August 8, 2014

Leah Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

Update from Cheryl and Aubrey

The chicks are 21 days old today and spent the afternoon at the 11th drainage ditch foraging in the dune area where there is a pool of stagnant water.
Thank you Alex for putting the “chicks on the beach” signs in strategic areas around the pool of water 🙂
The PIPL’s were still there when we left, so we left the signs there.

When we arrived, the temp was 22°C, NW winds at 10 Km/h.

There was a ‘spotter’ on the eastern side of the pool of water, coffee mug in hand and had been watching the chicks. However, he had lost sight of them ~ 2 minutes prior to our arrival. It took 5 pair of eyes to locate them ~ 20 minutes later. The chicks are selecting great camouflage sites!!

We last saw the PIPL’s on Monday and there were 3 chicks.
At that time Dad was pretty relaxed with them and wandered off short distances away to do his own thing.
His behaviour was very different this time. He kept an eye on them constantly and had a couple of piping sessions with them. During one of the drills, Dad was in a ‘dugout’ ~ 10m away from them and piped continuous notes for ~3 minutes (no signs of predator/danger apparent).
The chicks froze in their spot and remained motionless until the piping stopped. Once it stopped the chicks continued to forage.

The ‘sleepy’ chick is still resting for longer periods and several times it was flat out, laying in an area that had debris the colour of its feathers and some taller grasses .. at one point we wondered if it was still alive and had to stifle the urge to go and check on it (Aubrey’s response 😉 & mine! We’ve never seen it stretch out like this when resting.

Behaviours new to us:

One chick started to bathe while the other was ‘resting’. The resting chick soon joined the sibling and both chicks spent approximately 5 minutes bathing.
Wing flapping & short flight:

The chicks stretched their wings at various times but did not really seem to be practising their flight skills.

At one point a chick scurried over a small embankment and flew a distance of approximately 10 to 15 feet. The other chick followed but did not flap its wings.

The crowd:

Today was one of the busiest days we have seen. There was a lot of activity within 15 metres of the chicks. People were having fun playing bocci ball, football, throwing inflatable rings etc. Children were running around, playing tag and having fun. Even the two children that were chasing the chicks on Monday were back, and Mom was overheard reminding them that they were not allowed to chase the birds 🙂
These behaviours/activities reaffirm our belief that Monitors are necessary even at this late stage. We serve as a “reminder” that there are endangered chicks that do not have not fully developed defense mechanisms and it is unrealistic to expect all beach-goers to ‘remember’ this at all times.

We spoke with people of all ages. It was heart warming to assist an elderly woman with visual difficulties use binoculars and see these birds for her very first time. She had heard about them and wondered why they were protected.
As we were leaving, a Biologist who worked with endangered species in Central America approached us and wondered what we were ‘protecting’. He was eager to learn abut the PIPL’s but also wanted to share his passion for working with endangered species.

All in all it was a very good day!!
As Aubrey says, little did he realize that when he retired, he would be spending his time watching ‘chicks on a beach’ 🙂