Piping Plover Nest
Kerri Dikun

At last, Melody reached Orient Beach on Long Island, New York. She had made it all the way back to the place of her birth, but she was still restless. She needed a mate.

A shadow passed over her head. She looked up to see a male Piping Plover circling low, a slow rhythmic beat to his wings. He banked sharply left, then right, as if to say "I'm here, I'm here, notice me!"

Melody noticed...

The male scraped out a nest in the beach and began lining it with small pebbles and bits of broken shell. Melody joined in. She had found her mate.

Melody and her mate took turns sitting on the four eggs she laid.

But more surprises awaited Melody's new family. A large shadow loomed overhead as a woman holding a piece of wire fencing approached the nest. Melody flew a few yards away and pretended to limp along the beach, sticking out her wing at an odd angle. She tried to lure the perceived predator away from her eggs by offering herself as easy, "injured" prey, but the woman meant no harm. She placed the wire fencing around the nest, staying a safe distance from the eggs. Melody flew in front of her flapping and dragging her wing but the woman left and Melody and her mate, relieved, got back to tending the nest.

A hungry stray cat approached the nest the next week, but could not find a way through the wire fencing. Pawing through the gaps in the wires brought it no closer to Melody or her eggs and the cat lost interest and slipped away.

Two weeks passed and Melody's chicks hatched from their pale speckled eggs. Within hours the tiny chicks, weighing just ounces, were out of the nest walking and pecking in the sand. Soon they'd be flying. Though Piping Plover chicks forage for their own food almost immediately, Melody and her mate looked after the young plovers for three more weeks, shading them from the sun, and warding off attackers.

And once again the days grew shorter. Summer was beginning to wane and Melody knew it was time to head south. With a beat of her wings she was up in the air, her chicks and mate close behind her. This time she knew where she was going--the warm, blue waters of the Bahamas, her other home.

Melody flew into the sunset, feeling ready for the challenges ahead.

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