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.

22 June 2010

Surprise! Surprise!

I started my shift at 4:30 AM today, did I mention I started at 4:30, with a quick check of the parking lot 5 nest. No bird to be found. I then walked over to the beach and feeding area. In the pre-dawn light I saw one chick near the water's edge and dad nestled on the beach keeping the other kids warm. When dad arose you could have knocked me over with a feather. There they were, not one, not two, but three chicks. Yes, your math is correct. That made four chicks. After scanning the beach and counting and recounting four chicks about a hundred times, I went back to the nest to confirm that the last egg had indeed hatched and that we hadn't somehow inherited an orphan during the night. At shift's end all four babies were doing well scurrying along the beach as fast as their little toothpick legs would take them. Stay tuned.


21 June 2010


I am pleased to announce that the first nest at Grand Beach has produced a set of triplets. Hatching began Saturday, June 19 and by Sunday afternoon three cotton balls on toothpicks were scurrying around parking lot #5. Unfortunately, one egg has not hatched although both adult birds continue to take turns incubating and attending to the three chicks. By Sunday evening they had crossed the 'Lawrence of Arabia' sand dunes and settled nicely on the beach. When I returned for my morning shift at 4:30 AM, yes you read that correctly 4:30, just me and a gazillion mosquitoes, mom was on the nest and I found dad on the beach with the wee ones nestled under him. This parking lot in Grand Beach Provincial Park has been a mainstay of the program for over a decade and although in recent years not all eggs have hatched successfully, two or three birds have reached the fledgling stage. We are hopeful another three chicks will make the long trek south in August to their wintering grounds along the Gulf Coast.


10 June 2010

Eggs on the Move

I am pleased to announce that the first ever attempt in Manitoba at moving a nest with a full clutch of four eggs was successfully accomplished yesterday (June 9). Here is how it happened.
I was informed last Friday (June 4) that a move was eminent as last year's Channel birds at Grand Beach had decided to nest on the beach, rather than on the raised dune that had been so successful for them the last two seasons. If a storm rose up, they would surely be flooded out. However, knowing the lake levels were down this year and as it was one of only three nests found across the province, I was hesitant to see any action taken based on speculation that the waters might rise. I asked my boss to hold off so that I might see the situation for myself. She agreed to hold off a few days.

On Tuesday (June 8) I drove up to the Beach with Paul Goossen of the Canadian Wildlife Service. Paul has a great deal of experience with nest moving, having had to perform the task on numerous occasions at Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan. We assessed the situation and came to the conclusion that the nest was well out of reach from any flooding unless it was an exceptional circumstance. Better to leave well enough alone. However, we did select a location where the nest could be moved if need be and Paul showed me, Morgan our STEP student plover guardian and Matt, one of our dedicated volunteer plover guardians, exactly how to move the nest as a last resort. We drove back to Winnipeg secure in our belief that we had made the right decision.

So much for assessments, plans and decisions. By the time we reached Winnipeg a doozy of a storm was rumbling across the Interlake and Lake Winnipeg headed for Grand Beach. I received an urgent text the following morning (June 9) that the water was but three feet away from flooding the nest. Morgan and Matt jumped into action and proceeded with the risky business of attempting to move the nest in less than ideal conditions. I'll save the description of how a move is conducted for another blog, but suffice it to say that Morgan and Matt were able to save the day and nest with a move of about 20 metres to a slight rise on the beach close to the dunes. The plovers accepted the move and new location and were last seen incubating their clutch of eggs in their new surroundings.

Congratulations Morgan and Matt! A job well done in every way. A Manitoba first!


02 June 2010

Where are the Chicks?

No, not those kind of chicks, I'm talking piping plovers. Last summer eight chicks were fitted with leg bands. This would allow us to identify them on their wintering grounds along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico or upon their return this spring. We banded five chicks at Grand Beach and three at Gimli Beach. I had the privilege of assisting Canadian Wildlife Service staff with this task. All eight of these chicks eventually fledged. That means the birds were able to fly on their own and migrate south for the winter. So after six weeks of surveying every beach on the west side of Lake Winnipeg and the east side of Lake Manitoba, where are they? Research has shown that first year adults do not normally return to the place where they hatched. However, they do return to the general area. That is, birds that hatched at Grand Beach may not return there in their first year, but they could be expected to show up at a nearby location like Hillside Beach or Elk Island. But so far, we have not received a report of these birds showing up anywhere from the Great Lakes west to Alberta. So where are they? What happened to our chicks?