42 Pairs of Piping Plovers Nesting at Cranes Beach!

July 9th 2018 – From the Trustees

“The Piping Plovers at Crane Beach are doing great this year! 42 pairs have nested making this the third highest amount of nesting Piping Plover pairs since 1986. So far 42 chicks have spread their wings and flown. Many more chicks are still on the beach and we are waiting on more nests to hatch. Please remember to keep your distance and give these protected birds their space.”

I love how the pale seashell coral pink in the clam shells mirrors the orange hues of the PiPl’s beak and legs. I don’t know why this photo strikes me as funny, but it just does. Tiny birds with huge personalities!

KIM SMITH MONARCH BUTTERFLY PROGRAM FOR THE NORTH SHORE GARDEN CLUB WEDNESDAY JULY 18TH

Monarch Butterfly and native wildflower Joe-pye.

Please join me Wednesday morning for my lecture and slide program “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” at 10am for the North Shore Garden Club at St. John’s Church in Beverly. I hope to see you there!

Monarchs and native New England wildflower Smooth Aster

 

WHAT’S FOR BREAKFAST MAMA?

To and fro, to and fro, flying from the branches of the majestic old oak tree to the garden beds below, and then into the thickest part of the small shrub at the edge of the vegetable garden, then back to the sheltering oak above, a pair of Chipping Sparrow parents tirelessly fed their hungry brood of tiny hatchlings. Chipping cheer-a-ree cheer-a-roo all the while, despite a beak overflowing with worms, and every kind of larvae you can imagine.

Chipping Sparrows are easily identified with their rufous red beret-like cap and cheery chipping. Massachusetts is part of their northern breeding range. Come fall they will begin to flock together and migrate to the southern US and Mexico. Chipping Sparrows were once more of a woodland species but today, they have become well-adapted to human habitats and nest in gardens, parks, and farmlands.

Like all song birds, Chipping Sparrow young are altricial, which means they hatch semi-undeveloped and are blind, naked, and helpless, needing constant care and feeding by the parents. Species of Plovers, such as Piping Plovers and Killdeers are precocial. They are fully mobile and can feed themselves within hours after hatching. The adults are needed to keep them warm and to protect the chicks from predators. Birds in the tern and gull family, such as Least Terns, are semi-precocial. They hatch with their eyes open, are covered with downy fluff, can walk (and in some cases swim) but must be fed by the parents.

Chipping Sparrow Nestlings

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A BABY BUNNY NEST IN YOUR GARDEN?

I can’t tell you how often I have accidentally uncovered a bunny nest while in the garden. The nest is usually only an inch or so below the ground surface, tucked under a perennial such as lavender or asters, and only covered with a thin layer of the mother’s fur.

If you find a nest, do not disturb. If you have accidentally disturbed the nest by raking or tidying up, place the fur back on top of the babies.

If the baby bunny has been accidentally handled or touched, still return it to the nest. The greatest myth is that Mama Cottontail will reject the baby if handled by a human. This definitely is not true and the Mama will definitely want her baby back!

Eastern Cottontail mothers do not stay with the nest all day. Rabbits are a prey species, in other words, they are hunted, and she does not want to draw attention to the nest. Cottontail Mamas typically return twice a day, at dusk and at dawn, to feed the babies. She nurses the babies by straddling the nest, so you want to keep everything as it was when you found the nest.

If you are worried because you have not see the Mama return to the nest to feed the babies, lay two pieces of string over the nest in an X shape. If after twenty four hours the string looks disturbed and the babies look plump and well-fed, you can be sure that the nest is not abandoned.

EDITED: To our Cape Ann readers- for bunnies and other small mammals that need rescuing I recommend contacting wildlife rehabilitator Erinn Whitmore.

It has just been pointed out that Erinn Whitmore is away until the fall. Erin Parson Hutchings also does small mammal rehabilitation and she too is a Mass Wildlife licensed rehabber. You can contact Erin through facebook.

This tiny Eastern Cottontail was found today by Ari at Wolf Hill, in a nest located in some gravel. She accidentally uncovered the nest while tidying up around the plants.

FOUR WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN HELP THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS SUCCESSFULLY FLEDGE CHICKS: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE MAYOR

Dear Readers,

Last Tuesday we sent our letter to Mayor Sefatia and the City Councilors with a short list of recommendations, based on the past three years of daily Piping Plover monitoring by myself and our core group of volunteer monitors. We purposefully kept the recommendations modest out of consideration to both the Piping Plovers and to our Good Harbor beach going community. Please find below the recommendations suggested by the Piping Plover volunteer monitors.

July 9, 2018

Dear Mayor Romeo Theken and Gloucester City Councilors,

We, the Piping Plover volunteer monitors, are submitting our short list of recommendations regarding the Piping Plovers nesting at Good Harbor Beach. Our goal is to have in place by next April 1, 2019, measures and ordinances that will greatly increase the likelihood that the hatchlings of this tiny threatened shorebird will have a fighting chance at surviving life on Good Harbor Beach.

Piping Plovers began nesting at Good Harbor Beach in 2016. Each year, the PiPl are coming earlier and earlier. In 2016, they arrived mid-May, in 2017 they arrived at the beginning of May, and this year, they arrived on April 3. It would appear that the same pair is returning to Good Harbor Beach, as the male marks his territory and attempts to build a nest scrape only several feet from the previous year’s nest (at Boardwalk #3 nesting area). More Plovers than ever were seen at Good Harbor Beach this spring, and if not for constant interruptions in the Boardwalk #1 nesting area, we would have had two pairs nesting on the beach.

Why are the birds arriving earlier and earlier? We can presume that the pair are more experienced travelers and that Good Harbor Beach is their “territory.” Does this mean we will eventually have dozens of pairs nesting on Good Harbor Beach? No, because the PiPl are very territorial and they will defend a fairly large area, preventing other PiPl from nesting in their site.

This year the PiPl pair hatched four chicks. All four chicks were killed by crows, gulls, and dogs. All three are human-created issues, and all three can be remedied. The following are the four recommendations and actions we wish to see take place.

Recommendations

1) Change the dog ordinance to not allow dogs on the beach after March 31.

Currently, dogs are allowed on the beach from October 1 to May 1. The Piping Plover volunteer monitor core group, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Ken Whittaker, and Mass Wildlife’s John Regosin, all agree that dogs should not be allowed on Good Harbor Beach beginning April 1, but that it would be safe for Piping Plover fledglings and other migrating shorebirds for dogs to return after September 15.

This new suggested time frame will allow birds to nest on the beach (as opposed to in the parking lot), with far less interruption, shorebirds will nest earlier in the season, which will help with the chicks survival rate, and the chicks will be stronger by the time Good Harbor fills with summer crowds.

This is a very logical and simple solution. Disallowing dogs on Massachusetts coastal beaches where shorebirds are nesting, beginning April 1, is the norm. Allowing them to return after September 15, and in many cases after September 30, is also very common. For Piping Plovers and other nesting shorebirds, protecting their habitat and sharing the shore is a matter of life and death.

2) Rope off the nesting area by April 1.

Poles, with threatened species signs, and a triple row of roping of nesting sites, to be in place no later than April 1. Essex County Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer will assist with this measure.

3) Enforce the existing ordinances regarding dogs (and littering) at all times throughout the year.

Only enforcing dog ordinances at Good Harbor Beach during nesting season is creating hostility toward the Piping Plovers.

Additionally, we do not recommend extremely high fines as we feel that may become an impediment to issuing and collecting the fines. We know of at least one example where the magistrate dismissed the tickets issued to a woman who claimed to have a service dog. This woman was running rampant on the beach and throughout dunes with her service dog off leash throughout the entire time the PiPl were nesting, from April through May. Despite the fact that former dog officer Diane Corliss caught the woman on camera with her dog off leash on the beach, and in the dunes, all her tickets that were issued by the animal control officer were dismissed. This is neither fair to the officers who are working hard to keep the dogs off the beach or to the plover volunteers who are spending inordinate amounts of time trying to keep the PiPl safe.

4). Increase trash collection.

When no barrels are placed at the entrances to the beach, people dump bags of trash there anyway. When barrels are in place, people put trash in the barrels however, when the barrels become full, they again resort to leaving bags of trash behind, only next to the barrels. In either scenario, gulls and crows are attracted to the trash. Both gulls and crows rip open the bags and the trash is blown throughout the parking lot and marsh, soon finding its way onto the beach and into the ocean. Hungry gulls and crows waiting for people to leave their trash behind eat tiny shorebirds.

A friend who lives on a North Carolina beach shares how her community keeps their public beaches looking pristine. Not only do they have barrels, but every few weeks, police patrol the beach and hand out fines for littering. This is taken as a wake up call, everyone is good for a bit of time, but then become slack about littering again. Out come the officers for another round of ticketing.

Thank you for taking the time to consider our recommendations.

Sincerely yours,

Kim Smith

cc Paul Lundberg, Steven LeBlanc, Val Gilmam, Ken Hecht, Melissa Cox, Jen Holmgren, Scott Memhard, Sean Nolan, Jamie O’Hara, Dave Rimmer, Ken Whitakker

Piping Plover chicks coming in for some snuggles.

PIPING PLOVERS ON THE ANIMAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING AGENDA THURSDAY NIGHT

ANIMAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING

THURSDAY, JULY 12TH AT 6:30 PM

3RD FLOOR CITY HALL

PIPING PLOVERS ARE ON THE AGENDA

Little Pip Good Harbor Beach

PIPING PLOVER UPDATE – WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Pip, the day before he was killed.

You may be asking, “where are the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers now?” Surprisingly, they are still around! After the night the last chick was killed (tracks point to a skirmish with a dog and several people in the nesting area), two Piping Plovers were reported at Cape Hedge Beach the following evening. Rockport resident Gail, who first reported the sighting, and PiPl volunteer monitor Laurie Sawin and I, found one at Cape Hedge the next morning, and by the next day, two had returned to the roped off area at #3 boardwalk!

Everyday since, either Greenbelt’s Dave McKinnon, my husband Tom, Deborah Cramer, or myself have spotted at least one in the cordoned off #3.

Recent PiPl sightings at the Good Harbor Beach nesting area.

Our thoughts are to leave some part of the roping up as long as the Piping Plovers are still using it as a sanctuary during high tide when the beach is crowded. For a second and even more important reason, many of us would like to see part of the cordoned off area stay in place for the simple reason it is helping with dune recovery.

You may recall that during late winter we had back to back nor’easters, which had a devastating effect on Good Harbor Beach in that much of the beach’s sand was washed away. The beach dropped about ten feet, which now causes the tide to come up high to the edge of the bluff. Beach grass and beach vegetation will help prevent future washouts. Because the area around #3 has been roped of since mid-April, a fantastic patch of beach grass has begun to take hold!!! If we leave a narrow strip roped off from the public, about ten to fifteen feet wide, running the length of the beach and around the creek bend, this simple step alone will have a marked impact on the overall health of the dune habitat.

Beach plants help prevent erosion while also providing shade and shelter for tiny shorebirds.

A pair of one-day-old Least Tern chicks finding shade.