Owen Sound Sun Times: Volunteers welcome to monitor piping plovers nesting at Sauble Beach

Leah Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

Article originally posted May 11, 2012

By Bill Henry, Owen Sound Sun Times

Piping plovers are back at Sauble Beach.

At least one pair is getting set to nest at the north end of the public beach area. Some other plovers have also been spotted at Sauble this spring, Craig Todd, stewardship coordinator with the Ministry of Natural Resources said Friday.

With eggs expected soon and little plovers by early July, Todd is setting up training for several dozen volunteers. They will work two or three hours at a stretch to monitor the birds and keep beach visitors aware of the nests and the chicks running around on the sand.

Piping plovers were listed among endangered species in the United States in 1986 and soon after in Canada. They hadn’t been seen this side of the Great Lakes in 25 years until a nesting pair arrived at Sauble in 2007. As many as three pairs have nested in years since then at Sauble.

It’s one of three Ontario nesting sites – the others are at Wasaga Beach and Lake of The Woods – monitored by MNR species at risk biologists with the help of community volunteers. Birds have also made nests sporadically at Oliphant, the MNR has said.

The first training session for volunteer piping plover monitors is scheduled for Tuesday night from 6 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m., with the first volunteers needed at Sauble for the May long weekend.

Todd said he will take as many people as he can find for the session and will offer subsequent training, but he asks that people register ahead of time so he knows how many to expect. About 20 had signed up by Friday.

Register by calling 519-371-8465 or e-mailing craig.todd@ ontario.ca.

The volunteers are needed from the May long weekend into August. The chicks usually hatch just before July and are running around on the beach for about a month before maturing and moving on.

With identifiable blue vests and clipboards, the monitors will keep an eye on the birds nesting area. Part of the role may be encouraging beach visitors who get too close to the nests, and later the chicks, to give the birds some space.

“It’s mainly awareness and education,” Todd said.

Volunteers will also hand out plover tattoos for kids and provide historical and biological information for tourists about the birds.