- Merri-Lee M.
2 Piping Plover Nests on Sauble Beach
As of today, 4 Piping Plovers (2 pairs) are nesting on Sauble Beach. In spite of high water levels, extensive erosion, and cool, rainy, windy weather, the birds have established their nests in areas that they deem suitable.
Ms. Green Dots and Mr. Blue Bands have done it again! For the third year in a row, they have earned the distinction of being the first pair of Piping Plovers to establish a nest on Sauble Beach. On May 15, their nest was discovered, an exclosure was placed over the single egg, and perimeter ropes were set up.
It is interesting to note that Ms. Green Dots and Mr. Blue Bands have chosen to nest as far North as possible on the beach. If we look North from their perimeter, we see that the beach has been badly eroded, and that it would be a dangerous spot for chicks to attempt to feed along the shoreline. There is a drop of approximately a metre in some areas.
The shoreline is much more accessible, and safer for chicks, in front of the Plover nest. There is still plenty of vegetation and debris in the nesting area and into the dunes, creating a haven of camouflage for the Plover family.
On the 16th of May, both of the Plovers were feeding away down the beach near 6th Street; when I saw them, they were both running North, with a strong wind at their backs.
Blue Bands was running so fast that his legs were a bit of a blur,
and Green Dots wasn’t far behind.
By May 20, there were 4 eggs in the nest, and the birds were taking turns incubating. It seems that Mom spends more time on the eggs than Dad does; Blue Bands was a long way down the beach again on May 27, in the company of 2 families of Canada Geese,
a Semipalmated Plover,
and 2 Sanderlings in their Spring colours. (We can see the 3 toes on these birds that distinguish them from other Shorebirds.)
There have been Merlin sightings on Sauble Beach, and all of the Beach Birds stop to “look both ways” from time to time.
The 4 Shorebirds eventually made their way North, and all was well until they approached the nest site. Blue Bands became quite agitated, chased the Semipalmated Plover out of the vicinity, then finally scooted in to relieve Green Dots.
She wasted no time in escaping for some much-needed feeding and foraging along the shore,
while the Caspian Terns and Common Terns fished and chattered noisily, directly in front of the perimeter.
The second nest on Sauble Beach has taken a little longer to establish.
Mr. New Blue
and Ms. Sunshine
spent many days investigating different possibilities for their Summer home. On May 16, they seemed to have selected a spot not far from Huron Feathers on a hillock that had not been eroded away. (This raised area, along with a few others, has been anchored with plant roots, while the sand in many places around them has been blown/washed away.)
Sunshine and New Blue spent about half an hour scraping, piping, and taking turns sitting in a hollow surrounded by Coltsfoot.
This little pair eventually settled on a site slightly to the North of the one that they had been checking out, and on May 21, 2 eggs were found and covered with an exclosure. On May 27 when we visited, New Blue and Sunshine had settled into their routine of turn-taking -- incubating and feeding as they will do for almost a month until their chicks arrive.
Ms. Sunshine even took some time for a bath, and a bit of playtime in the waves!
And now, the waiting begins. 8 eggs are being protected and kept warm by 2 pairs of Piping Plovers on these chilly early June days and nights. Hopefully the Merlin will move on to distant hunting grounds, and other predators will leave the little birds to their duties.
Don Kennedy calls this almost-month of incubation, “watch the paint dry time”! Perhaps the humans see these weeks as a time of waiting patiently, but the Plovers will need to be vigilant and share the responsibility of sitting on the nests. (Mr. Blue Bands might need a few reminders to take his turn -- while he is a wonderful, protective Dad once the chicks hatch, he has never cared much for sitting around on 4 lumpy eggs! He is the son of Flag Boy, and certainly had an excellent role model.)
Oblivious to the ongoing court proceedings regarding both the damage done to the Beach, and the decisions pertaining to the future of our lakeshore, the Piping Plovers, for a few short months, once again attempt to fulfil their destinies on Sauble Beach.....