Owen Sound Sun Times: Three of eight Sauble piping plover chicks survive

Leah Articles, Local News, Sauble Beach

Article originally posted August 10, 2012

By Rob Gowan, Owen Sound Sun Times

A 37.5% survival rate may not seem very good, but in the world of the tiny piping plover it isn’t that bad.

Of the eight chicks that hatched at Sauble Beach this summer, three made it.

“That is about average,” said Peter Middleton, a volunteer with the Bruce Resource Stewardship Network’s piping plover monitoring program. “We have been as low as one and as high as seven.”

Middleton said the three young that survived were last seen about a week ago, about a week after their mother was last seen at the beach.

The birds that survived were from a nest near the volleyball courts, not far from downtown Sauble Beach. It was the farthest south the birds had ever nested at the beach since they started nesting again at Sauble in 2007.

While three chicks and the mother from the nest survived, one chick and the male bird were likely lost to a predator, likely merlin, a small bird of prey often seen in the area.

The two adults that had nested at the north end of the beach and their four chicks disappeared in June when the chicks were about five days old.

Middleton said they had never experienced something like that before, calling the loss of all six birds at once “catastrophic.”

Suzanne Robinson, a species at risk biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources said the loss of all six birds was likely due to a predator.

She added that to have three birds survive from one nest is quite good.

“We are happy with that for sure,” said Robinson, adding one or two of the young birds may still be seen in the area of the beach. There is also the potential of piping plovers migrating through the area this time of year.

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 prior to 2007.

The only other known nesting sites in Ontario this year were at Wasaga Beach where six chicks from three nests fledged. Individual birds were also spotted during breeding season on Manitoulin Island and at Lake of the Woods, but there was never any sign of pairs or nest sites. Both areas have seen nesting plovers in recent years, Robinson said.

Both Middleton and Robinson said the year was a successful one in terms of the acceptance of the birds.

“We received great support from the public and beachgoers, great support from the politicians and the (chamber of commerce)” said Robinson. “The general public was quite positive.”