By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound
Thursday, May 26, 2016 3:19:20 EDT PM
Two pairs of piping plovers are now incubating clutches of eggs at Sauble Beach, while another pair of the endangered shorebirds have begun to mate.
“It’s very exciting. It’s nice to see that their breeding season is progressing as it should and we’re feeling really lucky to have two nests and hopefully more on the way,” Jenna Skinner, volunteer co-ordinator of the piping plover volunteer monitoring program, said Thursday in an interview.
She said there is also a lone male plover at the beach that has yet to find a mate, but members of the local Plover Lovers group are hoping one will arrive at Sauble for him soon.
Piping plovers, which are protected by both the federal Species at Risk Act and provincial Endangered Species Act, returned to Sauble Beach in 2007 after a 30-year absence.
Last year, 15 piping plover eggs were laid by four adult nesting pairs at sites along the South Bruce Peninsula beach on Lake Huron.
Eight chicks hatched, but five were later killed by predators. The local group believes three chicks successfully fledged and headed south for the winter.
This year, volunteer monitors spotted the first nest at Sauble May 16 on a part of the beach just south of 4th Street. That nesting pair also bred at Sauble last year and two of their chicks fledged. The couple reunited on the beach this spring. Volunteers have confirmed there are four eggs in their nest.
The second nest was discovered May 20 just north of 4th Street and within sight of the first nest. The adults incubating eggs at that nest also spent last year’s breeding season at Sauble, Skinner said, but they did not mate together. Monitors have not yet been able to confirm the number of eggs in that nest.
Wire exclosures, which protect the eggs from predators while allowing the adults to run in and out, have been placed over both nests. Areas around both exclosures have been roped off.
A male bird, which the Plover Lovers group has nicknamed Mr. Lonely because he did not find a mate last season, began courting a female recently. Skinner said she has received confirmation that the pair has mated near 3rd Street.
The lone male bird is a plover that nested two years ago at Port Elgin.
Norah Toth, chair of Stewardship Grey Bruce and a Plover Lover volunteer, said there is still potential that more pairs of plovers will mate at Sauble this year.
“I would say it’s more 70 per cent that there will not be anymore but there could be. We had nesting occurring fairly late last year,” she said.
Female plovers typically lay four eggs over several days. However, the birds will not begin to incubate the clutch until all of the eggs are laid, so the chicks will hatch at the same time. The female and male plovers take turns incubating the eggs. Chicks will hatch about 26 to 30 days after incubation begins.
Volunteer monitors are already on Sauble Beach to educate people about the birds, monitor their habits and the presence of predators and protect the eggs and chicks from predators until they fledge.
The work is done under the direction of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The Plover Lovers group is always looking for more volunteers. An orientation session is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Sauble Beach Community Centre. Anyone interested in volunteering can attend, as well as people who just want to learn more about the birds.
Toth said people are welcome to come to Sauble to see the plovers. They can watch the nesting pairs from outside of the roped-off areas, she said, but the group asks that people not stop between the rope and water, since that area is used by the plovers to reach the water where they forage for food.
“We want the community to try to embrace the plovers,” she said.
Piping plovers – which spend their winters in the southern United States and Mexico – were near extinction on the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s. Their population has since rebounded to about 70 pairs thanks to government-led conservation efforts and the help of numerous volunteers.
Their greatest threats are birds, like ring-billed gulls, and mammals, like dogs and foxes.
Piping plovers have also been confirmed at Wasaga Beach this year. Ten of the 16 birds that arrived at the beach this spring have paired up and established five nests. Their eggs are expected to hatch in mid-June.
Original article: http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2016/05/26/rare-plovers-incubating-eggs-at-sauble-beach