It was the Piping Plover that interested me, this bird’s precarious hold in Minnesota: the where and why. Efforts to keep this bird on our landscape: the who and how.
“Wild and Rare” is a book about hope. It is an exploration of Minneasota places near and far, homes to 10 (plus) endangered species of animal, plant, and insect. The subtitle is “Tracking Endangered Species in the Upper Midwest.”
The stories told by author Adam Regn Arvidson are about the dwarf trout lily, three mussel species, the plover, Leedy’s Roseroot, bush clover, the Poweshiek skippering and the Dakota skipper (butterflies), Canada Lynx, western fringed prairie orchid, Topeka shiner (fish), and the gray wolf.
Some of these you might see with luck and effort. Others, like the mussels, are out of reach, or in the case of the skippering butterfly, to be seen today only at the Minnesota zoo. There efforts are being made to reintroduce this creature to the state.
Humans the their dominance over almost everything everywhere are basic to all of the stories.
The plover story is particularly familiar to me, being a bird.er I have the bird on my state list, but don’t remember exactly where I saw it. I did see it on a trip to Texas while birding on one of the large, sandy, Gulf beaches found there.)
In Minnesota, the beach would be on Lake of the Woods. Don’t try. A small population to begin with was down to two birds seen during a 2011 census. Plovers don’t share well. They need undisturbed habit. Once they also nested on a dredge island in the Duuth harbor. No more.
The birds do nest along sandy river shores in South and North Dakota, along other Great Lakes beaches, and on the Atlantic coast. If you wanted to see one, sandy Missouri River beaches in southeastern South Dakota are places to look. You would want information from local birders first.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the plover as endangered in the Great Lakes area and threatened elsewhere.
Author Arvidson makes exploratory trips for each of these species. He is observant, and excellent with questions for the experts with whom he travels. He follows the caretakers who are trying to save or increase each of the populations so much at risk.
This is a wildlife book, a travel book, a geography book, a science book, all stories well told.
Arvidson, a non-fiction writer and architect living in Minneapolis, has given us an important book. His stories about species falling to small numbers, earning endangered status, should alert us to the human behavior that caused this.
“The Poweshiek Skipper was an unremarkable butterfly,” says zoo conservation biologist Erik Lundquist in the book. “Until it remarkably disappeared.”
It can happen.
(The book was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Hardcover, 320 pages, photos and drawn illustrations, index, bibliography. $22.95. www.mnhspress.org)