August 8, 2014

Leah Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

Update from Cheryl and Aubrey

The chicks are 21 days old today and spent the afternoon at the 11th drainage ditch foraging in the dune area where there is a pool of stagnant water.
Thank you Alex for putting the “chicks on the beach” signs in strategic areas around the pool of water 🙂
The PIPL’s were still there when we left, so we left the signs there.

When we arrived, the temp was 22°C, NW winds at 10 Km/h.

There was a ‘spotter’ on the eastern side of the pool of water, coffee mug in hand and had been watching the chicks. However, he had lost sight of them ~ 2 minutes prior to our arrival. It took 5 pair of eyes to locate them ~ 20 minutes later. The chicks are selecting great camouflage sites!!

We last saw the PIPL’s on Monday and there were 3 chicks.
At that time Dad was pretty relaxed with them and wandered off short distances away to do his own thing.
His behaviour was very different this time. He kept an eye on them constantly and had a couple of piping sessions with them. During one of the drills, Dad was in a ‘dugout’ ~ 10m away from them and piped continuous notes for ~3 minutes (no signs of predator/danger apparent).
The chicks froze in their spot and remained motionless until the piping stopped. Once it stopped the chicks continued to forage.

The ‘sleepy’ chick is still resting for longer periods and several times it was flat out, laying in an area that had debris the colour of its feathers and some taller grasses .. at one point we wondered if it was still alive and had to stifle the urge to go and check on it (Aubrey’s response 😉 & mine! We’ve never seen it stretch out like this when resting.

Behaviours new to us:

One chick started to bathe while the other was ‘resting’. The resting chick soon joined the sibling and both chicks spent approximately 5 minutes bathing.
Wing flapping & short flight:

The chicks stretched their wings at various times but did not really seem to be practising their flight skills.

At one point a chick scurried over a small embankment and flew a distance of approximately 10 to 15 feet. The other chick followed but did not flap its wings.

The crowd:

Today was one of the busiest days we have seen. There was a lot of activity within 15 metres of the chicks. People were having fun playing bocci ball, football, throwing inflatable rings etc. Children were running around, playing tag and having fun. Even the two children that were chasing the chicks on Monday were back, and Mom was overheard reminding them that they were not allowed to chase the birds 🙂
These behaviours/activities reaffirm our belief that Monitors are necessary even at this late stage. We serve as a “reminder” that there are endangered chicks that do not have not fully developed defense mechanisms and it is unrealistic to expect all beach-goers to ‘remember’ this at all times.

We spoke with people of all ages. It was heart warming to assist an elderly woman with visual difficulties use binoculars and see these birds for her very first time. She had heard about them and wondered why they were protected.
As we were leaving, a Biologist who worked with endangered species in Central America approached us and wondered what we were ‘protecting’. He was eager to learn abut the PIPL’s but also wanted to share his passion for working with endangered species.

All in all it was a very good day!!
As Aubrey says, little did he realize that when he retired, he would be spending his time watching ‘chicks on a beach’ 🙂

August 5, 2014

Leah Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

This afternoon there were only 2 chicks and male seen at the 11 Street North drainage ditch. All three chicks were seen in the morning however I am unsure when they were last seen all together.

Anita and Bob were on the schedule this morning. I am not sure if my calendar is slightly outdated or not but any chance you saw all three between 8 and noon?

There is one chick that does like to wander so hopefully he was just out and about. I covered all of the beach from main street parking lot to river mouth and back and looked in all the big holes etc. No luck however this little guy is pretty crafty.

August 4, 2014

Leah Port Elgin, Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

Carolyn’s Update:

All chicks were in perimeter with Male last night between 6:45 and 8:15pm. They were in southeast corner of perimeter until about 7:30pm then they headed towards drainage ditch on North side of perimeter. Around 7:45pm Male moved them North up the beach to forage approx half way to river mouth on far side of a drainage ditch up there. Things were quite quiet on the beach and all were accounted for when I left. I will be out in the afternoon to take a look! They have been really using the foredune grass in the last few days and sometimes are really hard to see!

Sauble Beach, 1pm to 6pm

All 3 chicks and male spent the afternoon at the narrow op part of the drainage ditch at 11 St N. They foraged, rested, preened and bathed and wondered around the foredune all while the male kept a close eye. They were pulling out really big worms or larva and just generally enjoying the beach.

A thick fog rolled in and a cool breeze which led to a lot of people leaving the beach. Nice for the birds. They did well with some bikes going by the OPP 4 wheeler and even the garbage truck. At this point they can easily navigate out of the way and are doing well with these things. Just before I left some exuberant children wanted to chase the plovers and pet them but with some quick action this was stopped and the kids 4 and 6 years old for the most part sat and watched while myself and their mother made sure they weren’t chasing the birds and they had a quick lesson in plover 101 with some handouts and tattoos. All in all a great day.

Alex and Cheryl and Aubrey were also out enjoying the beautiful day. It was wonderful that it was not as crowded as Fri/Sat/Sun and the birds had a bit more freedom to move around.

Oh yeah also forgot to mention lots of wings a flappin today. They would go upward an inch or two but so far that is all. They have really gotten big and are starting to look a little less fuzzy. Hopefully we will start to see some shorter flights soon!

Port Elgin

The PE chicks had not returned back to PE since last Thursday so the perimeter in Port Elgin was removed on Sat morning. A big thank you to Stew Nutt for helping take it down. It was tough work and a hot day! People enjoyed learning of the birds success and happily reclaimed the beach some people even thought the birds should have stayed along with the perimeter!

The 4 chicks have been seen on Gobles Grove all together as well as in groups of 1, 2, or 3. Not sure where they are spending the rest of their time but they were not at PE on Sunday. Stew Nutt saw all four at Gobles today. They are doing quite well navigating the busy shoreline and flying when needed. They are officially on their way!! A very proud moment for us all!

August 2, 2014

Leah Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

Variety store, 3 chicks and dad are south of perimeter in the creek. The chicks moved north towards perimeter all passed within two feet of a gull at the shore who ignored them. That’s a good thing. M2 is still in the creek piping a lot, think he’s lost track of the chicks, one chick goes halfway back and dad finally catches up, all are around southwest corner of perimeter.

August 1, 2014

Leah Port Elgin, Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

Carolyn’s update:

Sauble Beach

The 3 chicks are doing well this afternoon when I arrived around 4 ish. Cheryl and Aubrey were hard at it talking and providing lots of information to a very interested public on the beach. The chicks are quite big now and flapping their wings a lot they foraged in the South East corner of the perimeter in the high grass near the snow fence for the better part of the afternoon, had a nap and then off they went to the NorthWest corner and out to the drainage ditch. By 5:30 pm most of the beach goers were gone and the chicks were out foraging around the perimeter and off with Male looking like they were going to head North. As things quieted down we packed up to let the plovers do their thing!

Port Elgin

Looks like our kids have left the nest. They did not come back to the perimeter Thursday night or this morning. Stew spotted the 3 of the chicks on Gobles around 11 am ish and when I arrived after noon we spotted the final chick. All 4 doing well and foraging at waveline. Many beachgoers said they saw the plovers on the beach Thursday. They are navigating around people and gulls well. If they do not return to the perimeter tonight or tomorrow morning the perimeter will be removed.

Survey of some of the beaches north of Port Elgin were completed this morning. No plovers were seen but there are some nice beaches for the plovers to stop over to forage on their way South.

Variety store dad with 3 chicks, all out and about front of perimeter then chicks went into a stick inside perimeter, dad went to them and all brooded best they could fit.

July 31, 2014

Leah Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

Carolyn’s Update:
Sauble’s North chicks doing well! Dad piped to them yesterday from the north side of drainage ditch and they all came to him however they couldn’t pass at shore because the waves were too rough so they all three approached the slimiest part of the ditch and waited and pondered he continued to pipe and then the 1st one crossed the water it was then the 2nd followed hesitantly by the 3rd. I will send pictures tonight.

Saw some wings flapping followed by a second with toes mm’s off the ground! I think we will see some practice flights in upcoming days! They are really enjoying the North end of the beach for foraging!

PE chicks were not in the perimeter when I arrived yesterday however were all seen by Stew Nutt in am. I walked to Gobles and no sight of them while Stew checked on them in the evening and they were not back so perhaps they have moved on. A survey of some of the southern shoreline might reveal their location today so I will let you know!

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Endangered Species: Toxins in the Great Lakes

Cheryl Ferguson Articles, Global News, Local News, Plover Lovers Committee

By Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter
Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 2:16 PM

A recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that toxins in the Great Lakes are killing birds at an alarming rate.

Since 1999, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 birds have died from avian botulism in this region.

The disease attacks the nervous system leading to paralysis and, often, death by drowning.

Some birds are more vulnerable to the disease than others, among them: the piping plover.

RELATED: Studies show water toxins are poisoning birds, fish and coral 

This small, sand-coloured bird can be found on shorelines across North America.

During the winter months, they migrate to the Gulf of Mexico and the southern Atlantic coast of the United States, as well as the Caribbean.

In eastern Canada, the species can be seen on coastal beaches.

In Ontario, a substantial population has completely vanished.

Water toxins aren’t the only threat that has put this species at risk. Natural predators — like foxes and crows — and severe weather have both played a role in their decline.

Piping plovers build their nests along gravel shorelines, making them vulnerable to spring tides and severe storms.

The Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) added the piping plover to its endangered species list in 1985, nearly thirty years ago.

“The interior subspecies of this shorebird is projected to decline over the longer term, particularly if concerted conservation efforts are relaxed,” COSEWIC writes.

“Overall numbers remain low and adult survival has been poor over the last decade. Threats from predation, human disturbance, and declines in habitat extent and quality continue.”

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons


  • Respect breeding grounds. “If you find yourself on a beach where piping plovers are nesting you can help by respecting closed areas and by informing others about the plover and its plight,” writes PEI’s National Park of Canada. “If you think you may have found an unprotected nest, report it.”
  • When visiting shorelines, keep your pets leashed.
  • Avoid designated nesting areas between May and August.

South Nest fledges three chicks

Leah Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

Overall a successful year at Sauble Beach — beachgoer support of the southern nest was positive, and a direct result of this positivity is the survival of three of the four chicks from this nest.

For some highlights, check out this recent article in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

Plovers may still be using areas of Sauble Beach – either the chicks that grew up on the beach, or others migrating south.