A beautiful multitudinous flock of choristers has been chattering from every vantage point. The mixed flock of Dark-eyed Juncos and Golden-crowned Kinglets arrived to Cape Ann’s eastern edge on the same day. I don’t know if they are traveling together but they can be seen foraging in close proximity, from leaf litter to treetops.
Golden-crowned Kinglets are one of the teeny-tiniest of songbirds; a bit larger than the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but not quite as large as the Black-capped Chickadee. They zoom in and out of the trees (mostly evergreens), hovering and hanging every which way when probing for insect prey.
The Dark-eyed Juncos (also know as Snowbirds) are mostly foraging close to the ground in grass and fallen leaves. They hop from place to place and flip up leaves looking for seeds. The Snowbirds fly up to the trees and shrubs when disturbed.
Note the array of shading in the individual Snowbird’s feathers, from slate gray to milk chocolate
Learn the birdsongs of these two beautiful species and you will easily be able to locate them. The Golden-crowned Kinglet sings a lovely ascending high pitched series of notes that end in a lower pitched warble. The Snowbird sings a series of kew, trills, whistles, and warbles that is also lovely and when the two are foraging in close proximity, it’s a joy to hear their mini symphony.
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.
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
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.
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
We’re so very sorry to write that all four Cape Hedge Plover chicks, and possibly Mom, are gone. The Dad was last seen yesterday. The chick in the above photo was found in the intertidal zone at the end of day by PiPl Ambassador DBrown
I think as a community we can do better than this. We have let the Plovers down. Speaking for myself, not only let the Plovers down, but the community. I had to attend a funeral out of state the day after the chicks hatched but had been hoping the chicks would hatch after we returned, not prior to. Their nest was so well-hidden we didn’t learn about it until after it was well-established and had no clear idea of the hatch date.
There is a slim possibility that if the Mom is still alive she will return and renest this season. This scenario seems unlikely though because no one has seen her. Plovers will renest up to five times in the same season. And Plovers typically return to the same nesting site every year. If we do have a renest this year we will be more organized in our ability to help the Plovers.
We are not experts by any means however, we PiPl Ambassadors in Gloucester have six, going on seven, years of experience learning about how people and Plovers can coexist on a beach. We are willing to help and share everything we have learned with our Rockport neighbors because I believe that to a Plover’s way of thinking, Good Harbor to Cape Hedge is just one long continuous beach.
Suggestions on moving forward –
In speaking to people on the beach there was a great deal of confusion about the Plover’s life cycle. For example, folks thought the chicks needed to be “rescued” when they were up on the rocks doing their thing foraging away from an adult. Beachgoers did not get the information that Plover chicks, after only several hours from hatching, begin foraging on their own.
A large, clearly visible basic informational Piping Plover dos and don’ts sign at both ends of the beach entrances/parking areas would go a long way in helping to educate beachgoers what to do and what not to do when a Plover chick or adult is seen on the beach.
I have developed a fun, informational program to help communities better understand the Piping Plover life story and how we can become better stewards. I am happy to present this program, free of charge, to any Rockport community organization that would like to host us.
I met a photographer on the beach Tuesday, I believe it was. I watched as she followed Cape Hedge Dad Plover up and down the beach, much too closely, with an 800mm lens. When gently suggested in a chatty way she move back, she said to the effect, not to worry, she hates other photographers as they get too close, but she on the other hand was conscious not to disrupt. I didn’t argue with her however, this was a complete fallacy on her part. She was too close, and following a bird, any bird, at close range for over an hour, especially a bird that is not familiar with you, is incredibly disruptive. With a lens anywhere from 400 to 800mm, a person can capture beautifully cropped close-up images. Please, fellow photographers and Piping Plover observers, observe and take photos from at a minimum a hundred feet away and then move on.
Pet regulations on beaches must be posted in a timely fashion. Why even take them down? Both Rockport and Gloucester take down the summer beach regulations signs, which only causes confusion. If they are left in place year round, then it won’t come as a surprise when the summer regulations go into effect. Other important informational signs are left in place year round.
The Rockport dog laws are clearly stated on the town’s website. No dogs are allowed on the beach beginning June 1st, yet as of today, June 8th, over the course of the past few days there have been countless dogs running Cape Hedge, both on and off leash. The folks on the beach with dogs that we have spoken with are under the impression the leash laws go into effect on June 15th. There is no signage alerting people to the leash laws.Four beautiful and perfectly healthy chicks hatched overnight May 31st to June 1st , at the time of year when the dogs are prohibited from the beach. We need the town government to take seriously the protection of threatened and endangered species and to define what their role is in helping provide protections.
I would be happy to speak with anyone about suggestions for better protecting the Plovers. Please leave a comment, email at email@example.com, or PM me on Facebook with a phone number if you would prefer to talk.
Every other type of sign, but where are the no dogs on beach signs? We were assured the signs would be posted by June 1st.
Overnight on May 31st, the precious Cape Hedge Piping Plover chicks hatched. The photos of these tender tiny ephemeral beings were taken the morning of June 1st when the chicks were only several hours old. In all the photos of the chicks you can still see their teeny white egg tooth, which falls off after a day or so. The hatchlings use their sharp egg tooth to pip, or peck, their way out of the egg shell.
There are a surprising number of butterflies this year at Cape Hedge Beach. Several days ago an American Lady was warming on the popples and today, a female Black Swallowtail.
An easy way to see the difference between an American Lady Butterfly and a Painted Lady Butterfly
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) ~ Note the two large eyespots on the underside of the hindwing, close to the outer margin.The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) has four smaller eyespots on the underside of the hindwing.
Joyful update to share from Cape Ann PiPl nest check-up this morning –
The Cape Hedge Plover parent’s are doing an excellent job guarding their clutch of four eggs, the most well-camouflaged nest in Massachusetts, as our state coastal waterbird biologist Carolyn Mostello refers to the nest. There was a Coyote scavenging around the wrack line near the nest but Mom and Dad went into full protective mode trying to distract. The “broken wing” display wasn’t too necessary though as the second the Coyote saw me, he/she hightailed into the marsh.
Area #1 Salt Island
Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer installed the exclosure at #1 (Salt Island end of the beach) yesterday afternoon and there are now three eggs in the nest! The Salt Island pair are not yet brooding full time and still continuing to mate. Quite possibly, we’ll have a fourth egg at #1. This little Mama has up to this point laid a total of six eggs, three in the first nest, which we think was predated, and three currently.
Area #3 Saratoga CreeK
In saving the best for last, our amazing handicapped Mom and ever vigilant Super Dad at #3 now have FOUR eggs in the nest. Mom popped off for a brief moment and I was “ploverjoyed” to see a fourth egg. I am not sure when this last egg was laid. It’s going to be a challenge to gauge when is the hatch date but I am working on that this weekend. *Borrowing the expression #ploverjoyed from our PiPl friends at Conserve Wildlife New Jersey 🙂
GHB #3 Mom well-camouflaged on the nest this foggy, foggy morning
Cape Ann’s current grand total of eggs in nests is Eleven (with a possibility of one more).
Yesterday morning, City Councilor Jeff Worthley and I met at Good Harbor Beach. He was very interested in learning about the Plovers and their history at GHB. Jeff agreed that Martha’s idea to speak before the next City Council meeting was a good plan; the next full council meeting is June 14th. He also suggested we do a brief presentation before City Council. The presentation has to be pre-planned and approved by City council president, Valerie Gilman. I don’t know if it’s either/or, or if we would be able to do both. What are your thoughts, PiPl friends? I think also we should definitely plan a “lessons learned” meeting at the end of the season, per Jonathan’s suggestion.
The Good Harbor Beach pre-reservation parking system goes into effect today. Some of the issues will be alleviated with the DPW and parking crew present, restrooms open, and end-of-the school-year high school senior parties behind us. We will still have issues with intoxicated persons tromping through the protected nesting area, but not the sheer numbers as the past two weeks, and hopefully we will see stepped up police enforcement on the beach.
A very brief Monarch update – Monarchs are here (first sightings by friends MJ on the 21st and Patti on May 23rd!) We see them in gardens, meadows, and dunes. Many other species of butterflies, too, have been sighted, including Tiger Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, American Coppers, Common Ringlets, and Spring Azures. May 23rd is early in the season for Monarchs. About every ten years or so we have an extra wonderful year with butterflies. The last was 2012. We are due and perhaps 2022 will be one of those years 🙂
Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly has been invited to screen at the Essex National Heritage Pollinator Week Program on the evening of June 22nd. For more information go here. Also, Beauty on the Wing is an official selection at the Santa Barbara Film Awards.
If anyone stops by GHB or CHB this weekend, please let us know. I feel fairly confident that the nests at GHB are safe, ensconced in their exclosures, but we like to check regularly nonetheless.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with friends and family,
Our Cape Hedge “Plovers in the Popples” pair have a nest of four eggs! It’s extraordinarily beautiful in how well the eggs blend with the surrounding popples.
Tuesday morning the symbolically roped off area was installed by Mass Fish and Wildlife. For friends new to Plover protections, the roping is placed around the nesting area to keep people and pets away from the nest. Signs will be going up shortly. If you are on the beach, please do not stand right up next to, or hover around the roping. We would have liked to have made the area ten feet deeper, but because of the high tide line, it wasn’t possible. Please, please give the birds lots and lots of space. Thank you!
The fantastic thing about the roping installed by Mass Wildlife is that it is four heights of rope, from several inches off the ground to waist height, which really helps keep pets and little persons from slipping through.
Many, many thanks to Carolyn Mostello, the Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird Biologist for coordinating the installation, to Mass Wildlife technicians Joshua and Derek, and special thanks to Rockport resident and Cape Hedge neighbor Sue Catalogna for her great communication with the Cape Hedge plovers <3
Thank you to Jennifer Santomauro, Beth Pocock, and Linda Bossleman at the Sawyer Free Library and to everyone who came to the Piping Plover program this afternoon. Despite the gorgeous weather and protest marches nationwide, we had a wonderful group of interested attendees. It’s the first in-person presentation I’ve given in several years and I just want to thank everyone so much for coming.
World Migratory Bird Day is held annually on the second Saturday of May (May 14th in 2022).This year’s WMBD focuses on the impact of light pollution on migratory birds.
“Most birds migrate at night. They have been doing this for eons, as a night sky typically means calmer air space and fewer predators. Nocturnally migrating birds include ducks and geese, plovers and sandpipers, and songbirds of all kinds. These birds may travel thousands of miles between their breeding and non-breeding grounds.
However, the night sky is under threat. Artificial light is increasing globally by at least two percent a year, presenting a problem for birds. Light pollution from homes, businesses, and other infrastructure attracts and disorients migrating birds, making them more likely to land in dangerous areas where they are more vulnerable to collisions and predation. Artificial light also impacts birds in the breeding and winter seasons, disrupting feeding and other vital behaviors.
In 2022, the impact of light pollution is the focus of World Migratory Bird Day, an annual global campaign that celebrates the migration of birds across countries and continents. Throughout the year we will spread the message to “dim the lights for birds at night” and highlight the steps that individuals, communities, and governments can take to reduce the impact of light pollution on our shared birds.”
One of the featured species in WMBD 2022 is the Baltimore Oriole (as seen in the above illustration)!
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Length: 8.3” (21.1cm)
Wingspan: 11.5” (29.2cm)
Weight: 1.2oz (34g)
You may find this colorful member of the blackbird family in open woodlands, parks, or even your backyard. It eats a lot of insects, especially caterpillars, as well as fruit and nectar. Baltimore Orioles and many other songbirds need dark skies to safely migrate—you can help by reducing the amount of light outside your home at night.
Conservation Status: Low Concern
WHAT IS WORLD MIGRATORY BIRD DAY?
In 1993, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center created International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). This educational campaign focused on the Western Hemisphere celebrated its 25th year in 2018. Since 2007, IMBD has been coordinated by Environment for the Americas (EFTA), a non-profit organization that strives to connect people to bird conservation.
In 2018, EFTA joined the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) to create a single, global bird conservation education campaign, World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD). Continuing our tradition with IMBD, WMBD celebrates and brings attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas – bird migration.
This new alliance furthers migratory bird conservation around the globe by creating a worldwide campaign organized around the planet’s major migratory bird corridors, the African-Eurasian flyway, the East Asian-Australasian flyway, and the Americas flyway. By promoting the same event name, annual conservation theme, and messaging, we combine our voices into a global chorus to boost the urgent need for migratory bird conservation.
EFTA will continue to focus its efforts on the flyways in the Americas to highlight the need to conserve migratory birds and protect their habitats, and will continue to coordinate events, programs, and activities in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean at protected areas, refuges, parks, museums, schools, zoos, and more. As many as 700 events and programs are hosted annually to introduce the public to migratory birds and ways to conserve them.
Happy news to share – the first of our little friends arrived overnight Friday. We found him/her feeding with great gusto at the intertidal zone Saturday morning. After foraging she moved to the roped off area at #3 to find shelter from the wind. Not sure yet if it is a male or female and we’ll know once courtship starts, but I am leaning towards female.
And, a reader shared that she saw several PiPls Sunday!
Finding mini mollusks in the intertidal zone
Please, If you see Plovers, stay a good distance away and give them some space as they are very worn out from their journeys (from where I wish we knew.)
We are looking for volunteer Plover Ambassadors. The volunteer season begins when the Plovers chicks are close to hatching, which is not for approximately another two months. We are a wonderfully dedicated group and if you are interested in joining, please leave a comment in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
For the first time, as far as anyone can recollect, a pair of Piping Plovers nested at Cape Hedge Beach in Rockport during the summer of 2021. The family was not observed until after the chicks had hatched but we can make a fairly educated guess as to where the nest was hidden. I think, too, based on comparing many photos and film footage that the pair at Cape Hedge had nested originally at the Salt Island end of Good Harbor Beach. That nest of three eggs was washed away by a storm surge during the King Tide. There was a great deal of competition for nesting territory at Good Harbor during this time period and it is logical the SI pair would have moved north one beach. I imagine that to a Plover’s way of thinking, from Cape Hedge to Good Harbor is one long continuous beach.
One of the most fascinating aspects observed about the Cape Hedge Piping Plover family was the very young chick’s ability to navigate the popples. They used the larger rocks as slides, leapt from rock to rock, occasionally got stuck and, especially when they were very teeny, did mini somersaults.
Why did the Plovers go up and down the steep bank of popples countless times a day? Better camouflage was afforded at the top of the bank while food was more plentiful in the tidal flats. Insects could be had amongst the rocks, but super nourishing mini mollusks and sea worms can only be found in the intertidal zone.
I am currently in the midst of the daunting task of organizing six years of PiPl footage and photographs, from 2016 through 2021. I’ll be posting snippets from time to time. See below for some PiPl acrobatics and a somersault in slow motion 🙂
Conserve Wildlife NJ senior biologist Todd Pover makes a site visit to Cape Ann beaches, summer long updates from “Plover Central,” GHB Killdeer dune family raise a second brood of chicks, Cape Hedge chick lost after fireworks disturbance and then reunited with Fam, Great Black-backed Gulls are eating our Plover chicks, thousands of Moon Snail collars at Cape Hedge, Monarchs abound, #savesaltisland, missing Iguana Skittles, and Earwig eating Cecropia Moth cats.
New short film for the Sawyer Free Library The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch!, Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting new short Piping Plover film, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the garden, why we love Joe-pye and other wildflowers, butterfly friends, Monarch cats in the garden, what is the purpose of the gold dots found on Monarch chrysalides?,Black Beauty came calling, Tigers in the garden, School Street sunflowers, Hoverflies, luminescent Sea Salps return to Cape Ann beaches, Petal Dancers and lemony Yellow Sulphurs on the wing.
Flower Fairies, irruptive Green Darner migration, mini glossary of late summer butterflies, what to do if you find a tagged Monarch, Painted Ladies, White-tailed Deer family, Monarchs mating, Tangerine Butterflies, yellow fellow in the hood, and Beauty on the Wing first ever live screening at the Shalin Liu.
Bee-sized butterfly the American Copper, Monarch conga line, Thunder and Cloud, abandoned Piping Plover egg, School Street Sunflowers, Monarchs migrating, quotidian splendor, Monarch fundraiser updates, collecting milkweed seeds, the Differential Grasshopper, Cooper’s Hawk – a conservation success story, #ploverjoyed, and nor’easter from the EP Lighthouse.
Bridges between life and death, ancient oak tree uprooted, autumn harvest for feathered friends, Monarch migration update, we have achieved our fundraising goal!, Harbor Seal pup hauled out, flight of the Snow Buntings, and a very rare for these parts wandering Wood Stork calls Cape Ann home for a month.