Category Archives: Life at the Edge of the Sea

BEAUTY ON THE WING ACCEPTED TO THE NEW HAVEN DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL!

Overjoyed Beauty on the Wing is going to the New Haven Documentary Film Festival!

2019 Honors Filmmaker –

ONE WEEK MILESTONE FOR OUR LITTLE CHICK!!!

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Whether the chick hatched last Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, today marks the one week milestone. His chance of survival improves exponentially. That is not to say we aren’t needed as much, just that the chick is getting better at listening to the adult’s piping voice commands and growing smarter and more savvy everyday.

Sue and Jonathan – I don’t recall the protective exclosure being removed this close to hatching in past years but will try to find out why.

Did not see the beach raker this morning before leaving, but did clean the PiPl and Creek side of the beach and it looks good- I am getting a break with the amount of trash left behind because the rain is keeping folks away 🙂

This morning I arrived later than usual and while crossing the footbridge, one of our GHB Red Foxes ran through the roped off area. Even though far off, I could hear an adult piping the danger call very loudly and saw a flash of feathers trying to lead the Fox away from their home base. Then the Fox stopped to eat something? Thankfully it wasn’t one of our PiPls, but it took me another half hour to locate all three. There were no bones or feathers where he had been chowing down, and he ran off empty-mouthed, so I don’t have a clue as to what he was eating. Love our Red Fox family, but they sure are a worry as far as the PiPls are concerned!

Have a great day everyone and so thankful for all your help and interest!
xxKim

PIPING PLOVER FAMILY ALL THREE PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors!

All three family members were present, the chick feeding on insects up by the Sea-rocket at the base of the dune in the roped off area, and parents taking turns minding the chick or foraging at the water’s edge.

The new beach raker was there, and he was great!! He entered the beach at the snack bar, stayed at that end, and then drove to the Creek but stopped to ask if we were taking care of the trash at the east end. Yes I said and we are happy to do it. So thankful for his consideration!

We have a new ambassador. I met Duncan last week and he has an interest in the PiPls well being. Duncan and his wife Sarah have a summer home on Salt Island Road. He is taking Shelby’s shift from 7 to 8am and Shelby is moving to 6 to 7pm so it all worked out very nicely. Thank you so much Duncan and welcome 🙂

Thanks again so much to everyone for all your help with our GHB PiPls.
xxKim

Piping Plover Chick Morning Stretches Routine – with beautiful tiny wing buds

In the above photo you can see the chick’s teeny tongue lapping up insects found on Sea-rocket. See article about Sea-rocket here

ONLY ONE PIPING PLOVER CHICK

Dear PiPl Friends,

So sorry to write that I could only find one chick this morning. Both parents were very attentive and did not let the little one out of their sight for even a minute. All three were in the symbolically roped off area and down at the shoreline for very brief moments.

Jonathan and Sally saw the family last night; it happened sometime between sunset and sunrise. So very sad, but I just want to remind everyone that the average survival rate for chicks after hatching is 1.2, and most chicks are lost in the first week. Everyone is doing a great job despite the challenges we have faced this year.

Four day old Piping Plover chick

Last year was a very successful year (3 out of 4 fledged) for one very important reason- Greenbelt was helping from the get go and the area for the PiPls was roped off and signs put up two days after the mated pair arrived. This allowed them to become established early on and they nested nearly a month earlier than this year.

In 2019, signs and roping were put in place by Greenbelt on March 27th.

This year, an adequately roped off area did not go up until April 16 and signs not installed until Memorial Day weekend.

It has been proven time and again, the earlier PiPls nest in the spring, the greater their chance of survival.

What can we learn from this? Councilor Memhard has a tremendous suggestion in that we change the ordinance to reflect that it is mandated that Plover protections, ie. signs and roping, must go up immediately upon the PiPls arrival, ideally the third week in March. This year they arrived on March 22nd, last year on March 25th.

Jonathan and Sally, thank you for your super generous gift of signs. The one you left was there this morning and I left it there, too. It’s in a good spot if the family goes back to the Creek. My signs were ready yesterday as well and I have them on my front porch if anyone needs them, please help yourself. With only one chick, hopefully the Mom and Dad will be able to keep him/her safe.

Thank you and take heart everyone, our one chick has a better chance of surviving with every one of you looking out for this tiny little bird.

P.S. About the garbage, I did not see the beach raker by the time I left at 6:45. There was garbage on the beach and I will check back this afternoon after Charlotte goes down for a nap and clean up what is there (with gloves!). My son broke two ribs on the job yesterday so I have our little darling again with me most of the time.

Four day old Piping Plover chick and Dad, Good Harbor Beach, June 26, 2020

THREE CHICKS TODAY – I DON’T THINK THE LAST HATCHLING SURVIVED

I could only spot three beautiful chicks zooming around the beach this morning during my 2 plus hour shift. The siblings looked about the same age so it appears the last hatchling did not make it. This is not unusual and is happening at several beaches around the north shore because of the cold snap we had during the egg-laying period. Perhaps there was just too much time between eggs laid and that is why the last chick hatched more than a day after the first chick hatched.

There are many other possible reasons as to why the chick did not survive, but I also want to take this opportunity to let our Ambassadors know that if a chick is taken during your shift, please don’t take it personally or feel responsible. We are doing our best to keep the chicks safe from stray balls, other avian predators, dogs off leash, people not aware of the cotton puffballs presence, and the list goes on. Just do your best and that is all we can ask for.

Huge shout out to Gloucester’s DPW – Yesterday morning we found two signs intentionally knocked over. We called Joe, our DPW liaison, and they fixed the posts right away. We are so grateful to the DPW for all their help!

Three three-day-old Piping plover chicks

CECROPIA LOVE AMONGST THE LILACS

NORTH AMERICA’S STUNNING AND LARGEST MOTH THE CECROPIA AND WHY THESE GIANT SILK MOTHS ARE THREATENED – PART TWO

See Part One Here

After spending the winter and most of the spring tightly wrapped in their cocoons of spun silk, the first male eclosed on the last day of May. Burly and beautiful, Cecropia Moths emerge with wings patterned in white crescent spots outlined in rust and black, sapphire blue and black eyespots, waves and wiggly lines in soft woodland hues, and a wide tubular body banded and dotted orange, black and white.

It is easy to tell the difference between a male and female because of the male’s spectacular plume- like antennae.

The females were equally as easy to identify because their antennae are comparatively more slender.

Males rely on their superbly oversized antennae to detect the female’s pheromones.

After each Cecropia Moth emerged from its cocoon and their wings had dried, we placed them on the shrubs around our front porch. The males eventually flew off, but the females stayed in one place and usually by morning we would find a pair, or two, mating in our garden.

They stayed coupled together all day long, uncoupling sometime during the evening. We kept two of the females for several days and both rewarded us with dozens of eggs.

I had read it only takes a week or so for the larvae to emerge from their eggs and was beginning to think ours were not viable, when they began hatching today! In actuality it really took between two and three weeks for the caterpillars to emerge. Possibly the cooler temperatures during this period slowed hatching. The caterpillars are teeny tiny, perhaps one quarter of an inch, black with pokey spines. Charlotte and I collected a bunch of Chokecherry (Prunus viginiana) branches this morning as we prepare to raise another batch of stunning Cecropias.

The adults, both male and female, are short lived. Giant Silk Moths, which include Luna, Polyphemus, Promethea, and Cecropia emerge without mouthparts and cannot eat. Cecropia Moths spend several months in the larval stage, most of their lives as a cocoon, and only a week or two as their beautiful winged adult selves. Giant Silk Moths live only to reproduce.

Threats to Giant Silk Moths are significant. The number one threat is Compsilura concinnata, a tachinid fly that was introduced to North America to control invasive European Gypsy Moths. Both insects are a cautionary tale of why not to introduce invasive species without knowing the full breadth of the harm they will cause. Spraying trees with toxic pesticides that kills both the caterpillars and the cocoons is also a major threat. And, too, squirrels eat the cocoons

Hyalophora cecropia moths are univoltine, having only one generation per year. Our Cecropias began hatching just before the full moon. I have more cocoons and am wondering if this next batch of moths are waiting to emerge prior to July’s full moon.

 

 

WE’RE GETTING CLOSE TO HATCH DAY – PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS ARE NEEDED DURING THE AFTERNOONS

Hello Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,

Our Ambassador schedule is looking great for mornings and I am so appreciative of all who have volunteered to lend a hand.

We need Ambassadors during the afternoons. Please write at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com and let me know if you would like to volunteer for an hour a day for the next several weeks, possibly a month. The first week in a chick’s life is the most critical. When a chick reaches the 7 to 10 day milestone its chances of survival increase exponentially.

One hour old Piping Plover chick

We are meeting Monday, June 22nd, at 5:30pm, to go over any questions Ambassadors may have. We’ll meet at the the Saratoga Creek end of the beach, by the symbolic roping, on the Nautilus Road side of the beach, just after boardwalk #3. There should be no difficulty parking in the lot at that time of day.

I look forward to seeing familiar friends and meeting our new ambassadors. Thank you so much again for your willingness to help. Our new motto this year is Educate, not Enforce and our goal is to keep the energy positive and kind. Our City government is managing many, many issues due to the global pandemic and we do not wish in any way to add to their responsibilities.

Here is the schedule so far:

Kim 5am to 7am

Shelby  7am -8am

Jane Marie 8am -9am

Bette Jean 9am-10am

Jennie  11am to 12pm

Jonathan and Sally 5pm to 6pm

TONIGHT! TRY BACKYARD BIRDING – FAMILY ZOOM EVENT – SOME OF THE BEAUTIFUL WINGED WONDERS SEEN IN OUR GLOUCESTER NEIGHBORHOOD DURING THE SPRING OF 2020 including Red-neck Grebe, Cedar Waxwings, Northern Flicker, Dowitchers, Eagles, Palm Warbler, Kingbird, Long-tailed Ducks, Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Mockingbird, Robin, Catbird, Cardinal, Finches, Orioles, Egrets, Grackles, and Swan, Kildeer, Eider, PiPl Chicks, and More!!

Try Backyard Birding – Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for a virtual zoom hour of fun talk about birding in your own backyard. We’ll be discussing a range of bird related topics and the event is oriented to be family friendly and hosted by Eric Hutchins.

I am a bit under the weather but nonetheless looking forward to sharing this wonderful event sponsored by Literary Cape Ann.

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

 

All the photos you see here were taken in my East Gloucester neighborhood this past spring, from March 17th to this morning. A few were taken at the Jodrey Fish Pier, but mostly around Eastern Point, Good Harbor Beach, and in our own backyard. The Tree Swallows photos were taken at Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation. Several of these photos I have posted previously this spring but most not.

I love sharing about the beautiful species we see in our neighborhood – just this morning I was photographing Mallard ducklings, an Eastern Cottontail that hopped right up to me and ate his breakfast of beach pea foliage only several feet away, a Killdeer family, a male Cedar Waxwing feeding a female, and a Black Crowned Night Heron perched on a rock. I was wonderfully startled when a second BCN flew in. The pair flew off and landed at a large boulder, well hidden along the marshy edge of the pond. They hung out together for a bit- maybe we’ll see some little Black Crowned Night Herons later this summer ❤

 

 

OUR SALT ISLAND PIPING PLOVER FAM HAS A SECOND EGG IN THE NEST!

The most tenacious of Piping Plover pairs has a second egg in their nest!

For the next few days you may see them on and off the nest. The pair won’t start brooding full time until all the eggs are laid. The reason being is that the hatchlings are precocial, which means active from birth. The parents want the chicks to hatch as closely together as possible so the tiny rockets zooming around the beach are more easily managed. The difference in a PiPl day old hatchling and a PiPl week old chick in human years is like trying to look after a newborn and a precocious preteen simultaneously.

Salt Island Family Mom briefly on nest this morning.

SI Dad at the shoreline foraging at sunrise.

Piping Plovers take about a week to complete the nest and lay all their eggs (sometimes two eggs or three or five, but most often four eggs). If they started brooding one egg full time, that egg would hatch a week earlier than the last egg laid, which would spell disaster for a precocial chick. Observing PiPl chicks that had hatched twenty-four hours apart was hard enough on the parents, let alone a week apart!

If you stop by to see the PiPls on the beach, please bear in mind they are working hard at completing their nest and laying eggs. Please don’t hover around the roped off areas or when you see the birds on the shore. Trust me, hovering attracts gulls and crows. Both species are smart and I’ve seen over and over again how human interest in the PiPls  attracts these super predators to the nesting sites. Additionally, hovering around the adults off the nest stymies courtship and mating as well. Have a look with binoculars or take photo or two with a long lens and move on, especially when with more than one adult.

Thank you so much for your consideration!

Good Harbor Beach Salt Island Family Two Eggs June 16, 2020

Saratoga Creek Family Dad brooding this am

Sunrise and Crescent Moon rising today

 

SINGING THE PRAISES OF CAPE ANN’S WINGED AERIALISTS- Please join Kim Smith, John Nelson, and Martin Ray for a fun zoom hour of conversation!

Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for an hour of talk about the many birds and habitats found on Cape Ann. The event is hosted by Literary Cape Ann and will be moderated by Eric Hutchins, Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for NOAA.

From Literary Cape Ann’s newsletter-

TRY BIRDING IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD!

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in this coming Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link next Friday: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

Order books by our guest authors at The Bookstore of Gloucester. For those interested, bird books make great Father’s Day gifts. Further down in this newsletter, you’ll find lots of great information about books and birdwatching organizations.

Thank you, Kim Smith and Martin Ray, for providing us with some of your beautiful photography to help promote this event. And thank you, John Nelson, for the annotated lists of books and birding organizations.
Meet our panel!

Meet our panel!

Artist, author/blogger, and naturalist Martin Ray will talk about maintaining his fine blog, “Notes from Halibut Point,” and share stories discovered in that magical place.

Filmmaker, naturalist, and activist Kim Smith will share her own adventures chronicling Cape Ann’s vibrant bird life including the work she does advocating for the endangered piping plovers that nest at Good Harbor Beach.

Author-naturalist John Nelson will start things off with some birdwatching basics before getting into a few stories about local birds, their habits and habitats from his new book, “Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds.”

Our moderator, Eric Hutchins, is the Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the NOAA Restoration Center located in Gloucester. He  has worked as both a commercial fisherman and government biologist on domestic and foreign fishing vessels throughout the Northeast and Alaska.

Books by our speakers are available through The Bookstore of Gloucester:

Martin Ray
“Cape Ann Narratives of Art in Life” — A collection of interviews and images tracing the creative lives of 28 contemporary artists.
“Quarry Scrolls” (2018)— 24 photographs of Halibut Point natural life and scenes with accompanying Haiku poems

Kim Smith:
“Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!” — Written and illustrated by Kim Smith.

John Nelson:
“Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds”

More books, recommended by John Nelson:

  1. Sibley, David. The Sibley Guide to Birds
  2. Kroodsma, Donald. The Singing Life of Birds. 2005. On the science and art of listening to birds, by a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts and a foremost authority on bird vocalizations.
  3. Leahy, Christopher, John Hanson Mitchell, and Thomas Conuel. The Nature of Massachusetts. 1996. An excellent introduction to the natural history of Massachusetts by three prominent Mass Audubon Society naturalist-authors.
  4. Sibley, David. What It’s Like to Be a Bird. 2020. Just published, a study of what birds are doing and why, by a longtime Massachusetts resident and renowned author/illustrator of a series of bird and nature guides.
  5. Weidensaul, Scott. Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds. 2000. A Pulitzer Prize finalist study of bird migration by the naturalist and author of Return to Wild America, the subject of his memorable 2020 BBC lecture.
  6. Zickefoose, Julie. Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest. 2016. Where art meets natural history, by a talented author/artist, former student of biological anthropology at Harvard, and keynote speaker at the 2014 Massachusetts Birders Meeting.

If you’d like to learn more or get involved in the birding life, here are some recommendations from John Nelson:

An excellent overall resource is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, especially the “All About Birds” sections, which includes free access to the MaCauley Library (the country’s best collection of vocalizations of birds and other animals), the free Merlin bird identification app, live bird cams, and other resources for beginners and intermediates. Some programs, like their “Joy of Birdwatching” course, require an enrollment fee, but many of their resources are free to anyone.

For bird conservation, the most active national organizations are the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon. For state bird conservation, Mass Audubon (not affiliated with National Audubon) is most active and the best source of information, but many other organizations are involved in preservation of habitats, often with a local focus.

For birding field trips, Mass Audubon and the Brookline Bird Club both offer frequent trips at different seasons to Cape Ann, sometimes for just a morning, sometimes for a whole day. Both organizations welcome novices, and both have trip leaders who make an effort to be particularly helpful to beginners. Mass Audubon trips, generally sponsored by MAS Ipswich River or MAS Joppa Flats, require advance registration and some payment.

Brookline Bird Club trips are free, without any registration, but regular participants are encouraged to join the club with $15 as the annual dues. The name of the BBC is misleading; the club originated in Brookline in 1913 but is now one of the largest, most active clubs in the country and offers field trips across and beyond Massachusetts.

John Nelson is on the BBC Board of Directors and leads a few Cape Ann trips in both winter and spring. John reminds us that this is a strange time for beginners, since Mass Audubon has cancelled many field trips and the BBC has cancelled all trips through June, but eventually field trips will open up again, especially in places where social distancing is most possible.

The very active Facebook page, Birding Eastern Mass, has over 2,000 subscribers, from novice birders to experts. It’s a great site for sharing bird photos.

 

About Birding in Our Backyard

This Zoom event is for friends and families who are looking for safe, fun things to do close to home. Cape Ann’s abundance of natural wonders are here for us to enjoy and protect. Try chronicling your experiences in a new blog or a photo journal.

• • •

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
— John Muir, from “Our National Parks”

SUPER EXCITING NEWS – THERE ARE NOW TWO PAIRS OF PIPING PLOVERS NESTING AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our first family of Good Harbor Beach chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. Many of the morning times are filled, so we are especially looking for help mid-day, afternoon, and early evenings if you can lend a hand. Thank you! HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

This morning the awesome Dave Rimmer and his assistant Mike Galli installed an exclosure at the area we call #1 (because it is closer to boardwalk #1). I write “awesome” because Dave Rimmer is Director of Land Stewardship at Essex County Greenbelt Association and for the fifth year in a row, he has lent his experience and expertise at absolutely NO CHARGE $$ to the City of Gloucester. We all owe Dave and Greenbelt huge thanks of appreciation. Thank you once again Dave for your kind assistance.

The exclosure was quickly and efficiently assembled and sledge hammered into place. Would the young pair accept the wire exclosure? It looked dicey for about half an hour or so. I had Charlotte with me and had to leave but a short time later, Dave texted that they were back on the nest. In all his years of installing exclosures  (30 plus), only one pair has ever rejected an exclosure.

This nest with currently one egg is located in an extremely open site and not at all where expected. It is their fourth attempt at a serious nest. The first was up by the dune edge in a nicely camouflaged location but as it was not symbolically roped off, it was visibly disturbed by people and pets. Their next nest was located in the roped off area at #1 and that sweet nest had two eggs. Sadly, the eggs disappeared from the nest. The third active nest scrape was actually in the dunes but unfortunately again that was disturbed by people, this time by people going along their same path to go to the bathroom in the dunes. So this fourth nest is in a most open spot and not entirely safe from a stormy high tide.

New nest location, with no protective vegetation

Our Salt Island pair mating and nest scraping, with one egg.

June 15th is late in the year to begin a new nest but it happens often enough. Last year I filmed a PiPl family nesting in July, with three eggs. The nest gets hot as the summer progresses, but the adults were very smart about brooding. They would stand over the nest, not actually sitting on it, which provided shade from the melting sun, without their additional body heat. The adults were also panting to keep cool in the heat. One chick was lost in a storm, but two survived to fledge and the Dad stayed with them the entire time.

In the photos above you can see the PiPl heat wave brooding technique.

I think we should change the names of the nests to the Creek Family and the Salt Island Family. It sounds a lot more personable than #3 and #1. What do you think?

WATCH GREENBELT’S LIVE OSPREY CAM NOW – MOM AND DAD FEEDING NEW BORN CHICKS A FISH!

Tune into Greenbelt’s live Osprey cam to see a pair (possibly a third) chick being fed right now by the adults Annie and Squam. One parent (Squam I think) flew in with a fresh caught fish and Annie is tearing it into bits and feeding each gaping wide little mouth. Squam is perched at the edge of the nest, looking so proud!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE

Greenbelt’s OspreyCam is located in Gloucester, MA on Greenbelt salt marsh near LobstaLand Restaurant.

History:  In 2017 a pair of young Osprey took up residence on the LobstaLand platform in July/August and made a small nest. In 2018 they returned in April, stayed until August and built a large nest but never laid eggs. We call this a “house-keeping pair”- almost always a young pair learning the ropes.

In 2019, the pair returned in April to the nest and produced a clutch of 3 eggs, all under the watchful eye of the newly installed webcam. The adults were named Annie and Squam. They hatched one egg, and eventually fledged one chick – named River. River was banded before he fledged. He left the nest for good in late summer.

2020 – Annie and Squam returned to the nest in mid-April, and since then they have been tending to the nest, preparing to produce a clutch of eggs. They have been very patient as we have been back and forth to the nest site many times getting the new webcam set up.

Update April 29, 2020 – The webcam is now live. We’re awaiting what this season will bring! We hope you enjoy it with us.

Update May 11, 2020 – All good news. Annie has laid 3 eggs, completing her clutch yesterday. So that would suggest the first egg might hatch around June 15. Squam has been busily catching mostly river herring these days, feeding himself and Annie a steady diet of fresh fish.

Update May 28, 2020 – Not much new to report. The incubation phase for Annie and Squam continues. Squam is still bringing in numerous fresh fish daily, mostly river herring but the occassional small striped bass as well. Once we roll into June the count down is on for hatching.

Osprey Chicks

Image courtesy BBC

BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- AFTERNOON

SEE PART ONE HERE

SEE PART TWO HERE

Saturday afternoon I arrived back to the nest at about 5:30pm hoping to see if the fourth and last chick had hatched. Yes it had hatched! Judging by how sleepy and that he appeared to be still a bit wet and sticky, I think it had happened within the past hour.

Piping Plover chicks are precocial birds. That is a word biologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Precocial means that shortly after hatching, the bird is fully mobile. Plover chicks are not completely mature, they still need parents to help regulate their body temperature, but they have downy feathers and can run and feed themselves within an hour or so after emerging.

The opposite of precocial is altricial. Birds that hatch helpless, naked, usually blind, and are incapable of departing the nest, are altricial. Robins and Cardinals are examples of altricial birds.

Weighing about as much as a nickel at the time of hatching, Piping Plover chicks are able to feed themselves but are unable to regulate their body temperature. They need to tuck under Mom and Dad to warm up.

Please don’t eat my toe!

Tiny wing bud stretches

It makes it hard on the parents when hatching is stretched over a twenty four hour period. The day old chick was full of vim and vigor while the newborn could barely walk. To make matters even more challenging, and because the nest was sited in an extremely exposed location, the parents were trying to move the entire family, including the newborn hatchling, to a safer and less exposed site on the beach.

The adults piped softly to the newborn, coaxing him to leave the nest. He kept taking a few steps and then flopping back toward the nest.

In the meantime, the three older chicks were out exploring the beach in short forays and then snuggling together under Mom or Dad.

Mom takes a much needed break

After an hour or so of watching the youngest hatchling struggle, slowly making its way across the beach, the parents eventually succeeded in moving all four chicks to a safer location at the base of the dune where there were  divots, dried beach grass and seaweed, and new vegetation sprouting, providing much needed cover.

Mom returned several times to inspect the empty nest.

You can see the tiny one’s feathers are still sticky and not fully fluffed out.

By day’s end all four were tucking under Mom and Dad.

It was a gift to witness the beautiful Clam Fam hatch day, a day I won’t soon forget. So small and sparrow-sized, you could hold an adult Piping Plover in the cup of your hand, but so beautiful, fascinating, resilient, and intelligent a species of bird.

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our GHB chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- MORNING

SEE PART ONE HERE

I arrived at daybreak the following morning with myriad questions –would the first hatchling make it through the night, would they all have hatched over night, would the nest still be in the same location if all had hatched? The nest was sited in the most extraordinarily vulnerable location. And this beach in particular is plagued by a plethora of hungry avian predators that readily make a meal of both eggs and chicks.

Hooray!  First glimpse showed a fluffy puffball snuggling next to Mom and the next peek showed at least two eggs still remaining in the nest. I couldn’t tell initially if there was a new chick or three eggs.

Mom popped off the nest for a moment and there were two perfect little chicks! And one of the two remaining eggs was showing a mosaic of tiny cracks with the tiniest of external pips beginning to appear (egg on the right).

It’s Dad’s turn back on the nest. Both parents were active in helping the chicks hatch.

Early in the morning, the two hatchings stayed close to the nest and only made periodic and brief forays further out onto the beach. The one that was twelve hours old that had hatched the night before was clearly stronger, while the newly hatched wobbled along on unsteady legs, spending more time stumbling than standing. 

At about 7:15, I could see Dad beginning to help pull apart the eggshell with his beak.

He and Mom switched places and only twelve minutes later, nestling #3 was completely free of its eggshell.

Chick #1 was outside the nest observing all, while #2 was fast asleep as baby sibling was hatching in the nest next to him. Mom and Dad took turns removing the eggshells from the nest.

Two chicks, newborn hatchling, and one egg .

Newborn chick drying in the nest with one egg remaining.

The third chick to hatch was nearly dry and the last egg was still in the nest when I departed at noon, with plans to return later in the day.

From the moment of hatching, both parents give constant soft melodious piping calls and commands to the chicks and they learn within a few days time to listen and obey.

As the morning progressed, the most remarkable observation is that the family split in half. In roughly twenty minute intervals, Mom or Dad would watch the two older, stronger chicks as they began to run around on the beach learning to forage while either Mom or Dad would brood the remaining egg and the most recently hatched and still sleepy-eyed chick.

I can’t make it up this hill Bro!

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our GHB chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

 

NORTH AMERICA’S STUNNING AND LARGEST MOTH THE CECROPIA AND WHY THESE GIANT SILK MOTHS ARE THREATENED – PART ONE

Last summer my friend Christine gave me a handful of Cecropia Moth eggs. Nearly all hatched and grew, AND grew, AND GREW. The caterpillars were a whopping five inches in length and the width of a very large man’s thumb before they began to pupate (become a cocoon).

Cecropia Moth Eggs

First Instar

Second and Fourth Instar

Third Instar

Fifth and Final Stage

Cecropia Going Pooh (Frass)

The Cecropia caterpillar eats the leaves of many trees and shrubs, including alder, ash, birch, box elder, Chokecherry, elm, lilac, maple, poplar, Prunus and Ribes species, and willow. People are always a bit dismayed when I tell them that the adult is born without mouthparts and cannot eat during its brief lifespan. The adult’s only purpose in life is to mate and it lives for about a week or so.

We fed our Cecropia caterpillars Chokecherry (Prunus viginiana), because I knew of a good source where it was growing plentifully.

Cecropia Spinning a Cocoon -The caterpillar pulled some leaves loosely around, but mostly the cocoon is made from its own spun silk. Some spin their cocoons on tree branches and some on the sides of the buildings.

All winter the cocoons lived in glass terrariums on the side of our front porch, which is not enclosed, and which is also out of direct sunlight. The cocoons need to experience normal fluctuations in temperature so that adults will emerge at the correct time of year, when trees are leafed out.

Cecropia Moths are the largest moths found in North America. They are members of the Family Saturniidae. There are approximately 1,500 species of large moths in this family and they are found all over the world. The very largest are found in the tropics, but the wingspan of our Cecropia Moths can reach an amazing 7 inches across (compared to a Monarch, with a wing span of approximately 3.5 inches).

Part Two – emerging, reproduction, laying eggs of the next generation, and how we can help this increasingly rare species.

 

Cecropia Moths are found east of the Rocky Mountains, in Canada and the United States

 

 

 

CALL OUT FOR PIPING PLOVER VOLUNTEER AMBASSADORS

Dear Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,

I hope everyone is doing well and taking good care. I am writing to let you know that our Piping Plover pair at area #3 will soon be hatching their chicks, possibly by June 23rd. This is super exciting but also somewhat worrisome because it is more than a month later than when the chicks hatched last year. As we all know, GHB only becomes busier and busier as the season progresses.

What can we do to help the chicks reach the fledging age? I am organizing a group of citizen Piping Plover Ambassadors. This will be a volunteer group, not connected with the City administration. Our main objective is to keep the Piping Plover chicks safe and by doing so, we will ensure our beloved beach stay open to the public.

Ambassadors will be at the beach observing as well as informing interested beach goers about Piping Plover behaviors.

I’d like to try something different with scheduling that I hope will make things much less complicated. Ambassadors are needed for approximately one month. I am asking people to commit one set hour a day for that month.

So for example, I will be at the beach every morning from approximately sunrise until 7:00am

We need volunteers every hour from 7am to sunset; the 7am to 8am shift, the 8am to 9am shift, the 9am to 10am shift, etc. If you know you can commit to one hour every day for a month, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

If we get a viable nest at Area #1, we will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

This week I am ordering several coroplast signs, just like the ones we had last year. I wish I could afford to purchase many, but am asking volunteers to pay for and order the signs for yourself. The information to purchase signs will be at Seaside Graphics. During your shift, you would place the signs in the vicinity of where the chicks are located and then take your signs home with you at the end of your shift.

Ambassadors will wear a mask during their shift and maintain social distancing.

We will not be speaking directly with people regarding aberrant behavior, especially not to children. We can put ourselves between flying balls, runaway pets, joggers and children running towards the chicks, in a friendly manner. Especially with the global pandemic, many people are on edge. We do not want heated discussions taking place on the beach. We will not be taking photos of people’s behavior noticeably. If someone is acting badly, take a photo without them seeing you, and record any other information.

If someone is behaving very badly, ie. drunk and disorderly, or committing a crime, you are asked to stay clear, for your own personal safety, and to call the police. If there is a dog on the beach during your shift, it is imperative to call the dog officer. Without your calls, there is no record.

I am planning to make up data sheets where we can record our daily observations. And am happy to train anyone interested in lending a hand.

Please email and let me know if you would like to volunteer to be a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador. We would love, love to have your help! Thank you!

Take care and be well.

Warmly, Kim

Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Family 2019

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER FIRST HATCH DAY

Dear Friends,

So sorry to not be posting as much as usual and if I promised to stop by your store or business to take photos this week I am doubly sorry. Our nation is undergoing a sea change for social justice and how I wish I could join the peaceful protest but know that I am super high risk. February was pneumonia month; perhaps maybe what I really had was corona because breathing was so difficult and it took so long to recover, and now June has become Shingles month. I am learning how to manage the pain and since it was diagnosed early enough I am hoping it won’t linger. So again, I am so sorry if I haven’t made it to your shop or restaurant, but I will surely do so soon!

In the mean time, here is a beautiful scene I wanted to share with you. The Piping Plover family in the photos is one I have been following for several years. This pair is truly remarkable in so many ways I can’t even begin to explain here. You will see why when my PiPl film comes out, but trust me, these two have co-parenting down to an art form. I have learned so much from watching specific families of Plovers at specific sites, and especially my Clam Fam.

I call them the Clam Fam because the pair always make use of large Atlantic Surf Clams, which is pretty smart because from an avian predators overhead point of view, a nesting PiPl looks like a clam shell. I can’t wait to share it all!

Here they are in early April. The pair returned to their nesting site about a week and a half  later than our GHB nesting PiPl pair. These two famously always nest early in the season.

This year’s Clam Fam nest was sited right next to a pedestrian walkway and that is why we have such a clear view into the nest. 

Dad’s potential nest scrapes and Mom inspecting.

First two eggs in early May

The tiniest peep hole appeared and you could see movement beneath the surface. The peep hole is called an external pip.

Mom and Dad take turns guarding and sitting on the nest while the chick is hatching.

Once the eggshell has unzipped, the parents oftentimes help the chick hatch by pulling away the shell.

Eggshells are a concern to the PiPl parents because they can attract predators. Here you see Dad kicking the eggshell away. Mom quickly ran to the nest and carried off one half of the  shell. Shortly after that Dad did the same.

The newborn chick’s feathers are matted wet with fluid.

In an hour or so the chick is dry and fluffy and has already learned to push up under Dad or Mom’s wings to keep warm.

A sweet sleepy chick – it’s early evening and there are three more eggs to go. I’ll return tomorrow morning first thing

Read More and see the photos here of how a chicken chick hatches. As both PiPl and chickens are precocial birds, and from what I have observed, PiPl chicks are very similar in hatching.

Piping Plovers are listed as a US threatened species. Threatened species share the same protections as endangered species.

READ THE LATEST ON THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION’S PROPOSAL TO WEAKEN THE MIGRATORY BIRD SPECIES ACT

 

 

PIPING PLOVER CHRONICLES – WE LOST A NEST – AND SOME GOOD NEWS

Hello Friends, update on the Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach and other PiPl news-

First, a bit of sad news. We lost the second nest at Good Harbor Beach, which was located at area #1, the opposite end of the nest at #3, down by Salt Island Road. It only had two eggs and the exclosure installation was scheduled for Monday.

Good Harbor Beach Nest at Area #1

There is no way of knowing what happened because it was very windy yesterday and the tracks of predator or pet have been blown away.

There is the strong likelihood that the pair will renest and they appear to be making attempts to however, it is getting rather late in the year. This would be truly historic to have two nests at GHB if they do renest.

The good news is that our pair at #3 are coming along beautifully. They are constantly brooding the eggs and are doing an awesome job defending their “territory” against avian species (real and imagined predators) that fly onto the scene including sparrows, finches, Mockingbirds, gulls, and Crows. No bird is too small or too large to escape defense of their territory.

Good Harbor Beach Papa Plover brooding eggs.

A bit of amazing news –there is a Piping Plover nest for the first time ever in Quincy! More to come on that 🙂

Massachusetts is at the forefront of Piping Plover recovery and we can all be so proud of our local and state agencies and how they are managing beaches for both people and wildlife to share, despite the global pandemic. Just some of the organizations include Mass Wildlife, Massachusetts Department of Conservation, Essex Greenbelt, The Trustees of Reservations, Parker River National Wildlife USFWS, and many, many more. Thank you Massachusetts Piping Plover partners for all you are doing to help this tiny threatened shorebird.

On a separate note, over the past several days I have been filming a beautiful nest of four PiPl chicks hatching at a location in the area. It was amazing to witness, so very life reaffirming, and pure joy to see. Hopefully I’ll have time tomorrow to share more of the photos.

In this one photo,  you can see the hole where the chick is just starting to peck its way out (far left egg). I had lost track of the days with this particular family and only stopped by to check, not realizing it was “the day.” I said to myself, I don’t recall seeing that big black spot on that egg. After studying it for a few moments, I realized there was movement beneath the hole in the shell. Hatching was about to begin at any moment!

Piping Plover nest with egg cracking!

FRIENDS CHECK OUT THIS SUPER INTERESTING AND FAMILY ORIENTED ZOOM WEBINAR I AM PARTICIPATING IN, ALONG WITH WITH JOHN NELSON AND MARTIN RAY

Save the date for the Zoom event “Try Birding in Your Own Backyard” with fellow guests Martin Ray and John Nelson, moderated by Eric Hutchins and hosted by Literacy Cape Ann.

So very much looking forward to participating and so very honored to be asked.

Try birding in your backyard!
Zoom in for something fun on summer solstice eve!
Three of our favorite chroniclers of birds and nature share birding tips and experiences via Zoom and all are invited. Literary Cape Ann presents authors/naturalists John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray on Friday, June 19, from 6:30 to 7:30 for a lively talk the family will enjoy. Learn ways not just to observe birds but to capture your experience with birds via blogs, journals, photos or sketches. Make some popcorn, gather your family and join us.

Check in with the Literary Cape Ann Facebook page on June 19 for the Zoom link.

NEW YOUTUBE SHOW – BEAUTY BY THE SEA EPISODE #9

 

Male American Bullfrog mating serenade

Beaver, Beaver Lily Pad Eater

Reinventing our culture to benefit the many, not just the few.

Pitch Perfect Pandemic Precautions –

Alexandra’s Bread

Blue Collar Lobster Co – Steamers!

Beauport Hotel

Cedar Rock Gardens

Wolf Hill native noneysuckle (Lonicera semervirens) and super Hummingbird attractant ‘John Clayton’

Common Eider Duckling Rescue with Hilary Frye

Thank you Jodi from Cape Ann Wildlife Inc!

Piping Plover Chronicles –

Exclosure installed by Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and Gloucester’s DPW’s Joe Lucido.

Huge Shout Out to Essex Greenbelt and Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship.

Huge thank you to Joe Luciodo!

People’s Letters Really Helped. Thank you, thank you for writing!

Castaways Vintage Café Street Boutique

Charlotte Pops In ❤

UPDATE ON OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH NESTING PAIR OF PIPING PLOVERS

Dad was sitting sleepily on the nest this morning. The pair has adapted comfortably to the wire exclosure installed by Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and Gloucester DPW’s Joe Lucido.

I didn’t see Mom, but wasn’t able to spend that much time. Last we checked there were three eggs, we’ll see if a fourth is laid 🙂

 

ANNIE OR SQUAM?

Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer shares all three eggs are still in the nest.

View the Osprey Cam Here

From ECGA website –

Update May 28, 2020 – Not much new to report. The incubation phase for Annie and Squam continues. Squam is still bringing in numerous fresh fish daily, mostly river herring but the occassional small striped bass as well. One we roll into June the count down is on for hatching.

Annie or Squam? One of the pair of Cape Ann’s resident Ospreys (hopefully a family soon).

BEAUTY BY THE SEA WITH PIPING PLOVERS MATING! AND WE HAVE TWO PIPING PLOVER EGGS!!! EPISODE 8

Happy Memorial Day!

The flags that you see lining the boulevard are organized each year by Pauline Bresnihan. She owns the gift shop Pauline’s Giftson Essex Avenue in Gloucester, with many lovely hand painted and whimsical items for your home and garden.

Good Harbor Beach open to half capacity.

Piping Plover endangered/threatened species signs installed at GHB.

Sending thanks and gratitude to everyone who wrote emails ❤

Piping Plovers are on the agenda for the City Council meeting on Tuesday night, which will be live streamed at 7pm.

Alexandra and Jon at Alexandra’s Bread

Castaways Vintage Café

Caffe Sicilia

Short and Main

Beauport Hotel

Incredible job at Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester

Tree Peony, Rock’s peony, divinely scented,five blossoms

Please report your Monarch sightings. .

Piping Plover Chronicles continue –excellent detailed footage of Piping Plovers mating.

Two Eggs!

AND WE HAVE TWO PIPING PLOVER EGGS

Two perfect and beautiful PiPl eggs at Good Harbor Beach ❤

Now the next giant hurdle is to get the much needed protective exclosure installed!

HAS ANYONE SEEN MONARCHS YET?

Although Monarchs have been sited as far north as 46 degrees, it is still very early for us even though we are at 43 degrees latitude because we are so far east. Please write if you see one in your garden. And feel free to send a photo. I will post photos here. Thank you so much!

Keep your eyes peeled, especially on emerging milkweed shoots. In the photos below, Monarchs are drinking nectar from, depositing eggs on, and also mating on the milkweed plants. Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) are the two most productive milkweeds for the Northeast region.