What on earth could be more popular than a top-ranked team of electric cooperative lineworkers winning the state lineman rodeo? Apparently the fate of a tiny shorebird nesting smack-dab in the middle of one of the South Carolina co-op’s parking lots.
“Normally our linemen are the big hits on our social media page, but that bird has sort of beat all of them,” said Micah Ponce, communications and media specialist at Berkeley Electric Cooperative based in Moncks Corner.
“That bird” is a mother killdeer who scratched out a nest for her four eggs in a gravel lot on Johns Island where the co-op keeps forklifts and line trucks. A co-op employee happened to spot the bird and her clutch, and the team quickly built a safe space around the nest with orange traffic cones. Three chicks hatched in early April, but it can be up to a month before they are fully fledged and ready to leave the nest.
“We still have the area cordoned off, and our facilities manager and director of corporate services sent out another heads-up to our guys who operate the trucks,” Ponce said. “They really have to keep an eye out, because those chicks are tiny.”
Killdeer, which are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, typically nest in open rocky areas to camouflage their eggs, which resemble pebbles. Berkeley Electric crews often see the birds settling into quieter gravel areas around the co-op’s substations, but this mother’s decision to nest amid heavy moving equipment was about as surprising as the widespread attention the story has gotten.
“It caught like wildfire,” said Ponce.
Media outlets from hometown television stations to Southern Living to Yahoo and MSN picked up the story. Schoolchildren traveled a half-hour from Charleston to bring the co-op handmade signs with messages to protect the killdeer.
Social media posts about the nest and Berkeley Electric’s accommodations soon eclipsed hits about the co-op’s lineworker team capturing first place overall in the third annual South Carolina Lineman’s Rodeo at Palmetto Electric Cooperative in Ridgeland in late March.
“Our guys did pretty good at the lineman rodeo that we just had, and so you know that post was doing well,” said Ponce. “And then here comes the bird and completely leaves them in the dust. It’s sort of become a running joke all in good humor.”
And that bird barricade wasn’t Berkeley Electric’s first rodeo. The co-op has assisted with critter conservation by setting up poles for ospreys to nest in and earlier this year aided the return of a fallen juvenile eagle to its nest 100 feet up a tree.
“We’re always willing to do our part to protect our environment,” Ponce said. “We work with our members as well on keeping the Lowcountry where we live and work a beautiful place to be.”
Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.