It’s a little bird that only calls Michigan home for three months a year and relies on a nesting strategy that was destined to make the species an underdog. But Michiganders have fallen for the beach-loving, ground-nesting piping plover all the same.

In fact, to give this darling of the Endangered Species List a leg up, scientists install cages over their lakeside beach nests to keep predators away, while human monitors check in daily once the plovers lay eggs. The extra attention is paying off: The Great Lakes population now stands at 75 nesting pairs—about half of what is needed to get the birds delisted.

In the Sleeping Bear area, watch for them running the beaches through the middle of August. Just give them some space and keep your dog away.

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Photo(s) by Alice Van Zoren