It's early may and plover monitors in P.E.I. National Park (PEI) are hard at work.
Today they're in Clarkes Pond installing nest cameras,
to observe a pair of piping plovers.
Installing the cameras takes a lot of work.
It depends on the birds, each pair has their own personality
but it also depends on where we are
because we get to some pretty remote locations.
It involves a lot of heavy, awkward equipment
That is very difficult to move on the beach,
we have to dig a really big hole in the sand and all of it is very tiring
but we do it because we love the birds!
Piping plovers visit PEINP from late April to the end of July.
Though they return every year, their numbers have been depleting in past decades.
Well Piping Plovers never had large numbers to begin with.
Sometimes people go into the closed areas
and they don't realize they're stopping the birds from feeding
and that causes a lot of damage.
their main problem is loss of habitat
people building near the beaches, and then that also increased predators as well
The main predators of the piping plover changed a lot over the years
It used to be foxes mostly but now we're seeing a lot of crows
And mink is even starting.
Piping plovers lay eggs on alternate days until there are 4.
Even if one of the eggs is predated,
the pair will keep trying until they achieve 4 eggs.
If all of the eggs are lost before they hatch, the pair may try again in another location.
Nests are usually incubated by one parent or the other at all times.
The birds switch off on this duty so they can feed and bathe.
There's another plover nest down the beach at Cavendish Main.
This nest is covered by an exclosure to protect it from predators
from the land and sky.
Within 30 days, the chicks will start peeping to one another inside the eggs
telling their siblings to hurry up or slow down,
so they can all hatch at the same time.
The plover chicks are a little unsteady, but full of determination.
They look like grey cotton balls walking on toothpicks,
but by the time they're mere hours old, they can find food for themselves.
They still need the protection of mom and dad though,
and at the signal, the chicks will run to safety,
and the adult will brood them together under their body.
Well, as many as can fit anyways.
Sometimes, they have to settle for a wing.
They can rest now, but trouble is on the horizon.
On the north shore of PEI, the weather can be severe.
Spring storms mean winds over 100 km/hr and title surges.
When this happens, rising tides threaten plover pairs, chicks and eggs.
The Parks Canada Plover Monitors must launch a flood rescue.
They split up and each head to a plover nesting area,
to check on the birds and eggs.
If they can, they'll attempt to rescue any in danger,
before the cold water washes them out to sea.
But, they have to find them first.
Jessie is searching up and down Cavendish beach for the plover pair and their chicks.
In extreme conditions, finding sand coloured birds is almost impossible.
Finally, after over an hour...
By following one bird, Jessie can find the other adult.
The plovers took rescue behind some marym grass and the adult brooded the chicks.
They survived the storm.
Unfortunately, the surge was too much for the Clarkes Pond plover pair.
The eggs are gone.
The nest is gone.
The pair is gone.
On Robinson's Island Causeway beach,
Jessie is busy sewing mesh together for a new flight pen,
readying it for chicks.
A regional project between kejimkujik, Kougibouquac and PEINP
is introducing captive rearing of abandoned eggs to the maritimes.
The theory or the impetous behind the project was to
fine-tune methodology in captive rearing piping plover
in the event that, down the road the population numbers
got to the point where we had to play a more active role
in increasing the population numbers.
In order to fine-tune the methodology, we are using abandoned eggs
on beaches that normally would have been lost to the population
They are taken to a zoo where they are hatched,
then they are taken back to the park where they originated from
and put in flight pens, and then released.
Through continued learning and conservation,
the piping plover stands a fighting chance.
A chance to continue returning, year after year,
to its home on the beautiful shores of Atlantic Canada.
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