Piping Plovers Nest at Darlington Provincial Park
When Bob and I headed out to Darlington Provincial Park to have a look at the Piping Plovers, it was because 4 recently-hatched babies could be observed on the beach there. They were creating much excitement in the world of birding here in Ontario. Never before had Piping Plovers nested in the Park or in Durham region.
We got input from friends as to where to actually find the recently-hatched offspring, and once in the Park and speaking with volunteers, Plover Guardians, who keep a 12/hour/day, 7 days a week watch on the new babies, we were told of a second pair of Piping Plovers that were still on the nest. These were just a little further west along the beach.
It was easy to find the similarly-fenced nesting ground, which was adequately signed to warn beachcombers to “keep out!”.
From the edge of the cordoned off area, at the center of which stood this pen, it was impossible to figure out where the nest was actually situated. The sand was liberally littered with rocks, many of which were round and about the size of a Plover’s sand-coloured eggs, and we were a good 50 feet distant.
Both breeding adults at this second nest hatched in 2015 in Michigan so are a mere one year old themselves, a fact determined by the bands on the birds’ legs. Only one of the adult Piping Plovers was immediately observed in the vicinity of the pen.
We were patient and did not press the bird to return to the pen, and in due time, she did just that. With our lenses trained on the adult, we watched as she settled down in one spot while we happily snapped photos. A moment later, the Plover stood up and moved further towards the center of the pen. That is when, with the binoculars, we determined that the Plover had simply sat down on the sand maybe to rest or perhaps as a distraction to we observers. Seconds later, we spotted four beautiful eggs as the Plover cautiously lowered her body onto the nest.
Piping Plovers do not build a traditional nest of twigs or grass but instead, the male of a breeding pair will clear a number of shallow scrapes in the beach sand. These depressions are made by kicking the sand and are offered to the male’s mate so she has a choice as to which one she prefers.
Piping Plovers dig out the scrapes a good distance from the water, above the high-water mark on seaside beaches, choosing stretches of sand or gravel that are littered with pieces of debris with which the female Plover will decorate the chosen nest to camouflage it.
As the female Piping Plover incubated her four eggs, the male appeared on the scene taking a slow flight overhead. He shares in the incubation of the eggs, so perhaps at that moment, the male was on a reconnaissance mission to see if any predators lurked nearby. Within days of our visit to Darlington Provincial Park, the four eggs hatched adding to the number of babies at the beach. What a success story!