Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

WITH THANKS AND DEEP APPRECIATION FOR OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS

Jonathan, Sally, Jennie, Heidi, Barbara, Sue, Deb, Jane, Duncan, and Bette Jean

Last night we had our end of the season Piping Plover Ambassadors get together. It’s so challenging with the pandemic because I just wanted so much to hug everyone and thank them for the fantastic job they did. Thanks to their enthusiasm, dedication, interest, and kindness, we were able to fledge our little Marshmallow. It’s not the number of birds that fledge that matters, but that they are in good health when they depart and our Marshmallow was strong and well fortified after a season of healthy, and largely uninterrupted, foraging at Good Harbor Beach.

A heartfelt thank you to all who helped make 2020 a tremendously joyous Piping Plover season!

Deb Brown made the funniest and most charming Marshmallow cupcakes (and they were delicious, too)! Don’t you think it should be a tradition?

Charlotte loving her marshmallow cupcake! 

 

The following is the text of the program that I gave at this year’s Coastal Waterbird meeting –

Program for Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators Meeting

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors

Thank you to Carolyn Mostello for the invitation to talk about our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors Program.

It is an honor and a joy to be included in the annual cooperators meeting.

Thanks so much to Carolyn for also providing advice and guidance throughout the course of the 2020 Piping Plover season. Early on, she shared a phrase she uses, Educate, Not Enforce and I found that sharing that thought with our Ambassadors really conveyed how we wanted to treat our community.

Good Harbor Beach is Gloucester’s most highly populated stretch of shoreline. Less than two miles long, during the summer months the beach is packed with beach goers from morning until after sunset. And because of the pandemic, Good Harbor has become even more popular.

We had a small but truly stellar group of people this year: Deb Brown, Jane Marie, Bette Jean, Jennie, Jonathan, Sally, Shelby, Barbara, Heidi, Duncan, and myselfBetween the bunch of us we were able to provide coverage from 5:30 am to 8:30pm, from sunrise until sunset. I asked each person to commit to an hour a day simply because in the past there was too much confusion with scheduling, where some people could volunteer for an hour one day a week, or only on Tuesdays, etc. An hour a day, seven days a week, for a month is a tremendous volunteer commitment but no one seemed daunted, people volunteered for even longer time frames, and I think everyone’s time with the PiPls became something that they looked forward to very much.

After everybody’s shift, we shared our notes in the group’s email chain and to a person, it was always positive and informative. 

We have been working in partnership with Essex County Greenbelt Association’s director of land stewardship, Dave Rimmer, who over the course of the past five years has provided help and guidance with everything Piping Plover and has given freely and generously of his time. Our Ward One City Councilor, Scott Memhard, has been super helpful in navigating the City’s role in Piping Plover management and we have also been working with the City of Gloucester’s Department of Public Works. Many of the DPW crew have taken a genuine interest in the birds, as has our Mayor Sefatia.  

 Our number one goal from early on has been to keep Good Harbor Beach open while also protecting the Plovers. 

The most important thing has been to build a solid relationship with the community about why it is so important to protect threatened and endangered species. For the first four years that the Piping Plovers had been at Good Harbor Beach, I thought that writing stories, photographing, and filmmaking; sharing how beautiful, tiny, resilient, funny, spunky, and just plain adorable Piping Plovers are, people would fall in love and just naturally do the right thing. The thing is, 99 percent of people do fall in love when introduced and do want to help protect the Plovers, but there is always that 1 percent that simply does not care.

I’ve learned through experience that the very best way to handle difficult situations is to not engage, and most pointedly, to not mention enforcement. Especially during this age of coronavirus when we know people may be struggling and be very much on edge, the last thing we want to do is provoke a confrontation. We changed the name from Piping Plover Monitors, to Piping Plover Ambassadors, which has a much friendlier ring.  This year we had a mostly new crew of volunteers and at the onset of this year’s first Piping Plover meeting we made it very clear that we were not to approach anyone about their behavior. We were there to speak positively about the birds, share information, and answer any and all questions.  

For example, in the case where someone was walking directly toward a tiny newborn hatchling, we would say, “Hello, and have you had a chance to see our Piping Plover baby birds? Here, let me show you.” Several of the volunteers even shared their binoculars. That’s just one example, but by keeping a positive tone, people were just so thrilled to catch a glimpse and to learn about the birds on the beach.

 One change that has really made a monumental difference is that we worked really hard to successfully change the City’s dog ordinance, which is now written to disallow all dogs on the beach, at all times of the day, beginning April 1st, rather than May 1st. There are still scofflaws, but this one change has greatly reduced tensions.

Next year I am planning to do more community outreach prior to the PiPls arrival. I have developed a program, which I was hoping to give freely to local audiences at places such as our Sawyer Free Library and Cape Ann Museum in the spring but because of the virus, that will have to wait until next year. I think presenting programs about the birds will also be a way to help recruit ambassadors. 

One of our young Piping Plover fans who followed the bird’s stories daily, five-year-old Zoe, nicknamed our one surviving PiPl Marshmallow. Next year I think it would be great to have a Piping Plover naming contest as well as a Piping Plover art poster sign project for young people. 

We also think it would be very helpful to have brochures, with fun photos and a brief outline of the life story of the Plovers to give to interested beachgoers. My one concern with that is generating litter. We made our own 24 x 36-inch signs on coroplast boards that could be placed easily in the sand and moved about, depending on where the chicks were foraging that day. These signs were a little bit funny and helped bring attention to the birds in a super friendly manner.

I am so grateful for the advice given by Carolyn at the onset of the season and for our Ambassadors. This kind, thoughtful group of people who came together in the worst of times, knowing that despite all the problems in the world and the personal toll the pandemic has taken on us all, taking care of threatened and endangered species remained a priority, and in a summer such as 2020, perhaps the birds needed even more special care.

NEW SHORT FILM – MARVELOUS MARSHMALLOW MONTAGE!

On Tuesday I attended the annual Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting. This was my third year attending the conference. I love every minute and find them wonderfully educational. During a normal year, they take place on Cape Cod; this year was virtual. I took tons of screen shots of interesting data and and am writing an article about  the meeting and what we learned is taking place at regions all around Massachusetts, as well as at other New England States. More to come 🙂

I was asked to make two presentations, one to share a film about Marshmallow and the second presentation, to talk about our Ambassador program. I’ll share the text of the second program tomorrow, and in the meantime, here is a short video, the finished version, of our marvelous Marshmallow Montage

Thank you to Peter Van Demark for adding marvelous to Marshmallow’s name 🙂

For more about Piping Plovers, please see the Piping Plover Film Project page on my website. The page is progress but here you will find short films, information about my Atlantic Coast Piping Plover lecture program, photos, and links to hundreds of articles and posts that I have written from 2016 to the present (articles from 2019 have not yet been organized into the list).

 

 

BEAUTIFUL MORNING AT THE CREEK AND THE TREE SWALLOWS ARE MASSING! with video

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

This morning at 8:30 I stopped by the Creek to see if Marshmallow had returned. I’ve been checking every morning and haven’t seen him since the morning the roped off area was dismantled, but Deb thinks she saw him last evening. I ran into Todd and Sarah and they too were looking. The PiPl that was there at the Creek this morning I think is too slender to be a forty-one day old chick. This bird doesn’t have the round plump silhouette that Marshmallow had at 38 days. I am not sure if his body would change overnight like that. We’ll keep checking and see what we see.

It’s not unusual for Piping Plovers to be seen at GHB singularly or in small groups of two, threes, and fours as the Creek especially is a wonderful stop over point for migrating shorebirds. The most Piping Plovers I have ever seen in a group at a Gloucester Beach was a flock of nine at Coffins Beach and they were together for several days before all departed overnight.

Chubby Marshmallow at 38 days, left, mystery slender PiPl, right

We also saw a Least Tern feeding its fledgling!!, a Little Blue Heron chasing a Snowy Egret, and Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers foraging together.

Least Tern fledgling

Little Blue chasing a Snowy through the marsh this morning

The beautiful event that takes place every year at this time along the shoreline and at our local dunes are the Tree Swallow aerialists massing, with each day in progressively greater numbers. They stay as long as there are insects aplenty, until one morning, you will find they have vanished, migrating to the next insect-rich location.

Also, I just added a film to the post, a short that I made several years ago titled Dance of the Tree Swallows. It goes on way too long, and I would edit it differently today, but you may enjoy the first half at least. It was mostly filmed at Greenbelt’s Wingaersheek Uplands and Coffins Beach in West Gloucester. Here is the link https://vimeo.com/201781967 – and the password is treeswallows.

Regarding our end of the season meeting, I think the best day for most everyone is Thursday. We don’t want to do it on a weekend night, too many people and not safe with corona, and too hot or rain predicted on other nights. Barbara, i am wondering if we made it at 5:00, would that work for your shower schedule?

Have a Super Sunday!

xxKim

Tree Swallow range map

FAREWELL MARSHMALLOW, SAFE TRAVELS LITTLE CHICK!

 

Marshmallow, 38 days old

Good morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

It appears as though Marshmallow has begun his southward migration. We know he is well fortified from his days at Good Harbor Beach, with a little belly full of sea worms and other PiPl yummies. His Dad has taught him extremely well, from important survival skills on how to avoid danger to bathing and frequent preening, giving his newly formed flight feathers extra conditioning.

His tiny wings will beat millions of times to reach the first important staging area. For Piping Plovers in our region, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is where they will most likely head. Last August at the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, I met Professor Paton. He is involved with a program that bands and nanotags birds at Southern New England beaches, mostly Rhode Island beaches. He provided some terrific maps based on the data collected from the banding program.

After departing Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the majority of the program’s tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

Although our Good Harbor Beach Piping plovers are not tagged, there is no reason to believe that they too are not traveling this route.

Why are the Outer Banks such an important staging area? Perhaps because the great flats are filled with nutrient rich protein, which the adult birds need to regrow their flight feathers. Almost constantly in motion and exposed to strong sunlight during the spring migration and summer nesting season, the adult’s flight feathers are nearly completely worn down. They have become much paler in color and frayed. Shorebirds need these staging areas to molt the old feathers and grow new flight feathers. Possibly the need to be in a safe environment to begin molting explains why our Mom, and then Dad, departed prior to Marshmallow.

I know it’s disappointing that we were not given any kind of warning about dismantling the nesting area. It’s been such a great season so please don’t dwell on it. We are working to try to remedy the lack of communication between the Ambassadors and the City, with the goal of having the problem solved by next year’s season.

It’s time to start planning our end of the season get together. Would an evening work for everyone, say 6:00pm. Then everyone could get back to their families for dinner. On Thursday, August 6th, the weather looks clear and bright, not too hot or humid.

Thank you, you have all been such terrific Ambassadors, and most importantly, Marshmallow thanks you, too!

xxKim

Marshmallow, from nestling to fledgling

GOOD EATING AT GOOD HARBOR! IF YOU ARE A BIRD, THAT IS :)

Over the past several months of documenting our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, beginning in March, we have seen a beautiful collection of shorebirds, gulls, hawks, and wading birds. The continuous ebb and flow of replenishing waters at the tidal creek, expansive marsh, and intertidal pools make for a range of rich habitat where birds can find food and shelter. Minnows, sea worms, crabs, tiny mollusks, and a wide variety of other invertebrates provide fuel for hungry travelers as well as summer residents.

Too many photos for one post I just realized and will post heron and egret photos next.

Here are just some of the beauties!

Beautiful, beautiful trio of Dowitchers

Herring Gull eating a Green Crab

Cooper’s Hawk

Spotted Sandpiper

Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plovers

Killdeer

Laughing Gulls
Yellow Legs

And of course, Marshmallow and Dad 🙂

 

ALL GOOD PIPL THINGS TO SHARE!

Hello dear PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

After a time (quite a bit of time and much walking) I found Marshmallow, back at the tide pool in front of the protected area. His Dad would have been so proud because as soon as the beach rake was heard in the distance, he ran into the roped off area, just as if Dad were there commanding him to do so.  After the raking had finished, Heidi and I watched as Marshamllow did some terrific floppy floppy flying and then he flew along the shoreline looking for a place to forage, out of the way of joggers and walkers.

Everyone please take a moment to read this tender, sweet story Jonathan wrote – I put it into a blog post so it won’t get lost in the mire of Facebook- “My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. “

Heather and Kory’s 1623 Studios interview was posted this morning. So many thanks to Kory  and Heather for shining a spotlight on our GHB PiPls!!!

Shout Outs to:

Piping Plover Ambassadors at 15:20

Councilor Memhard at 16:45

Mayor Sefatia at 17:15

Dave Rimmer and Greenbelt at 23 minutes

A good day for People and for Plovers!

xxKim

Cuteness Alert! “Marshmallow,” this year’s Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover hatchling, stars in Kim Smith’s new video. Come for the fluffy, leggy sweetness; stay for the interview.

 

 

 

 

THANK YOU HEATHER ATWOOD AND KORY CURCURU FOR THE FANTASTIC PIPING PLOVER 1623 STUDIOS INTERVIEW!

Thank you so very much to Heather Atwood and Kory Curcuru for sharing about our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. It’s a joy to participate in these interviews and I also want to thank Heather for stopping by to meet Marshmallow. I am so glad she got to see our super Dad in action!

You can follow 1623 Studios on Facebook. If you like the page, Cape Ann Today with Kory and Heather will pop up in your news feed.

Cuteness Alert! “Marshmallow,” this year’s Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover hatchling, stars in Kim Smith’s new video. Come for the fluffy, leggy sweetness; stay for the interview.

 

 

“My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. “

One of our amazing and awesome Piping Plover Ambassadors, Jonathan Golding, wrote the following, too beautiful not to share  ❤

“I wrote this two weeks ago. It is titled “My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. ”
Already I have spoken a mistruth. My daughter is not a Piping Plover Fledgling. She is a soon to be 20 year old rising junior at American University in D.C. majoring in Criminal Justice & Psychology, and has maintained an impressive 3.8 GPA. And, given the great pandemic pause, she has decided to take her own version of a Gap Year and work for AmeriCorps in Boston. She applied for several different programs and received an offer from her #1 choice as a Restorative Practices Fellow with the Dudley Promise Corps. She will be working at the Dearborn S.T.E.M. Academy in Roxbury.
This big new move is all very exciting. . . for her. I mean, here at home she has just finished her second week of remote working, interacting with new Americorp colleagues, learning more about what the job entails, and in communication about living arrangements in Boston. Hmmmmm . . . living arrangements in Boston. Lib has lived in Rockport, in Gloucester, and on campus at American University. Now the new reality is unknown roommates at an apartment in the Roxbury/Fort Hill area of Boston, east of Jamaica Plain. This is where the Piping Plover analogy comes in. Three weeks ago, Sally and I joined the ranks of Piping Plover Ambassadors for the 4 newly hatched chicks at Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach. As endangered shorebirds, it’s helps to give them some additional safety coverage as they mature and develop. A number of us armed with binoculars, good intentions, and the willingness to engage with the occasional unaware beach goer, keep a watchful eye over the young ones and their parents. What started as Mom, Dad, and four chicks, are now, three weeks later, just the dad and one chick. Three of the little ones sadly didn’t make it and mom, I guess feeling like her job was done, flew the coop. Yet DAD, and his only child – now named Marshmallow, stayed the course. Dad is there for him/her/they. He looks out for threats, does appropriate interventions if dogs, seagulls, crows, or people get too close to his baby. He also – new word for me – thermoregulates the chick. Marshmallow, with his/her/their still developing feathers need the warmth of a good parental snuggle. “Fledgling” is when a young chick has what it takes to . . . FLY. Once they got that flying thing down, then they can pretty much handle any threat coming their way. Before fledging, Marshmallow needs dad, and dad is there 100% for Marshmallow’s safety, care, and well-being. After fledging, Dad’s need to be involved with Marshmallow’s day -to-day activities and decision-making, well, not so much. Maybe not at all. I don’t know all this for a fact. I have never been a Piping Plover Ambassador before. Nor have I ever been a father to a soon-to-be 20 year old who is moving to Boston and becoming a Restorative Practices Fellow with the Dudley Promise Corps in Roxbury. My daughter is fledging.
I recently read an article in the NY Times about how many couples are “struggling to cope with the stress and tension” and one piece of advice stayed with me: “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be in a loving, connected relationship?” Granted, that question was aimed at partners in a relationship, yet for me it’s applicable in my relationship to my fledging daughter. I am full of questions and concerns about her venture into this great urban undertaking, and – not to be taken lightly – during this time of a pandemic environment, social distancing, and face-coverings. I understand the concepts of Endings, Beginnings, & Transitions. And, in my desire to maintain a loving, connected relationship, it’s probably best if I back off with my lists, the probing questions, and the catastrophic concerns that keep popping into my reptilian brain. Lib is a thoughtful, kind, generous, and smart young lady. She has had life experiences that have prepared her for this next chapter. As a parent, you do your best, give your best, and then . . . what . . Step Back? Step Aside? Offer Support and Assistance?
Sally, Libby and I went out to lunch yesterday, and I brought a notebook with a whole list of topics intending to discuss. . .. everything from bedroom sheets, to bus stop locations, to subway safety, to Covid appropriate interactions with her 3 new roommates. At some point, I turned the page over, and on a new page wrote simply “Lib, How Can We Best Support You?”. Couldn’t help but think about when I am down at Good Harbor Beach observing the Daddy Plover, he sure doesn’t seem to be overtly stressing over his little one. I suspect he feels he has done his best in preparing his kid to enter into the world as a young adult. When little Marshmallow becomes older-teen Marshmallow and truly finds his/her/their wings, and equally important his/her/their inner confidence , then the fully fledged piping Plover will fly off and effectively deal with the challenges and opportunities that life will surely present. Probably this is a good time for me to say “Hey JG . .. be more like the Daddy Plover. All will be fine.”🙏

SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS HAVE ARRIVED!

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

It took awhile to discover where Marshmallow was this morning. He was at the wrack line calling nearly continuously with his soft melodious piping call, (which is how I was able to locate him), before then flying off over the dunes. I found him on my return walk, preening and fluffing at the PiPls favorite piece of driftwood within the enclosure. Note that is the very same driftwood that our PiPl Mom and Dad had their very first nest scrape at, way back in April!

No sign of Dad this morning.

Semipalmated Plover

Heidi noticed the pair of Semipalmated Plovers as well; it’s one of the first sightings of Semipalmated Plovers at GHB this summer and is a sure sign that the summer/fall migration is underway. Last year we had an unusual occurrence, Mystery Chick – a Semipalmated Plover fledgling appear suddenly and foraged for a bit with our three PiPl chicks.

Good Harbor Beach, and all of Cape Ann’s shorelines, continue to provide an extraordinary window into the world of migrating creatures. Despite 2020 being such a challenging summer on so very many levels, a saving grace has been our Piping Plovers and having the joy of meeting and getting to know our Ambassadors, and all of Marshmallow’s friends.

Semipalmated Plover fledgling, “Mystery Chick”

Heather Atwood updated us that the Cape Ann Today PiPl episode is not going to air until Friday or Monday and as soon as I know, will let you know.

Have a great day and thank goodness for today’s cooler temperatures 🙂

xxKim37 day old Marshmallow

A WEEK WITH THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH RED FOX FAMILY PART TWO – if you are squeamish about baby bunnies, please skip over this post

Over the week I spent filming the Red Fox family, the kits became habituated to my presence. I worried about that, worried for the sake of the kits, especially after one incident where I heard a noise behind me and a kit was standing over my head looking down at me, only a mere few feet away. Several weeks later I was walking in the same neighborhood and the sound of hooves running wildly alerted me to a deer running pell mell up the hill, with a kit in hot pursuit. Red Fox adults don’t even take down deer and I wondered if the kit was practicing its hunting skills and also wondered, thinking about my eye to eye encounter with a kit, if I hadn’t looked up when one was looking down at me, if he was planning to pounce on me!

Every morning the dog and vixen brought mouths full of fresh prey to their kits. It was startling to see when an entire nest of baby bunnies was delivered, which one would imagine would be breakfast for all three kits, but was quickly devoured by the first kit in line waiting for breakfast.

Baby bunny breakfast

As the season progressed, some early mornings we would see the foxes make several trips across the beach, always with a large rabbit, or two, clutched tightly in it jaws on the return trip.

Good Harbor Beach Dad with not one but two adult rabbits

Kits eating a Shrew for breakfast

Red Foxes also eat fruits, berries, and insects. The kit in the above photo is digging for grubs

The Red Fox adults left dead small mammals all around the family’s home base, I think to encourage the youngsters to begin hunting on their own.

Relaxed Dad

My favorite few moments of filming was on a particularly beautiful morning when Dad was acting very chill. He had delivered breakfast, licked one of the kits clean, and was relaxing on the grassy knoll. The kit playfully surprise attacked him, coming in from behind and pouncing with an open jaw. It was beautiful to watch this familial scene with the Red Fox family unfold and is a moment I won’t soon forget.

Sneak attack on Dad!

Here are a few more photos. I have another batch, the last day with the Fox Family and will try to find the time to post next week.

 

HOW FAR CAN A PIPING PLOVER TRAVEL IN ONE DAY?

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors and Friends,

Both Dad and Marshmallow were sweetly sleep-eyed, each in their own respective “fox” holes. Even at 6am, it was hot already at the beach, perhaps they were taking a cooling off break.

In response to Sally’s question – I do not know precisely the distance a Piping Plover can travel per day, but we do know from a banded PiPl that was at Good Harbor Beach last April (referred to as ETM), that he traveled from Georgia to Gloucester in five days or less. Here is the link to the story I wrote last spring –
https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2019/04/22/fun-411-update-on-etm-the-cumberland-island-banded-plover/

 

Many species of birds don’t generally migrate in a perfectly straight trajectory, but begin daily by setting off in a circular movement as they find the most suitable wind direction. That is why you may sometimes see when geese are flying overhead that some are going north and some are traveling south, as they gain their bearings for the next leg of their journey.

Our lone PiPl chick in 2017 (his name was Little Chick) departed about five days after Papa had left. I was with him on the morning he departed. A small flock of juvenile PiPls had flown in early in the day. Later that morning, I watched as Little Chick flew over Sherman’s Point with his new friends. We never saw him again after that.

Over the years I have observed that Coffins Beach becomes a staging point for Piping Plovers and Semi-palmated Plovers, beginning in mid-summer. They gather there in small and large groups, waiting for the right conditions to take the next leg of their journey. The Semi-palmated Plovers have journeyed from points much further north as they breed in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America. Perhaps the Piping Plover juveniles we see there at Coffins have flown over from Plum Island and Crane Beach, or perhaps they have traveled from points even further north.

Peninsulas such as our Cape Ann, as are places like Cape May and Point Pelee, are bird and butterfly migratory hotspots. We on Cape Ann are so fortunate to be able to witness this never ending flow of beautiful north-south movement that takes place each and every year without fail, in our own backyards and along our shoreline.

It’s going to be too hot today, so please don’t stay in the sun very long. Have a great day and Thank you!

xxKim

Dad and Marshmallow this morning – Marshmallow at 36 days old

WING-POWER! PIPING PLOVER MARSHMALLOW UPDATE AND BUSY BEACH DAYS

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

A simply glorious morning! Marshmallow took a long bath in a tide pool, with Dad keeping a watchful eye, and after a few moments, Dad took a bath as well. Lots of healthy wing stretching and flippy floppy flying going on this morning, too.

I have been working on a short short, a Marshmallow Montage, from egg to five weeks old. I plan to make a slightly longer version for the Ambassadors, adding clips from the upcoming week. This shorter version will air on 1623 Studios tomorrow, Monday,  morning at 11am, to augment the interview I gave and will post the link here as well. This past week I had a super conversation about all things PiPls with Heather and Kory for their show Cape Ann Today. Heather was so interested, she stopped by Saturday morning to meet Marshmallow. I think she was especially impressed with Dad’s stellar parenting skills!

Busy, busy beach days, but the City was towing on Nautilus Road over the weekend and the crowds looked manageable (from the roadside view). Stay safe and be well – I hope especially that all the City beach workers are able to stay safe.

Tomorrow I think we should talk about ambassador shifts and how you would like to be involved over the next week or so. Thank you all for all your good work and dedication to our little, not-so-little, Marshmallow <3.

xxKim

THE AGE OF WONDER

I gave Charlotte a terrarium and a Cecropia Moth caterpillar of her own.

Meet Genevieve. She has been kissed, hand fed leaves, and has had the Bernstein Bears Go to the Moon read to her several times this afternoon ❤

What Charlotte’s caterpillar will become (next summer)

THE OTHER MARSHMALLOW!

Piping Plover Ambassador Zoe shares her Marshmallow. You may recall that it was Zoe’s idea to name our chick Marshmallow. I think next year we should have a naming contest 🙂 Thank you again Zoe for the very adorable and apropos name.

A FIRST – COMMON TERN AND PIPING PLOVER FAMILIES TOGETHER AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

A late day update as I had several meetings this morning, including a wonderful interview with Heather and Kory at 1623 Studios about Marshmallow and all things Piping Plover!

We have a first at Good Harbor Beach and that is a Plover chick and his Dad, along with a Common Tern fledgling and its parent! The Terns must have flown in sometime last night. Both pairs are currently together at the bend in the Creek as it is high tide, the beach is busy, and there aren’t any other places to go.

For more information about local terns, below are links to several articles that I have written about Least Terns that were nesting at other north of Boston beaches, but it is so interesting to think about because I have never seen a Common or a Least Tern fledgling in five years of daily monitoring at Good Harbor Beach and it’s pretty exciting!

Common Terns are about 12 to 14 inches, whereas PiPls are only about 7 inches. It is the fledglings though that are quite comical. I call them the Baby Hueys of the avian world because at this approximately one-month-old stage of development, they look larger than their parents. Common Terns are semi-precocial, which means they hatch with feathers and can run around shortly after hatching, just as do PiPl chicks, but Common Terns cannot feed themselves. The chicks and fledglings sit on the shoreline with mouths gaping open and squawking loudly as the parents fish non-stop, depositing minnows into their open beaks.

Common Tern Fledgling

Oftentimes Common Terns and Piping Plovers share the same beach habitat and they typically only go after one another when one is doing something really offensive to the other.  Common Terns though are very territorial in terms of people and gulls. If you are observing a Common or a Least Tern and it is flying over your head, calling out constantly, or even dive bombing your head, you are much too close and need to move back. Today’s Common Tern has been going after Great Black-back Gulls, a hawk, and people as it establishes a protective zone around its fledgling.

I hope so much the Tern Family stays for more than a day and that you all get to see the Terns at GHB!

xxKim

 

Common Tern adult harassing a Great Black-back Gull

BABY HUEY OF FLEDGLINGS: THE COMMON TERN https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2016/07/20/baby-huey-of-fledglings-the-common-tern/

One Day Old Least tern Chicks https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2018/07/30/least-tern-one-day-old-chicks/

Two Day Old Least Tern Chicks https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2018/08/05/two-day-old-least-tern-chicks/

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2018/08/10/stuck-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/

Fishing for Sex https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2018/07/24/fishing-for-sex/

THANK YOU HEATHER ATWOOD AND KORY CURCURU FOR THE WONDERFUL MONARCH FILM 1623 STUDIOS INTERVIEW!

Thank you so very much to Heather Atwood and Kory Curcuru for sharing about all things Monarchs, including the current state of the butterflies, Monarchs and other species of butterflies found in our gardens, and about my forthcoming film Beauty on the Wing; Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.  

I look forward to watching weekly episodes of their show, Cape Ann Today, and was simply delighted to be interviewed. Thank you again

“As light as a paperclip and they travel over 3,000 miles.” The Monarch Butterfly and its awe-inspiring life cycle has become a sort of northstar for documentary filmmaker Kim Smith. Watch the trailer to her soon-to-be-released film, “Beauty on the Wing – Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” and hear Smith discuss this iconic winged being, and what we can do to support its journey.

You can watch the interview on either Youtube or the Facebook link; I think the Youtube version is a little clearer.

THANK YOU TAYLOR ANN BRADFORD AND THE GLOUCESTER TIMES FOR THE GREAT STORY ABOUT OUR GHB PIPLS! AND HAPPY FOUR WEEKS OLD MARSHMALLOW!

Good Morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

As I was leaving, Heidi and I crossed paths on the footbridge. What a joy to be replaced each day by Heidi and have a moment of good conversation, something I am sure many of us are not getting enough of during the pandemic.

The raker had not yet come but Dad and Marshmallow were peacefully foraging down at the Creek. More bathing, preening, floofing, and flippy floppy flying thing, with only the Killdeers causing Dad to leave his post.

Taylor Ann Bradford from the Gloucester Times wrote a very thoughtful article about our PiPls – here is the link: https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/local_news/piping-plovers-are-back/article_bf6d8ab4-da1b-59ce-b3c2-2bb8ca6ccf50.html I think she is doing a fantastic job at the Times and it was a pleasure to speak with her!

Terrific quote from Jennie, thank you Jennie so much for keeping it positive ❤

Here is the link to Marshmallow taking a bath yesterday- https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2020/07/19/marshmallow-takes-a-bath/

A heartfelt thank you to all our Ambassadors, Mayor Sefatia, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Councilor Memhard, PiPl Friends, City Council, GDP, GPD, and all who are lending a hand and good wishes for Marshmallow reaching the tremendous milestone of 28 days, tremendous in the way that, thanks to you all, he is getting off to an excellent start, despite growing up in our most highly trafficked and wildly popular City beach. Only (roughly) two more weeks to go ❤

Have a great day!
xxKimMarshmallow preening after bathing

MARSHMALLOW TAKES A BATH!

Marshmallow takes a dip on a warm summer morning!

Piping Plovers take baths daily, starting from a very early age. It’s nearly always the same, no matter the age. The only difference really is younger chicks will splash around more. Twenty-seven-days-old Marshmallow takes a bath now much the same way as does Dad, quickly and efficiently.

Adults and older chicks will first eye-ball the area, while cautiously considering whether or not it’s safe to immerse in water. Small birds especially are vulnerable to predator attacks when their feathers are wet.

Plover bathing entails a thorough dunking, from tip to toe, ending with a leap from the water, with wings spread wide and tail feathers shaking, to dry off droplets. Bath time is followed by floofing, poofing, preening, and head scratching. And then, generally speaking, a return to the most important business of all, foraging to not only grow strong and develop well, but to build up their fat reserves for the long migration south.

SUNDAY MORNING PIPING PLOVER FAMILY UPDATE

Good Morning PiPl friends and Ambassadors –

Thank you Heidi for the morning update. And aren’t we so blessed for yesterday and the actions Mayor Sefatia has taken. Praying for a second day of relative calm at GHB today. See post here – Mayor Sefatia Restores Peace and Order to Gloucester Beaches

Thank you so very much Friends for all you are doing to help our GHB PiPls. If you cannot make your shift or need to shorten it, thank you for trying to switch, but if not covered, try not to worry. The next Ambassador will be along and it seemed positively calm at the Creek yesterday. I hope they stay there all day but the tide was high last night and they may come back to the main beach during high tide, at 11:07am today. Many, many beachgoers were already being dropped off at the footbridge when I left at 7:30 this morning, so perhaps the worst of it will be before noon, which would be a good thing.

Hoping to post footage of Marshmallow taking a bath from today, if I can find the time.
Have a great day – so gorgeous out!!
xxKim

Funny things PiPls do – photo of Dad floofing

MARSHMALLOW ATE A BUTTERFLY THIS MORNING!

Good Morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors!

Beautiful, tranquil early morning at Good Harbor Beach. I found the pair at the Creek, foraging and preening. Dad was in his usual super dad mode, chasing Killdeers, as well as some unseen-to-my-eyes imaginary beings.

Dad preening from tip to tail feather

Heidi and I had to laugh as we watched Marshmallow chase, and then capture and eat, a white butterfly, actually a moth I think.

Marshmallow eating a moth

Hopefully all the good work Mayor Sefatia and her administration have endeavored to do this past week will help keep the crowds down to a manageable size this weekend.

Will write more tomorrow, working on several stories to share. Thank you one again PiPl Ambassadors for your great gifts of time and kindness in helping our Good Harbor Piping Plovers survive Gloucester’s busiest of beaches.

xxKim

Marshmallow taking a cue from Dad on excellent feather maintenance

 

GLOUCESTER’S AND GREENBELT’S BEAUTIFUL, TRANQUIL SEINE FIELD

Located in our East Gloucester neighborhood is a rare bit of New England coastal habitat called a Relic Sandplain Grassland or Open Heathland (see below to read more about Sandplain Grasslands). I love walking there in the early morning when the light is especially beautiful. The native flora attracts a wide array of wildlife, including favorite songbirds, skippers, butterflies, hawks, and Eastern Coyotes.

Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans) Seine Field

Earlier in the summer on an evocatively lit semi-foggy morning I went to photograph. The sun was pouring long shooting rays through the atmosphere and it was stunning to see.

Several weeks later I went again on a foggy morning and was delighted to find the field shrouded in seine nets. Called Seine Field because during the 19th and 20th centuries, fisherman laid out their seine nets across the expansive field to dry and to repair.

Seine nets were used by Gloucester’s seiner boat fishermen, the same type of boats we see during Fiesta: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The field is still used by local fishermen and it was totally random and by chance when I was there while in use.

Gloucester Seine Boats

In 2018, Essex Greenbelt applied for, and received, a Community Preservation Act grant to improve the quarter mile trail. The wide, newly graded walkway provides accessibility for most and I especially love it because ever since I had complications from a tick bite, I don’t feel much like traipsing through grass and dense vegetation, particularly during the summer months, and especially when with Charlotte (she loves Seine Field, too!). The trail is fantastic for adults and young children alike.

Seine Field is managed by Essex County Greenbelt Association and is located on Farrington Avenue in Gloucester. For more information about ECGA and to learn how you can be come involved follow this link: Essex County Greenbelt Association

*Additional Reading

From the mass.gov website:

Sandplain Grasslands are open, essentially treeless, grass dominated communities that generally occur on sand or other dry, poor soils; Occurrences are maintained by fire, salt spray, and, now, mowing.

Differentiating from Related Communities: Sandplain Grasslands are part of a structural and successional continuum with other coastal communities. When communities are not distinct the best fit should be named. Sandplain Heathlands and Sandplain Grasslands share ~70% of their dominant species: the proportions of the species and the community structure separate the types. Sandplain Heathlands look shrubbier with a taller shrub layer comprised of scrub oak, black huckleberry, and/or lowbush blueberry, and overall have fewer plant species. Both Sandplain Grasslands and Maritime Dune Communities have grasses, forbs, and low shrubs, with patches of bare soil. Dune communities are often dominated by beach grass and beach heather that occur less abundantly in grasslands, where if they occur they are with other plants. Sandplain Grasslands – Inland Variant are located inland away from maritime influences and fewer coastal species including sandplain flax, golden heather, and sandplain blue-eyed grass.

Male Northern Cardinal Seine Field

PIPING PLOVER VIDEO FUNNY FLIPPY FLOPPY FLY THING

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO LEAVE THE PROTECTED AREA IN PLACE AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH UNTIL THE CHICK HAS FULLY FLEDGED AND THE BIRDS DEPARTED?

Good Morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors!

Dad and Marshmallow made a round about trip to the Creek just before the storm started at about 6:45. That’s it, nothing more to report from this cold rainy morning 🙂

Why is it so critical to leave the protected area in place for the full length of time the PiPls spend at Good Harbor Beach? The following video was shot in the early evening and is a chick from one of the other Piping Plover families that I am documenting. The chick in the clip is 39 days old. To avoid confusion, I have to repeat that this is NOT Marshmallow, but an entirely different chick. Actually, he/she is a near fledgling at 39 days old. Our Marshmallow is only 24 days old.

I would like folks to see in slower motion the funny flippy floppy fly thing all chicks and fledglings do, but the footage also serves the purpose of highlighting how vitally important it is to keep sheltering areas in place at the beach for as long as the Plovers are present.

You can see in the video that it takes several moments for the youngster to alight. While becoming proficient at flying, chicks are still very vulnerable to predator attacks from gulls, crows, owls, hawks, herons, dogs, coyotes, and foxes. Symbolically roped off areas continue to provide shelter and safety to Piping Plover adults and fledglings alike, even after the chicks have reached their so-called official fledge date. Not all chicks mature at precisely the same rate over precisely the same number of days. Their weight, development, and flying ability depend largely on how rich, plentiful, and accessible is their food source.

Have a great day 🙂

xxKim

Piping Plover 39 days old, Not Marshmallow

PIPING PLOVER CHONICLES CONTINUES!

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Thermo-snuggling for the better part of the early morning and all was quiet. Dad suddenly began piping loudly, jumped up, and flew from Marshmallow. I was busy watching Marshmallow when out of nowhere, our GHB Red Fox trotted through the backside of home base, mere feet from where they had been snuggling, with Dad hot on the Fox’s heels!

At this point in Marshmallow’s life, I don’t think the Red Fox poses a tremendous threat, but they are a threat nonetheless. Anything canid, whether dog, fox, or coyote may step inadvertently on a young chick when they are hunkered down in place and are not yet fully fledged. Additionally, Red Fox dig and hunt shorebird eggs. A Piping Plover cannot tell the difference between a Red Fox and a domestic dog. Dogs have been allowed by their owners to chase after shorebirds for sport, which is another reason the PiPls find the Fox so threatening.

Shortly after the Fox sighting, the pair headed to the Creek where lots of yummy invertebrates were had, including a mini mollusk that you can see the tail end of in Marshmallow’s mouth, and sea worms, fat and thin. Heidi came along soon after. I think the birds Heidi remarked on are the Killdeer family; they were there earlier at the Creek until Dad had chased them off the scene to clear the way for his Marshmallow 🙂Added note about the Red Fox family – The Red Foxes we see currently at Good Harbor Beach are almost always carrying fresh prey in their mouths, small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels, for example, and I don’t think they are going to drop an adult rabbit to chase after a Piping Plover. The Foxes are now crisscrossing the beach several times a day with their mouths full on the return trip, which leads me to believe, the kits have not yet dispersed and Mom and Dad Fox have their paws full supplying the rapidly growing youngsters with nourishment.

The Red Fox diet also includes fresh fruit and berries. If you have a Mulberry tree ripe with fruit you may currently be seeing them in your backyard. I am looking forward to when our neighbor’s apples begin falling from her tree and hope so much our neighborhood Red Fox finds the fallen apple feast.

Heads up – very buggy at the Creek this morning. Hardly any trash today, and isn’t that great news that Mayor Sefatia has closed the beach to nonresidents!

Have a super day!

xxKim

Morning wing stretches!

PANDEMIC PANDEMONIUM AT CAPE ANN BEACHES

A people and parking pandemonium marked the second weekend in July at Cape Ann beaches during the global pandemic. Mayor Sefatia, Chief Conley, City Council, and the DPW have been working to address last weekend’s pandemic pandemonium so same is not repeated.

The City of Gloucester has closed the parking lots at its three most densely populated beaches, Wingaersheek, Good Harbor Beach, and Stage Fort Park, to resident parking only. In addition, new no parking signs are being installed on residential streets this week, which include towing warnings. Gloucester is not the only community struggling with massive numbers of day trippers overcrowding beaches and parking illegally. Rockport is also experiencing many similar issues.

The amount of parking tickets issued last weekend shattered all previous records. According to  Gloucester Times reporting by Taylor Ann Bradford, 478 tickets were issued, totaling approximately $31,000.00. Chief Conley states during the same weekend last year only 154 tickets were issued.

How will the City manage the issue of WALK-ONS? Without addressing this key component, nonresidents will continue to find places to park illegally and pour onto Good Harbor Beach. The parking lots at both Shaws and Stop and Shop were nearly filled to capacity on both Saturday and Sunday. You need only drive down Nautilus Road and watch the mass of beachgoers filing along, packed with a days worth of fun in the sun equipment, to understand the extent of the problem.

The parking lots need attendants during the entire time they are open. The word has gotten out that it’s free and unstaffed in the afternoon. On both weekend days at 5:00pm, the lot was filled to capacity however, cars were continuing to pile in.

Several of our parking attendants have tested positive for covid-19. I feel deeply for City dwellers and out-of-towners that want to come and enjoy our beautiful beaches but we are in the midst of a global pandemic and the first concern is for the safety of our community.

Nonresidents have alternatives to Good Harbor, Wingaersheek, and Stage Fort. Governor Baker has opened all DCR Northshore beaches, including Salisbury, Winthrop, Revere, Lynn Shores Reservation, and Nahant. These state run beaches have the facilities and staff to deal with the inordinate pandemic-sized crowds. Additionally, the police patrol beaches such as Revere on horseback. For Massachusetts residents parking is $10.00 at Nahant and $14.00 at Salisbury.

Stay Safe Friends! Please, WEAR MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCE! It shouldn’t be one or the other, but both!

Because the Piping Plovers are continually brought up as a reason for the beach overcrowding the following has been added to the original post –

Edited Note regarding the conservation areas set aside at Good Harbor Beach. A roped-off corridor eleven feet wide was created last spring, which runs the length of the entire beach. This corridor was established to help shore-up the dunes. We think protecting the dunes is a fantastic idea and you can already see positive results. Later in the spring, on April 17, an additional area was roped off for Piping Plover protection by the conservation agent. It was noted at the time that this area was twice as large as in previous years. The extremely large area we felt would obviously and unnecessarily frustrate the community and beach goers once the season was underway. Following that, at the time the nest exclosure was installed many weeks later, on May 29th, it was again noted and summarily dismissed that the area was unnecessarily too large. It’s not possible to change the size of the roped off area now while the PiPl chick is still present at GHB, but hopefully in the future there will be improved communication. Regardless of how anyone feels about Plovers, they are not causing the overcrowding, parking lot, and off street parking pandemonium.

 

 

 

HAPPY THREE WEEKS OLD LITTLE MARSHMALLOW!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors!

Dad and Marshmallow were so peaceful and well-camouflaged that I didn’t see them for nearly the first hour, which gave me a chance to tidy up the beach. I was just about ready to check on the Creek when they both came scooting across the center of the protected area, heading to the water’s edge.

Three weeks marks a tremendous milestone. Thank you Everyone for your dedication during this craziest of busy beach weekends. Thank you for staying long, long extra hours and keeping your eyes on our PiPl family. Little Marshmallow is growing visibly plumper and stronger by the day, thanks largely to our group’s collective effort to keep him safe and protected, especially while he is foraging at the Creek, his most important job.

Today was Heidi Wakeman’s first morning and within her first five minutes, Marshmallow flew across the sand about a six or seven foot distance, about four or five inches off the ground. This wasn’t a funny flutter-hop, but a true little test run. So exciting to see these first flights!!!

Thunderstorms predicted later today, so please don’t stay if it happens on your shift.

Thank you!
xxKimGood Harbor Beach during coronavirus pandemic July 12, 2020