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Foul play suspected after piping plover Flash goes missing

Birds Canada staff suspects predator falcon cause of disappearance; eggs recovered to be raised in captivity in Michigan
2020-05-29 4
Flash the piping plover.

And just like that, Flash was gone.

Birds Canada released a statement on Tuesday that Flash, the male piping plover nested at Archers Rd. in Woodland Beach this year, had gone missing presumably due to a predator attack.

Piping plovers were designated as endangered in 2001, and have been federally protected under the Species at Risk Act since 2003, and provincially since 2008 under the Endangered Species Act; the migratory birds are protected anywhere they nest in Canada.

Tiny Township representatives were happy last week to hear of the return of Flash to the beach for his fifth straight year, but that happiness was short-lived when sightings of Flash by the Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Program revealed the disappearance of the male bird.

“This behavior was unusual for him, and knowing our Flash, we became concerned,” stated the OPPCP. “We continued to watch the nest, but after many days of no return, we suspect that Flash has been taken by a predator. During the week of his disappearance, Birds Canada staff witnessed a Merlin (small falcon) nearby, and the same bird was seen again in the following days, further raising our suspicions.”

Flash had mated with the 11-year-old Pepa for a clutch of four eggs this year before the incident occurred.

OPPCP crew successfully removed the eggs from the abandoned nest, and were awaiting border permits to safely transport the unhatched offspring to a location in Michigan where they could be raised in captivity, to be released back into the wild once mature.

“Pepa is currently single and looking to find a new mate,” OPPCP fieldwork coordinator Sydney Shepherd told MidlandToday.

“She is currently sticking around the Wasaga Beach area, but our male there is all paired up (Gotawsi and Nancy are a pair at Wasaga Beach Area 1; both hatched from Wasaga Beach, Nancy in 2011 and Gotawsi in 2021).

“We will see how long she decides to stick around Wasaga Beach, or if she’ll move on to another beach and try and find a mate there.” Shepherd added, “I really hope she finds a mate this year, whether it be locally or elsewhere around the Great Lakes.”

Since his migratory residence in Tiny back in 2019, Flash was able to raise six fledglings to increase the species, and OPPCP noted that one of his flock was found at a site in Michigan used for the first time since 2015.

Wrote the OPPCP: “It is still early in the season, and many single plovers may decide to explore this area, and who knows… maybe we’ll get another pair there!”

Updates on Ontario piping plovers and ways to contribute to the endangered species can be found on the Birds Canada website.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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