Sometimes plover behaviour is misinterpreted as “comfortable.” For instance, adult plovers with chicks will place themselves close to a potential threat, and even approach it. If a plover walks/runs towards you, and then stands there looking at you, it is trying to protect its chicks. Please give it some space.
Predators may take advantage of distracted adult plovers. By giving space to plover families, you allow the adults to concentrate on keeping a look-out for fast aerial predators like merlins, crows, and gulls.
While you don’t feel like you are distracting a plover, studies show that plovers are distracted by people’s nearby presence. This may be as simple as foraging more slowly (two pecks at the insects, a few seconds to look at a person — compared to continuous pecks at insects). These small changes aren’t much on their own, but considering the high use of the beach by people, the impacts can add up! This is especially true when young chicks are trying to build up enough energy to make the 2000+ km flight south about four weeks after hatching. It is advisable to refrain from setting up beach equipment in front of the fences as this interferes with the plovers’ access to the shoreline, where much of their vital food supplies and foraging occurs.
If you are walking along the beach and see a piping plover, please keep moving through the area and stop some distance away to observe them if you wish. Avoid walking between adults and chicks. This space also allows adult plovers with chicks to spend their energy scouting for predators. A nearby gull thinks chicks are a tasty snack, and an attack from a small falcon called a merlin requires some fancy aerial maneuvering to stay alive. By not distracting them with your presence, you will give them a better chance for survival. You will also be able to observe more natural behaviours.
Major work is done by agencies and community groups. The Piping Plover Recovery Team (made up of both Canadian Wildlife Service and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry staff) assists with protocol and actions including the nest protection and banding young chicks. They receive input from an on-site OMNFR species at risk biologist who maintains the scientific record. The Town of South Bruce Peninsula’s cooperation with the program is very important in protecting the endangered species habitat; this is most evident in the work of the by-law enforcement officers that are active on the beach area each day and evening. Community volunteers assist in monitoring plovers and providing information for interested beachgoers. These volunteers are supported by an Ontario Species at Risk Stewardship Fund grant. A piping plover volunteer committee working in cooperation with the OMNRF administers this grant on behalf of Stewardship Grey Bruce.
Enforcement of the legislation is done by provincial conservation officers, and federal enforcement officers (Canadian Wildlife Service).
The cooperative efforts are key to the success of piping plover nesting on Sauble Beach.
Secondarily, you can call the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry violations reporting line. Report this in as much detail as possible, including time of day, and general descriptions.
Everyone is encouraged to maintain positive attitudes on the beach with respect to the plovers — realize that not everyone may know as much about the subject as you might. If you wish to let someone know about how their actions may disturb piping plovers, please do so with respect and patience. For town by-law infractions, including dogs on the beach, setting off fireworks, and campfires, please report these to the Town of South Bruce Peninsula by-law office.
If you saw a plover on the beach, and wish to report that observation (or saw something that might be important — such as a natural predator attacking a Plover, please send an email with as much detail as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In some situations, beach raking may be limited or prohibited during some or all of the year in order to ensure the habitat for the species is protected and available in the future. The general rule is that beach management activities cannot damage or destroy the habitat or harm the plovers. In addition to habitat specific for plover survival, the maintenance of a natural beach is beneficial for the long-term health of the entire ecosystem. Driftwood and vegetation clumps create “sand traps” that help keep sand on the beach, in the same manner as the dunes do. By raking the beach regularly, many of the natural measures for keeping beach sand where it belongs are removed. This is one reason why dune formation is encouraged at Sauble Beach, and the installation of snow fences helps recreate some of those natural features (driftwood and vegetation clumps) that are removed.