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23 April 2002 - 14:31


The mountain plover (Charadrius montanus) is the latest bird species to be added to the list of threatened and endangered (T & E) species, at least in our neck of the woods. The species is in trouble, mainly because the vast majority of them winter in just a few spots in California, where their habitat is being destroyed, converted and agriculturally poisoned.

But their summer range is widespread, consisting of just about any large patch of near-barren grassland. And their changed status has caused headaches for lots of people in this country (except the consultants who get hired to run plover surveys and searches in spring and early summer... wonderful time to be doing field work).

I have lots of plovers. Always have. Certainly no where near as common as horned larks, but in the right places, they are not hard to find. Just hard to see, with that flat dun color.

I mention this, because I found two this morning, while returning from lek surveys. Without looking for them. One just swooped across my path, and the second (too far away to be mated to the first) stood around bobbing at a junction of two-tracks, as I decided which was the shorter route to the interstate.

Ran into three plovers (a pair and a single) a week ago, as well. One pair started shouting to each other as I stopped to watch a flock of Caspian terns winging their way north over the desert. The third I nearly did run into, literally, as he swooped across the road in front of our rig. (They do that a lot... swooping.)

He's here

in typical plover habitat.

Don't bother trying to spot him. You can't. I can't even pick him out in the original pic, which is 1600 pixels across. But he was there when I pressed the shutter.

Trust me.

One thing I have noticed, though, with the increased attention and protection paid to these killdeer-kin, is the way some people have suddenly decided to change their name.

For ever and a day, the name of these birds was "plover", pronounced to rhyme with "lover." And everybody who knew what these things were pronounced it that way. But now a whole bunch of the federal folk, and some consultants and company people as well, want to make it rhyme with "drover."

I don't know why.

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