We Have Lift-off!
The 4 Sauble chicks from Nest 1 have begun to test their flying abilities, and all 8 little wings seem to be in good working order!
The young Piping Plovers have moved south along the beach with their father, flying short distances together. They were approximately 23 days old when these pictures were taken on Sunday, July 9.
When we arrived at about 4 p.m., the 4 chicks, Blue Bands (Dad), and 2 other adult Plovers were all resting separately in the sand. Some of the birds were sitting in tire tracks (!), while others were hunkered down behind small hills of sand.
One of the chicks decided to join its sibling for a snuggle.....
and after their naps, the young Plovers stood up one by one, stretched their wings, and headed for the dunes.
They foraged for about 20 minutes in the vegetation,
while the adults scrapped and chased each other in the area between the dunes and the shore. Here is the classic Piping Plover “Wanna fight?” pose:
One of the non-Nest-1 adults is the female from Nest 4, “Ms. Bobby”, whose eggs disappeared from inside the exclosure on June 8th or 9th. She appears on the beach from time to time, and on Sunday, she was staying quite close to the chicks. Every so often, one of the chicks would approach her in her “tire rut”, and then move away. She remained in this spot for several hours, sometimes standing and walking a few steps or hopping on one leg, but resting for the better part of 3 hours.
Her band combo is X (256/2650), B(173): --, O, B.
The other adult is a new bird on the beach as of last week. His bands are O , b : X , b/O. Blue Bands chased him along the shoreline while his chicks were in the grasses.
Once the chicks had had about 20 minutes to feed, and Blue Light (sorry -- does he have another name??) had meandered off to the north, Blue Bands stood to the west of the vegetation, and piped loud and long.
All 4 chicks fluttered out into the open toward him, and all 4 treated us to a flying display. Each one flew 20-30 feet, and landed ( a bit clumsily) near their Dad.
They had no interest in brooding, but walked right past him and headed to the shore to feed. Unfortunately, a little girl and her father were walking by at that moment, and the child chased all 4 chicks back up into the vegetation with Blue Bands piping..... I called to the father, but they were quite far away, and he just laughed and watched the chase. This was the only time in 2-1/2 hours that the birds had even attempted to feed along the shoreline. They have been accustomed to their relatively undisturbed feeding area at the north end of the beach. With all the wet weather, it is hoped that they will be able to find the food they need in the green, marshy areas of the beach now that they have left their nesting area.
Here are some "chick portraits" in which we can see their bands....(L means black.)
X , L (137) : O (Red Dots), L/O/L
X, L (125) : O (Blue Dots) , L/O/L
X , L (123) : O (Yellow Dots) , L/O/L
(Bird to left and behind the blurry one!)
X, L (203) : O (Green Dots -- like Mom), L/O/L
So.... our 4 little “ North Nest” Piping Plover chicks are doing all the things that they are supposed to be doing. It’s very exciting to see them all looking so healthy and active.
Apparently Ms. Green Dots (Mom) is still in the area, but she didn’t show herself on Sunday.
We also visited the other nest, where Flag Boy and Ms.Sunshine still have 3 chicks (about 16 days old). I have no pictures of these little ones or their parents, because they spend most of their time back in the reeds and grasses to the south of their perimeter. They are very lucky to have a spot where they can find excellent cover and hiding places. Every now and then someone sees all 3 chicks together, though, and we are thrilled to know that they continue to thrive on Sauble Beach.
By next week, they will be trying out their tiny wings too.
It is a privilege to spend time with 2 families of an endangered species that are flourishing in the natural environment that is Sauble Beach this year! They have survived in part because of the amount of cover that has been available to them along the dunes and beach. This vegetation is invaluable to the survival of Piping Plovers and all of the other species that make our beaches their homes for the season.