdee, dee, dee, dee” to me.
I tried to convince the superintendent that what he had was a killdeer and not the federally listed piping plover, but he insisted that I come to the golf course to confirm it. So I got into my jeep and drove the half hour to the park and he took me out to the ninth hole where he had cordoned off an area around the nest. I said, “Dave, that is a killdeer, not a piping plover, trust me.” We had a good laugh and he kept the fence up around the nest. I do not recall if the nest was successful, but I was happy that a park manager went out of his way to protect the bird even though it impacted the recreational sport. It certainly was a pleasure to work with such wonderful park employees and that is what I miss most about being retired.
NOTE: I have had several people ask me to put them on a list for updates to this blog and for that I am honored. If you click on the “Follow” button on the lower right part of the blog you can enter your email address and the site will send you an email when i post a new story. Also you can share this blog on Facebook by clicking on it on the bottom of the story. If you don’t see it, click the word “Permalink” and it will open the Facebook button for you. Thanks for all your encouragement. Best, Gary