Mountain Plovers, unlike certain other mountain birds, are a true birder's bird. The likelihood of actually noticing a Mountain Plover without searching for them for hours and hours (or, for most people, years and years) is astronomically high. Everything about them seems to be overlookable...their habitat, their coloration, and their habits.
Although Mountain Plovers were never a nemesis bird for me (they were, or possibly still are, semi regular at a spot in coastal Ventura County, CA, where I began birding), they don't exactly have a habit of presenting themselves to me. Until last month, the last one I had seen was one in 2008, with a flock of Black-bellieds cruising over Fig Lagoon, deep within the bowels of the Imperial Valley.
Late in December I made a trip to the Carrizo Plain and was slammed with flock after flock of Mountain Plovers. I couldn't believe it. I had been to the Plain many times and always went home ploverless. We found a total of 3 flocks, all of which I detected by naked eye. That's the sort of thing that gets you up to Number 7 in the Nation, people.
Mountain Plovers have a pretty limited range (that do not include any mountains), and in California are only truly reliable in a handful of spots. Their population has plummeted over the last 100 years. As with most rare birds, habitat loss is the number one cause of their decline throughout their range. During the Bush era (aka The Dark Ages), the federal government decided to not add the Mountain Plover to the Endangered Species list. Since then, it has been revealed that the person (that's Julie MacDonald, enemy of nature) who made this decision was a complete hack, and now the plover is getting another shot at getting the protection it needs.
This plover is running down a small invertebrate. It will meet its doom in the grip of the Mountain Plover's massive and powerful bill, which is widely known to be able to reduce a human skull to a fine dust. Note the distinctive white death-visor it wears.