Category Archives: Birds of New England

What Do Piping Plovers Eat

“What do Piping Plovers eat, especially the chicks?” is one of the questions most frequently asked of our volunteer monitors. 

Piping Plover chicks eat everything the adults eat, only in smaller bites, and pretty much anything they can catch. We’ll often see the chicks pecking repeatedly in one spot. Unlike Mama and Papa PiPl, they don’t always eat the insect in one swallow. The chick will chase after the insect and eat it in several beakfulls.

Piping Plovers forage at the shoreline, in the intertidal zone, and at mud and sand flats. While running, they scan the immediate area, and then peck at the prey it locates. When by the water’s edge and in the sand flats, they eat sea worms, tiny crustaceans, and mollusks. When around the wrack line, they find teeny insects including spiders, beetles, ants, and insect larvae.

Here’s our little Pip at eight days old feeding on a winged insect. Piping Plover chicks begin pecking and looking for food within hours after hatching.

If you would like to be a Piping Plover volunteer monitor, please contact kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov. Thank you, and the PiPl thank you, too 🙂

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #5: PIPING PLOVER HELPERS ARE NOT CALLING FOR AN OUTRIGHT BAN OF DOGS ON THE BEACH

Despite the extremely inflammatory posts you may have been reading elsewhere, the Piping Plover volunteer monitors and local wildlife experts are not in any way, shape, or form promoting the permanent ban of dogs from Good Harbor Beach.

Currently, dogs are not allowed on the beach from May 1st to September 30th. The PiPl volunteer monitor core group, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Ken Whittaker, who is Gloucester’s conservation agent, and Mass Wildlife’s John Regosin all agree that dogs should not be allowed on Good Harbor Beach beginning April 1st, but that it would be safe for Piping Plover fledglings and other migrating shorebirds for dogs to return after September 15th.

This new suggested time frame will allow birds to nest with far less interruption, shorebirds will nest earlier in the season (which will help with the chicks survival rate), and the chicks will be stronger by the time Good Harbor fills with summer crowds. This is a very logical and simple solution. Disallowing dogs on Massachusetts coastal beaches where shorebirds are nesting, beginning April 1st, is quite common. Allowing them to return after September 15, and in many cases after September 30th, is also very common. For Piping Plovers and other nesting shorebirds, protecting their habitat and sharing the shore is a matter of life and death.

To be very, very clear, we Piping Plover volunteers do not wish to permanently and forever ban dogs off Good Harbor Beach, or any Gloucester beaches.

Please email or call Mayor Sefatia’s office and your City Councilors and let them know your thoughts about Piping Plovers, dogs, and all the wildlife that finds a home at Good Harbor Beach. We hope you agree that making this simple change in the ordinance from April 1st to September 15th is the best solution for all our wild and domestic creatures. This modification to the dog ordinance will also show the federal agents that the Gloucester community recognizes our responsibility and takes very seriously our commitment to protecting endangered and threatened species.

Thank you.

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken: sromeotheken@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-281-9700

Councillors At Large

Paul Lundberg, President: plundberg@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-282-8871

Melissa Cox: mcox@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-631-9015

Jamie O’Hara: johara@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-979-7533

Jen Holmgren: jholmgren@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-335-4748

Ward 1 Councilor Scott Memhard: smemhard@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-283-1955

Ward II Councillor Ken Hecht: khecht@gloucester-ma.gov, 617,755-9400

Ward III Councillor and Vice-president Steven LeBlanc: sleblanc@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-283-3360

Ward IV Valerie Gilman: vgilman@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-621-4682

Ward V Councillor Sean Nolan: snolan@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-375-8381

If you would like to be a Piping Plover volunteer monitor, please contact Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov.

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Our Nine-day-old Piping Plover Little Pip and Mama

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAPA PLOVER

Papa and Pip snuggling today

Whenever folks stop by to ask questions at the nesting area and they see the little chicks snuggling under the adult PiPl, they almost automatically assume it is the Mama Plover. Half the time it is the female, and the other half, the male. Mom and Dad share equally in caring for the chicks, generally in twenty minute to half hour intervals. They are always within ear shot and while one is minding the chicks, the other is either feeding itself, grooming, or patrolling for predators. Last year, as is often the case, the Mama Plover departed Good Harbor Beach several weeks before the chick fledged, leaving Little Chick entirely under Papa’s care.

Eight-Day-Old Little Pip

Papa piping a warning call to Mama, while snuggling Pip 

If you would like to help monitor Pip and our PiPl family, please contact Ken Whittaker at kwhittaler-ma.gov.

OUR THIRD GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER CHICK WAS KILLED THIS MORNING

We are so very sorry to share that the third chick was killed this morning. The seven-day-old chick was taken and eaten by a very large crow that swooped in unexpectedly, as witnessed by the volunteer monitors.

One week ago today all four Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers hatched in the parking lot. We celebrated, but also knew that the really hard part was yet to come. Monitoring tiny marshmallow sized fluff balls, made the color of their surroundings, is like looking for sand upon sand. To do this several hours at a time is no small feat, made even more challenging on Gloucester’s busiest of beaches.

I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to all our super dedicated PiPl monitors. Know that they are doing the very best they can to fend off predators of every kind, ill mannered people, astronomically high tides, diminished beach, people who have been drinking in the hot sun all day, garbage left behind on the beach (which attracts crows and gulls), and every other creepy thing you can think of. The core group is putting in many hours, are sunburnt, and neglecting their families.

A terrible mishap of death or injury to a chick could happen on anyone of our shifts. When you see a PiPl monitor at GHB, stop and feel free to ask questions about the plovers, and please thank them for their dedication. I honestly hope I don’t see one more facebook post/comment blaming the monitors about how we are not doing enough to keep the chicks safe and not reporting enough about the scofflaws. It is just plain cruel. Thank you. 

Our one remaining chick, the one volunteer monitor Heather Hall calls Pip, is the smallest of the hatchlings and the one we think hatched last. This afternoon Mom was keeping watchful eye while Pip was foraging between the foot of the dunes and line of folks at the rope’s edge.

Climbing Mount Washington

Mama Plover and Pip

Early this morning when we still had both chicks.
 

SHOUT OUT TO GLOUCESTER’S ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS TEAGAN AND JAMIE!

Gloucester’s Animal Control Officers Teagan and Jamie were on the scene at the crack of dawn at 4:30 this morning fixing the posts around the PiPl nesting area and writing tickets. Last night Jamie was on the beach as well. Thank you Jamie, Teagan, and Chief McCarthy for the stepped up patrolling.

The posts needed to be pulled out of the sand because last night we had yet another super high tide, all the way up to the bluff for most of the length of the beach.

I read a comment yesterday that stated falsely that the animal control officers make $80,000.00 a year and sit around and drink coffee all day. I have it on good authority that their combined incomes do not total $80,000.00 a year. Stating misinformation and disparaging the hard working people in our community is creating a false narrative and is hurtful to everyone involved, to the people, the dog owners, and to the shorebirds.

Teagan and Jamie writing tickets at dawn this morning.

We don’t have as much an enforcement problem as we do an issue with entitlement and ignorance. Ignorance in the sense that scofflaws may be from out of town and may be unable to read, and entitlement in that some people know the rules and know the dangers that dogs pose to the shorebirds, yet choose to do as they please.

Upon entering Good Harbor Beach this morning, the scofflaws with their dog walked by these three signs.

Walking a dog on a beach is a purely recreational activity. For teeny tiny nesting shorebird chicks, protecting that same beach habitat is a matter of life and death.

If you see a dog at anytime or anywhere on Good Harbor Beach, please call this number: 978-281-9900.

As of late, it appears as though many more people now have the need of a service dog. Having a service dog requires that it be on leash at all times, not jumping on people, and not running through the dunes. Service dogs cannot go in the dunes, or anywhere on the beach that is restricted to humans.

Would the people with service dogs consider taking their dog to any other of Cape Ann’s stunning beaches, rather than to Good Harbor Beach during shorebird nesting season I wonder?

Folks getting ticketed and escorted off the beach.

Truly, the most important action people can take is to volunteer to help watch over the chicks. We have a number of folks posing as helpers but sadly, they are not actually volunteering for shifts. Two monitors on each shift would be ideal, but this year we have fewer volunteers, and don’t even have single person coverage during large chunks of time. Keeping watch over the baby birds will make a difference in whether or not the chicks survive. Anyone can be a volunteer and anyone of us can show you what to do. Finding people to help has been especially difficult on the weekends. Please contact kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov if you would like to lend a hand. Thank you so very much  

Six-day-old Piping Plover Chick

This morning’s dog tracks at Good Harbor Beach – Dog tracks are easy to spot and to differentiate from other canids (fox and coyote). For example, notice the sharp toenail indentation. Coyotes have rounded toe tip prints because they wear their nails down.

Dog tracks Good Harbor Beach

Look what other tracks were spied this week, deer! These too are easy to spot in the sand. The deer’s cloven hoof makes a broken heart shape.

White-tailed Deer Tracks Good Harbor Beach

Today’s early morning Good Harbor Beach view of Thacher Island Twin Lights 

GLOUCESTER DPW GETTING THE JOB DONE-THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN!

Phil Cucuru and Mike Tarantino installing the sign board.

Thank you again to the Gloucester DPW, and again to Phil Cucuru and Mike Tarantino. The repaired footbridge looks beautiful and the signage placement is very noticeable. We are grateful to Phil, Mike, Joe Lucido, Tommy Nolan, Kenny Ryan, Newt, Cindy, and the entire DPW and Good Harbor Beach crew for their outstanding effort in helping our PiPl family, since when they first arrived, way back on April 3rd. Their assistance, interest, and kindness is making a difference. Thank you

That’s City Councilman Scott Memhard walking the footbridge to check on the PiPl. So sorry to Scott for not getting a better photo.

We Lost Two Chicks Today

We’re so very sorry to write that two chicks were killed today. Catherine Ryan witnessed a terrible scene with a large dog tearing around in the nesting area at dawn, and a volunteer monitor observed one taken by a gull.

All that’s left of our little GHB Pipl Family – Mama (left), Papa (right) and our two remaining chicks. 

Please volunteer to be a PiPl monitor. You will truly be making a difference in whether or not our PiPl chicks survive. And you’ll meet the nicest bunch of people. Anyone of us can show you what to do. The shifts can be as long as you like, but an hour is all we are asking. The weather forecast looks gorgeous this weekend, and it is Father’s Day on Sunday, so we are hoping to have two on at each shift. Contact kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov.

Please share this post and help spread the word that we need volunteers. Thank you ❤