OntarioPlovers-Wasaga1-0723

Eggs on the beach, gunfire in the canyon

In our latest newsletter, we talk to Fatima Syed, who shares how a scandalous affair saved one endangered bird’s eggs, and Sarah Cox, who came close to gunfire in another imperilled bird’s habitat

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A piping plover running on the beach
“Nancy was just five feet away from me; we just hung out at the beach,” reporter Fatima Syed half-joked, telling me how she allegedly befriended a tiny, endangered bird — the piping plover.

Fatima had driven to Wasaga Beach, Ont., after she got a text telling her three popcorn-like chicks had cracked out of eggs which Nancy was nesting, running around on the beach.

Admittedly, Fatima wanted to get in on the gossip about the birds. If Nancy could talk, she would tell Fatima about the love triangle she was a part of: one involving a suspected murder, a scandalous affair and two sets of abandoned eggs. It’s the kind of stuff reality show producers can only dream of and the opportunity conservationists hope for.

In a way, it’s the drama of it all that spurred Canada and the U.S. to save the unhatched eggs; eggs of a bird Canada once declared extinct in the ’80s. With tight timelines and logistical challenges, some of those eggs made it to the only plover captive rearing centre in Michigan, upping their chances at a beach life.

While that’s good news for her kids, their mother hasn’t been spotted back on “Plove Island” in a while, likely because of heartbreak. The love triangles can get a bit messy, really, so you should just go read Fatima’s story of a scandal that gripped the beach — and saved some wee birds.

But that’s not all for endangered birds this week.
 
An illustration of a spotted owl perched on the barrel of a gun.
Out in southwestern B.C., reporter Sarah Cox had a different experience altogether. Instead of the playful chirping of tiny birds, she heard gunfire.

“I was there to see fresh clearcuts in a wildlife habitat area for the endangered spotted owl,” Sarah told me. “But I got more than what I bargained for.”

Parked in a clearing in the Chehalis River watershed, Sarah and Wilderness Committee’s Joe Foy noticed bullets on the ground, as gunfire around them echoed off the canyon walls. The shots eventually became louder and felt closer, so the two retreated.

No, it’s not a scene from the Wild West. Turns out, B.C. sanctions logging — and recreational shooting — in the imperilled bird’s habitat, while claiming to do “everything” it can to help the owl recover.

For Sarah, the spotted owl symbolizes B.C.’s failure to protect species at risk and their habitats. But her latest report is only the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for other stunning developments in the coming weeks.

As for Fatima? She’ll be diligently looking forward to hot goss updates on the real lives of the beach plovers.

Take care and don’t ruffle any feathers,

Karan Saxena
Audience engagement editor

 
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What we’re reading


Serena Renner writes about atmospheric rivers in an era of pendulum swings between deluge and drought — what meteorologists have dubbed “weather whiplash” — and how we can learn to embrace the rains in Hakai Magazine.

Ever paused to think about what beavers can teach us about resiliency? For Vox, Benji Jones writes about how the web-footed rodents are heat wave heroes — and why they’re pretty darn great.

Zoya Teirstein makes the connection between a warming planet, pathogens and diseases in an interactive Grist piece to show how climate change is making us sick.
 
When you read the latest feathery scandal chronicled by our reporters. Want your friends to keep up with bird drama on Plove Island? Tell them to sign up for our weekly newsletter — it’s a hoot!
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