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Why do the plovers fly away? - Chapter 5

Updated: May 20, 2021

Plastic, plastic everywhere, how much more can I find?

It's in the water, on the beach, plastic of every kind. It's wrapped around the seaweed and the wildlife too. It is literally everywhere, what on earth can I do?

Revolution is happening and we can all work as a team. The goal is a cleaner planet, let's make it more than a dream. Collectively picking up the pieces, we will turn things around. We'll get to a point when we can go for a walk, and not have to look at the ground.

Imagine a future of harmony, all of us working as one. Your planet needs help, there's a lot of work to be done. We can pull together and fix this place, it won't be hard to do.

Because, as a race, we're pretty smart and we all know what to do.

- Plastic, by Roy Beal


Courtship season had begun. Mel watched through her binoculars as a male plover wheeled through the air, swooping low to catch the attention of his desired female. It must be rather annoying for the females, she imagined. The boys at school were always jumping up and smacking the tops of door frames, talking just a little too loud whenever girls were around. Mel couldn’t stand it.

Like Mel, Penelope seemed to keep to the fringes of her group. She was more focused on her next meal than finding a mate, and she scurried about the tideline in search of invertebrates.

Illustration by: Keith Siddle (

“You get me, Penelope,” Mel laughed. “Listen, I’ve got more problems to tell you.”

Penelope cocked her head as if she were paying attention, then struck lightning-fast at a nearly invisible worm, missing by a few millimeters. The bird wasn’t really listening, but Mel didn’t care. It was a Friday afternoon, and she’d given herself an hour to recover from the school day before her shift started with Jackie at the café.

“I’ve seen flyers at school for a new internship,” she said. “There’s a scientist who needs assistants for a study on plover nest mortality. Apparently he used to be a professor at Bangor. My teacher specifically asked me if I’d seen it. He said I’d be the perfect fit.”

Penelope struck again, this time with success. She shuffled a few steps forward, closer than she’d ever ventured before.

“The only thing is, it’s not paid. And Mam and Dad won’t understand if I cut my hours at the café to take an unpaid internship, and I hardly have enough time to study as it is and–are you eating rubbish? Stop that!”

In biology class, Mel had learned that plastics killed a million seabirds each year. The birds could eat it by mistake and starve to death or die from punctured organs. They could become entangled and drown. For young birds like Penelope, it would be easy enough to swallow tiny scraps of plastic by accident while picking through a rubbish pile for bugs.

“Hey! Get out of there!” Mel shouted, waving her arms.

Startled, Penelope skittered off. A wave of guilt washed over Mel. Penelope had just started to become accustomed to her presence, and now she’d scared her away. Would Penelope ever let her get that close again? And had she just made the situation worse by disturbing an animal during the breeding season? Surely that was frowned upon in the birding community. If Penelope wanted to eat plastic, it wasn’t like Mel could stop her. She did her best to leave the beach cleaner than she found it, but some days it felt like she was fighting a losing battle against a sea of plastic. It was everywhere. In the water, on the sand, snagged on tree branches, wedged in the fissures of the cliffs. Mel had read once that microplastics had even been discovered inside the human body.

She trudged over to the small pile Penelope had been picking through. A pair of shredded plastic takeout cups and straws, still sticky with milkshake residue. Sighing, Mel gingerly picked up one of the cups and checked for a recycling label. No luck.

From the other side of the peninsula, a car horn blared twice. Jackie. Mel checked her watch. How has an hour passed already? She took off racing down the beach, plastic rubbish still in hand. It was time for their shift at the café to begin.

Read on:

About the author: Ella Shively is an undergraduate studying natural resources and writing at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, USA. You can find her online at

About this chapter's featured poet: Roy, 49, is a sea kayaker, lover of the outdoors and the founder of Clean Jurassic Coast and Kayaking For Charity. This summer he is kayaking from John O'Groats to Land's End, working with Keep Britain Tidy to raise awareness about the effects of plastics in the marine environment.

About this chapter's illustrator: Keith has been fascinated by wildlife since childhood and has been a professional artist for over 30 years. As a self-taught artist, Keith initially honed his skills by studying and specialising in painting the oriental and beautifully ornamental fish, Koi (Nishikigoi). Keith embraced the same work ethos that the most eminent Japanese Koi breeders use in nurturing their Champions: Dedication, patience, detail, enthusiasm and passion. These skills enabled Keith to expand and experiment with his subject matter, from Tropical Marine fish and other Sealife inspired by his Scuba Diving experiences to Food Art, inspired by…..eating! Keith’s love of colour, imagination and drawing has led him to writing, illustrating and self-publishing his own range of children’s picture books. His stories are based on things he cares about or seen…from “Jack” (their old one-eyed “Pirate” cat) to conservation and the rubbish in our oceans.

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