Everyone loves the beach. How can we resist soft sand between our toes, the tranquil sound of rolling waves, beautiful tanned bodies laying on blankets soaking the sun, and cool surf to comfort us from the heat? For us humans, the beach is an extremely popular playground, especially during hot summer days.
But, for the tiny Piping Plover, the beach is a matter of survival. It’s the only place where it can make a nest, raise its young and find food. Without sandy beaches, the Piping Plover can’t exist.
Unfortunately, there are more humans on beaches these days than Piping Plovers. People love the beach so much they use them to walk their dogs, drive their recreational vehicles, play their sports, and have their parties. How can the tiny Piping Plover compete with that?
Fortunately, conservation efforts effectively protect these sweet little birds. Cages are placed over nests to protect them from all types of problems like foxes, gulls, wandering family pets, all-terrain vehicles, dirt-bikes and thoughtless humans while allowing free-passage for the parents to come & go from the nest. A brightly marked barrier of flags and cord is also set up to give the nest further protective space. Although costly, these efforts have proven to be successful. On the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, an extremely busy summer playground lined with perfect beaches, and a stronghold of the Piping Plover, their numbers remain reasonably stable. Breeding pair numbers fluctuate from 35 to 53, with success rates reaching as much as 78%.
The sad news is that funding for these efforts is drying up quickly. Economic struggles continue to place pressure on various funding agents, while our appetite for recreational use of beaches increases. To further aggravate the problem, a significant percentage of the human population couldn’t care less about the future of the tiny little Piping Plover.
Without funding, protection efforts and awareness programs will be significantly minimized.
The future of the beach-loving Piping Plover is becoming increasingly uncertain.
June 19, 2011