Category Archives: Gloucester

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTHS #2 AND #3

Debunking Piping Plover Myths #2 and #3

Myth #2: “The reason the Piping Plovers are nesting in the parking lot is because when they first arrived to Gloucester it was cold and they find the asphalt warmer.”

Not true and by this logic, Piping Plovers would be nesting in parking lots from here to Canada!

Piping Plovers arrive at Atlantic coast and Great Lakes beaches every year from late March through the month of May. Along the Atlantic Coast, they breed from the mid-Atlantic states to New England and all the way up the coastline to the maritime provinces of Canada, as far north as Newfoundland and Labrador. The temperature is no colder on a Gloucester beach than a beach on Plum Island or a beach on Prince Edward Island.

Myth #3: “The reason the Piping Plovers are nesting in the parking lot is because the tides are higher and the beach area was disrupted after the winter storms.”

Also not true. 

Piping Plovers typically nest on both narrow and wide sandy beaches. Unfortunately, nests and eggs are occasionally swept away during a storm when the tides are high.

Beaches all along the Massachusetts coastline were hit hard by late winter storms however, Piping Plovers often do well on beaches where winter storms have created a change in the topography. Storms generate what is called overwash, when water from the sea carrying beach sediments flows onto the dunes. Overwash is critical for beaches to maintain their shape and size in the face of sea level rise. The best foraging areas for Piping Plovers are known where you have large expansive mudflats created by storm overwash.

Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover parking lot nest and eggs.

As you can see, there is a theme to these comments, to blame the fact that the PiPl are nesting in the parking lot on everything else except what in actuality drove them to the parking lot.

Constant and unrelenting disruption by dogs off leash in the nesting area is what forced the Piping Plovers to the parking lot.

By speaking frankly to help bring awareness about what occurred in the nesting area at Good Harbor Beach during the months of April and May is by no means meant to malign or portray as wicked and threatening dogs or dog owners. Disruption by dogs was witnessed by myself, by fellow PiPl volunteers, as well as by Greenbelt and Mass Wildlife representatives, and the dog officers. 

In the minds of our nesting pair of Piping Plovers, the Good Harbor Beach parking lot was seemingly the safest location at the time of mating and nest scraping, as it was also the quietest and least disrupted. Readers may be wondering, why did our pair not nest in the wide expanse of dunes? I think the green growth found in the dune habitat does not provide protective camouflage as do the white painted lines and gravel found in the parking lot. If you have stopped by to see the PiPl in the parking lot, you may have noticed that they are practically invisible, the way they blend in with their surroundings. The little pair are certainly resourceful!

Don’t mistake their resourceful choice of nesting locations as ideal. The parking lot is a horrendous place to nest. It is far away from their food and water. Piping Plover parents take turns sitting on the nest. In a normal situation where the nest is on the beach, one sits on the nest while the other forages close by, but at the same time is always on the lookout to zoom in and help defend the nest from real and imagined predators. Under the parking lot circumstance, while one is brooding in the lot and the other foraging on the beach, they are not in constant contact or communication with one another, making the chance of successfully hatching young all that much slimmer.

And safeguarding the chicks during their first days after hatching in the parking lot, until they make the epic journey to the beach, is going to be a monumental challenge and take tremendous teamwork.

Mama at the parking lot nest exclosure while Papa is foraging at the beach and out of the range of communication.

The problems that arise with dogs on the beach during shorebird nesting season has been dealt with and resolved conscientiously in coastal communities over decades.

Some solutions for next year:

  1. With gratitude to Mayor Sefatia and the DPW, effective signage has been posted at each beach entryway. The signs need to be in place all year round because they also have a No Dunes icon. Letting people know that throughout the year the dunes are off limits to people and pets will help lessen erosion and create a healthier dune habitat, which over time will help protect our beach for everyone.
  2. Enforcement of existing ordinances.
  3. Education about the life story of the Piping Plovers.
  4. Recently a meeting of the Animal Advisor Committee was held at City Hall. Many suggestions and proposals were discussed. A very simple and effective solution for Good Harbor Beach is to close the beach to all dogs beginning April 1st and to reopen on September 16th, making the time dogs are allowed on the beach only two weeks shorter than the existing ordinance. The time period from April 1st to September 15th would give all shorebirds the uninterrupted space needed to mate and establish their nests, and time enough for the young to fledge.

The Piping Plover mating dance is elaborate. Each time the PiPl are interrupted, they do not resume where leaving off, but begin the dance anew. In the above photo, the male is high stepping all around the female while she has positioned herself to accept the next step, where he jumps on her back, and they connect, cloaca to cloaca. The courtship dance takes about twenty to thirty minutes while copulation only lasts a mere minute.

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #1

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #1

“Because of those gosh darn *&%$@# Piping Plovers, Gloucester is going to lose tens of thousands of dollars in parking revenue.”

Not true.

Here is why. The Piping Plovers will be out of the parking lot, before the summer season begins and before school is out!

The one thing the parking lot PiPl have going for them is that they laid their eggs relatively early in the season. If the nest is left undisturbed, by the time the chicks hatch, we will be in the second week of June. It may take a day or two for them to make the epic journey to the beach, where they will much prefer to spend the summer. At the very latest, the chicks will be out of the parking lot by the third week of June.

So to be completely clear: the Good Harbor Beach parking lot is not closing and we will have ample parking during the summer months.

I hope this quells the rumors circulating. Look for more PiPl myths debunked this week in upcoming posts 🙂 Please share this post to help folks understand more about our Good Harbor Beach parking lot Plovers.

Fluffing and puffing – morning bath for Mama Plover.

WE NEED VOLUNTEER PIPING PLOVER MONITORS SATURDAY AT THE PIPL NESTING AREA #3

No one paid attention to our signs that we added to the nesting area yesterday. My friend Deborah Cramer stopped by to see the PiPl and watched half a dozen dogs running through and playing in the nesting area. When I returned to the beach at 6:30, the PiPl were in the parking lot, again driven out of the nesting area by off leash dogs. Very frightening when an SUV drove past and they didn’t budge.

While the PiPL were in the parking lot, I thought would be good time to reinforce the signs with duct tape. When at the nesting area adjusting signs, there were more dogs owners allowing dogs to run through and completely ignoring the signs.

Reading the federal regulations from the USFWS:

“Pets should be leashed and under control of their owners at all times from April 1 to August 31 on beaches where piping plovers are present or have traditionally nested. Pets should be prohibited on these beaches from April 1 through August 31 if, based on observations and experience, pet owners fail to keep pets leashed and under control.”

All the signs in the world won’t make people who don’t care, care.

Tomorrow, especially at high tide, and as the skies are clearing, I am afraid will be another terrible situation for the PiPl. If you would like to lend a hand, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or just come. I will be there for the better part of the day and will show you what to do. High tide tomorrow is at 10:54 am. Thank you!

MESSAGE FROM MAYOR SEFATIA REGARDING GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS

Message from Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken  

The Piping Plover is a “threatened” species under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.  As such, the City, along with the Commonwealth, is required to protect them under the law.  Having said that, we are committed to making every effort possible to protect the nesting Piping Plovers at our beaches while, at the same time, maintaining public access.
Piping Plovers typically arrive from their southern wintering areas to our local beaches in late March or early April.  Males and females quickly form breeding pairs that begin the process of courtship and select a nest site throughout April and May. During these months, it is critically important to limit any disturbance of the birds and their habitat.
Chicks can hatch from nests in late May and are immediately mobile and move out of the nest in search of food.  As chicks grow older and larger, they will roam from the dunes to the water’s edge in search of food. Chicks are very vulnerable to human disturbance and are susceptible to predators like gulls, foxes, and dogs.
While dogs are allowed to run free during this time of year on many of our beaches, that right does not supersede the requirements under federal law to protect the Piping Plovers on those beaches.  Unleashed dogs can pose a very real threat to Piping Plover adults and chicks.  As such, dog owners are responsible for controlling their dogs and keeping them as far away from Piping Plover areas as possible.  The owner of any dog that adversely or negatively impacts the Piping Plovers and their habitats will be in violation of federal law and will likely face legal action.
Please keep a close eye or your dog during this Piping Plover season.
A Piping Plover nest is a mere depression in the sand.
Male and female Plovers do not begin sitting on the eggs 24/7 until all are laid, which takes about a week. Especially during that time, the eggs are often left exposed and are extremely vulnerable to being stepped upon by people and dogs.

KIM SMITH GUEST SPEAKER FOR THE WELLESLEY CONSERVATION COUNCIL ANNUAL MEETING

PLease join me Tuesday evening at 7:00pm at the Wellesley Free Library for the Wellesley Conservation Council Meeting. I am giving my newly updated Beauty on the Wing lecture. This program is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

Monarch Butterflies–Beauty on the Wing
How can Wellesley help Monarchs throughout Their Life Cycle?
WHAT: Wellesley Conservation Council Spring Lecture
WHO: Kim Smith, Naturalist and Award-winning Photographer
WHEN: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 – 7:00pm
WHERE: Wakelin Room, Wellesley Free Library
The Monarch’s life story is one of nature’s most incredible examples of adaptation and survival. But the Monarch migration is in great peril. Learn how you can help. Through photographs and discussion, Beauty on the Wing tells the life story of the Monarch Butterfly, the state of the butterflies’ migration and why they are in sharp decline, and the positive steps we can take as individuals and collectively to help the Monarchs recover from devastating effects of habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides.
Kim Smith is an award winning nature author, documentary filmmaker, native plant landscape designer, and naturalist. She specializes in creating pollinator habitat gardens utilizing primarily North American native wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and vines.
The Wellesley Conservation Council Annual Meeting for the election of officers and board members will precede the program at 6:30pm. This event is free and co-sponsored by Wellesley Free Library. For more information go to http://www.wellesleyconservationcouncil.org.

Salem State University Keynote Speaker Kim Smith Spotlights Plight of the Monarch Butterflies

Salem State keynote spotlights beauty, plight of monarch butterflies

 

Smith, who spoke on campus Thursday, April 12, makes nature films and contributes to the daily blog Good Morning Gloucester. She also helps communities and individuals build gardens specifically aimed at attracting butterflies, bees and beneficial bugs.

On behalf of the Earth Days Planning Committee, Carol Zoppel, a campus librarian and co-chair of Earth Days Week, presented Smith with the Friend of the Earth Award.

“Salem State University’s Earth Days committee would like to recognize Kim Smith for her artistic and advocacy work on behalf of wildlife through her films, photo, gardens, and writings,” said Zoppel. Smith received her award and a framed poster of her program.

READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

…Smith also reflected on our involvement with these creatures.

“I think compassion for all living creatures is really important,” said Smith. “Right here in our own backyards and beaches we have small winged creatures like Monarchs and Piping Plovers that are struggling to survive.”

She added, “Our actions and how we chose to live our lives has tremendous impact.”