TIPS FOR OBSERVING AND HELPING PIPING PLOVERS
Thank you to all the friends of our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, to dog owners who are staying away from Good Harbor Beach, and to all who are advocating for the PiPl.
Early this morning I found both Mama and Papa feeding in the intertidal zone, along with the “Bachelor.” The second pair has not been seen since they were chased off the beach last weekend. There seemed to be fewer dogs on the beach this morning and I am so grateful to the dog owners who are helping to watch over the Plovers.
Yesterday was a much needed quiet day for the Plovers; it was cold and rainy, and an on-leash day. There were folks with dogs off-leash, though they weren’t near the PiPl. But there were fresh tracks running through the nesting area.
Here is why, at this very critical time during Piping Plover breeding, it is imperative to keep dogs and people out of the nesting area. The Plovers are actively courting. What does that mean exactly?
- The Plovers first stake out a territory. For the third year in a row, they have chosen the area around the big rock, by boardwalk #3.
- Both male and female vigorously defend the territory from other Piping Plovers, as well as other species of large and small birds.
- Throughout an average quiet day, the male PiPl builds many “nest” scrapes for the female to inspect. If the female is interested, the male displays an involved courtship dance. If she continues to be interested, he will mate with her by jumping on her back where they join together cloaca to cloaca, but for only mere seconds. During that time the male fertilizes the female’s egg.
- Piping Plover courtship requires a tremendous amount of energy, and each courtship episode takes about twenty minutes, from nest scrapings to mating. If the birds are constantly interrupted by dogs tearing through, and people walking through, the nesting area, courtship and mating are delayed, over and over again.
- If the Piping Plovers are allowed to mate early in the season, the chicks will be born that much earlier. The earlier the chicks hatch the greater their chance of survival, especially in the case of Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester’s most beloved and heavily trafficked beach.
- In addition to repeated courtship interruptions, we are having an unseasonably cold April. The Piping Plovers are spending a great deal of energy just trying to keep warm. This is evidenced by how often they stand on one leg to thermoregulate.
How You Can Help the Piping Plovers
1) Under no circumstances is it acceptable to enter the Piping Plover nesting area.
2) Keep ALL dogs far away from the nesting areas. A Piping Plover’s brain does not differentiate between a dog on- leash versus a dog off-leash. When a dog, off-leash or on-leash, comes within twenty feet of a PiPl, they immediately stop what they are doing, whether foraging, courting, mating, or resting.
3) During courtship, the Piping Plovers tolerate one or two quiet persons, from a distance, but crowds of three or more put them in panic mode.
4) Help spread the word about the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers.
5) Sign up to be a Piping Plover volunteer ambassador by emailing Ken Whittaker at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, but most importantly, the Piping Plovers will thank you too when chicks hatch and chicks fledge!
Found Mama and Papa PiPl foraging in the tide flats, with two northward migrating Sanderlings. Papa tolerated the travelers, until they got too close to Mama, when he then chased them ten feet back. It was cold and windy, low tide too. Most dogs were in the intertidal zone, not near the nesting area, although tons of fresh dog and human footprints in the roped off area from earlier in the day. So hope the other three that were chased away have found a new location or will return possibly.
The good news is that I found one pair, and they are definitely a couple, in the #3 nesting area. The bad news is that while down to #1 nesting area to look for the other PiPl, dogs and their owner were in the #3. I ran down the beach to find a man scooping up his dog’s poop in the nesting area. The tracks show they were inches from where the Papa PiPl had built a nest scrape. And No Sign of the PiPl. So grateful for the dog owners that are keeping their dogs away from the nesting sites, but it is not a few dog owners ignoring the law, it is every day, off and on all day long – dogs off-leash on on-leash days, dogs in the dunes, and dogs in the nesting sites. #pipingplover #gloucesterma #shorebirds #endangeredspecies #barrierbeach