Finally! The elusive fourth pair of Piping Plovers on Sauble Beach co-operated on Sunday afternoon, and posed for a few pictures.
Of course they had other things on their minds too...
This pair had 2 eggs in a scrape in the sand,
and a thoughtful beachgoer had placed twigs in a semicircle to protect the nest.
The birds were sitting on their eggs sporadically, feeding along the shore, and doing some mating as well, in preparation for Egg #3. The whole courting/mating ritual was typical of Piping Plovers.
First came the posturing and “dancing” by the male, within a few feet of the nest.
Then the male began his rapid goose-stepping beside the female, and the touching of her back with his foot.
After several minutes, the male flew up onto the female's back, continuing to take small steps in place with his feet.
And then they very quickly completed the actual “egg-making” part!
Once the whole procedure was finished, the female went back and sat on the 2 eggs in the scrape.
Many thanks to Alicia while all of this was happening ---she was the one who kept an eye on the unprotected nest for several hours until staff from MNRF came to install the mini exclosure. Once Hannah and Karen arrived, things moved quickly. As soon as the Plovers were away from the nest, the mini was placed carefully over the eggs and stakes were pounded into place.
Within minutes, one of the birds was back on the nest.
A rope perimeter was placed around a large area, signs were installed, and the Piping Plovers carried on as if nothing had happened. Their nest is now protected from predators, and they have an area around their mini that is off-limits to humans.
I have included a few portraits of our newest couple on the beach. The male’s band combination is:
X (41 over 86 visible), Y/O/Y : O, Y (072)
His yellow band number is hard to read, as it is a bit faded. He also likes to play in the mud/sand/debris, so it wasn’t easy to get a clear shot of his ID numbers.
The female was much cleaner (!) and her bands are easier to read.
Her band combination is:
X (256 over 2650 visible -- upside down), B (173): -- , O, B.
I think she might have been trying to read her bands herself.....
She is the photogenic one of the two, and didn’t mind posing for a bit of a photo shoot. Her black markings are typical of a female Piping Plover -- thinner and lighter than the male’s dark black eyebrow and breastband. Other females on the beach are not so easily distinguishable from the males.
I took a few too many shots of this little female.
She was busily eating along the shoreline,
and keeping one eye on the sky for Merlins or other threats.
Along with the 8 Piping Plovers that are paired off and nesting were several other interesting birds. A Piping Plover appeared outside the perimeter of Nest 4, and had a few little spats with the male. I was only able to get one picture of him from the back. His bands are: X (2 over 2 visible), B (95 upside down) : --, O, O/B.
A Semipalmated Plover wandered along the shoreline.
And then we were treated to a few glimpses of a pair of Black-bellied Plovers on their way to the far north.
In this photo, the male is watching the sky in the same way that the Piping Plovers peer up sideways. All shorebirds have to be extremely vigilant, especially if Merlins are in the area. The Black-bellied Plovers were quite skittish, and we were only able to view them from a distance. Beautiful birds in their breeding plumage!
So ..... all in all, it was a busy Plover day on Sauble. The Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers will move on to the north. We will continue to hope for the best for the (now) 4 nesting pairs of Piping Plovers that have chosen to make Sauble Beach their home for the summer.