Birding Beach Talks

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In our past two beach talks, we moved back towards discussions of the birds that inhabit the Huron Fringe. We are a bird group, after all, and we had some great opportunities to go out as a group after the presentations to watch the fledglings foraging. For those of you who wanted to attend but couldn’t, here is a quick summary!

Birds and Ecology Along Lake Huron Shore
Mark Wiercinski is always a crowd pleaser and he did not disappoint! While Mark talked about the Piping Plovers living along the shores of Lake Huron, he went on to talk about the many species of birds inhabiting Bruce-Grey. Mark emphasized the significance of the predator populations in our area, explaining how the populations of Merlins, Bald Eagles, and Osprey that we are lucky to have demonstrate the health of local ecosystems. As he said in the presentation, if an Osprey is eating the fish, you know you can safely eat the fish here as well. He asked us not to dislike the predators for doing what they must do to survive. Mark went on to encourage us to see the extraordinary behaviours in the backyard birds we see every day. Instead of dismissing a Blue Jay, we should look closely at its behaviour, as it carefully watches Black-Capped Chickadees hide seeds for winter and later returns to cache those seeds for itself. Mark inspired everyone to view every bird as an integral part of our local ecosystem and we were very glad to have him.

Sauble’s Super Survivors: A Piping Plover Prop Talk
Alicia Fortin, Plover Lovers Outreach and Education Coordinator worked to bring everyone up to speed on the progress of the Piping Plovers this summer on Sauble Beach. We have found this summer to be one of many surprises, from the birds nesting in unconventional vegetated areas to chicks swimming across drainage ditches! In spite of (or maybe thanks to) the chilly, rainy weather this spring, the Piping Plovers have managed to raise 7 fledglings who will be leaving the beach any day now. We were surprised again when the Piping Plovers had kindly stayed at the “pool” in front of Huron Feathers to forage when we went outside to see them! They were joined by Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers as well. We continue to be surprised by these amazing shorebirds, and we hope that they will continue to have success in the years to come!

We still have two upcoming Beach Talks to wrap up our series. Learn more about what makes our sandy shorelines special with Peter Middleton when he presents Beaches: A Lot More Than Sand on Wednesday, July 26. Peter’s theme will continue on August 2nd when Erinn Lawrie comes to talk about some other special species that spend time at our beaches; turtles! Beach Talks take place at 6:30pm every Wednesday at Huron Feathers Presbyterian Centre in Sauble Beach.

Saugeen Shores Coastal Community Workshop

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Going up to the cottage in August? Want to know why the lake levels are so high and what areas are under the most stress? Join the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation for an evening of learning and contributing to the Coastal Action Plan! In partnership with the Southampton Residents Association, they are calling on everyone to meet and discuss their plans for a Coastal Action Plan for the Southeastern Shoreline of Lake Huron. Have your opinion heard! All are welcome.

Fledglings, and Sanderlings, and Flagboy, Oh My!

Alicia Fortin Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

As the warm summer weather rolls in, many are still wondering how our little friends on the beach are doing, so here is a quick update. All of the adults except for M1 from this season, known to many by his reference name Flagboy, have left the beach. This has left all of the Nest 1 chicks to take care of themselves. We thought that one of the chicks had left with the adults for the winter migration down to Florida, but this chick reappeared this morning. All four of the newly fledged Nest 1 chicks have moved to the Nest 3 area near Huron Feathers to be with Flagboy and his 3 chicks! They have been joined by a number of Sanderlings as they migrate through the area. All four Nest 1 chicks have demonstrated their fantastic flying abilities. Sometimes their success seems to annoy Flagboy, as he has taken to chasing them away from his chicks’ foraging areas every once and a while.

Despite the occasional squabble, the Piping Plovers chicks are doing well. Flagboy’s chicks have been demonstrating their ability to fly short distances over the drainage ditches and into the vegetation without a problem. Their dad continues to keep an eye out for them though, and warns them of every human or gull in the area. We are very excited that they have done so well, and are expecting them to be on their way south soon!

The Chicks are Fledging!

Alicia Fortin Uncategorised

Yes, you read that title correctly! We currently have 4 fledglings on the beach! Last night, two of the chicks from Nest 1, the most northern nest this season, were seen flying about 100 feet down the beach. One month to the day after they hatched, they have learned to fly! Today, all four Nest 1 chicks were still seen, although they were not together. While three had stayed together closer to the north end of the beach, one decided to branch out. This chick was seen foraging and resting with the chicks and male (known as Flagboy) near Nest 3! This far flyer is pictured below.

Speaking of Nest 3, all 3 of the chicks have been accounted for today, and all are growing up quickly! At about 24 days old, these chicks should be fledging any day now, and have been busy with their own flight attempts. They have been seen flying 10 feet at a time, which is quite a feat, if you ask us! In between flight practice and foraging, they have been sure to take some rest time while Flagboy keeps watched. Stay tuned for more information when these chicks fledge!

Beach Talk 2017 Update

Alicia Fortin Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

We have wrapped up our first three Beach Talks of the season, making this an appropriate time to share what we have learned so far!

Piping Plover Along the Flyaway: A Full Life-cycle Story
We were very grateful to have Todd Pover bring his knowledge, enthusiasm, and experience all of the way from New Jersey for his presentation. Todd helped us to see how we share many of the same tensions and challenges in protecting Piping Plover populations with New Jersey, despite the distance and differing programs. Todd is able to see not only birds that nest in New Jersey in the summer, but the Piping Plovers passing through on their way to the Canadian Atlantic Coast. In addition to protecting Piping Plovers, we learned about the difficulty of balancing the interests of Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and American Oystercatchers who all share the beaches on New Jersey’s Atlantic Coast. One of the most important takeaways from Todd’s talk may have been the significance of investigating and protecting wintering grounds. We learned about international research in the Bahamas to ensure that Piping Plovers have appropriate habitat in both their nesting and wintering grounds. We look forward to hearing more about this initiative and are very grateful to Todd for his time and his enlightening presentation!

What Lays Under These Waters: Lake Sturgeon in the Great Lakes
Lloyd Mohr’s passion for Lake Sturgeon was contagious last Wednesday as he shared their struggle to overcome exploitation, habitat degradation, and fragmentation of Lake Sturgeon habitat. From the beginning of the presentation when we learned that Lake Sturgeon descend from the Acipenseriform Order of fish, which dates back 245 million years ago, our interest was piqued. While individual Lake Sturgeon can live over 150 years and their populations are recovering, they continue to face many obstacles. Similar to Piping Plovers, Lake Sturgeon continue to face problems associated with habitat degradation and human interference, and they continue to need public support for recovery efforts. We’ll continue to think about these ancient lake-dwellers as we work to protect the Great Lakes and the species that rely upon them!

The Changing Ecology and Fish Communities of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay
Arunas Liskauskas built upon Lloyd’s topic and enthusiasm by demonstrating the dynamic and fascinating way in which fish species interact with each other and their surroundings. We learned of the first wave of invasive species including Sea Lamprey and Alewife, among other species, and the way in which recovery efforts and the introduction of Chinook Salmon helped to restore an equilibrium in Lake Huron. We later learned of another wave of invasive species, including the Round Goby and Quagga Mussels and how these have also led to new discoveries and changes in the interactions in the depths of Lake Huron. He also illustrated the continuing threat of invasive species including the potential introduction of Asian Carp to the Great Lakes. Arunas engaged us in a broader understanding of the complexity of Great Lakes ecosystems and the importance of science and research as protection for the lakes in the years to come. We were very grateful for this nuanced story that gave context to the other discussions of habitat, conservation, and community involvement that continue to be important themes in our Beach Talks.

Join us on Wednesday (July 12) to continue the conversation as we move from the depths of the lake to the sandy shore as Mark Wiercinski discusses Birds and Ecology Along Lake Huron Shore at 6:30pm at Huron Feathers in Sauble Beach!

Summer 2017 Update

Alicia Fortin Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

As the Canada Day weekend festivities have come to an end and the usual summer beach days have begun, it seemed like an appropriate time to give an update on the birds we have had at the beach this summer.

While there have been some ups and downs, we are very excited to have had a largely successful season so far and are still very optimistic for the Piping Plovers on the beach!

We began the season with a number of birds coming through. We have seen at least 12 adult birds spend some time on Sauble Beach, with 4 pairs of adults deciding to make nests here. Unfortunately, we lost the fourth nest of the season during the incubation period when the eggs were preyed upon by what was most likely a weasel or a rat. Things were also looking difficult for the birds at Nest 2 when they set up their nest very close to the main Sauble Beach area. While they had 4 chicks hatch, only one made it to the banding date, and it was gone a couple days later. We suspect gulls were the culprits, as we are aware that the main part of the beach has an abundance of gulls, and we saw the parents fighting them off a number of times.

  • DSCN2193 M1 (reference name Flagboy)
  • DSCN2117 Nest 3 chick foraging in the vegetation

On a more positive note, from a total of 12 chicks hatched, there are still 7 chicks on the beach! Many with remember our M1 from this year, who is known to many by his reference name, Flagboy, who has been coming to nest on Sauble Beach for a number of years. After an unsuccessful season last year, and losing his female partner of both 2015 and 2016, he returned and established the third nest of the season with F1 of this year, who nested on private land in Sauble Beach in 2015. The pair have been very attentive parents, and while they have dealt with the loss of one chick to a gull, and a host of predators, their three remaining chicks are two weeks old today!

On the north end of the beach, we have the best success story of all! You may remember F2, with reference name Ms Green Dots, as she lost 2 clutches of eggs last year along with her male partners. She has had a great season this year, however, choosing a fantastic location! With help from vegetation, rocks, driftwood, chick huts and the dedication of volunteers, all four chicks on the north end are growing quickly. They are 20 days old now, and should be fledging very soon!

More updates from the beach will be posted soon as the chicks get closer to fledging!

Canada Day Celebrations 2017!

Alicia Fortin Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

What is it that makes Canada special? I’m sure we could list many things, including Canada’s incredibly rich and diverse social and cultural history. This Canada Day, we would also like to celebrate the amazing species that call Canada home.

Join us this weekend on Sauble Beach to celebrate a fantastic Canadian migrant; the Piping Plover! Find volunteers on Sauble Beach on Saturday and Sunday for tattoos, stickers, and colouring pages (as well as other handouts and information) and learn why these birds are truly a great Canadian species!

On the evening of July 2nd, fireworks will be taking place on Sauble Beach. Find our Plover Lovers table between the Sauble Beach sign and 4th street for facepainting, colouring, and interpretive displays! We would like to celebrate Canada Day with you and share it with our Piping Plover friends.

Having lots of people on the beach can be a little bit stressful for such teeny birds sometimes, so make sure to keep an eye out for both parents and chicks! Help out by eating away from the beach, not feeding gulls, and giving the chicks and parents space to forage along the shore! Let us know if you saw them while you were out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and use the hashtag #sharetheshore (ploverlovers or @ploverlovers)! We are always happy to have more people on hand to help raise awareness and keep an eye out for this endangered species, so if you would like to be part of the Canada Day team, please email coordinator@ploverlovers.com. Thank you for your interest! Happy 150th, Canada!

Photo courtesy of Merri-Lee Metzger. Find more at https://www.merrileesnaturephotos.com/

Plover Lovers Go to School!

Alicia Fortin Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

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  • DSCN1305(1)

Last Monday (June 20), Plover Lovers took Todd Pover of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey to visit Amabel Sauble Community School. Todd’s presentations engaged students, and a trip to the beach allowed students to see the Piping Plover adults and their chicks in person! While on the beach, we also put up signs around the perimeters which were designed by students. Some of the students even created a “playground” for the chicks (photo below)! Make sure to check out the students’ signs this summer while you are strolling along the beach!

We are very grateful to Todd Pover for his willingness to reach out to local students to involve young people in the return of Piping Plovers to the Great Lakes. We were delighted when Sam Solazzo, a grade 3 student, read his morning writing assignment to us:

These students are the environmental leaders of tomorrow, and we are excited to have had the opportunity to work with such a bright group!