Chorlitos in peril: nature photographers come to the rescue of the snowy plover

To call someone a cabeza de chorlito in Spanish is equivalent to calling that person a birdbrain in English. But how did the poor little chorlito (plover) end up with a reputation for not being the sharpest needle on the cactus? Yesterday I found out.

I I had been invited to the shores of Lake Atotonilco—a RAMSAR (protected) wetland located 40 kilometers southwest of Guadalajara and 40 kilometers northwest of Ajijic—by a group of nature photographers who were trying to remedy a problem that the chorlito nevado (snowy plover) is hopelessly stuck with.

pg24aErnesto Sánchez Proal of Bluefeet Expeditions explained the situation to me: 

“Unlike other birds that hide their nests in tall grass or trees, the plover, which is on the list of endangered species, lays its eggs on a flat spot on the beach, out in the open.  And its nest consists of nothing more than a slight depression in the sand or mud. For a chorlito, even an animal footprint will do as a nest.

“So, here on the shores of the Atotonilco Lagoon, those eggs are left not only to the mercy of predators like crows and possums, but also in danger of being accidentally crushed by human heels, cows hooves or the wheels of cars being driven aimlessly up and down the beach.”

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