Small But Mighty

The piping plover is an amazing profile of endurance, hardiness, fidelity and overcoming long odds for survival. These tiny shorebirds mate for life and migrate north for thousands of miles every year to build their nests, which are literally scrapes in the sand.

They are especially attracted to wide-open barrier beaches that have been washed over by winter storms, and this year the Vineyard has many prime real estate offerings in that category, from Norton Point in the Katama section of Edgartown to Tashmoo in Vineyard Haven.

The chicks, little fuzz balls that are not much bigger than a walnut, are born precocious and feed themselves from birth. This means traveling over dunes to forage in the coastal wrack line, a rich source of small invertebrates which is their primary food supply.

In recent years, piping plovers have also been a flashpoint for controversy.

Protected under state and federal law as a threatened species, plovers are surrounded by strict rules, including mandatory beach closures to over-sand vehicles during their short nesting season. In the past the closures have angered fishermen who are used to having an open highway on the beaches that surround the Vineyard.

But as is the case with so many heated conflicts, over the years the flames have cooled, replaced by gradual acceptance and understanding of the need to protect these little shorebirds with a peep-lo call.

And the results have been positive for the piping plovers, which are now nesting in record numbers on coastal barrier beaches, including here on the Vineyard.

They are small but mighty.