Become a Volunteer Monitor!

Alicia Fortin Updates from the Beach

Are you interested in helping species at risk? Do you like birds and spending time on the beach? We have a perfect opportunity for you!

It’s time for us to welcome our Piping Plovers back to Sauble Beach! As the birds prepare for the summer ahead, we should join them in doing the same. There are many challenges facing the Great Lakes Piping Plovers, but don’t let that ruffle your feathers! As a Volunteer Monitor, you will help the endangered Piping Plovers by participating in a citizen science project, monitoring protected areas, and educating beachgoers about the importance of sharing the beach!

As a Volunteer Monitor, you will have the opportunity to sign up for 3 to 4 hour shifts on the beach. You will be able to learn all about the birds while you share the joy of watching bird families form with other people who care just as much as you do. We also offer free Sauble Beach parking passes, sponsored by Bruce Power, to those who volunteer for 5 or more shifts on the beach!

If you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Monitor, please join us for our volunteer orientation on May 24th at 6:00pm at Huron Feathers Presbyterian Centre in Sauble Beach. Please let us know if you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Monitor and if you will be attending the volunteer orientation by emailing Alicia Fortin, Volunteer Coordinator, at Feel free to contact us with any questions! See you on the beach!


Great Lakes Piping Plovers filmed on the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario – 2016

Cheryl Ferguson Articles, Global News, Other beaches in Ontario, Plover Lovers Committee, Uncategorised

Watch a 20-minute video of the Great Lakes Piping Plovers that nested on Darlington Beach on the Canadian Shores of Lake Ontario during the spring and summer of 2016. The video was produced and edited by volunteer Winnie Poon and narrated by Roy Smith. Glenn Coady, Volunteer Coordinator and John Brett – Canadian Wildlife Services discuss the life of the Piping Plover and discuss and demonstrate various procedures such as use of exclosures and banding the birds. A special thank you to participants, especially Winnie Poon for taking the time to document the expereince and for sharing her efforts with Plover Lovers.


Ohio Student Newspaper Spreads Piping Plover Awareness

Cheryl Ferguson Articles, Global News, Local News, Plover Lovers Committee, Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

Volunteers will be the first to tell you that the sight of piping plovers and chicks scurrying across the beach is a sight that warms ones heart and makes it all worthwhile. What does not get shared often enough are the interactions they have with so many interesting people. Shiloh Reynolds and her family have vacationed at Sauble Beach for many years and they are delighted to see the return of the Piping Plover. Shiloh, attends Sylvania Southview High School in Toledo, Ohio.

As editor of her newspaper Shiloh interacted with volunteers on the beach and subsequently contacted Plover Lovers’ Volunteer Coordinator Jenna Skinner. Shiloh stated that her reason for writing the story is “to get her generation to care more and be more conscientious about their impact on nature”.

Her story was published in “The Catalyst” on September 16, which coincidently is “Plovers Appreciation Day”. Thank you Shiloh, you’ve impacted more than your generation!

Ontario Field Ornithologists

Plover Lovers Committee Receives OFO Award

Cheryl Ferguson Articles, Local News, Plover Lovers Committee, Sauble Beach

During their annual convention on September 26, the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) awarded the Plover Lovers Committee an award “for their commitment to public education and citizen science towards the Piping Plovers, nesting at Sauble Beach”. There are 5 committee members in the group: Norah Toth (Chair), Catherine Dickison, Aubrey Ferguson, Lynne Richardson & Cheryl Ferguson.
However; this program would not have realized this recognition if it weren’t for the dedicated volunteers who spent countless hours on the beach, day after day, in all types of weather, during good times and sad times …… these people are our heroes and we thank you.

2016 Sauble Beach Piping Plover Breeding Season Summary

Jenna Skinner Local News, Plover Lovers Committee, Sauble Beach, Uncategorised, Updates from the Beach

Photo by Kirsten Dyer

Photo by Kirsten Dyer

Another Piping Plover breeding season has come to a close at Sauble Beach, with a disappointing outcome for the Plover Lovers volunteer group. Of 18 eggs laid in five nests, only 6 chicks hatched and none survived to fledging. Three of the five nests were lost before the hatch due to abandonment or high water.
This year was particularly challenging because of an unprecedented loss of adult Piping Plovers. It is believed that 3 adults were taken by predators, including two well-known birds, Mr. Lonely and Port Boy. Both of their nests, with four embryos in each, were abandoned following the predation events as the female was left to take on the impossible task of incubating alone. Another nest hatched four chicks on June 17, but the disappearance of the female parent the following day resulted in the male caring for the young alone. By June 20, all four chicks disappeared. Predation is likely the cause, but high winds and rough weather could have also contributed.
Most of the Piping Plover adults at Sauble Beach were returning birds that had a history of nesting at this location. Volunteers were excited to continue following their stories and to share them with beachgoers. One pair had an especially incredible journey this year, despite its sad ending. Neither had success nesting in Sauble Beach last year, and their bad luck continued this season with their first nest, which was lost to high waters on June 7. They chose a location that was dangerously close to the lake, and with several days of high winds and rain, the eggs were washed over.
After the loss of their first nest, this couple made a second attempt further from the shoreline. Two eggs were laid in what was known as Nest 5, but only one hatched overnight on July 17. It seemed as though the parents abandoned the second egg as they cared for their healthy young chick over the course of a few days. On July 20, while monitoring the Piping Plover family, our youngest volunteer Grace Dyer exclaimed that a second chick was hatching! With a lack of incubation for nearly three days, the hatching of this egg was a miraculous and extraordinary event. It could also spark a discussion about the timeline of egg viability and nest incubation in Piping Plovers. Very sadly, the “miracle” chick was lost to a crow the next morning, and its sibling was taken by a Ring-billed Gull two days later. This marked the end of the volunteer monitoring program for the season.
The 2016 season highlighted the importance of first nest success. Two of the five nests were second attempts, neither of which were successful. Second nestings require a tremendous amount of additional energy from the parents, particularly for the female as she lays eggs weighing 1/3 her body weight. As a result, it is common for a second nest to have fewer eggs than the usual four, and for the viability of the eggs to be lower than that of a first nesting. Re-nesting also puts more pressure on volunteer groups and MNRF resources, with the breeding season being stretched by weeks and hatch dates pushed to the busiest weeks of the summer. With more beachgoers come more gulls and crows, which settle within the Piping Plover perimeter fences to avoid the crowds. This makes survival for a newly hatched chick nearly impossible. Consequently, ensuring first nest success earlier in the summer should be a priority in managing recovery efforts.
It has become clear that predators are the major threat to the Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach. Several culprits roamed the beach these past months, including Merlins and foxes. Metal exclosures have been extremely effective in protecting eggs, as no nests were disturbed by predators this season. New challenges arise after the hatch because Piping Plover chicks are precocial, meaning that they leave the nest (and the exclosure) very soon after hatching. Plovers less than 10 days old are very susceptible to predation by gulls and crows, as witnessed with the Nest 5 chicks. To address this, the MNRF has implemented predator deterrent trials, including Mylar flags and dead gull decoys within perimeter fencing. The Plover Lovers group hopes that experimentation with various deterrent techniques will lead to improvements in predator management, giving chicks a better chance of survival after the hatch.
Even with the losses and disappointment this season, the volunteers’ efforts were not in vain. The program showed significant growth this year in terms of public education and outreach, an important part of the group’s mandate. Hundreds of hours were put into monitoring the Piping Plovers and collecting data, and over 2000 beachgoers stopped to talk to our volunteers about the birds. Denis Langlois of the Sun Times provided thorough coverage of the events at the beach, drawing in readers and even inspiring some to visit the Piping Plover nesting sites. Continuing collaboration with organizations such as the Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort is allowing Plover Lovers to share data with domestic and international partners. The time and energy put in by volunteers and other plover-loving individuals is integral in the recovery of this species. Plover Lovers cannot thank the monitors and supporters enough for their contributions!
With another season come and gone, it is time now to look ahead. Next year, Plover Lovers hopes to grow its volunteer base and reach out to more visitors and members of the local community. The Piping Plovers face many challenges at Sauble Beach, and it is important for beachgoers and the public to be aware of their fight for survival. Recovery to a sustainable Great Lakes population is a long and difficult process, but through the work of dedicated volunteers, it is feasible. And to those of us who watch these amazing little birds day in and day out, it’s absolutely worth it.

Beach Talk Wrap-up: The Evolution of an Ecological Ethic

Jenna Skinner Plover Lovers Committee, Sauble Beach, Updates from the Beach

David McLeish wrapped up the Beach Talk 2016 speaker series with his presentation about ecological ethics.

David McLeish wrapped up the Beach Talk 2016 speaker series with his presentation about ecological ethics.

The Plover Lovers Beach Talk 2016 speaker series wrapped up earlier this month with a fascinating talk by David McLeish, recently retired Lake Manager with the Upper Great Lakes Management Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry. David’s presentation went over the development of conservation ethics over the centuries along with the various schools of thought. He also addressed the many ecological challenges we face, including assessment and measurement of populations, persistent problems such as exotic species, and a lack of consensus (e.g. renewable vs. non-renewable, native vs. non-native, commercial vs. recreational, etc.). To conquer these challenges, David believes that we need a strong ecological ethic and clear measurable metrics. Of course, he kept his talk light with his sense of humour, which you might have guessed from the title of his presentation in the photo above.

David was kind enough to share with us a reading list that touches on this topic:

  • Walden by H.D. Thoreau
  • Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
  • An Ecological and Evolutionary Ethic by Daniel G. Kozlovsky
  • Getting to Yes By Fisher and Ury
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Collapse by Jared Diamond
  • Stones into Schools by Greg Mortensen (note from David: not an environmental book so much as one that deals with accomplishing something under trying circumstances)


Thank you to Bruce Power for their support of the Beach Talk initiative. Also, a big thank you to all who attended the Beach Talk series. It was a great success and we hope it’s something we can continue in the future!