Monday, June 20, 2011

Don't Tread on Me

Lake Superior offers breath-taking beaches and while it was too cold for the average sun-worshiper, it must have once been a hangout for other forms of recreation.

Unfortunately, most people partaking in these activities never think beyond their own pleasure and needs. The impact of unrestricted access to beaches have too often lead to negative outcomes for nature- like plants and birds.

Pitcher's Thistle, Cirsium pitcheri - this unusual grey-blue foliage is rare and endangered. Several signs on the beach at Grand Marais, Michigan tell the story of plants and birds now protected due to loss of habitat and use (or abuse) of the Great Lakes.

It is hard to convince a real estate developer that this thistle is as important as a new condo, but perhaps we should have some buffer zones? We could have the best of both worlds if we would just plan ahead.

Piping Plover- a major loser in the real estate wars.

These small sand-colored bird have a distinctive high pitched call, like a whistle or pipe. Bright orange legs (adorned with banding tags) are very diagnostic. Once common on the Great Lakes, they were hunted for sport and fashion, and the recent land grab has struck a final blow. "Disturbance of nests and chicks by people and their pets is a primary cause of their decline." * There are less than 20 pairs breeding in the Great Lakes region, when once they numbered nearly 1,000.

The Grand Marais female Piping Plover sits on a clutch of eggs offered some protection by a wire cage and roped-off barrier. It is a sad commentary on wildlife reduced to a zoo-like setting in the wild, but at least it offers some protection.

Let's admire this beach just a bit, shall we? This is no place for four wheelers, beer brawls and barking dogs. We should applaud Michigan's efforts to conserve rare plants and birds on beach habitats, and hopefully we could even replicate some of these efforts in places like Conneaut, Ohio.

Maybe the world would be just a bit better if we all took a day to stroll down one of these beaches, listening to the waves and calling birds... as the sun sets on Piping Plovers. Hopefully, not for good.

* Info from US Fish and Wildlife publication 1994-559-011

1 comment:

  1. Here in Rocky Mountain National Park there are vast expanses of elk exclosures- another zoo like setting in one of America's wildest places. I expect seeing fences at The Wilds but was surprised to see it here in the mountains.