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