Ploverpalooza celebrates 10 years in Wasaga Beach

 Gisele Winton Sarvis

WASAGA BEACH - Newly hatched piping plovers will be the centre of attention this weekend at the Ploverpalooza, celebrating 10 years of bring back the little birds from the edge of extinction.

Held during the Wasaga Beach Waterfront Festival at Beach Area One, the event features

two days of children’s activities, including birdhouse making and face painting, as well as nest viewing and education to celebrate the Piping Plover Recovery Program.

Children’s activities gets them involved in learning about species at risk, said Patricia Davidson who is back for her sixth year with the program.

“I’m doing it for the conservation and protecting the endangered species and helping the population to grow,” she said.

Until last year her greatest reward with the job was seeing chicks fledge and set up nests elsewhere in Ontario.

But that No. 1 spot has been replaced by something even more inspiring.

“The teacher was saying how my six-year-old son is now teaching the class about piping plovers. I’ve taken him down to the site - but seeing that he is talking to his friends about it and sharing with the class - I think that is cool,” she said.

Starting in 2008, the program has successfully fledged 52 of the endangered species.

While 52 birds in 10 years doesn’t seem like a lot, the species had been extinct in Ontario for more than 70 years.

“Over the past 30 years, recovery has been slow,” read the Ploverpalooza website.

In the mid 1980s there were only 16 pairs left (anywhere). By 2016, that number has increased to 75 pairs.

In 2008, Wasaga Beach was one of only two nesting sites in Ontario, with Sauble Beach being the other site. (Sauble Beach has four nests this summer.)

Last year piping plovers that fledged in Wasaga Beach became breeding pairs on other Ontario coastlines. Last year Darlington Provincial Park and Presquile Provincial Park set up recovery programs and had their first nests in more than 100 years.

“Success at Wasaga Beach is success for the entire species,” read the site.

This year, North Banks Provincial Park has joined in and has its first nest, said Davidson.

The program is part of the larger Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort in Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin.  The Wasaga Beach program is a jointly run by the Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.

When migrating birds return, volunteers and park staff set up perimeter fencing on the beach. When pairs nest, metal cages are put over the nest to protect the eggs from predators such as birds of prey or land carnivores such as foxes.

This year, three nests were established, however one adult female was predated and the four eggs in the nest subsequently died when the male abandoned the nest, said Davidson.

“Merlins (a type of falcon) were spotted in the area.”

Last year there were five nests in Wasaga Beach but the average number is two or three, said Davidson.

There are eight eggs remaining in the two nests, so the program could fledge as many as eight.

“We’ve never had 100%.” Success rates for chicks in the wild are about 25%. The program boosts that to between 60 to 75%, she said.

About 40 volunteers each year take shifts at the site, taking notes of bird activities and educating the public about the species.

“They are the ones who discovered that the female had been predated from the nest,” said Davidson.

Randie Graham, a new resident of Wasaga Beach, is volunteering as a piping plover guardian this year for the first time.

“It’s a good program. It’s great that we are helping. Everyone seems very receptive,” she said.

Ploverpalooza continues all summer with special events. A speaker series is running Tuesday nights in June at the Nancy Island Historic Site at 7:30 p.m. Nature artist June Tanner is the speaker on June 20. Retired biology David McLeish is speaking on June 27.

Nancy Island is also presenting two bird-painting workshops with instructor Rose Tanner. Paint and Sip will be held June 17 from 3 to 5 p.m. where participants will paint a plover in acrylics. There is a $35 fee.

A two-day oil painting workshop is being held June 19 and 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to learn step-by-step how to paint life-like birds. There is a $125 fee. To register contact Tanner at

More volunteers are welcome to take shifts watching the birds in the fenced area, make reports to Davidson, and educate the public.

Anyone who would like to volunteer should email Davidson at

For more information go to the websites and 


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