“Decisions are not always easy to make, and it can be so easy to talk your self out of doing something you really want to do. But ultimately, you need to make a decision. Will you go with your gut or will you go with your head? Everything looks so magical on the shoreline, yet you can’t stay in this inbetween place for long. Things change quickly here and your time is limited. There is no room for procrastination here.”
– Animal totem tarot
I find inbetween spaces fascinating, the edges of forests, twilight, shore lines, times and places which are not quite one thing or another. The Wilson’s Plover is a coastal-obligate shorebird so this liminal space is essential to understanding this bird. It’s also important to note that because of this, they are particularly susceptible to rising sea levels.
During twilight, another liminal space, they wander the shoreline in search of food. The shoreline is a place with ever changing boundaries – high and low tide mean it grows and shrinks with the ebb and flow of the sea. It’s a place where land and sea come together, dancing around each other in a way that gives both access to the same liminal space at different times. From an elemental point of view, we are seeing the dance between the creative and emotional energy of the water and the practical and reliable energy of the earth. Bringing these elements together in this cycle of give and take feels magical and makes the shore into a space for magic and manifestation.
In terms of diet, they hunt fiddler crabs – watching for them and then running after them, lunging and extracting the meat with their strong bill. They may do this as part of a loose flock, made up of several families. They also eat other crustaceans, worms and insects.
Wilson’s Plovers nest either as isolated pairs or in loose colonies. Their courtship involves males performing a ritual nest scraping display which involves them dropping their wings, pattering their feet and spreading and lowering their tails in front of females. Once he has convinced her that she should mate with him, he makes several nest scrapes, often near some kind of conspicuous object such as driftwood or a clump of grass. I wonder if this makes it easier to find, like an anchor in the landscape?
Whilst anchors are obviously used to keep boats in one place, I find myself returning to the idea of metaphorical anchors. Places, people, objects and ceremonies can help us feel anchored. It can be easy to feel like you’re drifting through life and many of us have lost the rituals that help to anchor us in time, for example religious celebrations.
“Our elders say that ceremony is the way we can ‘remember to remember’.”
– Robin Wall Kimmerer
Sometimes I will use a stone as an anchor, holding it, turning it over in my hand and keeping it in my pocket in case I need to return to something solid. You might find it helpful to keep something to hand that reminds you of what you are working towards. You might want to build in a Thursday night date night to help you stay anchored to your partner. Or perhaps you want to do something seasonal that helps you to mark the passing time in a conscious way.
Back to the Wilson’s Plover! Their nests are simple scrapes in the sand, with a sparse lining of pebbles, shell, grass and debris. Once the female has selected one of nest sites, she will lay three eggs which she incubates at night and the male incubates during the day. This continues for about 25 days. Once hatched, both parents will tend to the chicks, although the chicks will feed themselves. They tend to take their first flight around 21 days old and leave the nest soon after hatching.
In case you were wondering, the Wilson in question here is Alexander Wilson who was a Scottish-American ornithologist and it was his friend George Ord who named the bird after him.
I realise this is considerably shorter than most of my animal spirit posts, and notably lacking in information around mythology and folklore. Unfortunately, I really struggled to find out much factual information, let alone anything around the symbolism of the Wilson’s Plover… If you happen to know anything more about the Wilson’s Plover then please do share it in the comments below!
My main takeaways from the Wilson’s Plover are really about the magic shoreline and the value in not hanging around procrastinating. As we saw in the quote from the animal totem tarot, there is no room for procrastination here. The tide is rising and you need to make a decision before it engulfs you. Similarly, the chicks don’t hang around long – they hatch and within the same moon cycle, are taking their first flight.
As I’ve been researching – and failing to find much – I have been wondering why the creators of the animal totem tarot deck included this bird. Most of the other cards are well known, well researched, well studied animals such as the chicken or the giraffe but the Wilson’s Plover seems to be a mystery. There is something enigmatic about it and the same is true of liminal spaces and maybe this card is asking us to lean into the unknown, the mysterious and the unclear…