OREGON, Ohio — A pair of birds called piping plovers are nesting along the shore in Ohio.
These endangered birds haven’t nested in Ohio for more than 80 years.
The piping plovers are named Nellie and Nish and they might be the most famous birds in Ohio right now.
The pair has made their nest at Maumee Bay State Park and volunteers like Mark Shieldcastle are working around the clock to make sure they stay safe.
“Well, if you spend any time watching them, you know what’s special about them,” Shieldcastle said. “Talk about cuteness.”
Volunteers like Shieldcastle have helped bring the number of piping plovers up across the Great Lakes region.
“It’s an endangered species. It’s a bird we have almost lost, that in itself makes it special for conservation purposes,” he explained. “It’s been heavily affected by habitat loss, they nest on beaches and humans like beaches as well.”
Shieldcastle said the fact that these birds are nesting in Ohio again after more than eight decades is a positive sign of the species’ rebound.
“The biodiversity is extremely important,” he said. “It’s important to the planet. It’s important to humans, whether they realize it or not.”
Shieldcastle has come to learn a lot about how these birds interact with their environment.
He said the pair takes turns sitting on their four speckled eggs throughout the day.
“The fun part has been learning another species up close and personal,” he said. “You get to start picking out the individual traits that each one has. I mean these are individuals, but you don’t really realize until you spend a lot of time with each one of them.”
He encourages beachgoers to stop by and talk to a volunteer about the rare birds. He said people should see the birds through a pair of binoculars.
“It’s amazing the people that come by us here. They don’t have the slightest idea of what we are doing here,” Shieldcastle said. “Once they have taken one look at the bird, though, they are not going to forget that. They might not become a volunteer or anything like that, but it is something that does kind of surprise you.”
If you would like to volunteer to help with the piping plovers, visit maumeebaypipingplovers.org.