Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee is meeting tonight at 6:30 to vote on whether or not to change the Good Harbor Beach dog rules. The meeting will be held at City Hall, 3rd floor. At present, dogs are allowed at GHB through April 30th. Our hope is that the new ordinance would shorten the time, to end on March 31st. Nesting Piping Plovers, as well as the many species of shorebirds migrating through (and some also nesting at) Good Harbor Beach would benefit tremendously from this change to the ordinance. Thank you!
To better understand how to help Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers survive nesting at our most well loved and highly trafficked beach I have been following a little Plover family at Revere Beach.
Like Gloucester, Revere is a city north of Boston. Only ten square miles, with six miles of land, four miles of water, and a population of 52,000 people, Revere is a much more densely populated city than Gloucester. Gloucester’s year round population is 28,000, covering an area of 41 square miles, with 26 miles of land and 15 miles of water.
Revere Beach is the first public beach established in America (1895). Misperceptions about a needle and trash littered shoreline are deeply held but in reality, Revere Beach is a beautiful beach, beautifully maintained.
Each year Revere Beach hosts the International Sand Sculpting Festival, with amazing sculpting competitions, amusements, food, and fireworks. This year’s festival will be held on the weekend of July 20-July 22nd (photo courtesy wiki commons media).
Piping Plovers began arriving at Revere Beach at the same time the GHB PiPl arrived, in late-March and very early April. There are at least half a dozen nesting areas cordoned off for Piping Plovers. Revere has had excellent success with fledging Piping Plover chicks because the PiPl are allowed to establish nests early in the season, without disturbance. From decades of field work, it is known that the earlier the chicks hatch, the greater their chance of survival.
I stopped by to check on the Revere Beach PiPl family on a recent Sunday afternoon; it’s not that out of the way to make it part of my regular routine coming home from Cambridge and Boston jobs. And then stopped at Good Harbor Beach. The difference was astounding. There wasn’t any trash or dog poop on Revere Beach, and there wasn’t a dog anywhere along the five mile stretch of beach. There were however six dogs off leash at Good Harbor Beach within the twenty minutes that I was there to say hello to PiPl monitor Heather and to check on our PiPl parking lot family.
Perhaps you might not think a fair comparison; Revere Beach is much longer than GHB, and it is under the management of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation but I did not see a single DCR employee or officer policing Revere Beach that dog-and-trash-free Sunday afternoon.
Over the past several decades, communities throughout Massachusetts have been learning how to live with Piping Plovers. I am hopeful that the more we learn about the issues confronting the Piping Plovers, the Gloucester community will come together to take the steps to insure their safety and successful nesting.
The triangular-shaped signs that are posted at the PiPl nesting areas are on the small side, only about 8 inches.
At Revere Beach dogs are not allowed on the beach beginning April 1st. The rules are clearly posted at each and every entry to the beach. The signs and poles aren’t fancy and I imagine would be affordable and easy to obtain.
Some folks are under the false impression that the reason our GHB PiPl are nesting in the parking lot is because when they arrived it was cold and the parking lot hard pack is warm. Factually speaking, Piping Plovers arrived at beaches all along the Massachusetts coastline in mid-March and early April. As far as we know, the Good Harbor Beach PiPl are the Only Piping Plovers nesting in a parking lot.
People, and not just young people, were doing donuts in the parking lot on Sunday, right next to the PiPl cordoned off nesting area. When the PiPl monitor Heather asked if the donut-makers were aware of the PiPl, they said, “Yes, but we weren’t going to hit them.”
One pair of Plovers has already been forced into the parking lot by dog owners not properly managing their dogs. There is at least one more pair of PiPl, and The Bachelor, making use of the roped off nesting areas. It would be a heartbreaker to see a second pair forced off the beach and move their nest into the parking lot, too.
Please call 911 if you see anyone harassing or harming the Piping Plovers, or vandalizing the nesting areas on the beach or in the parking lot. Thank you so very much.
Earlier this week while checking on the PiPl, a small group of shorebirds caught my eye. They were foraging at the water’s edge. Although the fog was as thick as split pea soup and visibility not great, something seemed off with the birds–they looked like Piping Plovers–but seemed a tiny bit bigger, and the silhouette of their bills was larger and chunkier than that of our PiPl. When they scurried along, coming closer, I could see that their bills were solid black, too, and their legs and feet were a fleshy pink, not the bright PiPl orange.
The three foraged nearly identically to the way Piping Plovers forage, pecking and darting at the water’s edge, enough so that when Papa Plover caught sight, he chased them further down the beach and out of his territory.
In the above two photos, compare the orange legs and feet of the PiPl, versus the Wilson’s fleshy pink legs and feet. The PiPl bill is black with differing degrees of orange; the Wilson’s bill is pure black and thicker.
The mystery plovers were fairly far down the beach and I only got few good photos, but did take some footage of Papa chasing the odd plovers with the pale pink legs.
Later at home I was able to identify the shorebirds and amazingly, they are Wilson’s Plovers!! I write amazingly because they are a southern species of plover, rarely seen as far north as New Jersey. I mentioned to Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer about the Wilson’s Plovers. I don’t think he believed me at first, but after taking a walk on the beach, he agreed, yes, they were Wilson’s Plovers!
Wilson’s Plovers live along beaches of the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They are named after the ornithologist Alexander Wilson who discovered them on Cape May in 1813. The species is (and was at that time, too) very rare for New Jersey, let alone northern Massachusetts!
Wilson’s Plovers are listed as threatened or endangered in some states. As with Piping Plovers, disturbances to nesting areas and loss of habitat are the primary threats to this plover species.
I only spotted the Wilson’s Plovers early in the day. The fog engulfed the shoreline even more, making additional sightings nearly impossible. The following morning I stopped by GHB to check on the PiPl, and did not find the Wilson’s. Ornithologists call these visitors in places far outside the bird’s range “vagrants,” but I prefer to think of them as guests. Please write and let us know if you see a Wilson’s Plover, and please take a snapshot if possible. Thank you.
As you may recall, the rescue cygnet was deposited at Niles Pond about ten months ago. Local residents Lyn Fonzo and Skip Hadden had been watching out for him and feeding him regularly, when he became frozen in the ice last fall. Lyn and Dan Harris rescued the Young Swan, and Lyn cared for him all winter long, feeding him and providing fresh bedding and water daily in a custom-made swan sanctuary.
Several weeks ago the Young Swan was released back to Niles Pond. Lyn has not yet seen him fly, not because of injury, but we think he simply does not know that he is a swan. Many species of birds imprint on the first thing they see upon hatching and when this little guy was found he was without parents.
Mr. Swan gave the Young Swan a tremendous thrashing today, as witnessed by several people, pounding his head against the ground and causing him to bleed. We can’t hold this behavior against Mr. Swan, he is just doing what swans do naturally, and that is to defend their territory, especially from other males.
Lyn volunteered to take the Swan back to her swan sanctuary while a new home is identified. Very unfortunately, it was determined that the Young Swan be placed in the OCEAN. The Young Swan has never swam in, or for that matter even seen, the ocean, and he cannot fly well. The excuse was that Mass Wildlife rules state that if an animal is not visibly injured it has to be returned to the wild. However, our understanding is that Mass Wildlife guidelines do not pertain to non-native species and to pets. The Swan’s caretakers were begging to keep the swan safe and not dump him on the beach, repeating that the swan would be cared for, yet, despite their pleas, he was taken to Niles Beach and released there.
He is currently swimming around and around in circles off of Niles Beach, in the harbor. We hope at some point tomorrow he will come to shore, where he can be recaptured and placed in a safe environment.
Please write and let us know if you know of a swan rehabilitator or potential long term swan caretaker.