Good morning PiPl Friends,
Only one chick and Dad were feeding in the flats this morning. The take happened yesterday when Jill was watching the chicks and Dad up by the dune beach grass. A Great Black-backed, quickly joined by a flock, swooped in and appeared to be fighting over a bag of chips when the GBB Gull grabbed the chick. Dad tried once again valiantly to rescue his chick but was unsuccessful.
Our GHB chicks have been growing right on schedule and are finding good foraging at the Creek and in the flats. It is incredibly heartbreaking to lose chicks at any age, but especially these older stronger chicks, one at 22 days and now one at 27 days.
No ambassador should feel responsible in any way. Everyone of you is doing a fantastic job and your dedication of time and energy is so very much appreciated and worthwhile. Takes can happen on anyone’s shift and as I said before it is tremendous for the collective knowledge of PiPls to know how these takes happen and why their numbers are dwindling.
Would these two deaths have occurred if Mom had not been injured? It’s very hard to know because up until a few days ago, she appeared to be managing her injury, while both supervising and defending her chicks, and feeding herself.
What we do know is that American Crows and Great Black-backed Gulls are wreaking havoc on Piping Plover populations on the North Shore. For example, Crows have eaten every egg and chick on Revere Beach (with the exception of one nest still intact) and gulls are eating nearly fully fledged birds.
Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls are relatively new breeders to the Massachusetts coastline. Up until 1912, they were primarily winter visitors. The first Herring Gull nest ever recorded was in 1912 and the first Great Black-backed Gull nest in 1930. Because of easy access to food, they are thriving. Gulls are colonial breeders. They have pushed terns off islands (traditional tern nesting areas), forcing the terns to breed in less desirable locations. I think until we can somehow manage the gull population, the threatened and endangered Massachusetts shorebird species will continue to struggle greatly and recovery will be painstakingly slow..
This weekend I watched a couple dump all the remains of their picnic in front of a gull in the GHB parking lot. The two laughed as an enormous flock suddenly appeared, dining and squabbling over on the garbage. Humans feeding gulls and crows is exacerbating the problem tenfold and dogs running on the beach, which forces the PiPl parents to stop tending nests and chicks to chase after the dogs, leaves the babies vulnerable to gull and crow takes.
On a brighter note, the three Cape Hedge chicks are all present and accounted for on this beautiful July morning. I am estimating they are twenty days old, not based on their size, but because of the first sighting submitted. The family was joined by two Great Blue Herons, until a photographer frightened the herons off the beach, which may be just as well because GBH eat Plovers, too.
Sally witnessed a most beautiful PiPl parenting moment last night, and it is one of the reasons why we all continue to work so hard for these tender tiny creatures. She writes, ” I found Dad and one chick at the Creek. Dad showed off his flying skills to the baby and then encouraged his chick to cross the creek from the island to the mainland. It was a wonderful experience to watch the communications between the two of them and to see the little one paddle across the creek.”
Thank you PiPl Ambassadors for all you are doing to help grow Cape Ann’s Plover population.