The Coal Oil Point Reserve will hold a tour this Saturday so locals can catch a glimpse of the private lives of the reserve’s protected plovers.

Cristina Sandoval, director of Coal Oil Point Reserve, will lead a tour of the reserve from 10 a.m. to noon. After the tour, there will be a plover docent training session from 2 to 4 p.m. for those who would like to get involved with the efforts to protect the threatened western snowy plovers and their habitat. Aspiring docents must attend both the tour and the training session, which are free and open to the general public.

“It’s a great way for students to learn about the history of the reserve and the history of the plovers,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said Saturday will be the third time a tour of the reserve has been offered to the general public since the California Coastal Commission voted to close off a section of Sands Beach in Fall 2001 in an attempt to minimize impact on the plover population. She said the reserve will offer public tours on the first Saturday of every month.

“We have learned that these tours are very effective at teaching people about the reserve,” she said.

Since the plover breeding season has already begun, Sandoval said those on the tour may catch a glimpse of plovers nesting, attending to chicks or even copulating.

“Plovers are very public-friendly animals,” she said. “You can observe them from a very close distance – about 50 feet – and they build their nests right on the flat sand.”

Plover docent Ed Easton has been a part of the docent program since it began in June 2001. Easton said his work as a docent has been difficult at times, especially when part of the beach was closed off for the first time and many beach-goers were reluctant to stay out of the protected areas. Despite this, Easton said it has been a rewarding experience.

“I can’t say that every hour has been sheer, unadulterated pleasure,” Easton said. “But you never lose the sense that you’re doing something that makes a difference.”

The plover population has been growing steadily over the past several years, an improvement that Easton said he is thankful to have been a part of.

“The satisfaction of seeing the numbers rise from one to 14 to 39 [plover chicks] has been incredible,” Easton said.