Category Archives: Birds of New England

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!

 

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

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

FACEPLANT!

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

 

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! 

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

 

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!

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.

JOYFUL NEWS TO SHARE! PIPING PLOVER WEEKLY UPDATE MAY 24

Dear Friends of Gloucester Plovers!

Such great news to share – the young family at the Salt Island end, the area we call #1, has a nest with (currently) three eggs!! We’re keeping our hopes up for a fourth egg. We now have two pairs of Plovers nesting at Good Harbor.

This morning Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and his assistant Adam Phippen installed the wire exclosure around the nest. Exclosures protect shorebird eggs from 95 percent of avian and terrestrial predators, as well as from stray balls, pets, and people walking through the symbolically roped off areas. We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief once the exclosures are installed. We’re so fortunate that Dave and his Greenbelt crew make themselves available to help protect the Piping Plover nests. Thanks, too, to Gloucester’s DPW crew who are always looking our for the PiPls.

Dave and Adam installing the exclosure at Salt Island

Would you like to be a Piping Plover ambassador? You’ll join a great group of wildlife enthusiasts and kind citizens. We are having an informational meeting on Sunday, June 6th, at 5pm at Good Harbor Beach, near the nest next to the #3 boardwalk. If you would like to help keep an eye on adorable Plover chicks at Gloucester’s most popular beach,  please contact me by leaving a comment or at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. We would love to have you!

The beautiful pale Mom PiPl and her first egg

Dad fearlessly brandishing his wings at  Dave and Adam during the installation

Dad back on the nest within two minutes after the exclosure was installed

MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, CAPE ANN STYLE!

Just as did Robert McCloskey’s Beacon Hill Mr. and Mrs. Mallard Duck hatch eight ducklings, so too did our Niles Pond pair. Meet Luck, Chuck, Puck, Cluck, Stuck, Huck, Oouck, and Muck.

The family foraged for seaweed in the rough surf of the Cove before crossing the berm. The ducklings bathed, preened, and swam in fresh water Niles Pond. Mrs Mallard found a cozy patch of dried reeds to take a nap, which lasted all of two minutes before the little quackers were back in the water.

WARBLERS AND WHATNOTS! HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A BAY-BREASTED WARBLER?

The past week I have been astounded with the array of warblers that we are seeing in our garden and on walks in the neighborhood. The big attraction in the garden is the native pink flowering dogwood tree (Cornus florida ‘Rubra’), my neighbor’s maple tree and the tiny insects feeding there, and our funky weathered old bird bath. There has been so much activity in the bird bath we are changing the water several times a day! Perhaps the travelers are dusty and dirty and appreciate the fresh bathing water.

American Redstart

One of the most fun to see was an American Redstart and the new-to-my-eyes Bay-breasted Warbler.

Bay-breasted Warbler

We also had a trio of black and white birds for an afternoon, the Black and White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and a female Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Black and White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Warbler

There’s much that could be written about each species. I’m posting these photos for ID purposes in case anyone else has noticed a recent influx of warblers in your backyard or neighborhood. Please write if you do. Thank you!

Common Yellowthroat taking a bath

 

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER NEST HAS FOUR EGGS!

Dear PiPl Friends!

Happy News! The nest at Area #3 is complete with four eggs. Based on when I think the last egg was laid, we can expect the chicks to hatch around June 8th or 9th, which is when we begin monitoring full time. The fact that they will be hatching relatively early in the season tremendously increases their chance of surviving. By the time the busiest beach days are upon us, usually beginning around the weekend of July 4th, the hatchlings will be more than three weeks old.

I ‘d like to plan a PiPl ambassador informational meeting on the weekend of the 4th -6th. I thought perhaps 5:00 on Sunday, the 6th would be a good time to meet?  Mainly we’ll discuss any questions and issues along with protocol and our non confrontational roles as ambassadors for the Plovers and representatives of the City.

Saturday morning while checking on the PiPls, a man and a woman walked onto the beach with three unleashed dogs. Fortunately an officer appeared and escorted all off the beach. Way to go Gloucester GPD!!! It takes a community to help endangered and threatened species and without the police helping to enforce the laws, it just makes it all that much harder. We are grateful to the GPD for taking the time to check on the beach and remove the scofflaws!

Dad on nest within the exclosure

Sunday morning I met ambassadors Sally and Jonathan at #3.  Dad was contentedly on the nest while all was quiet at the #2 and #1 areas. Just as we were readying to leave, the new Dad on the scene appeared, calling to the new Mom, the beautiful pale PiPl, and without wasting much time, the pair courted and mated. It was quite a thrill as it was Sally’s first time witnessing courtship and I was thrilled she was able to see!  We were standing a safe distance away, and Sally came well prepared with a strong set of binoculars.

We need volunteers to commit to fill the time periods between 1 to 2pm, 2 to 3pm, and 3 to 4pm. Also, the 9am to 12pm, although we may have someone interested in filling that spot. Are you interested in becoming a Piping Plover Ambassador but don’t see a time slot that works for you? Let me know anyway because if we have two nests, we may be doubling up during the shifts. kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

Looking forward to PiPl days ahead!

Warmest wishes,

Kim

THREE EGGS!

Three eggs in the Good Harbor Beach PiPl nest this morning -hoping for a fourth tomorrow!

PLOVER BABIES IN THE WEEDS

All four Killdeer Plover chicks that hatched a little over a week ago are all doing remarkably well! They are zooming around the outskirts of Good Harbor Beach and managing to stay out of the way of people and automobiles.

Notice the newborn hatchling’s tiny white dot on the end of its bill. That is the egg tooth it used to pip its way out of the shell. The egg tooth falls off after the first day or so.

I wonder sometimes why Killdeers are so successfully able to reproduce while their smaller cousins struggle so. I think being that much bigger helps a great deal. Killdeer chicks don’t appear to need to thermo snuggle (thermoregulate) nearly as often as do Piping Plover chicks, even on the coldest mornings. And, too, Killdeers are the least beach dwelling Plovers of all and have adapted to nesting in a diverse range of habitats including fields, rooftops, parking lots, gravel pits, and grassy lawns.

My what big feet you have little chick!

The Killdeer Plover family is finding lots to eat amongst the dandelions and weeds at Good Harbor Beach.

 

PIPING PLOVER CHRONICLES CONTINUE – My what a week it’s been at Good Harbor Beach!

Love is in the air! 

First things first though; the Good Harbor Beach Killdeer Plover family that nests every year in nearly an identical spot to the year before, hatched four perfectly healthy and vigorous chicks! Today marks their eight day old birthday and they are all four doing exceptionally well. More about this bundle of adorableness in an upcoming post.

Killdeer Plover Chicks  in dune camo

Mid-week we had a rough morning, with four dogs from the same family. The dogs not only ran through the symbolically roped off area as Mom and Dad were just about to mate, the larger of the four chased Dad. The ACO and DPW have been made aware and they are thankfully managing the situation.

We hear so much gibberish nonsense from scofflaw dog owners. This week, for example, “I thought the date was Memorial Day,” or the sign says “dogs are permitted,” or “dogs are allowed after 5pm,” and my personal favorite, “my dog is special.”

   *     *     *

Much of the week was cold and windy but on several mornings, including a slightly warmer today (Sunday), there were EIGHT Plovers! Three females and five males. We are not too concerned about all eight nesting at GHB. This influx seems to happen every year during May, which is peek migration month in Massachusetts. Many species of shorebirds arrive at GHB during May, stopping to rest and refuel before journeying further north. There were also half a dozen Black-bellied Plovers at GHB this past week and I was reminded of the May we had three Wilson’s Plovers show up one foggy morning.

The two new females that have joined the scene are easy to spot, with binoculars or a long lens. Please, please, do not stand at the edge of the roped off area with your cell phone, trying to take cell phone movies of courting and mating behavior. Hovering for long periods is incredibly disruptive to courtship behavior. Trust me, I have seen this disruption during courtship countless times and it only  serves to dramatically slow, or inhibit all together, the nesting season.

Meet our newest female – isn’t she beautiful!

Back to the new girls; they both have very faint headband and collar band markings, one is the palest I have ever seen a PiPl. I am already in love with her, she is feisty and ready for action, no fickle behavior on her part!

The three pairs, plus two odd boys out, are vying for territory. This morning there was a wildly intense smackdown between three of the boys. Repitiously charging, wing flourishing, then retreating, and as usual, no clear victor.

Piping Plover Smackdown. More smackdown photos to follow, when I have a few spare moments to look over the photos.

Dads are nest scraping along the length of the beach; note their little legs going a mile a minute.

Dear Friends, please consider making a tax deductible donation to launching my Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly for distribution to national television. For more information, go here.

To contribute, please go here.

 

 

 

 

COWBIRD THWARTED!

House Finch female and male

What’s going on in this little nest with eggs from two different species of birds?  House Finches love to nest in the eaves of our front porch and every year we host a brood, or two. This year, the pair abandoned their first nest of five eggs and moved to eaves on the other side of the porch. When we checked again on the nest before taking it down, three of the House Finch eggs were missing and in their place, a Brown-headed Cowbird had laid one of its own. I guess Mama Cowbird didn’t get the 411 that no one was home to raise her baby.

Avian brood parasitism, or laying of one’s eggs in the nest of another individual, is a reproductive strategy when parasitic birds, such as the Brown-headed Cowbird, foist the cost of rearing their offspring onto another bird.

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

From wiki –

Brood parasites are organisms that rely on others to raise their young. The strategy appears among birds, insects and fish. The brood parasite manipulates a host, either of the same or of another species, to raise its young as if it were its own, using brood mimicry, for example by having eggs that resemble the host’s (egg mimicry).

Brood parasitism relieves the parasitic parents from the investment of rearing young or building nests for the young, enabling them to spend more time on other activities such as foraging and producing further offspring. Bird parasite species mitigate the risk of egg loss by distributing eggs amongst a number of different hosts.[1] As this behaviour damages the host, it often results in an evolutionary arms race between parasite and host as the pair of species coevolve.[2][3]

The strength of defenses and counter-adaptation rely on the host/parasitic species’ ability to evolve; some host species have very strong rejection defenses resulting in the parasitic species evolving to have very close mimicry. In other species, hosts do not show rejection defenses and as a result, the parasitic species will show no evolved trait (example: egg mimicry).

Male Brown-headed Cowbirds