By Lindsey Greidanus, Ontario Piping Plover Technician, Birds Canada
2021 marks the 15th consecutive season that Piping Plovers have graced Ontario Great Lakes shorelines following a 30-year absence. This year, we have had seven breeding pairs in Ontario, some more successful than others.
At busy Wasaga Beach, three fluffy fledglings belonging to adults nicknamed “Fudge” and “Pepa” are getting more independent each day and will likely migrate soon. To the north of Wasaga Beach at Tiny Township, Ms. Sunshine and Flash raised two successful fledglings on a much quieter beach. Late to the party, Nancy (previously of Wasaga Beach) and Bo (a first-year from Wasaga), laid three eggs on Sauble Beach that hatched recently, however we were very saddened to lose all three chicks to predation.
Piping Plover family at Darlington Photo: Tom St Jean
One of this year’s top stories is out of Darlington Provincial Park, which is once again hosting Blue and Ms. Howard. They successfully fledged all of their chicks last year, and have just fledged four more! This kind of back-to-back success is almost unheard of! While Blue appears to be an attentive partner, that has not stopped him from taking advantage of a beach with significantly more female plovers; he has also bred with two “single” females, whose nests were not successful. Starting a family is quite difficult when you are a member of an Endangered species, and hopefully these two females – Chewie and “086” (better nickname to come!) – find a more dedicated partner next year. Unexpectedly, Presqu’ile Provincial Park also had a single female nest. She quickly laid a single egg upon arriving at the beach, but abandoned it soon after. The male of this nest will forever be a mystery.
Ms. Sunshine Photo: Neal Mutiger
Elsewhere in the province, single and migrating plovers continue to stop by beaches in search of company. While we wait for the stars to align and two plovers to discover each other on a beach that they may return to next year, outreach efforts continue. If you haven’t had a chance to grab some plover stickers or tattoos at the beach, make an order from Aves Coffee Co., a new organic, fair trade, bird-friendly coffee roaster based in Oshawa, Ontario. Aves Coffee Co. is working to raise awareness about endangered birds. They’ve kindly offered to share our plover materials in the mail with all coffee purchases, as soon as they launch in August. Visit avescoffeeco.com after August 1!
Seventy-four Piping Plover pairs have been counted across the Great Lakes this year, including a couple of our own Ontario-hatched plovers that settled down in the U.S. to start a family. Despite high water levels and temporary pandemic setbacks, the Great Lakes Piping Plover population continues to recover!
Piping Plover with gulls Photo: Neal Mutiger
Thank you to all the countless volunteers who champion the Piping Plover conservation efforts; we look forward to welcoming you back in person next season. And big thanks to Ontario Parks, Stewardship Grey Bruce (Plover Lovers), and Friends of Nancy Island for the direct support on the beaches.
For further updates, please follow the plovers on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @ontarioplovers.