Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Shorebirds return to Ontario parks

In today’s post, biologist Monica Fromberger shares the hot gossip surrounding this season’s plover population.

We had TWO Piping Plover nests in Southeastern Ontario this year!

One in Darlington Provincial Park and the other in Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

Our Darlington Ladies

This year in Darlington, the three Piping Plover ladies: Miss Howard, Chewie and 086 returned to the beach at the end of April.

The song “all the single women” definitely came to mind as they waited for a man or two (or three!) to show up.

plover collageLeft to right: Miss Howard, Chewie and 086 at Darlington Provincial Park. Photos: Tom St Jean

Although only half of our Darlington power couple Piping Plover returned this season (unfortunately, Blue was not revived), we had a different kind of couple in Darlington: a girl power one!

Miss Howard and Chewie got tired of waiting and got to work together to make their own nest.

This is most likely the world’s first time for Piping Plover!

We found an egg on May 13 and had to ask ourselves “are plovers like chickens?”

Based on the egg laying dates and the total number of eggs laid (six total!), we believe that both Miss Howard and Chewie were laying eggs in the same nest. We even observed them disengaging from incubation duties just as a normal breeding pair would!

collage of plovers and eggsLeft: Miss Howard and Chewie. Photo: Tom St Jean. Right: her nest of six eggs. Photo taken by authorized researchers.

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Everyone was very excited and eager to see the result of this double nest of females. However, after the intense storm hit southern Ontario over the long weekend in May, we never saw Miss Howard again…

After losing her nesting partner, Chewie soon abandoned the nest and was last seen on the beach on May 23.

The season wasn’t quite over for Chewie, however, as she finally became a mother on Toronto Island this year after finding a male.

Check out Birds Canada’s The Warblers podcasts to learn more!

Perfect pairing of plover

Meanwhile, in Presqu’ile, plovers born and raised in Ontario’s Saga and Darling parks were starting their first family.

This is the first year since 2016 that a breeding pair of plovers nested in Presqu’ile, and that 2016 nest was the first in the park in 100 years!

plover on the beachSaga in Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Photo: Barb McCuaig

Saga is our proud plover dad.

Its name is a nod to the Ontario Parks beach where it was born in 2021, Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.

He arrived on May 3 and began actively attracting mates with his love songs and flying displays. I told him about the three single plovers in Darlington, but he had other plans.

plover on the beachDear looking for food on the coast. Photo: Tom St Jean

Darling, our mother plover, arrived a couple of days later.

She left the Darlington nest in 2021, making her the daughter of Miss Howard and Blue.

And the moment to come full circle comes when you remember that Miss Howard was the mother of the 2016 Presqu’ile nest! From such a mother such a daughter!

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The young pair laid their first egg on May 17 and completed their clutch of four eggs on May 23. On June 18, the four chicks hatched and began to explore their new world.

plover chicksTwo of the three fledgling plovers. Photo: Barb McCuaig

Unfortunately, one chick was lost probably due to predation, but the remaining three chicks managed to fly and migrate successfully!

Presqu’ile and Darlington weren’t the only parks welcoming plovers this year. Listed as an endangered species, the piping plover may be a rare sight in most of Ontario, but it has become a common bird in Wasaga Beach Provincial Park since its return in 2008.

This year, two pairs of plovers raised four chicks at Wasaga Beach. This brings the park’s total to 82 chicks that have successfully fledged the nest since the start of the recovery program; the largest number of chicks from a single site in Ontario!

We wish all our plovers a safe trip and hope to see you again next year!

Thank you to all of our amazing Piping Plover volunteers for your time and passion! You play a very important role in the overall success of the Plover Recovery Program.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Piping Plover volunteer, check out this Birds Canada webpage for more details.

A big thank you to all of our park visitors for giving these endangered plovers their space, cleaning up their trash (it attracts unwanted predators!), and keeping their pets off our pet-free beaches.