Dan Rattiner's Stories

Fourth of July Moved to Labor Day Weekend for Piping Plovers’ Sake, But Why?

East Hampton had its Fourth of July fireworks on Main Beach on Saturday of Labor Day weekend. This is the 10th year in a row they’ve been doing this, holding the celebration for the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence about 60 days late. They do this because 10 years ago, it was found that some Piping Plovers, an endangered species of birds, were nesting by the beach pavilion on July 4 and we didn’t want to scare them.

This has never made sense to me. And it still doesn’t. If we’re afraid of scaring the plovers out of their nests in the beginning of July, why is it okay to scare the plovers out of their nests in the first week of September?

I’ve been told that it has to do with the hatching of the eggs. I’ve looked it up. The plovers arrive here in March and choose their nests. The females lay eggs. The babies are hatched by the end of April. The fledglings hang around their nests with their parents while they grow up, everyone’s flying by mid-June and by the end of September all of them, parents and kids, have headed south.

So what’s the difference between July 4 and September 5? Nothing. On July 4, the parents and kids are already flying around. Indeed, there are so many of them at Main Beach now that in the morning, when the bugs wake up and fly around, if you go to Main Beach, the plovers will divebomb you to keep you from interfering with their morning meal.

And Labor Day? Same thing.

A late night barrage of sparks and fireworks and bangs and booms will scare the hell out of them either way. And they don’t think ahead. If anything, the big crashes and bangs of the fireworks on September 5 will disrupt them more than the ones in July. They’ve been living in their nests for months. It’s their home. And they don’t know about time. The itch comes to fly south later in September and one day they all fly south. All that a Labor Day fireworks will do is get them scurrying around and packing up to get the hell out of there before it’s time.

The plovers also don’t know about logic. They don’t understand that the fireworks are held at the beginning of the month because a few days later, all the summer people go home.

So yeah, birds, it’s a compromise. Get used to it.

I say lets tell them to get used to the fireworks in July, when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Having the whole town down at Main Beach on blankets on July 4 at 9:30 p.m. to celebrate that was a big community event for nearly half a century before the Plovers scared us off. We didn’t retreat from the British.

The plovers will forget they got scared. They’ll come back. And then they’ll enjoy all summer and the fabulous September here until its time to go.

Let’s have the Fourth of July on the Fourth of July, just as George Washington intended.

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