The piping plover is an endangered ground nesting shorebird that inhabits our shores from late spring until early fall. Plovers can be found on mostly sandy beaches (with some larger grain and smaller rock) and in coastal dunes where vegetation is sparse and mostly limited to grasses. This year, Qalipu continued its monitoring of the Piping plover (Charadrius melodus melodus) in the Bay St. George region. We returned to the same sites which we have been surveying the past number of years; Sandy Point, Flat Bay Peninsula, Stephenville Crossing, and Black Bank.
During the 2018-2019 field season a total of twelve individuals were spotted at Flat Bay and Sandy Point combined including seven chicks, and seven adults, four of which made up two breeding pairs. At Black Bank, a total of ten individuals were spotted consisting of four chicks and six adults, four of which made up two breeding pairs. The piping plover chicks and two breeding pairs that were spotted at Black bank were only seen once. The fate of the chicks could not be confirmed at any of the locations.
It is important to remember that the same beaches in which piping plover inhabit are one’s that are favorable to recreational activities (riding ATVs, sun bathing, swimming, beach fires, etc.). This can make things difficult for preventing disturbance of the species during their nesting period. There are some preventative measures we can take when using beaches that have suitable piping plover habitat or are inhabited by piping plovers. The following list of recommendations is collected from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s promotional materials:
- Between April and August stay away from recognized piping plover breeding and nesting areas. Walk on the wet sand, close to the water’s edge.
- Keep your pets on a leash. Wandering pets can disturb nesting birds and be significantly harmful to chicks and fledglings
- Clean up garbage found on the beach and if you pack it in, pack it out. Food wrapping and waste can attract scavenging predators
- Leave natural debris on the beach as piping plovers rely on these resources for food and cover. These include seaweed, shells, and woody debris
- Do not operate any vehicles on beaches or coastal dunes. Doing so can disturb nesting plovers, cause chicks to get stuck in tire ruts and separated from their mothers, crush eggs/chicks, and in the case of riding in dunes, accelerate coastal erosion in the area and cause permanent habitat loss.
- Report the location of piping plovers and their nests to the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) or Qalipu Fisheries Guardians
- If you see people, or pets disturbing piping plovers or their nests, contact CWS to report the disturbance. It’s a federal offence under the Species at Risk Act to harass species at risk.
Join a local stewardship group or volunteer organization to help protect species at risk and talk to others about these best practices to help protect our species at risk. You can contact CWS for more information on Piping Plover groups in your local area