The 2017 season had three nesting pair at Wasaga Beach, all of which were returning nesting birds. A total of 10 birds were identified during the spring arrivals.
The first pair had a difficult start due to the loss of some early eggs by a predator. Crows were seen in the vicinity. Nest 2 was located near the shoreline, while nest 3 was placed close to the boardwalk.
On June 15 the four chicks from Nest 3 sucessfully hatched. Unfortunately during the first weekend of June the female from Nest 2 disappeared. It is assumed that she was predated upon as several birds of prey, including a merlin, had been seen in the area. The male abandoned the nest shorly after the female’s disappearance. The eggs were unsalvagable. The lost female hatched at Wasaga Beach in 2012 and reared 10 chicks at Wasaga Beach between 2013 and 2015. She has mated with the ‘Green Bandit’ since 2014.
June 30, 2017
On June 20 and 22 the two chicks from the second nest of the first pair hatched. Unfortunately both chicks from that nest have not survived. The final chick was witnessed being predated upon by a merlin on June 26th. Merlin are a natural predator of pipling plover and their attacks are quick. During banding earlier that day, this chick was weighed in at 6.5grams. A total of three plover chicks at Wasaga Beach are surviving.
Every year brings different successes and challenges to the piping plover recovery program at Wasaga Beach. The summer of 2016 was unique in its grand success of 14 fledged chicks. The current survival to date of three chicks is still a great accomplishment this year as it was only 10 years ago that the Great Lakes piping plover population was extirpated from (or no longer found in) Canada as a breeding species. Focusing on successes, this year there have been 7 nests in Ontario, which include:
- North Beach (1)
- Darlington (1)
- Sauble Beach (3)
- Limestone Nature Reserve (1)
- Wasaga Beach (1)
Two chicks from Nest 3 have been lost to what is likely a merlin. As a result, we are down to one chick remaining from Nest 3. With the rain keeping people away this season, we have experienced significantly less issues with gulls but people are repeatedly witnessing a merlin hunting actively in and around Ploverland. Regardless, we are going to keep moving forward with our heads held high as we celebrate 10 fantastic (yes, fantastic!) years of Piping Plovers at Wasaga Beach.
Our final chick has fully develped its adult feathers and fledged. He has been observed along New Wasaga beach this past week. He will be also exploring other beaches and will soon migrate south for the winter.
While our numbers are down this year, our volunteer program has helped to ‘raise’ 54 fledglings since the program began 10 years ago. Our birds are also establishing new nesting sites across Ontario, which is a great way to look at the success of the program.