Our Sauble Piping Plovers have had quite a week.
On a positive note, Ministry of Natural Resources staff came to the beach and distributed pieces of driftwood for shelter for the Plovers. Almost immediately, the birds began to stand and rest near the wood.
One Plover (Mr. Lonely-no-More, M3) even stood on a log and piped for his mate to come and take a turn on the nest.
A-frame huts were also added to the areas in anticipation of the arrival of chicks. It is hoped that the families will use the huts for protection from predators and shelter from the elements. Some of the shelters have spikes on top to deter Gulls and Crows from landing on them. The Gulls seem to be wondering about the huts, and are disappointed that they won't fit inside...
On a "not-so-positive" note, Nest 2 was lost on Wednesday morning when a nasty wind and rainstorm covered it with sand. The little Plovers tried valiantly to uncover their eggs, but were unsuccessful. Early last week, Nest 2 usually looked something like this:
It was very close to the shore, and there was not much debris to camouflage the nest, but the pair (F1 and M1) were diligent parents, and incubated faithfully until their nest was destroyed. By Wednesday afternoon, there was only flat sand (with scratch marks from the birds' attempts to find their eggs) in the exclosure. This nest was scheduled to hatch around the 20th of June. So close....
F1 and M1 were feeding and scraping inside the perimeter on Thursday, and both chased the little female from the next nest when she wandered into their area.
Once they had cleared the area of intruders, M1 and F1 went and rested in separate areas near their driftwood. They primped and fluffed their feathers, and took a little break from each other and their concern over the lost eggs.
By the next day, the birds were showing an interest in a new scrape not far from the previous nest, and were doing some mantling and courting again.
Although they will likely re-nest, their family will now be delayed by nearly a month. And as summer begins, the beach will soon be much busier than it has been...
Nest 1, to the south of Nest 2, is further from the beach, and seems to be fine, although water did threaten yesterday morning for several hours. Flag Boy (M2) and F2 have been incubating eggs on Nest 1 for about 3 weeks now, and we are hoping for a hatch near the end of next week (June 16-18 -ish!).
We watched as the parents traded off and took turns sitting on the nest. There is often some piping from the bird on the nest to call its mate back to the nest, after which the returning bird will run to the exclosure. I think they look a bit "lopsided" from the back when they run! They seem to tip to one side. Here goes Flag Boy to relieve his mate on the nest:
Once both birds are inside the exclosure, there is some discussion about proper incubation and egg-turning techniques. (These next pics were taken the next day when F2 was relieving Flag Boy.)
The returning parent shuffles itself around on the nest, and the other bird rushes out to feed hungrily along the shoreline.
The birds were also taking advantage of the sunshine after several cold, wet days, and were bathing in the small waves along the shoreline. This is F2 during her "time off":
She dried off under her sign --- after she tried to visit her neighbours and was chased away.
Nest 3 is the furthest nest to the south, and Mr. Lonely-no-More (M3) and F4 (sporting the green dots) are incubating 4 eggs back in the reeds.
They spend more time in their private pool than they do by the shore, and even share with their large neighbours.
F4 is so photogenic!
Port Boy is still north of 6th Street by himself.....sort of. A female arrives every couple of days, and they go through the scraping and mantling routines, but, well, she just doesn't seem to be interested beyond that! I have never seen her there, and when I was visiting with him Thursday and Friday, Port Boy was either sitting in a scrape calling for his lost love, or feeding along the shore. We may have to start calling him "Poor Boy" if his lady continues to be uncooperative.
By next week at this time, there may be chicks on the beach! Stay tuned.....