There are a lot of stories out there about how nice and lovely it is to protect Piping Plovers on our beaches in the Hamptons. The protection of this species of birds is an environmental success story. They have come back in full force, they have shut down fireworks because of their nesting habits and they are in general a topic of conversation in the Hamptons.
But there is a dark side to the Piping Plovers, a very dark side.
It wasn’t easy being Denise Bornschein last week, an account executive in display sales here at Dan’s Papers.
During a morning power walk, Denise got a taste of the dark side of the piping plovers, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Very funny yes, but pleasant for her, no.
Before we go into this story, you have to get a visual of what type of person Denise is. She is your classic Hamptons advertising sales woman, very charismatic, all smiles, charming, blonde and funny. I’ve really never known Denise to not be laughing at something, but when she told me her piping plover story, it was fear that resonated, not laughter (okay, maybe a little laughter)
“It was seven in the morning and I was walking down Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays and I was talking to my Mother on my cellphone. I was doing a nice little power walk on the beach for some exercise, when all of the sudden, I started to hear an odd noise and I heard my mother scream on the phone out of concern that she was hearing something really loud and buzzing over the phone.”
The buzzing noise wasn’t an airplane or helicopter, but it was swarm of crazed piping plovers and they were angry, really angry, because Denise had stepped onto their beach and they did not like it one bit.
“There were hundreds of plovers over my head. It was crazy, they were making a lot of noise, and one by one they started dive bombing me. They were like kamikaze pilots. It was very scary. Luckily I was wearing a hot pink Montauk visor so that was blocking them from hitting my face, but one plover did come eye to eye with me. These birds were really coming at me. I started to scream and started running, and I’m really not exaggerating, I really felt like I was running for my life.”
Denise was walking through a large stretch of beach that is between the Ponquogue Pavilion and the Shinnecock Inlet, which is a good one and a half mile stretch. The plovers have totally taken over that space. There are signs that say no trucks are allowed to drive there on the beach, but you can walk through the area quite easily. In the past they used to protect the plovers with fencing, but this year, there is no fencing according to Denise.
“It’s like walk at your own risk over there,” Denise laughed.
One by one, as Denise ran in her hot pink visor down the beach, a plover came swooping down and attempted to smack her in the face with their beaks. As she ran down the beach, Denise threw her arms in the air to try and block the plovers, but she was not looking up out of fear. “I really was genuinely scared. My heart was racing, I was sweating, I was lightheaded, I really felt like I was in that movie The Birds I’m confident that if I didn’t run, I would have been injured,” Denise told me.
“They look so innocent and pretty when they hop up and down on the beach, but then all of the sudden, like out of a science fiction movie, they turn into these psychotic kamikaze dive bombing monsters!”
After Denise escaped the attack, she was able to tell her mother on the telephone, who heard the entire incident occur in real time, that she was okay. It was quite the event, however.
This incidence of plovers attacking humans is not isolated to Denise, in fact, this writer himself was once attacked while walking down the beach and did exactly what Denise did, which was run at top speed down the beach until the bird backed off. Several reports have come into our offices here in Southampton that a group of plovers had attacked them. You just don’t mess with these plovers, they have no fear.