Category Archives: Birds

NEW SHORT FILM – THE HAIRY WOODPECKER

The wonderful Hairy Woodpecker featured in this short film was seen on a sunny afternoon along the banks of Niles Pond. He spent a great amount of time alternating between excavating a fallen log, foraging for wood boring beetles, and climbing up and down trunks of trees. I’ve been back several times and can usually find him by his funny high pitched squeak that sounds much like a pup’s squeaky chew toy.

Snagging a grub

On that very same day the Hairy Woodpecker was pummeling away at the log, a sweet little Downy Woodpecker and beautiful Red-bellied Woodpecker were also in the neighborhood. And too, there is an elusive golden-winged Northern Flicker flitting about, but he has been a challenge to capture. Hopefully, at some point in the future, we can add him to the short film.

Related Post –

Update from Beaver Pond: A Wonderful World of Woodpeckers!

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

 

WHY NILES POND IS VITALLY IMPORTANT TO CAPE ANN’S ECOSYSTEM AND WHAT IS BEING DONE TO PROTECT THE CAUSEWAY

Repair work to the Niles Pond/Brace Cove berm was completed last week. Severe storms over the past several years had breached the area of the Pond adjacent to the Retreat House. Sand, rocks, popples, and even boulders have been pushed by the pounding surf into the Pond.

Despite the excellent repairs, this corner of Niles Pond continues to remain vulnerable. The causeway needs not only to be repaired, but to also be rebuilt to withstand future storms and rising sea level.

Why not just let nature take its course and let the sea pour in you may ask? Won’t Niles Pond eventually become a saltwater marsh? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

The answer is a resounding NO!

For readers not familiar, the very narrow strip of land that runs between freshwater Niles Pond and Brace Cove is interchangeably referred to as a berm or causeway. This narrowest bridge of land plays an outsized, yet invaluable, role in preventing the salty sea of the Atlantic from swallowing Niles Pond.

It is believed that long ago Niles Pond was a lagoon, which was sealed off by rising sand and rock. Over time, it became a freshwater pond, fed by springs and rainfall. The detail of the Mason map from 1831 clearly shows the division between the Pond and the Cove.

It can’t be overstated enough how uniquely invaluable is the ecosystem created by the causeway, this juncture where Niles Pond meets Brace Cove. Ponds are widely regarded as ecological “hotspots,” for the diversity of life they support. Nowhere is that more evident than at Niles Pond. The sheer number of species of wildlife supported by Niles Pond is simply breathtaking. To name but a few: Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles, Spring Peepers, American Bullfrogs, Leopard Frogs, Muskrats, Minks, Red Squirrels, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Screech Owls and Barred Owls, Cedar Waxwings and songbirds of every tune and color, Honeybees and native pollinators, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Coyotes, Red Fox, White-tailed Deer … the list goes on and on.

Common Buckeye drinking nectar from Seaside Goldenrod, Niles Pond causeway

The Niles Pond ecosystem not only supports myriad species of resident wildlife but also hundreds of species of migrating songbirds, waterbirds, raptors, and insects. Eastern Point is an important stopover and staging area for wildlife traveling the Atlantic flyway. Niles Pond provides essential freshwater while both the Pond and Brace Cove provide much needed sustenance. Berries, wildflower seeds, pond vegetation, and the zillions of invertebrates found at the Pond, in the seaweed, and at the shoreline support a wondrous array of travelers; a small sampling includes herons, Merlins, hawks, songbirds, Monarch butterflies, Bald Eagles, gulls and ducks and geese (rare and common), Snow Buntings, Plovers, Whimbrels, and many more.

Monarch Butterfly drinking nectar Smooth Asters Niles Pond

Juvenile Wood Stork

Why, even the wildly-rare-for-these-parts White Pelican and juvenile Wood Stork have stopped at Niles Pond to rest and to refuel!

To lose Niles Pond to some misguided notion that it needs to become a saltwater marsh would be tragic beyond measure. Our nation as a whole is losing its freshwater ponds at an alarming rate. Ponds are absolutely critical to the survival of local and migrating wildlife, especially large scale, healthy natural ponds that are located within the four US Flyway zones. Niles Pond has been a great pond for millennia. The accessibility of the fresh water ecosystem found at Niles Pond is part of the instinctual DNA of both resident and migrating wild creatures.

The Association of Eastern Point Residents has assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the causeway. In the future, the Association needs permission to bring riprap in to distribute at the weakest points of the causeway. Every time the topography of the causeway is redistributed to rebuild the corner where the greatest number of breaches are occurring, the vegetation from another part of the berm is disturbed. This is wholly counterproductive because it is in part preventing a natural succession of vegetation to permanently take hold.

Migrating yellow-rumped Warbler Niles Pond

Niles Pond is enjoyed by dog lovers, ice skaters, ice boat sailors, birders, painters, photographers, joggers, walkers, and more. We can all give thanks to the Association of Eastern Point Residents for the stellar job they are doing in maintaining the causeway. Their time and expense is a gift of the greatest kind to the entire community.

This narrowest of causeways plays the critical role in preventing a freshwater dedicated Massachusetts great pond from becoming a salty marsh or lagoon. Cherished greatly by residents and guests alike for the beautiful, peaceful walk it affords along the banks of the Pond, the preservation of Niles Pond benefits all of Cape Ann, her citizens and wildlife. 

With thanks to Karen Gorczyca, John McNiff, and Mike S. for sharing information about preserving the Niles Pond causeway.

American Bullfrog Niles Pond

Cattails Niles Pond

 

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS EATING POISON IVY

All around Cape Ann, from West Gloucester to East, from Cape Hedge to Good Harbor to Cox Reservation, I have been checking out the Poison Ivy patches and sure enough, there are Yellow-rumped Warblers relishing the white waxy fruits at every locale. Who knew it was a thing 🙂 And now I have a new favorite species to add to the long list of beloved wild creatures.

According to Cornell, Yellow-rumped Warblers are the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in Wax Myrtle and Bayberries. This ability to digest waxy fruit allows the Yellow-rumped Warbler to winter as far north as Newfoundland.

Yellow -rumped warblers are versatile foragers. They eat insects in the spring, summer, and when available. You may see them picking at insects on washed up seaweed. During migration and the winter months, their habit is to eat Poison Ivy fruits, grapes, Wax Myrtle, Bayberries, Virginia Creeper berries, dogwood fruits, and Juniper berries. Yellow-rumped Warblers also eat goldenrod seeds and beach grass seed, and if you are fortunate to have them at your feeder, provide Sunflowers seeds, raisins, peanut butter, and suet.

The Yellow-rumped Warblers have been dining on PI fruits for over a month. As autumn has unfolded, I’ve added new clips to the short film below. Filmed from mid-September to mid-October I see no signs of the feast abating as there is still plenty of fruit around. More photos to come when I have time to sort though.

See a story form March of this year, Yellow-rumped Warblers in the Snow.

For more about Poison Ivy, and the myriad species of wildlife this native vine supports, go here:

Leaves of Three, Let it Be

Please join the Town Green and the Save Salt Island Group for what promises to be a fantastic virtual webinar and workshop on the ecosystem of. Good Harbor Beach.

Event: The first of a three-part workshop/webinar series focusing on the Good Harbor Beach ecosystem: Protecting and Preserving the Good Harbor Beach Ecosystem for Current and Future Generations

When: Wednesday, October 26th from 6:30-8:30pm on Zoom (register here) (https://bit.ly/3RBEa3v)

What: An online workshop/webinar with several small group breakout sessions for participants to discuss the issues raised and reflect on the changes that have already happened

Speakers include:

  • Professor Charles Waldheim from the Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Jayne Knott, TownGreen board member and founder of HydroPredictions
  • Denton Crews from Friends of Good Harbor
  • Mary Ellen Lepionka, local historian

You will learn about:

  • The history of Good Harbor Beach
  • The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem and current climate threats
  • Incremental sea level rise, flooding, ecosystem adaptation, and vulnerable infrastructure
  • The Great Storm scenario based on research from Harvard Graduate School of Design

 The first workshop will be followed by a Good Harbor Beach field trip on October 27th to tour vulnerable areas identified in the workshop. The second and third workshop/webinars will address adaptation options and project planning for the Good Harbor Beach area. The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem workshop/webinar series is a pilot public education program that TownGreen will replicate to focus on climate impacts in Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport.

Jayne F. Knott, Ph.D.

JFK Environmental Services LLC

https://HydroPredictions.com

jfknott@hydropredictions.com

508-344-2831

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO!

What was that flash of brown and white that whizzed by? Too large to be a sparrow and hoping to learn what it was, I watched quietly as it stayed motionless in the tree branches, well hidden, except for its bright white breast. I think it was watching me and didn’t budge for a good fifteen minutes. I crept a little closer to try to get a better view. What was this pretty, with a lovely curved bill, soft Mourning Dove grey/brown wing feathers and white breast? Could it be a Yellow-billed Cuckoo bird? YES!!

I had only ever seen them in books and was thrilled to catch a glimpse, however brief. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are not necessarily rare I don’t think, but they have a reputation for being illusive, and this one surely was. I sure wish I could have gotten a clear glimpse of its tail feathers, which look polka dot when see from below.

Yellow-billed Cuckoos are long distant travelers. They breed in our area before heading to parts much further south, some as far as Argentina.

LEAVES OF THREE, LET IT BE

In thinking about our community’s efforts to Save Salt Island from deforestation and development, I wanted to share evidence that the vines and shrubs on the island are an important source of food for a host of small mammals and birds.

One of the most reviled of plants, Poison Ivy, is an excellent food plant for wildlife and will not cause the itchy uncomfortable rash if you do not touch the leaves, stems, fruits, and roots. Poison Ivy can either look like a shrub or a vine. Regardless of the shape, the leaves are easily identifiable in that they are always arranged in three; two leaves opposite one another, and between them the third leaf is borne on a stem growing at a right angle from the two shorter leaves.

Common Bonnet Fungi and Poison Ivy

Out on Eastern Point there are large patches of Poison Ivy that grow smack on the edge of very well traveled pathways. They have grown that way for decades, yet no one bothers the Poison Ivy and the Poison Ivy bothers no one. The spring blooming greenish yellow clusters of flowers are beloved by bees and myriad pollinators, while the vitamin rich white waxy berries are relished by resident and migrating songbirds alike.

In autumn, the plant’s glossy green leaves turn a brilliant red, which acts as a “red flag” to hungry songbirds. The long list of birds that dine on Poison Ivy fruits include Yellow-rumped Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Mockingbirds, Song Sparrows, Gray Catbirds, Bobwhites, and many, many more.

Poison Ivy Tips – If you come in contact, rinse the area with cold water, not soap, as soon after contact as possible. Ocean water works well when near to the beach. If you have Jewelweed growing handily nearby, smear the juice of the stem on the exposed skin. Never burn Poison Ivy. With burning,  urushiol (the poisonous oil in Poison Ivy) becomes volatilized in the smoke and you can get it in your lungs, which is very dangerous and can even lead to death.

Yellow-rumped Warbler and Poison Ivy

CLIMATE CHANGE ON THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH ECOSYSTEM UPCOMING PRESENTATION

Dear Friends of Good Harbor Beach and Save Salt Island,

Jayne Knot shares the following –

“Given your interest in Salt Island, we are inviting you to attend an upcoming workshop/webinar that will focus on climate impacts to the Good Harbor Beach ecosystem. We think you will find this workshop/webinar engaging, informative, and specific to an area of Gloucester that we all love and want to preserve. 

We have been involved in the planning of this event and Jayne will be one of the speakers. We’ve attached a flier and the press release for more information, and are happy to answer any questions you may have.

We hope to see you on October 26th for this important event.  Please share this invitation with your networks, friends, and family. Thank you.

 Kind regards,

Jayne and Andy”

Here is more information:

Event: The first of a three-part workshop/webinar series focusing on the Good Harbor Beach ecosystem: Protecting and Preserving the Good Harbor Beach Ecosystem for Current and Future Generations

When: Wednesday, October 26th from 6:30-8:30pm on Zoom (register here) (https://bit.ly/3RBEa3v)

What: An online workshop/webinar with several small group breakout sessions for participants to discuss the issues raised and reflect on the changes that have already happened

Speakers include:

  • Professor Charles Waldheim from the Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Jayne Knott, TownGreen board member and founder of HydroPredictions
  • Denton Crews from Friends of Good Harbor
  • Mary Ellen Lepionka, local historian

You will learn about:

  • The history of Good Harbor Beach
  • The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem and current climate threats
  • Incremental sea level rise, flooding, ecosystem adaptation, and vulnerable infrastructure
  • The Great Storm scenario based on research from Harvard Graduate School of Design

 The first workshop will be followed by a Good Harbor Beach field trip on October 27th to tour vulnerable areas identified in the workshop. The second and third workshop/webinars will address adaptation options and project planning for the Good Harbor Beach area. The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem workshop/webinar series is a pilot public education program that TownGreen will replicate to focus on climate impacts in Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport.

Jayne F. Knott, Ph.D.

JFK Environmental Services LLC

https://HydroPredictions.com

jfknott@hydropredictions.com

508-344-2831

PIPING PLOVER MIGRATING THROUGH CAPE ANN! #ploverjoyed

Very late  in the day Thursday, September 29th, while checking on Monarchs, and other travelers, a new friend pointed out a Piping Plover foraging in the seaweed at Brace Cove. I zipped down to the beach and sure enough, there was a very shy PiPl foraging alongside Semipalmated Plovers and sandpipers of several different species. He/she had a fairly steady gait so I am certain it wasn’t Hip Hop, although it was a little challenging to see in the super thick seaweed. And, too, this PiPl was extremely skittish of larger birds flying overhead, displaying an usual way of crouching its upper body and holding its tail end up high, a behavior not shared with Hip Hop.

I returned to Brace Cove early the following morning and the traveling PiPl had departed overnight.

I am posting this information especially for fans of Hip Hop to show that it is not unheard of for stragglers to have not yet left our region. It’s evolution and nature’s way for creatures to remain and depart over a period of time, to ensure survival of the species. If all the Monarchs and all the PiPlovers migrated at precisely the same time, one storm could wipe out the entire species.

Safe travels to all our little migrating friends. Hopefully they are finding shelter from the storm.

“BIRDS AND POETRY” WITH AUTHOR AND BROOKLINE BIRD CLUB DIRECTOR JOHN NELSON!

You are invited to join Brookline Bird Club director John Nelson at 7-9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 for a walk around Gloucester’s Eastern Point–the opening event of the Dry Salvages Festival 2022: A Celebration of T. S. Eliot.

We will look for birds around Eliot’s childhood patch, with commentary about Eliot’s bird poems.

The event is free and open to the public. Free parking at the Beauport lot at 75 Eastern Point Blvd. Participation limited. Registration by email is required: tseliotfestival@gmail.com.

Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”

T. S. Eliot Four Quartets

John Nelson is  the author of Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts Through Birds

Photos of Eliot on boat, view of harbor from Eliot house

Some wild creatures you may see on your walk –

PIPLS IN THE GLOUCESTER TIMES – BEST YEAR EVER!

Good morning PiPl Friends!

Please check out today’s Gloucester Times for a terrific article about our GHB PiPls, written by Ethan Forman. https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/best-year-ever-for-plovers-at-good-harbor-beach/article_cba646a6-32d4-11ed-ba55-1fc4ad06ff8b.html

Ethan, Paul Bilodeau (the Times photographer), and I met last week at GHB. PiPl Ambassador Susan was out looking for HipHop that morning, too, and she stopped by during the interview. Ethan mentioned years ago he had written articles about the Plovers on Plum Island. He asked lots of great questions about our GHB Plovers and he’s such an excellent writer, I felt very good about the interview. Carolyn Mostello, our Massachusetts state waterbird biologist, provided a very thoughtful quote for the article. I was hoping to show Ethan and Paul Hip Hop that day, but he was doing his invisible act. Everyday I am hopeful he has departed however, as of yesterday, he was still here.

Hip Hop eleven weeks old September 12

I couldn’t find Hip Hop this morning feeding with the Semipalmated Plovers and Killdeers at the Creek, or at the front of the beach. The wind was blowing in great gusts and he knows where all the best locations are to get out of the wind. Hoping for the possibility that he joined the many travelers during last night’s massive migration

Semipalms at the Creek this morning

Thank you to all our super Ambassadors. We could not have had our “Best Year Ever” without each and every one of you and your tremendous gifts of time and patience. 
Have a super day and enjoy this exquisite weather!
xxKim

‘Best year ever’ for plovers at Good Harbor Beach

Efforts to protect piping plovers nesting at the popular Good Harbor Beach this summer paid off: Between two pairs nesting, there were seven eggs. Of those, six chicks hatched, and five chicks fledged.

“It’s our best year ever,” said Kim Smith, who heads up the group Piping Plover Ambassadors at the beach.

And the success here of the piping plovers — a threatened species — this summer revolved around the storyline of two handicapped shorebirds, a mom who had lost her foot but still successfully hatched a clutch of four eggs, and her chick dubbed “Hip Hop”, who had a lame right foot and was slow to develop.

FIND THE COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/best-year-ever-for-plovers-at-good-harbor-beach/article_cba646a6-32d4-11ed-ba55-1fc4ad06ff8b.html

LA LUNA, THE CALICO BLUE HERON

If you have seen a congregation of white herons at Niles Pond, chances are they were not Snowy Egrets or Great White Egrets, but Little Blue Herons.

During the summer of 2022, we had an extraordinary wildlife event unfolding at Niles Pond. In an average year we only see a handful, if any, Little Blue Herons at Niles. Amazingly, on any given evening in August of this year, I counted at a minimum two dozen; one especially astonishing evening’s count totaled more than 65!

Little Blue Herons are an average-sized wading bird, smaller than Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets but larger than Little Green Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons.

Little Blues in their first hatch summer are often confused with Snowy Egrets because they are similar in size and color. A Little Blue Heron, despite its name, is mostly pure white its first hatch summer (the wings are tipped in slate gray).  Their bills are pale greyish blue at the base and black at the tip, with yellowy-green legs.By its third summer, Little Blue adults have attained the two-toned rich moody blue body plumage and violet head and neck feathers.

It’s the Little Blue’s second hatch year, in-between juvenile and adult, when it shows a lovely bi-color, calico pattern that is the most enchanting. The feather patterning is wonderfully varied as the bird is losing its white feathers and gaining its blue and violet feathers. The patterning is so interesting, on one of our many visits to check on the herons, Charlotte dubbed the Niles Pond calico, La Luna.

Little Blue Herons – first hatch summer

Little Blue Heron – second summer (Luna)

Little Blue Heron – adult

Little Blue Heron adult and first hatch summer juvenile

The Little Blue Herons have begun to disperse and I have not seen Luna in over a week. They will begin migrating soon. I am so inspired by the presence of Luna and her relations at Niles Pond I am creating a short film about New England pond ecology, starring Luna!

Food for thought – Because of the drought, the water level at Niles has been lower than usual. The lower water level however apparently did not effect the American Bull frog population and that is what the Little Blues have been feasting on all summer. By feasting, I literally mean feasting. In our region, Little Blue Herons are “frog specialists.” During the first light of day, I witnessed a Little Blue Heron catch four American Bullfrogs, either an adult, froglet, or tadpole. They hunt all day long, from sunrise until sunset.  If at a bare minimum, a typical LBH ate 20 frogs a day times 60 herons that is a minimum 1200 frogs eaten daily over the course of the summer.

American Bullfrog

Here in New England, we are at the northern edge of the Little Blue Heron’s breeding range. Perhaps with global climate change the range will expand more northward, although Little Blue Herons are a species in decline due to loss of wetland habitat.

Luna in early summerSnowy Egret (yellow feet) in the foreground and Great Egret (yellow bill) in the background

Compare white Little Blue Heron first hatch summer to the Snowy Egret, with bright yellow feet and black legs and bill to the Great White Egret with the reverse markings, a bright yellow bill with black feet and legs.

BIRDS AND POETRY

Please join John Nelson at 7-9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 for a walk around Gloucester’s Eastern Point–the opening event of the Dry Salvages Festival 2022: A Celebration of T. S. Eliot.

We will look for birds around Eliot’s childhood patch, with commentary about Eliot’s bird poems. The event is free and open to the public. Free parking at the Beauport lot at 75 Eastern Point Blvd. Registration by email is required: tseliotfestival@gmail.com.

For more information about the Dry Salvages Festival visit the T.S. Eliot website here

 

The view over Gloucester Harbor from the Eliot summer-house, built at Eastern Point in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Photo of Niles Pond on Eastern Point by Kim Smith.

PIPING PLOVER HIP HOP UPDATE!

Dear PiPl Friends,

Happy ten-week old birthday to the irrepressible Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Hip Hop! Monday marked Hip Hop’s 10 week, or 70 day, old birthday.

He spends his days alternating between resting well-camouflaged in depressions in the sand and robustly feeding, oftentimes off on his own, and occasionally with migrating shorebirds.

We don’t have experience with lone Plovers lingering this long into the summer. Despite his limping gait, he looks beautiful, healthy, and ready to migrate.

Massachusetts is at the fore of Piping Plover recovery. We have approximately 700 pairs nesting on Massachusetts beaches. It’s also great to hear about how well other states are doing. Maine has 140 nesting pairs and fledged a record number number of chicks, 252, to be precise (a record for Maine). Read more here, story shared by PiPl Ambassador Duncan Todd.

The water has been walk-in warm and perfect for swimming this past week. Enjoy these last days of August!

xxKim

ELEGANT RARITY AT PARKER RIVER – THE AMERICAN AVOCET!

Far, far outside its normal range, the elegant American Avocet has once again made Parker River National Wildlife Refuge a stop over point on its migratory route. Recent records indicate the American Avocet was photographed at Plum island in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, and now 2022. According to local photographer friends, the American Avocet has been here for over a month. When it first arrived, the Avocet still had much of its orangish neck and breast breeding plumage. Today, you can only very faintly see the orange hue in its breast feathers.

American Avocets have an usual technique for fishing. They capture aquatic invertebrates by swishing their long, up-curved bill from side to side, a signature behavior called scything. American Avocets eat a wide variety of invertebrates including midges, beetles, flies, fairy shrimp, amphipods, and small fish. They also eat the seeds from aquatic plants.

If you plan to see the Avocet, this exquisite beauty is easy to spot. Go to parking area #6, opposite Stage Island. If you don’t see a bunch of photographers to point the way, you can usually find it at the far curve, foraging at the Stage Island Pool, to the left side of the causeway to the Island.  You can’t miss its striking black and white plumage as it is foraging in a mixed bunch of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. The crowds of birders and photographers are not in the least phasing the shorebirds as there is quite a good distance from where you are permitted to observe and where the birds are feeding and resting.

American Avocet Range Map

 

Photo of American Avocet in breeding plumage by  Dan Pancamo – originally posted to Flickr as Quintana June 2nd 2010 courtesy wikicommons media

PPP (POSITIVELY PRO PLOVER!) AND PIPING PLOVER HIP HOP UPDATE

Tree Swallows currently coming in waves and massing at Good Harbor Beach

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Our little Hip Hop is still present at Good Harbor Beach. We’re hopeful that he will depart to begin his southward migration at some point soon but in the mean time, please know that he is foraging with great gusto, finding lots and lots of good food at the various habitats at GHB. In addition to his usual PiPl diet, the storm last week brought in great amounts of seaweed and that has become one of his favorite foraging locations. Piping Plovers eat a wide range of invertebrates, including insects, mini mollusks, and sea worms.

Piping Plover Hip Hop turned nine weeks old on Monday. Here he is at 60 days old.

Where do Plovers go in winter? is a question often asked of we Ambassadors. We know from banding programs at the University of Rhode Island that many Plovers from southern New England first head to the barrier beaches at Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. Here they will stay for about 45 days, foraging and storing up their lipid reserves for the next leg of the migration. Most will then continue on to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and remote islands in the Caribbean, where they will stay until early March.

Thank you to all in our community who have taken the time to write and to call in support of the Plovers, to our PiPl Friends and to new friends who have been prompted to write. We so very much appreciate your kind words and good wishes for the Plovers. We’d like everyone to understand how vulnerable is this tiny threatened bird however, not all people have the capacity nor vision to see the beauty and joy in conserving our wild creatures and wild spaces, for the protection of life on Earth as we know it, and for future generations to come.

We are keeping our messaging PPP – Positively Pro Plover! 

STARTING YOUNG – OUR LITTLE WILDLIFE ADVOCATE

So proud of Charlotte this morning! She rose early with me to catch her first ever sunrise and to watch the Plovers. Rising in a dramatic fiery red ball, the sun was all that it could be for a first-ever sunrise experience.

We found the chicks foraging along the water’s edge, while she stood back as still as a statue to give them lots of space. She kept eyes on all four and helped herd a seagull away from my canvas beach bag, but not in the direction towards the chicks. She added more seashells and discarded “sand-shapers” to her collections and was most enamored of all our early morning friends.

The four thirty-day-old chicks at area #3, plus Dad, were all present and accounted for this morning. Little Hip Hop is still undersized, but quite independent.

Hip Hop and sibling at twenty-nine-days old

So very unfortunately, we lost one of the two chicks at area #1 over the weekend. Tomorrow, the one remaining area #1 chick attains the wonderful four week old milestone. Both Moms departed over a week ago so we have five chicks plus two Dads. The five chicks occasionally all forage together, while the Dads stay ever vigilant in watching over their respective chicks (and duking it out between themselves over “foraging rights.”)

HAPPY FOUR WEEKS OLD TO OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER PLUMPLINGS! #ploverjoyed

Hello Piping Plover Friends,

Today we are celebrating a milestone for our Piping Plover chicks at area #3, their four-week-old milestone. In one more week, the Plover chicks will be fully fledged. The three normally developing chicks are taking brief lift offs several feet above ground. We hope tiny Hip Hop won’t take too long to catch up to his siblings before he too is showing signs of flying.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful friends and partners who have worked with us to reach this important milestone of FOUR four-week-old chicks. Thank you Mark Cole and the Gloucester DPW beach crew, thank you to ACO officers Teagan and Jamie, thank you to City Councilors Scott Memhard and Jeff Worthley, thank you to the Gloucester football practice kids and coaches, thank you to the GHB volleyball players, and thank you to all the local residents and beachgoers who are watching out for the Plovers when they are at GHB enjoying a beach day. 

Hip Hop and sibling – you can compare in the photos how much more well-developed are the wings of Hip Hop’s siblings. Hip Hop is making great strides though and we have high hopes.

On a more difficult note, our area #1 family has become more elusive and with recent talk about eating Plovers we are concerned that we may be missing a chick after this weekend’s truly unnecessary “stirring the pot.” People don’t understand this kind of cruel talk encourages people to torment and to kill Plovers. They don’t get that this is a thing and that there is a well-documented history of grown men and women killing Plovers and destroying their nests and habitat because they were threatened by the presence of a tiny bird. Many of us hope this way of relating to wildlife died out in the previous century. I believe the great majority has evolved in how we think about protecting wild creatures, particularly in the case of safe guarding threatened, endangered, highly vulnerable and the smallest amongst us.

As has stated been countless times, the mission of the Piping Plover Ambassador program is to share the shore, to keep the beaches open for people and for shorebirds.

If you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador next year, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Our ambassadors are a wonderful group of kind hearted, funny, sweet, and dedicated people and we have become friends through our stewardship. We have tremendous support from most in the community however, a small handful have labeled us elites and silly bird watchers (not that there is anything wrong with bird watching!). Nothing could be further from the truth. We are an assemblage of hardworking professionals, artists, writers, poets, designers, to name but a few of our careers, who came together to take time out of our professional lives to care for a tiny endangered species that began calling Cape Ann home seven years ago. You don’t need prior “bird watching ” skills to join our Piping Plover Ambassador program and we would love to have you.

Four-week-old Plover plumplings

NEW SHORT VIDEO – OSPREY FISHING!

The Osprey are finding the shallow water rich with fish. The fish hawk seen here had no luck the first try. After circling around and giving a signature call, he/she quickly made a second dive and had himself an excellent catch. The large fish pulled him back down toward the water for a few moments, but then he righted himself. I thought the Osprey was heading in the opposite direction of where I was standing, but then he flew almost directly over me. It was a thrill to see an Osprey so close up with a fish in its talons . Toward the end, he looks like he is surfing with the fish.

Osprey eat almost exclusively fish, yet despite that fact, every time an Osprey flies over our local beaches, all the shorebirds run for cover.  According to Cornell, captured fish measure on average form 6 to 13 inches long and weigh one-third to two-thirds of a pound, although the largest fish caught on record was 2.5 pounds.

PIPING PLOVER TERRITORY DISPUTES

Good morning PiPl Friends!

Thank you Jonathan for the addition of new signs in all these prominent locations, so very much appreciated! And thank you Sally for last night’s lovely evening story, and to all our ambassadors for your thoughtful updates and wonderful information provided throughout the day.

Regarding drones, I was reminded by daily early morning beach walker John Burlingham, a former game warden, and the person who saved the day the other morning with the hostile drone family, that our own sign in the kiosk  at the entrance to the footbridge states clearly that drones are not allowed near the Plovers. It gives the distance and I will check on that tomorrow because I don’t recall precisely what it said, but if you have a problem with a drone operator, please feel free to point out the sign in the kiosk.

Regarding the PiPl smackdowns we have all been witnessing –

When Piping Plovers arrive in early spring they begin almost immediately to establish a nesting territory. The males fly overhead piping loud territorial calls and chase and/or attack intruders including songbirds, Crows, gulls, and even members of their own species. The attacks on each other are brutal and can end in injury, or even worse, death.

Typically, the battles subside for a time while the mated pairs are brooding eggs and when the chicks are very young. The exception to that is when an unattached male, or disrupter, is circulating about the beach.

Later in the season, as the chicks are gaining independence and roam more freely, the youngsters will eventually cross into “enemy territory.” The males resume fighting to both protect their chicks and their turf. We are seeing these little dramas play out at Good Harbor Beach. One reason why I think the older pair at #3, our original pair, are so successful is because Super Mom will also often join in the battle (even with her foot loss), putting herself between the attacker and her chicks, and they will both go after the intruder, whether another Plover or a seagull. In the video, you can see Mom has positioned herself on the left, while Super Dad circles the other male, biting him during the scuffles, then leaping over and then chasing him out over the water. This was yesterday’s battle and today finds all six chicks and all four adults present and accounted for, with no visible injuries.

Happy three-week-old birthday to our area #3 chicks. Truly a milestone for the chicks and for the Good Harbor Beach community of Piping Plover friends and advocates. On Thursday, the twins at Salt Island will also be three weeks old. Imagine! I am trying not to get too excited because last year a gull swooped in and flew off with a 24 day old chick. The following day, we lost a 25 day old chick for the same reason. We’ll just keep hoping and working toward fledging all these six beautiful little babies 🙂 And finally, today for the first time, I saw Hip Hop stretch his wing buds! He is still not putting much weight on his right foot. I don’t think it was a problem at birth because in looking at all the early footage, no chicks had an obvious foot deformity.

Hip Hop, 20 days old, with right foot injury

Have a super July summer day and thank you for all you are doing to help the GHB PiPls!

xxKim

DEER DID NOT GET THE 411 TO STAY OUT OF THE PLOVER AREA :)

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

All four chicks and Mom and Dad peacefully foraging at #3.

The footbridge end of the beach is far more active so I did not get down to #1, but Mom and Dad and two chicks were there last evening. I observed as Duncan H expertly escorted the four down the length of the very busy beach. Susan is walking that way when she leaves her shift at 8 today so hopefully, a happy report from #1 will be forthcoming. I am headed back down at 9:30 to cover Marty’s shift so will have a look then if they have not been spotted.

Jonathan joined me on my shift this morning. Thank you Jonathan! He met several of the morning PiPl well wishers including Pat and Delores, long-time Pover fans. Jan Bell was there this morning, too. It’s lovely to have these wonderful members of the community also looking out for the PiPls!

Attached is the latest holiday weekend schedule. Many, many thanks to Jill for taking the 1 to 2pm slot and for also volunteering to check in during the evening on the fireworks situation.

The deer did not get the 411 to stay out of the roped off area!

PIPING PLOVER MILESTONES – HAPPY ONE-WEEK OLD BIRTHDAY AND HAPPY TEN-DAY-OLD BIRTHDAY!

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Thursday marked the ten-day-old milestone of our GHB #3 Family of four chicks and the one-week-old milestone of our twins from the Salt Island Family. They could not have attained these important dates in a chick’s life without the help of the entire PiPl community and well-wishers. On the one hand I expect any day one will disappear but on the other, I am grateful for each day with these little marshmallows. To have six chicks at GHB is simply astounding!

A huge shout out to our amazing, dedicated, kind-hearted Piping Plover Ambassadors; the City of Gloucester; Mark Cole, Joe Lucido, and the DPW crew; Essex Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer; City Councilors Jeff Worthley and Scott Memhard; Coach Lafferty, Athletic Director Byran Lafata, Head Football Coach O’Connor, and the GHS football team. Thank you!

GHB Salt Island one-week-old Plover Chick

GHB Area #3 ten-day-old Piping Plover Chick 

 

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT! Please give the Piping Plovers lots of space

The main reason why we have become increasingly reluctant to publicly share information about the Piping Plover families nesting at Good Harbor Beach is because of photographers. We want to help educate the community and share their beautiful life story unfolding but on the other hand, sharing information and images entices folks who are not as conscientious as you or I would hope. I think most of our local photographers, filmmakers, and well-wishers are very sensitive to giving wildlife their space but out-of- towners, not so much.

The one morning I wasn’t able to stay for my full shift at GHB, a photographer parked herself for several hours smack dab in the midst of the primary Plover area where they traverse back and forth. When the next Ambassador came on duty there was a great deal of confusion  locating chicks with their respective parents and I can’t help but wonder if having a stranger stationed for several hours precisely where they are accustomed to foraging displaced the chicks.

One need not bring a blanket and sit right on top of the Plovers, especially when one has a ginormous telephoto lens. Please stop by, take a few photos from a comfortable distance, and then please, move on. Folks don’t realize too that sitting on top of the baby birds like this also attracts Crows and Gulls, especially in the early and later part of the day when there are few other humans around for the C and Gs to swipe food from. I am quite sure the photographer knew that she was not following good wildlife observing guidelines because the minute she saw me coming as I returned to the beach, she packed up her blanket and gear.

Next year we are going to request the DPW pull the roping out further into the beach. The symbolically roped off area does not need to be quite as wide as it is, but for the general safety and well-being of the PiPls, it needs to be deeper. However, in the meantime, especially early and late in the day when the Plovers are mostly feeding, please give the baby birds the space they need to forage. These few weeks they are at Good Harbor Beach are the most critical days of their little lives. They need lots and lots of space to continuously forage to  fatten up for the long journey south. Thank you!

A SIX PIPL CHICK MORNING!

Good Morning!

All feeding with great gusto except when a hungry family of Starlings appeared on the scene. Mom and Dad both went after the three with much buzzing and brandishing of wings.

Super Mom, with only one foot, giving the Starlings the business!

We are so thankful to Councilor Jeff Worthley, Mark Cole, Coach Lafferty, and athletic director Byran Lafata for their response in moving the sports teams back to the original footbridge location, where they have been practicing for 36 years. Additionally, Coach Lafferty is having the kids run in groups of three, not thirty across, which will help give chicks the opportunity to scamper away if they get caught in the midst. This was the Coach’s idea!

Several days ago, I met the gentleman who owns the house at Cape Hedge where the Plover family had the nest. He was overjoyed to see our pLover chicks and is super bummed about the CHB family. He is dismayed that the no dogs signs still have not been posted at his end of the beach. We are going to have to provide more assistance to our Rockport friends in helping them get organized for next year.

Thank you Everyone for all your great work! Jennie, I am going to post about your Gloucester Writer’s Center event in a separate post. I am hoping to attend and looking forward to listening to your Plover poems, but if not, congratulations and best wishes for a wonderful event <3

Have a beautiful day,
xxKim

SIX PIPING PLOVER CHICKS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH! #ploverjoyed

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

We have wonderful news to share. Four chicks have hatched at Good Harbor Beach at the area we call #3! Today they are one week old, a milestone in a PiPl chick’s life. All four are doing beautifully on this their one week old anniversary. At the north end of the beach, the Salt Island side, we have a pair of four day old chicks, also thriving. This pair came from a re-nest of four eggs. We know three eggs hatched but the third chick, the one that hatched late, did not make it.

I don’t think we have ever had six chicks at GHB and it shows that when a community works together, amazing, beautiful things can happen. The adage,’it takes a village’ rings true when raising Piping Plovers to fledge. We hope with all our hearts all six chicks will survive to adulthood but also recognize that isn’t always the case.

We could not have had this year’s early success without the help of Gloucester’s DPW crew, Animal Control Officers Jamie Eastman and Teagan Dolan, City government especially Councilors Jeff Worthley and Scott Memhard, and the Gloucester Police Department.

We have simply the best Piping Plover Ambassador team imaginable. They are all extraordinarily kind, creative, and helpful individuals devoted to the well being of the tiniest members of our community. With heartfelt thanks and gratitude to our devoted daily monitors Deb Brown, Jennie Meyer, Sally and Jonathan Golding, Susan Pollack, Paula and Alexa Niziak, Jill Ortiz, Sharen Hansen, Marty Coleman, and Mary Keys. Thank you to our outstanding crew of substitutes including Barbara Boudreau, Ann Cortissoz, Duncan Holloman, Peter Van Demark, Linda Bouchard, Karen Thompson, Duncan Todd, and Sue Winslow.

Please, if you go to GHB to see the Plover chicks give them lots and lots of space.  When the parents are concerned you are too close, they will pipe loudly at you to warn the chicks are underfoot. I emphasize underfoot because they are scurrying around all over the beach.

What can you do to help the Piping Plovers? Here are five simple things we can all do to protect the Plovers.

1) Give them them space, lots and lots of space, to forage and to rest. 

2) Do not linger near the Piping Plovers or their nests. Activity around the Plovers  attracts gulls and crows.

3) Do not feed gulls and crows. Gulls eat chicks in all stages of development and crows eat eggs.

4) Don’t leave behind or bury trash or food on the beach. All garbage attracts predators such as crows, seagulls, foxes, and coyotes, and all four of these creatures eat plover eggs and chicks.

5) Respect the fenced off areas that are created to protect the Plovers.

Thank you!

 

BEE PART OF POLLINATOR WEEK!

HAPPY POLLINATOR WEEK!

We can all lend a hand helping pollinators. 

The three best practices –

1) Plant a habitat garden for bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, and songbirds.

2) Keep your home and garden free from pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides.

3) Support local farmers and beekeepers by purchasing locally produced food.

Please join me tonight at the Salem Regional Visitor Center for a free screening of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly


A wonderfully early-in-the-season for our region batch of Monarch caterpillars feeding on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), June 11.

TRULY AMAZING WANDERING WOOD STORK – IN NOVA SCOTIA!

Hello Friends,

You may recall the young Wood Stork we had wandering our shores last November. See story here –  Wandering Wood Stork in Massachusetts (Very Rare)

Amazingly, a Wood Stork has been calling New Harbor, Nova Scotia, home for the past week or so. I think quite possibly it could be our Wood Stork. Many thanks to Rowland Spear, Angela MacDonald, and Susan Holmes from Nova Scotia, who generously shared their photos. In the images, you can see the young Wood Stork’s face transitioning from youth to adult and becoming darker and balder, timing-wise, following in what may very well be the progression of Cape Ann’s Wood Stork.

Wood Stork New Harbour, Nova Scotia, June 16, 2022 Angela MacDonald Photo 

Wood Stork New Harbour, Nova Scotia , June 16, 2022 Rowland Spear Photo 

Wood Stork New Harbour, Nova Scotia , June 16, 2022 Susan Holmes Photo 

Wood Stork Cape Ann, Massachusetts, November, 2021