A piping plover chick at Sauble Beach. ( Denis Langlois/The Sun Times)
With large crowds expected at Sauble Beach this Canada Day long weekend, the local Plover Lovers group is urging beachgoers to respect the endangered shorebirds and their new chicks.“It will be a busy long weekend ahead and we hope people will share the beach with the plovers,” said Kirsten Snoek, the group’s outreach and education co-ordinator.Large groups of people near where the birds are foraging will naturally stress the plovers out, she said.“One of the things we do try to encourage is that people when they’re walking between the fenced-off perimetre that they keep moving and especially not set up their towels and what not between the fencing and shoreline,” she said.Bigger crowds also tend to attract more gulls, which are a threat to the chicks, she said. People are asked not to feed the gulls.Beachgoers should not block the plovers’ access to the water, she added.Two pairs of piping plovers nested this year at Sauble Beach.Four chicks hatched from Nest 1 near 11th Street, but one of the chicks was lost on the night of June 21. The other three were banded June 24.Only two of the four eggs laid in Nest 2 near 3rd Street North hatched. One of the two surviving chicks was killed by a gull.It takes about four weeks after hatching for piping plover chicks to be able to fly.The period between when the chicks hatch and successfully fledge is when the plovers are most vulnerable to being killed by predators, such as ring-billed gulls.South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson said the town is expecting about 150,000 people will visit Sauble Beach this long weekend.Environment Canada is calling for sunny skies and temperatures to reach 26 C on both Saturday and Sunday.Snoek said Plover Lover volunteers will be on the beach all weekend to educate people about the birds and keep an eye on them. They will also be reminding people not to gather between the fenced-off areas and water.On Sunday afternoon, the group is planning to set up a Plover Lovers booth with interactive displays and kids’ activities at the south end of the beach.The group is also holding a Beach Talk Series, with free talks set for each Wednesday in July at 6:30 p.m. at Huron Feathers Presbyterian Centre.