The next time you visit your favourite Ontario provincial park, be on the lookout for one of our most threatened “umbrella” species, the iconic Blanding’s turtle.
This hard-working, helmet-shaped, eco-soldier does more than walk through wetlands searching for food. Its very existence, ergo conservation, helps a variety of other species and ecosystems survive and thrive. This “pay-it-forward” sort of interdependence is what makes the Blanding’s turtle so important in Ontario.
Who knew that Frontenac Provincial Park is one of the hottest spots for viewing some of the most beautiful and endangered species of birds in all of Ontario? Some 12 bird species at risk, including the rarely seen cerulean warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, and golden-winged warbler, call Frontenac Provincial Park and the surrounding area their home.
If you visit this southeastern Ontario park, situated in the middle of the Frontenac Arch (the billion-year-old foundation of eastern North America and a unique ridge of ancient granite that joins the Adirondack Mountains to the iconic Canadian Shield in southeastern Ontario), you’ll be treated to “a vital habitat corridor for migration and a critical nursery for many of Ontario’s disappearing flora and fauna,” says Dan Derbyshire, head of Frontenac Bird Studies (FBS) at the Migration Research Foundation.
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.