We have just returned from spending an afternoon observing the four new chicks that hatched on Friday. What a relief it was to find that single parent, Flag Boy (Of,OB:X,L) and his four chicks had made their way from Nest #1 to the adjacent exclosure of Nest #3 where they had the ideal setting of food, running water in the form of a small run-off stream, and shelter from the abundant grasses within the perimeter fence.
It is hard to believe that only a week ago Nest #1 was in danger of being flooded out. That area was dry today as a result of the trenching that was carried out and the hot, dry spell we are enjoying.
However, that meant that there was no water easily accessible to the chicks. With the human beach traffic coming alive in response to the warm weather, the ideal feeding area along the water’s edge was not readily accessible and presented considerable danger for chicks that are still learning to avoid speed wobbles. Flag Boy astutely relocated his crew.
The chicks were between the exclosure and the run-off. Two male Mallard ducks sat and napped all afternoon at the edge of the run-off while appearing to also be keeping an eye on the little chicks. We noted that no gulls chose to loaf in that area. At times, Flag Boy would leave his chicks for 10 to 20 minutes and fly over the stream to forage at a nearby pool while the chicks foraged in the company of the Mallards. Upon his return, Flag Boy on several occasions would land on the south side of the stream and pipe encouragements to his chicks to join him; they approached the stream several times but were afraid to venture in, not realizing yet that they can not only walk but they can already swim too.
For those readers who might be wondering, Nest #3 exclosure was available because it had been abandoned shortly after the unexplained disappearance of Mr. Lonely (X,Y:O,Y 020) on June 15; thought to be the first predation of the season. Not unexpectedly, his mate was not prepared to incubate the eggs alone and left the next day for the north part of the beach where she has been seen in the company of Port Boy (neither observed this p.m. due to heavy beach use). Nest #3 eggs will be harvested on Monday and forwarded to the University of Guelph for examination and testing. These will be the first eggs to be forwarded for examination as Nest #2 eggs were lost in the wash-over June 8 and despite the best efforts of Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry staff, the eggs were not found.
Flag Boy is raising his chicks as a single parent as his mate is thought to have been predated on Saturday, the day after her chicks hatched. This Piping Plover pair was a unique pair as they hatched four chicks and saw two fledge last summer. To cap it off, they found one another this spring and started the process anew. This is not unheard of, but not common, at least, in our experience.
We can be sad that two adult birds are thought to have been predated and only four of 12 eggs have hatched, or we can be elated that the four eggs that have hatched are thriving under the supervision of an experienced parent. We chose to be elated.
Happy Father’s Day to Plover Lovers, wherever you are.