The plover is a migratory shorebird that lives along coastal Atlantic Canada. There are different species of plover that you may see on your Halifax beach adventure, including the Piping Plover, Semipalmated Plover, the Killdeer and another similar species, the Sanderling. Identification between these species can be tricky with colouring ranging from sandy grey to brown with white underbellies. Black bands and markings are specific to each species. Environment Canada has great resources to help identify these birds.
Worth mentioning is the endangered Piping Plover, with fewer than 40 breeding pairs remaining! The Piping Plover relies on sandy and pebble beaches and salt water wetlands for survival.
Below are five beaches where you can hone your bird identification skills or simply take in the beauty of the plovers. If you see plovers on your next visit, take a picture and share it with Destination Halifax!
5. Rainbow Haven Beach
Known for its wide sandy beach and large expanses of dune grasses, Rainbow Haven Beach Provincial Park is just minutes from suburban Cole Harbour. The beach ecosystem is a collection of landscape types consisting of marsh, sand and cobble beaches, dunes, estuaries, lagoons and more.
Likely one of the busier beaches in the region, you may have to arrange an early morning or evening visit to view plovers.
4. Stoney Beach
Just before Lawrencetown Beach on your drive from Halifax to the Eastern Shore is where the Lawrencetown River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Here at Stoney Beach the salt marsh is home to many shorebirds including plover species.
The current is strong so I don’t recommend going for a swim. Bring a camera and capture plovers as they scurry along the wet sand.
3. Conrad’s beach
About 25 minutes from Downtown Halifax, Conrad’s Beach is protected breeding ground for the Piping Plover. This quiet beach is flush with seaside flora and fauna.
Also, you may see a volunteer maintaining information boards or answering questions related to Plovers and their local environment. Stick to the boardwalk and you’ll avoid disrupting sensitive habitat.
2. McCormacks Beach Provincial Park
Often an overlooked beach in the Halifax region, McCormacks Beach Provincial Park in Eastern Passage makes for a great evening walk or afternoon outside of the busy downtown core.
With sandy beaches, rocky shorelines and marshland, many shore bird species thrive in this habitat. An elevated boardwalk means your feet stay dry and habitat is not disturbed.
1. Martinique Beach
Martinique Beach is about an hour from Downtown Halifax (East Petpeswick Road), but it is well worth the drive. This provincial park has all the amenities you’ll need during your visit. This beach is an official protected zone for the Piping Plover and has a bird sanctuary in the adjacent wetland.
Keep an eye out for information boards and signage. For a different view of shorebirds, try renting a kayak from the nearby Happy Dudes Surf Emporium.
For those traveling to the beach in the spring and summer months, please do not walk or let your pets run through the sand dunes. This is sensitive nesting habitat. Always respect the beach and never leave anything behind.
Photos by Stephen Cushing and Kate Goodale