Monday, June 27, 2016

Darlington Piping Plovers

Last week, my labmate Dan and I took a bit of a break and went to Darlington Provincial Park in hope to see the Piping Plovers that were nesting there.

Piping Plovers are a species at risk here in Ontario listed as Endangered. In 2007, Piping Plovers began nesting again along the Great Lakes along the Ontario shore around Lake Huron.  Here on Lake Ontario, the last documented nest according to the Ontario Recovery Strategy for Piping Plovers was 1934 on the Toronto Islands or 1916 at Presqu'ile Provincial Park.  SO, this news has been really exciting for this area as its been over 80 years since they have nested on the lake!!

Darlington Provincial Park set up enclosures to ensure the best chance of nest survival.  These include a caged area (to protect the nest from not only being trampled, but by depredation of raccoons or other egg eaters, and also a larger roped off area to allow the birds as much space as possible to forage and not "run-into" humans on the beach.  During daylight hours volunteers are also there ensuring that people follow the rules of the enclosure, that there are no off leash dogs, or any other human imposed things that could harm the young.  They are doing a great job!

Plover on the nest
Dan taking photos near roped off area
Once we arrived at the Park we headed almost straight to the beach. The first of the two nests were very close and we were delighted to see three young scampering around!  They were super adorable and reminded me of little marshmallows on sticks.  It was such a delight to be able to see them!

Young Piping Plover

Young Piping Plover

Adult Piping Plover
The second nest was a little further on the beach.  At this time, the nest had not been hatched and so we saw the adult on the nest in the enclosure.  Hopefully all eggs will be hatched shortly and fledge successfully!

On our way to and from the second nest we noticed..or more like were a nesting Killdeer.  The killdeer carried on for a few minutes of our walk with its broken wing dance, followed by more "kill" screaming, etc.  The beautiful adult had 4 eggs on its nest, and hopefully they will be successful!

Oh no!  My wing is broken...I am hurt...follow me!

Earlier in the week, Dan mentioned that a Least Tern had been seen around the area!  We assumed that it would be gone by then, however one tern seemed to catch our eye!   It was certainly different from the others: did not have a full cap, a little greyer, black bill.  We got incredibly excited, however we quickly realized that all these ID marks just didn't quite fit the bill for an adult Least Tern.  In didn't quite fit the bill for any adults except one from Alaska.  After more digging and reading through some field guides, we determined that it was actually an immature Common Tern.  So not as exciting...but still exciting that we were able to catch our ID.

It was a great day trip and I was so excited to see my first ever Piping Plover.  I hope that this wasn't just a fluke year, and that these birds begin to nest again on Lake Ontario...and most of all nest successfully!

This will probably be my last post before I head up to Nunavut for the month of July!  But I am excited to come back with plenty of posts and stories to share. So I hope that everyone has a fantastic month of July!!  See you all again in August.

Until are some more photos: