While the start of the 2020 Piping Plover season was unpredictable, park staff were able to begin their on the ground work in mid-May and were therefore able to continue with the Piping Plover Recovery Program at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park this season.  Due to COVID-19, the Piping Plover volunteer program did not run for the 2020 season, however provincial park staff were on site everyday to monitor the birds and erect fencing and predator exclosures.  Birds Canada continued to offer support to the program and were onsite to complete chick banding.  Wasaga Beach had a total of two nests this season, and park staff also played a pivotal role in the success of a new nest location on Woodland Beach on the border of Tiny Township and Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.  Keep reading below for details on the 2020 Piping Plover season!

(c) Neal Mutiger

Nest 1 – Worsley & Pepa
After successfully mating with Nancy for three seasons, Worsley decided to switch things up this year and found a new partner in Pepa, who has also been a successful parent at Wasaga Beach for many seasons.  Their nest was located with two eggs above the boardwalk on May 12th, and fencing was immediately erected to ensure they had their space.  Once again park staff blocked off the boardwalk providing an alternative access route along the beach for the duration of the incubation.

After a month of nest watching, staff witnessed all four chicks hatch on June 12th.  Perhaps even more exciting was that the mystery of the boardwalk chicks has finally been solved!  On June 13th, in the late afternoon, both park staff and visitors witnessed Worsley and Pepa ‘pipe’ their chicks across the boardwalk and down the ramp to the beach.  Having figured out this handy trick, the family continued to travel back and forth across the boardwalk for the next several weeks.

All four chicks were banded on June 22nd, however shortly afterwards one chick went missing and was presumed predated.  Even more sorrowful, proud papa Worsley was also noted to be missing on June 29th.  Park staff have theorized that he went out in a ferocious battle with a gull or crow as he was attempting to save one of his chicks lives.  Staff and volunteers alike will miss his fiesty attitude and unique personality after so many seasons.  However, Worsley’s name lives on in the three chicks that successfully fledged from his nest.

(c) Neal Mutiger

Nest 2 – Fudge & Nancy
Upon arriving at Wasaga Beach, Nancy was shocked to find her mate of three seasons had paired with another female.  As a result, Nancy settled with a younger male this year, Fudge, who is the offspring of Pepa’s nest from 2019.  So wait…that means…Fudge is with his step-father’s exwife?  A plover scandal to be sure!

Fudge and Nancy originally scraped near the shoreline and had a nest located on May 19th.  Unfortunately by May 22nd this nest had either been predated or washed out.  Learning from experience, their second nest location was as far from the shore as they could get…right in the middle of Seely’s Parking lot!  Their second nest was located on May 24th, and produced a full clutch of four eggs.

Despite an erratic and atypical incubation, two chicks successfully hatched on June 26th, and one chick followed three days later on June 29th.  Fudge and Nancy were witnessed by park staff ‘piping’ their chicks across the boardwalk on June 29th (they must have picked up this trick from Worsley and Pepa).  One chick went missing on July 10th, likely due to predation, and the following morning the remaining two chicks were banded.  Unfortunately, the remaining two chicks went missing on July 15th, estimated predation, and no chicks fledged from Fudge and Nancy’s nest this season.

Taking a page out of his step-father’s books, Fudge took an interest in the remaining three Worsley chicks after the loss of his own.  He graciously took on the duty of ‘older half brother’ and continued to watch over the remaining three fledglings until his departure for the south.

Woodland Beach – Flash & Tweety
On May 22nd, park staff received a call from a member of the public about a potential piping plover nest on Woodland Beach, sitting on the boundary line of Tiny Township and Wasaga Beach Provicial Park.  Alas, there were two eggs!  Working with Birds Canada, park staff worked to erect fencing and predator exclosures.  The mated pair, Flash and Tweety, had unsuccessfuly nested in Wasaga Beach in 2019, and had spent a few weeks trying to find their perfect location in Wasaga Beach before finally settling on Woodland Beach.

Four chicks successfully hatched on June 20th, however only two chicks remained on banding day which occurred on June 28th.  By the end of the season one chick successfully fledged from Woodland Beach.