Why “Plover”?

mountain-plover-logo-smallAfter the fashion of Kenn Kaufman, well-known birding expert, I have chosen the name of a bird that I feel represents who I am.

I grew up on the beaches of Southern California. At the age of six, I announced to my startled parents that I wanted to be an ichthyologist when I grew up.

At age 21, I graduated from college with an education in marine biology.

At age 22, I worked as a typist for an insurance company, then as a file clerk for a shopping center developer. It turns out that you really need a PhD to have a career in marine biology. I opted for a teaching credential instead.

I turned to teaching as a way to use my degree without getting another one, but it surprised me by suiting my personality extremely well. My too-few years as a science teacher at a high school in San Jose, California ended with the birth of our first daughter. But once a teacher, always a teacher.

It’s now many years later. We live in the middle of the continent; the closest marine creatures are over 1,000 miles away. While my longings are still for the ocean, my feet are firmly planted in Colorado soil.

So… what does a marine-biologist-turned-teacher-turned-mom-turned-landlubber do? In my case, I started learning about the nature at my doorstep. Colorado is a naturalist’s delight, and there are plenty of opportunities to get outside. I equally enjoy hiking the high country and exploring the eastern plains.

In 2001, I trained to become a Colorado Master Gardener. It’s a good fit—volunteering for the county extension service involves studying living organisms, and gives me a chance to pass on that knowledge to others through lectures, articles, and photographs.

Then, in 2004, I had the opportunity to attend a conference at a Franciscan retreat center in Scottsdale, Arizona. The many bird feeders scattered around the grounds attracted an incredible variety of wild birds. Something resonated deep within me, and I added “birder” to my list of interests. I’m now an active member of our local Audubon chapter—still learning, and still teaching.

So, why Plover? Well, for the most part, plovers are shore birds. Some kinds live inland near bodies of fresh water, but most species prefer ocean beaches. While I am far from the coast, I miss the ocean. It will always be a part of who I am.

Mountain Plovers are an exception to the plover family trade. They spend the summer here in Colorado, mostly on the short-grass prairies of the eastern plains. There they breed and raise their young. Then, in late summer, they head south to warmer climes. (I’d like to go somewhere warm for the winter, too.)

We live very close to the mountains—the view is spectacular—but we too live on the high plains. So I indentify with a bird that belongs to a family that enjoys the beach, is named for the mountains, but ends up living where it’s mostly flat and dry.