Monday, July 04, 2005

All Creatures Great and Small

Jerry Della Famina is not having a happy Fourth of July weekend. Why, you ask? Well, this poor persecuted advertising executive and the 500 guests he invited to his East Hampton beach house on Long Island are not going to be able to enjoy the annual town fireworks display from the beach this year.

Why not?

Because of this little guy. The link will take you to a picture of a Piping Plover chick, one of the newest members of a threatened species whose nesting habitat includes select areas just above the high tide line on East Hampton's beaches. Thirty-four active nest sites have been observed in the Long Island village this year, and because of a federal regulation prohibiting the discharge of fireworks within three-quarters of a mile of a nest, East Hampton village officials cancelled the show. The New York Times first reported this story on June 23, and followed up with another article on Saturday.

That cancellation didn't make Mr. Della Famina very pleased. His immediate response was "That's insane. They must be out of their minds. I'm flabbergasted." He went on to tell a local reporter that his party would go on, "but we'll be serving barbecued piping plover. I hear it tastes like chicken." In his weekly newspaper, The Independent, the ad exec (responsible for the uber-annoying "Meow Mix" singing cat commercial, according to the Times), Della Famina wrote "No one wants to hurt the plovers. But has anyone thought that maybe the little bastards have reached the end of the line and they are going to die?" He added a recipe for fried piping plover, with garlic. He continued his spout-off to the Times: "You know why the plovers are endangered? Because everyone hates them."

Paul Vitello, the author of the Times reports, writes that "everyone" in East Hampton "sometimes means everybody and sometimes refers to a more select group, and it was impossible to reach all those in either sense of the word." He quoted the president of the village chamber of commerce as saying "I adore Jerry, but he's really the only one making a fuss. Everyone I talk to says they're happy that someone cares about the plovers. Or they say, 'Oh, that's so cute. Oh, that's so East Hampton.'" Most of Della Famina's neighbors say they are disappointed about the lack of fireworks, but will survive. Vitello quotes Ellen Jacobs, who lives a few houses from Della Famina: "... I really don't think it's a big deal. We're having people over. We'll probably go to the beach. Maybe we'll watch the piping plovers."

What an excellent idea.

It probably won't surprise many of you to know which side of this issue I come down firmly on. For the past several summers I have vacationed with my family in Georgetown, Maine, just a few hundred yards from Reid State Park. The park and surrounding dunes are another section of the piping plover's Atlantic nesting range, and each year I have been treated with the sight of these spectacularly fascinating birds, and their little puffball nestlings, skittering along the beaches just out of the waves' reach, snapping up tiny invertebrates and peeping loudly.

Catching a glimpse of the tiny creatures has never once failed to renew my faith, albeit briefly, in the steps that have been taken to conserve what habitat remains of the plovers' nesting sites, and to protect the areas where they have managed to keep a precarious toehold on survival. If I had to give up a fireworks display on their behalf, I would do it in a heartbeat, and I would think it the least I could do.

If Mr. Della Famina is so distraught this weekend over missing his fireworks, I have a simple solution for him. He ought to pick up a beach chair, plant it just above the tide-line, and sit down. Wait awhile, and maybe, just maybe, a palm-sized bundle of feathers and energy will zip along between him and the tide, peeping away. If he's extra-lucky, that little bird might be joined by some even smaller versions of itself, tiny balls of fluff with oversized orange legs, following their parent and learning how to survive in and amongst their two-legged neighbors with their roaring ATV's, careless tromping feet, and hostility to anything that disrupts their holiday plans.

I think a good sit on the beach would do Jerry Della Famina a great deal of good.


At 9:14 PM, Blogger Hope said...

At first I thought you were going to be one of the ones firing up the grill to roast the little guy!
I was thrilled to see that you were not running out to get charcoal.
I am often amazed at how we humans just think we can run rough-shot all over the planet with no repercussions. Heaven forbid some rich mucky-muck from the Hamptons has to go somewhere else to drunkenly watch a fireworks display. Couldn't he just watch the Boston Pops on his big screen LCD-HDTV television???

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Walter E. Wallis said...

How many of you are opening up plover hatcheries? Better yet, just lie down and let the plovers feast on you.

At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe all you "save the plover" people should pay the property tax
on the areas that these birds have claimed squatters rights to. Its easy to be idealistic when you have nothing to loose.


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