Piping Plovers are small, endangered shorebirds in Manitoba. Its call is described as a "plaintive peep-lo" which made it the perfect name for this blog as it too is a plaintive call, a Call to Action.

01 October 2002

2002 Piping Plover Report

Throughout Manitoba, 24 historic and potential sites were surveyed for the presence of piping plovers during the 2002 breeding season (see table for list of sites). In total, 27 adults (13 pair) were located breeding in 6 sites scattered along the shores of Lake Winnipeg and the south basin of Lake Manitoba. Plovers were found breeding at Clandeboye Bay, Twin Lakes Beach, Gull Bay (North and South spits), Grand Marais Island (Steven’s Island), and Grand Beach Provincial Park. Patricia Beach Provincial Park, which had one pair last year, did not have breeding plovers this season (even though improved habitat conditions existed).

Nests located in Grand Beach and Twin Lakes were individually protected with snow fencing and/or rope enclosures to reduce human disturbance. The potential nesting habitat at Clandeboye Bay Special Conservation area was completely fenced off by regional staff in early June (from the channel down towards the trees - aprox. 2700 feet long). Nests found at Gull Bay and Grand Marais Island were not protected. All protected nests were monitored a minimum of once a week.

Five exclosure cages, made of utility wire, were used on nests at Clandeboye Bay and Grand Beach (four and one respectively). No problems associated with nest abandonment or adult depredation occurred. One exclosed nest was lost due to unknown reasons (assumed predation). All other exclosed nests successfully hatched. In contrast, 7 of 11 nests for which exclosures were not used eventually failed (including two that failed before complete clutches occurred).

In total there were 16 nesting attempts with 8 successful nests. Of these successful nests, three were protected with exclosure cages, one had both an exclosure and enclosure, one had only an enclosure and three did not have any form of protection. Six nests were lost to predation and/or possible human disturbance and the remaining two nests were lost to unknown reasons. Within 2 days of hatch, 24 chicks were spotted with at least 14 chicks survived to fledge (counted at 18 days and at 24 days). Annual productivity for Manitoba during 2002 was estimated to be at least 1.08 fledged chicks/pair (N=13). Which is slightly higher then Sue Haig’s (1987) average of 0.9 chicks fledged per pair per season (N=94) during her study of plovers in southern Manitoba between 1981-1986.

For most of the summer, water conditions were lower than in the past five years on Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, providing above average habitat conditions at many sites. However, water levels at West Shoal Lake’s continue to rise and all historically suitable habitat areas along the south and west shores are still completely under water. Water levels at West Shoal Lake have been increasing since 1998, resulting in no Piping Plovers being found for a fifth consecutive year. This site will remain unsuitable until water levels drop to pre 1996 levels.

Four new potential areas were surveyed this year, but no new breeding locations were found. Aerial surveys of Katimik Lake located only one potential area along the northeastern shoreline. However, due to limited accessibility, the area was never searched on foot. Also, two islands on Kawiknawin Lake held potential, but are protected as breeding areas for the American White Pelican. Other sites that have been used at least once during the past 15 years that were not checked due to their remote locations included Winnipegosis (1987-88), Gull Island (1990), and North Egg Island (1990).

Alex Palicka Miller
2002 Provincial Piping Plover Stewardship Program Coordinator

01 September 2002

Thank You Everyone

I would like to thank everyone who volunteered at Grand Beach - your assistance made this year's Program a success. For those people who followed this year's Program activities via this website, please come visit Grand Beach next year and see the plovers in-person - they are well worth the trip! We wish everyone a great winter and hope to see you all again next year!

Tracy Maconachie
2002 Grand Beach Guardian Program Coordinator

14 August 2002

Harder To Find Now

This morning was the last date that the Change-house chicks were observed at Grand Beach. Plovers may be observed from time to time foraging on the beaches, but by this stage of development, it is impossible to distinguish between the adults and the newly fledged chicks. All the birds, adults and young, will shortly migrate to the south and south-east coasts of the U.S. before returning to the Prairies again next spring.

05 August 2002

The Change-house Chicks

The Change-house chicks have finally fledged and have been observed as far west as the Channel, always in the presence of an adult. Barring predation, they should have moved away from the Grand Beach area by mid-month.

31 July 2002

Stevens Island & the Channel Chicks

All the chicks on Stevens Island and from the Channel nest have survived successfully and have now flown away from their nest sites. In the end, there were three surviving chicks on Stevens Island and two chicks from the Channel nest. Given how vulnerable the plovers are during incubation and while the chicks are young and flightless, some losses are inevitable. Compared with recent years' success rate, this year has been better in terms of chick survival.

22 July 2002

Flying Up & Fencing Down

The remaining two Channel chicks have fledged successfully. They were spotted flying along the East Beach in the accompany of one of the adults. We have also had another nest abandonnment in Parking Lot # 5. It was decided to pull the last egg from the nest for to send it for analysis by the Canadian Wildlife Service. Unfortunately it was too damaged to send it securely. Perhaps we will have better luck at this location next year. As the adults have moved onto the West Beach and it is too late for them to re-nest a third time, we have disassembled the fencing in the Parking Lot for the season. Like the fencing in the West Beach blow-out, we intend to erect this enclosure again next year. We have also disassembled the enclosure on the East Beach near the Change-house. With the high water levels, the water has begun pulling on the plastic fencing and it is becoming increasingly dangerous for the young plovers who may become caught if the fencing comes down around them. In addition, it poses a hazard for the pedestrians who regularly travel this section of beach. If the plovers nest here again, we will once again erect an enclosure around the nest, but because we don't know exactly where they might nest, we won't be able to install the fencing prior to the birds return like can in the Parking Lot or in the West Beach Blow-out.

16 July 2002

East Beach Chicks

The East Beach chicks hatched three days ago, but unfortunately we have lost two of the chicks. The first chick was predated by crows within hours of hatching, while the second was found to be missing this morning. The remaining two chicks are growing rapidly and are being guarded by two very protective parents. With luck they will keep close to the willow on the dunes where they are protected from crows, gulls and the like. As the nesting season is nearly finished and there has yet to be any sign of nesting activity in the fenced-off area in the West Beach blow-out, we have disassembled the fencing. We plan to fence off this area again next year in the hope that the plovers will perhaps nest there again.

11 July 2002

Chicks at the Channel & near Grand Marais

Another of the chicks from the Channel nest has gone missing. As the chicks are now half-grown, it is assumed that predation was the cause. At this age, plover chicks are usually pretty safe from predators as they are larger, faster and more experienced, but until they have actually fledged they are still at risk. A new nest was found on Stevens Island near Grand Marais on Tuesday. One of the three eggs had already hatched so the other two should have hatched within the next 24 hours. Because of the island's isolated nature and because the eggs were already hatching, no protective fencing has been erected. Plover chicks are mobile within minutes of hatching so the fencing is of limited protection as both the adults and chicks regularly forage some distance from the nest.

30 June 2002

Missing Chick at the Channel

All four eggs in the Channel nest hatched three days ago and all the chicks were up and running around within minutes of hatching. As of this morning however, one chick is missing. This chick was noticeably smaller than the other three, and had been observed over the last couple of days straying away from the rest of the group on a number of occasions. It is unknown if the chick fell prey to a predator if it failed to thrive due to an underlying phsiological cause. It is likely that it was a bit of both.

24 June 2002

A Third Nest

More nesting news! A third nest has been discovered at Grand Beach. Its located near the closed Change-house on the East Beach and as the photo shows it is less pebbled than either the Parking Lot or Channel nest. When we found the nest, it already had four eggs in it and, as this section of beach is quite narrow and frequently used by pedestrian traffic, we have erected orange plastic snow fencing to provide some protection. As we don't know when the first two eggs were laid, it is impossible to estimate their hatch date. We will be checking the nest daily.

We have also discovered that the pair in Parking Lot # 5 have abandonned their first nest and have re-nested about 2 meters away. They are currently incubating another clutch of four eggs and we hope that this second nest will hatch in about four weeks. Re-nesting usually occurs if a nest has been disturbed or if the eggs are infertile. As the pair have re-nested so close to the original nest site, the nest wasn't abadonned because the adults were disturbed. Unfortunately because the birds have expended so much of their energy on the first nest, second nestings are not usually as successful - fewer eggs hatch and/or chicks are smaller/weaker. You can be sure we will be keeping a close watch on this nest over the next few of weeks - hopefully all will be well.

07 June 2002

Walking the Beaches

We have been walking the Beaches between Patricia Beach and Elk Island and while we have seen the occasional Plover, still no sign of more nests. Its a nerve-wracking activity. The birds are wonderfully camoflauged but their eggs are truly wonders of invisibility . Walking the Plovers traditional nesting grounds is a slow, meticulous process. It is necessary to walk at the water's edge and constantly scan the sand for the birds and/or sign of nest scrapes. Because the beaches along Lake Winnipeg are narrow and water levels change rapidly, nests can be closer to the water than expected. It is important when enjoying these beaches to assume that Plovers could be nesting anywhere. And remember than atv-use not only damages the beach ecosystem and is dangerous for nesting birds, it is also illegal in all provincially protected areas. Another human-related threat is "Man's best friend". Dogs are wonderful companions but they dangerous to nesting birds. They are curious and their natural instinct is to chase. As ground-nesters Plovers are of particular fascination for dogs. In provincially-protected areas, free-ranging dogs are not allowed in the water, on the sand, or in the dunes for the health and safety of beach-users. On non-protected beaches, please choose alternate routes for your daily walks during the nesting season. The safety and survival of the Manitoba's Plovers is everyone's responsibility.

01 June 2002

Eggs & Eye-Strain

Both of our Grand Beach nests (in Parking Lot # 5 by the Channel) now have four eggs. The adult Plovers are close to the nest at all times but are very difficult to spot unless you know what to look for. The best way to spot them in the nest enclosures is to sit on the sand (this makes them less nervous) and look for the white and black bands across their breast. Because our their colouration, it takes time and patience to spot them. If you wait, you may see the pair exchange duties or the incubating bird change position. It just takes patience and a little eye-strain!

28 May 2002

Nesting at Grand Beach

We have two active nests at Grand Beach as of today - one in Parking Lot # 5 (3 eggs) and the other on the west side of the Channel (1 egg). We have erected fencing around the nesting areas to provide the birds with protection from human activity, but also to provide them with a buffer so that they are stressed as little as possible by the human activity around them. We have also posted signs informing beach-users of the birds' presence and the reason for the fencing. Barring predation, abandonment or destruction of the nests, we should have chicks by this time next month!

20 May 2002

Icebergs in May

Hard to believe its Victoria Day - the temperature is comfortable but the snow (and the icebergs!) are keeping it from getting really warm. There is finally sand showing at Grand Beach. There are eagles on the Bay at Grand Beach and gulls skittering along on the ice. We had a report of Plovers in Parking Lot # 5 at Grand Beach from a local resident, but they are playing hard-to-get for us. No sign of eggs yet either! The Grand Beach Park Staff have helped us erect enclosure fencing around a section of Parking Lot # 5 and in the blowout on the West Beach. These two locations have been used frequently by nesting plovers over the years, so we decided to protect enough of these locations in advance of the plovers' (and beach-users) arrival. We have also fenced off a larger area than usual in order to provide the plovers (and their chicks) with a protective buffer during the crucial nesting period.

17 May 2002

Snow & Pelicans

With snow everywhere, its hard to believe that its 22 degrees Celsius today. The birds know its spring however, there are gulls and terns and pelicans everywhere. And for the Plovers, love is in the air! It looks like snow or no snow we'll have eggs soon.