WITH THANKS AND DEEP APPRECIATION FOR OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS

Jonathan, Sally, Jennie, Heidi, Barbara, Sue, Deb, Jane, Duncan, and Bette Jean

Last night we had our end of the season Piping Plover Ambassadors get together. It’s so challenging with the pandemic because I just wanted so much to hug everyone and thank them for the fantastic job they did. Thanks to their enthusiasm, dedication, interest, and kindness, we were able to fledge our little Marshmallow. It’s not the number of birds that fledge that matters, but that they are in good health when they depart and our Marshmallow was strong and well fortified after a season of healthy, and largely uninterrupted, foraging at Good Harbor Beach.

A heartfelt thank you to all who helped make 2020 a tremendously joyous Piping Plover season!

Deb Brown made the funniest and most charming Marshmallow cupcakes (and they were delicious, too)! Don’t you think it should be a tradition?

Charlotte loving her marshmallow cupcake! 

 

The following is the text of the program that I gave at this year’s Coastal Waterbird meeting –

Program for Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators Meeting

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors

Thank you to Carolyn Mostello for the invitation to talk about our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors Program.

It is an honor and a joy to be included in the annual cooperators meeting.

Thanks so much to Carolyn for also providing advice and guidance throughout the course of the 2020 Piping Plover season. Early on, she shared a phrase she uses, Educate, Not Enforce and I found that sharing that thought with our Ambassadors really conveyed how we wanted to treat our community.

Good Harbor Beach is Gloucester’s most highly populated stretch of shoreline. Less than two miles long, during the summer months the beach is packed with beach goers from morning until after sunset. And because of the pandemic, Good Harbor has become even more popular.

We had a small but truly stellar group of people this year: Deb Brown, Jane Marie, Bette Jean, Jennie, Jonathan, Sally, Shelby, Barbara, Heidi, Duncan, and myselfBetween the bunch of us we were able to provide coverage from 5:30 am to 8:30pm, from sunrise until sunset. I asked each person to commit to an hour a day simply because in the past there was too much confusion with scheduling, where some people could volunteer for an hour one day a week, or only on Tuesdays, etc. An hour a day, seven days a week, for a month is a tremendous volunteer commitment but no one seemed daunted, people volunteered for even longer time frames, and I think everyone’s time with the PiPls became something that they looked forward to very much.

After everybody’s shift, we shared our notes in the group’s email chain and to a person, it was always positive and informative. 

We have been working in partnership with Essex County Greenbelt Association’s director of land stewardship, Dave Rimmer, who over the course of the past five years has provided help and guidance with everything Piping Plover and has given freely and generously of his time. Our Ward One City Councilor, Scott Memhard, has been super helpful in navigating the City’s role in Piping Plover management and we have also been working with the City of Gloucester’s Department of Public Works. Many of the DPW crew have taken a genuine interest in the birds, as has our Mayor Sefatia.  

 Our number one goal from early on has been to keep Good Harbor Beach open while also protecting the Plovers. 

The most important thing has been to build a solid relationship with the community about why it is so important to protect threatened and endangered species. For the first four years that the Piping Plovers had been at Good Harbor Beach, I thought that writing stories, photographing, and filmmaking; sharing how beautiful, tiny, resilient, funny, spunky, and just plain adorable Piping Plovers are, people would fall in love and just naturally do the right thing. The thing is, 99 percent of people do fall in love when introduced and do want to help protect the Plovers, but there is always that 1 percent that simply does not care.

I’ve learned through experience that the very best way to handle difficult situations is to not engage, and most pointedly, to not mention enforcement. Especially during this age of coronavirus when we know people may be struggling and be very much on edge, the last thing we want to do is provoke a confrontation. We changed the name from Piping Plover Monitors, to Piping Plover Ambassadors, which has a much friendlier ring.  This year we had a mostly new crew of volunteers and at the onset of this year’s first Piping Plover meeting we made it very clear that we were not to approach anyone about their behavior. We were there to speak positively about the birds, share information, and answer any and all questions.  

For example, in the case where someone was walking directly toward a tiny newborn hatchling, we would say, “Hello, and have you had a chance to see our Piping Plover baby birds? Here, let me show you.” Several of the volunteers even shared their binoculars. That’s just one example, but by keeping a positive tone, people were just so thrilled to catch a glimpse and to learn about the birds on the beach.

 One change that has really made a monumental difference is that we worked really hard to successfully change the City’s dog ordinance, which is now written to disallow all dogs on the beach, at all times of the day, beginning April 1st, rather than May 1st. There are still scofflaws, but this one change has greatly reduced tensions.

Next year I am planning to do more community outreach prior to the PiPls arrival. I have developed a program, which I was hoping to give freely to local audiences at places such as our Sawyer Free Library and Cape Ann Museum in the spring but because of the virus, that will have to wait until next year. I think presenting programs about the birds will also be a way to help recruit ambassadors. 

One of our young Piping Plover fans who followed the bird’s stories daily, five-year-old Zoe, nicknamed our one surviving PiPl Marshmallow. Next year I think it would be great to have a Piping Plover naming contest as well as a Piping Plover art poster sign project for young people. 

We also think it would be very helpful to have brochures, with fun photos and a brief outline of the life story of the Plovers to give to interested beachgoers. My one concern with that is generating litter. We made our own 24 x 36-inch signs on coroplast boards that could be placed easily in the sand and moved about, depending on where the chicks were foraging that day. These signs were a little bit funny and helped bring attention to the birds in a super friendly manner.

I am so grateful for the advice given by Carolyn at the onset of the season and for our Ambassadors. This kind, thoughtful group of people who came together in the worst of times, knowing that despite all the problems in the world and the personal toll the pandemic has taken on us all, taking care of threatened and endangered species remained a priority, and in a summer such as 2020, perhaps the birds needed even more special care.

NEW SHORT FILM – MARVELOUS MARSHMALLOW MONTAGE!

On Tuesday I attended the annual Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting. This was my third year attending the conference. I love every minute and find them wonderfully educational. During a normal year, they take place on Cape Cod; this year was virtual. I took tons of screen shots of interesting data and and am writing an article about  the meeting and what we learned is taking place at regions all around Massachusetts, as well as at other New England States. More to come 🙂

I was asked to make two presentations, one to share a film about Marshmallow and the second presentation, to talk about our Ambassador program. I’ll share the text of the second program tomorrow, and in the meantime, here is a short video, the finished version, of our marvelous Marshmallow Montage

Thank you to Peter Van Demark for adding marvelous to Marshmallow’s name 🙂

For more about Piping Plovers, please see the Piping Plover Film Project page on my website. The page is progress but here you will find short films, information about my Atlantic Coast Piping Plover lecture program, photos, and links to hundreds of articles and posts that I have written from 2016 to the present (articles from 2019 have not yet been organized into the list).

 

 

NO SWIMMING AT THE CREEK!

Due to storm overflow, no swimming at the Creek until further notice.

From Gloucester Beaches –

As a result of the storms that traveled through the area on Wednesday, our weekly test results were not favorable and therefore the creek at Good Harbor Beach is closed to swimming until further notice. We’re optimistic that the next 2 tide cycles will bring the levels back to acceptable. And will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

Saratoga Creek, Good Harbor Beach

ANNISQUAM VILLAGE PLAYERS Online Extravaganza Tonight at 7:30 pm!

Dear Friend of the Annisquam Village Players,

Our big online extravaganza is tonight at 7:30 pm! Use this link to watch the show. You’ll also be able to add live comments in the chatbox on the right as you enjoy the show.

This show will preview songs from our summer 2021 live production of the beloved musical about everyone’s best-loved, practically perfect nanny, Mary Poppins.  Some 50 present and past members of our company, ranging in age from 4-84, will sing favorites like Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious, Spoonful of Sugar, Let’s Go Fly a Kite, I Love to Laugh, Jolly Holiday and Step in Time.

Please join us TONIGHT at 7:30 pm.   And since you’ll be watching from home, you can sing along!

https://youtu.be/XrKSiJ6bXtM

We hope to see you TONIGHT!

The Annisquam Village Players

DONATE TO AVP HERE

GLOUCESTER TEACHERS ASSOCIATION RELEASES STATEMENT ON THE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS

GTA Statement – SC Meeting

Aug. 5, 2020

Because our members’ voices were silenced at the Gloucester School Committee Meeting of August 5, 2020, the Gloucester Teachers Association is bringing our statement to the public. We are now not convinced that our voices will be heard in a Public Forum that has just been announced this evening. The School Committee will be voting on our Reopening Plan next Wednesday. We should have had a public opportunity to state our concerns with the current preliminary plan.

The following is our statement regarding the reopening of the Gloucester Public Schools.

We all know that Commissioner Riley has asked all Superintendents to submit to DESE three reopening plans – 1 for 100% in-person, 1 for 100% remote, and 1 for a hybrid model. Ultimately however, the GTA and the School Committee will have to come to the bargaining table and determine the working and learning conditions for this year.

Statewide, hundreds, if not thousands of parents have indicated that they have no intention of sending their children back into our buildings, especially in their current conditions. Likewise, many educators are having a difficult time deciding whether their own condition, or that of the people they care for, may make returning to the school buildings too quickly, too risky. This is why, GTA members and other teacher unions North of Boston and across the state demanded that DESE call for an environmental health and safety assessment of every school building and tie the reopening of those buildings to public health benchmarks supported by the latest peer-reviewed science and data. Unfortunately, Commissioner Riley unilaterally terminated negotiations at the state level and left those problems for districts to solve on their own, while we were only able to acquire the 10 days to start the school year without students and use the time to redesign learning to meet their needs in a pandemic.

Gloucester’s educators, like all educators, want nothing more than to return to their classrooms to be with their students and provide them the best possible education. However, that same concern for our students’ well-being and education which pushes us to return to the physical building, is also pulling us to stay home for them and for each other – at least for a little while longer. As much as it pains us, current scientific data and public health guidelines tell us that it is not possible to return without hurting our community.

Data:

The latest guidance from the CDC still holds that 6 feet is the necessary safe distance, even in a building with adequate airflow, environmental health and safety conditions, and proper PPE. This 6-foot recommendation is also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics who says, “States and the federal government will need to help. Purchasing and installing updated air filter systems is beyond the capacity of most school districts but is also an ideal opportunity to put millions of unemployed Americans to work on securing the future of our country.” Since that has yet to happen, it’s not yet possible to put anyone back into these school buildings.

Despite recent claims by the Federal Government and our own Commissioner Riley that “children, particularly younger children, are less likely than adults to be infected with COVID-19…and… if infected, children may be less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others,” new research, released July 20th in the CDC’s Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, published a report out of South Korea that found “children between the ages of 10 and 19 have the ability to spread COVID-19 within a household at the same rate as adults. Those under the age of 10 can also spread the virus, but the rate at which they do so is significantly lower.” And on July 30th, the New York Times reported that a small study conducted at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, concluded that infected children may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults. Additionally, the study mentions that “early reports did not find strong evidence of children as major contributors to SARS-CoV-2 spread, but school closures early in pandemic responses thwarted larger-scale investigations of schools as a source of community transmission.”

The takeaways from these studies are that we are just beginning to understand the role that children have in the transmission of this virus and the more we know about the virus, the clearer the dangers of in-person reopening become. Regardless of teachers’ deep desires to return in person right away, we have to make data driven decisions. We, the members of the GTA side with science and I hope this School Committee chooses the same.

GPS Healthy and Safe Buildings:

We are deeply committed to returning to in person learning, but Only When It’s Safe. In order for us to reopen safely, we need to commit to BOTH a deliberate phased-in approach that gradually increases the number of people in our buildings over time AND a promise to make critical infrastructure improvements. In most of our school buildings, a great deal of updating is needed to ensure that all who enter our schools are guaranteed a healthy and safe building.

According to the 2014 Master Plan Study on the GPS website, among other concerns, the following conclusion is stated for each of our Elementary schools regarding the HVAC systems: “We recommend an overall HVAC system replacement for the building.”

We would also require an increase in general maintenance and custodial personnel according to a 2005 Management Audit Services of the GPS by MGT of America, Inc., which recommended 44 Full Time Equivalent staff positions. Currently, we have 31 FTE positions. Adjusting for Fuller School and the expansion of our other Elementary schools, we are still short of the 2005 recommendations for “normal” school time, how many more would we need for “pandemic” school time?

In an anonymous teacher poll, we asked our teachers, “What are your main concerns about coming back into the workplace?” 74% of respondents cited “Proper daily disinfecting of the workspace” and 79% of respondents cited “Up-to-date and properly maintained building ventilation systems”.

For years leading up to the pandemic, the condition and maintenance of our school buildings has been a regular issue for discussion in our community. This pandemic has spotlighted the insufficiencies of our public education buildings! Now more than ever, our facilities need to be brought to a level that will ensure the health and safety of the students and staff of the Gloucester Public Schools.

Member Concerns:

When we asked our members if 3 feet of social distancing is adequate – 80% said “no”.  It’s important to note, once a student leaves their desk and walks between rows, there is no longer three feet of social distancing. Governor Baker’s regulations state that indoor gatherings are limited to eight people per 1,000 square feet, putting a class of 20 students needing 2500 square feet of space. Our classrooms do not conform to this regulation and this concerns teachers greatly.

Additionally, these are a few examples of teachers’ comments:

“I would [return] because I love my students but will not be able to see my parents because of concerns of spreading the virus and this would be a big sacrifice.”

“Yes, but I am nervous because I live with two family members that are at risk, and I take care of my elderly mother who is also at risk with many health issues.”

“I am high risk but I am concerned about losing my position.”

“.. This is my last year before retiring. I have survived [another disease] twice and just hope I can survive this year without contracting Covid-19.”

“Yes, but I would be fearful of it.”

“ I live with my elderly parents with compromised immune systems, so I am very nervous.”

“Yes, as long as ventilation in my room is adequate (at the moment, it is not)”

“I would risk infecting [a family member] who has a documented immunodeficiency. I don’t know how I would ever be able to bear that guilt.”

“[I have] family members who are at a very high risk. I do not want to lose anyone I love, as I am sure many others feel the same way.”

“I have a son….I worry about getting sick or dying from COVID and not being able to take care of him.”

“Do not reopen schools we are not ready and no one should die because we opened them prematurely.”

“…if we can make it to the holidays with remote learning, we can all have hope for the scientific community to have a breakthrough given another 4 months. It seems such a short time when we compare it to sacrificing a life.”

 

What the School Day looks like:

We know parents want their children back in schools and to get back to a “normal” life. However, the school day will be far from normal for students. Picture students sitting in desks whether they are 3 or 6 feet apart, facing forward with masks on. They will not be collaborating like they once did during “normal” times. There will not be the passing out of papers or sharing of any materials. There will not be lunch in the cafeteria where they can sit with their friends and chat- no social interacting like “normal” times. There will not be recess and playground use like there was in “normal” times. Our physical movement and mask “breaks” will be limited by how and where they can be held safely. They will not be able to see our faces when we smile, – to name only a few. The regulations should be the same for everyone. Our students and teachers deserve to be treated with the same compassion as the general public.

There are also questions: Will there be mandated testing before being admitted to school, like in many colleges and universities? What happens if there is a confirmed case in school? How will that be communicated? Will the class or entire school have to quarantine? How will we do contact tracing? And who will be held responsible if someone does get infected and dies? So, parents, when you are considering whether your child should be in this setting, and administrators when you are considering what the “least restrictive environment” is for our students, please consideration these points.

Once we reopen our schools, we want to keep them open. Rushing this process and putting too many people back in the buildings too soon will very likely cause the infection rate to spike and trigger another shutdown. This would only disrupt the learning process for students, and the planning process for families and exacerbate the well-known inequities that existed in our schools both before and during the pandemic – not to mention endanger the lives of our entire community.

It is clear that we will never get 100% agreement on the right way to do this. But it’s also clear that we can’t afford to get it wrong. There’s so much wrong with remote learning, both in terms of the crisis learning we were forced into in the spring, even with the most thoughtful and intentional planning. We know that this may be a hardship for families, and we hope that Gloucester helps to provide more support for parents who work and need daycare, or who are struggling with rent, or who are dealing with other fallout from COVID. Unfortunately, Gloucester’s buildings aren’t safe enough to go back into yet. And the hard truth is there is no hardship greater than the unnecessary loss of life.

Conclusion:

I oppose remote learning as a curriculum-in-a-box program that takes the professional teacher out of education and replaces them with “remote learning management” software as proposed by the DESE and as an accepted way of learning during “normal” times.

But I do NOT oppose remote learning if the alternative is to return to our school buildings in their current condition and under the social distancing parameters in the GPS preliminary plans. I support remote learning, as difficult as it is for teachers to implement, if it is designed by our educators in collaboration with one another, as a way to resume learning safely.

It is not lost on anyone that while the School Committee may be considering not just one, but two plans that call for large numbers of staff and students to be in our school buildings in just over a month’s time, this body continues to meet remotely. If 3 feet of distance is acceptable for our students and educators for 4 to 6 hours a day with masks on, why aren’t you sitting 3 feet apart from one another in the Administration Building Conference Room where you traditionally meet? The answer is obvious. Because it isn’t safe. Not yet.

I do not want to see yearbooks at the end of this school year with pages of “In Memoriams” dedicated to the educators and students we may lose to COVID if we return to the buildings too quickly. I don’t want to reflect back on this process and be complicit in rushing Gloucester educators and students back into an unsafe environment. I’ll also never be the type of leader to tell my Union siblings what is best for them and overrule the democratic wishes of our rank-and-file organization. This decision isn’t mine to make in a vacuum any more than it is the Committee’s or the Superintendent’s. At this time, we feel that the only way to safely reopen schools – and keep them open – is to start remotely and gradually work our way to a full reopening based on the state’s scientific data and public health benchmarks, very similar to the state reopening process. Anything else would be reckless, irresponsible, and counterproductive.

So, in the near future, our members will continue to debate the merits of each of these plans in an open and democratic process until we reach consensus as a union and in solidarity with our fellow union family members throughout our region and the Commonwealth. We hope the School Committee will be just as engaging with us and the public over the next couple of weeks as our community must work together to fully reopen our schools in the best and safest way possible. I hope that all of you, as well, do not look back on this decision and wonder – “If I had done something differently, how many people would still be alive?”

I thank you for your time, and I look forward to continuing these discussions in open and transparent forums that provide opportunity for honesty and confidentiality, where educators, parents, and residents concerned about these issues and how reopening may impact community spread of the virus, can participate throughout. The stakes have never been higher. Not one single person should get sick or die because we opened the schools prematurely. The only acceptable death count is zero.

Thank you.

Cynthia Lanzendorf-Carney,

President, Gloucester Teachers Association

TREMENDOUS NEWS FROM GREENBELT -The Great American Outdoors Act is Now Law!

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to share the exciting news that the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law today! The culmination of fifty years of bipartisan conservation effort, the law ensures that the critically important Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is permanently funded.

LWCF is used to acquire, protect and manage our public lands, including National Parks and Wildlife Refuges such as the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge right here in Essex County. The new law means that $900 million will be committed each year from offshore drilling revenues to protect important land, water and recreational areas that benefit all of us.

Greenbelt applauds the efforts of so many over so many years. This is the biggest win for our public lands in a generation and it ensures LWCF can protect our lands and waters forever!

Thanks for your ongoing support of land conservation, and be well,

Kate Bowditch
President

Click here to read Greenbelt’s Spring Newsletter

Click here to learn more about giving to Greenbelt

LEAST TERN BABES AT BEAUTIFUL WINTHROP SHORE RESERVATION

Several weeks ago on my way home for work, I stopped by one of my favorite places to film and photograph, Winthrop Shore Reservation. I began filming there several years ago because I thought it would be super helpful for our community to understand what was happening with Piping Plovers at beaches similar to Good Harbor Beach, similar in that they are urban beaches located in densely populated neighborhoods and are managed without the 24/7 protection of the Trustees (Crane Beach) or the USFWS (Plum Island).

What I discovered there was so much more than the story of WSR Piping Plovers and have since been filming and documenting many species of birds that call Winthrop Shore Reservation home throughout the four seasons, including the Least Tern colony, Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings, a family of Great Blue Herons, Oystercatchers, and Killdeers.

On my visit of several weeks ago there were so many Least Tern nestlings, fledglings, and juveniles, I was afraid to walk through the rocky shore for fear of stepping on a nestling. In their soft hues of buffy peach, gray, and ivory, the wee ones were perfectly camouflaged, tucked in and amongst the wind- and weather-worn monochromatic stones.

Tiny Killdeer chicks and newly hatched Piping Plovers were also running about the Tern colony. I left with a heart full of joy at seeing so much new life in such an extraordinary location, extraordinary in the sense that it was only a few short years ago that Winthrop Shore Reservation underwent a major restoration, renovation, and renourishment project, which was undertaken by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation. I’d say the renourishment aspect of the project has been a whopping success!!!

Ready for take-off!

Piping Plover and Killdeer chicks at Winthrop

Nesting Least Tern

Least Tern in flight

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #4, WINTHROP BEACH IS AMAZING, AND LOTS OF SEX ON THE BEACH

Fishing For Sex

Least Tern One Day Old Chicks!

Two-Day-Old Least Tern Chicks

STUCK BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

ANNISQUAM VILLAGE PAYERS ONLINE EXTRAVAGANZA!

Dear Friend of the Annisquam Village Players,

We aren’t able to be on stage at the Village Hall this summer, but as a gift to the community, the Village Players will be presenting an online extravaganza.  This happy show will preview songs from our summer 2021 live production of the beloved musical about everyone’s best-loved, practically perfect nanny, Mary Poppins.  Some 50 present and past members of our company, ranging in age from 4-84, will sing favorites like Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious, Spoonful of Sugar, Let’s Go Fly a Kite, I Love to Laugh, Jolly Holiday and Step in Time.

Please join us Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 7:30 pm.  The show will be broadcast from AVP’s brand new Youtube channel. And since you’ll be watching from home, you can sing along!

We hope to see you August 6!

The Annisquam Village Players

DONATE to AVP here

MINIATURE HUMMINGBIRD, ENORMOUS FURRY BEE, FLYING LOBSTER, OR MUTANT NEW WORLD CREATURE?

Hummingbird and Snowberry Clearwing Moths

By Kim Smith

Startled! is an apt description of the reaction most gardeners experience when first they encounter a clearwing moth. Hovering while nectaring, with wings whirring rapidly and audibly, is it a miniature hummingbird, enormous furry bee, flying lobster, or mutant new world creature?Verbena and Hummingbird Clearwing MothHummingbird Clearwing Moth  (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring at Verbena bonariensis 

The family Sphingidae are easily identified in both their adult and caterpillar forms. The medium-to-large-sized sphinx, or hawk, moths have characteristic robust, chunky bodies tapering to a point, and slender wings, which are adapted for rapid and sustained flight. Often mistaken for hummingbirds, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe), with green tufted body and ruby colored scales, suggesting the male hummingbird, and the Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), with the gold and black striped color pattern similar to that of a fat bumble bee, mimic both the bees and birds they fly with during the day. The ability of certain Sphingids to hover in mid air while nectaring is unusual in nectar feeders and has evolved in only three species: Sphingids, bats, and hummingbirds. Sphinx moths also do an exceptionally unusual movement called “swing-hovering,” swinging from side to side while hovering, it is thought, in an effort to escape predators lying in wait amongst the flora.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), nectaring at Buddleia

Sphinx moths are grouped together because their caterpillars hold their head and thorax erect in a sphinx-like fashion. Most larvae have a horn protruding from their last segment. For this reason, they are often called hornworms. The adult sphinx moth is a powerful flier and usually has a long proboscis suitable for tubular-shaped flowers with a deep calyx, such as trumpet vine. The slender wings must beat rapidly to support their heavy bodies. The names of many sphinx or hawk moth species correlate to their caterpillar host plant, to name but a few examples: Catalpa Sphinx, Huckleberry Sphinx, Paw Paw Sphinx, Cherry Sphinx, and Elm Sphinx.

The order Lepidoptera is comprised of butterflies, moths and skippers. The name is derived from the Greek lepidos for scales and ptera for wings. Their scaled wings distinguish them as a group from all other insects. Shortly after the Hummingbird and Snowberry Clearwings are born, they immediately begin to shed their wing scales, hence the common name clearwing moth. While nectaring, moths receive a dusting of pollen as they brush against the pollen-bearing anthers. Their fuzzy, fur-like scale-covered bodies are an excellent transporter of pollen. Because moths are on the wing primarily at night, moth-pollinated flowers are often white and pale, pastel-hued and tend to be sweetly scented. White flowers are more easily distinguished in the evening light, whereas colorful flowers disappear. Adult clearwing moths are diurnal (day flying) and nectar at a variety of flowers. In our garden, they are most often spotted at our native Phlox ‘David,’ bee balm (Monarda didyma), purple-top Verbena bonariensis, and butterfly bushes with blue and white flowers. The larvae of Hummingbird Clearwings feed primarily on viburnum, honeysuckle, and snowberry (all Caprifoliaceae), and less commonly on hawthorn, cherry, and plum (Rosaceae). Snowberry larvae feed on honeysuckle and snowberry.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth nectaring at native Phlox paniculata ‘David’
(Click photo to see full size image)

For the most part, Sphinx moths are on the wing at night, although the beautiful White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) is often seen at dusk. The forward wings are dark olive brown streaked with white. The hind wings are black with a vivid band of rose-pink. Found throughout North America, both larvae and adults are consummate generalists. The caterpillars feed on the foliage of apple trees, four-o’clocks, evening primrose, elm, grape, and tomato. The adults nectar at a wide variety of flowers including larkspur, gaura, columbine, petunia, moonflower, lilac, bouncing bet, clover, Jimson weed, and thistle. White-lined Sphinxes are drawn to lights and those that remain in the garden the next morning are quite subdued, and may come to your finger.

Snowberry Clearwing

Orchids often have a symbiotic relation to very specific sphinx moths. The starry white, six-petalled Comet Orchid (the French common name, “Etoile de Madagascar” means “Star of Madagascar”) produces nectar at the bottom of an extremely long corolla, nearly a foot in length. Star of Madagascar (Angraecum sesquipedale) was predicted by Charles Darwin to have a highly specialized moth pollinator with a proboscis at least that long.  “Angraecum sesquipedale has nectaries eleven and a half inches long, with only the lower half filled with very sweet nectar…it is, however, surprising, that any insect should be able to reach the nectar: our English sphinxes have probosces as long as their bodies; but in Madagascar there must be moths with probosces capable of extension to a length of between ten and twelve inches!” (Darwin). The giant hawk moth Xanthopan morganii praedicta (“the predicted one”) was named appropriately upon its discovery, after Darwin’s death.

Etoile de Madagascar and Hawk Moth Xanthopan morganii praedicta

Image courtesy wiki commons media

Co-evolution, the specialized biological embrace of two species, bears both benefits and risks. Each partner benefits in that no energy is wasted on finding ways to reproduce. The risk lies in becoming too dependent on a single species. If one half of the co-evolved partnership perishes, the other will surely become extinct as well.

This article was first published on August 3, 2011 and was subsequently republished by the New England Wildflower Society.

 

BEAUTIFUL MORNING STAR IS A PLANET?

I was wondering what the brilliant morning star was in the southeast, just before daybreak this morning, and a google search led to more confusion. Possibly one of my astronomy fiends could write and let me know. Thank you!

You can see it shining in the photo below, above the Creek and the sun rays, high in the sky.

BEAUTIFUL MORNING AT THE CREEK AND THE TREE SWALLOWS ARE MASSING! with video

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

This morning at 8:30 I stopped by the Creek to see if Marshmallow had returned. I’ve been checking every morning and haven’t seen him since the morning the roped off area was dismantled, but Deb thinks she saw him last evening. I ran into Todd and Sarah and they too were looking. The PiPl that was there at the Creek this morning I think is too slender to be a forty-one day old chick. This bird doesn’t have the round plump silhouette that Marshmallow had at 38 days. I am not sure if his body would change overnight like that. We’ll keep checking and see what we see.

It’s not unusual for Piping Plovers to be seen at GHB singularly or in small groups of two, threes, and fours as the Creek especially is a wonderful stop over point for migrating shorebirds. The most Piping Plovers I have ever seen in a group at a Gloucester Beach was a flock of nine at Coffins Beach and they were together for several days before all departed overnight.

Chubby Marshmallow at 38 days, left, mystery slender PiPl, right

We also saw a Least Tern feeding its fledgling!!, a Little Blue Heron chasing a Snowy Egret, and Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers foraging together.

Least Tern fledgling

Little Blue chasing a Snowy through the marsh this morning

The beautiful event that takes place every year at this time along the shoreline and at our local dunes are the Tree Swallow aerialists massing, with each day in progressively greater numbers. They stay as long as there are insects aplenty, until one morning, you will find they have vanished, migrating to the next insect-rich location.

Also, I just added a film to the post, a short that I made several years ago titled Dance of the Tree Swallows. It goes on way too long, and I would edit it differently today, but you may enjoy the first half at least. It was mostly filmed at Greenbelt’s Wingaersheek Uplands and Coffins Beach in West Gloucester. Here is the link https://vimeo.com/201781967 – and the password is treeswallows.

Regarding our end of the season meeting, I think the best day for most everyone is Thursday. We don’t want to do it on a weekend night, too many people and not safe with corona, and too hot or rain predicted on other nights. Barbara, i am wondering if we made it at 5:00, would that work for your shower schedule?

Have a Super Sunday!

xxKim

Tree Swallow range map

FAREWELL MARSHMALLOW, SAFE TRAVELS LITTLE CHICK!

 

Marshmallow, 38 days old

Good morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

It appears as though Marshmallow has begun his southward migration. We know he is well fortified from his days at Good Harbor Beach, with a little belly full of sea worms and other PiPl yummies. His Dad has taught him extremely well, from important survival skills on how to avoid danger to bathing and frequent preening, giving his newly formed flight feathers extra conditioning.

His tiny wings will beat millions of times to reach the first important staging area. For Piping Plovers in our region, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is where they will most likely head. Last August at the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, I met Professor Paton. He is involved with a program that bands and nanotags birds at Southern New England beaches, mostly Rhode Island beaches. He provided some terrific maps based on the data collected from the banding program.

After departing Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the majority of the program’s tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

Although our Good Harbor Beach Piping plovers are not tagged, there is no reason to believe that they too are not traveling this route.

Why are the Outer Banks such an important staging area? Perhaps because the great flats are filled with nutrient rich protein, which the adult birds need to regrow their flight feathers. Almost constantly in motion and exposed to strong sunlight during the spring migration and summer nesting season, the adult’s flight feathers are nearly completely worn down. They have become much paler in color and frayed. Shorebirds need these staging areas to molt the old feathers and grow new flight feathers. Possibly the need to be in a safe environment to begin molting explains why our Mom, and then Dad, departed prior to Marshmallow.

I know it’s disappointing that we were not given any kind of warning about dismantling the nesting area. It’s been such a great season so please don’t dwell on it. We are working to try to remedy the lack of communication between the Ambassadors and the City, with the goal of having the problem solved by next year’s season.

It’s time to start planning our end of the season get together. Would an evening work for everyone, say 6:00pm. Then everyone could get back to their families for dinner. On Thursday, August 6th, the weather looks clear and bright, not too hot or humid.

Thank you, you have all been such terrific Ambassadors, and most importantly, Marshmallow thanks you, too!

xxKim

Marshmallow, from nestling to fledgling

GOOD EATING AT GOOD HARBOR! IF YOU ARE A BIRD, THAT IS :)

Over the past several months of documenting our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, beginning in March, we have seen a beautiful collection of shorebirds, gulls, hawks, and wading birds. The continuous ebb and flow of replenishing waters at the tidal creek, expansive marsh, and intertidal pools make for a range of rich habitat where birds can find food and shelter. Minnows, sea worms, crabs, tiny mollusks, and a wide variety of other invertebrates provide fuel for hungry travelers as well as summer residents.

Too many photos for one post I just realized and will post heron and egret photos next.

Here are just some of the beauties!

Beautiful, beautiful trio of Dowitchers

Herring Gull eating a Green Crab

Cooper’s Hawk

Spotted Sandpiper

Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plovers

Killdeer

Laughing Gulls
Yellow Legs

And of course, Marshmallow and Dad 🙂

 

ALL GOOD PIPL THINGS TO SHARE!

Hello dear PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

After a time (quite a bit of time and much walking) I found Marshmallow, back at the tide pool in front of the protected area. His Dad would have been so proud because as soon as the beach rake was heard in the distance, he ran into the roped off area, just as if Dad were there commanding him to do so.  After the raking had finished, Heidi and I watched as Marshamllow did some terrific floppy floppy flying and then he flew along the shoreline looking for a place to forage, out of the way of joggers and walkers.

Everyone please take a moment to read this tender, sweet story Jonathan wrote – I put it into a blog post so it won’t get lost in the mire of Facebook- “My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. “

Heather and Kory’s 1623 Studios interview was posted this morning. So many thanks to Kory  and Heather for shining a spotlight on our GHB PiPls!!!

Shout Outs to:

Piping Plover Ambassadors at 15:20

Councilor Memhard at 16:45

Mayor Sefatia at 17:15

Dave Rimmer and Greenbelt at 23 minutes

A good day for People and for Plovers!

xxKim

Cuteness Alert! “Marshmallow,” this year’s Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover hatchling, stars in Kim Smith’s new video. Come for the fluffy, leggy sweetness; stay for the interview.

 

 

 

 

THANK YOU HEATHER ATWOOD AND KORY CURCURU FOR THE FANTASTIC PIPING PLOVER 1623 STUDIOS INTERVIEW!

Thank you so very much to Heather Atwood and Kory Curcuru for sharing about our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. It’s a joy to participate in these interviews and I also want to thank Heather for stopping by to meet Marshmallow. I am so glad she got to see our super Dad in action!

You can follow 1623 Studios on Facebook. If you like the page, Cape Ann Today with Kory and Heather will pop up in your news feed.

Cuteness Alert! “Marshmallow,” this year’s Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover hatchling, stars in Kim Smith’s new video. Come for the fluffy, leggy sweetness; stay for the interview.

 

 

“My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. “

One of our amazing and awesome Piping Plover Ambassadors, Jonathan Golding, wrote the following, too beautiful not to share  ❤

“I wrote this two weeks ago. It is titled “My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. ”
Already I have spoken a mistruth. My daughter is not a Piping Plover Fledgling. She is a soon to be 20 year old rising junior at American University in D.C. majoring in Criminal Justice & Psychology, and has maintained an impressive 3.8 GPA. And, given the great pandemic pause, she has decided to take her own version of a Gap Year and work for AmeriCorps in Boston. She applied for several different programs and received an offer from her #1 choice as a Restorative Practices Fellow with the Dudley Promise Corps. She will be working at the Dearborn S.T.E.M. Academy in Roxbury.
This big new move is all very exciting. . . for her. I mean, here at home she has just finished her second week of remote working, interacting with new Americorp colleagues, learning more about what the job entails, and in communication about living arrangements in Boston. Hmmmmm . . . living arrangements in Boston. Lib has lived in Rockport, in Gloucester, and on campus at American University. Now the new reality is unknown roommates at an apartment in the Roxbury/Fort Hill area of Boston, east of Jamaica Plain. This is where the Piping Plover analogy comes in. Three weeks ago, Sally and I joined the ranks of Piping Plover Ambassadors for the 4 newly hatched chicks at Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach. As endangered shorebirds, it’s helps to give them some additional safety coverage as they mature and develop. A number of us armed with binoculars, good intentions, and the willingness to engage with the occasional unaware beach goer, keep a watchful eye over the young ones and their parents. What started as Mom, Dad, and four chicks, are now, three weeks later, just the dad and one chick. Three of the little ones sadly didn’t make it and mom, I guess feeling like her job was done, flew the coop. Yet DAD, and his only child – now named Marshmallow, stayed the course. Dad is there for him/her/they. He looks out for threats, does appropriate interventions if dogs, seagulls, crows, or people get too close to his baby. He also – new word for me – thermoregulates the chick. Marshmallow, with his/her/their still developing feathers need the warmth of a good parental snuggle. “Fledgling” is when a young chick has what it takes to . . . FLY. Once they got that flying thing down, then they can pretty much handle any threat coming their way. Before fledging, Marshmallow needs dad, and dad is there 100% for Marshmallow’s safety, care, and well-being. After fledging, Dad’s need to be involved with Marshmallow’s day -to-day activities and decision-making, well, not so much. Maybe not at all. I don’t know all this for a fact. I have never been a Piping Plover Ambassador before. Nor have I ever been a father to a soon-to-be 20 year old who is moving to Boston and becoming a Restorative Practices Fellow with the Dudley Promise Corps in Roxbury. My daughter is fledging.
I recently read an article in the NY Times about how many couples are “struggling to cope with the stress and tension” and one piece of advice stayed with me: “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be in a loving, connected relationship?” Granted, that question was aimed at partners in a relationship, yet for me it’s applicable in my relationship to my fledging daughter. I am full of questions and concerns about her venture into this great urban undertaking, and – not to be taken lightly – during this time of a pandemic environment, social distancing, and face-coverings. I understand the concepts of Endings, Beginnings, & Transitions. And, in my desire to maintain a loving, connected relationship, it’s probably best if I back off with my lists, the probing questions, and the catastrophic concerns that keep popping into my reptilian brain. Lib is a thoughtful, kind, generous, and smart young lady. She has had life experiences that have prepared her for this next chapter. As a parent, you do your best, give your best, and then . . . what . . Step Back? Step Aside? Offer Support and Assistance?
Sally, Libby and I went out to lunch yesterday, and I brought a notebook with a whole list of topics intending to discuss. . .. everything from bedroom sheets, to bus stop locations, to subway safety, to Covid appropriate interactions with her 3 new roommates. At some point, I turned the page over, and on a new page wrote simply “Lib, How Can We Best Support You?”. Couldn’t help but think about when I am down at Good Harbor Beach observing the Daddy Plover, he sure doesn’t seem to be overtly stressing over his little one. I suspect he feels he has done his best in preparing his kid to enter into the world as a young adult. When little Marshmallow becomes older-teen Marshmallow and truly finds his/her/their wings, and equally important his/her/their inner confidence , then the fully fledged piping Plover will fly off and effectively deal with the challenges and opportunities that life will surely present. Probably this is a good time for me to say “Hey JG . .. be more like the Daddy Plover. All will be fine.”🙏

SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS HAVE ARRIVED!

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

It took awhile to discover where Marshmallow was this morning. He was at the wrack line calling nearly continuously with his soft melodious piping call, (which is how I was able to locate him), before then flying off over the dunes. I found him on my return walk, preening and fluffing at the PiPls favorite piece of driftwood within the enclosure. Note that is the very same driftwood that our PiPl Mom and Dad had their very first nest scrape at, way back in April!

No sign of Dad this morning.

Semipalmated Plover

Heidi noticed the pair of Semipalmated Plovers as well; it’s one of the first sightings of Semipalmated Plovers at GHB this summer and is a sure sign that the summer/fall migration is underway. Last year we had an unusual occurrence, Mystery Chick – a Semipalmated Plover fledgling appear suddenly and foraged for a bit with our three PiPl chicks.

Good Harbor Beach, and all of Cape Ann’s shorelines, continue to provide an extraordinary window into the world of migrating creatures. Despite 2020 being such a challenging summer on so very many levels, a saving grace has been our Piping Plovers and having the joy of meeting and getting to know our Ambassadors, and all of Marshmallow’s friends.

Semipalmated Plover fledgling, “Mystery Chick”

Heather Atwood updated us that the Cape Ann Today PiPl episode is not going to air until Friday or Monday and as soon as I know, will let you know.

Have a great day and thank goodness for today’s cooler temperatures 🙂

xxKim37 day old Marshmallow

A WEEK WITH THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH RED FOX FAMILY PART TWO – if you are squeamish about baby bunnies, please skip over this post

Over the week I spent filming the Red Fox family, the kits became habituated to my presence. I worried about that, worried for the sake of the kits, especially after one incident where I heard a noise behind me and a kit was standing over my head looking down at me, only a mere few feet away. Several weeks later I was walking in the same neighborhood and the sound of hooves running wildly alerted me to a deer running pell mell up the hill, with a kit in hot pursuit. Red Fox adults don’t even take down deer and I wondered if the kit was practicing its hunting skills and also wondered, thinking about my eye to eye encounter with a kit, if I hadn’t looked up when one was looking down at me, if he was planning to pounce on me!

Every morning the dog and vixen brought mouths full of fresh prey to their kits. It was startling to see when an entire nest of baby bunnies was delivered, which one would imagine would be breakfast for all three kits, but was quickly devoured by the first kit in line waiting for breakfast.

Baby bunny breakfast

As the season progressed, some early mornings we would see the foxes make several trips across the beach, always with a large rabbit, or two, clutched tightly in it jaws on the return trip.

Good Harbor Beach Dad with not one but two adult rabbits

Kits eating a Shrew for breakfast

Red Foxes also eat fruits, berries, and insects. The kit in the above photo is digging for grubs

The Red Fox adults left dead small mammals all around the family’s home base, I think to encourage the youngsters to begin hunting on their own.

Relaxed Dad

My favorite few moments of filming was on a particularly beautiful morning when Dad was acting very chill. He had delivered breakfast, licked one of the kits clean, and was relaxing on the grassy knoll. The kit playfully surprise attacked him, coming in from behind and pouncing with an open jaw. It was beautiful to watch this familial scene with the Red Fox family unfold and is a moment I won’t soon forget.

Sneak attack on Dad!

Here are a few more photos. I have another batch, the last day with the Fox Family and will try to find the time to post next week.

 

HOW FAR CAN A PIPING PLOVER TRAVEL IN ONE DAY?

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors and Friends,

Both Dad and Marshmallow were sweetly sleep-eyed, each in their own respective “fox” holes. Even at 6am, it was hot already at the beach, perhaps they were taking a cooling off break.

In response to Sally’s question – I do not know precisely the distance a Piping Plover can travel per day, but we do know from a banded PiPl that was at Good Harbor Beach last April (referred to as ETM), that he traveled from Georgia to Gloucester in five days or less. Here is the link to the story I wrote last spring –
https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2019/04/22/fun-411-update-on-etm-the-cumberland-island-banded-plover/

 

Many species of birds don’t generally migrate in a perfectly straight trajectory, but begin daily by setting off in a circular movement as they find the most suitable wind direction. That is why you may sometimes see when geese are flying overhead that some are going north and some are traveling south, as they gain their bearings for the next leg of their journey.

Our lone PiPl chick in 2017 (his name was Little Chick) departed about five days after Papa had left. I was with him on the morning he departed. A small flock of juvenile PiPls had flown in early in the day. Later that morning, I watched as Little Chick flew over Sherman’s Point with his new friends. We never saw him again after that.

Over the years I have observed that Coffins Beach becomes a staging point for Piping Plovers and Semi-palmated Plovers, beginning in mid-summer. They gather there in small and large groups, waiting for the right conditions to take the next leg of their journey. The Semi-palmated Plovers have journeyed from points much further north as they breed in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America. Perhaps the Piping Plover juveniles we see there at Coffins have flown over from Plum Island and Crane Beach, or perhaps they have traveled from points even further north.

Peninsulas such as our Cape Ann, as are places like Cape May and Point Pelee, are bird and butterfly migratory hotspots. We on Cape Ann are so fortunate to be able to witness this never ending flow of beautiful north-south movement that takes place each and every year without fail, in our own backyards and along our shoreline.

It’s going to be too hot today, so please don’t stay in the sun very long. Have a great day and Thank you!

xxKim

Dad and Marshmallow this morning – Marshmallow at 36 days old

HAPPY FIVE WEEKS OLD MARSHMALLOW!

Today marks the five week old milestone for our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover fledgling Marshmallow. He is thriving, growing visibly stronger daily and adding to his lipid reserves for the long journey south. Marshmallow is the only one of four hatchlings to survive however, we are not too far off from the national average PiPl chick survival rate, which is 1.2 chicks.

Marshmallow and Dad spend their days between the main beach within the protected area, at the tide pools adjacent to the protected area, and “down the Creek.” Both the tide pools and Creek shallows provide richly nourishing, fat, juicy sea worms along with a variety of mini mollusks and other invertebrates.

It won’t be long now before the two will be winging off to their wintering grounds. From banding programs done at the University of Rhode Island, it appears that most PiPls from our region first travel to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a key migratory stopover for Piping Plovers. After spending approximately 30 to 40 days there, they will travel the next leg of their journey, to the Caribbean.

Will Dad and Marshmallow suddenly disappear, and together? In 2017, Dad left about five days before the fledgling. Last year, in 2019, the family suddenly dispersed, Dad and all three chicks simultaneously, but that was because the roped off area was removed prematurely and raked over. We are hoping to leave the symbolically roped off area in place as long as the birds are here. They know it is a safe space and find shelter, protection, and food there when the beach is super crowded. There really is no place else for them to forage and to find shelter on busy beach days and during high tide when there is no shoreline at the Creek.

Marshmallow hatch day

One day old

Fifteen days old

24 days old

28 days old

NEOWISE OVER IPSWICH BAY AND ANNISQUAM LIGHTHOUSE

My family and I had wonderful fun looking for Comet NEOWISE, a once in approximately 7,000 year occurrence. I wish my first attempt at astro-photography hadn’t been of such an epic event. I hope to try star gazing photography again, armed next time with a bit more knowledge 🙂

WING-POWER! PIPING PLOVER MARSHMALLOW UPDATE AND BUSY BEACH DAYS

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

A simply glorious morning! Marshmallow took a long bath in a tide pool, with Dad keeping a watchful eye, and after a few moments, Dad took a bath as well. Lots of healthy wing stretching and flippy floppy flying going on this morning, too.

I have been working on a short short, a Marshmallow Montage, from egg to five weeks old. I plan to make a slightly longer version for the Ambassadors, adding clips from the upcoming week. This shorter version will air on 1623 Studios tomorrow, Monday,  morning at 11am, to augment the interview I gave and will post the link here as well. This past week I had a super conversation about all things PiPls with Heather and Kory for their show Cape Ann Today. Heather was so interested, she stopped by Saturday morning to meet Marshmallow. I think she was especially impressed with Dad’s stellar parenting skills!

Busy, busy beach days, but the City was towing on Nautilus Road over the weekend and the crowds looked manageable (from the roadside view). Stay safe and be well – I hope especially that all the City beach workers are able to stay safe.

Tomorrow I think we should talk about ambassador shifts and how you would like to be involved over the next week or so. Thank you all for all your good work and dedication to our little, not-so-little, Marshmallow <3.

xxKim

THE AGE OF WONDER

I gave Charlotte a terrarium and a Cecropia Moth caterpillar of her own.

Meet Genevieve. She has been kissed, hand fed leaves, and has had the Bernstein Bears Go to the Moon read to her several times this afternoon ❤

What Charlotte’s caterpillar will become (next summer)

THE OTHER MARSHMALLOW!

Piping Plover Ambassador Zoe shares her Marshmallow. You may recall that it was Zoe’s idea to name our chick Marshmallow. I think next year we should have a naming contest 🙂 Thank you again Zoe for the very adorable and apropos name.

DAD AND MARSHMALLOW ARE DOING GREAT SADLY, OUR VISITING LITTLE COMMON TERN HAS PASSED

Good Morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

This morning I arrived to find the Common Tern parent quietly sitting at the Creek’ shoreline. This behavior seemed highly unusual as we have all been observing how passionately the adult safeguards her young and how equally as passionately, she was trying to teach Baby Huey how to fly a bit more energetically.

Yesterday Deb Brown and I observed as the parent flew in nearly half a dozen times, dangling the same minnow over the fledgling’s head and near his mouth, with the last attempt ending in a spectacularly long flight across the marsh. The juvenile seemed a little slow, but perhaps that was to be expected. We don’t know from where and how many miles this family has traveled. In reading about Common Terns, the juveniles stay with the individual family unit for several months after fledging. They don’t generally begin to leave home base and migrate until August. Nonetheless, we were hopeful the little guy would perk up.

The juvenile’s lifeless body was found by the edge of the marsh. There were no visible signs of injury and the body was stiff; he perhaps perished sometime during the night. The parent was staying nearby the body when he/she suddenly flew away high overhead. I thought how very sad for this wonderfully dedicated parent and wondered how long he had been holding vigil, but what next happened became unbearably difficult to watch as she returned with a large minnow in her mouth and began circling around and around, calling and calling for the little one. This went on until I left at 6:55.

It took more than a few moments to find Dad and Marshmallow in this morning’s pea soup thick fog. The pair were their usual energetic and early-morning-hungry selves. Marshmallow did his floppy, floppy fly thing for several minutes, giving me a much needed lift, too.

Thank you everyone for your dedication of time and energy, watchful eyes, and end of the shift notes. I don’t think I have mentioned this previously, but I also want to thank you all for wearing MASKS, it sets a fantastic example! We don’t want to plan our end of the season get together just yet (we don’t want to jinx ourselves), but I am looking forward to it.

xxKim

The adult tern has a USFWS band

Snapshots from Wednesday morning and afternoon