Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Celebrating 10 years of Piping Plovers at 
Wasaga Beach Provincial Park

Adult brooding four chicks.  Photo credit: Neal Mutiger
We are excited to announce the 10th anniversary of Piping Plovers at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park. Our summer long festival, entitled Ploverpalooza, is a notable event as it celebrates our program’s success at protecting this tiny, endangered shorebird.  Our festival thus aims to not only celebrate our success but to bring awareness to each and every patron who visits our park during the summer of 2017. Since spearheading the Piping Plover Recovery Program at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Park has been instrumental in protecting Piping Plovers during the critical nesting period.

Feeding chick.  Photo credit: Neal Mutiger
Events include a delicious fundraising dinner, onsite school programs, a four part speaker series, art workshops and children activities. We are excited for the opportunity to team up with the Town of Wasaga Beach to participate in their Waterfront Festival in Beach Area One (June 17-18th). With the exception of the gala dinner, the events are FREE to the public thanks to our generous sponsors.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are Piping Plovers?

Adult female Piping Plover. Photo credit: Neal Mutiger
The Piping Plover, a small shorebird, is listed as an endangered species in Canada and is regulated under Ontario's Endangered Species Act. Wasaga Beach Provincial Park was a historic site for nesting Piping Plovers before they became endangered so it is only natural that they have returned to this area thanks to recovery efforts in Michigan

Prior to nesting at Sauble Beach in 2007, this species had been wiped out (i.e., extirpated) from Ontario for over 70 years. As such, the presence of Piping Plovers at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is a fantastic success story about an endangered species that may be on its way to recovery with the assistance of humans.
Striking a balance.  Photo credit: Neal Mutiger

2. What is the current status of Piping Plovers?

This particular species of Piping Plover is part of the larger Great 
Lakes species. For this population, there are currently 75 breeding pairs in the Great Lakes. If you consider the amount of shoreline available along all 5 Great Lakes, the population should be much larger than its current status. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss, the Piping Plover is considered to be one of North America’s most endangered birds. Over the past 30 years, their recovery has been slow but we have progressed from only 16 pairs in the mid-1980’s to 75 pairs last year (2016). This increase would not have been possible without the Piping Plover Recovery Program such as the one we are currently managing at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park. After ten years, we are pleased to announce that over 52 chicks have fledged from our site.

Piping Plover nesting site at Wasaga Beach

3. What is the Piping Plover Recovery Program?

The program takes a multi-pronged approach to providing protection during the bird’s most vulnerable period of time. One aspect of this program is effectively coordinating between various 
departments of our park such as maintenance, enforcement and natural heritage education. As a team, we close off a small area (i.e., 100 meters/nest) of what is considered Piping Plover critical habitat (i.e., 1 kilometer) and this closure is required under several pieces of Ontario legislation. Once these birds are spotted on the beach, daily monitoring takes place to note their foraging, nesting, mating, and territorial behaviour. Nest enclosures are carefully set up by park staff to help protect the birds from predation. 

Photo credit: Ontario Parks
The second aspect of the program is the Volunteer Guardian Program. A team of dedicated individuals from the community have teamed up to provide two services. They monitor the Piping Plovers throughout all stages of nesting, incubation and development and report their findings back to Patricia, the program’s coordinator. Secondly, the volunteers provide a key service to the public by spreading awareness. For 12 hours per day, 7 days per week, the volunteers are diligently stationed along our boardwalk as they pass out brochures, talk to beach visitors and allow the public to view the plovers using binoculars and spotting scopes. Engaging the public by spreading awareness is vital to ensuring the success of the Piping Plover Program as it would not be feasible without the community’s support. 

Photo credit: Ontario Parks
4. Are the numbers increasing at  other sites as well?

Prior to 2016, there were generally only two nesting sites in all of Ontario –Sauble Beach and Wasaga Beach. Last year, two new provincial parks have joined the Piping Plover family as they found their first Piping Plover nest in over 100 years. This is significant for our program as the Piping Plovers at these two new provincial parks were our 2015 chicks. Our Wasaga Beach alumni are establishing new nesting sites at locations across Ontario who have not had plover nests in a significant period of time.  Success at Wasaga Beach is success for the entire species.

Photo credit: Neal Mutiger


Learn more about what Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Park has to offer: More than just a beach.