Pulling for Plovers

Protecting plover habitat is an ongoing effort. Well after the last Piping Plover flew the coop for the Caribbean this fall, Wasaga Beach Provincial Park staff and Plover Guardians banded together to spruce up the plovers’ prime beachfront habitat.

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The stretch of Beach Area One nicknamed “Ploverland” – from Spruce Street east to the park comfort station – has been an active nesting site for several plover pairs in the past few years. As mandated by federal law, it is off-limits to the beach-raking machinery used to maintain large portions of our 14km beachfront. Beach raking disrupts vegetation growth and the accumulation of detritus and driftwood that plovers need for foraging and hiding.

There is such thing as too much vegetation though – even for plovers! Ploverland is undergoing the process of succession. First colonized by smaller sand-loving plants such as wormwood, beach pea and milkweed, Ploverland is giving way to large, hardy, fast-growing poplar trees, not to mention an aggressive colony of invasive Common Reed (Phragmites australis).

We hope to slow this process of succession to encourage plovers to continue nesting in Ploverland, so on October 1 and 6, 2014, intrepid volunteers joined Karina and Alida (Beach Stewardship Coordinator and Natural Heritage Education Coordinator) for two three-hour sessions of concentrated poplar-pulling and “Phrag”-bagging! Most of the poplars had already established long, strong roots and had to be cut back with hand saws and pruning shears. “Phrag” rhizomes, sometimes many metres long, were carefully pulled up from the sand and coiled like extension cords before bagging. Karina and Alida each drove two or three truckloads of vegetation to the dump! The impact we had on Ploverland was instantly noticeable.

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A big thank you to all the volunteers who pulled, sawed, snipped and bagged in October. We hope the plovers appreciate our hard work when they return next spring.

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