Category Archives: Piping Plover Chronicles

PIPING PLOVERS AND CROWS

Good Morning Friends!

Beautiful quiet morning at GHB with our two day old little family. All four mini-marshmallows present and accounted for!

Reminder when visiting the PiPls, please stay at least ten feet back from the ropes. These first ten days the chicks are at their most extremely vulnerable. Case in point – An interested person came up to the ropes, hoping to get a shot with their cell phone. Mom was frightened off her roost snuggling the chicks and then a Crow flew in! Fortunately, Dad was nearby and gave the crow the business, in no uncertain terms.

People hovering for periods of time around the nesting area attracts both Crows and gulls. Crows are one of the greatest threats to Piping Plovers everywhere. This year has been especially horrific at several other beaches where I am documenting the PiPls. At one beach in particular they have decimated all nests, including renests, as well as killed at least four chicks. Once they discover how tasty PiPl eggs and chicks taste, they can’t seem to get enough. Crows are smart. It’s not that this beach has a great many Crows, but that the adults teach the young Crows and for that reason, the problem is continuing to grow.

Please clean up all garbage after visiting our beautiful beaches and please do not bury your garbage. The Crows and gulls are not deceived and will find.

*        *       *

A note about the Cecropia Moth caterpillars for friends still interested in raising these beautiful, albeit declining and threatened, members of the Giant Silk Moth Family. Caterpillars have at long last hatched! I’ll post later this afternoon to plan a caterpillar pick up day.

Happy last days of spring! Our garden is redolent with the scent of roses and the fragrance is wafting through my windows as I write this.

Warmest wishes,

Kim

Mom crouched in defensive mode, frightened off her roost this morning

 

 

 

PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS NEEDED

Hello PiPl Ambassadors,

Attached is the ambassador schedule. We are working out the kinks and are are still looking to fill in a few gaps. Please let me know if you have any leads.  We are looking for someone to fill the 11 to 12 noon time, 2 to 3pm, and 3 to 4pm.

If you don’t mind sharing, could you please email me your phone numbers. I’ll add that information to the schedule and we can text each other. This will come in especially handy in case you miss the person before you and need a location on the chicks (thanks Jonathan for the suggestion!).

Thank goodness for the cooler temps! The chicks spent much of the early morning thermosnuggling.

When I arrived at GHB this morning, the solar moon eclipse was taking place. It was amazing and I tried to photograph. There were dozens of photographers lining Nautilus Road. So much fun to see so many so early in the morning!

Thank you Everyone for your kind dedication. The Plovers thank you, too!
xoKim

HAPPY NEWS – GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER HATCH DAY!

Eleven weeks since the day they arrived at Good Harbor Beach, daunting tides, torrential rain storms, countless disruptions, and near daily monitoring, four precious chicks hatched today. All look fluffy and healthy! Judging from their stage of “fluffiness,” I think they hatched about four hours or so ago. And, they all look fairly close in hatching time, which is a good thing and means we may not have one perpetually lagging behind in growth and movement around the beach. When I left at around 5:30pm, all four were tucked in under the shade of Dad.

Piping Plover ambassadors will be on the Beach from now until when the chicks fledge, which will be in about 35 days, or five weeks. Please feel free to ask us questions and learn more about the PiPls. We love to share!

Please stay clear of the symbolic roping. Especially now. For the first ten days of the chick’s life they are at their most extremely vulnerable.

Please be aware that Plover chicks do not stay in the roped off area, that is simply their refuge.  From their second day of life on, they travel up and down the length of the beach. Please be aware, especially when jogging and running along the beach, that one may be near underfoot.

Bringing dogs to the beach is simply the most dangerous thing anyone can do to tiny marshmallow-sized newborn chicks. No dogs, leashed or unleashed, at any time of day are permitted at GHB, even before 6am or after 6pm, which many are under the impression is acceptable.

If so inclined, please bring a trash bag to help keep Good Harbor Beach free from plastic pollutants and garbage. Less garbage means fewer crows and gulls, both of which eat shorebird eggs and hatchlings. Thank you for your help!

 

FACEPLANT!

It’s not unusual to see Piping Plovers take a faceplant while learning to navigate beach terrain, resilient little tumblers that they are!

 

WING BUDS!

I am so sorry to share that the Piping Plover egg that was washed down the beach did not hatch. It was all I could do to keep from helping the Dad who was trying to roll the egg into the nest but my actions could have caused major disruptions to the two chicks that had just hatched.

The two one day old hatchlings are however doing wonderfully, exploring the beach and finding lots to eat.

That tiny appendage is a wing bud! From day one, chicks begin stretching their buds This behavior strengthens flight muscles. They spread and flap often throughout the day.

GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER UPDATE – THE BAD NEWS AND THE GOOD NEWS

Dear Friends of Gloucester Plovers,

First the bad – the nest at Salt Island side was washed out by the storm surge and super high tide. The wrack left behind shows that the tide exceeded several feet beyond the exclosure.

I couldn’t locate the parents this morning, but that is not unusual after a storm. Oftentimes what follows are more attempts at nesting so we will see what we see. This sweet pair tried so hard to become established. Hopefully, they won’t give up.

Salt Island eggs washed away

The miraculous update is that our beautiful pair at #3, the footbridge end of the beach, has survived, but I think just barely. The tide came up past the exclosure. Wrack surrounds and is caught in the edges of the wire cage. Despite the 11 foot tide, both Mom and Dad were there, taking turns sitting on four eggs just like every other morning. Between the time I looked at daybreak and then returned later in the morning, they had dug the nest in slightly deeper.

The #3 nest that survived was built up on a slightly higher hummock. The beach narrows at the Salt Island end and I think the tide comes up higher and deeper at that end. The tides have risen well over 11 feet the past several nights. Today’s high tide at 3:26 is expected to be only 9. 2 feet and tonight’s 10.1 feet. I hope so much we are over the worst of it but with storm surges added to the equation, we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed for the best outcome.

Footbridge nest intact. Dad on the nest and Mom heading out to forage

The DPW has installed an additional symbolically roped off area between Boardwalk #1 and the snack bar entrance. There had been a pair attempting to nest there. Perhaps with all the disruption from the storm and high tides, they will return in the now protected area.

Barn Swallows were seemingly trying to sort themselves out. Usually we see them darting swiftly, crisscrossing the beach at top speed but this morning they struggled in the cold and wind to dry off and find a footing. There were several unleashed dogs running the beach and Not on voice command either.

We’ll count our blessings for our surviving nest. The next high tides will take place towards the end of June and by that time, the chicks will be several weeks old and able to skedaddle to higher ground.

More Good News story coming tomorrow!

JOYFUL NEWS TO SHARE! PIPING PLOVER WEEKLY UPDATE MAY 24

Dear Friends of Gloucester Plovers!

Such great news to share – the young family at the Salt Island end, the area we call #1, has a nest with (currently) three eggs!! We’re keeping our hopes up for a fourth egg. We now have two pairs of Plovers nesting at Good Harbor.

This morning Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and his assistant Adam Phippen installed the wire exclosure around the nest. Exclosures protect shorebird eggs from 95 percent of avian and terrestrial predators, as well as from stray balls, pets, and people walking through the symbolically roped off areas. We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief once the exclosures are installed. We’re so fortunate that Dave and his Greenbelt crew make themselves available to help protect the Piping Plover nests. Thanks, too, to Gloucester’s DPW crew who are always looking our for the PiPls.

Dave and Adam installing the exclosure at Salt Island

Would you like to be a Piping Plover ambassador? You’ll join a great group of wildlife enthusiasts and kind citizens. We are having an informational meeting on Sunday, June 6th, at 5pm at Good Harbor Beach, near the nest next to the #3 boardwalk. If you would like to help keep an eye on adorable Plover chicks at Gloucester’s most popular beach,  please contact me by leaving a comment or at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. We would love to have you!

The beautiful pale Mom PiPl and her first egg

Dad fearlessly brandishing his wings at  Dave and Adam during the installation

Dad back on the nest within two minutes after the exclosure was installed

HAPPY NEWS TO SHARE -TWO PIPING PLOVER EGGS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH AND THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN DAVE RIMMER AND GREENBELT FOR YOUR KIND ASSISTANCE!

Oh Happy Day! Our amazing Mom and Dad Plover have done it once again. Despite raging wave and wind storms that brought super high tides all the way to the base of the dunes, along with cold wet weather, we have a nest with two beautiful eggs!!!

The pair nesting at area #3 are our original Mom and Dad; the two have nested in nearly exactly the same spot for six years. They are super experienced parents and because it is not too late in the season and if all goes well, the chicks will be approximately 2 to 3 weeks old by July 4th, which will increase their odds of surviving exponentially.

Over the course of the next several days, we hope the pair will lay two more eggs. They will continue to mate during the egg laying period. Please do not hover by the edges of the roped off area; this only serves to disrupt the Plovers reproductive behavior and attracts gulls and crows. Thank you!This morning Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt’s director of land stewardship, along with his assistant Adam Phippen, placed the wire exclosure around the nest. Encircling the nest with an exclosure is a simple, yet extremely effective way to help protect eggs from predators, including gulls, crows, and small mammals such as skunks and foxes. The spacing between the wires of the exclosure is just large enough for PiPl parents to run in and out, but too small for most other creatures.

Papa feigning a broken wig

I was so proud of our Papa Plover during the installation. After six years of nesting at GHB, he’s familiar with the routine, but installing the exclosure is still a dramatic event for a Plover parent. Papa piped vigorously and valiantly did his broken wing display, trying  with all his tiny self to distract. At one point he fearlessly stood right next to Dave!

Within less than sixty seconds of Dave and Adam walking away from the completed installation, Papa was back on the nest!

We owe tremendous thanks to Dave and to Greenbelt. This is the sixth year in a row he and his Greenbelt crew have installed the exclosures and provided expert advice and assistance to the City of Gloucester and Piping Plover Ambassadors. Greenbelt gives this assistance absolutely free of charge!

Would you like to volunteer to be a Piping Plover Ambassador? The shifts are one hour long, seven days a week, for approximately five weeks, from the day the chicks hatch til they fledge completely. We have a great team of Ambassadors and would love to have you join. Please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com if you would like to volunteer. We are looking for people to commit to cover the 1 to 2pm, 2 to 3pm, and 3 to 4pm shifts. Thank you 🙂

Papa Plover back on the nest in record time!

 

PIPING PLOVER CHRONICLES CONTINUE – My what a week it’s been at Good Harbor Beach!

Love is in the air! 

First things first though; the Good Harbor Beach Killdeer Plover family that nests every year in nearly an identical spot to the year before, hatched four perfectly healthy and vigorous chicks! Today marks their eight day old birthday and they are all four doing exceptionally well. More about this bundle of adorableness in an upcoming post.

Killdeer Plover Chicks  in dune camo

Mid-week we had a rough morning, with four dogs from the same family. The dogs not only ran through the symbolically roped off area as Mom and Dad were just about to mate, the larger of the four chased Dad. The ACO and DPW have been made aware and they are thankfully managing the situation.

We hear so much gibberish nonsense from scofflaw dog owners. This week, for example, “I thought the date was Memorial Day,” or the sign says “dogs are permitted,” or “dogs are allowed after 5pm,” and my personal favorite, “my dog is special.”

   *     *     *

Much of the week was cold and windy but on several mornings, including a slightly warmer today (Sunday), there were EIGHT Plovers! Three females and five males. We are not too concerned about all eight nesting at GHB. This influx seems to happen every year during May, which is peek migration month in Massachusetts. Many species of shorebirds arrive at GHB during May, stopping to rest and refuel before journeying further north. There were also half a dozen Black-bellied Plovers at GHB this past week and I was reminded of the May we had three Wilson’s Plovers show up one foggy morning.

The two new females that have joined the scene are easy to spot, with binoculars or a long lens. Please, please, do not stand at the edge of the roped off area with your cell phone, trying to take cell phone movies of courting and mating behavior. Hovering for long periods is incredibly disruptive to courtship behavior. Trust me, I have seen this disruption during courtship countless times and it only  serves to dramatically slow, or inhibit all together, the nesting season.

Meet our newest female – isn’t she beautiful!

Back to the new girls; they both have very faint headband and collar band markings, one is the palest I have ever seen a PiPl. I am already in love with her, she is feisty and ready for action, no fickle behavior on her part!

The three pairs, plus two odd boys out, are vying for territory. This morning there was a wildly intense smackdown between three of the boys. Repitiously charging, wing flourishing, then retreating, and as usual, no clear victor.

Piping Plover Smackdown. More smackdown photos to follow, when I have a few spare moments to look over the photos.

Dads are nest scraping along the length of the beach; note their little legs going a mile a minute.

Dear Friends, please consider making a tax deductible donation to launching my Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly for distribution to national television. For more information, go here.

To contribute, please go here.

 

 

 

 

PIPING PLOVER UPDATE FROM GLORIOUS GOOD HARBOR BEACH – AND ADDRESSING SENIOR SKIP DAY

There appear to be two pairs of Piping Plovers at Good Harbor however, after another week of super highs tides, powerful winds and heavy rain, our Piping Plover nest scrapes have all but disappeared. Saturday afternoon all four were foraging in the outgoing tide. Two are our original pair, a third is a bossy territorial male, and the fourth wasn’t on the scene long enough to tell. Late Sunday afternoon found all four huddled together behind mini hummocks and divots escaping the whipping wind.

The highest tide of the spring (on the night of April 16), the one that brought in the heap of ghost fishing gear to GHB and a dead Minke Whale to Folly Cove, went straight away up to the base of the dune.  That tide washed away all active nest scrapes.

Storm tide night of April 16th brought ghost gear to GHB and a Minke Whale to Folly Cove

The high tide on the night of April 29th , although not quite as high as the tide two weeks earlier in April, again washed away all active nest scrapes. Hopefully, the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers will catch some better weather in May!

Note- the above update was written Sunday evening. On this mild Monday morning, I found Mama and Papa back to courting and nest scraping! 

At several of the other beaches that I am filming at, the nests and scrapes have not been disturbed by the tides. Here you can see this beautiful nest with three eggs as it was thankfully spared.

Senior Skip Days This past week there was reportedly a tremendous gathering of kids on Good Harbor Beach, for senior skip day. Thursday morning I was on the beach when about twenty or so arrived. We had several friendly conversations. They are good kids and were there simply to enjoy a fun day with their friends, something that we did not see much of last year because of the pandemic.

I was not in the least concerned for the safety of the Plovers. Because of the super high tides and as of this writing, there are currently no nests scrapes, no nests, and no chicks on the beach. Adult Plovers fly away if a person gets too close.

Later that afternoon, after reading the reports of hundreds of kids trashing the beach I stopped by again at GHB. There were again only about twenty kids. It had become so unpleasantly windy I didn’t stay long and can’t imagine the kids stayed much later. The following morning after another high tide there was only a smattering of cans and bottles half buried in the sand. I have to say, we see much, much worse harmful plastic pollution and garbage left behind on the beach by adults and families, especially after sporting events and parties, and of course, there is the ever present dog poop in plastic.

Party remnants after kid’s senior skip day – not great but we’ve all seen much, much worse…

such as the adult’s dog poop mess left at Wingaersheek Beach, May 1, 2021 

Our community has done a fantastic job in restricting pets from GHB, beginning April 1st, which makes the beach safer and cleaner for all. Joe Lucido and the Gloucester DPW are amazing in installing the symbolic roping to coincide with the Plovers arrival. These actions are the two most essential in helping Piping Plovers get off to a good start.

We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. So many of us have been isolated from our friends and family for many, many months. There will be tens of thousands of visitors to our shores this summer enjoying summer fun. People flock to Good Harbor Beach because they recognize it is a very special place. From daybreak til day’s end, everything about Good Harbor Beach is magnificent! The way the tides and wind change the landscape daily, the most glorious sunrises and rosy pink sunsets, views of the Twin Lighthouses, families strolling, sunbathing, surfing, kite flying, picnicking, volleyball playing, hikes to Salt Island, swimming (especially kids in the tidal creek!), dunes teaming with life, and the wild creatures attracted.

Once the chicks hatch, Plover Ambassadors will be on the beach throughout the day offering insights about the Plovers. I know we can all be tolerant and respectful towards each other and the wild creatures that find safe harbor at Good Harbor. I think it’s going to be a fantastic summer!

Piping Plover Ambassadors 2020

PIPL WEEKLY UPDATE AND HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SANDERLING AND A PIPING PLOVER

Earlier in the week, our PiPl pair were zooming  up and down the beach nest scraping hither and thither. They appear to be a bit calmer the past few days. Perhaps they are settling on a nesting location?? Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

Dad taking a much needed siesta

Our hope is Mom and Dad will have an early nest, which will give their babies the greatest chance of surviving. A second family of Plovers that I am documenting this year has laid their second egg. This pair arrived in Massachusetts the same day as did our GHB pair. It will be interesting to compare and contrast as the season progresses.

Please note – The eggs pictured are NOT at Good Harbor Beach, just making sure everyone understand this 🙂

Sanderlings are migrating northward and there are many currently foraging along our local beaches. Folks often confuse Sanderlings with Piping Plovers. The above sanderling is in non-breeding plumage, with somewhat similar coloring to Piping Plovers. You can faintly see some of the rusty breeding plumage coming in. Sanderlings have much longer bills and both bills and legs are black.Piping Plovers in breeding plumage have stout, orange bills that are tipped black, striking black collar and neck bands, a yellow orange ring around the eye, and orangish legs. As the PiPls plumage fades later in the season, from a distance especially it can be hard for people to to tell the two apart.

Sanderlings foraging

PIPING PLOVER STORMY WEATHER WEEKLY UPDATE

Dear Friends of Cape Ann’s Plovers,

Again this past week, our dynamic duo has been busily bonding, nest scraping, and mating up and down the full length of the beach. However, the extremely high tide that rose to the base of the dunes washed out the pair’s nest scrapes and temporarily put the kibosh on all things romantic. The two disappeared for a full day after the storm departed, with no spottings anywhere, not even tell tale PiPl tracks.

Super high tide through the spray zone

My heart always skips a beat after a day or two of no “eyes on the PiPls,” but I am happy to report Mom and Dad are back to the business of beginning a new family, seemingly unfazed. The storm and super high tide left in its wake lots of great bits of dried seaweed and sea grass which will in turn attract tons of insects, one of the PiPls dietary mainstays. There is a silver lining to every storm cloud 🙂

Just a friendly reminder if you would please, if you see the PiPls at the edge of the symbolic rope line or foraging in the tide pools, please do not hover. Hovering will distract the Plovers and delay courtship. And hovering attracts gulls and crows to the scene. Step back at least 50 to 60 feet and give them some space. Bring binoculars or a strong lens if you would like to observe the PiPls from a comfortable distance, comfortable to them that is. Thank you much!

Take care and Happy Spring!

xxKim

Mom’s also dig out the nest scrapes

High stepping Dad, courting Mom

Nest scrape

Dad taking a moment to preen after courting

 

PIPING PLOVER WEEKEND UPDATE FROM BEAUTIFUL GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Our sweet pair of PiPls has been left largely undisturbed this past week. Word is getting out that the dog officers are ticketing. There are fewer dog tracks running through the symbolically roped off areas, which is fantastic.

Mom and Dad are running the length of the beach, as evidenced by their tiny fleur-de-lis imprints in the sand. They are also nest scraping along the length of the beach however, the pair are primarily sticking within areas #1 (Salt Island side) and #3 (Creekside).

I am excited to think about the possibility of an early nest! If this warm, mild weather continues we may be in luck. For our newest Ambassadors and new friends of Gloucester’s Plovers, the earlier in the season that Piping Plovers nest, the greater the chance the chicks have of surviving. We owe tremendous thanks to Gloucester DPW assistant director Joe Lucido and his crew for installing the roping early. I just can’t express how grateful we are for the early action taken.

This past week I was traveling along the Massachusetts coastline documenting other Piping Plover locations for the PiPl film project and came across a duo of banded Plovers from Eastern Canada. I am waiting to hear back from the Canadian biologist in charge and will write more as soon as she writes back. It was wonderfully exciting to see not one, but two, all the way from Canada and I can’t wait to find out more!

Looking forward to working with you all!

xoKim

Piping Plovers foraging Good Harbor Beach April 2021

 

THANK YOU TO GLOUCESTER TIMES MICHAEL CRONIN AND ANDREA HOLBROOK FOR GETTING THE WORD OUT ABOUT OUR GHB PIPING PLOVERS!!

Thank you so very much to Gloucester Times Editor Andrea Holbrook and staff writer Michael Cronin for sharing about the fence post installation and the great information provided for the public. We are so appreciative of the ongoing support given by the community and the Gloucester Times.

GLOUCESTER TIMES

By Michael Cronin

Photo by Paul Bilodeau

March 29, 2021

Part of Good Harbor Beach is fenced off to protect some tiny seasonal visitors.

A crew of Public Works personnel began fencing out an area of the beach on Monday to protect migrating piping plovers. The first pair of the threatened shorebirds reportedly landed this weekend.

“They put up the posts today,” said Kim Smith, a local documentarian and advocate for the piping plovers. “The roping will come next and then they’ll put up the signage telling people what’s going on. This is super that they’re doing it early this season. The earlier it goes up, the earlier the chicks hatch which gives them a better chance of survival as the beaches aren’t so busy yet.”

According to Smith, the piping plovers that visit Good Harbor typically nest in the same spot each year.

“One year they nested out in the parking lot because they were pushed out by the dogs on the beach,” she recalled. “But once the ordinance was put in place they were able to return to their usual spot.”

Dog are banned from Good Harbor Beach between April and September. Wingaersheek will remain open to canines on odd numbered days until April 30.

Smith said she’s waiting for the birds to lay their eggs. Once they do, members of the Essex County Greenbelt Association will encapsulate the nest with wire netting.

“Dave Rimmer of Essex County Greenbelt has been guiding us since 2016,” said Smith. “He’s the first one I call when the first egg is laid. The holes in the cage are big enough for the birds to enter and leave, but small enough to keep predators out.”

READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

 

 

ROCK ON GLOUCESTER DPW – THANK YOU FOR INSTALLING THE PLOVER FENCE POSTS!!!

Huge shout out to Gloucester’s DPW crew today for installing the metal posts that the rope and signs will attach to. It’s simply awesome that the posts are going up so early in the season! The PiPls thank you, too!

I can’t stress enough how important it is to get the posts, signs, and roping up as early in the season as possible. The earlier the protected areas are in place, the earlier the PiPls will nest generally speaking. The earlier in the season that they nest (when the beach is relatively quieter), the greater the chance the chicks will have of surviving and going on to fledge.

It was so windy on the beach this morning, but I think the gentlemen said their names were Brian, Dean, and Dan, but I could have that completely wrong. It’s so challenging to tell who is who when masks are worn.

Thanks so much again to the DPW crew for the fine job this morning, and many thanks for wearing masks, too.

SUPER EXCITING NEWS – THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS HAVE RETURNED

For the past three years, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers have returned during the first week of spring. This year they are again right on schedule!! Here is the little duo tucked behind a mini-hummock, keeping out of the path of last evening’s blustery wind.

The two are foraging together and are communicating, piping softly, yet audibly, to each other, which makes me believe they are a couple. At the end of the day, they were found together resting in the sand.

The pair were first spotted in the fog on the morning of March 26th.

We have a great bunch of Piping Plover Ambassadors signed up and have covered almost all shifts. There are several openings in the afternoon, the 1 to 2pm, 2 to 3pm, and the 3 to 4pm shifts. Our goal is to help educate the public about the life story of the Plovers in a kind, friendly, non-confrontational, and informational manner. If you would like to join us, we would love to have you! There will be an informational meeting when the Plovers begin laying eggs and we can at that time provide a time frame of the weeks Ambassadors will be needed. If you would like to volunteer one hour a day for the six weeks the Plovers need our help, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you!

A hound dog unfortunately chased one of the Plovers up and down the beach and the pair became separated for a period. I do so hope dog owners recall that dogs are not permitted on the beach after March 31st. Today was a beautiful day and there were many dogs off leash at Good Harbor Beach even though it is an on leash day. Folks really seem to struggle with understanding Gloucester’s leash laws. A friendly reminder that it is a federal and state crime for owners to allow their dogs to harass threatened and endangered species, whether a leash day or not.

For everyone’s general information – In 2016 the pair arrived in mid-May; in 2017, early May; in 2018 in mid-April; in 2019 on March 25th; in 2020 on March 22; and this year, 2021, overnight between March 25th and March 26th.

Too windy for Mom

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2020: THE YEAR IN PICTURES, MOVIES, AND STORIES

Several years ago my husband suggested I write a “year end” wildlife review about all the creatures seen over the preceding year. That first review was a joyful endeavor though daunting enough. Over the next several years the reviews became more lengthy as I tried to cover every beautiful, wonderful creature that was encountered on woodland hikes, beaches, dunes, marshes, ponds, and our own backyards and neighborhoods. 2020 has been a very different year. There were just as many local wildlife stories as in previous years however, the pandemic and political climate have had far reaching consequences across geographic regions around the world, touching every living creature in the interconnected web of life we call our ecosystems.

This first year of the global pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on wildlife and their habitats. In urban areas in developed countries, perhaps the economic slowdown afforded wildlife a break, with less pollution, less air travel, and some wild animals even reclaiming territory. Though the true downside of Covid-19 is that the pandemic has had an extraordinarily harmful impact on wildlife in rural areas and in less developed countries People who are dependent upon tourism, along with people who have lost jobs in cities and are returning to rural areas, are placing increasing pressure on wildlife by poaching, illegal mining, and logging. As mining and logging destroy wildlife habitats, animals are forced into ever shrinking areas, causing them to become sick, stressed, and to starve to death. These same stressed wild animals come in contact with people and farm animals, creating an ever increasing potential to transmit horrifically deadly illness, diseases such as Covid-19.

There are many, many organizations working to protect wildlife and conserve their habitats. I am especially in awe of one particular grass roots non-profit organization located in Macheros, Mexico, previously featured here, Butterflies and Their People. Co-founded by Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno Rojas, the work they are doing to both protect the butterfly’s winter habit and provide employment for the forest’s guardians is outstanding.

All the butterfly sanctuaries (their winter resting places), are closed this year due to the pandemic. Dozens of people in the tiny town of Macheros are wholly dependent upon the income received by the work they do protecting the butterfly trees from illegal logging, as well as income from the tourist industry.  Ellen, Joel, and their team of arborists have come up with a wonderfully creative way to bring the butterflies to you. For a modest fee, you can sign up to “Adopt a Colony” to receive monthly newsletters and video tours of the Monarchs at Cerro Pelon. The newsletters are written by Ellen, who writes beautifully and clearly about the month-by-month current state of the butterflies in their winter habitat, as well as human interest stories drawn from the community. To subscribe to “Adopt a Colony” from Butterflies and Their People, go here.

We can be hopeful in 2021 that with a new administration, a much greater focus will be paid by our federal government to stop the spread of the virus in the US as well as around the globe. Not only is there hope in regard to the course correction needed to battle the pandemic, but the Biden/Harris administration has made climate change and environmental justice a cornerstone of their platform, including measures such as stopping the environmental madness taking place along our southern border and reversing many of the previous administration’s mandates that are so harmful to wildlife and their habitats.

Around the globe, especially in less developed countries, the pandemic has set back environmental initiatives by years, if not decades. We are so fortunate in Essex County  to have conservation organizations such as Greenbelt, MassWildlife, The Trustees, and Mass Audubon; organizations that protect the sanctity of wildlife and recognize the importance of protecting habitats not only for wildlife but equally as important, for the health and safety of human inhabitants.

The following are just some of the local images and stories that make us deeply appreciate the beauty of wildlife and their habitats found on Cape Ann and all around Essex County. Each picture is only a brief window into the elusive, complex life of a creature. Every day and every encounter brings so much more to observe, to learn, to enjoy, and to love.

To read more, each image and story from the past year is Google searchable. Type in the name of the creature and my name and the link to the story and pictures posted on my website should come right up.

Some Beautiful Raptors of 2020 – Red-tailed Hawk, Short-eared Owl, American Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, and Snowy Owls

 

Essex County Greenbelt’s Osprey pair, Annie and Squam, successfully fledged three chicks, Vivi, Rusty, and Liz (nestling photo courtesy ECGA)

Dave Rimmer video from the Osprey cam at Lobstaland

The Snowy Owl Film Project was completed in March, with the objective of providing pandemic- virtually schooled kids a window into the world of Snowy Owls in their winter habitat (see all five short films here).

 

Spunky Mute Swan Cygnets

Utterly captivated by the winsome Red Fox Family

A tiny sampling of the beautiful songbirds that graced our shores in 2020 – Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, American Robins, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Snow Buntings, American Pipits, Horned Larks, and Eastern Bluebirds

 

A new favorite place to film is at my friend Paul’s wonderfully fun sunflower field in Ipswich, School Street Sunflowers. Beautiful Bobolinks, Common Yellowthroat Warblers, and Bluejays were just some of the songbirds seen feasting on the expiring seedheads  of sunflowers and wildflowers growing amongst the rows of flowers.

Graceful White-tailed Deer herd of adult females and youngsters

Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and juvenile Little Blue Herons delight with their elegance, beauty, and stealth hunting skills. Included in the montage is a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron that spent the winter at Niles Pond

A fraction of the different species of Shorebirds and Gulls seen on Cape Ann this past year – Dowitchers, Killdeers, Black-bellied Plovers, Common Tern, Least Tern, Laughing Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Glaucus Gull, and rarely seen Dovekie, or”Little Auk.”

Cecropia Moth life cycle unfolding in our garden, from mating, to egg laying, to caterpillar, to adult.

 

Dozens and dozens of orb spider webs draped a small patch of wildflowers. The dream catchers were attracting Cedar Waxwings to feast on the insects caught in the webs. The following day I returned after a rainstorm. The webs had melted away in the downpour and the Waxwings had vanished into the treetops.

Harbor and Gray Seals hauled out on the rocks at Brace Cove, as many as 28 were counted on a winter’s day!

Piping Plovers and Marshmallow Montage

In 2020, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair fledged one chick, nicknamed Marshmallow. Despite the global pandemic, a group of super dedicated Piping Plover Ambassadors worked tirelessly from sunrise until sunset to help ensure the safety of the Piping Plover family and to help educate beachgoers about the beautiful life story of the Plovers unfolding on Gloucester’s most popular beach destination. We worked with Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, the Gloucester DPW, and Gloucester City Councilor Scot Memhard, with much appreciated advice from Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist Carolyn Mostello.

Read more about Marshmallow, the Ambassadors, and the Piping Plover Film Project here.

Piping Plover Marshmallow Montage, from egg to thirty-eight days old. Filmed at Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts.