Category Archives: Life at the Edge of the Sea

OUTSTANDING PIPING PLOVER GROWTH CHART

Friend Dawn Vesey shared the Piping Plover Growth Chart to my facebook timeline and I thought our plover lovers would appreciate seeing. The chart was made by Jim Verhagen and he has offered a high resolution version, gratis, to anyone who would like it for education/research purposes. Contact Jim via his website “Readings from the Northside.”

 

CELEBRATING DAY TWENTY WITH OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK–ALMOST-FLEDGLING

Confident Little Chick

With each passing day, our Little Chick looks less and less like a chick and more and more like a fledgling. As with all Piping Plover new fledglings, the pretty stripe of brown feathers across the back of the head is becoming less pronounced, while flight feathers are rapidly growing and replacing the baby’s downy fluff. It won’t be long before we see sustained flying.

Little Chick spent a good part of the morning at the intertidal zone finding lots of yummy worms and mini crustaceans.

Thanks to all our volunteers for their continued work in monitoring the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. Volunteer Hazel Hewitt has created a series of informative signs, placing them all around the beach and at every entrance. 

Thanks to GLoucester High School Coach Mike Latoff and the players for keeping an eye on the Plovers.

Papa Plover, sometimes feeding in close proximity to Little Chick, but more often, now watching from a distance. 

Twenty-day-old Piping Plover Chick

ONLY ONE CHICK SEEN THIS MORNING (*EDITED RE DOGS ON THE BEACH)

Our one remaining Piping Plover chick spent the early morning in the vegetation at the edge of the dune.

Perhaps we lost the third chick to the tremendous deluge late yesterday that happened not once, but twice. Or perhaps to the crows. When I arrived at the sanctuary this morning there was a tremendous kerfuffle underway between two crows and both adults. As the crows were departing, after being vigorously chased away by the PiPl parents, I couldn’t see clearly whether or not they were carrying off a chick. Or perhaps, none of the above. There was an unleashed puppy on the beach, but after speaking with the woman, she and her dog departed. The PiPl were up by the sanctuary at that time so I am sure it wasn’t because of the puppy. I hope with all my heart we can don’t loose the one remaining chick.

*Comment added from my Facebook friend Susanne: Thank you to all for your kindness re the baby plovers. Yesterday after the downpour, I went to Good Harbor. No life guards and it was relatively quiet. There were three groups of people with dogs and two dogs were unleashed, One unleashed dog was near the piping plovers and too far from me to catch easily. I talked to two of the other dog owners. One said they didn’t know the rules and thanked me. The other said her dog is very old and this may be the last time she ever gets to walk on a beach. I love dogs and hope people have a lovely time on our beautiful beaches. I also wish they cared more about following our beach rules, which are common sense and about caring for others.

The adults and chick were acting oddly this morning, not wanting to venture too far from the symbolically roped off area. Papa Plover spent a great deal of time perched on the party rock and surveying the family’s territory (not usual behavior), and got into several times with the Interloper.

Thank you so much to all our volunteers who are trying their best to help keep these beautiful protected birds safe.

INJURED (AND NON-INJURED) PIPING PLOVER CHICKS UPDATE

Our little injured chick is hanging on. Crystal from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine phoned to report that she fed him through the night. He remains on supportive care and is being given antibiotics and pain medication. Little chick has been moved to a heated incubator. The veterinarians are again stating that prognosis is unpredictable.

What are these things called wings?

Meanwhile, these two chick were having an easier morning than usual. There were no fires, dogs, or beach rake, and with the cooler temperatures and overcast skies, many fewer people. PiPl super volunteer monitor Hazel came by with flyers of the injured chick and she posted them around the beach, hoping to help people understand why we need to be on the look out for chicks afoot.

Fifteen-day-old Piping Plover Chick with Mama

I wonder what a baby bird think of its funny little appendages that will soon grow into beautiful wings?

Not a great deal of information is known about when exactly PiPl fledge. Some say 25 days and some reports suggest up to 32 days. In my own observations filming a PiPl family last summer on Wingaersheek Beach, the fledglings could not fly very well until mid-August. The PiPl fledglings and parents maintained a family bond through the end of August, even after it was becoming difficult to tell whether they were fledglings or adults. All during that period, the fledglings appeared still dependent upon the adults, who were still parenting, for example, offering distinctive piping instruction especially when perceived danger such as joggers and dogs were in the vicinity.

Two little butts, extra snuggles under Dad’s brood patch on this chilly day fifteen.

INJURED PIPING PLOVER UPDATE

Our littlest Piping Plover is on its way to Tufts with Catherine and her sons George and Charles.

Photo: Jodi Swenson, Cape Ann Wildlife. Jodi is Cape Ann’s resident bird rescue expert.

TWO CHICKS CELEBRATING TWO WEEK MILESTONE, ONE CHICK HANGING ON BY A THREAD

Mama and the two fourteen-day-old chicks this morning at daybreak.

Two of our three Piping Plover chicks are doing beautifully, the third however is hanging on for dear life. The littlest chick was found limp and helpless by beach goers, on the dune edge near the creek. The chick was placed in the wire enclosure where Catherine Ryan and I found it at around nine pm. Jodi Swenson from Cape Ann Wildlife arrived shortly thereafter. She immediately tucked the chick into her shirt and has been keeping the chick in a warming nest. Jodi reports that the chick’s eye is swollen and that it is having neurological problems. More information to follow.

Little Chick’s right eye is swollen.

Jodi’s snapshot from last night.

 

GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS DAY THIRTEEN

Foraging for tiny crustaceans at the high water line.

This morning at 5am found all three adorable balls of fluff zig zagging in and out of their roped off area. All was going well and I had planned to leave at 6:30 for work when the beach rake arrived on the scene. At the very moment the roaring rake was passing in front of the roped off safety area, the chicks decided to head to the water. It was harrowing trying to herd the chicks back up towards the wrack zone and at one point I lost sight of one. The rake passed twice in front of the sanctuary and both times the chicks were in extreme, extreme danger. The beach rake driver is super conscientious and stopped for Papa Plover when he ran in front of the rake, but not in a million years would a chick have been seen. I think eventually the chicks will learn to run in the opposite direction of the giant noise-making machine, but at this stage of development, they are running directly towards the beach rake. Additionally, while the rake drama was unfolding, half a dozen gulls flew in. I don’t know if they were there to check on what was tumbled up by the beach rake, or if they knew the babies were vulnerable as both parents were trying to herd the chicks away from the rake.

After writing this post, the next order of business is emailing Dave from Greenbelt and our conservation agent Ken Whittaker about the beach rake. I sincerely hope it can be redirected to stay on either side of the safety zone, traveling behind the beach through the parking lot road to clean both sides, but completely avoiding the area the PiPls are using as their morning and night time sanctuary.

Compare the photo on the left of a one-day-old chick and the photo on the right of the thirteen-day-old chick.

Despite their growing size, warmth and cuddles are still needed from Papa and Mama.

One of my favorite images, I think I’ll call this photo OctoPop.

Thirteen-day-old Piping Plover chick looking mighty confident.