Author Archives: Kim Smith

About Kim Smith

Documentary filmmaker, photographer, landscape designer, author, and illustrator. Currently creating films about the Monarch Butterfly, Gloucester's Feast of St. Joseph, Saint Peter's Fiesta, and Piping Plovers. Visit my websites for more information about film and design projects at kimsmithdesigns.com and monarchbutterflyfilm.com. Author/illustrator "Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden"

PIPING PLOVER SUPER MOM INJURED

Good morning PiPl People,

All three present, which is wonderful however, Mom has a dangling something twisted around her foot. I thought it was seaweed but one of our early morning beach walkers, Lynn, thinks it is a hair tie. There is a fine piece wrapped around the foot in addition to the large piece.

Please give her extra, extra space. The family was not functioning as well as usual. Although Mom is thremosnuggling all three chicks, she is spending a great deal more time defending against avian predators. She can fly low and hop. She flies off towards the Crows or gull and then hops around trying to remove the dangling whatever.

Again, we really need to give her space so she can get down to the water and when there, feed, undisturbed. I am calling Jodi from Cape Ann Wildlife shortly and will contact Carolyn.

Not to jump to conclusions but Mom’s foot is very swollen. Occasionally shorebirds lose a foot or leg and they do go on to live. We’ll know more after talking to Jodi and Carolyn.

Edited note – update from Carolyn Mostello, Mass Wildlife’s Coastal Biologist, and our state advisor.

“Looks like seaweed to me, too. Yes, plovers can do ok with one foot; that said, these injures aren’t beneficial and could be very harmful.

I wouldn’t recommend doing anything at this point. However, please keep us posted on the condition of this bird. If she really deteriorates, we might consider trapping her and taking her to a rehab.” 

Thanks so very much to Carolyn for getting back to us!

The beach looked amazingly clean this morning! Sally shares that the group SurfRiders cleaned the beach yesterday. When I arrived there were at least half a dozen yellow bags waiting to be picked up and filled to capacity. And our awesome DPW was there at about 6am to not only pick up the bags but remove the wooden chair and other large items left on the beach. Thank you SurfRiders and Gloucester DPW!

Trash blows into the roped off area and behind the roping, up against the dunes. I can occasionally clean up back there, when the family is down at the water’s edge, and when there is absolutely no one else on the beach. I do not want everyday beachgoers to see anyone back there, even if it is to clean up trash because it doesn’t set an example we want others to see. Usually Monday mornings after sunrise there is a little lull in the beachgoers and I can get back there then.

Jennie, I think Cody is filling in several hours this afternoon but will double check, and I am going to try to get over there this afternoon.

Today’s update was going to be all about Super Dad Plovers but because of Mom’s injury, we’ll save that for another day. Just wishing all the dad’s, grandfathers, uncles, great grandpas, and Super Dads a very Happy Fathers Day and everyone, Happy First Day of Summer!

xxKim

Super Mom thermoregulating her chicks, despite foot injury

the things folks leave on the beach

HOORAY FOR OUR LITTLE CHICKS’ TEN DAY MILESTONE!

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

Today marks the chicks’ ten day old birthday. Ten days is considered a milestone because at this point in time their chance of surviving improves vastly. From a nest of four eggs, on average, only 1.2 chicks survive. We’re aiming to fledge all three of our chicks!

Federal biologists count a chick as fledged at 35-36 days, whereas the State of Massachusetts considers a chick fledged at 28 days. We go with the 35-36 days because chicks develop at slightly different rates, depending on diet and accessibility to their food. We have observed that although they can fly some distance at 26 days, the chicks still rely on Mom and Dad to thermoregulate and for protection from predators. I have even seen a family of 42 day old chicks, that looked as large as their Dad, all crammed under his wings on chilly evening.

HexapodDad –  our wee ones under Dad’s wings this morning

No dogs in sight and the family was happily foraging and warming under wings the length and depth of #3, and a bit beyond.

Sally had a tremendously great idea which was to take a screenshot of the dog regulations to share with scofflaw dog owners, especially the ones that insist that dogs are permitted on the beach after hours. We can grab the screenshot and put it on our phones.

Fines

$300 per violation. Fines for violations will be double in season for beaches and other off-leash areas as determined. (GCO Ch. 4, Sec. 4-16a)

The trash people leave behind on the beach (and oftentimes not trash but perfectly good items) is beyond belief. I forgot to bring garbage bags this morning, thankfully Heidi did!! THANK YOU HEIDI! Last year I tied a few  bags onto the roping low down for the days when I forget to bring a bag and will try to remember to do that tomorrow. Anyone can help themselves to the bags if needed. Please don’t pick up tissue looking paper unless you are wearing gloves because people are using the dunes as their personal bathroom. Tissue paper degrades and it is too gross to handle.

Yesterday as I was leaving GHB via the footbridge, an entire family, Mom, Dad, and three kids, each had a bag and were picking up trash.  I wish so much I had taken a photo but had to hurry back. Thank you kind Family!

Have a great Saturday and maybe I’ll see you at the Juneteenth Celebration at Stage Fort Park!

 

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY! COME CELEBRATE THE GRAND OPENING OF THE BRAND NEW COVE GALLERY ON ROCKY NECK!

So looking forward  to attending the grand opening of the new Cove Gallery!

 

HAPPY BEAUTIFUL JUNE DAYS FROM GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Good morning PiPl Friends,

Another glorious June morning, with the family of five all present. The chicks spent almost the entire two hours that I was there feeding up by the dunes, in the Sea Rocket and dune grasses. As Heidi came onto her shift and we were catching up, the family appeared to be calling the troops to head over to the Creek.

The PiPls extra, extra wary behavior, and the fact they did not come to the water’s edge for several hours, was very unusual morning behavior and I wonder if it was because a dog owner had walked her dog along the length of the roping at #3. This was clear to see from the footbridge as I was coming onto the beach at 5:15. Although the dog was on a leash, she had him right at the edge of the roping. And, too, there was a pile of buried garbage and plastic attracting a pair of crows, also near the roping.

Dog owners that bring dogs to Good Harbor Beach and folks burying garbage pose real threats to the Plovers for the many reasons explained. Just a friendly reminder to all, please do not bring your dog to Good Harbor Beach, and please take home all of your picnic and party trash.

Recently there was a motorized bike at Good Harbor. Motorized bikes are a relatively new thing and to let everyone know – no vehicles are permitted at Good Harbor Beach. According to state guidelines, a motorized bike is definitely considered a vehicle and is currently not permitted at Good Harbor Beach while shorebirds are present. If a person is moving toward the vicinity of the Plovers on a motorized bike and doesn’t respond to sharing information about the PiPls, or change direction, please call the police.

Crow digging for chips

Happy Beautiful June Days!

Unlike today, yesterday the chicks spent the better part of the morning in the wrack line and at the shoreline. 

 

GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER CHRONICLES CONTINUE

Good Morning!

All THREE present and accounted for! Although one did give a good scare, wandering on his own nearly as far as the last lifeguard chair by boardwalk entrance #1. Mom and Dad stayed close by the other two and both parents seemed particularly threatened by gulls this morning.

Mom successfully luring the young gull from her chicks

Badges are a great idea, Duncan. Are you thinking of a neck badge, something like this or did you have something else in mind.

When the chicks are primarily feeding at the wrackline and the beach is busy, please feel free to move a sign or two to the wrackline.

Thank you so very much to everyone that attended the film screening last night! I hope you will have a chance to see it again if that is the only way you have seen Beauty on the Wing. We were watching it through Catherine’s monitor, which is not the ideal way to view any film because of the poor visual quality, and perhaps because it was airing from Canada, the audio was not synced well to the text. All that being said, the conversation afterward was very interesting. Later this morning I am giving a screening to the British Mexican Society in London, all thanks to Zoom!

Have a wonderful day!
Warmest wishes,
Kim

Lots of good eating at Good Harbor!

The tiny speck to the right of the adult is one of the chicks. 

HAPPY ONE WEEK OLD BIRTHDAY ALL THREE WEE ONES!

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Today marks the one week old birthday of our three Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover chicks. The family spent the morning foraging at the wrack line. It sure is good eating there, with lots of mini mini invertebrates to be had, including mollusks, insects, and larvae.

Invertebrate dangling

The morning was breezy and sunny, with the regular early morning beach walkers, along with a nice crowd of surfers. Thank you to everyone visiting and for keeping eyes on the Plovers. We are so fortunate to have such a conservation-minded community!!

New definition of Zooming

Ten days old is the next milestone because when PiPl chicks reach that age, their chance of surviving improves exponentially.

Mom thermosnuggling chicks this morning

I am giving a round of applause to our very excellent Dad and Mom, who are stars in the world of Piping Plover parents. Perhaps it’s their age, or familiarity with Good Harbor Beach, but they are truly model parents, always tending their babes and always on high alert for potential threats. Bravo Mom and Dad!!!

Mom and Dad courting, April 15th

Dad feigning a broken wing to distract a predator

Dad thermosnuggling five day old chick

A FOGGY GOOD HARBOR BEACH GOOD MORNING

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Peaceful, serene morning at Good Harbor Beach with the PiPl chicks. All three were actively alternating between foraging, mostly at the wrack line, and thermosnuggling. Thank goodness for less than perfect beach days; the gray weather helps the PiPls grow stronger by allowing for less stressful foraging by the water’s edge.

The chicks are often difficult to see in the best of light. It’s even more challenging in fog and mist. Please travel cautiously, especially around the #3 area and especially, especially at the wrack line. Thank you!

Two little buttsGood Harbor Beach lifeguard chair

BEAUTY ON THE WING MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM FREE (VIRTUAL) SCREENING WEDNESDAY EVENING AT 7PM AT DOCTALKS FILM FESTIVAL!

Laura Azevedo, Director of Filmmakers Collaborative, and I are featured guests at the 2021 DOCTalks Festival and Symposium that takes place annually (this year virtually from New Brunswick). We will be screening Beauty on the Wing and then discussing myriad topics related to filmmaking. The screening and discussion are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Please see below to register for the event.  Our talk and screening is scheduled to take place June 16th at 7pm (our time), which is actually 8pm Atlantic Daylight Time. I hope you can join us!

Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. DONATE HERE and READ MORE HERE

Event Registration:

Register at Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-doctalks-festival-symposium-tickets-152537905983

Free Public Screenings & Talks

All evening screenings & talks are open to the public. A Zoom link will be provided for admission.

 

REST IN PEACE LITTLE CHICK

Good morning Friends,

One of the little Plovers has passed. He became very weak on the trek back from the Creek and passed sometime during the night.

Piping Plover Ambassadors Sally and Barbara observed the family on their return trip. The little one was not doing well, struggling to keep up with Mom and Dad and the three siblings. He was abandoned in the sand, barely moving and piping softly. Sally and Barbara did the right thing, watching from the edge of the roping and not interfering. When I arrived, it was clear the only chance he had of surviving, albeit very slim, was to get back with the family. We placed the chick near a hummock the family likes to snuggle at and Dad immediately began to thermosnuggle the chick. We left at dark and all four chicks were snuggling under Dad.

This morning the chick was found exactly where he was left last night. I don’t think he lasted too much longer after we departed and its good he was with the siblings and Dad when he passed.

It’s alway a question to help or not to help. The agent the City is working with wrote that she thinks we did the right thing. I think that even if we had found a wildlife rescuer in time, it would not have survived even the car ride.

Thanks so very much to PiPl Ambassadors Sally Golding and Barbara Boudreau. It’s very challenging being an Ambassador to these beautiful little marshmallows, especially in situations where you feel so helpless. Many, many, many thanks to Sally and Barbara. They handled the situation perfectly and we are grateful <3

Five day old Piping Plover chick and Dad

PIPING PLOVER CHICK LOST AND FOUND!

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Only three chicks were spotted by our last Ambassador of the day yesterday evening. When I arrived at 5:30 this morning I, too, was more than disappointed to see only three chicks and was trying not to think of what may have happened to the tiny baby.

Hooray for Heidi! At 8:30am she had located the fourth chick. Smaller and quieter than the other three, it was up by the dune grass, thermosnuggling beneath Dad.

Tiny chick, big beach

The family is not yet feeding at the Creek but at the main beach and it is harrowing watching them run between people. They are trying to get to the wrackline. The parents appear to have a fascinating herding technique of getting them all to the wrack to feed for short stints before corralling the clan back to the refuge.

The beachgoers were amazing! They observed while standing back, which allowed the family to feed without disturbance. People are so awesome! So many were interested in their story and wanted to help. I am so grateful and so proud of our community for their consideration and efforts protecting the PiPls! If you see a Piping Plover ambassador on the beach, thank them for the tremendous job they are doing. And thank you Everyone for giving the PiPls some space!

If you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador, please contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or leave a comment. Thank you!

I’ve got a secret

PIPING PLOVERS AND CROWS

Good Morning Friends!

Beautiful quiet morning at GHB with our two day old little family. All four mini-marshmallows present and accounted for!

Reminder when visiting the PiPls, please stay at least ten feet back from the ropes. These first ten days the chicks are at their most extremely vulnerable. Case in point – An interested person came up to the ropes, hoping to get a shot with their cell phone. Mom was frightened off her roost snuggling the chicks and then a Crow flew in! Fortunately, Dad was nearby and gave the crow the business, in no uncertain terms.

People hovering for periods of time around the nesting area attracts both Crows and gulls. Crows are one of the greatest threats to Piping Plovers everywhere. This year has been especially horrific at several other beaches where I am documenting the PiPls. At one beach in particular they have decimated all nests, including renests, as well as killed at least four chicks. Once they discover how tasty PiPl eggs and chicks taste, they can’t seem to get enough. Crows are smart. It’s not that this beach has a great many Crows, but that the adults teach the young Crows and for that reason, the problem is continuing to grow.

Please clean up all garbage after visiting our beautiful beaches and please do not bury your garbage. The Crows and gulls are not deceived and will find.

*        *       *

A note about the Cecropia Moth caterpillars for friends still interested in raising these beautiful, albeit declining and threatened, members of the Giant Silk Moth Family. Caterpillars have at long last hatched! I’ll post later this afternoon to plan a caterpillar pick up day.

Happy last days of spring! Our garden is redolent with the scent of roses and the fragrance is wafting through my windows as I write this.

Warmest wishes,

Kim

Mom crouched in defensive mode, frightened off her roost this morning

 

 

 

PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS NEEDED

Hello PiPl Ambassadors,

Attached is the ambassador schedule. We are working out the kinks and are are still looking to fill in a few gaps. Please let me know if you have any leads.  We are looking for someone to fill the 11 to 12 noon time, 2 to 3pm, and 3 to 4pm.

If you don’t mind sharing, could you please email me your phone numbers. I’ll add that information to the schedule and we can text each other. This will come in especially handy in case you miss the person before you and need a location on the chicks (thanks Jonathan for the suggestion!).

Thank goodness for the cooler temps! The chicks spent much of the early morning thermosnuggling.

When I arrived at GHB this morning, the solar moon eclipse was taking place. It was amazing and I tried to photograph. There were dozens of photographers lining Nautilus Road. So much fun to see so many so early in the morning!

Thank you Everyone for your kind dedication. The Plovers thank you, too!
xoKim

HAPPY NEWS – GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER HATCH DAY!

Eleven weeks since the day they arrived at Good Harbor Beach, daunting tides, torrential rain storms, countless disruptions, and near daily monitoring, four precious chicks hatched today. All look fluffy and healthy! Judging from their stage of “fluffiness,” I think they hatched about four hours or so ago. And, they all look fairly close in hatching time, which is a good thing and means we may not have one perpetually lagging behind in growth and movement around the beach. When I left at around 5:30pm, all four were tucked in under the shade of Dad.

Piping Plover ambassadors will be on the Beach from now until when the chicks fledge, which will be in about 35 days, or five weeks. Please feel free to ask us questions and learn more about the PiPls. We love to share!

Please stay clear of the symbolic roping. Especially now. For the first ten days of the chick’s life they are at their most extremely vulnerable.

Please be aware that Plover chicks do not stay in the roped off area, that is simply their refuge.  From their second day of life on, they travel up and down the length of the beach. Please be aware, especially when jogging and running along the beach, that one may be near underfoot.

Bringing dogs to the beach is simply the most dangerous thing anyone can do to tiny marshmallow-sized newborn chicks. No dogs, leashed or unleashed, at any time of day are permitted at GHB, even before 6am or after 6pm, which many are under the impression is acceptable.

If so inclined, please bring a trash bag to help keep Good Harbor Beach free from plastic pollutants and garbage. Less garbage means fewer crows and gulls, both of which eat shorebird eggs and hatchlings. Thank you for your help!

 

FACEPLANT!

It’s not unusual to see Piping Plovers take a faceplant while learning to navigate beach terrain, resilient little tumblers that they are!

 

BEAUTY ON THE WING INVITED TO THE DOCTALKS FESTIVAL AND SYMPOSIUM AND FILM SCREENING!

Laura Azevedo, Director of Filmmakers Collaborative, and I are featured guests at the 2021 DOCTalks Festival and Symposium that takes place annually (this year virtually from New Brunswick). We will be screening Beauty on the Wing and then discussing myriad topics related to the filmmaking process. The screening and discussion are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Please see below to register for the event.  The schedule has not yet been finalized but I believe our talk and screening will take place June 16th at 7pm (our time), which is actually 8pm Atlantic Daylight Time.

 

Earlier on Thursday  June 16th, at 1pm (6pm UK time), I screening Beauty on the Wing to the British Mexican Society in London. Thanks to Zoom, it’s going to be an international day for Beauty!

Please consider becoming an underwriter and donating to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. Thank you! 

2021 DOCTalks Festival & Symposium

DOCTalks Dialogues – online June 15 to 17, 2021

The theme for the 2021 festival and symposium is – DOCTalks Dialogues – a program of conversations that will feature people from various cross-sectors that have associated with DOCTalks over the last nine years (2013 to 2021).

In a ‘relaxed conversational’ format that will feature knowledge-based documentary media – long form documentaries, short videos, podcasts, immersive learning technology, interactive website, social media – DOCTalks Dialogues will explore ‘best practices’ used to create, fund, and mobilize knowledge-based documentary media using a cross-sector collaborative storytelling approach.

Our moderator and host for the DOCTalks Dialogues program will be Catherine D’Aoust from Jemseg, New Brunswick. Enrolled in a Masters program studying linguistics at MUN (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Catherine will also be investigating – How does language and personal intention affect cross-sector collaborative outcomes when producing knowledge-based documentary media?

It should be noted that an underlying narrative for cross-sector, knowledge-based documentary media is – real stories, about real people, living in real communities, addressing real issues, and trying to create real change in society.

Event Registration:

Register at Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-doctalks-festival-symposium-tickets-152537905983

Free Public Screenings & Talks

All evening screenings & talks are open to the public. A Zoom link will be provided for admission.

BEAUTY ON THE WING SELECTED AS A SEMI-FINALIST AT THE DUMBO FILM FESTIVAL!!

We are overjoyed to share that Beauty on the Wing has been selected a semi-finalist at the Dumbo Film Festival. We’ll know on June 11th whether or not we have been selected officially to show at the festival that takes place in September. Keeping my hopes up!

About the Dumbo Film Festival

The Dumbo Film Festival (DFF) is a yearly event structured in bimonthly contests. Every two months, each of the categories will be awarded and a final ceremony will be held every year in New York City’s district of Dumbo to award projects that have been judged the very best over the past year. This structure is meant to highlight both affirmed and emergent filmmakers and to launch promising artists into the world film stage.

Read more here

Please consider donating to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. Thank you!

Read more about our fundraiser here.

A GOOD HARBOR BEACH SPLENDID GOOD MORNING!

Filming B-roll at beautiful Good Harbor Beach this morning
Photobombed by a Song Sparrow – photo for Mary <3


Just some of the flora currently in bloom at GHB

CoreopsisBeach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus)Goldmoss Stonecrop (Sedum acre)

Yellow Goatsbeard (Tragopogon dubius)

Beach roses Rosa rugosa

Killdeer nest

Mom on the nest this morning

 

PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADOR INFORMATIONAL MEETING SUNDAY AT 5PM

Hello PiPl Friends,

Just a reminder that our Piping Plover Ambassador informational meeting is tomorrow, Sunday, June 6th, at 5pm. We will meet at the footbridge side of the beach, by the symbolically roped off area. Please feel free to ask questions and bring up any concerns.

I do want to mention one very important topic ahead of time in case everyone can’t attend. Last year we had an issue with teenage boys late in the afternoon. Our objective as ambassadors is to help educate as well as to deescalate every situation. Especially when speaking with teenage boys after a hot sunny beach day and there may be underage drinking in the mix, the best we can do is not get into any discussions, but to try to keep a good eye on the chicks and sort of place your person in-between the culprits and the chicks. Please do not engage verbally, especially if they start taunting pro-Trump rhetoric, etc., as happened last year. We do not want to engage in any political discussions whatsoever. If persons are being very rude and threatening, please call the police. I would like everyone to have the police and animal control on speed dial on their phones.

Animal Control (Jamie and Teagan): 978-281-9746

Gloucester Police: 978-283-1212

I am not trying to frighten anyone and incidents usually only occur once a summer, if that. But in thinking about how on edge people are on airplanes and equally how folks are super eager to have fun on the beach, our mission at all times is to deescalate.

All that being said, I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow!

The best plover story of the week to share is this amazing Super Dad who tried so valiantly to save an egg. Last week’s King Tide wiped out many nests on North Shore beaches. I found this little family hatching two chicks outside of where their original nest scrape was located. The chicks were in a little divot, which looked much like a scrape, but it was not the nest where they had been prior to the storm. The nest had originally contained four eggs.

After watching the chicks hatch, Dad kept fussing about in a spot a foot or so away from the divot. Amazingly, there was a lone egg sitting in the flat sand. He tried and tried to roll and push the egg toward the two chicks, alternating between trying to also brood the egg. But because the egg was sitting high in the flat sand, not in a bowl, he couldn’t brood and kept sort of bellyflopping on top of the egg. He worked on the egg while simultaneously pausing to thermosnuggle the newborn hatchlings. The egg rolled toward a swath of wrack that had washed up during the storm and I think it got a little stuck there. This tremendous effort went on for about 45 minutes before I had to leave for work. Upon returning the following day, the egg was still there. Although not a happy ending, it was amazing and unforgettable behavior to observe, showing us once again, Dads are the super heroes of the Piping Plover world <3 

See you tomorrow!

Warmest wishes,

Kim

If you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador, please contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

Goofy things chicks do! 

#GLOUCESTERMA DESTINATION WEDDING!

Late this afternoon on my way home from an appointment I drove along Good Harbor and the Backshore (because you should always take the scenic route home) and  passed not one, but two weddings. It’s so nice to see our community returning to normal!

Driving past Niles Beach I had to stop because a Mama and Auntie Common Eider had a sizable crèche in tow, foraging in the shallows at the shoreline. I ran into my friend Michele and we had a sweet chat and a brief walk. That’s why I always take the scenic route home <3

 

WING BUDS!

I am so sorry to share that the Piping Plover egg that was washed down the beach did not hatch. It was all I could do to keep from helping the Dad who was trying to roll the egg into the nest but my actions could have caused major disruptions to the two chicks that had just hatched.

The two one day old hatchlings are however doing wonderfully, exploring the beach and finding lots to eat.

That tiny appendage is a wing bud! From day one, chicks begin stretching their buds This behavior strengthens flight muscles. They spread and flap often throughout the day.

NORTH SHORE PIPING PLOVERS ARE HATCHING! AND HOW WE CAN ALL HELP PROTECT THE PLOVERS

This past week I had the joy of filming a Piping Plover pair hatch two teeny adorable chicks. It’s extraordinary how these tiny tots are capable of propelling themselves around the beach within hours after pipping their way out of the eggshell.  To be very clear, the chicks did not hatch at GHB; our chicks are about two weeks away from hatching.

PiPl chicks hatched at several beaches on the North Shore, while at some locations the Plovers are just getting started.Hours old Piping Plover chick with Dad

Piping Plovers are precocial birds, which means that the chicks hatch with a coat of downy fluff, are not blind, and quickly learn to find food without the help of Mom and Dad. However, precocial birds cannot escape danger until they learn to fly and generally cannot regulate their body temperature. The chicks need Mom and Dad for protection and for warmth (to thermoregulate their little bodies).And with Mom. Note the chick is no taller than the emerging shots of Sea Rocket!

The opposite of precocial is altricial. Most species of songbirds are altricial. Songbirds hatch blind, naked, helpless, and must be fed by the parents. Although Piping Plovers are active within hours after hatching, they are often sleepy and very easily tire the first few days.

The first day or so after hatching, Piping Plover chicks go through the motions of foraging, giving chase to bugs and pecking at the sand, but often the insects escape or the chicks don’t eat the capture. By the third day they have mastered the skills needed to forage successfully.

I think we’ll call these two Thompson and Thomson, after the delightful twin detectives from Tintin. I certainly will never be able to tell one from the other!

The twins were doing beautifully when last checked, despite high winds, high tides, cold temperatures, and storm surges. The nest originally held four eggs but very unfortunately, two eggs disappeared. The most likely culprit is a Crow, with which this beach is rife.

Piping Plover nests and chicks are subject to predation by crows, seagulls, small mammals, Red Fox, and crabs. Adult Piping Plovers are predated by owls and hawks. The Plover’s greatest defense is its ability to blend with its surroundings but this perfect sand-hued camouflage works to their disadvantage on busy urban beaches such as Good Harbor Beach.

The very definition of camouflaged!

Plovers everywhere caught a break this Memorial Day weekend. The foul weather means fewer people on the beach, which equals fewer disturbances to nesting adults and to chicks foraging. Soon enough there will be marshmallow-sized Plover chicks zooming around Good Harbor Beach.

How we often find Good Harbor Beach the morning after a warm sunny day and before the awesome DPW crew arrives to clean the beach.

What can you do to help Piping Plovers? Here are a few simple guidelines and steps we can all take to help protect the Plovers.

1) Don’t leave behind or bury trash or food on the beach. Garbage attracts predators including crows, seagulls, foxes, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, and rats. All these creatures EAT plover eggs and chicks. Bring an extra trash bag if so inclined and help clean up the litter left by others.

2) Please do not linger near the Piping Plover chicks and nests. Activity around the Plovers attracts gulls and crows.

3) Respect the fenced off areas that are created to protect the Plovers. And recognize, too, that soon after hatching, the chicks will be going in and out of the protected areas to find food. The PiPl parents will warn you are too close to a hatchling by piping loudly. If you find yourself in that situation, carefully retreat and walk around the foraging family.

4) Never bring a dog, leashed or unleashed, to a beach where there are shorebirds nesting. Report dogs on the beach to the ACO and police at

5) Ball playing, kite flying, and drone flying are not permitted near nesting Piping Plovers. These activities are against city, state, and federal laws because stray balls have the potential to injure both nesting adults and chicks. To a Piping Plover’s way of thinking, kites and drones are avian predators. They will become super stressed and often fly after and try to attack a kite or drone, leaving the nest or chicks unattended and vulnerable to predation.

6) Help inform fellow beach goers about the chicks. We see so many folks approaching the symbolically roped off area to read the signs. Most people are interested in learning more about the Plovers and want to catch a glimpse. Point out the Plovers (from a safe distance away) and share what you know.

If you would like to become a Piping Plover ambassador, please leave a comment or contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

Hours old chick on the go

 

MONARCHS IN THE NEWS, MILKWEED GROWING TIPS, AND FILM FUNDRAISING UPDATE

Monarchs have been sighted in our region! Before the Memorial Day weekend cold snap, Monarchs as far north as Nova Scotia have been reported. One was spotted in Ipswich and another in Concord, New Hampshire.  The chilly temperatures surely put the kibosh temporarily on flight but as soon as it warms again, Monarchs will be on the wing. Map from Journey North of first adult Monarchs sighted

Milkweed growing tip – The most productive milkweed for Monarchs in northern regions is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the species you see growing prolifically in dunes, meadows, roadsides, and even in the cracks of sidewalks. By productive I mean that females deposit more eggs on Common Milkweed than any other species. Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), also know as Swamp Milkweed, is second.

Common Milkweed Good Harbor Beach

We grow patches of both in our gardens. I find Marsh Milkweed is generally slower to emerge than Common. Some of our Common is already two feet tall. Because most Monarchs will not be depositing eggs in our New England gardens for another few weeks, I prune half of the Common Milkweed plants to nubs several inches high. The plants quickly regrow and when the majority of Monarchs arrive, there is new fresh tender foliage emerging. The females prefer to deposit their eggs on new shoots and tender leaves to that of the older, thickened foliage. The flowers of the milkweed plants that aren’t pruned are there for  pollinators and for any early bird Monarchs.

Common Milkweed thrives in full sun but also does remarkably well with morning sun and afternoon shade. And as you can see based on the variety of rugged areas from where it emerges, A. syriaca is not fussy in the least about soil!

 

With gratitude to my generous community, we have raised $16,000.00! We are more than one quarter of the way toward our goal of $51,000.00, which will enable us to distribute Beauty to the national public television audience.

Thank you to all for your very generous donations and kind, thoughtful  comments. 

Lauren Mercadante, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, Heidi Shiver (Pennsylvania), John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport), Jennie Meyer, Kathy Gerdon Archer (Beverly)

 

For more information about the film and how to donate, please see the following links:

SUPER, SUPER, SUPER EXCITING NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING -COMING TO YOUR LIVING ROOM! AND PLEASE CONSIDER A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION

DONATE HERE

BEAUTY ON THE WING WINS ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD

THANK YOU GENEROUS COMMUNITY! FIRST WEEK OF FUNDRAISING AND WE HAVE RAISED $12,000.00!

THANK YOU O’MALEY INNOVATION MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS FOR THE LOVELY THANK YOU NOTES AND DRAWINGS!!

How the amazing monarch butterfly migrants became refugees — from us

 

 

 

 

GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER UPDATE – THE BAD NEWS AND THE GOOD NEWS

Dear Friends of Gloucester Plovers,

First the bad – the nest at Salt Island side was washed out by the storm surge and super high tide. The wrack left behind shows that the tide exceeded several feet beyond the exclosure.

I couldn’t locate the parents this morning, but that is not unusual after a storm. Oftentimes what follows are more attempts at nesting so we will see what we see. This sweet pair tried so hard to become established. Hopefully, they won’t give up.

Salt Island eggs washed away

The miraculous update is that our beautiful pair at #3, the footbridge end of the beach, has survived, but I think just barely. The tide came up past the exclosure. Wrack surrounds and is caught in the edges of the wire cage. Despite the 11 foot tide, both Mom and Dad were there, taking turns sitting on four eggs just like every other morning. Between the time I looked at daybreak and then returned later in the morning, they had dug the nest in slightly deeper.

The #3 nest that survived was built up on a slightly higher hummock. The beach narrows at the Salt Island end and I think the tide comes up higher and deeper at that end. The tides have risen well over 11 feet the past several nights. Today’s high tide at 3:26 is expected to be only 9. 2 feet and tonight’s 10.1 feet. I hope so much we are over the worst of it but with storm surges added to the equation, we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed for the best outcome.

Footbridge nest intact. Dad on the nest and Mom heading out to forage

The DPW has installed an additional symbolically roped off area between Boardwalk #1 and the snack bar entrance. There had been a pair attempting to nest there. Perhaps with all the disruption from the storm and high tides, they will return in the now protected area.

Barn Swallows were seemingly trying to sort themselves out. Usually we see them darting swiftly, crisscrossing the beach at top speed but this morning they struggled in the cold and wind to dry off and find a footing. There were several unleashed dogs running the beach and Not on voice command either.

We’ll count our blessings for our surviving nest. The next high tides will take place towards the end of June and by that time, the chicks will be several weeks old and able to skedaddle to higher ground.

More Good News story coming tomorrow!

FREE EGGS OF GIANT SILK MOTH BEAUTIES!

Over the past week, we have released thirty-one Cecropia Moths. A neighbor over on Harriet Ave photographed a Cecropia Moth and I am wondering if it is one of ours 🙂

To clarify for anyone who may be wondering, Cecropia Moth caterpillars are not like the invasive, non-native Gypsy Moths and Winter Moths, which defoliate trees. Cecropia caterpillars cause very little harm to trees.

Cecropia Moth eggs

We had approximately nine pairs mating and the females deposited a treasure trove of eggs. I have the names of several people who have expressed interest in raising the moths and will contact everyone as soon as all eggs are deposited. Please let me know if you would like to nurture the funniest looking caterpillars that turn into the grandest beauties.

Raising Cecropias is not quite as simple as rearing Monarchs, but it’s not challenging either and is just as interesting and as much fun. This is a fantastic project to do with children. Kids love giant silk moths. The creatures are so large you can easily observe every stage of their life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to pupation to cocoon to adult.  Our Charlotte is crazy about Cecropias and looks after them throughout the day. The caterpillars live for about two months. You will need to constantly replenish the leaves as they mature because the later instars are voracious eaters.

After the caterpillar pupates and becomes a cocoon, you’ll need a safe place to keep them where they will experience ambient winter temperatures. We keep ours on our front porch, which is not enclosed, in large glass terrariums (fish tanks) during all four seasons.

Cecropia caterpillars eat the leaves of many trees and shrubs, including alder, ash, birch, box elder, chokecherry, elm, lilac, maple, poplar, Prunus and Ribes species, and willow. Cecropia Moth caterpillars are not like invasive non-native Gypsy Moths and People are always a bit dismayed when I tell them that the adult moth ecloses without mouthparts and cannot eat during its brief lifespan. The adult’s only purpose in life is to mate and lay eggs of the next generation. The males and females only live for about a week or so.

If you are interested in rearing cecropia Moth caterpillars, please read the following two articles to better understand the moth’s life cycle. Contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com if you are still interested after reading the articles.

NORTH AMERICA’S STUNNING AND LARGEST MOTH THE CECROPIA AND WHY THESE GIANT SILK MOTHS ARE THREATENED – PART ONE

NORTH AMERICA’S STUNNING AND LARGEST MOTH THE CECROPIA AND WHY THESE GIANT SILK MOTHS ARE THREATENED – PART TWO

Cecropia moths mating

ALL GOOD NEWS TO REPORT FROM GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

#3 Dad in the morning blue hour, finding lots of mini mollusks

The morning after the thunderstorm found both Piping Plover pairs doing remarkably well. I was super concerned about the full moon/storm combo tide because the beach is much narrower at the Salt Island end. Although the tide did rise to nearly the edge of the exclosed nest, nothing was damaged and the PiPl parents are seemingly unfazed.

Gloucester DPW’s Steve and Pat Marshall from Marshall’s Landscape Supplies were there bright and early.  Pat is using the Bobcat to smooth the pathways through the dunes. FYI, I was talking to Pat about his landscaping and composting business. Did you know you can bring your large brown bags of leaves and yard waste (absolutely NO PLASTIC flower pots, nothing plastic!). It’s only two dollars per bag, and you aren’t restricted to certain days.  Marshall’s Landscaping Supplies is located at 144 Concord Street in West Gloucester, phone number 978-281-9400, and you can visit their website here: Marshall’sSteve and Pat Marshall

This is the fourth time in the past two week that I have seen Glossy Ibis foraging in the tidal marsh at Good Harbor Beach. They are stunning, with plumage ranging in shades of rich chestnut to iridescent emerald green. 

Cape Ann is located in the northern range of the Glossy Ibis breeding grounds and each year I feel we see more and more.