Piping Plovers are small shorebirds seen scurrying along sandy shorelines or backs of beaches where water has pooled, searching for insects and small crustaceans. Although well camouflaged, Piping Plovers are identifiable by their short orange bills and bright orange legs. These shorebirds may be little, weighing about 2 ounces and 6 inches in length, but they are mighty. Twice a year they migrate approximately 2,000 miles to the Atlantic Coast of Mexico.
The next time you walk the boardwalk at Presqu’ile Provincial Park or attend the Huron Fringe Birding Festival at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, thank a Friend.
Friends of Ontario Parks are not-for-profit, charitable organizations full of dedicated volunteers. These volunteers usually hail from a nearby community or they’ve camped in a park that they’ve grown to love and respect. Today, there are 27 not-for-profit Friends organizations dedicated to enhancing the educational, recreational, research and resource protection mandates of the parks they are affiliated with.
If you want to become a Friends volunteer at your favourite park, contact a Friends group directly. But if your park doesn’t have a Friends group and you are interested in starting one, speak to your local park superintendent. http://www.ontarioparks.com/partnerships/
Some of Ontario Parks’ best events are organized by Friends. Here are two you won’t want to miss in 2014:
Congratulations to Wasaga Beach Provincial Park (WBPP) staff, the many volunteers and the Friends of Nancy Island and Wasaga Beach Park for receiving the prestigious Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s (ECO) 2013 Recognition Award for their role in protecting the endangered Piping Plovers.
Listed as an endangered species in Canada and the United States, the arrival of the Piping Plovers at Wasaga Beach in 2006 marked a significant turning point as this species had not successfully nested on the Canadian Great Lakes for over 30 years, and had no breeding success at the park in over 70 years.
The Wasaga Beach Provincial Park Piping Plover Program has been helping to foster awareness, appreciation and understanding of the plight of the Piping Plovers in the Great Lakes region for six consecutive years. The program attracted support from many volunteers and community partners. Together the WBPP staff and the Piping Plover Guardians, a group of 40-80 volunteers who work three-hour shifts, monitor the Piping Plovers and protect them from predators daily. And, they do it every day in the middle of one of Ontario’s busiest beaches from spring until late August.
Last year there were 66 breeding pairs in the Great Lakes population of which five were on the Canadian side in Ontario with two nests at Wasaga Beach. Thanks to the tireless efforts of WBPP staff, the volunteers and the community partners, the 2013 program’s success rate was the highest since its inception: 63 per cent of the eggs hatched into fledgling chicks. This is a vast improvement over the 25 per cent average survival rate of Piper Plovers in the wild.
Keep up the great work!
Did You Know?
The ECO’s Recognition Award acknowledges ministries that best meet the goals of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR) or use the best internal EBR practices.
WBPP staff monitor the entire 14 km of beachfront starting early in the spring watching for the arrival of piping plovers. Once pair bonds are established, staff monitor courtship and breeding.
After a single, sand-coloured egg is discovered; staff set up a perimeter fence and the area is closed for 50 metres either side of the egg. A predator enclosure is installed after the fourth egg is laid – this ensures the nest is protected from predators.
Park staff and Piping Plover Guardians then monitor the plovers on a daily basis from 8 am – 8 pm until the plovers’ departure in late August.
Guest Blogger: Tanya Berkers
Resource Management Group Leader
The Pinery Provincial Park
Anyone who has been to The Pinery Provincial Park can tell you about our vast expanse of fine sandy beach, much of which lies within a nature reserve and is protected within a natural environment class park. Those who look more closely, however, will often have no trouble finding evidence of the many human activities and impacts both within The Pinery and across the greater Lake Huron ecosystem. While most beachgoers tread lightly on The Pinery’s shoreline, others leave behind broken toys, cigarette butts, and picnic litter. Recreational and commercial fishing are a source of fishing line and nets which can be a hazard for wildlife, and lighter items such as plastic bags, foam packaging, and balloons can float long distances from their points of origin.
Who has the most fun and excels at their summer jobs in Ontario? It’s the 1,600 students who work for Ontario Parks each summer. This past Friday, 40 of the best of these students were honoured at the Ontario Parks Partners Bursary awards ceremony at the Pinestone Inn in Haliburton. Continue reading 2012 Ontario Parks Partners Bursary