Peggy Ridgway Great Lakes Piping Plover Hero
In 2011 a pair of Piping Plovers nested at Shoreline Park on the coast of Lake Huron in Michigan. Peggy Ridgway, Chapter Leader for AuSable Valley Audubon, worked with partners like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leading an effort to protect the nest.
"I've been in this community for 48 years," said Peggy Ridgway. Now retired, Ridgway spent 30 years teaching elementary and middle school in Oscoda, Michigan public schools. "I loved my whole career."
Ridgway first became involved with Piping Plover conservation work when she was asked to monitor plovers in Tawas Point State Park. "I volunteered for a few weeks, but the nest was destroyed so it came to an abrupt end." Great Lakes Piping Plovers are a critically endangered species and the significance of each and every nest is evident when talking with Ridgway.
Independence Day Danger
On July 2, 2011 a solitary surviving Piping Plover chick remained at the Shoreline Park nest Ridgway and others had been monitoring. Though local residents had stopped grooming the beach in order to protect the nesting area, their efforts were threatened to be undone by the local holiday fireworks display which was scheduled for the very beach where the chick remained. Ridgeway and her partners had just days to act.
The township responded immediately and local police and firemen supervised the July 4th festivities. "They ended up moving the fireworks 300 yards north, as far as they could go," said Ridgway. The chick fledged three days later. People weren't upset about moving the fireworks, "It created awareness," she explained. It's clear that Peggy's efforts are helping to educate the local community about Piping Plovers. "I find that when people understand the whole process, how these little guys within twenty minutes of hatching are out on their own, they are amazed. When they understand how slowly nature works, and how critical that timing is, they get it and they respect it."
A Second Generation of Plovers
Piping Plovers are slowly making a comeback around Lake Huron. The chick that fledged on July 7, 2011 returned to the same beach the following year, nesting just 10 miles down shore from its own birthplace. This year it successfully fledged four chicks. "From protecting one we got five; it was a fabulous return on our effort."