This past Saturday was extra-special (June 2017). I had the rare opportunity to view an adult Piping Plover, and I saw a precious little chick, aptly described as a cute cotton-ball on sticks. I was at Wasaga Beach's Waterfront Festival, participating in Ploverpalooza and talking to people about Georgian Bay Forever and the work we are doing to protect your water.
I was most impressed by the volunteer Piping Plover Guardians, a Wasaga Beach Provincial Park program. One part of the program creates a safe space for these birds, allowing Piping Plovers to nest on the shore and giving babies a chance to survive. I met so many great Guardians - Fiona, Dave, Joanne - just to name a few of these amazing and dedicated volunteers.
Piping Plovers are an endangered shorebird that are quite small at about 16 centimetres tall. They are "found only on open beaches, which are becoming rare due to human activity," according to Ontario Parks. The Spring is a critical time for them to find safe nesting grounds, and that is when they come to Wasaga Beach, Georgian Bay.
Typically, many of us think of beaches as a source for our own recreational purposes. While recreation is important, our human activity can be harmful to the ecology of beaches including some of our preferences for vegetation-free beaches. What is fantastic about Wasaga Beach is that the community with Ontario Parks are finding ways for us to enjoy the beach, and also be mindful of protecting it's natural ecology. The recreational part of the Beach 1 coexists with an area fenced off for the Piping Plover to nest, and beach vegetation to grow. This allows for important shelter from predators for these small creatures and their tiny offspring. This year, I believe there are three nests, one of which had hatched already with 4 little chicks.
Thank-you to all the Piping Plover Guardians who have been working for years to educate the public and protect these birds with Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, many of which are from Friends of Nancy Island. For more information on this program, please call 705-429-2516 or visit their blog at http://ploverpalooza.blogspot.ca/.