July 3, 2008

Fireworks Postponed Due to Plovers

By Donita Naylor

NARRAGANSETT -- Can you keep the fireworks down, please? The babies are sleeping.

For about the third time in nearly 30 years, the Dunes Club near the Narrow River Inlet is postponing its annual Fourth of July fireworks until two federally protected piping plover chicks are old enough to survive the apocalypse.

Or so it may seem to plovers, ruled so sensitive that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has closed Moonstone Beach in South Kingstown every summer for the last 20 years to help them avoid extinction.

Fireworks cannot be exploded within three-fourths of a mile of a known plover nest, and two pairs of plovers selected the private beach club on Boston Neck Road to set up housekeeping. One set of chicks has already learned to fly, so they could flee in terror in the event the sky explodes at dusk. But the two chicks of a second pair won't be ready to fly until July 14.

Until then, biologist Wendy Edwards has to answer to the federal government for every chick, nest, and cage that keeps predators out of the nest, ropes on posts that mark off a nesting site, dog or human track that crosses the roped-off area, any person seen inside the buffer, not to mention every piece of trash, any break in the rope and how many times an illegal pyrotechnic is used nearby.

Edwards, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife plover coordinator, works all year to give plovers an edge on Rhode Island beaches.

The tiny birds, which can attain an adult weight of 2 ounces, are able to walk within hours of hatching. They feed on sand fleas and other insects. [email protected] / (401) 277-7411

Originally published by Donita Naylor, Journal Staff Writer.

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