Category Archives: Life at the Edge of the Sea

WONDERFUL CONNECTING HISTORY ABOUT THE SCHOONER ROSEWAY AND SCHOONER DENIS SULLIVAN

Recently I was contacted by a gentleman, Bill Girolamo, who was a passenger aboard the magnificent Schooner Denis Sullivan during the Parade of Sail and race. He was hoping to find images of the Denis Sullivan from shore and after a google search he found mine. The Schooner Denis Sullivan is a 3-masted Great Lakes cargo schooner and was recently purchased by the World Ocean School. 2023 marks the first year the Denis Sullivan participated in the Gloucester Schooner Festival.

Photo by Ron Grant: the Schooner Roseway crossing Whaleback Lighthouse in Kittery Maine

Bill shares that the Schooner Roseway, also owned by the World Ocean School, is in Mystic, Connecticut, undergoing a complete restoration. I hope this means we’ll see Roseway in next year’s festival! Bill writes that “The Roseway will be 100 years old next year. There will be a Centennial Celebration for it once it is out of Mystic CT, in one more year. Its life was amazing, having been built originally in Essex MA by the owner of the Hathaway Shirt company from lumber on his land in Ipswich as a Schooner fishing boat and the story continues for the next 100 years… amazingly.”

Last year, in 2022, Bill was invited to sail aboard the Roseway during Schooner Fest as his uncle was a pilot on the Schooner during the years it was a pilot boat in Boston Harbor. The Schooner was also a patrol boat during World War II and was was mounted with guns and painted gray. Bill wrote the lovely sonnet in tribute to the Schooner Roseway.

Many, many thanks to Bill Girolamo for sharing these wonderful connections!

 

FUNNY PIPING PLOVER CHICKS NEW SHORT FILM

Tiny Piping Plover chicks weigh about as much as a nickel at the time of hatching. Although capable of running about within a few hours after pushing out of their eggshells, one-day-old chicks are extraordinarily vulnerable. They are also adorably funny as they learn how to navigate the varied beach terrain and to forage for food. The hatchlings study their out-sized feet, stretch tiny wing buds, fall into mini fox holes, and tumble over even while only trying to scratch themselves. It’s not easy being one-day-old!

Mom and Dad spend a great deal of time helping the chicks to regulate their body temperature, especially in the earliest days of the chick’s life. In the last clips, Dad calls to the four siblings to warm up under his downy soft underwing feathers.  And by the way, Plover Dads are truly super heroes in the life story of the Piping Plover, co-parenting equally, and even then some.

The footage in this short is from the forthcoming film, The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our online fundraiser to help complete our documentary. Filming is finished however, post-production and festival costs have sky-rocketed; they are much greater than when we released our sister film project about species at risk, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. Without our community’s help, we could not have launched Beauty on the Wing. Working with the community to produce Beauty on the Wing made it far more meaningful.

We are deeply appreciative of any gifts given. Thank you.

Please donate here to our Network for Good online fundraiser https://filmmakerscollab.networkforgood.com/projects/55077-filmmakers-collaborative-the-piping-plovers-of-moonlight-bay

 

 

LAST NIGHT OF SUMMER SUNSET DID NOT DISAPPOINT! WITH TALL SHIP LYNX

Last evening, the Tall Ship Lynx arrived to Gloucester Harbor just as the sun was setting. The sky grew rosier and rosier long after the sun had dipped below the horizon.

Tall Ship Lynx and Schooner Adventure

Autumnal Equinox Sunset Ten Pound Island Lighthouse

 

From the Tall Ship Lynx website – The Tall Ship Lynx is an educational organization dedicated to hands-on programs that teach the history and present examples of America’s struggle to preserve its independence. The ship is an interpretation of an actual privateer built in 1812. The maritime challenges during the War of 1812 are taught aboard Lynx utilizing a comprehensive, interactive program designed to enrich personal achievement through teamwork and the discipline of sailing.

In 1997 Woodson K. Woods embarked on a journey to build a privateer inspired by the original historic tall ship from the War of 1812 – The Privateer Lynx. His goal was to create a living history museum to educate children and adults alike about American history through active sail training aboard a real wooden sailing ship.

What went into Lynx was not just wood, rope, brass and canvas. It was not just sweat, blood, heartache and laughter either. What went into her goes far beyond history, ambition, inspiration, determination and commitment. In 2016 Lynx was purchased from Woods Maritime LLC , by the Lynx Educational Foundation, Lynx hails out of Nantucket Island, Ma. Donald Emmons Peacock, President and captain. Our partner in education is Egan Maritime Institute in Nantucket. Lynx winters in city of St Petersburg, Florida our winter home. Since 2015, Lynx Donald E. Peacock, president, and Captain Lynx winters in St. Simons Island, GA, November through May.

On July 28, 2001 in Rockport, Maine Woods’ vision was realized. Past and present converged as Lynx was launched in a gala event ordaining a magnificent future on the high seas.

The creation of Lynx embraces eternal truths: passion, sacrifice, perseverance, honor and courage. All of these emotions gave her a soul long before she tasted her first saltwater. At sea, Lynx is the legacy of her creators: the thinkers, the designers, the builders, and most important, the dreamers…

A BIT OF MONARCH FAKERY – THE BEAUTIFUL VICEROY BUTTERFLY

Over the course of past week, we on Cape Ann have been graced with a splendid mini Monarch migration across our shores, and many other species of butterflies too are on the wing. To my utter delight, yesterday while filming at what I like to think of as a butterfly hotspot, a pint-sized butterfly went zooming past. Wow, that is the smallest Monarch I have ever seen. But no, the butterfly traveled across the field, and when it paused for a few moments to warm its wings, I realized it was a Viceroy Butterfly! This was the first time I have observed a Viceroy on Cape Ann.

The Viceroy has a faster flight pattern than the Monarch and I was only able to get a few minutes of footage and only several photos before it disappeared over the horizon however; you can see from the photos how very similar the wing pattern is. To make a quick comparison when out in the field, the Viceroy does not have the mitten-shaped cell that the Monarch possesses and it has a prominent black line running along lower wings.

Monarch Butterfly

Viceroy Butterfly

To read more about Monarch and Viceroy fakery, read the following terrific article from New Jersey Audubon here: “Monarchs and Viceroys: A Tale of Mimicry”

The ‘royal’ butterflies –

 

PLOVER T-SHIRTS ARE SELLING OUT AT ALEXANDRA’S BREAD!

A huge shout out and many, many thanks to Jon and Alexandra for distributing our Plover tees and stickers. Yesterday I dropped off the last few from the initial order and am placing a re-order with Seaside Graphics today!

Jon shares that customers are loving the positivity of the stickers and tees. Thank you community for supporting our Cape Ann Piping Plovers <3

Tees and stickers are available for sale at our wonderful local bakery and home goods shop, Alexandra’s Bread, located at 265 Main Street in Gloucester. 

There are several ways in which readers can help support our forthcoming documentary, The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay. Approximately $12.00 per each T-shirt goes toward the film project, the rest goes toward making more tees.

To contribute a larger gift, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our online Network for Good fundraiser DONATE HERE

To learn more about The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay documentary please go here.

BEE-UTIFUL!

Filmed at my friend Paul Wegzyn’s sunflower field, at Felix’ Family Farm

“Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev, performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra – downloaded from the Internet Archive of royalty free music.

KEEP MONARCHS WILD: WHY IT IS SO DETRIMENTAL AND UNCOOL TO RAISE AND RELEASE HUNDREDS OF MONARCHS

Captive breeding and captive raising Monarchs in the hundreds, and in some cases thousands, is not the way to help the butterflies. You may feel you are taking positive steps, but we have learned over time that captive breeding and rearing in large numbers spreads disease and  weakens the species. Captive rearing hundreds of Monarchs is HARMFUL. The following is a science based and thoughtful article published by one of the foremost authorities on Monarchs, the Xerces Society.The thrust of the article is that captive rearing no more than ten at a time is educational and worthwhile, if the guidelines provided below are followed to a tee. If you are one of the folks that are rearing hundreds/thousands of Monarchs, please read the following –

By Emma Pelton on 15. June 2023

Instead of rearing—which is risky and unproven in helping monarchs—we should focus on more effective ways to conserve these glorious wild animals.

Many of us have been there: Finding a monarch caterpillar, collecting it in a jar, raising it on milkweed, and then waiting patiently for a butterfly to emerge and take flight. Helping a child (or an adult) learn about this captivating, up-close example of metamorphosis can be incredibly rewarding. Unlike many wild animals, monarchs are easily reared, so it is no wonder that bringing caterpillars into the classroom or home has been used by teachers and parents for decades as an educational tool—or just for the pure enjoyment of it. Rearing monarchs also has been a part of monarch research: From the tagging efforts started by the Urquharts in the 1960s to the multiple tagging programs of today. These programs, as well as other community science projects, have greatly expanded our understanding of migration paths.

Because rearing a butterfly in captivity enables people to share in the amazing transformation from a caterpillar to winged adult, it deserves a place in the future of monarch education and research efforts. However, we need to approach it thoughtfully and responsibly. Like any wild animal, we have to make sure that our interest in rearing monarchs does not harm the butterfly’s populations. This is particularly important today, with monarch populations down by 80-97%. These levels are so low that the migratory phenomenon to Mexico and coastal California is at risk. In an attempt to help reverse the monarch’s population free-fall, many people are attempting to save the species by rearing and releasing monarchs on a large scale. There are, however, serious concerns about this approach.

READ MORE HERE

For more about how you can help the magnificent migrating Monarch, visit my documentary’s website here – Beauty on the Wing

From the Xerces Society

Answers to a few frequently-asked-questions and answers about rearing

How can I rear monarchs responsibly?

  1. Rear no more than ten monarchs per year (whether by a single individual or family). This is the same number recommended in the original petition to list the monarch under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
  2. Collect immature monarchs locally from the wild, heeding collection policies on public lands; never buy or ship monarchs.
  3. Raise monarchs individually and keep rearing containers clean between individuals by using a 20% bleach solution to avoid spreading diseases or mold.
  4. Provide sufficient milkweed including adding fresh milkweed daily.
  5. Keep rearing containers out of direct sunlight and provide a moist (not wet) paper towel or sponge to provide sufficient, not excessive, moisture.
  6. Release monarchs where they were collected and at appropriate times of year for your area.
  7. Check out Monarch Joint Venture’s newly updated handout, Rearing Monarchs: Why or Why Not?
  8. Participate in community science, including testing the monarchs you raise for OE, tracking parasitism rates, and/or tagging adults before release.

LAUNCHING OUR PIPING PLOVER FILM FUNDRAISING EVENT TODAY!

Dear Friends,

As many of you know that while we Piping Plover Ambassadors have been looking out over Cape Ann’s PiPls, I have also been working on a documentary film about Plovers nesting in Gloucester, along with filming Plover populations found at communities all around the north of Boston coastal region. Our GHB Plovers first arrived in Gloucester in 2016 and it was evident from the very first days that they were struggling to survive under the pressures of human and pet disturbances. As we were learning how to best help the Plovers nest undisturbed, I began to document Plovers at many other beaches to learn how other communities managed their Plover populations. I focused mostly on urban beaches as they are most similar to Good Harbor Beach.

Over the course of filming, I have spent several years documenting nesting Piping Plovers pairs that are extraordinary in their parenting skills, similar to our original pair of GHB Plovers, Super Dad and Super Mom. The documentary, The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay, is based on true life stories and is set in a fictional Massachusetts coastal town to protect the location of the Plovers.

Today we are launching our fundraising campaign. I am very proud to share that we have received our very first grant, from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Here is a link to our online fundraiser:

Link to our 501c fiscal sponsor Filmmakers Collaborative: https://filmmakerscollab.org/films/piping-plovers-of-moonlight-bay/
Link to the trailer: https://vimeo.com/818861213
Link to the Piping Plover Project website: https://wordpress.com/view/pipingploverproject.org

Gifts for The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay will support post production and distribution costs, including re-recording voiceover narration, color and sound editors, picture mastering, studio time, festival fees and applications, music and map rights, and an underwriting agent to bring the film to the wide audience of public television. Our goal is to raise $80,500.00 for post production with a total of $115,000.00 if the film is accepted to air on public television.

The names of underwriters contributing $10,000.00 and above will be proudly listed in the film’s special underwriting credit pod. What does it mean to be an underwriter? When you watch a film on public television and the announcer says (for example), “This program was made possible by gifts from Katherine and Charles Cassidy, by The Fairweather Foundation, by Lillian B. Anderson, and by The Arnhold Family, in Memory of Clarisse Arnhold,” that’s where your name, or the name of your foundation, will appear, at both the beginning and at the end of the film.

If you are interested in becoming an underwriter, please feel free to phone (978-290-3804) or email and I will be happy to send the formal proposal and budget.

All supporters, no matter how large or small the donation, will be listed on the film’s website. Any amount contributed is tremendously appreciated.

Thank you for being part of launching The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay!

Very best wishes,

Kim

PARADE OF SAIL WITH SCHOONER STROMBUS AND THE EAST GLOUCESTER GANG!

I love trying to capture friend’s boats during the Parade of Sail. Here’s our neighbor’s Geoff and Mandy’s beautiful Schooner Strombus that they built and launched back in 2017, and the sweetest crew of East Gloucester friends!

The Schooner Strombus won the 2023 Betty Ramsey Award in the Marconi Rigged Class!

 

Strombus Schooner Launch Party, from July 2017-  

A new schooner was added to Gloucester’s growing fleet. The schooner was launched today at 11am from the Rocky Neck Marine Railways. Strombus, built by Geoff Deckebach, with help from his wife Mandy, was twelve years in the making. They began gutting and restoring the boat all those many years ago when work and raising a family slowed progress. About a year ago, Geoff decided to turn his full attention to the restoration. The schooner is simply beautiful. More work will continue on the interior and it will be ready enough to motor along in this year’s upcoming Schooner Festival.

SUN AND SAIL PHOTOS FROM THE GLOUCESTER 2023 SCHOONER FESTIVAL PARADE OF SAIL AND RACE RESULTS!

What glorious weather for the entire 39th Annual Gloucester Schooner Festival and Parade of Sail! 

If interested in the name of the schooner, click on the photo; most are captioned.

 

GLOUCESTER MARITIME HERITAGE DAY HAPPENING TODAY FROM 10AM TO 4PM

Scenes from today’s Maritime Heritage Day – The event runs from 10am to 4pm, with demonstrations and sails taking place throughout the day. Some of the highlights are the kid-friendly demonstrations including a vintage rope making machine, an iron forger, and Sea Scouts explaining oyster culture.

 

One of the very favorite demonstrations was net-making, taught by Captain Joe Sanfilippo of Extreme Gloucester Fishing.

 

Captain Joe Sanfilippo is part of the SaLT group (Sea and Land Together) that gives lectures and teaches classes at Cedar Rock Garden. A new series of classes is being offered in the fall

More about Extreme Gloucester Fishing

Extreme Gloucester Fishing Commercial Fishing Training Center is a sustainable fisheries learning center, providing hands on training in the classroom and on local commercial fishing vessels. Our focus is the professional training of sustainable fishing practices and job placement within the fishing community. During your time at Extreme Fishing you will develop personally, academically and professionally. Whatever your focus:
– Marine Safety
– Marine Electronics
– Vessel Handling
– Diesel Mechanics
– Fishing methods and terminology
– Policies and Regulations

With the completion of the curriculum you will have learned the skills, knowledge and tools to build a foundation for a successful future. Captain Joseph Sanfilippo is a Northeast Commercial Fisherman born and raised in historic Gloucester, Massachusetts, the youngest of five boys born into the business. His extensive knowledge, work ethic and passion for the industry has led him to pursue and achieve great accomplishments. He has co-owned three 60-90 foot stern trawlers and personally owned and operated an 86 foot trawler. Having started working on family boats, he acquired the many skills it takes to be one of the best Commercial Fishing Captains in the Northeastern U.S. His passion and heritage have led him to teach his skills to many young Commercial Fishermen. He has worked with many community boat repair and fishing gear shops along the way and takes tremendous pride in all he does. At age 50, he is one of the youngest Captains in the Gloucester fleet.

Our Vision is for Extreme Gloucester Fishing Training Center to provide an oceans, bays and river related theme based education designed to actively engage and challenge it’s students in all things commercial fishing. Trainees will be valued for their strong work ethic, knowledge, experience and leadership capabilities. Extreme Gloucester Fishing will stay on the leading edge of innovative technologies and teaching strategies and help support a sustainable fishery. Gloucester is home to a rich fishing history and has to be first in its approach to commercial fishing to stay competitive.

FELIX’S FAMILY FARM IS THE BEST SUNFLOWER FIELD EVER!

Come see the latest magnificently beautiful and wonderfully immersive creation by farmer Paul Wegzyn and his Dad (also Paul) at Felix’s Family Farm. Formerly named School Street Sunflowers, the farm with the new name is the same beautiful field, same wonderful family owned operation, only with many new additions. Just to name a few – a healthy, growing and glowing pack of alpacas!, a herd of baby goats <3, live music, picnicking, and yoga classes in a Yoga Yurt!  

The field is at its peak this week and next and Paul says it is truly their best field ever. I agree one thousand percent. Row upon row of freshly opened and newly opening flowers will take your breath away. The Farm is utterly enchanting. Bring your family and take lots of photos or just wander through the fields. I hope you will be as enthralled as was I.

Felix’s Family Farm is located at 20 Lowe’s Lane, just off 1A/Rt. 133, in Ipswich. For tickets and more information, visit the Felix Family Farm website here.

In year’s past, the sunflower field has had a theme. One of my favorites from several years back was “Transcendentalism.” This year, the theme is “Family.” Quotes placed throughout the field leave you to stop and take a moment to reflect on our families and how dear they are to us.

Father and Son Paul Wegzyn and Paul Wegzyn

ALL CREATURES TINY AND SMALL – NEW SHORT FILM – THE SUMMER POLLINATOR GARDEN

Come to our summer pollinator garden and see all the creatures, tiny and small, and the flowers that are planted to attract these beautiful winged wonders.

Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Internet Archive of Royalty Free Music 

Featuring all manner of bees, including Honey, Bumble, and Sugar; Cedar Waxwing building a nest; Catbird fledgling and adult; Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Pipevine caterpillars and chrysalis; Cecropia Moth caterpillar, Pandora Sphinx Moth caterpillars; Clouded Sulphur; male Goldfinch;  Monarchs; teeny only 1/2 inch in length male Spring Peeper; Ruby-throated Hummingbirds male, female, and juveniles; and my favorite creature in our garden, nature girl Charlotte <3

NIGHTHAWK – MYSTERIOUSLY BEAUTIFUL SPECIES IN SHARP DECLINE IN MASSACHUSETTS

The exquisite young Nighthawk was seen quietly resting on a branch at mid-day. Nearly motionless and perfectly camouflaged in plumage that mirrors tree bark, the Nighthawk was easy to lose sight of even when staring directly at it. These ephemeral beauties are well-camouflaged at all stages of development, in fact the hatchlings are so well disguised that the parents don’t bother to build a nest; the female lays her eggs directly on the ground.

The name Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) is confusing as they are neither strictly nocturnal nor related to hawks. Nighthawks are crepuscular, meaning they typically hunt during the low light hours of  early morning and early evening. The Nighthawk’s diet consists entirely of insects. As insect populations are declining, so too are the Nighthawks.

These sublime creatures formerly nested in Massachusetts. It’s been a number of decades since a breeding pair was last seen in our state. They are long distance migrators and there is much still to understand why they are disappearing. Loss of food, loss of habitat, and pesticide use surely are at the top of the list.

I was awe struck by how sweetly peaceful the bird appeared, with its teeny beak and only occasionally opening its large black eyes, sleeping the day away in preparation for an evening hunt. I wondered, though, is this the last time I will ever see a Nighthawk?

Watch this very cool map of the the migratory route of the Common Nighthawk

PIPING PLOVER T-SHIRTS AT ALEXANDRA’S BREAD!!

Dear PiPl Friends,

We at long last have our Plover Tees!!! And it was well worth the wait, better than imagined! When picking up the shirts at Seaside Graphics, a customer purchased one on the spot!

The tees are available for sale at our wonderful local bakery and home goods shop, Alexandra’s Bread, located at 265 Main Street in Gloucester. 

These T-shirts are luxuriously silky soft, 100 percent cotton and wash beautifully!  We have two different blues, basically because I couldn’t decide which one everyone would like better 🙂 The Cerulean is a pretty sky blue and the Celestial is a more like a dreamy foggy day, powdery blue.

Mostly Large and Xlarge are available with this batch, with a few  mediums and one small remaining. The cost of the T-shirt is $30.00.

If you purchase a T-shirt or sticker, please send a photo. I am planning on asking friends and family to model the shirts, but in the meantime, our clothesline will have to do.

The chest measurements of the Unisex Tees are as follows. 

Small –  18 inches (total 36inch circumference), to fit 34-37 inch chest

Medium – 20 inches, to fit a 38-41 inch chest

Large – 22 inches, to fit a 42 -45 inch chest

Xlarge –  24 inches, to fit a 46-49 inch chest

Example – the large measures 22 inches across the front, which equals 44 inches total chest circumference, which would fit a 42-45 inch chest, depending on how you like your Tee to fit.

If you are not sure which size you would like, measure your favorite T-shirt, across the front, from underarm to underarm seam at the chest line at the widest point, and then double that measurement.

Years ago we had Plover T-shirts, thanks to former PiPl ambassador Heather Hall, and ever since then, we have been wanting to do it again. We are so grateful to designer Beth Swan, who created our Plover logo for both stickers and for the tees (the stickers are also available at Alexandra’s Bread). Beth was so fantastic to work with and I highly recommend her beautiful, thoughtful (and fun) designs. You can see a small sampling of Beth’s work here.

Many thanks too, to Seaside Graphics Samantha and Will for their fantastic customer service and speedy printing!

All profits will initially go toward purchasing more stickers and tees and then towards the fundraiser for the forthcoming documentary “The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay.”

 

KNOCKOUT RAINBOW AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Charlotte and I ran over to Good Harbor Beach early last evening, just after the sun showers, in hopes of catching a rainbow and we did! There was even a reflection of the rainbow in the Creek. GHB has the best rainbows <3

AUGUST PIPING PLOVER UPDATE AND HOW A CHANGING CLIMATE MAY HAVE IMPACTED CAPE ANN’S PIPLS

Dear PiPl Friends,

A brief note about film progress – Several friends have written to ask why I have not been posting as frequently as usual. For many months I have been working like crazy to get my forthcoming documentary, “The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay,” ready to bring to my film finishing editor, Eric. The schedule is tight, exacerbated by a complicated computer crash. We also have a houseful of family and guests, as I am sure is not atypical for the month of August  for all of us who live on beautiful Cape Ann. The great news is I have made my deadline! Eric and and I will be working on finishing the documentary in September, along with raising the funds needed to finish and to submit to film festivals.

After weeks of unseasonably cooler temps, followed by a brief heat wave, the last few weeks here on Cape Ann have been mild and wonderfully enjoyable. We who live here are so very blessed to have escaped the baking temperatures experienced worldwide.

In some ways, our Cape Ann Piping Plovers benefitted from the off-weather but several extreme storms proved lethal. Super Mom and Super Dad laid a clutch of four eggs during the cool spring. Only three eggs hatched, which is unusual for our Super pair. A brief reminder-  Super Mom and Super Dad are called as such as they are the breeding pair that first began nesting at Good Harbor Beach in 2016. Through pet disturbances, parking lot nests, bonfires, fireworks, 200 plus underage drinking parties, and physical disability, along with crows and gulls hungrily drawn to the garbage strewn beach, despite all that, they have managed to successfully breed at Good Harbor Beach for the past eight years. Super Mom and Dad are also the parents of HipHop, our handicapped fledgling from last summer.

Although the rain and colder than normal temperatures delayed nesting, when the weather is rotten, the beach is empty, which leaves nesting birds largely undisturbed. Shorebird monitors everywhere love to see foggy, rainy days as the birds get a break from the crowds. Paula, one of our stellar Ambassadors reminds us “rainy weather if for the birds,” and that is literally true, in a positive way 🙂

We inexplicably lost one of Super Mom and Dad’s chicks when it was about ten days old. The two remaining chicks, who soon gained the nicknames the Chubettes, grew fat and strong on a diet rich in sea life protein found in the tidal flats at GHB. We said farewell to the pair when they were approximately seven weeks old and had become ace flyers, zooming high and all around the beach.

Our second pair of Plovers did not fare as well. Two of the chicks hatched during a violent storm and the family did not survive.

Our third nesting pair, Mini Mom and Scruffy Dad, are a first time breeding pair at Good Harbor Beach.  Mini Mom has very distinct feather patterning and I believe this was her third year attempting to nest at GHB.   Late in the season, they laid a clutch of four eggs and all four hatched and were thriving. That terrible storm of several weeks ago, the one that raged all night and where lightening struck GHB several times, was devastating for the little family. It’s not unusual to lose one chick in a violent storm but to lose two chicks overnight was tough for us all. The good news though is that the remaining two offspring of Mini Mom and Scruffy Dad are the fattest little things you have ever seen and, at the time when this is published, may already have departed Good Harbor Beach for their wintering grounds.

This was the first year we Cape Ann PiPl Ambassadors have worked with Mass Audubon and Devon Harrington, the City’s assistant conservation agent. I simply cannot say enough good things about Devon and the fabulous Mass Audubon team. Headed by Lyra Brennan, Director of Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program, and Malarie (a Gloucester native), along with her fellow field agents Sydney (also from Gloucester), Kirsten, and Beth; the GHB Plovers had the best coverage ever! It was fantastic to have so many eyes on the PiPls throughout the day and communication between Mass Audubon and the Ambassadors was superb. Lyra and Devon had given an outstanding presentation on Mass Audubon protocols early in the spring and it set the tone for the summer. We are looking forward to working with Devon, Lyra, Malarie, Sydney, Kirsten, and the entire Mass Audubon team again next year!

Tiny PiPL chick learning to forage

Our dunes have not looked this healthy in many decades, due to an added benefit from roping off the low lying areas at the base of the dunes for Piping Plovers. Because the base of the dunes are being protected from foot traffic, for the most part, we no longer have receding bluffs with a sharply exposed face. The dunes are becoming gently sloped and covered with beach grass, Sea Rocket, Seaside Goldenrod, and Common Milkweed, all filling in and holding the sand in place.

Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship, shares that over at Coffins Beach in West Gloucester, he and his team have been managing a wonderfully active summer.The final count is not yet in, but it appears as though eight chicks will have fledged from Coffins. This may well bring the total of chicks from Gloucester beaches to a whopping one dozen!!

New face on the block – a migrating  young Plover stopping at Good Harbor Beach for fortification.

A huge shout out to Gloucester’s DPW. The GHB parking lot has been maintained beautifully this summer. The DPW is super on top of removing the giant mound of trash that is found at the footbridge nearly every morning and also emptying the barrels that are often overflowing after a busy beach day.

Gloucester’s DPW crew also installed the handicapped ramp at Boardwalk #2, making it much easier for wheelchairs and wagons to access the beach. Within hours of installing, the blue ramp was in much use!

An hour after install

Wing stretches

 

OUR CAPE ANN PIPING PLOVER STICKERS ARE IN AT ALEXANDRA’S BREAD! #ploverjoyed

Our long wished-for Cape Ann Piping Plover Project stickers/decals are now available to purchase at Alexandra’s Bread. They are beautiful, so sweet, and I think you will love them!

The stickers are the highest quality vinyl, very durable, and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. The cost is $5.00 per sticker. Alexandra’s Bread is located at 265 Main Street, Gloucester.

Local designer Beth Swan, who also created the Gloucester 400th commemorative medal, designed the logo. She is wonderfully talented and extremely generous and we are so appreciative of her gorgeous, thoughtful, and super fun logo. Tee shirts, with Beth’s logo, are in the pipeline and we will be featuring the tees in the coming weeks.

Last, but not least, thank you to Will and Samantha at Seaside Graphics for the beautiful printing job!
Piping Plover Besties

Beth Swan’s stunning Gloucester 400 commemorative medal

 

GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS FEATURED IN TODAY’S GLOUCESTER TIMES!!

Many, many thanks to Gloucester Daily Times’s writer Ethan Forman and Editor-in-Chief Andrea Holbrook for today’s story about out GHB Plovers.  Ethan always takes the time to get it right. Thank you!!!

By Ethan F orman Staff Writer

Despite the loss of some tiny chicks to storms this summer, efforts to protect the threatened piping plover shorebirds at Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach by the Piping Plover Ambassadors and Mass Audubon were deemed a success this summer.

Three pairs of piping plovers nested at Good Harbor Beach, one more than usual.

Those watching over the piping plovers said they again spotted Super Mom, the onelegged piping plover who has been coming to the beach since 2016.

“It was fantastic in many ways,” said Gloucester resident Kim Smith, who heads up the efforts of about 20 Piping Plover Ambassadors. She believes climate change affected the piping plovers “in a funny way this year.”

“I think because of the extreme storms that we had,” she said. “We lost basically six chicks during extreme weather. That’s a lot.”

Despite the loss of those chicks, efforts to protect them and the survivors were successful, Smith said.

“We worked with Mass Audubon this year, we had many more eyes on the chicks, and if we hadn’t had those storms, we would’ve fledged

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

CONGRATULATIONS TO MASSACHUSETTS WITH 1,100 PAIRS OF PIPING PLOVERS – OUTSTANDING COASTAL WATERBIRD COOPERATORS MEETING!

The annual Northeast Coastal Waterbird Cooperators meeting was held live last week in Barnstable at Cape Cod Community College’s new science and engineering center. After several years of attending virtually, it was a joy to meet in person.

Conservation organization’s representatives from all eight Massachusetts coastal regions, along with representatives from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine share numbers and anecdotes about breeding pairs of endangered and threatened shorebirds including Piping Plovers, Least Terns, American Oyster Catchers, Roseate Terns, and Black Skimmers.  It’s fascinating to learn how we are largely all sharing similar experiences with predators and disturbances of all shapes and kinds. Carolyn Mostello, the Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird Biologist, directs the event and she does an extraordinary job of weaving all the information together.

Sharing numbers is followed by “Strange and Unusual,” a super fun section where field agents share funny/odd occurrences, photos, and videos for example, PiPl nests with five eggs, strangely colored and oddly shaped eggs, parking lot nesters, and more. Carolyn shared the trailer for my forthcoming film, The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay, and I am happy to share that it was very much enjoyed by the attendees!

The afternoon programs are especially fascinating with presenters sharing experiments and projects including two of special interest; one on using odors to deter mammalian predators and another with music and different sounds to deter Black-crowned Night Herons from eating shorebird eggs. All the programs are wonderfully educational.

Perhaps the most outstanding piece of information is that this year, Massachusetts was home to 1100 breeding pairs of Plovers. That may not sound like a whole heck of a lot considering our hundreds of miles of coastline, but 1,000 pairs has been a long held goal of shorebird recovery programs in Massachusetts. We should be super proud of our state. While many regions are seeing very little, none, or even worse, declining numbers, Massachusetts is leading the way in Piping Plover recovery!

Smooshed!

 

WHERE DO PIPING PLOVERS GO AFTER DEPARTING MASSACHUSETTS AND NEW ENGLAND BEACHES?

Dear PiPl Friends,

As our Cape Ann Piping Plovers will be departing soon, our thoughts turn to where will the adults and newly minted ace flyers will spend the winter months?Practicing lift-off – snapshot of one of the chicks that fledged Good Harbor in July

 

Where do Piping Plovers migrate to when they leave their northern breeding grounds?

Like all migratory species of birds (and butterflies), the chicks must first build their lipid, or fat, reserves before undertaking the journey. We know from Plover banding programs conducted at the University of Rhode Island that the majority of Massachusetts Piping Plovers fly  non-stop to the outer banks of North Carolina. Here they will stage for about a month, undergoing a semi-molt, where they lose their old worn out feather and grow fresh new feathers. After fattening up for the next leg of their journey, many Plovers from the north Atlantic region migrate to the Bahamas, Cuba, and the Turks and Caicos.

Just as Piping Plovers are site faithful to their breeding grounds, so too are they are site faithful to their winter homes.

KEEP MONARCHS WILD: WHY CAPTIVE REARING ISN’T THE WAY TO HELP MONARCHS

Although seemingly counterintuitive, the reasons why captive raising Monarchs in the hundreds, and in some cases thousands, is not the way to help the butterflies. The following is a fantastic article recently published by one of the foremost authorities on Monarchs, the Xerces Society.

The gist of the article is that rearing no more than ten at a time is educational and worthwhile, if the guidelines provided below are followed to a tee. If you are one of the well meaning folks that are rearing hundreds/thousands of Monarchs, please read the following –

By Emma Pelton on 15. June 2023

Instead of rearing—which is risky and unproven in helping monarchs—we should focus on more effective ways to conserve these glorious wild animals.

Many of us have been there: Finding a monarch caterpillar, collecting it in a jar, raising it on milkweed, and then waiting patiently for a butterfly to emerge and take flight. Helping a child (or an adult) learn about this captivating, up-close example of metamorphosis can be incredibly rewarding. Unlike many wild animals, monarchs are easily reared, so it is no wonder that bringing caterpillars into the classroom or home has been used by teachers and parents for decades as an educational tool—or just for the pure enjoyment of it. Rearing monarchs also has been a part of monarch research: From the tagging efforts started by the Urquharts in the 1960s to the multiple tagging programs of today. These programs, as well as other community science projects, have greatly expanded our understanding of migration paths.

Because rearing a butterfly in captivity enables people to share in the amazing transformation from a caterpillar to winged adult, it deserves a place in the future of monarch education and research efforts. However, we need to approach it thoughtfully and responsibly. Like any wild animal, we have to make sure that our interest in rearing monarchs does not harm the butterfly’s populations. This is particularly important today, with monarch populations down by 80-97%. These levels are so low that the migratory phenomenon to Mexico and coastal California is at risk. In an attempt to help reverse the monarch’s population free-fall, many people are attempting to save the species by rearing and releasing monarchs on a large scale. There are, however, serious concerns about this approach.

READ MORE HERE

For more about how you can help the magnificent migrating Monarch, visit my documentary’s website here – Beauty on the Wing

From the Xerces Society

Answers to a few frequently-asked-questions and answers about rearing

How can I rear monarchs responsibly?

  1. Rear no more than ten monarchs per year (whether by a single individual or family). This is the same number recommended in the original petition to list the monarch under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
  2. Collect immature monarchs locally from the wild, heeding collection policies on public lands; never buy or ship monarchs.
  3. Raise monarchs individually and keep rearing containers clean between individuals by using a 20% bleach solution to avoid spreading diseases or mold.
  4. Provide sufficient milkweed including adding fresh milkweed daily.
  5. Keep rearing containers out of direct sunlight and provide a moist (not wet) paper towel or sponge to provide sufficient, not excessive, moisture.
  6. Release monarchs where they were collected and at appropriate times of year for your area.
  7. Check out Monarch Joint Venture’s newly updated handout, Rearing Monarchs: Why or Why Not?
  8. Participate in community science, including testing the monarchs you raise for OE, tracking parasitism rates, and/or tagging adults before release.

RARE MAGICAL FEATHERFOIL PLANT BLOOMING AT LOCAL PONDS!

The other worldly and elusive Featherfoil (Hottonia inflata) has been spotted at two of our local ponds. Weather conditions must have been just right  this year for there are reports of its presence from different locations around coastal Massachusetts, including Gloucester, Georgetown, and Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard.

This aquatic member of the primrose family grows in wetlands from Texas to Maine, however as wetlands are disappearing so, too, is this vanishing beauty. Featherfoil is rare in five of the six New England states and In Massachusetts, Featherfoil is on the state’s “Watch List.” The Watch List identifies species that are of conservation concern because of being “rare, declining, or vulnerable.”

Many thanks to Heidi Wakeman for sharing her sighting of Featherfoil. I am so excited to be including this aquatic beauty in my pond film!

Read more about Featherfoil here – https://www.indefenseofplants.com/blog/tag/featherfoil

OUR FIRST FULL WEEK WORKING WITH AUDUBON- JUNE 11th PLOVER LOVER WEEKEND UPDATE

Dear PiPl Friends,

As many of our PiPl followers are aware, this year the City of Gloucester hired Mass Audubon to help manage Cape Ann’s Plover population. We’ve had our first full week of collaborating with Mass Audubon and I have to say it just could not be better for all involved, but most importantly, for the Piping Plovers! The Mass Audubon staff is tremendously professional, kind, friendly, dedicated to wildlife conservation, and very personable. Lyra, who heads the coastal waterbird program for Mass Audubon, and Devon, Gloucester’s assistant conservation agent both have a great deal of experience managing Piping Plovers and are quick to respond to questions and challenges as they arise.

A few changes have been made to the beach. The roped off Plover areas to protect the Plovers has increased, however, there is still loads of space for beachgoers. An added bonus to creating safe spaces for Plovers is that over time, we have seen how the established protected areas for the Plovers has vastly improved the overall health of the beach. Why is that? Because when people and pets aren’t recreating up against the dunes, new vegetation is allowed to take hold including native American Beach Grass (Ammophila breviligulata), American Sea-rocket (Cakile edentula), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus) and Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens). Protecting the dunes is one of the best coastal strategies for combating a warming climate. It’s truly a beautiful thing to see how much healthier are our dunes!

Another change that has taken place are the guidelines in how close we should stand when observing the Plovers. One of the most important ways to help the Plovers is to give them lots and lots of space. If we hover/stand/place camera gear for long periods of time pointing to the Plovers, wildlife biologists working with Mass Audubon have documented that this activity attracts Crows and Gulls! You may ask, “why is that a bad thing?” Crows voraciously eat Plover eggs and hungry seagulls eat Plovers at all stages of development, including eggs, hatchlings, and even 3 week old chicks.

The best way for we beachgoers to help the Plovers is to watch from a distance and not hover near the birds. With a half-way decent lens and a camera sensor with a good crop factor we can get beautiful shots from a safe distance. The City, Mass Audubon, and we Ambassadors are all asking this of the community and we are deeply appreciative of your help.

Piping Plover smackdown – The video is of our handicapped Super Mom. Her disability does not impede her determination nor ability in defending her territory. She is perhaps Good Harbor Beach’s most fierce Plover, despite her missing foot.

Piping Plovers ferociously defend their nesting territory from intruders of every shape and size; puffing up their feathers to appear larger, chasing, and even biting the offender. Here she is in early spring defending her little slice of Good Harbor Beach from Scruffy Boy’s shenanigans!

 

 

 

PIPING PLOVER JUNE 4th UPDATE

Dear PiPl Friends,

Many have written looking for a PiPl update and I just want to assure everyone that the PiPls have so far managed to survive the high tides and very unseasonably cold temperatures. The tides are predicted to be very high this week so we’ll just keep our hopes up we won’t have a wash out.

A first ever for me this morning; I checked on the Plovers wearing a wooly winter weight sweater, heavy coat, and thick socks. The temperature was 45 degrees on the beach!

Super Mom foot pattering

Super Mom is doing especially beautifully. Plovers do a sort of “foot pattering” when foraging. The behavior is also called “foot-trembling” or “foot-tapping.” They shake their foot in the sand, then cock their heads as though listening. The vibrations caused by the foot pattering helps to bring worms and mollusks closer to the surface. The prey is usually a few inches away from where they are pattering, but sometimes as much as a foot away, nonetheless, the PiPl runs to the potential prey, plunges their beak into the sand, and almost always surfaces with some kind of invertebrate.

This seems like such an important behavior for the Plovers to enable them to successfully forage. I wondered if Mom would still shake her leg with her missing foot. Last week I observed Mom foot pattering! She doesn’t alternate feet, as is typical, but uses only her footless right leg to patter and stir up the sand. Her ability to adapt her behaviors to survive her handicap is extraordinary!

Super Dad napping (on a warmer day this past week)