Category Archives: Birds

PIPING PLOVER CHICK AND DAD

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

The chick looked healthy and vibrant this morning, alternating between foraging in the roped off area and at the shoreline, and then snuggling under Dad on this cool, foggy morning.

Little Chick snuggling under Dad this morning

I was there for approximately 1.5 hours, until Duncan arrived at 7am, and during that entire time I only saw Dad. At the end of my shift as I was picking up trash at the roped off area at the Creek side, another PiPl flew in piping loudly. I couldn’t stay to see if it was Mom. If any Ambassadors see both parents at the same time, changing guard, please write and let us know.

It’s not entirely unusual for one or the other to disappear for a few hours but this is also a good opportunity to let everyone know that the female may leave to begin migrating southward at anytime. We are about a month later with this year’s nest and I have seen often at other beaches that some females leave around the first week of July. I don’t know if it is that they are genetically programmed to depart early or if because there are many more fireworks and bonfires on beaches beginning around now, or a combination of both.

At another beach where I am documenting PiPls, last year I observed an awesome single Dad raise two chicks to fledgling; the Mom left when the chicks were not even a week old. She departed after a night of fireworks.

Another morning of beautiful fog and great surf. I don’t think I have ever seen as many surfers as have been at GHB the past few mornings. It’s wonderful to see so many enjoying the beach in a safe, non-covid threatening way!

Thanks so much again everyone. I am hearing crazy stories from many of you about people behaving inappropriately, such as Duncan’s guy who read the threatened species sign, then proceeded to lift up the rope and march right into the enclosure and right up to the chick to photograph. Duncan could see the chick was safe so did not say anything, which is good. I appreciate so very much everyone keeping their cool. It’s going to be a tough weekend on the PiPl family and tough on all of you, too, dealing with the public, especially if they have been drinking. Our goals are to keep the chick safe and educate as much as possible, in a non-confrontational manner, and you are all doing a superb job!!

Warmest wishes,
Kim

Little Chick 9-10 days old

PIPING PLOVER FAMILY ALL THREE PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors!

All three family members were present, the chick feeding on insects up by the Sea-rocket at the base of the dune in the roped off area, and parents taking turns minding the chick or foraging at the water’s edge.

The new beach raker was there, and he was great!! He entered the beach at the snack bar, stayed at that end, and then drove to the Creek but stopped to ask if we were taking care of the trash at the east end. Yes I said and we are happy to do it. So thankful for his consideration!

We have a new ambassador. I met Duncan last week and he has an interest in the PiPls well being. Duncan and his wife Sarah have a summer home on Salt Island Road. He is taking Shelby’s shift from 7 to 8am and Shelby is moving to 6 to 7pm so it all worked out very nicely. Thank you so much Duncan and welcome 🙂

Thanks again so much to everyone for all your help with our GHB PiPls.
xxKim

Piping Plover Chick Morning Stretches Routine – with beautiful tiny wing buds

In the above photo you can see the chick’s teeny tongue lapping up insects found on Sea-rocket. See article about Sea-rocket here

MASS AUDUBON’S COASTAL WATERBIRD PROGRAM ANNOUNCES 2019 BEST RESULTS IN DECADE

Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program Announces 2019 Results Best in Decade

June 24, 2020

LINCOLN, MA—Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP), which has monitored and supported vulnerable shorebird species including Piping Plovers for 35 years, has announced that the 2019 season was its best in a decade.

The Mass Audubon program, which works with local, state, and federal wildlife partners, protected 226 pairs—30% of the Commonwealth’s population of Piping Plovers and roughly 12.5% of the Atlantic Coast population estimated at 1,800 pairs.

According to recently released U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service statistics for 2019, state abundance of the protected species—listed as Threatened on both federal and state wildlife protection registers—rose to 755 pairs, up from 688 in 2018. Reproductive success, defined by the number of birds reaching flight stage, increased by more than 11 percent over the previous year.

Plovers at CWP-protected sites produced a record 1.5 fledglings per pair compared to 1.1 per pair in 2018. Although hatching rates were similar in both years, survival of chicks was 30% greater in 2019.

The CWP monitors 177 sites from Plum Island to the South Coast, virtually the entire Massachusetts coastline.

Piping Plovers are small, roundish, sandy-colored shorebirds that make a repetitive piping call (hence their name). Because Atlantic Coast plovers lay eggs directly on sandy beaches, their populations face a variety of threats, from coastal storms and rising sea levels to predators such as coyotes and crows, and intrusion on their habitats by humans and their pets.

CWP Director Dr. Katharine C. Parsons noted that good weather during May 2019 contributed to greater success among “first clutch” nesting.  If first attempts at nesting are unsuccessful, plovers will re-nest, which prolongs the weeks they are sharing beaches with the beach-going public. Studies show that early nestlings have a greater change of fledging.

“Piping Plovers were the most successful they’ve been in more than a decade due to the committed efforts of many shorebird champions throughout the state—including  conservation organizations and beach goers who have kept away from fenced areas and have leashed their dogs or walked them in areas where nesting is not taking place,” Parsons said.

Carolyn Mostello, Coastal Waterbird Biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, noted, “In Massachusetts we are very fortunate that the public has a strong conservation ethic and is supportive of measures that protect beach-nesting birds like the Piping Plover.

“That ethic, together with the dedication of our conservation partners and a little luck, makes a successful recipe for plover success,” Mostello added.

To learn more about Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program and the remarkable 2019 results, visit massaudubon.org/cwp.

THREE COTTONBALL-SIZED PIPING PLOVER CHICKS IN BEACH CAMO

Huge shout out of thanks to our newest Piping Plover Ambassadors

One of the many reasons why it’s not easy being a Piping Plover Ambassador

CAN YOU FIND THREE OF THE FOUR CHICKS IN THE PHOTO TAKEN THS MORNING?

It’s nearly impossible to see these two-day-old tiny cotton ball-sized PiPl chicks, especially on a foggy morning.

All four chicks are present and accounted for. One appears to have hatched within the past several hours so he’ll be the one who will always be a bit smaller.

The gulls are an issue, more so this year because the area is so much larger than in the past and it has become a safe haven for them as well. Also, I think because there are fewer people, which means less picnicking, which means less food for them, but still the same amount of beaks and bellies to fill. They were not acting predatory yesterday afternoon when I was watching them, just very distressing for the adults.

Yesterday morning I wrote Dave about the apparently abandoned Salt Island nest. No adults have been seen on that nest since Sunday. There are a multitude of reasons why that may be, but they were again not on the nest this morning. Just waiting to hear from Dave about what to do with the eggs and dismantling the exclosure.

Have a super day :
Thank you!
Kim

OUR GOOD HAROR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE HATCHING!

Three chicks have hatched and one more still to come!!

From the appearance of the oldest hatchling running around in the roped off area by the Creek, the chicks probably began hatching yesterday late afternoon (Monday, the 22nd). One may have even been hatching while we were there having a PiPl Ambassador informational meeting 🙂
The PiPl family will most likely stay closish to the nesting area for the next day. Fortunately it is very foggy today, which means the beach won’t be too busy and that will give them some space.
We had a great meeting yesterday with a new crew of Piping Plover Ambassadors. Thank you to everyone for coming ❤ We still have some empty spots on the schedule, noon to 4. If anyone is interested in becoming a PiPl Ambassador, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you!

 

One day old Piping Plover chick, Good Harbor Beach, June 23, 2020

Educate, Not Enforce!

WE’RE GETTING CLOSE TO HATCH DAY – PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS ARE NEEDED DURING THE AFTERNOONS

Hello Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,

Our Ambassador schedule is looking great for mornings and I am so appreciative of all who have volunteered to lend a hand.

We need Ambassadors during the afternoons. Please write at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com and let me know if you would like to volunteer for an hour a day for the next several weeks, possibly a month. The first week in a chick’s life is the most critical. When a chick reaches the 7 to 10 day milestone its chances of survival increase exponentially.

One hour old Piping Plover chick

We are meeting Monday, June 22nd, at 5:30pm, to go over any questions Ambassadors may have. We’ll meet at the the Saratoga Creek end of the beach, by the symbolic roping, on the Nautilus Road side of the beach, just after boardwalk #3. There should be no difficulty parking in the lot at that time of day.

I look forward to seeing familiar friends and meeting our new ambassadors. Thank you so much again for your willingness to help. Our new motto this year is Educate, not Enforce and our goal is to keep the energy positive and kind. Our City government is managing many, many issues due to the global pandemic and we do not wish in any way to add to their responsibilities.

Here is the schedule so far:

Kim 5am to 7am

Shelby  7am -8am

Jane Marie 8am -9am

Bette Jean 9am-10am

Jennie  11am to 12pm

Jonathan and Sally 5pm to 6pm

TONIGHT! TRY BACKYARD BIRDING – FAMILY ZOOM EVENT – SOME OF THE BEAUTIFUL WINGED WONDERS SEEN IN OUR GLOUCESTER NEIGHBORHOOD DURING THE SPRING OF 2020 including Red-neck Grebe, Cedar Waxwings, Northern Flicker, Dowitchers, Eagles, Palm Warbler, Kingbird, Long-tailed Ducks, Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Mockingbird, Robin, Catbird, Cardinal, Finches, Orioles, Egrets, Grackles, and Swan, Kildeer, Eider, PiPl Chicks, and More!!

Try Backyard Birding – Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for a virtual zoom hour of fun talk about birding in your own backyard. We’ll be discussing a range of bird related topics and the event is oriented to be family friendly and hosted by Eric Hutchins.

I am a bit under the weather but nonetheless looking forward to sharing this wonderful event sponsored by Literary Cape Ann.

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

 

All the photos you see here were taken in my East Gloucester neighborhood this past spring, from March 17th to this morning. A few were taken at the Jodrey Fish Pier, but mostly around Eastern Point, Good Harbor Beach, and in our own backyard. The Tree Swallows photos were taken at Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation. Several of these photos I have posted previously this spring but most not.

I love sharing about the beautiful species we see in our neighborhood – just this morning I was photographing Mallard ducklings, an Eastern Cottontail that hopped right up to me and ate his breakfast of beach pea foliage only several feet away, a Killdeer family, a male Cedar Waxwing feeding a female, and a Black Crowned Night Heron perched on a rock. I was wonderfully startled when a second BCN flew in. The pair flew off and landed at a large boulder, well hidden along the marshy edge of the pond. They hung out together for a bit- maybe we’ll see some little Black Crowned Night Herons later this summer ❤

 

 

OUR SALT ISLAND PIPING PLOVER FAM HAS A SECOND EGG IN THE NEST!

The most tenacious of Piping Plover pairs has a second egg in their nest!

For the next few days you may see them on and off the nest. The pair won’t start brooding full time until all the eggs are laid. The reason being is that the hatchlings are precocial, which means active from birth. The parents want the chicks to hatch as closely together as possible so the tiny rockets zooming around the beach are more easily managed. The difference in a PiPl day old hatchling and a PiPl week old chick in human years is like trying to look after a newborn and a precocious preteen simultaneously.

Salt Island Family Mom briefly on nest this morning.

SI Dad at the shoreline foraging at sunrise.

Piping Plovers take about a week to complete the nest and lay all their eggs (sometimes two eggs or three or five, but most often four eggs). If they started brooding one egg full time, that egg would hatch a week earlier than the last egg laid, which would spell disaster for a precocial chick. Observing PiPl chicks that had hatched twenty-four hours apart was hard enough on the parents, let alone a week apart!

If you stop by to see the PiPls on the beach, please bear in mind they are working hard at completing their nest and laying eggs. Please don’t hover around the roped off areas or when you see the birds on the shore. Trust me, hovering attracts gulls and crows. Both species are smart and I’ve seen over and over again how human interest in the PiPls  attracts these super predators to the nesting sites. Additionally, hovering around the adults off the nest stymies courtship and mating as well. Have a look with binoculars or take photo or two with a long lens and move on, especially when with more than one adult.

Thank you so much for your consideration!

Good Harbor Beach Salt Island Family Two Eggs June 16, 2020

Saratoga Creek Family Dad brooding this am

Sunrise and Crescent Moon rising today

 

SINGING THE PRAISES OF CAPE ANN’S WINGED AERIALISTS- Please join Kim Smith, John Nelson, and Martin Ray for a fun zoom hour of conversation!

Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for an hour of talk about the many birds and habitats found on Cape Ann. The event is hosted by Literary Cape Ann and will be moderated by Eric Hutchins, Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for NOAA.

From Literary Cape Ann’s newsletter-

TRY BIRDING IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD!

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in this coming Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link next Friday: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

Order books by our guest authors at The Bookstore of Gloucester. For those interested, bird books make great Father’s Day gifts. Further down in this newsletter, you’ll find lots of great information about books and birdwatching organizations.

Thank you, Kim Smith and Martin Ray, for providing us with some of your beautiful photography to help promote this event. And thank you, John Nelson, for the annotated lists of books and birding organizations.
Meet our panel!

Meet our panel!

Artist, author/blogger, and naturalist Martin Ray will talk about maintaining his fine blog, “Notes from Halibut Point,” and share stories discovered in that magical place.

Filmmaker, naturalist, and activist Kim Smith will share her own adventures chronicling Cape Ann’s vibrant bird life including the work she does advocating for the endangered piping plovers that nest at Good Harbor Beach.

Author-naturalist John Nelson will start things off with some birdwatching basics before getting into a few stories about local birds, their habits and habitats from his new book, “Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds.”

Our moderator, Eric Hutchins, is the Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the NOAA Restoration Center located in Gloucester. He  has worked as both a commercial fisherman and government biologist on domestic and foreign fishing vessels throughout the Northeast and Alaska.

Books by our speakers are available through The Bookstore of Gloucester:

Martin Ray
“Cape Ann Narratives of Art in Life” — A collection of interviews and images tracing the creative lives of 28 contemporary artists.
“Quarry Scrolls” (2018)— 24 photographs of Halibut Point natural life and scenes with accompanying Haiku poems

Kim Smith:
“Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!” — Written and illustrated by Kim Smith.

John Nelson:
“Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds”

More books, recommended by John Nelson:

  1. Sibley, David. The Sibley Guide to Birds
  2. Kroodsma, Donald. The Singing Life of Birds. 2005. On the science and art of listening to birds, by a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts and a foremost authority on bird vocalizations.
  3. Leahy, Christopher, John Hanson Mitchell, and Thomas Conuel. The Nature of Massachusetts. 1996. An excellent introduction to the natural history of Massachusetts by three prominent Mass Audubon Society naturalist-authors.
  4. Sibley, David. What It’s Like to Be a Bird. 2020. Just published, a study of what birds are doing and why, by a longtime Massachusetts resident and renowned author/illustrator of a series of bird and nature guides.
  5. Weidensaul, Scott. Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds. 2000. A Pulitzer Prize finalist study of bird migration by the naturalist and author of Return to Wild America, the subject of his memorable 2020 BBC lecture.
  6. Zickefoose, Julie. Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest. 2016. Where art meets natural history, by a talented author/artist, former student of biological anthropology at Harvard, and keynote speaker at the 2014 Massachusetts Birders Meeting.

If you’d like to learn more or get involved in the birding life, here are some recommendations from John Nelson:

An excellent overall resource is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, especially the “All About Birds” sections, which includes free access to the MaCauley Library (the country’s best collection of vocalizations of birds and other animals), the free Merlin bird identification app, live bird cams, and other resources for beginners and intermediates. Some programs, like their “Joy of Birdwatching” course, require an enrollment fee, but many of their resources are free to anyone.

For bird conservation, the most active national organizations are the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon. For state bird conservation, Mass Audubon (not affiliated with National Audubon) is most active and the best source of information, but many other organizations are involved in preservation of habitats, often with a local focus.

For birding field trips, Mass Audubon and the Brookline Bird Club both offer frequent trips at different seasons to Cape Ann, sometimes for just a morning, sometimes for a whole day. Both organizations welcome novices, and both have trip leaders who make an effort to be particularly helpful to beginners. Mass Audubon trips, generally sponsored by MAS Ipswich River or MAS Joppa Flats, require advance registration and some payment.

Brookline Bird Club trips are free, without any registration, but regular participants are encouraged to join the club with $15 as the annual dues. The name of the BBC is misleading; the club originated in Brookline in 1913 but is now one of the largest, most active clubs in the country and offers field trips across and beyond Massachusetts.

John Nelson is on the BBC Board of Directors and leads a few Cape Ann trips in both winter and spring. John reminds us that this is a strange time for beginners, since Mass Audubon has cancelled many field trips and the BBC has cancelled all trips through June, but eventually field trips will open up again, especially in places where social distancing is most possible.

The very active Facebook page, Birding Eastern Mass, has over 2,000 subscribers, from novice birders to experts. It’s a great site for sharing bird photos.

 

About Birding in Our Backyard

This Zoom event is for friends and families who are looking for safe, fun things to do close to home. Cape Ann’s abundance of natural wonders are here for us to enjoy and protect. Try chronicling your experiences in a new blog or a photo journal.

• • •

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
— John Muir, from “Our National Parks”

SUPER EXCITING NEWS – THERE ARE NOW TWO PAIRS OF PIPING PLOVERS NESTING AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our first family of Good Harbor Beach chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. Many of the morning times are filled, so we are especially looking for help mid-day, afternoon, and early evenings if you can lend a hand. Thank you! HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

This morning the awesome Dave Rimmer and his assistant Mike Galli installed an exclosure at the area we call #1 (because it is closer to boardwalk #1). I write “awesome” because Dave Rimmer is Director of Land Stewardship at Essex County Greenbelt Association and for the fifth year in a row, he has lent his experience and expertise at absolutely NO CHARGE $$ to the City of Gloucester. We all owe Dave and Greenbelt huge thanks of appreciation. Thank you once again Dave for your kind assistance.

The exclosure was quickly and efficiently assembled and sledge hammered into place. Would the young pair accept the wire exclosure? It looked dicey for about half an hour or so. I had Charlotte with me and had to leave but a short time later, Dave texted that they were back on the nest. In all his years of installing exclosures  (30 plus), only one pair has ever rejected an exclosure.

This nest with currently one egg is located in an extremely open site and not at all where expected. It is their fourth attempt at a serious nest. The first was up by the dune edge in a nicely camouflaged location but as it was not symbolically roped off, it was visibly disturbed by people and pets. Their next nest was located in the roped off area at #1 and that sweet nest had two eggs. Sadly, the eggs disappeared from the nest. The third active nest scrape was actually in the dunes but unfortunately again that was disturbed by people, this time by people going along their same path to go to the bathroom in the dunes. So this fourth nest is in a most open spot and not entirely safe from a stormy high tide.

New nest location, with no protective vegetation

Our Salt Island pair mating and nest scraping, with one egg.

June 15th is late in the year to begin a new nest but it happens often enough. Last year I filmed a PiPl family nesting in July, with three eggs. The nest gets hot as the summer progresses, but the adults were very smart about brooding. They would stand over the nest, not actually sitting on it, which provided shade from the melting sun, without their additional body heat. The adults were also panting to keep cool in the heat. One chick was lost in a storm, but two survived to fledge and the Dad stayed with them the entire time.

In the photos above you can see the PiPl heat wave brooding technique.

I think we should change the names of the nests to the Creek Family and the Salt Island Family. It sounds a lot more personable than #3 and #1. What do you think?

BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- MORNING

SEE PART ONE HERE

I arrived at daybreak the following morning with myriad questions –would the first hatchling make it through the night, would they all have hatched over night, would the nest still be in the same location if all had hatched? The nest was sited in the most extraordinarily vulnerable location. And this beach in particular is plagued by a plethora of hungry avian predators that readily make a meal of both eggs and chicks.

Hooray!  First glimpse showed a fluffy puffball snuggling next to Mom and the next peek showed at least two eggs still remaining in the nest. I couldn’t tell initially if there was a new chick or three eggs.

Mom popped off the nest for a moment and there were two perfect little chicks! And one of the two remaining eggs was showing a mosaic of tiny cracks with the tiniest of external pips beginning to appear (egg on the right).

It’s Dad’s turn back on the nest. Both parents were active in helping the chicks hatch.

Early in the morning, the two hatchings stayed close to the nest and only made periodic and brief forays further out onto the beach. The one that was twelve hours old that had hatched the night before was clearly stronger, while the newly hatched wobbled along on unsteady legs, spending more time stumbling than standing. 

At about 7:15, I could see Dad beginning to help pull apart the eggshell with his beak.

He and Mom switched places and only twelve minutes later, nestling #3 was completely free of its eggshell.

Chick #1 was outside the nest observing all, while #2 was fast asleep as baby sibling was hatching in the nest next to him. Mom and Dad took turns removing the eggshells from the nest.

Two chicks, newborn hatchling, and one egg .

Newborn chick drying in the nest with one egg remaining.

The third chick to hatch was nearly dry and the last egg was still in the nest when I departed at noon, with plans to return later in the day.

From the moment of hatching, both parents give constant soft melodious piping calls and commands to the chicks and they learn within a few days time to listen and obey.

As the morning progressed, the most remarkable observation is that the family split in half. In roughly twenty minute intervals, Mom or Dad would watch the two older, stronger chicks as they began to run around on the beach learning to forage while either Mom or Dad would brood the remaining egg and the most recently hatched and still sleepy-eyed chick.

I can’t make it up this hill Bro!

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our GHB chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

 

CALL OUT FOR PIPING PLOVER VOLUNTEER AMBASSADORS

Dear Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,

I hope everyone is doing well and taking good care. I am writing to let you know that our Piping Plover pair at area #3 will soon be hatching their chicks, possibly by June 23rd. This is super exciting but also somewhat worrisome because it is more than a month later than when the chicks hatched last year. As we all know, GHB only becomes busier and busier as the season progresses.

What can we do to help the chicks reach the fledging age? I am organizing a group of citizen Piping Plover Ambassadors. This will be a volunteer group, not connected with the City administration. Our main objective is to keep the Piping Plover chicks safe and by doing so, we will ensure our beloved beach stay open to the public.

Ambassadors will be at the beach observing as well as informing interested beach goers about Piping Plover behaviors.

I’d like to try something different with scheduling that I hope will make things much less complicated. Ambassadors are needed for approximately one month. I am asking people to commit one set hour a day for that month.

So for example, I will be at the beach every morning from approximately sunrise until 7:00am

We need volunteers every hour from 7am to sunset; the 7am to 8am shift, the 8am to 9am shift, the 9am to 10am shift, etc. If you know you can commit to one hour every day for a month, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

If we get a viable nest at Area #1, we will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

This week I am ordering several coroplast signs, just like the ones we had last year. I wish I could afford to purchase many, but am asking volunteers to pay for and order the signs for yourself. The information to purchase signs will be at Seaside Graphics. During your shift, you would place the signs in the vicinity of where the chicks are located and then take your signs home with you at the end of your shift.

Ambassadors will wear a mask during their shift and maintain social distancing.

We will not be speaking directly with people regarding aberrant behavior, especially not to children. We can put ourselves between flying balls, runaway pets, joggers and children running towards the chicks, in a friendly manner. Especially with the global pandemic, many people are on edge. We do not want heated discussions taking place on the beach. We will not be taking photos of people’s behavior noticeably. If someone is acting badly, take a photo without them seeing you, and record any other information.

If someone is behaving very badly, ie. drunk and disorderly, or committing a crime, you are asked to stay clear, for your own personal safety, and to call the police. If there is a dog on the beach during your shift, it is imperative to call the dog officer. Without your calls, there is no record.

I am planning to make up data sheets where we can record our daily observations. And am happy to train anyone interested in lending a hand.

Please email and let me know if you would like to volunteer to be a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador. We would love, love to have your help! Thank you!

Take care and be well.

Warmly, Kim

Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Family 2019

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER FIRST HATCH DAY

Dear Friends,

So sorry to not be posting as much as usual and if I promised to stop by your store or business to take photos this week I am doubly sorry. Our nation is undergoing a sea change for social justice and how I wish I could join the peaceful protest but know that I am super high risk. February was pneumonia month; perhaps maybe what I really had was corona because breathing was so difficult and it took so long to recover, and now June has become Shingles month. I am learning how to manage the pain and since it was diagnosed early enough I am hoping it won’t linger. So again, I am so sorry if I haven’t made it to your shop or restaurant, but I will surely do so soon!

In the mean time, here is a beautiful scene I wanted to share with you. The Piping Plover family in the photos is one I have been following for several years. This pair is truly remarkable in so many ways I can’t even begin to explain here. You will see why when my PiPl film comes out, but trust me, these two have co-parenting down to an art form. I have learned so much from watching specific families of Plovers at specific sites, and especially my Clam Fam.

I call them the Clam Fam because the pair always make use of large Atlantic Surf Clams, which is pretty smart because from an avian predators overhead point of view, a nesting PiPl looks like a clam shell. I can’t wait to share it all!

Here they are in early April. The pair returned to their nesting site about a week and a half  later than our GHB nesting PiPl pair. These two famously always nest early in the season.

This year’s Clam Fam nest was sited right next to a pedestrian walkway and that is why we have such a clear view into the nest. 

Dad’s potential nest scrapes and Mom inspecting.

First two eggs in early May

The tiniest peep hole appeared and you could see movement beneath the surface. The peep hole is called an external pip.

Mom and Dad take turns guarding and sitting on the nest while the chick is hatching.

Once the eggshell has unzipped, the parents oftentimes help the chick hatch by pulling away the shell.

Eggshells are a concern to the PiPl parents because they can attract predators. Here you see Dad kicking the eggshell away. Mom quickly ran to the nest and carried off one half of the  shell. Shortly after that Dad did the same.

The newborn chick’s feathers are matted wet with fluid.

In an hour or so the chick is dry and fluffy and has already learned to push up under Dad or Mom’s wings to keep warm.

A sweet sleepy chick – it’s early evening and there are three more eggs to go. I’ll return tomorrow morning first thing

Read More and see the photos here of how a chicken chick hatches. As both PiPl and chickens are precocial birds, and from what I have observed, PiPl chicks are very similar in hatching.

Piping Plovers are listed as a US threatened species. Threatened species share the same protections as endangered species.

READ THE LATEST ON THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION’S PROPOSAL TO WEAKEN THE MIGRATORY BIRD SPECIES ACT

 

 

PIPING PLOVER CHRONICLES – WE LOST A NEST – AND SOME GOOD NEWS

Hello Friends, update on the Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach and other PiPl news-

First, a bit of sad news. We lost the second nest at Good Harbor Beach, which was located at area #1, the opposite end of the nest at #3, down by Salt Island Road. It only had two eggs and the exclosure installation was scheduled for Monday.

Good Harbor Beach Nest at Area #1

There is no way of knowing what happened because it was very windy yesterday and the tracks of predator or pet have been blown away.

There is the strong likelihood that the pair will renest and they appear to be making attempts to however, it is getting rather late in the year. This would be truly historic to have two nests at GHB if they do renest.

The good news is that our pair at #3 are coming along beautifully. They are constantly brooding the eggs and are doing an awesome job defending their “territory” against avian species (real and imagined predators) that fly onto the scene including sparrows, finches, Mockingbirds, gulls, and Crows. No bird is too small or too large to escape defense of their territory.

Good Harbor Beach Papa Plover brooding eggs.

A bit of amazing news –there is a Piping Plover nest for the first time ever in Quincy! More to come on that 🙂

Massachusetts is at the forefront of Piping Plover recovery and we can all be so proud of our local and state agencies and how they are managing beaches for both people and wildlife to share, despite the global pandemic. Just some of the organizations include Mass Wildlife, Massachusetts Department of Conservation, Essex Greenbelt, The Trustees of Reservations, Parker River National Wildlife USFWS, and many, many more. Thank you Massachusetts Piping Plover partners for all you are doing to help this tiny threatened shorebird.

On a separate note, over the past several days I have been filming a beautiful nest of four PiPl chicks hatching at a location in the area. It was amazing to witness, so very life reaffirming, and pure joy to see. Hopefully I’ll have time tomorrow to share more of the photos.

In this one photo,  you can see the hole where the chick is just starting to peck its way out (far left egg). I had lost track of the days with this particular family and only stopped by to check, not realizing it was “the day.” I said to myself, I don’t recall seeing that big black spot on that egg. After studying it for a few moments, I realized there was movement beneath the hole in the shell. Hatching was about to begin at any moment!

Piping Plover nest with egg cracking!

SHOUT OUT TO PIPING PLOVER HELPERS DJ AND JOHN BURLINGHAM!

This morning I found the corner post at Piping Plover area #1 buried in the sand from last night’s high tide. There’s a super nice gentleman, retired Coast Guard officer John Burlingham, who daily walks GHB in the summer. He’s an avid naturalist and always keeps his eyes out for the PiPls. He righted the post and continued on his walk.

John Burlingham

As I was leaving GHB, I asked DJ, one of the nice gentlemen working on the water and gas pipes on Salt Island Road, if he happened to have a sledge hammer in his truck box. No, but he had something nearly as good. He whacked the pole into the sand.

Hopefully the poles will stay put but it was great to have such kind hearted caring people at Good Harbor Beach to lend a hand. Thank you John and DJ so very much for your kind assistance!

DJ

FRIENDS CHECK OUT THIS SUPER INTERESTING AND FAMILY ORIENTED ZOOM WEBINAR I AM PARTICIPATING IN, ALONG WITH WITH JOHN NELSON AND MARTIN RAY

Save the date for the Zoom event “Try Birding in Your Own Backyard” with fellow guests Martin Ray and John Nelson, moderated by Eric Hutchins and hosted by Literacy Cape Ann.

So very much looking forward to participating and so very honored to be asked.

Try birding in your backyard!
Zoom in for something fun on summer solstice eve!
Three of our favorite chroniclers of birds and nature share birding tips and experiences via Zoom and all are invited. Literary Cape Ann presents authors/naturalists John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray on Friday, June 19, from 6:30 to 7:30 for a lively talk the family will enjoy. Learn ways not just to observe birds but to capture your experience with birds via blogs, journals, photos or sketches. Make some popcorn, gather your family and join us.

Check in with the Literary Cape Ann Facebook page on June 19 for the Zoom link.

ANNIE OR SQUAM?

Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer shares all three eggs are still in the nest.

View the Osprey Cam Here

From ECGA website –

Update May 28, 2020 – Not much new to report. The incubation phase for Annie and Squam continues. Squam is still bringing in numerous fresh fish daily, mostly river herring but the occassional small striped bass as well. One we roll into June the count down is on for hatching.

Annie or Squam? One of the pair of Cape Ann’s resident Ospreys (hopefully a family soon).

SHORT VIDEO “WARBLERS IN CENTRAL PARK” featuring CHRISTIAN WARD, THE MAN FALSELY ACCUSED BY INSANE WHITE WOMAN

Christian Ward was featured speaking with Jason Ward in Jason’s premiere epsisode of “Birds of North America.” Christian is the same man that was viciously and falsely accused of harassment by a deranged white woman in Central Park.

 

My daughter sent this video awhile ago when she was living in NYC and I loved it, so fun and really well done. I forgot to post then and I imagine its has received many more views knowing that Christian appears in it.

Love this quote from Jason Ward when he spots a beautiful bird – “keep the party inside!”

In this premiere episode, Bronx native and bird-lover Jason Ward visits Central Park – “the best place in North America to see migrating birds” – where he joins thousands of warblers and compares the unique sound of a rose-breasted grosbeak to the squeak of rubber soles on a basketball court.

Jason Ward has been an avid birdwatcher since he was a kid growing up in the Bronx, where he spotted a peregrine falcon eating a pigeon on a ledge outside his bedroom window. In the first season of Topic’s new series, the avian advocate and father of two travels around the Northeast, from Cape May, New Jersey, to Maine, delighting audiences with his contagious curiosity about the natural world—and the creatures within it. Those creatures include those of the human variety, too, with guests such as comedian Wyatt Cenac, Dr. Drew Lanham of Clemson University, “The Birdist” Nicholas Lund, the American Museum of Natural History’s Paul Sweet, and the Feminist Bird Club. (Plus Jason’s younger brother Jeffrey, a fellow birder and formidable opponent in the brothers’ annual bird count competition.) Get your binoculars ready.

 

WE NOW HAVE THREE EGGS AT #3! THANK YOU ESSEX GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER AND MIKE GALLI AND GLOUCESTER’S JOE LUCIDO FOR INSTALLING THE WIRE EXCLOSURE THIS MORNING!

Great morning at Good Harbor Beach with Dave Rimmer and his intern Mike Galli along with Gloucester’s DPW Joe Lucido installing the wire exclosure at #3. The guys were in an out hammering in the exclosure and after completing, before they had walked thirty feet, Dad PiPl was back on the nest!

One of the chief risks of installing an exclosure is the birds may reject the nest after placing the exclosure. Dave shared that in all his years of experience (and he has been helping Piping Plovers on the North Shore since 1986 when they were first declared threatened) only once did the nesting birds reject the exclosure. He waited forty five minutes for the birds to return and then removed the exclosure.

For friends who may not recall what an exclosure is – an exclosure is a six foot in diameter wire cage placed over a nest and held securely with metal stakes. The openings in the exclosure are large enough to allow PiPl sized birds to go in and out of the cage, but small enough to prevent most small mammals and larger birds such as crows, gulls, hawks, and owls from entering and eating the eggs. Exclosures don’t work in all circumstances but are very practical at busy town beaches such as ours. Bear in mind that over the course of four years, 15 eggs have been laid at Good Harbor Beach by one Piping Plover pair. All fifteen eggs survived and hatched because of the use of an exclosure.Mom sitting on the nest prior to the exclosure installation

AND WE HAVE TWO PIPING PLOVER EGGS

Two perfect and beautiful PiPl eggs at Good Harbor Beach ❤

Now the next giant hurdle is to get the much needed protective exclosure installed!

BEAUTIFUL GOLDEN FEATHERS OF THE NORTHERN FLICKER

BLUETS AND NORTHERN FLICKER – A FAVORITE BIRD AND WILDFLOWER PHOTOGRAPHED TOGETHER!

A chance moment with the elusive male Northern Flicker and a patch of Bluets.

I stopped to take a photo of the Bluets and the Flicker flew onto the scene. My lucky day!

Northern Flickers are a large species of woodpecker. The Northern Flicker found in the eastern half of the country has shafts of yellow on their flight feathers. I would have set my shutter speed for a fast action capture if there had been time but it was only half a minute that he stayed scrounging at the base of the Bluets.

Even though the flying photos are out of focus, you can see the beautiful yellow shafts as the bird takes flight.

Bluets are a lovely native wildflower native to the eastern portion of North America.  The Bluet’s tiny florets range in color from almost white to a dreamy azure blue. Also called Quaker Ladies, the little bunches “quake” in the seasonal breeze! The sweet petite blossoms attract Little Carpenter Bees, Green Metallic Bees, small butterflies, and the Meadow Fritillary Butterfly (Boloria bellona). Both nectar and pollen are the pollinator’s floral reward!

Both the male and female eastern Northern Flicker have the v-shaped red feather patterning. The female lacks the black whisker, visible in the upper photos.

 

WHY ARE THERE STILL NO ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES SIGNS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH?

It is the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. As of this morning, at 10am, there are still NO threatened and endangered species signs posted at Good Harbor Beach.

Despite the pandemic, every other city and town along the Massachusetts coastline that has threatened and endangered birds nesting on their beaches has SIGNS.

Friends, I hate to ask you, but if you could, Please share this post and please write to your Councilors (see address below). Thank you!

This is why we need signs and the reason could not be any clearer.

Woman leaving the dunes after going to the bathroom (not posting her going to the bathroom photo)

and cutting through through the nesting area.

As I was leaving the beach several nights ago and turned to have one last look at how beautiful was the light, the woman in the photos was cutting through the nesting area to use the dunes as a bathroom. You can’t blame the beachgoers for cutting through the nesting area because there is not a single sign at GHB explaining about the birds. 

The lack of signage is just plain cruel to the birds. And it is equally as cruel to our citizens because what if, God forbid, a beachgoer accidentally steps on an egg or stray ball injures a Piping Plover? How terrible will they feel, and how many tens of thousands of dollars will we be fined by the state and federal government if there is a take?

Why are signs so important and impactful? For the simple reason that they alert people to the presence of the birds. They are used at every beach along both the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, as well as at lakes regions.

Please don’t write to say the City is short of manpower because we have a very simple solution. Essex County Greenbelt has signs. They are willing to put them up immediately and only need the go-ahead from the City. 

Additionally, who will we call when the inevitable eggs are laid? Gloucester’s conservation agent applied for, but was denied, a permit, for her lack of experience.

We have been writing letters to the City, beginning this past January and prior to the pandemic outbreak, to try to understand the City’s overall plan for the Piping Plovers, but we have been completely stonewalled. We were assured months ago that “everything was under control.”

It is utterly ridiculous that we are being put in this position of endless letter writing to beg for signs, especially during the pandemic when we have families and work to take care of. 

This year we thought was going to be easy, with the new dog ordinance for the beach, Greenbelt’s trusted assistance, and a cadre of people who care deeply about the birds, along with their willingness to spend time monitoring tiny chicks at Gloucester’s most popular and populous of beachesAfter four years of working toward improving conditions for the nesting shorebirds at GHB, the PiPls are being thrown under the bus for what we can only surmise are personal and political reasons.

It is my understanding that Governor Baker made continuing to protect endangered species part of the original essential worker pandemic plan and that is why state wildlife officials have not been furloughed.

A Piping Plover update from the City administration is planned for the City Council meeting Tuesday at 7Pm.  It is a live Zoom meeting. I think a link will be provided and I will post that here and on Facebook.

If you have not already done so, and you have a spare moment, please write to our City Councilors. 

Please keep letters kind and friendly, or just simply copy paste the following:

Subject Line: Piping Plovers Need Our Help

Dear City Councilors,

Gloucester Plovers need our help. Please ask the Conservation Commission to install the threatened species signs at the symbolically cordoned off nesting areas and at the entrances at Good Harbor Beach.

Thank you for helping these birds raise their next generation.

Your Name

Link to all the City Councilors, but I believe that if you send one letter and also cc to Joanne Senos, a copy will be sent to all the City Councilors. Her address is: JSenos@gloucester-ma.gov

Our Good Harbor Beach mated PiPl pair courting – Papa fanning his tail feathers and bowing, all for Mama’s benefit. Photo taken yesterday, May 21, 2020.

Here is a timeline compiled based on film footage, photos, and notes. As you can see, because of the timely assistance provided by Greenbelt, at this time last year, our chicks more than half way to hatching. We don’t even have eggs yet this year!

2019 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach 

March 25  Piping Plover pair arrive GHB.

March 27  Symbolic fencing and signage installed by Greenbelt at areas #3 and #1

April 28  First egg laid (estimated date).

May 3  Greenbelt installs wire exclosure.

May 4  Adults begin brooding all four eggs.

May 31  Four chicks hatch.

2020 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach

March 22 Piping Plover pair arrive at GHB

March 27  11.5 foot deep narrow strip of symbolic roping is installed along the length of the entire beach. No one has responded from the conservation office re. Is this meant to protect the dunes? It is much, much narrower than the area delineated the previous four years by Greenbelt.  No signs installed at this time, as they had in previous years at the time of installing roping.

April 17  Symbolically roped off area widened by boardwalk #3, the area where the PiPls have nested and courted the previous four years. No signs installed at this time.

May 11  A second pair of PiPls is trying to become established at GHB.

May 13  Still no signs, continued dog disturbance, kite flying next to nesting area, human and dog footprints in roped off  #3 area.

May 21 Exclosure erected at Coffins Beach for nesting PiPls. Installed by Greenbelt.

May 22 Still no threatened or endangered species signs at Good Harbor Beach, continued dog disturbance, kite flying next to nesting area, human and dog footprints in roped off  #3 area.

 

GONE CRAB FISHIN’ FOR DINNER -SNOWY EGRET AT THE CREEK

Quietly slipping through the shallow creek water, the graceful Snowy Egret would stop every now and then to shake its leg. Stirring up the sandy flat in hopes of awakening a sleeping crab or fish, the elegant bird would then violently pierce the water with its dagger like beak, more often than not coming up empty billed.

Success!

Watching the brilliant yellow-footed Snowy Egret foraging at the creek for diner I was reminded of how Piping Plovers have a similar foraging technique, pattering their (much smaller) feet, also in hopes of disturbing unsuspecting prey.

Snowy Egrets are sometimes described as piscivorous (a diet that consist largely of fish), however they eat a wide variety aquatic foods such as jellyfish, crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic insects. Ospreys are a better example of a piscivorous bird species.

The bird in the photos above is in full breeding plumage. Their stunning aigrettes are the reason they were nearly brought to extinction by plume hunters, and one of the main reasons for the creation and passing of the century old Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

How to tell the difference between a Showy Egret and Great Egret: Snowy Egrets have yellow feet and black bills, while Great Egrets have yellow bills and black feet. As the name suggests, Great Egrets are the larger of the two. Great Egrets

3 EGGS!! UPDATE ON ANNIE AND SQUAM – CAPE ANN’S NESTING OSPREY PAIR – AND LINK TO ESSEX COUNTY GREENBELT’S ANNUAL MEETING LIVE STREAMING

Update May 11, 2020 – All good news. Annie has laid 3 eggs, completing her clutch yesterday. So that would suggesting the first egg might hatch around June 15. Squam has been busily catching mostly river herring these days, feeding himself and Annie a steady diet of fresh fish.

3 Eggs – Photo from Greenbelt’s Osprey cam

GO HERE TO SEE GREENBELT’S LIVE OSPREY CAM

Essex County Greenbelt’s 2020 annual meeting will be live streamed this year on Thursday evening at 7pm.

Here is the link: