Melody flew tucked in the middle of a small flock of fellow Piping Plovers. No larger than a sparrow, Melody was a full-grown plover, but was grateful for the protection the flock provided. As the group pressed on she became more aware of the male birds, and they seemed to notice her too. The biological need to reproduce drove them north to the nesting grounds.
The plovers were healthy and they made good time. Early on their second day of flying a thin sliver of land appeared ahead; the southern edge of North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Melody was famished. She had been airborne now for more than 24 hours. How relieved she must have felt to see the promise of food and rest just ahead. But Melody's relief was short-lived...
As she flew over beaches dotted with off road vehicles, vacation houses, and people enjoying the first days of spring she grew increasingly anxious. Melody couldn't see any sign of the familiar tidal flats where she knew plovers could find food.
Melody had not eaten since leaving the Bahamas and she knew the weaker she was the harder it would be to avoid predators. Finding food could be a matter of life or death. Weakened and flying slowly, she spotted a giant gathering of plovers and other shorebirds on the beach below. She made a circling descent to investigate. The spot looked promising; hundreds of birds rooted in the damp sand pulling up tasty morsels. She picked out a landing spot in the crowd.
Her feet had barely touched the sand before other birds were on her, trilling threats and pecking at Melody's wings. It was simply too crowded. But Melody had no more thought of flight. She had to find food here.
With her strength ebbing, Melody fought back, eventually securing a spot in the jam-packed tidal flat where she could feed in peace. Melody spent three days in North Carolina replenishing her exhausted reserves. Several times she had to flee oncoming trucks and beach buggies, which seemed to aim straight at the densest packs of birds. A few plovers didn't make it.
Melody's strength returned and with it came the urge to fly north and find a mate. The survival of any species depends on its ability to raise successful young and keep the population from declining. Evolution had made Melody's desire to mother chicks strong. Again she was airborne.
Will Melody make it back to Long Island? Find out in the final installment!
You can help Melody along her journey by taking action to protect Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina