Despite the fact that our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers arrived 3 days earlier this year (March 22), they are struggling to become established. While the weather has been cold and windy (I think they like wind even less than freezing temperatures), the problem is largely due to dog and human disturbance in the nesting area. This is not the fault of beachgoers. The difficulty stems from a complete and utter lack of signage at Good Harbor Beach. There are no signs at any entrance, but more importantly, there are no signs on the fence posts around the nesting area.
The above are the informational signs we have had the previous four years, from 2016-2019, which were installed by Essex County Greenbelt. Last year, the Piping Plovers arrived at Good Harbor on March 25th. Two days later, on March 27th, Greenbelt had installed protective symbolic roping and signs. The PiPls early arrival and early assistance from Greenbelt helped the Plovers to establish a nest early in the season.
Why don’t we have signs? No one knows; it is an utter mystery. Greenbelt has time and again offered their assistance to the City and volunteered to install signs, so it is not a question of coronavirus, available man power, or time.
Why is it so important to help the PiPls as soon as they arrive? Because the earlier in the season they are able to nest, the older the chicks will be when the beach becomes busy, the earlier the chicks will fledge, and the sooner they will be off the beach, which will give them the greatest chance of survival. It was thanks to Greenbelt’s assistance last year and because of our fantastic corps of volunteer Piping Plover monitors that we were able to successfully fledge three chicks last summer.
How can you help? It’s a great deal to ask of people during coronavirus to care for, and write letters about, tiny little shorebirds, but people do care. For over forty years, partners have been working to protect these threatened creatures and it is a shame to put them at risk like this needlessly. We have been working with Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard and he has been beyond terrific in helping us sort through the problems this year; however, I think if we wrote emails or letters to all our City Councilors and asked them to help us get signs installed it would be super helpful. Please keep letters kind and friendly, or just simply copy paste the following:
Subject Line: Piping Plovers Need Our Help
Dear City Councilors,
Gloucester Plovers need our help. Please ask the Conservation Commission to install the threatened species signs at the symbolically cordoned off nesting areas and at the entrances at Good Harbor Beach.
Thank you for helping these birds raise their next generation.
Link to all the City Councilors, but I believe that if you send one letter and also cc to Joanne Senos, a copy will be sent to all the City Councilors. Her address is: JSenos@gloucester-ma.gov
Here is a timeline compiled based on film footage, photos, and notes. As you can see, because of the timely assistance provided by Greenbelt, at this time last year, our chicks were a third of the way to hatching. We don’t even have eggs yet this year!
2019 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach
March 25 Piping Plover pair arrive GHB.
March 27 Symbolic fencing and signage installed by Greenbelt at areas #3 and #1
April 28 First egg laid (estimated date).
May 3 Greenbelt installs wire exclosure.
May 4 Adults begin brooding all four eggs.
May 31 Four chicks hatch.
2020 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach
March 22 Piping Plover pair arrive at GHB
March 27 11.5 foot deep narrow strip of symbolic roping is installed along the length of the entire beach. No one has responded from the conservation office re. Is this meant to protect the dunes? It is much, much narrower than the area delineated the previous four years by Greenbelt. No signs installed at this time.
April 17 Symbolically roped off area widened by boardwalk #3, the area where the PiPls have nested and courted the previous four years. No signs installed at this time.
May 11 A second pair of PiPls is trying to become established at GHB.
May 13 Still no signs, continued dog disturbance, kite flying next to nesting area, human and dog footprints in roped off #3 area.
Again, the disturbances are not the fault of beachgoers; you can’t blame people if there are no informational signs.
Our Good Harbor beach Mom and Dad courting: Dad digging a nest scrape (1) and bowing (2). Mom coming over to inspect his handiwork (3) and Dad all puffed out and doing the mating dance (4).
Aren’t these PiPl eggs beautiful!? This photo was taken yesterday at another beach I am following. The Plovers at this beach arrived on the very same day to their beach as our Gloucester Plovers arrived to Good Harbor Beach.