11. Port Boy Disappears
Another loss on the beach this week has saddened and disappointed all of us. Port Boy ( M4) disappeared Monday morning, leaving Ms. Green Dots (F4) to incubate 4 eggs alone. She has already endured the loss of one mate (Mr. Lonely -- M3) and a nest earlier this season. She attempted to look after the eggs by herself for a few days, then abandoned the almost impossible task. The 4 eggs are still on the beach, but sand is blowing over them, and the embryos will have died by this time. We have now lost 12 eggs/embryos this season.
The little female has left the beach (we hope), leaving a total of 2 adults (M1 and F1) sitting on 2 eggs at Sauble Beach.
Port Boy hatched at Sauble Beach in 2013. When he returned to Ontario in the spring of 2014, he chose to settle on the busy main beach in Port Elgin. In spite of having limited space and many people around him, he and his mate...
were able to nest, incubate, and raise 4 chicks. Port Boy did most of the "raising", because his partner left after a few weeks (as most female Piping Plovers do). He was an excellent father, and was extremely patient with his 4 charges. Some of my favourite Plover pics were taken from the breakwater at Port Elgin in July/August 2014, and demonstrate Port Boy's devotion to his chicks. In this photo, you can see all 4 chicks crowding around him, including the little "Maverick" that never did stay still long enough to get a band!
The family stayed fairly close together, likely because they didn't have a great deal of choice. It may be that their tiny area, surrounded by lake, breakwater, and people, protected them from predators that were unwilling to enter the area. The birds foraged along the shore and in a flooded area in their perimeter, and tried out their wings in the safety of the reeds.
Port Boy and all 4 chicks a day or 2 before he left:
The chicks wanted to brood (often!) even though they were almost ready to fledge, and Port Boy was always very accommodating. I watched one day as a chick climbed underneath him, then another, then a third ---- and when the fourth squeezed in, Port Boy toppled right over.
I had to look closely to figure out what I was looking at on this particular day:
In the spring of 2015, Port Boy returned to Port Elgin, but was unable to find a mate. He spent a lonely summer making scrapes in the sand and calling for a female. His call was not the typical "piping" call, but rather a mournful-sounding cry as he waited for a mate to fall from the sky and into one of his nests.
This year, Port Boy came to Sauble in the spring, and seemed to be making some progress finding a mate. He had at least 2 females around for a day each, but was unable to convince them to stay. When Ms. Green Dots lost her mate and nest, she travelled a few blocks north, and she and Port Boy wasted no time getting started on a new nest. All was well until Monday, when Port Boy did not show up for his turn on the nest. There had been Coyote tracks on the beach, and Merlins hanging around, and a Fox walking through the dunes, and dogs off-leash, and...... unfortunately, a little Piping Plover just doesn't have much of a chance at Sauble this year.
Having followed Port Boy's adventures for 3 summers, I am deeply saddened to hear that he will no longer be a part of the Piping Plover "community".
*Port Boy's photo also appears on the Home page of this site.