A discussion of traffic tickets among the crew at the marina over the weekend veered off suddenly onto the piping plover, and so I can say with certainty that in Rockaway, at least, “plover” rhymes not with “lover” but with “Dover” (or, rather, since this is Queens, “ova,” as in eggs). A cop brought up the subject, speaking on the understanding that everyone present loathed the plovers. And they do. Even the one woman present (besides me), a mild creature whom everyone loves, and whom I’ve heard singing the praises of the swallows, said that when she sees plovers in the marina she throws pebbles at them. The cop, who had just been talking about driving a car on the boardwalk (cops do it all the time), said he ran into a friend who spends August fishing off Cape Cod. “Why aren’t you at the Cape?” the cop asks. The friend goes rigid. “He thinks I’m kidding him. ‘Haven’t you heard?’ he says. 'You can’t go anywhere up there now. The plovers built their nests all over the beach, and everywhere you go’”—meaning on the beach in your truck—“‘there’s someone from the Audubon Society, pointing and saying, "There’s one!"’ He went on for a half hour. He says the economy up there is tanking because of the plovers.”
They all shake their heads. One of them quotes the bumper sticker “Piping Plover—Tastes Like Chicken” and laughs. “I wouldn’t wear one of those,” someone else says—not, I think, because it’s in bad taste but because the birders would be all over him. They have such a sense of entitlement—they're not going to let some little birds push them around—that if anyone spoke in the plovers' defense, one of them might start quoting Genesis: "And God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and OVER THE FOWL OF THE AIR." The resident Francis of Assisi—he puts out pans of water for the pigeons—claims he doesn’t know what a piping plover is. “You know, those little birds that run back and forth on the beach.” He knows. He is just not going to admit it in this crowd. "I thought those were sandpipers," he says. I pipe down.