As of today, there are 3 nests of Piping Plovers that have hatched on Sauble Beach. I was there on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, and was thrilled to see the 4 tiny chicks in the North nest running and feeding well. They hatched last Friday/Saturday (June 16/17), and have miraculously reached “1-week-old” status --- an amazing feat, considering that Merlins and Gulls have been doing their best to feast on our little birds.
The photos in this portion of the blog were all taken from a good distance, and cropped, because the adult Plovers at Nest 1 seemed to be very skittish and protective of their chicks. They stayed in the centre of the perimeter, near the back, often in the reeds, and I did my best to honour their desire for privacy! They are excellent parents, and we watched the 2 of them chase a Gull out over the water, then return to brood and watch over their young family.
The chicks, as always, are totally amazing in their ability to feed,
and dip underneath the willing parents for warmth and protection---
all within an hour or so of hatching.
Of course, there seems to be one chick in every batch that is more independent than the others, and ventures just a bit further than its siblings. This one is usually the first to leave the safety of the adult bird's protection; can be seen running off on its own in search of food; and is, I think, the most challenging chick for its poor parents to raise! Several times on Monday evening, the adult bird would be contentedly brooding all 4 chicks for a short time. Suddenly 1 chick would pop out (same one every time?) and head off running, with the adult bird calling and piping .....
On the same evening, the other 3 chicks were sticking together, and were more interested in resting underneath a parent than running or feeding. At one point the adult Piping Plover stood and walked after the “renegade”, and the other 3 wiggled around, stretched their legs and wings, then followed the parent down toward the shore.
Sometimes the chicks almost seemed to be “begging to brood”...
and the patient mom and dad were usually happy to accommodate.
While one parent watched over the chicks, the other one wandered down to the shoreline to feed, bathe, or just enjoy a bit of a break.
Mom (Ms. Greeen Dots):
Dad (Mr. Blue Bands):
This family of Piping Plovers has chosen to nest at the North end of the beach, where there is plenty of natural protection in the way of reeds, grasses, and small hillocks. MNRF has sanctioned the addition of driftwood and chick huts as well, and the chicks are learning to use all of these things .....
Down along the shoreline, however, it is difficult to provide protection for the chicks, and it is in this open area that they are particularly susceptible to predation by larger birds (Merlins, Crows, Gulls).
So tiny and vulnerable.......
Moving south along the beach, we pass the spot where Nest 4 used to be.... all 4 eggs were predated on June 8 or 9. The 2 adult Plovers (Ms. Bobby, Yo Yo Pa) have not been seen in the last days.
Nest 3 is the next nest to the south, and Flag Boy has chosen this site to nest with his mate, Ms. Sunshine.
The nest is extremely well camouflaged. Look closely to see a female Piping Plover incubating......
while Flag Boy enjoys his “shore time”. He is one of the more “sociable” Plovers on Sauble, and frequently approaches me when I am in the area. He seems more curious than wary, and goes about his business in some of the busiest areas of the beach.
Flag Boy also has a history of being a great father, and it is hoped that he can help to fledge a family of chicks this year. (The eggs from this nest hatched on June 22 or 23.)
Flag Boy is a very handsome bird indeed, and always seems to want to pose for “just one more” picture.
Moving even further south along the beach to the crowded area near the Volleyball Courts, we find Nest 2. On Monday evening, Peggy was sitting contentedly on her nest.
Tuesday morning brought rain, and plenty of good “shore-feeding” opportunities. Peggy’s mate, Mr. No Bangles, was enjoying a dragonfly among other things....
It is always wonderful to see the Piping Plovers feeding after a rainy, windy night. There is much to choose from --- after the storm and before the crowds of people arrive.
On Wednesday evening (June 21) when we visited, there was an eggshell beside the parent in the exclosure, and plenty of wiggling going on. It was chilly and windy, though, and we did not see any chicks.....
Interestingly, another female with the bands X (61 over 14), B (1, 15) ; -- , O appeared on the beach just long enough to drop an egg in the same perimeter as Nest 2. The egg was covered with a mini, but has been abandoned, and this female has moved on.
As of today, there are 3 pairs of Piping Plovers on Sauble Beach watching over 12 active, healthy-looking little chicks.
Please, please, please, let some of them make it through these difficult days to the fledging stage!!!
*I want to emphasize that great care was taken not to disturb or cause stress to the birds in the process of photographing the Piping Plovers. I would urge all visitors, and especially photographers, to respect the signage, and the “body language” of the birds, when spending time with our amazing little Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach.
*I would also like to thank Todd Pover for the expertise and wisdom that he shared with us during his “Beach Talk” on Monday, June 19. It is encouraging to know that there are people with his passion and commitment working toward the recovery of the Plovers!