Climate concerns growing for the future of many migratory species.
We travel all over coastal Massachusetts to learn about a few local “indicator species,” which can help explain the impact of climate change. Award-winning documentarian Kim Smith tells us the story of piping plovers breeding in Massachusetts.
Dear Friends of Good Harbor Beach and Save Salt Island,
Jayne Knot shares the following –
“Given your interest in Salt Island, we are inviting you to attend an upcoming workshop/webinar that will focus on climate impacts to the Good Harbor Beach ecosystem. We think you will find this workshop/webinar engaging, informative, and specific to an area of Gloucester that we all love and want to preserve.
We have been involved in the planning of this event and Jayne will be one of the speakers. We’ve attached a flier and the press release for more information, and are happy to answer any questions you may have.
We hope to see you on October 26th for this important event. Please share this invitation with your networks, friends, and family. Thank you.
What: An online workshop/webinar with several small group breakout sessions for participants to discuss the issues raised and reflect on the changes that have already happened
Professor Charles Waldheim from the Harvard Graduate School of Design
Jayne Knott, TownGreen board member and founder of HydroPredictions
Denton Crews from Friends of Good Harbor
Mary Ellen Lepionka, local historian
You will learn about:
The history of Good Harbor Beach
The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem and current climate threats
Incremental sea level rise, flooding, ecosystem adaptation, and vulnerable infrastructure
The Great Storm scenario based on research from Harvard Graduate School of Design
The first workshop will be followed by a Good Harbor Beach field trip on October 27th to tour vulnerable areas identified in the workshop. The second and third workshop/webinars will address adaptation options and project planning for the Good Harbor Beach area. The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem workshop/webinar series is a pilot public education program that TownGreen will replicate to focus on climate impacts in Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport.
Very late in the day Thursday, September 29th, while checking on Monarchs, and other travelers, a new friend pointed out a Piping Plover foraging in the seaweed at Brace Cove. I zipped down to the beach and sure enough, there was a very shy PiPl foraging alongside Semipalmated Plovers and sandpipers of several different species. He/she had a fairly steady gait so I am certain it wasn’t Hip Hop, although it was a little challenging to see in the super thick seaweed. And, too, this PiPl was extremely skittish of larger birds flying overhead, displaying an usual way of crouching its upper body and holding its tail end up high, a behavior not shared with Hip Hop.
I returned to Brace Cove early the following morning and the traveling PiPl had departed overnight.
I am posting this information especially for fans of Hip Hop to show that it is not unheard of for stragglers to have not yet left our region. It’s evolution and nature’s way for creatures to remain and depart over a period of time, to ensure survival of the species. If all the Monarchs and all the PiPlovers migrated at precisely the same time, one storm could wipe out the entire species.
Safe travels to all our little migrating friends. Hopefully they are finding shelter from the storm.
Congratulations and wonderful wishes to Alexa Niziak! Her latest film project, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, premiered last night in Hollywood. Alexa is also a full time student at the outstanding NYU Tish School of the Arts. She didn’t want to miss classes so Alexa flew out to LA just for the night to attend the premiere.
Alexa is a Rockport resident. You may recall that she was also one of our super Piping Plover ambassadors, along with her beautiful Mom Paula. They had originally volunteered to help with the Cape Hedge chicks but after all four chicks perished, the two joined us at Good Harbor Beach. They are one of our most kind-hearted and dedicated and we were so grateful to have had their help this summer. We may lose Alexa to her flourishing career (we sure hope not), but if so, success could not happen to a nicer person.
Alexa is a gifted dancer, actress, and singer. She has performed on Broadway (the Tony-award winning Matilda the Musical), Off-Broadway, and television shows such as “Orange is the New Black.” To read more about Alexa, visit her website here.
Alexa Niziak (second from left) in Mr. Harrigan’s Phone
Just in time for Halloween, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is a super spooky thriller. Husband Tom is a big Steven King so I nabbed a copy off his bookshelf and read it on the plane to Ohio. I cannot wait to see Alexa in the film. She plays Margie, the lead character’s best friend.
We’re so proud of you Alexa!!! xo
A boy and an aging billionaire bond over books — and their first iPhones. But when the older man passes, their mysterious connection refuses to die. From Ryan Murphy, Blumhouse and Stephen King comes a supernatural coming-of-age story, starring Donald Sutherland and Jaeden Martell. Written and directed for the screen by John Lee Hancock.
Ethan, Paul Bilodeau (the Times photographer), and I met last week at GHB. PiPl Ambassador Susan was out looking for HipHop that morning, too, and she stopped by during the interview. Ethan mentioned years ago he had written articles about the Plovers on Plum Island. He asked lots of great questions about our GHB Plovers and he’s such an excellent writer, I felt very good about the interview. Carolyn Mostello, our Massachusetts state waterbird biologist, provided a very thoughtful quote for the article. I was hoping to show Ethan and Paul Hip Hop that day, but he was doing his invisible act. Everyday I am hopeful he has departed however, as of yesterday, he was still here.
Hip Hop eleven weeks old September 12
I couldn’t find Hip Hop this morning feeding with the Semipalmated Plovers and Killdeers at the Creek, or at the front of the beach. The wind was blowing in great gusts and he knows where all the best locations are to get out of the wind. Hoping for the possibility that he joined the many travelers during last night’s massive migration
Semipalms at the Creek this morning
Thank you to all our super Ambassadors. We could not have had our “Best Year Ever” without each and every one of you and your tremendous gifts of time and patience.
Have a super day and enjoy this exquisite weather!
Efforts to protect piping plovers nesting at the popular Good Harbor Beach this summer paid off: Between two pairs nesting, there were seven eggs. Of those, six chicks hatched, and five chicks fledged.
“It’s our best year ever,” said Kim Smith, who heads up the group Piping Plover Ambassadors at the beach.
And the success here of the piping plovers — a threatened species — this summer revolved around the storyline of two handicapped shorebirds, a mom who had lost her foot but still successfully hatched a clutch of four eggs, and her chick dubbed “Hip Hop”, who had a lame right foot and was slow to develop.
Tree Swallows currently coming in waves and massing at Good Harbor Beach
Good Morning PiPl Friends!
Our little Hip Hop is still present at Good Harbor Beach. We’re hopeful that he will depart to begin his southward migration at some point soon but in the mean time, please know that he is foraging with great gusto, finding lots and lots of good food at the various habitats at GHB. In addition to his usual PiPl diet, the storm last week brought in great amounts of seaweed and that has become one of his favorite foraging locations. Piping Plovers eat a wide range of invertebrates, including insects, mini mollusks, and sea worms.
Piping Plover Hip Hop turned nine weeks old on Monday. Here he is at 60 days old.
Where do Plovers go in winter? is a question often asked of we Ambassadors. We know from banding programs at the University of Rhode Island that many Plovers from southern New England first head to the barrier beaches at Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. Here they will stay for about 45 days, foraging and storing up their lipid reserves for the next leg of the migration. Most will then continue on to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and remote islands in the Caribbean, where they will stay until early March.
Thank you to all in our community who have taken the time to write and to call in support of the Plovers, to our PiPl Friends and to new friends who have been prompted to write. We so very much appreciate your kind words and good wishes for the Plovers. We’d like everyone to understand how vulnerable is this tiny threatened bird however, not all people have the capacity nor vision to see the beauty and joy in conserving our wild creatures and wild spaces, for the protection of life on Earth as we know it, and for future generations to come.
We are keeping our messaging PPP – Positively Pro Plover!
The story of a tiny pair of birds that arrived on the shores of Cape Ann, and the remarkable community that came together to help provide safe harbor for the pair to nest and to raise their young.
Excerpt from the film’s introduction – In 2016, a young pair of Piping Plovers began nesting at Good Harbor Beach, Cape Ann’s most popular seaside destination. The first several years were difficult for the Plovers. The community was neither prepared nor knowledgeable in how to manage a pair of highly vulnerable nesting shorebirds.
There were so many dog disturbances on the beach that the Plovers were driven into the beach parking lot…
I hope you enjoy this short film! Stay for the Epilogue <3
One very important reason as to why we had a successful year with the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers is because of the consideration afforded to the Plovers by Coach Lattof, Coach Craig, and all the Gloucester Fishermen football team members. Early on in the the first years of the Plovers being at GHB, Coach Lattof made a point of bringing the guys over to the Plover’s restricted area and talking to them about threatened and endangered species.
We are so appreciative of the consideration given. The boys are awesome and the parents, teachers, and coaches of these great bunch of kids are doing an amazing job!
Happy five weeks old to our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover chicks! Today marks the day that all five are now five weeks old. The four Plover chicks from area #3 turned five weeks on Monday and the singleton from the Salt Island area #1 turns five weeks today. This is a milestone for both the Plovers and for the Cape Ann community!
The two Plover families have combined forces, or I should say the chicks are a unit; Super Dad is still reminding One Dad who is boss.
Hip Hop spends much of his time alone on the beach foraging. This is nothing new; we just have to keep our eyes peeled because Dad isn’t around quite as much to voice piping commands for him to get out of the way of foot traffic.
How long will the family stay together as a little unit? I have seen at other locations where I am filming, at the most, 49 days. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if they did stay, or at least Super Dad, because it would surely give Hip Hop a better chance of surviving.
Every year we have high hopes to successfully fledge chicks. This is most definitely our best year ever however, next year could be a complete bust. We know some things that contributed without a doubt to this year’s happy story. A tremendously dedicated group of round-the-clock Piping Plover Ambassadors is at the top of the list. If you see one of these kind-hearted PiPl Ambassadors, please let them how much you appreciate their efforts – Susan Pollack, Paula and Alexa Niziak, Marty Coleman, Jennie Meyer, Ann Cortissoz, Mary Keys, Sharen Hansen, Deb Brown, and Sally and Jonathan Golding. We also have a group of dedicated substitutes who are always willing to step in, even on a moment’s notice – Jill Ortiz, Barbara Boudreau, Duncan Hollomon, Karen Thompson, Lisa Hahn, Sarah Carothers, and Duncan Todd.
Working with our partners and PiPl Friends has provided a safe habitat for the Plovers. Mark Cole and the DPW’s early actions in symbolically roping off nesting areas, placing important signage, and the decision not to rake the beach certainly contributed to this year’s success. Allowing the wrack to remain creates an abundance of foraging opportunities. Thank you to the entire DPW beach crew for keeping eyes on the chicks while working on the beach and for your always friendly demeanors and interest in the Plover’s development.
Daily diligence and ticketing on the part of Gloucester’s Animal Control Officers Jamie Eastman and Tegan Dolan helped keep dogs off the beach after the March 31st date. We also want to thank the GPD and Mayor Verga for temporarily placing the large flashing light sign at Nautilus Road to let people know to keep pets off the beach, and the fine levied if caught.
Many thanks to Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship. For the past seven years, on a volunteer basis, Dave and his assistants have installed the wire exclosures that protect the Piping Plover’s eggs from avian and mammalian predation.
We’d also like to thank Carolyn Mostello, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist, for her thoughtful actions and continued excellent advice.
We are grateful for the help and timely actions taken by City Councilors Jeff Worthley and Scott Memhard who have taken an active interest in the Plovers and also Good Harbor Beach in general, particularly in the case of the contaminated Creek and getting swimmers out of the water.
We are so appreciative of the time and care Coach Lattof and the Gloucester Fishermen football team take in their attitude toward the Plovers. It has been a great teaching moment for the kids and the Coaches have developed and fully encouraged the kids’ tremendous positive outlook toward the birds.
Hip Hop and sibling, five-weeks-old
We also want to give a shout out to the GHB volleyball players who without fail, every evening pause their games to give the chicks the space they need to migrate back to their nighttime sleeping quarters.
We are so appreciative, too, of all the help given by the Plover’s community of well wishers, the early morning walkers including Pat and Delores, John Burlingham, Jan Bell, and Betty, to name only some, and who always jump in to lend a hand when needed. Thank you also to the Good Harbor Beach residential neighbors Sue and Donna who are always on alert, watching over the Plovers and sharing their concerns from their perspective as local residents.
The new beach reservation system has helped the Plovers in an unexpected way. Good Harbor Beach does not fill up as early and as frantically as it has on hot summer days in previous years. Early morning is an essential time of day for birds. They are extra hungry after the night long fast and need lots of space to forage undisturbed.
A heartfelt acknowledgement to all our PiPl Ambassadors, partners, and friends. The “it takes a village” adage has never been more true than in the case of Piping Plovers nesting at Cape Ann’s most popular seaside destination. Thank you!
Tiny handicapped Piping Plover chick Hip Hop, although developmentally challenged in comparison to his siblings, is nonetheless steadily growing. You can compare in the photos and video footage that he looks to be at about the same stage of development as were his siblings two weeks ago. His wings muscles are gaining in strength and fluffy tail feathers are beginning to grow.
Hip Hop is also wonderfully independent and forages far and wide along the length of the beach. If you see him on the beach, please remember that Hip Hop can’t yet fly to escape danger as can his siblings. Please give him lots and lots of space and please don’t try to take a close-up photo with your cell phone. The more he is able to forage without being disturbed, the more quickly he will grow.
This morning a scofflaw dog owner brought her dog to Good Harbor Beach. Fortunately, early morning daily GHB walkers P and D caught up with her to remind her of the dog ordinance. Hip Hop was only a few feet away, hunkered down in a divot, and could have so very easily been squished by a bouncy, enthusiastic off leash dog. Thank you P and D for your help this morning <3
Hip Hop’s sibling, photo taken about two weeks ago.
A gloriously beautiful sunrise at Good Harbor Beach!
We have a wonderfully interesting new development to share about out GHB PiPl families. Firstly, though, everyone is asking about Hip Hop. He is doing very well, albeit growing very slowly, and is perhaps about two weeks behind developmentally. Fortunately, he has a phenomenal Super Dad, who nurtures and protects him. As long as Dad does not leave to begin migrating before Hip Hop can fly, I am hopeful he will grow well. There have been documented cases where Plovers were on northern beaches into December and January. Hopefully, Hip Hop will not be here for an extended period of time, but if he is, as a community, I think we can keep watch over him.
Hip Hop, 34 days old
The happy news is that the one remaining chick at #1 (we lost the sibling last weekend) has joined Team Plover at #3, so we have a little family of five chicks and two Dads. The Dads just barely tolerate each other, but the kids are all getting along just fine!
Fledglings 34 and 31 days oldFour fledglings in beach camo
Our Good Harbor Beach Plovers are so fortunate to have the Creek, especially when the main beach is so packed full of people. And because the Creek is badly polluted, barely anyone is traveling down there. For some reason, the PiPls can tolerate the bacteria that is so toxic to humans, and are able to forage without disturbance.
Happy Sunday, stay cool, and have a great day! xxKim
Tiny Piping Plover Hip Hop is the exact same age as his three siblings; twenty-three-days-old when this video was shot. We’re not exactly sure why he is not developing as quickly as the other three but can surmise it is because he has an injured right foot. He doesn’t put weight on the foot and has a run-hop sort of gait. Hip Hop spends much more time thermosnuggling under the adult’s wings than his siblings but when he is out on the beach and tidal flats he eats with great gusto.
Please, if you see this little one on the beach, please give him lots of space to forage and to move around. This is our smallest chick, so nicknamed Hip Hop because his right foot does not work well, which causes him to do a sort of hop run. Despite the injury he is growing and moves with much independence, all around the beach.
Parents of young children, do not allow your child to chase the Plovers, any Plover, adult or chick. If you see a Plover on the beach, hold your child’s hand so they don’t lunge toward the bird and then both watch from a quiet distance. You will see so much more, and the bird may even approach you if you are standing still.
Community members, if you see a person(s) chasing Plovers, please alert a Plover Ambassador. Thank you!
Comparing two three-week-old siblings – Because of Hip Hop’s foot injury, he is growing at a slower pace however, he is robust, which gives us hope he will eventually fill out. Normally developed three-week-old chick stretching its wings
Interestingly, both Super Mom and Hip Hop have right foot handicaps; Mom has lost her foot and Hip Hop sustained an injury approximately during his first week of life.
Thank you Jonathan for the addition of new signs in all these prominent locations, so very much appreciated! And thank you Sally for last night’s lovely evening story, and to all our ambassadors for your thoughtful updates and wonderful information provided throughout the day.
Regarding drones, I was reminded by daily early morning beach walker John Burlingham, a former game warden, and the person who saved the day the other morning with the hostile drone family, that our own sign in the kiosk at the entrance to the footbridge states clearly that drones are not allowed near the Plovers. It gives the distance and I will check on that tomorrow because I don’t recall precisely what it said, but if you have a problem with a drone operator, please feel free to point out the sign in the kiosk.
Regarding the PiPl smackdowns we have all been witnessing –
When Piping Plovers arrive in early spring they begin almost immediately to establish a nesting territory. The males fly overhead piping loud territorial calls and chase and/or attack intruders including songbirds, Crows, gulls, and even members of their own species. The attacks on each other are brutal and can end in injury, or even worse, death.
Typically, the battles subside for a time while the mated pairs are brooding eggs and when the chicks are very young. The exception to that is when an unattached male, or disrupter, is circulating about the beach.
Later in the season, as the chicks are gaining independence and roam more freely, the youngsters will eventually cross into “enemy territory.” The males resume fighting to both protect their chicks and their turf. We are seeing these little dramas play out at Good Harbor Beach. One reason why I think the older pair at #3, our original pair, are so successful is because Super Mom will also often join in the battle (even with her foot loss), putting herself between the attacker and her chicks, and they will both go after the intruder, whether another Plover or a seagull. In the video, you can see Mom has positioned herself on the left, while Super Dad circles the other male, biting him during the scuffles, then leaping over and then chasing him out over the water. This was yesterday’s battle and today finds all six chicks and all four adults present and accounted for, with no visible injuries.
Happy three-week-old birthday to our area #3 chicks. Truly a milestone for the chicks and for the Good Harbor Beach community of Piping Plover friends and advocates. On Thursday, the twins at Salt Island will also be three weeks old. Imagine! I am trying not to get too excited because last year a gull swooped in and flew off with a 24 day old chick. The following day, we lost a 25 day old chick for the same reason. We’ll just keep hoping and working toward fledging all these six beautiful little babies 🙂 And finally, today for the first time, I saw Hip Hop stretch his wing buds! He is still not putting much weight on his right foot. I don’t think it was a problem at birth because in looking at all the early footage, no chicks had an obvious foot deformity.
Hip Hop, 20 days old, with right foot injury
Have a super July summer day and thank you for all you are doing to help the GHB PiPls!
Thank you so much everyone for putting in extra time, covering shifts (Barbara), doubling up on shifts (Deb and Sharen), staying soooo long at the beach today (Jennie), and stopping in to keep eyes on Hip Hop in between shifts (Paula and Alexa). Hopefully, Hip Hop will stick with the family for the remainder of the day and evening.
Just to let everyone know, in the morning, I have seen both Mom and Dad thermoregulate Hip Hop. Paula and Alexa have as well. Oftentimes, I see the triplets tucked under wing, but Hip Hop can’t push in so he goes off for a bit. Mom or Dad will pop up and then give him his own special time, this morning for several twenty minute sessions. So even though he has his little handicap and is slower, I don’t think the parents are rejecting him. Barbara, yes Hip Hop was the one that was attacked, but it was not SuperMom or SuperDad.
An unfortunate problem with a drone family on the beach this morning. We don’t have signs and we will definitely have them for next year, but you can gently tell a drone operator (hopefully they will listen), operating a drone near endangered species violates the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and is absolutely considered harassment, and also comes with a hefty fine.
Have a lovely evening.
In spite of his handicap and pint-size, 18-day-old Hip Hop is foraging, pooping, and being his usual big and bad independent self.
One of our Good Harbor Beach chicks is not growing as well as the other five. Just like SuperMom, his right foot has sustained some type of injury. I have been keeping an eye on him the past few days and he’s definitely not eating and not growing as quickly as are his siblings at area #3. He doesn’t put any weight on the foot and often does a hop run like his Mom. He is mostly seen straggling behind and spends more time than the others thermo-snuggling beneath the parent’s wings, especially Mom. She appears to be extra nurturing with this one and does not seem to mind providing extra snuggles. Perhaps with her injury, more snuggling gives her additional time to rest, too.
You can see in the photo he’s at least a third smaller than his sibling. Please, if you go to see the Plovers, give them lots of and lots of space to forage and to do their thing. particularly during the morning and late day when the beach isn’t crowded, it’s their time to forage and stock up for the day’s limited access to food and to water. Thank you so very much!
The chick on the left is similar in development to his two other siblings. You can see that the little handicapped chick on the right is smaller and is not putting any weight on his foot.
Happy Two-Week-Old Birthday to our GHB Area #3 Chicks
It’s been crazy busy at GHB and if all six chicks survive this most busiest of holiday weekends, it will be a miracle, and also, largely due to our amazing team of PiPl Ambassadors who have devoted many extra hours over the four day weekend to keeping watch over the PiPls.
All four chicks and Mom and Dad peacefully foraging at #3.
The footbridge end of the beach is far more active so I did not get down to #1, but Mom and Dad and two chicks were there last evening. I observed as Duncan H expertly escorted the four down the length of the very busy beach. Susan is walking that way when she leaves her shift at 8 today so hopefully, a happy report from #1 will be forthcoming. I am headed back down at 9:30 to cover Marty’s shift so will have a look then if they have not been spotted.
Jonathan joined me on my shift this morning. Thank you Jonathan! He met several of the morning PiPl well wishers including Pat and Delores, long-time Pover fans. Jan Bell was there this morning, too. It’s lovely to have these wonderful members of the community also looking out for the PiPls!
Attached is the latest holiday weekend schedule. Many, many thanks to Jill for taking the 1 to 2pm slot and for also volunteering to check in during the evening on the fireworks situation.
The deer did not get the 411 to stay out of the roped off area!
Thursday marked the ten-day-old milestone of our GHB #3 Family of four chicks and the one-week-old milestone of our twins from the Salt Island Family. They could not have attained these important dates in a chick’s life without the help of the entire PiPl community and well-wishers. On the one hand I expect any day one will disappear but on the other, I am grateful for each day with these little marshmallows. To have six chicks at GHB is simply astounding!
A huge shout out to our amazing, dedicated, kind-hearted Piping Plover Ambassadors; the City of Gloucester; Mark Cole, Joe Lucido, and the DPW crew; Essex Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer; City Councilors Jeff Worthley and Scott Memhard; Coach Lafferty, Athletic Director Byran Lafata, Head Football Coach O’Connor, and the GHS football team. Thank you!
The main reason why we have become increasingly reluctant to publicly share information about the Piping Plover families nesting at Good Harbor Beach is because of photographers. We want to help educate the community and share their beautiful life story unfolding but on the other hand, sharing information and images entices folks who are not as conscientious as you or I would hope. I think most of our local photographers, filmmakers, and well-wishers are very sensitive to giving wildlife their space but out-of- towners, not so much.
The one morning I wasn’t able to stay for my full shift at GHB, a photographer parked herself for several hours smack dab in the midst of the primary Plover area where they traverse back and forth. When the next Ambassador came on duty there was a great deal of confusion locating chicks with their respective parents and I can’t help but wonder if having a stranger stationed for several hours precisely where they are accustomed to foraging displaced the chicks.
One need not bring a blanket and sit right on top of the Plovers, especially when one has a ginormous telephoto lens. Please stop by, take a few photos from a comfortable distance, and then please, move on. Folks don’t realize too that sitting on top of the baby birds like this also attracts Crows and Gulls, especially in the early and later part of the day when there are few other humans around for the C and Gs to swipe food from. I am quite sure the photographer knew that she was not following good wildlife observing guidelines because the minute she saw me coming as I returned to the beach, she packed up her blanket and gear.
Next year we are going to request the DPW pull the roping out further into the beach. The symbolically roped off area does not need to be quite as wide as it is, but for the general safety and well-being of the PiPls, it needs to be deeper. However, in the meantime, especially early and late in the day when the Plovers are mostly feeding, please give the baby birds the space they need to forage. These few weeks they are at Good Harbor Beach are the most critical days of their little lives. They need lots and lots of space to continuously forage to fatten up for the long journey south. Thank you!
We have wonderful news to share. Four chicks have hatched at Good Harbor Beach at the area we call #3! Today they are one week old, a milestone in a PiPl chick’s life. All four are doing beautifully on this their one week old anniversary. At the north end of the beach, the Salt Island side, we have a pair of four day old chicks, also thriving. This pair came from a re-nest of four eggs. We know three eggs hatched but the third chick, the one that hatched late, did not make it.
I don’t think we have ever had six chicks at GHB and it shows that when a community works together, amazing, beautiful things can happen. The adage,’it takes a village’ rings true when raising Piping Plovers to fledge. We hope with all our hearts all six chicks will survive to adulthood but also recognize that isn’t always the case.
We could not have had this year’s early success without the help of Gloucester’s DPW crew, Animal Control Officers Jamie Eastman and Teagan Dolan, City government especially Councilors Jeff Worthley and Scott Memhard, and the Gloucester Police Department.
We have simply the best Piping Plover Ambassador team imaginable. They are all extraordinarily kind, creative, and helpful individuals devoted to the well being of the tiniest members of our community. With heartfelt thanks and gratitude to our devoted daily monitors Deb Brown, Jennie Meyer, Sally and Jonathan Golding, Susan Pollack, Paula and Alexa Niziak, Jill Ortiz, Sharen Hansen, Marty Coleman, and Mary Keys. Thank you to our outstanding crew of substitutes including Barbara Boudreau, Ann Cortissoz, Duncan Holloman, Peter Van Demark, Linda Bouchard, Karen Thompson, Duncan Todd, and Sue Winslow.
Please, if you go to GHB to see the Plover chicks give them lots and lots of space. When the parents are concerned you are too close, they will pipe loudly at you to warn the chicks are underfoot. I emphasize underfoot because they are scurrying around all over the beach.
What can you do to help the Piping Plovers? Here are five simple things we can all do to protect the Plovers.
1) Give them them space, lots and lots of space, to forage and to rest.
2) Do not linger near the Piping Plovers or their nests. Activity around the Plovers attracts gulls and crows.
3) Do not feed gulls and crows. Gulls eat chicks in all stages of development and crows eat eggs.
4) Don’t leave behind or bury trash or food on the beach. All garbage attracts predators such as crows, seagulls, foxes, and coyotes, and all four of these creatures eat plover eggs and chicks.
5) Respect the fenced off areas that are created to protect the Plovers.
Happy Memorial Day. I hope you are spending the day with family and friends <3
We have a whopping new grand total of Piping Plover eggs for Cape Ann’s eastern shore and it is an even dozen! This morning when I stopped by for PiPl check in, Salt Island Dad popped off the nest to reveal a fourth egg. All three Cape Ann PiPl families are brooding nests with four eggs in each. We are so blessed to see their beautiful life story unfold!
An added note about the nesting pair at #1, the Salt Island side of Good Harbor Beach – The pair first had a nest of three eggs up in the dune grass. We think it was predated, possibly by a seagull. There were no tracks near the nest and the only evidence found was one crushed egg.
#1 Salt Island original nest
After the first clutch of eggs disappeared, the pair immediately began setting up house away from the grass and closer to the wrack line. Piping Plovers will attempt to re-nest up to five times. The pair eventually settled on a scrape behind a mini mound of dried seaweed, albeit a more vulnerable location than the first.
Salt Island renest
As of today, the Salt Island pair have a nest of four, for a total of seven eggs laid over the past several weeks. Egg laying takes a toll on the Mom. At Good Harbor we now have handicapped Mom at #3 and over extended Mom at #1. When you see Plovers on the beach resting and foraging, please give them lots and lots of space and let them be to do their thing. Thank you!
Wonderful news for our handicapped Mom and Dad pair at #3. The eggs are safely ensconced in an exclosure, and the pair are brooding a nest of three!
Dad on the nest in the exclosure <3
Our deepest thanks and gratitude to Dave Rimmer, Director of Land Stewardship at Greenbelt for installing the exclosure and for his ongoing assistance with Cape Ann’s Plovers. If you feel so inclined, please think about making a donation to Greenbelt in Dave’s name to thank Greenbelt for their strictly volunteer assistance over the past seven years. Donate page of Greenbelt here.
Thank you to Everyone for your suggestions regarding Pollution, Urination, and the Underage Drinking Crisis at Good Harbor Beach. Thank you to Andrea Holbrook and Ethan Forman for “Gloucester Beaches Bustling Weekend Before Memorial Day” article in the Gloucester Daily Times for the coverage.
I have to say, we were collectively dismayed by the City’s sugar coated response to the issues at Good Harbor Beach as reported in the Times.
We have written to the Mayor’s office, all City Councilors, and Chief Conley. We have heard back from City Councilor Jeff Worthley. On Saturday, Jeff went from person to person at GHB to let them know that the Creek was contaminated and on Sunday had signs posted by the board of health. During the 1990s, Jeff worked at Good Harbor Beach for five summers and that first summer, when he was only 19 years old, made a list of 25 suggestions on how to improve GHB. Two of those suggestions included opening earlier in the year and dune restoration! We are very much looking forward to meeting with Jeff.
A story of patience, fidelity, resilience, and hope
You may recall that last year our Piping Plover Mom’s foot became entangled in what appeared to be both dried seaweed and monofilament. Mom visibly struggled with her foot entanglement. Although initially she could still thermoregulate the chicks and stayed nearby, we began to see less and less of her. Much of the parenting of chicks was left to Dad as she was infrequently seen lying low in the tall beach grass. We wondered if she even made it through the summer.
Mom’s very painful looking injury caused her to behave as though she was trying to adapt to the awkwardness of carrying a ball and chain. Sometimes the chicks would get caught in the seaweed and monofilament entanglement and she was continuously pulling at it, trying to remove.
Fast forward to April of this year. For a month we have had a new pair of Plovers attempting to nest, first at area #3, the original pair of Plover’s original nesting site (beginning in 2016), and then I believe shifting further north up the beach, toward Salt Island. I checked on that pair on Wednesday morning, the fifth, just before leaving for Ohio and despite the unseasonably cool temperatures and rough winds, everything was as it should be in Ploverville.
Upon our return Monday morning all had turned upside down in the world of Plover nesting. It took me a day to understand what had taken place. Miraculously, our original Mom and Dad have returned to #3. We are overjoyed to see them both, Mom especially, but the bittersweet of it is that she has lost her foot.
Dad is clearly eager to mate but, for lack of a better word, is being extraordinarily patient with Mom. She spent the first few days after arriving quietly lying in the grass, so much so we were becoming concerned. But Mom has rallied and is showing interest in Dad and his nest scrapes. He is very attentive, staying nearby and defending her against real and imagined intruders. We all got a laugh when Assistant Library Director Beth Pocock’s commented, “Not very Darwinian of him.”
Dad in one of his nest scrapes
The pair are approximately five weeks later in arriving than the past several years. It’s not entirely unexpected that Mom’s foot has been amputated by the monofilament and seaweed wrapped so tightly that it was cutting off her circulation. Plovers historically have survived with one foot/leg. One of the most common reasons for loss of foot or leg is when debris becomes caught in a leg band on Plovers that have been banded. The thing is, it is taking double the amount of effort for Mom to do things that Plovers ordinarily do daily. Her gait step is twice as many steps as compared to Dad’s. She is spending a good amount of time lying down, rather than standing.
Piping Plovers show tremendous fidelity to each other and to their nesting site. Our Good Harbor Beach Original Plovers are fantastically resilient — recalling just one of their many trials and adventures — the year they nested in the parking lot, driven to this measure by the plethora of dogs allowed off leash by their owners; dogs running and prancing through the Plover’s roped off area disrupting their nesting.
Will Mom be able to breed and take care of chicks this summer? Only time will tell. But because she is now “handicapped,” it’s imperative that we eliminate all disturbances.
Mom is able to use her peg leg to scratch an itch
On Saturday, we had a serious problem with several very large groups of teens drinking, creating a mountain of trash, playing in the nesting area, and running through the area to use the dunes as their bathroom. Their complete disregard of the clearly marked off area destroyed the Plover’s nest scrapes, which are the potential possible sites for eggs. The police were called. The officers were very patient with the teens. One girl in particular was extremely rude to the officers, barely coherent and nearly falling down drunk. It took more patience than you can possibly imagine for the officers to de-escalate as they did. It wasn’t until the police appeared that the teens began attempting to clean up their trash, which without the officer’s insistence that they clean up, surely would have resulted in the more than one huge trash bag that I filled this morning.
These were not local kids but we have to do better than this as a community. There must be a way to have some authority figure patrol the beach on warm spring and summer afternoons. These teens were completely smashed and the amount of trash from alcoholic beverages was astounding. As soon as the officers appeared on the beach, the teens began to clean up their behavior, language, and garbage. But I don’t believe it should have gotten to this point.
We’ll keep an eye on the weather and we Ambassadors will mobilize on the next warm beach day but frankly, we have very little authority. None of us feel safe approaching a group of 30 or 40 unruly and intoxicated (and foul mouthed as was the case Saturday) teens. Truly, the ideal solution is to assign an officer or ranger to patrol the beach on warm afternoons and evenings.
If anyone sees people rough housing in, playing in, or repeatedly entering the roped off areas, please call the police and explain what you are seeing. If a nest with eggs or an adult or a chick is harmed in any way or killed by this kind of behavior, that is considered a “take” by both state and federal regulations. The City and the individuals responsible are liable for thousands of dollars in fines and potential closure of Good Harbor Beach. Our mission is to keep our beautiful GHB open for everyone and to keep our Plovers safe.From Saturday – how people treat our beautiful beach – trash on the beach brings crows and gulls, which eat Plover eggs and chicks
Thank you to Jennifer Santomauro, Beth Pocock, and Linda Bossleman at the Sawyer Free Library and to everyone who came to the Piping Plover program this afternoon. Despite the gorgeous weather and protest marches nationwide, we had a wonderful group of interested attendees. It’s the first in-person presentation I’ve given in several years and I just want to thank everyone so much for coming.
World Migratory Bird Day is held annually on the second Saturday of May (May 14th in 2022).This year’s WMBD focuses on the impact of light pollution on migratory birds.
“Most birds migrate at night. They have been doing this for eons, as a night sky typically means calmer air space and fewer predators. Nocturnally migrating birds include ducks and geese, plovers and sandpipers, and songbirds of all kinds. These birds may travel thousands of miles between their breeding and non-breeding grounds.
However, the night sky is under threat. Artificial light is increasing globally by at least two percent a year, presenting a problem for birds. Light pollution from homes, businesses, and other infrastructure attracts and disorients migrating birds, making them more likely to land in dangerous areas where they are more vulnerable to collisions and predation. Artificial light also impacts birds in the breeding and winter seasons, disrupting feeding and other vital behaviors.
In 2022, the impact of light pollution is the focus of World Migratory Bird Day, an annual global campaign that celebrates the migration of birds across countries and continents. Throughout the year we will spread the message to “dim the lights for birds at night” and highlight the steps that individuals, communities, and governments can take to reduce the impact of light pollution on our shared birds.”
One of the featured species in WMBD 2022 is the Baltimore Oriole (as seen in the above illustration)!
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Length: 8.3” (21.1cm)
Wingspan: 11.5” (29.2cm)
Weight: 1.2oz (34g)
You may find this colorful member of the blackbird family in open woodlands, parks, or even your backyard. It eats a lot of insects, especially caterpillars, as well as fruit and nectar. Baltimore Orioles and many other songbirds need dark skies to safely migrate—you can help by reducing the amount of light outside your home at night.
Conservation Status: Low Concern
WHAT IS WORLD MIGRATORY BIRD DAY?
In 1993, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center created International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). This educational campaign focused on the Western Hemisphere celebrated its 25th year in 2018. Since 2007, IMBD has been coordinated by Environment for the Americas (EFTA), a non-profit organization that strives to connect people to bird conservation.
In 2018, EFTA joined the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) to create a single, global bird conservation education campaign, World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD). Continuing our tradition with IMBD, WMBD celebrates and brings attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas – bird migration.
This new alliance furthers migratory bird conservation around the globe by creating a worldwide campaign organized around the planet’s major migratory bird corridors, the African-Eurasian flyway, the East Asian-Australasian flyway, and the Americas flyway. By promoting the same event name, annual conservation theme, and messaging, we combine our voices into a global chorus to boost the urgent need for migratory bird conservation.
EFTA will continue to focus its efforts on the flyways in the Americas to highlight the need to conserve migratory birds and protect their habitats, and will continue to coordinate events, programs, and activities in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean at protected areas, refuges, parks, museums, schools, zoos, and more. As many as 700 events and programs are hosted annually to introduce the public to migratory birds and ways to conserve them.