I pulled my wool hat low over my ears and zipped up my windbreaker. The icy north wind shredded the fog and we could finally make out the bird’s dim silhouette on the ridge. It bobbed up and down like a marionette-bird and called, “too-lip, too-lip.” As the mist lifted, I saw a dozen caribou including several butter-colored calves feeding in a draw behind the American Golden Plover . . .
Okay. I know you’ve already figured out that this scene didn’t happen as we cycled across Louisiana. If I put on a wool hat in the steamy April warmth of the Gulf Coast I’d melt like a blob of butter. We did see three American Golden Plovers though, in a muddy field sandwiched between emerald-green rice fields brimming with yellowlegs, dowitchers and other assorted shorebirds. We saw these birds on a day when we had to cycle 83 miles, mostly against a headwind. A tough day, but nothing compared to what plovers do on a regular basis.
I can’t help but associate American Golden Plovers with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Up north is where they are born. It is where they set out from on the first leg of their incredible migration when they are just a couple of months old. They fly eastward to the Atlantic coast, then launch into the void for a non-stop flight across the ocean to South America.
Our own “migration” across the continent in search of birds has given us a little insight into the difficulties faced by migrants. The biggest problem has to be shrinking habitat in wintering grounds, nesting habitat . . . and everywhere along migratory pathways. That is now compounded by climate change. It is no wonder that so many people have lamented that they aren’t seeing as many birds as they used to.
Since it was just Earth Day, I raise my coffee cup in a toast to all of the people we’ve met (and those we haven’t) who are doing great things to heal the earth so that wild creatures can survive into the future.