Category Archives: Birds of New England

TUESDAY 7PM KYROUZ AUDITORIUM: GLOUCESTER CITY COUNCIL MEETING TO VOTE TO HELP GLOUCESTER’S PLOVERS

Gloucester’s City Council is voting on an issue that will have tremendous impact on our Piping Plovers.

When: Tuesday, February 26th, at 7:00pm

Where: Kyrouz Auditorium, Gloucester City Hall

For more information, please find below links to posts and articles:

GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS NEED YOUR HELP TUESDAY NIGHT

HOW DO GLOUCESTER’S DOGS ON BEACHES ORDINANCES COMPARE TO OTHER NORTH SHORE COMMUNITIES

LIST OF ARTICLES AND LINKS THAT EXPLAIN HOW DOG DISRUPTIONS HARM PIPING PLOVERS

MORE BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON CHANGES TO THE ANIMAL ORDINANCE REGARDING SAFETY OF THE PIPING PLOVERS NESTING AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH

MASSACHUSETTS PIPING PLOVER CENSUS AND BEACH ORDINANCES REGARDING DOGS

To give readers an idea of how Gloucester compares to other North of Boston beaches provided below is a list of Massachusetts beaches, the number of chicks fledged at each beach, and the dog ordiance.

As you can see, prohibiting dogs on beaches beginning April 1st would bring us in alliance with the majority of Massachusetts coastal communities. If anyone would like the list of all Massachusetts beaches where Piping Plovers are nesting, please feel free to email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com and I will be happy to send you the pdf.

The beaches and information about chicks was found at the Mass Wildlife Massachusetts Piping Plover Census 2017.

NORTH OF BOSTON

Crane Beach, Ipswich: 33 chicks fledged, No Dogs April 1 to Sept 30, on leash off season.

Sandy Point Reservation, Ipswich: 21 chicks fledged, No Dogs allowed at any time.

Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester: 0 chicks fledged, No Dogs May 1 to September 30.

Parker River Wildlife Refuge: 54 chicks fledged, No Dogs allowed at anytime.

Newburyport Town Beach: 5 chicks fledged, Nog dogs May 15 to October 15, On leash all year.

Point of Pines, Revere: 1chick fledged, Private.

Revere Beach: 8 chicks fledged, No Dogs April 1 to September 30.

Winthrop Beach: 6 chicks fledged, No Dogs April 1 to September 30.

Yirrell Beach, Winthrop: 3 chicks fledged, No Dogs April 1 to September 30.

More Background Information on Changes to the Animal Ordinance Regarding the Safety of Piping Plovers Nesting at Good Harbor Beach

January 25, 2019

Gloucester City Council President Paul Lundberg

Cc: Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken

Clerk Joanne Senos

Dear Councilor Lundberg:

The Gloucester Animal Advisory Committee members and the three volunteer Piping Plover monitors present at the AAC meeting January 24th (Deborah Cramer, Heather Hall, and myself) were stunned when city council liaison Jen Holmgren announced that all the councilors had decided, under the direction of yourself and Councilor LeBlanc, against addressing the dog ordinances in regard to the Piping Plovers. The reason given by Jen, amongst several (see second to last paragraph), was because “they (the councilors) have already been dealing with dog ordinances for five years.”

Deeply concerned, I contacted Councilor Memhard the following morning. As a City Councilor, he too was very surprised to learn what was said of him. Councilor Memhard was under the impression, as are we, that we are all working toward a change in the ordinance.

There has been some kind of breakdown in communication in moving forward in our efforts to help the Piping Plovers.

The all-volunteer AAC has done an outstanding job in researching, and in their recommendations, on how better to help these tiny threatened birds that each spring call Good Harbor Beach home.

Mayor Romeo Theken’s administrative office, Mike Hale and the DPW, Chief McCarthy and the Gloucester Police Department, along with Animal Control, plan to provide greater support in the coming months. The members of the Animal Advisory Committee, under the excellent leadership of Alicia Pensarosa, and the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover volunteer monitors are a stellar group of individuals who have worked tirelessly to help our little Piping Plover family.

As a community, I hope we can continue to work together to give the Animal Advisory Committee members and the volunteer monitors all the support needed to ensure we successfully fledge chicks.

All that being said, the greatest threat to the Piping Plovers is the lack of common-sense dog restrictions at Good Harbor Beach during the month of April, coupled with only partial enforcement of the current ordinances during the bird’s nesting season.

During the entire month of April 2018, we observed the nesting pair of Piping Plovers regularly encounter interruptions from dogs off leash running through the nesting area, dogs chasing the birds, and dogs—just being their sweet curious selves—coming up to the PiPl while they were courting, mating, and feeding. Eventually, the pair were completely driven off the beach and forced to nest in the parking lot. The PiPl perceived the parking lot as the safest place because it was early in the season and the parking lot, for the most part, during the off season is a low-traffic area.

The PiPl had made a nest on the beach and would have begun hatching eggs a full ten days to two weeks earlier if they had not been driven off the beach and forced to establish a new territory in the parking lot.

The importance in allowing the birds to nest early cannot be overstated. If our Piping Plovers are allowed to nest early in the season, their chicks could well be on their way to fledging by time the summer tourist season is in full swing.

Piping Plovers have been shown to have tremendous fidelity to their chosen nesting site. There is one male documented who for fifteen springs nested at nearly the exact same location, arriving on exactly April 13th each year.

Additionally, a statement was made by Councilor Holmgren at the AAC meeting that she personally felt that dog owners who had not broken the rules should not be “punished” by changing the ordinance to disallow dogs from the beach beginning April 1st. This misses the point entirely. No one in any way shape or form is trying to “punish” fellow dog owners. It has been documented on Good Harbor Beach, as well as in numerous studies, that simple, normal dog behaviors negatively impact the nesting and feeding of innumerable species of shorebirds, not just the threatened and endangered Piping Plovers.

Out of a total of eleven Piping Plover chicks hatched at Good Harbor Beach since 2016, only one has survived. I think as a community we can do much, much better than this, but we need everyone working together, with the proper ordinances in place, to help the AAC and Piping Plover monitors do their work.

Thank you so very much for your time.

Sincerely,

Kim Smith

List of Articles and Links Provided That Explain How Dog Disruptions on Beaches Harm Piping Plovers

Bird Friendly Beaches: Evaluating dog and human interactions with Great Lakes piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) and other shorebirds: 

https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/185071/Rutter_umn_0130M_17785.pdf?sequence=1

Death of Piping Plover Serves as Reminder to Keep Dogs on Leash:

https://www.maineaudubon.org/news/death-of-piping-plover-serves-as-reminder-to-keep-dogs-on-leash/

8 Ways to Help Piping Plovers:

http://ct.audubon.org/news/8-ways-help-piping-plovers

Scarborough faces $12,000 fine after dog kills plover

https://www.pressherald.com/2013/09/11/feds-fine-scarborough-for-plover-death/

Atlantic Coast Piping Plover Strategic Communications Plan Reducing Human Disturbance

https://www.fws.gov/northeast/pipingplover/pdf/Communications_Plan_for_Reducing_Human_Disturbance_to_Atlantic_Coast_Piping_Plovers.pdf

Sleeping Bear Dunes: Piping plover apparently killed by dog

https://upnorthlive.com/news/local/sleeping-bear-dunes-officials-piping-plover-apparently-killed-by-dog

Humans disturb piping plovers on nonbreeding grounds

 http://wildlife.org/humans-disturb-piping-plovers-on-nonbreeding-grounds/

GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS NEED YOUR HELP TUESDAY NIGHT

Dear Friends and Volunteers of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,

I hope so much everyone is having a great winter and, despite the usually freezing temperatures, is able to get out and enjoy.

I am writing to let you know that this coming Tuesday, February 26th, at 7:00pm, Gloucester’s City Council is voting on an issue that will have tremendous impact on our Piping Plovers.

The single, most important issue facing the Piping Plovers is prohibiting dogs from beaches where they are nesting. This must begin on April 1st. I don’t have to tell our volunteers how incredibly important this change will bring because we were all witness to countless dog disturbances, particularly during the month of April. Innumerable dogs constantly disrupting the nesting area are why our PiPl pair was forced into the parking lot, a highly unusual and dangerous outcome.

Without the ordinance change in place for the month of April, there is nothing that the police, the Animal Control Officers, or the volunteers can do to enforce disruptions. From eleven eggs hatched on Good Harbor Beach in recent years, only one chick survived. I know that with support from the community in regard to the ordinance changes, the odds of chicks surviving will increase exponentially.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which also applies to threatened species, specifically prohibits the “taking” of Piping Plovers. Taking doesn’t only mean killing, taking also includes harassing, harming, and removing. The ESA requires Federal agencies to take action to prevent further harm and harassment, and our City is at tremendous risk for fines and beach closure, not to mention the terrible publicity it would bring.

To be clear, dogs are not the only issue affecting the Piping Plovers, but they are the reason they were driven into the parking lot. I am writing to you as a former dog owner, and as a member of a family who hopes again to one day welcome another dog into our lives.

Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee submitted the Piping Plover recommendations and ordinance changes after many months of solid research. City Councilors Scott Memhard, Melissa Cox, and Paul Lundberg put forth the ordinance change. Councilors Steven LeBlanc, Sean Nolan, and Jamie O’Hara then held a special Ordinance and Administration meeting, voting unanimously to bring the ordinance change to City Council, which brings us to this coming Tuesday.

Now it is up to us to show up in full force Tuesday night!!!

If you wish to speak in favor of the ordinance change, Alicia Pensarosa from the Animal Advisory Committee has forwarded some guidelines, which I think you will find helpful if you do not have experience giving public testimony. Here is the link:

http://www.citizenadvocacycenter.org/uploads/8/8/4/0/8840743/guidelines_for_preparing_writing_and_giving_testimony.pdf

If you would like to show your support for the PiPl, but don’t want to give testimony, you can simply come forward, state your name and address, and say, YES, I am in favor of the ordinance changes.

As you know, a small group has been spreading a great deal of misinformation on this issue, which has made the PiPl discussion much more challenging and convoluted than necessary. Please, please come show your support for the Piping Plovers and the ordinance changes to prohibit dogs from beaches where the birds are nesting. Deborah Cramer, Heather Hall, and myself will be giving testimony, and we will only be successful if we have many more. Also, you don’t have to be a Gloucester resident to come.

If you have any questions, please email Heather, or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Please let either of us know if you a planning to attend.

Attached are my notes that were presented to the City Council back in January when we first became concerned that the ordinance changes had been deliberately stalled. Also attached is a copy of the ordinance the councilors will be voting on, a list of articles about how dogs threaten the PiPl, and probably the strongest argument regarding the safety of the PiPl is a list of Massachusetts beaches, the number of chicks fledged at each beach, and the dog ordinance at each beach. I compiled this list from the Mass Wildlife 2017 Census Report, and added the dog ordinances, beach by beach. As you can see, April 1st is the cut-off date chosen by the vast majority of coastal towns.

Please don’t feel like you have to read everything attached; it is only provided to help give background. Just come Tuesday night, and say YES, you are in favor of the ordinance change. Thank you, dear Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers.

With very best wishes, Kim

When: Tuesday, February 26th at 7pm (6:45)

Where: City Hall, Kyrouz Auditorium

 

Treading Lightly

SNOWY DAY IN GLOUCESTER with YOUNG SWANS, SAINT ANTHONYS-BY-THE-SEA, TEN POUND ISLAND, BRACE COVE, PAINT FACTORY, AND MORE

The prettiest kind of snowy day, not too cold, with swirly fluffy flakes.

STUNNING BALD EAGLE IN THE HOOD!

Saturday afternoon a captivating young Bald Eagle swooped onto the scene with a fresh catch held tightly in its talons. He was fairly far off in the distance and I couldn’t quite capture what exactly he was eating.

It didn’t take long for the eagle to devour the little creature and after dining, he circled around the pond several times before landing in a nearby tree. I’ve never been so close to an eagle and it was a gift to see, really just gorgeous. It’s feathers were richly mottled in shades of chocolate brown, with contrasting white tips. Despite its youth, you could see the majesty and strength in its wings when soaring overhead.

The eagle perched in the branches for a few moments, completely ignoring the squwacky crows that were gathering, before heading out towards sea.

There have been numerous reports of Bald Eagles in the area. Earlier in the day, a passerby told me she had seen a juvenile Bald Eagle with a crow in its clutches. Although I don’t have a side-by-side comparison, the young Bald Eagle’s talons appeared enormous, even larger than a Snowy or Great Horned Owl’s talons.

Bald Eagles have repopulated the 48 contiguous states, Alaska, Canada, and northern Mexico. Their recovery over the past several decades is largely due to the ban on DDT (yet another deadly dangerous poisonous insecticide manufactured by Monsanto). Bald Eagles mate for life and they are breeding in the area. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see a nest on Cape Ann!

I believe this to be a second or third hatch year juvenile Bald Eagle. You can tell by the broad brown band on its face, the iris is transitioning from amber to yellow, and because the beak is beginning to turn yellow.

Click on any of the photos in the gallery above to see a full-sized slideshow.

Fourth hatch year Bald Eagle -note the remaining brown feathers around the face.

Mature Bald Eagle (images courtesy wiki commons media).