Nova Scotia

Piping plovers preservation ramps up on International Migratory Bird Day

It was a day of mixed emotions for a flock of volunteers at White Point Beach for International Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, who were there to keep an eye on the vulnerable piping plovers nesting in the area.

South Queens Middles School students made signs to create zone of protection for plovers on Saturday

Bird Studies Canada, White Point Beach Resort staff treaded carefully across the South Shore sands, posting signs made by students from South Queens Middle School. A nest of four eggs had been discovered earlier last week. (Submitted by Parks Canada)

It was a day of mixed emotions for a flock of volunteers at White Point Beach for International Migratory Bird Day, who were there to keep an eye on the vulnerable piping plovers nesting in the area.

On Saturday, Bird Studies Canada and White Point Beach Resort staff stepped carefully across the South Shore sands, posting signs made by students from South Queens Middle School. A nest of four eggs had been discovered earlier last week. 

Knowing the sparrow-sized birds nest in open beach sand for two months, the signs asked visitors to watch their step and to keep their dogs on a leash. Donna Hatt, the resort's marketing manager, said the students were "completely enamoured" of the plovers and their "plight in survival." 

"We concluded our day by heading down the beach of course to check in on our nest of four eggs, but the celebration of the day kind of had a twist of fate that we weren't expecting," said Hatt. 

That nest of four eggs was empty. No discernable tracks were found around the nest. 

Unexpected find

Sue Abbott with Birds Studies Canada was with the group at the time. Having the proper permits to do so, she approached the nest and concluded a light-footed natural predator likely took the eggs.

If it had been a dog or a human, Abbott said she "would have seen footprints through the sand."

Grades six, seven and eight students from South Queens Middle School made these signs that were posted around White Point Beach. (White Point Beach Resort)

There are about 50 pairs of plovers that visit the province, but their numbers have been in decline. Even without the threat of predators, Abbott said, plovers eggs have about a 50 per cent chance of hatching. 

"It does take the female about a week to start to re-lay," she said. "It does take work for the female to re-lay as any mom would understand."

'They'll nest again'

Not every nest can successfully hatch, Abbott said. But there is good news to be heard.

"Most plovers at this point, if they do lose their first nest, they'll nest again. And that's the positive." 

Over the last five years, Hatt said White Point Beach Resort volunteers have successfully fledged 11 chicks into the population. The students joined in this year as part of an international shore birds sister school program.

A few of the same volunteers will head to Cherry Hill on Sunday, just outside Liverpool. Abbott said they haven't yet found any plovers in that area, but she's "hoping there is a pair that will start nesting soon." 

One student begins a sign asking visitors to keep their dogs on leash to prevent accidental trampling. (White Point Beach Resort)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Irish

Reporter

David Irish is a producer and digital editor for CBC Nova Scotia. dave.irish@cbc.ca

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