Snowy Plover

Reprinted from The Condor
Volume 6, September 1904

Edited and Compiled by
Robert 'Roy' J. van de Hoek
Field Biologist & Geographer

Sierra Club Chairman
of the
Ballona Wetlands Task Force
November 8, 2002

Excerpts from the Snowy Plover Article Article in Condor:
Snowy Plover. -- The following are a few field notes on the nesting of snowy plover (Aegialitis nivosa) as observed in the vicinity of Santa Monica on Ballona Beach during the seasons of 1895 to 1901. I find on looking over my field notes of this species that the earliest set taken was on May 24, 1899, eggs unincubated, and the latest set July 1, 1900, incubation slight. I have looked carefully to find nests before and after these dates but have failed. Thus I would define their breeding time as the month of June, as most of my sets were found during that month and the majority during the first three weeks. During the six years of my observing this species I have collected forty-four sets of which eleven had two eggs each and thirty-three eggs. The greater part of the sets of two were found at the end of the season, indicating a second set although I have been unable to prove this. A peculiarity was noticed in 1901, as the eight sets I collected all contained three eggs each. In all the above cases where only two eggs were collected the nests were always left long enough to complete the set; thus I am positive that the sets of two were complete. Several plover's nests were found before the eggs had been deposited and the nests carefully watched. The eggs are laid about three days apart.

The nesting ground is a white sandy cape or narrow strip of land between Ballona Swamp and the ocean about two miles long and two hundred yards wide. This place during the fall high tides is completely flooded and deposits of small rocks and broken shells are left there. Among these the plovers place their nests. On approaching it one may be attracted by noticing the little fellows running about on the sand in front of him, or occasionally flying in low wide circles uttering a pleading whistle so characteristic of this species. This whistle I have learned is a danger signal that I am near their nests, and on looking over the ground carefully I may be able to notice fine bird tracks in the white sand or in the patches of white sand between the shells and rocks.

In going over the ground carefully where the tracks are the thickest a nest will generally be found. Sometimes the birds will build among the small rocks where the tracks cannot be seen and here the eggs are safe as their coloration protects them, for they look exactly like small rocks. The nests are, as a rule, found by a mark of some kind, a bone of some animal, a small dead weed, or a bit of drift-wood and are slight depressions in the sand. Some are completely lined with broken shells of fish bones with the eggs pointed towards the center, very close together and about half buried in the nest lining. A pair of birds will build several nests during a season and only use one; for I have found nests all fixed up and completely surrounded with tracks. This I noticed especially in 1901 and I found about three times as many unused nests as used ones. During this season I visited Ballona about three times a week and gave the birds careful study.
-- W. Lee Chambers, Santa Monica, California.

Sierra Club Opinion
Restoration at Ballona
for the
Snowy Plover

Los Angeles, California
November 8, 2002
Only 100 years ago the Snowy Plover nested at Ballona. What is ironic is that the Friends of Ballona Wetlands has claimed that they have done restoration for 10 years and that over 30,000 people have volunteered. However, all that restoration has not brought back the Snowy Plover. Similarly, the City of Los Angeles, via Ruth Galanter, has told her constituents that the City is doing restoration at Ballona. In a parallel manner of speaking, Playa Vista Development Corporation has stated with large banners, newspaper advertisements, and in press statements, that they are doing restoration of the Ballona. If so, why is the Snowy Plover not restored and recovered at Ballona? The public and citizens ought to know that no private or public property at Ballona is used currently for nesting by Snowy Plover. In California, the remaining sites of Snowy Plover nesting are primarily on state lands and federal lands, almost never on private lands.

Furthermore, the experts on Snowy Plover restoration and recovery work at for the state of California and the federal government. There are virtually no experts on Snowy Plover in the private sector, other than myself and a few others. The state of California and the federal government, nor myself at Ballona Institute and Wetlands Action Network, have been asked by Playa Vista or Friends of Ballona Wetlands to assist in bringing back the Snowy Plover to the private lands at Ballona. Is not the conclusion to be drawn that there is only pseudo-restoration taking place as a public relations stunt? Is Playa Vista and Friends of Ballona Wetlands (FBW) doing only fake restoration?

It seems genuine and true restoration never happened at Ballona. All of us as citizens and generally good-natured folk, if we care about nature and the Snowy Plover, need to be aware that no restoration and recovery of the Plover is occurring at Ballona. All that you hear is merely talk, and hot air, by the Friends of Ballona Wetlands and Playa Vista. Those three are quite a trio of talkers. On the other hand however, the Sierra Club does care about restoration. The Sierra Club cares about nature. The Sierra Club cares about the Snowy Plover. The Sierra Club is working hard toward making a BALLONA STATE PARK. Join us in the venture. Nature and the Snowy Plover will then be restored and recovered at Ballona.