Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach and Oliphant

by Mike Pickup

Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach and Oliphant

"We are celebrating the Piping Ploverís return to the Canadian shores of Lake Huron".

Comment by Stew Nutt of Southampton.

The Piping Plover, is a small compact stocky shorebird that darts across the sand, suddenly comes to an abrupt stop, then sprints off in a different direction. It is very pale above, white underneath, white rump, orange legs, and a yellow bill with a black tip. In breeding plumage has a dark black breast band and black brow.

These small diminutive shorebirds are an endangered species in Ontario and Canada. They are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, as well as the provincial Endangered Species Act. There are three distinct areas where they breed in small populations, the Prairie Provinces, the shores of Lake Michigan and Prince Edward Island along the Atlantic coast, and in the last couple of years have shown up in Ontario. The plovers start their nesting activities in May and lay eggs in June and hatch their young and then leave in August to winter along the Gulf of Mexico.

With the work that the "Friends of Sauble Beach" have been doing over the last few years in protecting the sand dunes along the shore, the habitat is returning for this endangered species.

In 2007 a pair of Piping Plovers returned to the Canadian shores of Lake Huron and had a successful nesting. This was the first recorded nesting in over thirty years and they raised three young birds. The same pair of birds have returned in 2008 once again to nest at Sauble Beach and a second pair have chose to nest at Oliphant, a first since 1972. One of the fledged young from 2007 has been spotted at Wasaga Beach, another area in Ontario where there is suitable habitat, where two pairs have undertaken to nest this year as well.

Volunteers with guidance from Stew Nutt of Southampton, have undertaken to monitor the birds on a daily basis at both sites. Their duties are to protect the birds from predation, human disturbance, educate beach visitors about the status of the birds and to cooperate with the municipality, local residents and cottagers, MNR and CWS in protecting the birds and their habitat. From the middle of May to the beginning of August, many volunteers have generously donated their time to this project.

Since writing this article there has been good news and bad news from Stew Nutt.

The adult and chick from Oliphant have successfully completed the fledging and have since moved on. The bad news is from Sauble where the adult bird was taken by a hawk and left the chick to fend for itself. So far it has been successful and the hope is that the young chick will travel south for the winter.

Mike Pickup

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Chick with Band

Chick and Adult