“The eggs will be starting to hatch in the next couple of weeks so a lot depends on that,” said Abbott. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that people will share the beach.”
She urges beach visitors to observe marked nesting areas, keep dogs on a leash and walk on the wet sand away from the nests in the dry sand above the high-water mark.
“It’s important,” she said. “The birds can’t really move at this point until the eggs hatch and there is no more time to re-nest after the first of July.”
This year’s weather has been “challenging” for the piping plovers - with nests lost due to storms and flooding from several very high tides in May and June, as well as predator attacks. “The good thing is a lot of the pairs have re-nested,” said Abbott.
Once the eggs hatch, it takes the fledglings four weeks to fly and then they hang around a few more weeks to get built up for the migration south in the fall.
Last year, there were 48 piping plover pairs recorded in Nova Scotia, with one or more pairs occupying 29 beaches, primarily in Shelburne and Queens counties. Across the province, 46 monitored pairs produced 67 fledglings.
Abbott said it is too early to tell how this year’s numbers will add up.
“I have a feeling it won’t be a drastic difference from last year,” she said. “The birds are still moving around and we have to co-ordinate with Kejimkujik Seaside National Park. They do monitoring and protection work, too.”
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Since the conservation program began in 2006, the province’s plover population has increased by 20 per cent. Since 2012, Bird Studies Canada has observed a 13 per cent increase in walkers' respect of signed nesting areas on southwest Nova Scotia beaches. Each year, Bird Studies Canada co-ordinates more than 1,000 volunteer hours toward recovery efforts in Nova Scotia and southeastern New Brunswick.