Category Archives: Piping Plover

Grant helps plovers have record year on Crane Beach, featuring Jeff Denoncour —

ROTARY CLUB PAID FOR THREE SOLAR-POWERED ELECTRIC FENCES

IPSWICH — Those little birds you see running around the beach don’t have it easy.

Although they have wings, they won’t fly to trees to build their nests. Instead, they scoop holes, or “scrapes,” in the sand and lay their eggs there.

And that’s an invitation for all kinds of trouble: predators, rogue waves, dogs, or clumsy or malicious humans.

Combined with widespread loss of habitat, piping plovers are now on the federal government’s threatened species list. One estimate says there are just 8,400 left worldwide.

But along with lease terns, which are protected in Massachusetts, the plovers are well taken care of on Crane Beach.

In fact, they were so well taken care of in 2019 that a record number of chicks fledged and are now ready for the next perilous phase of their lives — a migration to the Bahamas.

This year, 49 pairs of plovers raised 96 chicks, said Jeff Denoncour, coastal ecologist with The Trustees of Reservations.

The last year that good for the birds was in 1999, when 44 pairs produced 89 fledglings, he added.

To show how precarious the species’ existence can be, Denoncour said the year 2000 was disastrous. Just 12 fledglings survived despite the efforts of 49 pairs. “That was due to a major storm,” he explained.

READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

Jeff Denoncour and Courtney Richardson last year at Jeff’s program on coastal ecology held at the Cape Ann Museum

PRAYERS FOR THE PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE OF THE BAHAMIAN ISLANDS

Stay safe little fledgling!

It’s heartbreaking to read about the death and devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian. Never having been, but greatly wishing to go someday, our hearts go out to the people of this beautiful and magical archipelago, the Bahamas.

Several friends have written asking about what happens to shorebirds, especially the Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers, during a monster hurricane like Dorian. Some lose their lives, some are blown far off course and hopefully, more will survive than not.

One somewhat reassuring thought regarding the Piping Plovers that are tagged in Massachusetts and Rhode Island is that they may not yet have left the States. After departing Massachusetts and RI, a great many tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

A male Piping Plover that I have been documenting since April, nicknamed Super Dad, still in Massachusetts at his breeding grounds as of August 28th.

Here is Super Dad watching over his two fledglings, aged 31 days, On August 24th, 2019.

Thirty-one-day-old fledglings sleeping after a morning of intensive foraging and fattening-up.

GLOUCESTER PLOVERS GO SWIMMING!

Gloucester Plovers Go Swimming! New short created for Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Cooperators.

No one knew these tiny little shorebirds could swim. They don’t have webbed feet so how do they swim?  I think the sheer movement of their little feet going a mile a minute keeps them afloat–they paddle as fast as they run on the beach. Turn up the volume to hear the chicks peeping and Dad Plover piping.

POSTS AND ARTICLES ABOUT PIPING PLOVERS:

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART ONE

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART TWO

THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT PLOVERS – The story of a remarkably spirited pair of birds and how a community came together to help in their struggle for survival 

National Audubon feature story: How Plover Chicks Born in a Parking Lot Spurred a City to Make Its Beach Safer

100 Plus Piping Plover Articles, Posts, and Stories by Kim Smith April 2018 – May 2019

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART TWO

I stopped by on my way home from work, fully expecting to see all three chicks hatched. Dad was sitting on the nest and two fluffy chicks were zooming in and out. He left the nest for a moment and wonderful luck of luck, the third chick was making its appearance!!

When I write messy, it is because while the third chick was hatching, the two older ones needed to thermoregulate, or cuddle, beneath the parent’s wing. There was a great deal of seeming disorder going on beneath the canopy provided by Dad’s fluffed out feathers.

Because the two older siblings were running in and out of the nest, as well as the parents leaving to discard the remaining chick’s eggshell pieces, I had a longer window into the third chick’s hatching (by mere seconds, I mean). Plus the twelve-hour-old chicks were just as adorable as could be!

From a nest of three eggs, two chicks hatched at dawn and the third, at day’s end. During both times, I had my movie camera on a tripod zoomed in on the nest and was able to film and simultaneously take still photos. A very unforgettable and happy day!!!!!!!!!!

Mom switched places with Dad but only stayed for a few moments before hopping up quickly. All three chicks were in the nest. You can see the newly hatched chick with its two older siblings. 

Read Part One Here

Hello World! Eyes barely open and first peek at the world.

Twelve-hour-old chick -my what big feet I have 🙂

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART ONE

As many of our readers know, this summer while finishing up with editing my Monarch film, I have also been continuing to document our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. To make the best and most informed documentary, I have also been filming at other north of Boston beach locations. During our last heat wave, we posted about about how PiPl parents protect their eggs during extreme temperatures. The chicks that you see hatching in the photos are the same eggs that survived the heat wave! and are from a very, very special Piping Plover pair. More about these two parents in an upcoming post; for now I just have time to write about the chicks hatching.

Witnessing a beautiful family of Piping Plover chicks hatch is a day I won’t soon forget. Not only struck by the sheer beauty of it all, I was highly aware of the formidable challenges these valiant little birds face at every stage of development. Even hatching was messy and challenging.

On my way into work, I had been checking daily on the nest and knew the hatching day was soon approaching. Arriving at dawn on the twenty-fifth day from when the pair had begun brooding all three eggs, it was apparent and wonderfully exciting to see something was going on in the nest. Mom was on the nest and she was unusually active, moving around and adjusting the eggs repeatedly. She popped up for a split second and I could see an egg cracking. A miracle truly, that the eggs were viable, as it was so late in the season and the heat had been so extreme.

During hatching, the Mom (or Dad, whoever happens to be brooding the eggs at the time hatching begins) makes a canopy over the nest with their fluffed-out feathers. The nest is a mere depression in the sand, below eye level, so the only time you can see what is happening is when the parent leaves the nest. This only happens for the briefest of moments. A chick begins emerging and while it is still half in its eggshell, the nesting parent takes any parts of the broken eggshell in his/her mouth and runs, then flies further with it, dropping the eggshell far away from the nest. During those few brief seconds when the parent leaves to discard the eggshell, you can see what is taking place in the nest.

In the last three photos, the chick’s feathers are almost completely dry and fluffy.

Enthralled, I watched as two chicks hatched over an hour period, but then had to leave to be on site for a job installation that couldn’t wait. I hated to leave wondering, not knowing how the third chick would fare, and just prayed that it would still be light out when I stopped back on my way home from work that night.

Part two tomorrow.

PiPl Mom brooding eggs during heat wave.

Eggshell camouflaged amongst shells and sea bits.

SEA-ROCKET!

What is that wonderful succulent yet scrubby-looking green plant we see growing on our local beaches? You are most likely looking at American Sea-rocket (Cakile edentula). Named for its rocket-shaped berries, Sea-rocket is a native annual. It grows in dry sand and is pollinated by beetles, moths, butterflies, flies, and bees. The edible flowers and peppery, succulent leaves, which taste somewhat like horseradish, attract myriad species of tiny insects as well.

Sea-rocket reseeds itself each year all around New England beaches and thrives in the poor medium of dry sand, above the high tide line. In springtime, along the Massachusetts coastline, you will see tiny shoots emerging and by early summer the multi-branching plant can grow two feet wide and equally as tall.

Throughout the Piping Plover’s time spent at Good Harbor Beach, Sea-rocket is an important plant, providing shade on hot summer days, protection from the wind, and attracts a smorgasbord of insects that both the adults and tiniest of chicks depend upon for their diets.

Piping Plover chicks and adults forage for small insects at Sea-rocket.

SEA-ROCKET GROWTH PROGRESSION-

The first photo was taken on April 6, 2019. You can see that there is no vegetation growing in the roped off area.

The second photo was taken about one month later, at the time our mated Piping Plover pair began nesting. Notice the tiny shoots of Sea-rocket beginning to emerge.

The third photo was taken during the second week of July. Look how beautifully the Sea-rocket is growing in the roped off area.The fourth photo shows the same area after the PiPl refuge was dismantled and the Sea-rocket raked over.Three Piping Plover chicks finding shelter beneath the Sea-rocket foliage.

HOW DO NESTING BIRDS SUCH AS PIPING PLOVERS KEEP FROM BOILING THEIR EGGS IN A HEAT WAVE?

During this heat wave I have been concerned about one of the Piping Plover families that I am documenting. They are nesting in an exposed site and it is late in the season. I wondered if their eggs were at risk of becoming overheated. As of Saturday, my worries were for naught.

Both the Mom and Dad are sitting high on the nest. Typically when brooding eggs, Piping Plovers fluff out their brood feathers and the eggs are entirely hidden. During these 90-degree-plus days, the parents are continuing to sit on the nest to keep predators from seeing the eggs from overhead, but they are raising their bodies enough to allow air to flow beneath.

Both parents are struggling in the heat; they are overheated and panting while minding their nest, yet despite their obvious discomfort, they are determinedly continuing to brood.

Panting nesting Plover in 95 degree temperatures.

Allowing for air circulation is really a pretty genius way of managing their eggs and I am keeping my hopes up that the pair will be successful ❤

Dad PiPl says why is it so dang hot!