While out doing errands, I always hope to have time to take the “scenic route,” which usually means driving by one or more of our local bodies of water, whether sea, pond, marsh, or river. The day before I left for Mexico I was wonderfully surprised to spy the Three Graces swimming in a marsh on the other side of Cape Ann. There was still snow on the ground, but they were right at home foraging in the salt water marsh for vegetation.

Swans don’t migrate long distances, but move around from body of water to body of water within a region. These three siblings were most likely kicked out of their family and nesting area by the dad, as he is preparing to mate and nest with the mom to produce the next brood of cygnets. The Three Graces won’t be mature enough to mate and lay eggs for at least two more years and during this time, I imaging they are learning the lay of the land, where food may be plentiful and where may be a good place to nest. Swans are at their most vulnerable in these first few years of life. Hopefully at least one will survive and decide to make Cape Ann his/her future home!


My husband Tom and I returned from filming Monarchs in Mexico very late Monday night. The first day back was pasta making for Saint Joseph Day at the Groppos and spending time with our son Alex and granddaughter Charlotte. Yesterday and today I’ve been pouring through the footage to add to the film. I’ll write some posts about beautiful Mexico, the fantastic JM Butterfly B and B, and the magnificent Monarchs as soon as I have time to sort through the photos. It was an adventure of a lifetime!

I was most worried about torturing Tom and wasn’t entirely sure we would have uninterrupted internet access so he could work remotely, but he had the best time meeting new people, riding horses up the mountain, climbing Cerro Pelon, and practicing his Spanish!

Monarch flakes fill the sky 


Tuesday evening at the City Council meeting, former Gloucester conservation agent Ken Whittaker reviewed the City’s 3PPlan (Piping Plover Plan) with the Councilors.

We Piping Plover volunteer monitors are grateful for the time and effort Ken has put forth in helping to protect our threatened Piping Plovers. We’re especially appreciative of the time he spent coordinating the volunteer monitors–not an easy task! We wish Ken all the best in his retirement.

Ken and PiPl Volunteer Monitors, Good Harbor Beach

Ken and Jim Destino introduced Adrienne Lennon, Gloucester’s new conservation agent. We had a few minutes after the introduction to speak with Adrienne. Her experience includes working for seven years at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, located in Ipswich on the Plum Island causeway, adjacent to the infamous Pink House. While there, Adrienne gained extensive knowledge in Piping Plover conservation. She is especially interested in preserving and protecting our beach dunes. Adrienne can be reached at alennon@gloucester-ma.gov.

Best of success to Adrienne in her new position as Gloucester’s Conservation Agent!

Photos of Ken and Adrienne at City Hall courtesy of City Council Vice President Steve LeBlanc

During Piping Plover nesting season, I have visited the public beach at the northern end of Plum Island, Newbury Beach. I believe the PiPl nesting areas at Newbury Beach are monitored by Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. Newbury Beach is similar in several ways to Good Harbor Beach in that it is a popular town beach in a residential area with many access points and nearby hotels. Last year the beach and dunes were extremely hard hit by late winter storms, just as was Good Harbor Beach.

About Joppa Flats Education Center: Overlooking the Merrimack River and near the entrance to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the Joppa Flats Education Center offers unique educational opportunities for people of all ages. Here, you can explore the region’s wildlife-rich habitats (salt marshes, mudflats, rivers, bays, and coastal waters) through guided tours, marine touch tanks, art exhibits, drop-in programs, and interpretive displays.

Scenes from behind the Joppa Flats Education Center and Plum Island causeway.

Councilors Steve LeBlanc and Melissa Cox wearing Piping Plover monitor hats provided by Ken Whittaker.

Coffins Beach and Wingaersheek Beach are going to be more closely monitored this year for Piping Plovers. The above photo is from 2016 when NINE chicks fledged at Coffins Beach!

Three-day-old Piping Plover Chick, Good Harbor Beach



If you weren’t able to make pasta Tuesday morning at Nina and Frank Groppos, a second special St. Joseph pasta-making day is taking place this Saturday at 10:00am. This additional day is especially for kids and everyone is invited to join the fun!

Charlotte was so super shy at first, but Kathy Pratl took her under her wing and showed her how. As soon as she understood everyone was making her favorite, noo-noos, Charlotte joined right in. Thank you Nina, Franco, Kathy, Roseanne and Friends for a great morning! ❤


I am beyond excited to share that we have been able to license the music that I dreamed about for my Monarch Butterfly documentary. This may not sound like a huge deal, but we have been working towards this for several years. The four songs were composed and arranged by world renowned guitarist Jesse Cook and they are: “You,” “Fields of Blue,” Afternoon at Saties,” and “El Cri.” My husband, Tom, introduced me to Jesse’s music, and from the moment I heard it, I knew that we would find music to score Beauty on the Wing from his repertoire of beautiful songs 

Jesse Cook: Beyond Borders is his newest concert special and begins airing on WGBH tonight at 8:30pm!

Beyond Borders is Cook’s most recent album and while touring the record over a 31 day period, from Canadian coast to Canadian coast, they filmed the performances in 4k every night. “The result is an immersive musical journey that treats the audience to a sense of being on stage with the band from the opening note to its energetic finale.”

From PBS:


Premieres March 2, 2019 on PBS

A Musical Journey with the Genre Bending Guitarist

JESSE COOK: BEYOND BORDERSthe latest concert special by the acoustic guitar virtuoso, was filmed over the 31 days of his coast-to-coast tour of Canada. Instead of filming just one show in one night, the cameras rolled every night, allowing Jesse to place the best version of each song into this unique concert experience. The result is an immersive musical journey that treats the audience to a sense of being on stage with the band from the opening note to its energetic finale — a Jesse Cook “Rhumba Party.” JESSE COOK: BEYOND BORDERS is part of special programming premiering on PBS stations in March 2019.

Canadian guitarist, composer and producer Jesse Cook blends rumba and flamenco with elements of jazz and world music. He is a three-time winner of Canada’s Smooth Jazz Award for Guitarist of the Year, as well as a Juno Award-winner (Canada’s version of The Grammy) in the Best Instrumental Album category for Free Fall. In 2009, he was Acoustic Guitar’s Player’s Choice Silver Winner in the Flamenco category.

JESSE COOK: BEYOND BORDERS features these performances:

    • “Beyond Borders”
    • “Tempest”
    • “Come What May”
    • “Hembra”
    • “Jumpstart”
    • “Chendy’s Caja” solo
    • “Dance of Spring”
    • “Bombay Slam”
    • “Ho Hey”
    • “Double Dutch”
    • Medley (“Bombay Diner,” “Closer to Madness,” “That’s Right,” “Baghdad”)
    • “Beneath Your Skin”

Jesse Cook, a master guitarist known for his intoxicating fusion of world music, has travelled the globe looking for sounds that resonate with him. “I like finding common ground for different music traditions, a space where music from around the world can come together,” Cook explains. “A place where modern sounds can mix with ancient timbres.”



Thank you Community for seeing the wisdom in these changes and for giving voice to these tiny endangered birds.

Last night’s Council vote a was win for our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers and a win for all the citizens of Gloucester. There was a tremendous turnout by the Piping Plover volunteers and friends, as well as an impressive number of letters written to the Councilors in favor of the changes to the ordinance. The combination of the two spoke volumes and definitely tipped the scales in favor of the Plovers.

Our sincerest thanks to City Councilors Scott Memhard, Paul Lundberg, and Melissa Cox for putting forth the ordinance. Our sincerest thanks to O and A Councilors Steven LeBlanc, Jamie O’Hara, and Sean Nolan for voting unanimously to put the ordinance change to City Council for a vote. A huge shout out to all the Councilors for voting YES!  Thank you to Jim Destino for presenting on behalf of Mayor Sefatia and the Administration. And a huge shout out to Alicia Pensarosa and the Animal Advisory Committee for their tremendous presentation and a job well done.

The greatest thanks goes to all our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover monitors who have given so generously of their time and energy to our tiniest of shorebird friends. ❤

Next steps are tighter enforcement, and signage, and with the ordinance in place and increased awareness, I am very hopeful this can be accomplished.

Just some of the many friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers who participated last night -Preston, Cruz, Laurie, Kim N., Heather, and Catherine

Piping Plover Fledglings Coffins Beach

Notes for City Council meeting

February 26, 2019

Thank you Councilors for providing me the opportunity to speak.

The Mass Wildlife Piping Plover 2017 Census Report, with Dog Ordinances, which was submitted last week, affirms why prohibiting dogs on affected beaches by April 1st is the correct course of action needed to protect our Piping Plover nesting areas. The April 1st date has been determined best course of action by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Trustees of Reservations Coastal Shorebird Protection Program, Mass Audubon, USFWS National Refuges such as Parker River (where dogs are prohibited year round), and our own Gloucester Animal Advisory Committee.

Only one chick out of eleven has fledged during the last three years. Rather than focusing on who is to blame, and who reported what, and how many times incidences were reported, I hope we can come together and do what is best for this tiny endangered bird. Beach communities that take full precautionary measures to protect the Piping Plovers have a greater than 80 percent success rate in fledging chicks. Communities that only take partial measures have a 20 percent rate of success in fledgling chicks.

Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee, under the leadership of Alicia Pensarosa, has recommended a full set of precautionary and protective measures, which are in alignment with neighboring communities, and they include creating a buffer zone, better signage, increasing fines, precautionary roping in place by April 1st, stricter enforcement and, the single most important piece of the protective measures, to prohibit dogs on the beach from the dates of April 1st to September 30th.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which also applies to threatened species, specifically prohibits the “taking” of Piping Plovers. Taking doesn’t only mean killing, taking also includes, harassing, harming, and removing. The ESA requires Federal agencies to take action to prevent further harm and harassment. By only taking half-hearted measures, and without strict enforcement, our community is at high risk of beach closures and heavy fines.

Piping Plovers are facing tremendous pressure from human disturbances, natural predators, loss of habitat, and rising sea level. One of the single most pervasive threats to Piping Plovers is dogs disturbing the nesting area, and we have seen this first hand over the past three years, beginning in May 2016 when the Piping Plovers first began nesting at Good Harbor Beach, continuing through 2017 and 2018.

The result of dogs disturbing the nesting area last spring forced a Piping Plover pair to nest in the Good Harbor Beach parking lot, a highly unusual and dangerous outcome, and this is well documented.

Here is why dogs are a threat not only to Piping Plovers, but to all nesting shorebirds.

To a Plover, dogs look and act like coyotes and foxes. Whether the dog is on a leash or not, to a shorebird’s brain, a dog is scary. Dogs unwittingly crush eggs in the nest, accidentally crush chicks, chase adults, and eat chicks.

But that is only part of the story. Because all leashed and unleashed dogs appear threatening, even if your pooch is the sweetest most non-threatening creature that ever lived, dogs cause the adult Plovers to go into protective behavior.

By protective behavior, I mean that the Piping Plover will try to distract the dog with a series of vocal calls (which also disturbs and brings its mate to the scene), by running in front of the dog, and by pretending it is weakened by dragging its wing on the ground (imitating a bird with a broken wing). These protective behaviors are very stressful and force the Plover away from the nest and chicks, often far down the beach, leaving the eggs and babies open to attacks by gulls, crows, and raptors.

During the night, a Piping Plover may encounter a disturbance by a single coyote or fox, or two, but when dogs are permitted on the beach during nesting season, the dog traffic and disturbance can be unrelenting, quite literally, with hundreds of dog disturbances per day.

Piping Plovers have a much greater tolerance for humans. For example, they do not try to chase people out of their territory and will often behave very nonchalantly, unless, of course, a chick is nearby. But just as they perceive dogs to be threatening, Piping Plovers also perceive kites, drones, and balls as threats for similar reasons, because these airborne activities appear to be flying predators.

Last year, Piping Plovers were first seen at Good Harbor Beach on April 3rd The small flock appeared very weary, but after a few days of resting, pairs began actively courting. Countless dog disturbances, especially during the very early hours of the day, and late in the afternoon, caused the Boardwalk #3 pair to abandon their nest on the beach and to nest in the parking lot. These disturbances and nesting dates are well documented. Constant dog disturbances also caused a second pair attempting to nest at the Boardwalk #1 area to abandon its nest scrapes, and Good Harbor Beach altogether.

Since 2016, I have also been documenting Piping Plovers at Coffins Beach and Cranes Beach. Last year, I began following Piping Plovers nesting at both Revere Beach and Winthrop Shores Reservation because these two beaches are more similar to Good Harbor Beach. Revere and Winthrop, like Good Harbor, are highly trafficked beaches frequented by locals and by people from out of town, and we can learn a great deal from these communities. Both Revere and Winthrop Shores Reservation follow the guidelines of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation where precautionary fencing is installed by April 1st, and no dogs are allowed. If chicks can fledge from Revere and Winthrop beaches, so too can chicks fledge from Good Harbor Beach.

Additional Notes:

A sentence in the 3PPlan gave me great pause, and that is why I decided to include the photos attached in tonight’s discussion. “There has been friction with a small number of dog walkers who resent being denied access to the beach or requests to leash their pets in the vicinity of the Plover area.”

The problem is much greater than a small number. The faces have been blocked because I don’t want law enforcement to go after specific individuals. The photos are meant to show the much larger issue, that there are many, many dogs disrupting the nesting area on Good Harbor Beach during the month of April.

All photos were taken on April 28th and 29th at Good Harbor Beach. April 28th was a warm off leash day. The nesting area at No. 3 was being impossibly overrun with dogs in the roped off section. Because of the uncontrolled dogs running through the nesting area, it would have taken at least three monitors to monitor only No. 3, not to mention area No. 1.

Photos No. 2-14 were taken within a one-hour time period. Photos 2-5 show a woman on her cell phone ignoring her dog, her dog runs into the nesting area and goes pooh, she goes into the nesting area to clean up while in the mean time, her dog continues to run through the nesting area with a pal. Photos 6 through 12 show a bunch of different dogs playing in the nesting area and could be photographed with roping as part of the photo. Photos 13 and 14 show dogs up by the nest, at the dune line. Photo 15 show the dog tracks in the nesting area.

The PiPl had given up on the beach and moved to the parking lot because there was far less dog disturbance there. Photos 16-18 show their parking lot nest scrape, mating behavior, and trying to camouflage on the white lines of the parking lot. They stayed in the parking lot the entire day and did not eat or drink.

I returned to Good Harbor beach the following morning, an on leash day, hoping that it would be quieter and the PiPl could catch a break, but instead found a number of dogs off leash.

I hope these photos are helpful in showing why it is so critically important to prohibit dogs on the beach during the month of April. And that it is clearly not a “small number of dog walkers” causing the disruption to nesting.

I am happy to answer any questions. Please email me or at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or phone at 978-283-3910

Thank you so much again for your time and consideration.

Good Harbor Beach Papa (left) and Mama Piping Plover and Chicks