Go MO Go!

Go MO Go!

M0 at Keji Seaside, photo thanks to Parks Canada
M0 at Keji Seaside, photo thanks to Parks Canada

That’s what everyone is shouting these days for ‘M0’, the sole surviving Piping Plover chick from a nest of 4 eggs that hatched on our beach this summer here at White Point Beach Resort on the South Shore of Nova Scotia.

Having arrived in mid April, we enthusiastically monitored and shared the journey of our 2017 family. Thanks to the banding program with Canadian Wildlife Services, our family became known as Dad ‘U3’, Mom ‘X2’ however it was ‘M0’ who stole our hearts.

Just days after their hatching, ‘M0’ became our lone surviving chick, surviving the heavy rains and perhaps predators, that swept through our area in June. As we mourned the loss of 3 chicks, we all cheered for ‘M0’, willing him to survive and fledge – and he did.

2017 Piping Plover Family, 4 chicks and Dad
2017 Piping Plover Family, 4 chicks and Dad at White Point Beach

A beautiful Family
Happy with ‘M0’s progress, Mom ‘X2’ got a head start on the migration, leaving White Point Beach before the rest of her family. We hadn’t seen her at White Point for a couple days, then got word in early July she was at Kejimkujik National Park Seaside in Port Joli, a neighbouring popular beach for Piping Plovers.

Meanwhile Dad ‘U3’ remained here at White Point coaching ‘M0’ and protecting him with his diversion tactics. It was such a beautiful experience to observe and share with our guests during our Piping Plover Guardian Walks onsite, and in our ongoing updates to our online family.

Piping Plover Guardian walks with Wendy
Piping Plover Guardian walks with Wendy

He can fly!
On July 13th, our concerns of not having seen ‘M0’ fly were put to rest.  While hosting one of our regular guided Piping Plover Guardian Walks, surrounded by guests from California and Nova Scotia, our lead Guardian here at White Point, Wendy Coolen, witnessed ‘M0’ along with Dad ‘U3’ take flight. They weren’t alone either, they were accompanied by a couple of fellow Piping Plovers, and it was the first time we’d seen ‘M0’ fly.  We were all so excited for him.

And just like that, we became ‘empty nesters’.
We are all cheering for ‘M0’, his Mom and Dad and fellow Plovers. We know the majority don’t survive, that’s why they are an endangered species.  But they aren’t just a species to us, for the past 6 years, Piping Plovers have become a part of our White Point family.

White Point Piping Plover Nest with 4 eggs 2017, photo from Bird Studies Canada
White Point Piping Plover Nest with 4 eggs 2017, photo from Bird Studies Canada

Our baby ‘M0’ was just an egg on May 13, hatched around June 8th just in time for World Oceans Day, left home at only 5 weeks old and weighing about the equivalent of 6 toonies.  So many challenges to overcome and such a steep learning curve in such a short period of time and yet ‘M0’ survived, learned to walk, feed and fly.  We’ve watched, cheered, monitored and willed Mom Nature and our guests to be kind and nurturing to our tiny, fragile, and endearing feathered families.  Having done everything we can to give them a chance, and knowing that some years are more successful than others.

Our colleague and mentor, Sue Abbott,  at Bird Studies Canada advises that we shouldn’t get too attached but we can’t help ourselves, we adore our Piping Plover families who share our beach. They aren’t just an endangered species, they are an extension of our family, we really do feel the effect of the ‘empty nest’ but know it’s part of the natural cycle and are proud to have played a part in raising awareness, being their champions and stewards.

And then we wait.
And so we wait, hoping another Guardian, Bird Watcher or International Migratory Bird Survey monitor has seen ‘M0’ or one of his family members. Having learned from our 2014 banded family that re-sightings are possible, as far away as The Bahamas on the Island of Eleuthra as ‘E4’ proved and Cuba where ‘E2’ wintered.  These were incredible journeys that connected us with the world, but we’ll save those for another day.

MO in Georgia
M0 travels south from White Point, NS Canada to Georgia, USA in less than 2 weeks!

Great news, ‘M0’ is sighted!
We get world from the team at Keji Seaside in July, shortly after Wendy saw ‘M0’ fledge from our beach. ‘M0’ is there with others, we hope Mom ‘X2’ is there, she’d be so proud.

M0 in Georgia
M0 at Cumberland Island Seashore, Georgia, US on Aug 16/17. Sighted & Photographed by Pat and Doris Leary

And there’s ‘M0’, again! One of our colleagues from Bird Studies Canada confirms seeing ‘M0’ during the first week of August at Crow Nest Beach in Shelburne County – definitely heading south.

No way – ‘M0’s in Georgia, United States! On Aug 16th, at just 2.5 months old ‘M0’ is seen 1700 miles from home in Georgia, re-sighted for the first time outside of Canada.  Our baby has crossed the border and is at Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Go ‘M0’ Go!
Will ‘M0’ make it to the wintering grounds and where will our chick be re-sighted? Assuming ‘M0’ makes it (and boy we are willing it to happen), will we see our chick again back here at White Point? Papa ‘EP’ from our 2014 nest taught us that that Piping Plovers do return home. We know for certain that ‘EP’ did in 2015 to father another nest, and returned again in 2016 but unfortunately he was embroiled in a ‘love triangle’ – with another male taking his place here at White Point so he moved over to Keji Seaside.

Until we meet again.
It’s a long wait. As we await the return of Piping Plovers for the nesting season in mid-April, alongside our partners and guests, we anxiously await the next sighting of our banded birds. From 2014 we have Papa EP, and his kids E2, E4, EL and ET and 2017 there’s Dad U3, Mom X2 and M0.

Proud Foster-Parents
It was by accident in July of 2012 that we discovered our beach was a nesting area for this incredible, international travelling shore bird.  The journey since then has been rewarding, exciting and enlightening. We are definitely Piping Plover Lover People and proud foster-parents to those who nest on our beach particularly, but take the opportunity to lend our voice as a champion for this endangered species.

Our family is stronger, more connected than ever before, thanks to the Piping Plover. Because of our plovers, we have been embraced and became a part of an international family who care for, and work towards giving a species a chance at survival.

Plover Signs at White Point Beach Resort
Guests help make signs for Plovers at White Point

Together we can make a difference.
There is room for all species to survive and thrive, we simply need to be aware of what we can do to help and how easy it can be. Here at White Point, what may have once been interpreted as an inconvenience is embraced.  From April to August, there’s a small ‘zone of protection’ along our beach. Fenced off, with handmade signs alongside official signage invites our guests to lend a helping hand by keeping their pets on leash, to walk on wet sand only and remove litter.

And they do. Locals, students and guests alike even join us on our monitoring walks. We’ve been a voice for the Piping Plovers and our partners, helping to spread the word through media releases, interviews with media outlets, workshops, blogs, videos and photos, and even hosted a couple of International Piping Plover Conferences with new plover-connected friends including Todd Pover from Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

We look forward to many more years of welcoming Piping Plovers to White Point; they are our longest staying guests asking very little from us, yet giving us so much in return.

White Point Beach Resort, Nova Scotia

 White Point Beach Resort is a privately owned and operated year-round oceanfront beach resort in Nova Scotia that has been welcoming Piping Plovers for at least the last 6 years, and guests from around the world for nearly 90 years. Follow along on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

canada day
Happy Canada 150th! Our Piping Plover exhibit on loan from Parks Canada is a prominent feature at White Point
Piping Plover
Dad U3 perched on the beach at White Point