The few Piping Plovers nesting at Sauble Beach, Ontario are part of a small and precarious population that may soon disappear entirely. I knew of only two small groups of these engaging birds there, one near the north end of this beautiful, five mile long beach; the other several miles away to the south.
Merlins, dazzling fast and deadly, take some Piping Plovers and the numerous crows and gulls will certainly eat the tiny chicks. And the beach has plenty of human traffic, particularly in the summer. The birds, of course, don’t know about their predicament. Each year they arrive from their wintering grounds on the southern coasts of the United States and begin to mate, with males fighting it out for the privilege, a long, multistage process. Confusing too. I watched these birds for a half hour and was never sure who was who, nor could I figure out who was winning.
Except here. I presume the female is on the right in a scene that reminded me of a high school dance. In this case it’s deadly serious. Maybe it was at the dance too, now that I think about it.
The conflict begins.
A dramatic turn.
Taking a breather.
Back at it.
The squabbling continued and I left the scene. The birds moved around but stayed within twenty-five meters or so of where I first saw them. The conflict ebbed and flowed. A crow took an irritable peck or two at them but they avoided the much larger bird and continued their combat. I suppose by now, a week later, they will have mated and the loser will have gone away to accept whatever fate lay in store for him. Soon, the crows will be waiting for the eggs to be laid and the chicks to be born. Later in the day I saw a Merlin in the area. The birds will carry on regardless. I heard it was snowing at the beach this weekend, by the way.