Sauble’s Piping Plover Chicks
Our 4 surviving chicks have made it through the Canada Day weekend! Their busy parents have been doing a great job of chasing Gulls and watching over their charges.
Photos in this blog were taken before the holiday weekend, on 2 separate occasions.
Part 1: Sunday, June 23
3 of the 4 chicks from Nest 1 appeared healthy and well-fed on the evening of the 23rd. (The 4th was found dead in the sand by Don Kennedy on June 22, and we are waiting for test results to determine a cause of death.) The following photos were taken on Sunday, June 23, when the chicks were a week old.
Foraging in the debris that had washed ashore, the chicks were having no trouble finding moths and other insects to eat.
This little one carried a stick in its bill for several minutes...
It is essential for the Plovers to have access to water, and on Sunday, there were not many interruptions as the families fed and drank along the water’s edge.
As always, the Piping Plovers depend on driftwood, the wrack line, and vegetation for protection. They instinctively know that there is safety (and food!) among the debris.
Unfortunately, bikes on the beach are one of many threats faced by the chicks. Fresh bike tracks seemed to be of concern to this young Plover. Thank goodness he wasn’t standing here when the bicycle went by.
At the second nest on the beach, only 2 of the 4 eggs hatched (on the 19th of June), but the 2 chicks, approximately 4 days old on Sunday, seemed to be strong and feeding well. Although they were only about 3 days younger than their North nest cousins, they looked quite a bit smaller.
The abundance of vegetation and debris around the nest site is well used by this family of Plovers for cover and feeding.
Mr. New Blue and Ms. Sunshine are vigilant parents, and were both watching over their chicks on Sunday.
If the chicks were not within sight, the adults piped and worried until they could see their young ones again.
It was interesting to see how this tiny chick, near-weightless as it was, sank into the soft sand of the beach. The sand, when dry, is extremely light and unstable around the untouched areas of plant growth.
Part 2: Thursday, June 27
On Monday, June 24, all 5 chicks were banded. The North nest chicks’ bands read as follows:
X (2561-26581), B/O : O (Blue dots), B (151)
X (2561-26580), B/O : O (Red dots), B (206)
X (2561-26582), B/O : O (Green dots), B (150)
At one point, the chick with the green dots was resting in the wrack line, and “Red Dots” came along and laid down not far away.
All was well until poor little “Blue Dots” wanted to join them,
but was quickly chased away. A bit of sibling rivalry, perhaps?
Down the beach at Nest 2, there was only 1 chick left. (On Tuesday morning, June 25, 1 of the chicks from Nest 2 was likely depredated, leaving only 1 at that site.) The parents, Ms. Sunshine and New Blue, were both watching over their remaining chick very closely. Mom had found a great spot on a log from which she could watch her little one as it zigzagged all over the interior of their perimeter.
This chick’s band combination is:
X (2561-26578) , L/O/L : O (Green dots) , L (235). It was difficult to photograph the chick at Nest 2; it moved quickly in and out of the vegetation!
Just as we were leaving, New Blue and Sunshine led their chick over to the drainage ditch, just South of their area. They seemed to be showing it an alternate foraging spot to the shoreline, which can be impossible to access on busy beach days.
New Blue would have been happy to have been able to keep his chick hidden in the grasses along the edge of the stream,
but his independent child kept running out into the open! Thank goodness for all the bits of debris that enable a wee chick to “disappear” from sight.
As of today, July 2, the 3 North nest chicks are about 2-1/2 weeks old, and the South nest chick is almost 2 weeks old. They have survived, among other things, some extremely busy beach days, a round of fireworks, a beach raking, loose dogs, bikes, people feet, and Gulls. Many thanks are due to the human volunteers who have watched over them, and to the 2 pairs of adult Plovers that have tirelessly cared for their youngsters.
At last count, there were 4 nests in Ontario (although there may be a second nesting at Wasaga that would bring the total to 5). Half of the Great Lakes Piping Plovers nesting in Ontario are on Sauble Beach. An awesome responsibility it is, and a huge privilege....
*As always, photos were taken from a distance and cropped. Piping Plovers are very adept at letting us know if we approach too closely; their distinctive alarm calls, and attempts to lead us away from their young, leave no doubt as to their wishes! Let’s all respect their need for space and access to feeding areas as we enjoy their presence on our beach.