As 2016 is about to fledge, we naturally become reflective about our piping plover experiences and learning in the year, 2015; a year well worth celebrating!
Here’s the bottom line for 2015 at Sauble Beach (aka the municipality of South Bruce Peninsula) in Ontario, Canada:
- 15 adult piping plovers – 3 males spent the season without partners!
- 4 nests
- 15 eggs laid
- 8 chicks hatched
- 3 fledged
But 2015 was much more than a year highlighted by the fledging of three piping plovers on the eastern shores of Lake Huron; another nine hatched ‘next door’ at Wasaga Beach, and perhaps another two (unsupervised) to the north on the shores of Manitoulin Island. The efforts of two little birds to form a union on one of the Toronto Islands after an absence of their species for 82 years was further evidence that there is a meaningful recovery underway. And from an awareness perspective, it helps when a pair of plovers nests in view of the downtown of the fourth largest city in North America.
The Great Lakes area was home to 75 nesting pairs, a record since the recovery effort started in Michigan some three decades ago.
In the bigger picture the Great Lakes area was home to 75 nesting pairs, a record since the recovery effort started in Michigan some three decades ago.
But the recovery effort is more than simple numbers. As 2016 approaches, the activities of the many people and organizations that contributed to the successful fledging of piping plovers are foremost in our thoughts. We appreciated the broad-based source of support, be it:
- a dedicated local beach-walker that could be counted on every morning for an update on the nests and chicks; or
- the efforts of other volunteers as individuals, or as members of local organizations such as the Owen Sound Field Naturalists and the Bruce Birding Club; or
- the tireless efforts of the South Bruce Peninsula Bylaw Enforcement officers; or
- staff of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry; or
- the Owen Sound Sun Times newspaper reporter than became a self-confessed Plover Lover as the summer advanced
Through social media we’ve been able to reach out beyond our beach to share information/or learn from like-minded individuals in other:
- municipalities (Wasaga Beach, Toronto Island),
- provinces (Saskatchewan, PEI, Nova Scotia, NFLD),
- states (Michigan, Virginia, Florida, Texas), and
- countries and continents (USA, Australia, UK, Bahamas)
Through this collective of bird watchers and plover lovers came further learning and encouragement… Until this year we had no appreciation of the number of different types of ‘plovers’ that exist around the world, or that some share a common challenge of being marginalized and diminished in number as urbanization claims more and more of their natural habitat. We appreciate Sauble Beach’s supportive by-laws that ban dogs and ATVs on the beach. We also learned through the sharing of information that there are more ideas to investigate and perhaps help the recovery efforts — most notably, the miniature “A” Frame structures used in Australia and along the Atlantic shores to provide shelter from beaches that have been denuded of natural materials washed ashore by the waves.
The year 2015 was highlighted by learning on our own beach as well. We observed efforts by the government biologist to research ways to deter gulls, the primary predator of the Piping Plovers. We look forward to learning the results of these efforts prior to the next nesting season.
We also observed different behaviours this year… The chicks went up into the dunes and tall grasses more frequently than in previous years to escape the hordes of beach-goers that came out as the weather warmed; and unattached males pitched in with paired birds to deter gulls which ventured too close to the nest and chicks.
Accordingly, the Plover Lovers Committee of Stewardship Grey Bruce extends a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the many formal and informal volunteers who supported the Piping Plovers as they journeyed to their wintering grounds. We look forward to renewing acquaintances with everyone who was involved in 2015, and encourage them to bring their friends and family along to contribute to another successful year in 2016.
Until we see you in the ‘hood — whether that be Sauble Beach or our digital ‘hood’ — we wish everyone a successful, happy, and healthy New Year.
Postscript: 2016 will see the next North American piping plover census. In the previous audit, there were an estimated 8000 plovers; let’s hope that in 2016 we learn that their numbers have continued to increase. Plover Lovers will share information about the census as we learn more.