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.
While I began writing this note yesterday morning and was looking out my office window, there were Monarchs drinking nectar from the Zinnias in the front flower border and Monarchs nectaring at the New England Asters around back. The migration is underway, with small assemblages here and there. I’m keeping my hopes up that we will see a greater influx in the coming days. And hopefully, too, the drought has not too badly harmed the Monarchs as there seems to have been enough moisture in the air that native wildflowers such as goldenrods and asters are blooming.
Our sweet little Hip Hop has not been seen for several days (as of this writing), but as Piping Plover Ambassador Deb writes, he has a Houdini-like way of disappearing and reappearing. Hopefully, he has departed. I am not sure if I sent this along to you – Ethan Forman from the GTimes wrote a fantastic article about our GHB Plovers. You can find the story here: Best Year Ever for Plovers at Good Harbor Beach.
I was so happy to read in the Gloucester Times that Mayor Verga’s new beach reservation system is a success, not only for the City, but because an interesting outcome is that I think the reservation system also helped the PiPls. Folks with reservations weren’t desperate to get to the beach by 7am and took their time arriving. The net result was that the wildlife that finds shelter and sustenance on the beach was less disturbed and could forage in relative peace. The new system appears to be a win for all!
In the sixties with mostly sunny skies this weekend. There are many creatures migrating along the coast and through New England currently. I believe I saw a pair of American Golden Plovers but haven’t had time to check my footage to verify 100 percent. I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy the predicted beautiful weather and see some wildlife.
Charlotte’s first day of kindergarten with a newly emerged Monarch to send her off – her idea to accessorize 🙂
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.
Happy ten-week old birthday to the irrepressible Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Hip Hop! Monday marked Hip Hop’s 10 week, or 70 day, old birthday.
He spends his days alternating between resting well-camouflaged in depressions in the sand and robustly feeding, oftentimes off on his own, and occasionally with migrating shorebirds.
We don’t have experience with lone Plovers lingering this long into the summer. Despite his limping gait, he looks beautiful, healthy, and ready to migrate.
Massachusetts is at the fore of Piping Plover recovery. We have approximately 700 pairs nesting on Massachusetts beaches. It’s also great to hear about how well other states are doing. Maine has 140 nesting pairs and fledged a record number number of chicks, 252, to be precise (a record for Maine). Read more here, story shared by PiPl Ambassador Duncan Todd.
The water has been walk-in warm and perfect for swimming this past week. Enjoy these last days of August!
The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors, and the entire community of Cape Ann’s Plover friends, would like to thank the Brookline Bird Club and board member John Nelson for the kind and very generous donation to help purchase signs and badges to help protect the Piping Plovers at Cape Ann beaches. We have such an amazing group of PiPl Ambassadors and to be recognized by the BBC is truly an honor.
The Brookline Bird Club, the largest and most active bird club in Massachusetts, is pleased to donate money to support the Piping Plover Ambassadors in their volunteer efforts to protect the Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach, to educate the public about this wonderful and endangered shorebird, and to help many people in Gloucester and beyond to experience the delight of watching these birds and following their story as they breed and raise their young on the beach. On behalf of the birding community and plover lovers everywhere, we thank you.” The Good Harbor Beach Plover Ambassadors (missing a few) Paula, Alexa, Jennie, Jonathan, Duncan T., Susan, Lisa, Duncan H, Jill, Sharen, Barbara, Deborah
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!
I so appreciate Heather taking the time to talk about Piping Plovers and Monarchs both. She asked tons of great questions and in a short period of time, we got in lots of information! Please see our interview below <3 !
For more about Hip Hop and the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, see here –
And, please join me Thursday, August 18th, at 10am at Essex’s T.O.H.P. Burnham Library for a free all ages (5 plus) Monarch Butterfly event, The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch. To register, GO HERE
Monarch Butterfly and Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias vericillata)
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!
Truly a milestone for our Good Harbor Beach PiPl fledglings, today marks their seven week old birthday, or 49 days. Five chicks fledged and that in and of itself is also a milestone. Hip Hop isn’t the best of flyers as of this writing. Dad and one of the siblings are still with him, which is also remarkable. Every morning finds the three cozily snoozing within close proximity to one another, while the three super flyers are zooming around the beach.
Dad, Hip Hop, and sibling
This past week, several of we GHB PiPl Ambassadors attended the annual Northeast Coastal Waterbird Cooperators Meeting. Representatives from the Massachusetts seven coastal regions, along with coastal waterbird conservation leaders from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, and the Great Lakes provided data and stories from their respective shorebird conservation programs. Not only are Piping Plovers covered, but also Least Terns, Common Terns, Roseate Terns, and American Oyster Catchers.
We all should be very proud that Massachusetts is once again at the fore of Piping Plover conservation. There are about 700 breeding pairs in Massachusetts. Does that sound like a great number? Not really. There are only about 8,000 Piping Plovers worldwide. Compare that number to Snowy Owls; the population of Snowy Owls is thought to be around 28,000. There is still much work to be done in Piping Plover conservation.
Here are some local good news numbers shared at the meeting. The data was collected approximately two weeks ago. In 2022, the north of Boston region has so far fledged 135 chicks, with 54 chicks still on beaches for a possible total of 189 chicks! Five of which are from Good Harbor Beach!
I submitted a short film for the Coastal Waterbird meeting, titled The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, and am in the process of adding a few scenes. It should be ready to share with the community by the end of the week.
One of my favorite moments from this season, of all four siblings thermosnuggling under Dad.
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
So proud of Charlotte this morning! She rose early with me to catch her first ever sunrise and to watch the Plovers. Rising in a dramatic fiery red ball, the sun was all that it could be for a first-ever sunrise experience.
We found the chicks foraging along the water’s edge, while she stood back as still as a statue to give them lots of space. She kept eyes on all four and helped herd a seagull away from my canvas beach bag, but not in the direction towards the chicks. She added more seashells and discarded “sand-shapers” to her collections and was most enamored of all our early morning friends.
The four thirty-day-old chicks at area #3, plus Dad, were all present and accounted for this morning. Little Hip Hop is still undersized, but quite independent.
Hip Hop and sibling at twenty-nine-days old
So very unfortunately, we lost one of the two chicks at area #1 over the weekend. Tomorrow, the one remaining area #1 chick attains the wonderful four week old milestone. Both Moms departed over a week ago so we have five chicks plus two Dads. The five chicks occasionally all forage together, while the Dads stay ever vigilant in watching over their respective chicks (and duking it out between themselves over “foraging rights.”)
Today we are celebrating a milestone for our Piping Plover chicks at area #3, their four-week-old milestone. In one more week, the Plover chicks will be fully fledged. The three normally developing chicks are taking brief lift offs several feet above ground. We hope tiny Hip Hop won’t take too long to catch up to his siblings before he too is showing signs of flying.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful friends and partners who have worked with us to reach this important milestone of FOUR four-week-old chicks. Thank you Mark Cole and the Gloucester DPW beach crew, thank you to ACO officers Teagan and Jamie, thank you to City Councilors Scott Memhard and Jeff Worthley, thank you to the Gloucester football practice kids and coaches, thank you to the GHB volleyball players, and thank you to all the local residents and beachgoers who are watching out for the Plovers when they are at GHB enjoying a beach day.
Hip Hop and sibling – you can compare in the photos how much more well-developed are the wings of Hip Hop’s siblings. Hip Hop is making great strides though and we have high hopes.
On a more difficult note, our area #1 family has become more elusive and with recent talk about eating Plovers we are concerned that we may be missing a chick after this weekend’s truly unnecessary “stirring the pot.” People don’t understand this kind of cruel talk encourages people to torment and to kill Plovers. They don’t get that this is a thing and that there is a well-documented history of grown men and women killing Plovers and destroying their nests and habitat because they were threatened by the presence of a tiny bird. Many of us hope this way of relating to wildlife died out in the previous century. I believe the great majority has evolved in how we think about protecting wild creatures, particularly in the case of safe guarding threatened, endangered, highly vulnerable and the smallest amongst us.
As has stated been countless times, the mission of the Piping Plover Ambassador program is to share the shore, to keep the beaches open for people and for shorebirds.
If you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador next year, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our ambassadors are a wonderful group of kind hearted, funny, sweet, and dedicated people and we have become friends through our stewardship. We have tremendous support from most in the community however, a small handful have labeled us elites and silly bird watchers (not that there is anything wrong with bird watching!). Nothing could be further from the truth. We are an assemblage of hardworking professionals, artists, writers, poets, designers, to name but a few of our careers, who came together to take time out of our professional lives to care for a tiny endangered species that began calling Cape Ann home seven years ago. You don’t need prior “bird watching ” skills to join our Piping Plover Ambassador program and we would love to have you.
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.
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!
All feeding with great gusto except when a hungry family of Starlings appeared on the scene. Mom and Dad both went after the three with much buzzing and brandishing of wings.
Super Mom, with only one foot, giving the Starlings the business!
We are so thankful to Councilor Jeff Worthley, Mark Cole, Coach Lafferty, and athletic director Byran Lafata for their response in moving the sports teams back to the original footbridge location, where they have been practicing for 36 years. Additionally, Coach Lafferty is having the kids run in groups of three, not thirty across, which will help give chicks the opportunity to scamper away if they get caught in the midst. This was the Coach’s idea!
Several days ago, I met the gentleman who owns the house at Cape Hedge where the Plover family had the nest. He was overjoyed to see our pLover chicks and is super bummed about the CHB family. He is dismayed that the no dogs signs still have not been posted at his end of the beach. We are going to have to provide more assistance to our Rockport friends in helping them get organized for next year.
Thank you Everyone for all your great work! Jennie, I am going to post about your Gloucester Writer’s Center event in a separate post. I am hoping to attend and looking forward to listening to your Plover poems, but if not, congratulations and best wishes for a wonderful event <3
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.
A reminder of our Piping Plover informational meeting this Thursday the 16th, at 5:45 pm, at area #3. For new PiPl friends, park in the lot at the far end, near Boardwalk #3. Walk down the boardwalk and turn right towards the footbridge. You will see the symbolically roped off area and we will meet there. I am looking forward to seeing everyone, old and new <3
We are looking for more volunteers. If you know someone who would like to help, please feel free to bring them to the meeting and please share my email.
Mini-update on our GHB nesting pairs. Both Moms were on the nests this morning while both Dads were foraging at the tidal flats and in the wrack. Everyone looks healthy and ready for chicks! There was hardly any trash on the beach, which was wonderful to see. Thank you Gloucester’s DPW beach crew!
#3 Dad eating a Painted Lady Butterfly
#3 Mom on the nest, well-camouflaged in beach grass
There are many tracks in Area #2 and I am hoping perhaps, if Cape Hedge Mom is still alive, we will have a renest there, but there are no nest scrapes, only footprints. We’ll keep checking.
Thank you to all our PiPl friends, old and new. We’ll see you Thursday!
Overnight on May 31st, the precious Cape Hedge Piping Plover chicks hatched. The photos of these tender tiny ephemeral beings were taken the morning of June 1st when the chicks were only several hours old. In all the photos of the chicks you can still see their teeny white egg tooth, which falls off after a day or so. The hatchlings use their sharp egg tooth to pip, or peck, their way out of the egg shell.
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!
Joyful update to share from Cape Ann PiPl nest check-up this morning –
The Cape Hedge Plover parent’s are doing an excellent job guarding their clutch of four eggs, the most well-camouflaged nest in Massachusetts, as our state coastal waterbird biologist Carolyn Mostello refers to the nest. There was a Coyote scavenging around the wrack line near the nest but Mom and Dad went into full protective mode trying to distract. The “broken wing” display wasn’t too necessary though as the second the Coyote saw me, he/she hightailed into the marsh.
Area #1 Salt Island
Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer installed the exclosure at #1 (Salt Island end of the beach) yesterday afternoon and there are now three eggs in the nest! The Salt Island pair are not yet brooding full time and still continuing to mate. Quite possibly, we’ll have a fourth egg at #1. This little Mama has up to this point laid a total of six eggs, three in the first nest, which we think was predated, and three currently.
Area #3 Saratoga CreeK
In saving the best for last, our amazing handicapped Mom and ever vigilant Super Dad at #3 now have FOUR eggs in the nest. Mom popped off for a brief moment and I was “ploverjoyed” to see a fourth egg. I am not sure when this last egg was laid. It’s going to be a challenge to gauge when is the hatch date but I am working on that this weekend. *Borrowing the expression #ploverjoyed from our PiPl friends at Conserve Wildlife New Jersey 🙂
GHB #3 Mom well-camouflaged on the nest this foggy, foggy morning
Cape Ann’s current grand total of eggs in nests is Eleven (with a possibility of one more).
Yesterday morning, City Councilor Jeff Worthley and I met at Good Harbor Beach. He was very interested in learning about the Plovers and their history at GHB. Jeff agreed that Martha’s idea to speak before the next City Council meeting was a good plan; the next full council meeting is June 14th. He also suggested we do a brief presentation before City Council. The presentation has to be pre-planned and approved by City council president, Valerie Gilman. I don’t know if it’s either/or, or if we would be able to do both. What are your thoughts, PiPl friends? I think also we should definitely plan a “lessons learned” meeting at the end of the season, per Jonathan’s suggestion.
The Good Harbor Beach pre-reservation parking system goes into effect today. Some of the issues will be alleviated with the DPW and parking crew present, restrooms open, and end-of-the school-year high school senior parties behind us. We will still have issues with intoxicated persons tromping through the protected nesting area, but not the sheer numbers as the past two weeks, and hopefully we will see stepped up police enforcement on the beach.
A very brief Monarch update – Monarchs are here (first sightings by friends MJ on the 21st and Patti on May 23rd!) We see them in gardens, meadows, and dunes. Many other species of butterflies, too, have been sighted, including Tiger Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, American Coppers, Common Ringlets, and Spring Azures. May 23rd is early in the season for Monarchs. About every ten years or so we have an extra wonderful year with butterflies. The last was 2012. We are due and perhaps 2022 will be one of those years 🙂
Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly has been invited to screen at the Essex National Heritage Pollinator Week Program on the evening of June 22nd. For more information go here. Also, Beauty on the Wing is an official selection at the Santa Barbara Film Awards.
If anyone stops by GHB or CHB this weekend, please let us know. I feel fairly confident that the nests at GHB are safe, ensconced in their exclosures, but we like to check regularly nonetheless.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with friends and family,