As we head into the extra hot, extra busy Canada Day weekend, we have 7 Piping Plovers on Sauble Beach. Gulls have been relentless, and have taken several chicks, and we have lost one adult Male as well.
Beginning with the North nest, here is what has transpired over the last 2 weeks:
Ms. Green Dots and Mr. Blue Bands have done an excellent job of parenting their young ones (hatched on June 13). They have willingly spent time brooding when the chicks would cooperate,
and have very bravely chased Gulls and Crows. (Thanks to Yvonne for sharing these photos from our day on the beach!)
In spite of their vigilance, only 3 chicks made it through the first week, and the 4th was likely depredated on June 19 or 20 . The 3 remaining chicks appeared to be healthy, feeding well, and scooting around the shoreline (with their typical lack of concern for danger!), on June 20 when we visited. In these photos, they are almost a week old.
3 chicks were banded on the morning of June 22, when they would have been about 9 days old.
On the evening of June 26, when the chicks were about 13 days old, we only saw 1 chick at Nest 1, with 2 adults taking turns brooding. (Volunteers had seen all 3 chicks earlier in the day.)
The chick popped out from under Mom for a moment,
but Dad quickly appeared and tucked it back in again! This isn’t a great photo, but we can see tiny feathers starting to develop on the wings.
A second chick was sighted the following day, but we are assuming that the third one disappeared sometime on June 26.
So... Nest 1 has 2 adults and 2 chicks at the present time.
Ms. Green Dots will likely take her leave shortly, as Mama Plovers are wont to do. She is a lovely bird, and has demonstrated her maternal skills at Sauble for 3 years now. Ms. Green Dots stood near her chick on Tuesday (June 26) as the sun set over the lake, in the soft orange light of evening.
Perhaps she was saying, “Watch over my little ones .... I need to move on."
On June 20, Nest 2 had 3 healthy 5-day-old chicks running on the beach. The reeds and grasses around a small drainage ditch near Huron Feathers provided an excellent feeding/hiding spot for the family.
They hatched on June 15 (1 egg did not hatch), but lost their Dad (Mr. ObbO) sometime around on June 19 or 20, likely to one of the Merlins that has been seen in the area. The loss of an adult Plover is devastating to a family of chicks, and to the entire fragile population of Piping Plovers. This Male was 6 years old, and was an attentive, protective father.
Mom was doing her best to care for her 3 babies on the day that we visited.
It is very difficult for a single parent to raise/protect a family, and on June 21, 1 of the chicks disappeared. The remaining 2 chicks were banded on the same day as the North nest chicks (June 22), later in the morning. They would have been a week old that afternoon. Upon their release, after being banded, 1 of the babies was snatched by a Gull almost immediately. The other one disappeared the next day (June 23), leaving only the Mother (Ms. Sunshine).
Ms. Sunshine has now left the beach.
Nest 3 was the last nesting site to be established, and has been in the process of hatching this past week. Unfortunately, it seems that 2 of the eggs are not viable, and only 1 of the chicks is healthy enough to survive.
On June 26, the stronger hatchling was foraging well, and returning to brood frequently. It was 2 days old when these photos were taken.
Even at the tender age of 2 days, tiny wings are being flapped ever so slightly!
The adult birds were taking turns incubating inside the exclosure, and caring for the wandering chick. Much piping was heard from the Female, Ms. Sunset, as she worried about the healthy chick, the not-so-healthy one that was in the nest, and the 2 eggs that refused to break open.
Here we see the 2-day-old chick coming in to brood underneath its parent....
and in this photo, we can see the other little hatchling’s legs as it struggles to right itself.
Chick 1 didn’t brood for long before popping out again to preen and feed.
During a shift change, it was possible to see 2 eggs, and a chick that seemed to be on its side and back.
The parents nudged and prodded the little one, but it did not seem to have the strength to lift itself out of the nest.
As of today, Nest 3 has 2 very protective parents caring for 1 chick.
Let us hope that the Canada Day crowds are willing to be respectful of the signs,
and that the Gulls can scavenge enough French Fries (away from the beach!) that they don’t feel the need to eat any more of our baby Plovers.
May we have the same number of Piping Plovers on Monday that we have today! Happy Canada Day, and if you are on the beach, take a few moments to check on our special guests....