The Piping Plover has now moved from the status of ‘historical breeding species’ to that of an active contemporary breeding species in the Greater Toronto Area. Earlier today, I confirmed the presence of an active nest of Piping Plover on the beach at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Islands. This represents the first nesting of Piping Plover on the Canadian shore of Lake Ontario since the spring of 1934, when George North found a nest with eggs on Hamilton’s Van Wagners Beach on 4 June 1934 and G. Hubert Richardson discovered a nest with three downy young and one egg at this very same Hanlan’s Point Beach on Toronto Islands on 9 June 1934.
The location of the nest has been shared with the recovery team for Piping Plover of the Canadian Wildlife Service and further protection of this nest (perimeter fencing, predator exclosure, nest monitoring, etc.) under the joint auspices of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority will continue tomorrow.
It is natural that there will be great interest in the outcome of this nest, since this involves the breeding of a species that has not occurred locally in 81 years – a unique event that until now no one currently alive has had the chance to witness. This represents a new ‘beachhead’ in the recovery of this Endangered Species in Ontario and efforts are underway to provide the birds with the best chances for successful nesting. A large area at the north end of Hanlan’s Point Beach has already been fenced off and ‘Do Not Enter’ signage has been erected on all sides of the general nest area. It would be to the birds’ advantage if visitors could avoid the site altogether until the recovery team has had the opportunity to provide further security for the nest area and to coordinate a monitoring protocol and set up a volunteer public interpretive program similar to that at the nesting site at Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay.
In an era when so many of our birds are showing alarming declines, this is an encouraging and novel conservation success story being written one beach at a time. Let’s hope that this pair of Piping Plovers has a successful nesting season to come.