Piping Plovers are nesting at North Beach Provincial Park on Lake Ontario this summer. Last year’s female from Presqu’ile Park got together with a male from Michigan, and 4 baby plover chicks hatched.
The male above is the one from Michigan. Presqu’ile’s male from last year showed up at the beach at Presqu’ile again this spring only to find it gone due to extremely high water levels- and nowhere to nest. Not sure where he went after that. High water levels on Lake Ontario have reduced greatly the options for suitable nesting habitat for shorebirds this summer. And where they do decide to nest may be less than ideal. The plovers at North Beach are having a rough go.
Of the four chicks that hatched less than a week ago, only one remains.
The mother has also taken off, which is normal behaviour. This leaves just the dad to do his best to protect the chick the best he can. It is known that a gull took one of the chicks. Two more were lost to unknown causes. Predators abound on the beach, with gulls and crows frequenting the area. Unfortunately, the plovers have also nested right in front of the old park store, which has an active fox den under it.
Park and ministry officials are giving the plovers what help they can. The public is being educated about the plovers on this popular beach, volunteer monitors are observing the plovers every day from morning to night, and the nesting area itself has been fenced off to the public.
As monitors, we can’t interfere with nature, just observe. One monitor observed to her horror the first chick being taken by a gull. But even if we did try to interfere, it really wouldn’t make any difference. These things happen fast. That’s nature.
So now all our hopes rest on this little bird and its dad.
Monitoring the little plover can be pretty hard as its camouflage is exceptional, and when it rests it blends right in with its surroundings. Yes that is garbage in the photo. The nesting area is full of it- it was swept up from the waves in the early summer. Going in there to clean it up would disturb the birds. But it gives an idea of how much work the parks staff have to do to keep the beaches clean from the garbage that keeps being washed in.
What a privilege it is to be able to observe these little birds, and to be able to educate the public about them. Overall the Piping Plovers are making a comeback in the Great Lakes Region due to habitat protection, nest monitoring, and public education. This may not be the greatest year for them due to all the flooding and lack of suitable nesting habitat. But time will tell.
When visitors at North Beach are shown the plover chick for the first time, they are always thrilled. These little birds are incredibly charming. One can’t help but want to see them succeed and thrive in our part of the world.
We’ll continue to do our best, and keep our fingers crossed.
Thanks for visiting.