Category Archives: shorebirds

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 little River (nestling photo courtesy ECGA)

 

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.

MONARCHS!

It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, infinitely educational, and beautifully challenging journey creating my documentary, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterflies. The film was released in February 2020, but because of the pandemic, was not seen by the public until August, when it premiered (virtually) at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival. Beauty on the Wing has gone on to win honors and awards at both environmental and children’s film festivals, including the tremendous honor of Best Documentary at the Boston International Kids Film Festival. I’ve just received the very attractive award in the mail and have not had time to post a photo yet.

Beauty on the Wing portrays Cape Ann in the most beautiful light and I think when we are ever able to have a live premiere in this area, local friends will be delighted at the outcome. Joyfully so, Beauty is now being distributed to schools, libraries, institutions, and the travel industry through American Public Television Worldwide.

Beauty on the Wing continues to be accepted to film festivals and I will keep you posted as some are geo-bloced to this area, including the upcoming Providence Children’s Film Festival.

 

Last but not least, our wonderfully wildy Charlotte, little adventurer and nature-loving companion throughout the year

 

 

 

 

 

 

BONAPARTE’S GULLS AND BRACE COVE SUNRISE

Beautiful Bonaparte’s dancing in the waves at sunrise, Brace Cove

PIPING PLOVER ADORABLENESS OVERLOAD

This past week I have been reorganizing and adding new photos to my presentation about Piping Plovers. I came across these sweet scenes that were in my photo library from the past summer. There are so many photos that never see the light of day! Next week I will be presenting the PiPl program to the Junior League of Boston and it is the first time doing this program virtually. We’ll see how it goes.

Tender moments

There’s a lot going on in this nest! A twelve hour old chick, a chick that is a few hours old, a minutes-old newborn hatchling (still wet and with its leg akimbo), and an egg beginning to crack.

Last night I gave my first virtual film screening for BotWing. There were some initial glitches, but all in all, the screening went very well!

We all are frustrated by this new virtual reality. People are sociable beings. It’s much more meaningful and enjoyable to give programs in person and to create live events. Thank goodness though for virtuality because there just is no other safe way of doing things. I am just grateful to be alive and have immense hope for when the pandemic is truly under control we can come out and see our friends and loved ones. Stay strong friends, it’s going to be a  long winter. 

HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS – VOTE FOR PIPING PLOVER PROTECTIONS!

Look for a surprising number of chicks in this clip 🙂

Baby chicks need safe habitat. Please share and Vote the Blue Wave to continue protections afforded under the Endangered Species Act.

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

 -Emily Dickinson

 

VOTE FOR CHICKS ON THE HALF SHELL!

Nesting shorebirds need safe habitat. Please share and Vote the Blue Wave to continue protections afforded under the Endangered Species Act.

What’s happening in this short clip? Within hours after hatching, tiny marshmallow-sized Piping Plover chicks leave the nest and begin foraging on their own. They still need Mom and Dad for thermo-snuggling and for protection. In this clip you can hear Dad Plover piping loudly, commanding the chick to take cover, and the day-old chick’s barely audible peeps in response.

 

Maine’s Piping Plovers Had Another Record Nesting Season

Thanks to Piping Plover Ambassador Deborah Brown for sharing the following story. Way to go Maine!

For the third consecutive year, Maine saw a record number of nesting piping plovers and fledglings despite greater traffic at some beaches as people looked to get outside during the pandemic.

There were 98 nesting pairs and 199 fledglings at the 25 beaches where the birds are monitored, up from last year’s mark of 89 nesting pairs and 175 fledglings, said Laura Minich Zitske, the plover project director at Maine Audubon, which runs the program for the state. Zitske attributes the banner year to the work of hundreds of volunteers who helped educate the public – such as at Higgins Beach, where there were 40 patrolling, and in Wells, where 40 volunteers helped at three beaches.

“I do think the big year is unrelated to the pandemic. We expected to have a lot of birds back after last year’s record year,” Zitske said. “But we did have a lot of pandemic-related problems. Birds nested right next to paths when the beaches were closed. And some people struggled to follow rules. Some people left common sense behind. You definitely could see that to a degree.”

READ the full story here

PIPING PLOVER (AND OTHER SHOREBIRD) RESTORATION PROJECT SUCCESS STORY AT BARNEGAT LIGHTHOUSE

A dream come true for our Piping Plover friend and PiPl hero Todd Pover.

 

WITH THANKS AND DEEP APPRECIATION FOR OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS

Jonathan, Sally, Jennie, Heidi, Barbara, Sue, Deb, Jane, Duncan, and Bette Jean

Last night we had our end of the season Piping Plover Ambassadors get together. It’s so challenging with the pandemic because I just wanted so much to hug everyone and thank them for the fantastic job they did. Thanks to their enthusiasm, dedication, interest, and kindness, we were able to fledge our little Marshmallow. It’s not the number of birds that fledge that matters, but that they are in good health when they depart and our Marshmallow was strong and well fortified after a season of healthy, and largely uninterrupted, foraging at Good Harbor Beach.

A heartfelt thank you to all who helped make 2020 a tremendously joyous Piping Plover season!

Deb Brown made the funniest and most charming Marshmallow cupcakes (and they were delicious, too)! Don’t you think it should be a tradition?

Charlotte loving her marshmallow cupcake! 

 

The following is the text of the program that I gave at this year’s Coastal Waterbird meeting –

Program for Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators Meeting

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors

Thank you to Carolyn Mostello for the invitation to talk about our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors Program.

It is an honor and a joy to be included in the annual cooperators meeting.

Thanks so much to Carolyn for also providing advice and guidance throughout the course of the 2020 Piping Plover season. Early on, she shared a phrase she uses, Educate, Not Enforce and I found that sharing that thought with our Ambassadors really conveyed how we wanted to treat our community.

Good Harbor Beach is Gloucester’s most highly populated stretch of shoreline. Less than two miles long, during the summer months the beach is packed with beach goers from morning until after sunset. And because of the pandemic, Good Harbor has become even more popular.

We had a small but truly stellar group of people this year: Deb Brown, Jane Marie, Bette Jean, Jennie, Jonathan, Sally, Shelby, Barbara, Heidi, Duncan, and myselfBetween the bunch of us we were able to provide coverage from 5:30 am to 8:30pm, from sunrise until sunset. I asked each person to commit to an hour a day simply because in the past there was too much confusion with scheduling, where some people could volunteer for an hour one day a week, or only on Tuesdays, etc. An hour a day, seven days a week, for a month is a tremendous volunteer commitment but no one seemed daunted, people volunteered for even longer time frames, and I think everyone’s time with the PiPls became something that they looked forward to very much.

After everybody’s shift, we shared our notes in the group’s email chain and to a person, it was always positive and informative. 

We have been working in partnership with Essex County Greenbelt Association’s director of land stewardship, Dave Rimmer, who over the course of the past five years has provided help and guidance with everything Piping Plover and has given freely and generously of his time. Our Ward One City Councilor, Scott Memhard, has been super helpful in navigating the City’s role in Piping Plover management and we have also been working with the City of Gloucester’s Department of Public Works. Many of the DPW crew have taken a genuine interest in the birds, as has our Mayor Sefatia.  

 Our number one goal from early on has been to keep Good Harbor Beach open while also protecting the Plovers. 

The most important thing has been to build a solid relationship with the community about why it is so important to protect threatened and endangered species. For the first four years that the Piping Plovers had been at Good Harbor Beach, I thought that writing stories, photographing, and filmmaking; sharing how beautiful, tiny, resilient, funny, spunky, and just plain adorable Piping Plovers are, people would fall in love and just naturally do the right thing. The thing is, 99 percent of people do fall in love when introduced and do want to help protect the Plovers, but there is always that 1 percent that simply does not care.

I’ve learned through experience that the very best way to handle difficult situations is to not engage, and most pointedly, to not mention enforcement. Especially during this age of coronavirus when we know people may be struggling and be very much on edge, the last thing we want to do is provoke a confrontation. We changed the name from Piping Plover Monitors, to Piping Plover Ambassadors, which has a much friendlier ring.  This year we had a mostly new crew of volunteers and at the onset of this year’s first Piping Plover meeting we made it very clear that we were not to approach anyone about their behavior. We were there to speak positively about the birds, share information, and answer any and all questions.  

For example, in the case where someone was walking directly toward a tiny newborn hatchling, we would say, “Hello, and have you had a chance to see our Piping Plover baby birds? Here, let me show you.” Several of the volunteers even shared their binoculars. That’s just one example, but by keeping a positive tone, people were just so thrilled to catch a glimpse and to learn about the birds on the beach.

 One change that has really made a monumental difference is that we worked really hard to successfully change the City’s dog ordinance, which is now written to disallow all dogs on the beach, at all times of the day, beginning April 1st, rather than May 1st. There are still scofflaws, but this one change has greatly reduced tensions.

Next year I am planning to do more community outreach prior to the PiPls arrival. I have developed a program, which I was hoping to give freely to local audiences at places such as our Sawyer Free Library and Cape Ann Museum in the spring but because of the virus, that will have to wait until next year. I think presenting programs about the birds will also be a way to help recruit ambassadors. 

One of our young Piping Plover fans who followed the bird’s stories daily, five-year-old Zoe, nicknamed our one surviving PiPl Marshmallow. Next year I think it would be great to have a Piping Plover naming contest as well as a Piping Plover art poster sign project for young people. 

We also think it would be very helpful to have brochures, with fun photos and a brief outline of the life story of the Plovers to give to interested beachgoers. My one concern with that is generating litter. We made our own 24 x 36-inch signs on coroplast boards that could be placed easily in the sand and moved about, depending on where the chicks were foraging that day. These signs were a little bit funny and helped bring attention to the birds in a super friendly manner.

I am so grateful for the advice given by Carolyn at the onset of the season and for our Ambassadors. This kind, thoughtful group of people who came together in the worst of times, knowing that despite all the problems in the world and the personal toll the pandemic has taken on us all, taking care of threatened and endangered species remained a priority, and in a summer such as 2020, perhaps the birds needed even more special care.

NEW SHORT FILM – MARVELOUS MARSHMALLOW MONTAGE!

On Tuesday I attended the annual Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting. This was my third year attending the conference. I love every minute and find them wonderfully educational. During a normal year, they take place on Cape Cod; this year was virtual. I took tons of screen shots of interesting data and and am writing an article about  the meeting and what we learned is taking place at regions all around Massachusetts, as well as at other New England States. More to come 🙂

I was asked to make two presentations, one to share a film about Marshmallow and the second presentation, to talk about our Ambassador program. I’ll share the text of the second program tomorrow, and in the meantime, here is a short video, the finished version, of our marvelous Marshmallow Montage

Thank you to Peter Van Demark for adding marvelous to Marshmallow’s name 🙂

For more about Piping Plovers, please see the Piping Plover Film Project page on my website. The page is progress but here you will find short films, information about my Atlantic Coast Piping Plover lecture program, photos, and links to hundreds of articles and posts that I have written from 2016 to the present (articles from 2019 have not yet been organized into the list).

 

 

LEAST TERN BABES AT BEAUTIFUL WINTHROP SHORE RESERVATION

Several weeks ago on my way home for work, I stopped by one of my favorite places to film and photograph, Winthrop Shore Reservation. I began filming there several years ago because I thought it would be super helpful for our community to understand what was happening with Piping Plovers at beaches similar to Good Harbor Beach, similar in that they are urban beaches located in densely populated neighborhoods and are managed without the 24/7 protection of the Trustees (Crane Beach) or the USFWS (Plum Island).

What I discovered there was so much more than the story of WSR Piping Plovers and have since been filming and documenting many species of birds that call Winthrop Shore Reservation home throughout the four seasons, including the Least Tern colony, Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings, a family of Great Blue Herons, Oystercatchers, and Killdeers.

On my visit of several weeks ago there were so many Least Tern nestlings, fledglings, and juveniles, I was afraid to walk through the rocky shore for fear of stepping on a nestling. In their soft hues of buffy peach, gray, and ivory, the wee ones were perfectly camouflaged, tucked in and amongst the wind- and weather-worn monochromatic stones.

Tiny Killdeer chicks and newly hatched Piping Plovers were also running about the Tern colony. I left with a heart full of joy at seeing so much new life in such an extraordinary location, extraordinary in the sense that it was only a few short years ago that Winthrop Shore Reservation underwent a major restoration, renovation, and renourishment project, which was undertaken by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation. I’d say the renourishment aspect of the project has been a whopping success!!!

Ready for take-off!

Piping Plover and Killdeer chicks at Winthrop

Nesting Least Tern

Least Tern in flight

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #4, WINTHROP BEACH IS AMAZING, AND LOTS OF SEX ON THE BEACH

Fishing For Sex

Least Tern One Day Old Chicks!

Two-Day-Old Least Tern Chicks

STUCK BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

BEAUTIFUL MORNING AT THE CREEK AND THE TREE SWALLOWS ARE MASSING! with video

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

This morning at 8:30 I stopped by the Creek to see if Marshmallow had returned. I’ve been checking every morning and haven’t seen him since the morning the roped off area was dismantled, but Deb thinks she saw him last evening. I ran into Todd and Sarah and they too were looking. The PiPl that was there at the Creek this morning I think is too slender to be a forty-one day old chick. This bird doesn’t have the round plump silhouette that Marshmallow had at 38 days. I am not sure if his body would change overnight like that. We’ll keep checking and see what we see.

It’s not unusual for Piping Plovers to be seen at GHB singularly or in small groups of two, threes, and fours as the Creek especially is a wonderful stop over point for migrating shorebirds. The most Piping Plovers I have ever seen in a group at a Gloucester Beach was a flock of nine at Coffins Beach and they were together for several days before all departed overnight.

Chubby Marshmallow at 38 days, left, mystery slender PiPl, right

We also saw a Least Tern feeding its fledgling!!, a Little Blue Heron chasing a Snowy Egret, and Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers foraging together.

Least Tern fledgling

Little Blue chasing a Snowy through the marsh this morning

The beautiful event that takes place every year at this time along the shoreline and at our local dunes are the Tree Swallow aerialists massing, with each day in progressively greater numbers. They stay as long as there are insects aplenty, until one morning, you will find they have vanished, migrating to the next insect-rich location.

Also, I just added a film to the post, a short that I made several years ago titled Dance of the Tree Swallows. It goes on way too long, and I would edit it differently today, but you may enjoy the first half at least. It was mostly filmed at Greenbelt’s Wingaersheek Uplands and Coffins Beach in West Gloucester. Here is the link https://vimeo.com/201781967 – and the password is treeswallows.

Regarding our end of the season meeting, I think the best day for most everyone is Thursday. We don’t want to do it on a weekend night, too many people and not safe with corona, and too hot or rain predicted on other nights. Barbara, i am wondering if we made it at 5:00, would that work for your shower schedule?

Have a Super Sunday!

xxKim

Tree Swallow range map

FAREWELL MARSHMALLOW, SAFE TRAVELS LITTLE CHICK!

 

Marshmallow, 38 days old

Good morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

It appears as though Marshmallow has begun his southward migration. We know he is well fortified from his days at Good Harbor Beach, with a little belly full of sea worms and other PiPl yummies. His Dad has taught him extremely well, from important survival skills on how to avoid danger to bathing and frequent preening, giving his newly formed flight feathers extra conditioning.

His tiny wings will beat millions of times to reach the first important staging area. For Piping Plovers in our region, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is where they will most likely head. Last August at the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, I met Professor Paton. He is involved with a program that bands and nanotags birds at Southern New England beaches, mostly Rhode Island beaches. He provided some terrific maps based on the data collected from the banding program.

After departing Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the majority of the program’s 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.

Although our Good Harbor Beach Piping plovers are not tagged, there is no reason to believe that they too are not traveling this route.

Why are the Outer Banks such an important staging area? Perhaps because the great flats are filled with nutrient rich protein, which the adult birds need to regrow their flight feathers. Almost constantly in motion and exposed to strong sunlight during the spring migration and summer nesting season, the adult’s flight feathers are nearly completely worn down. They have become much paler in color and frayed. Shorebirds need these staging areas to molt the old feathers and grow new flight feathers. Possibly the need to be in a safe environment to begin molting explains why our Mom, and then Dad, departed prior to Marshmallow.

I know it’s disappointing that we were not given any kind of warning about dismantling the nesting area. It’s been such a great season so please don’t dwell on it. We are working to try to remedy the lack of communication between the Ambassadors and the City, with the goal of having the problem solved by next year’s season.

It’s time to start planning our end of the season get together. Would an evening work for everyone, say 6:00pm. Then everyone could get back to their families for dinner. On Thursday, August 6th, the weather looks clear and bright, not too hot or humid.

Thank you, you have all been such terrific Ambassadors, and most importantly, Marshmallow thanks you, too!

xxKim

Marshmallow, from nestling to fledgling

GOOD EATING AT GOOD HARBOR! IF YOU ARE A BIRD, THAT IS :)

Over the past several months of documenting our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, beginning in March, we have seen a beautiful collection of shorebirds, gulls, hawks, and wading birds. The continuous ebb and flow of replenishing waters at the tidal creek, expansive marsh, and intertidal pools make for a range of rich habitat where birds can find food and shelter. Minnows, sea worms, crabs, tiny mollusks, and a wide variety of other invertebrates provide fuel for hungry travelers as well as summer residents.

Too many photos for one post I just realized and will post heron and egret photos next.

Here are just some of the beauties!

Beautiful, beautiful trio of Dowitchers

Herring Gull eating a Green Crab

Cooper’s Hawk

Spotted Sandpiper

Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plovers

Killdeer

Laughing Gulls
Yellow Legs

And of course, Marshmallow and Dad 🙂

 

ALL GOOD PIPL THINGS TO SHARE!

Hello dear PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

After a time (quite a bit of time and much walking) I found Marshmallow, back at the tide pool in front of the protected area. His Dad would have been so proud because as soon as the beach rake was heard in the distance, he ran into the roped off area, just as if Dad were there commanding him to do so.  After the raking had finished, Heidi and I watched as Marshamllow did some terrific floppy floppy flying and then he flew along the shoreline looking for a place to forage, out of the way of joggers and walkers.

Everyone please take a moment to read this tender, sweet story Jonathan wrote – I put it into a blog post so it won’t get lost in the mire of Facebook- “My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. “

Heather and Kory’s 1623 Studios interview was posted this morning. So many thanks to Kory  and Heather for shining a spotlight on our GHB PiPls!!!

Shout Outs to:

Piping Plover Ambassadors at 15:20

Councilor Memhard at 16:45

Mayor Sefatia at 17:15

Dave Rimmer and Greenbelt at 23 minutes

A good day for People and for Plovers!

xxKim

Cuteness Alert! “Marshmallow,” this year’s Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover hatchling, stars in Kim Smith’s new video. Come for the fluffy, leggy sweetness; stay for the interview.

 

 

 

 

“My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. “

One of our amazing and awesome Piping Plover Ambassadors, Jonathan Golding, wrote the following, too beautiful not to share  <3

“I wrote this two weeks ago. It is titled “My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. ”
Already I have spoken a mistruth. My daughter is not a Piping Plover Fledgling. She is a soon to be 20 year old rising junior at American University in D.C. majoring in Criminal Justice & Psychology, and has maintained an impressive 3.8 GPA. And, given the great pandemic pause, she has decided to take her own version of a Gap Year and work for AmeriCorps in Boston. She applied for several different programs and received an offer from her #1 choice as a Restorative Practices Fellow with the Dudley Promise Corps. She will be working at the Dearborn S.T.E.M. Academy in Roxbury.
This big new move is all very exciting. . . for her. I mean, here at home she has just finished her second week of remote working, interacting with new Americorp colleagues, learning more about what the job entails, and in communication about living arrangements in Boston. Hmmmmm . . . living arrangements in Boston. Lib has lived in Rockport, in Gloucester, and on campus at American University. Now the new reality is unknown roommates at an apartment in the Roxbury/Fort Hill area of Boston, east of Jamaica Plain. This is where the Piping Plover analogy comes in. Three weeks ago, Sally and I joined the ranks of Piping Plover Ambassadors for the 4 newly hatched chicks at Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach. As endangered shorebirds, it’s helps to give them some additional safety coverage as they mature and develop. A number of us armed with binoculars, good intentions, and the willingness to engage with the occasional unaware beach goer, keep a watchful eye over the young ones and their parents. What started as Mom, Dad, and four chicks, are now, three weeks later, just the dad and one chick. Three of the little ones sadly didn’t make it and mom, I guess feeling like her job was done, flew the coop. Yet DAD, and his only child – now named Marshmallow, stayed the course. Dad is there for him/her/they. He looks out for threats, does appropriate interventions if dogs, seagulls, crows, or people get too close to his baby. He also – new word for me – thermoregulates the chick. Marshmallow, with his/her/their still developing feathers need the warmth of a good parental snuggle. “Fledgling” is when a young chick has what it takes to . . . FLY. Once they got that flying thing down, then they can pretty much handle any threat coming their way. Before fledging, Marshmallow needs dad, and dad is there 100% for Marshmallow’s safety, care, and well-being. After fledging, Dad’s need to be involved with Marshmallow’s day -to-day activities and decision-making, well, not so much. Maybe not at all. I don’t know all this for a fact. I have never been a Piping Plover Ambassador before. Nor have I ever been a father to a soon-to-be 20 year old who is moving to Boston and becoming a Restorative Practices Fellow with the Dudley Promise Corps in Roxbury. My daughter is fledging.
I recently read an article in the NY Times about how many couples are “struggling to cope with the stress and tension” and one piece of advice stayed with me: “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be in a loving, connected relationship?” Granted, that question was aimed at partners in a relationship, yet for me it’s applicable in my relationship to my fledging daughter. I am full of questions and concerns about her venture into this great urban undertaking, and – not to be taken lightly – during this time of a pandemic environment, social distancing, and face-coverings. I understand the concepts of Endings, Beginnings, & Transitions. And, in my desire to maintain a loving, connected relationship, it’s probably best if I back off with my lists, the probing questions, and the catastrophic concerns that keep popping into my reptilian brain. Lib is a thoughtful, kind, generous, and smart young lady. She has had life experiences that have prepared her for this next chapter. As a parent, you do your best, give your best, and then . . . what . . Step Back? Step Aside? Offer Support and Assistance?
Sally, Libby and I went out to lunch yesterday, and I brought a notebook with a whole list of topics intending to discuss. . .. everything from bedroom sheets, to bus stop locations, to subway safety, to Covid appropriate interactions with her 3 new roommates. At some point, I turned the page over, and on a new page wrote simply “Lib, How Can We Best Support You?”. Couldn’t help but think about when I am down at Good Harbor Beach observing the Daddy Plover, he sure doesn’t seem to be overtly stressing over his little one. I suspect he feels he has done his best in preparing his kid to enter into the world as a young adult. When little Marshmallow becomes older-teen Marshmallow and truly finds his/her/their wings, and equally important his/her/their inner confidence , then the fully fledged piping Plover will fly off and effectively deal with the challenges and opportunities that life will surely present. Probably this is a good time for me to say “Hey JG . .. be more like the Daddy Plover. All will be fine.”🙏

SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS HAVE ARRIVED!

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

It took awhile to discover where Marshmallow was this morning. He was at the wrack line calling nearly continuously with his soft melodious piping call, (which is how I was able to locate him), before then flying off over the dunes. I found him on my return walk, preening and fluffing at the PiPls favorite piece of driftwood within the enclosure. Note that is the very same driftwood that our PiPl Mom and Dad had their very first nest scrape at, way back in April!

No sign of Dad this morning.

Semipalmated Plover

Heidi noticed the pair of Semipalmated Plovers as well; it’s one of the first sightings of Semipalmated Plovers at GHB this summer and is a sure sign that the summer/fall migration is underway. Last year we had an unusual occurrence, Mystery Chick – a Semipalmated Plover fledgling appear suddenly and foraged for a bit with our three PiPl chicks.

Good Harbor Beach, and all of Cape Ann’s shorelines, continue to provide an extraordinary window into the world of migrating creatures. Despite 2020 being such a challenging summer on so very many levels, a saving grace has been our Piping Plovers and having the joy of meeting and getting to know our Ambassadors, and all of Marshmallow’s friends.

Semipalmated Plover fledgling, “Mystery Chick”

Heather Atwood updated us that the Cape Ann Today PiPl episode is not going to air until Friday or Monday and as soon as I know, will let you know.

Have a great day and thank goodness for today’s cooler temperatures 🙂

xxKim37 day old Marshmallow

HOW FAR CAN A PIPING PLOVER TRAVEL IN ONE DAY?

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors and Friends,

Both Dad and Marshmallow were sweetly sleep-eyed, each in their own respective “fox” holes. Even at 6am, it was hot already at the beach, perhaps they were taking a cooling off break.

In response to Sally’s question – I do not know precisely the distance a Piping Plover can travel per day, but we do know from a banded PiPl that was at Good Harbor Beach last April (referred to as ETM), that he traveled from Georgia to Gloucester in five days or less. Here is the link to the story I wrote last spring –
https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2019/04/22/fun-411-update-on-etm-the-cumberland-island-banded-plover/

 

Many species of birds don’t generally migrate in a perfectly straight trajectory, but begin daily by setting off in a circular movement as they find the most suitable wind direction. That is why you may sometimes see when geese are flying overhead that some are going north and some are traveling south, as they gain their bearings for the next leg of their journey.

Our lone PiPl chick in 2017 (his name was Little Chick) departed about five days after Papa had left. I was with him on the morning he departed. A small flock of juvenile PiPls had flown in early in the day. Later that morning, I watched as Little Chick flew over Sherman’s Point with his new friends. We never saw him again after that.

Over the years I have observed that Coffins Beach becomes a staging point for Piping Plovers and Semi-palmated Plovers, beginning in mid-summer. They gather there in small and large groups, waiting for the right conditions to take the next leg of their journey. The Semi-palmated Plovers have journeyed from points much further north as they breed in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America. Perhaps the Piping Plover juveniles we see there at Coffins have flown over from Plum Island and Crane Beach, or perhaps they have traveled from points even further north.

Peninsulas such as our Cape Ann, as are places like Cape May and Point Pelee, are bird and butterfly migratory hotspots. We on Cape Ann are so fortunate to be able to witness this never ending flow of beautiful north-south movement that takes place each and every year without fail, in our own backyards and along our shoreline.

It’s going to be too hot today, so please don’t stay in the sun very long. Have a great day and Thank you!

xxKim

Dad and Marshmallow this morning – Marshmallow at 36 days old

HAPPY FIVE WEEKS OLD MARSHMALLOW!

Today marks the five week old milestone for our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover fledgling Marshmallow. He is thriving, growing visibly stronger daily and adding to his lipid reserves for the long journey south. Marshmallow is the only one of four hatchlings to survive however, we are not too far off from the national average PiPl chick survival rate, which is 1.2 chicks.

Marshmallow and Dad spend their days between the main beach within the protected area, at the tide pools adjacent to the protected area, and “down the Creek.” Both the tide pools and Creek shallows provide richly nourishing, fat, juicy sea worms along with a variety of mini mollusks and other invertebrates.

It won’t be long now before the two will be winging off to their wintering grounds. From banding programs done at the University of Rhode Island, it appears that most PiPls from our region first travel to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a key migratory stopover for Piping Plovers. After spending approximately 30 to 40 days there, they will travel the next leg of their journey, to the Caribbean.

Will Dad and Marshmallow suddenly disappear, and together? In 2017, Dad left about five days before the fledgling. Last year, in 2019, the family suddenly dispersed, Dad and all three chicks simultaneously, but that was because the roped off area was removed prematurely and raked over. We are hoping to leave the symbolically roped off area in place as long as the birds are here. They know it is a safe space and find shelter, protection, and food there when the beach is super crowded. There really is no place else for them to forage and to find shelter on busy beach days and during high tide when there is no shoreline at the Creek.

Marshmallow hatch day

One day old

Fifteen days old

24 days old

28 days old

DAD AND MARSHMALLOW ARE DOING GREAT SADLY, OUR VISITING LITTLE COMMON TERN HAS PASSED

Good Morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

This morning I arrived to find the Common Tern parent quietly sitting at the Creek’ shoreline. This behavior seemed highly unusual as we have all been observing how passionately the adult safeguards her young and how equally as passionately, she was trying to teach Baby Huey how to fly a bit more energetically.

Yesterday Deb Brown and I observed as the parent flew in nearly half a dozen times, dangling the same minnow over the fledgling’s head and near his mouth, with the last attempt ending in a spectacularly long flight across the marsh. The juvenile seemed a little slow, but perhaps that was to be expected. We don’t know from where and how many miles this family has traveled. In reading about Common Terns, the juveniles stay with the individual family unit for several months after fledging. They don’t generally begin to leave home base and migrate until August. Nonetheless, we were hopeful the little guy would perk up.

The juvenile’s lifeless body was found by the edge of the marsh. There were no visible signs of injury and the body was stiff; he perhaps perished sometime during the night. The parent was staying nearby the body when he/she suddenly flew away high overhead. I thought how very sad for this wonderfully dedicated parent and wondered how long he had been holding vigil, but what next happened became unbearably difficult to watch as she returned with a large minnow in her mouth and began circling around and around, calling and calling for the little one. This went on until I left at 6:55.

It took more than a few moments to find Dad and Marshmallow in this morning’s pea soup thick fog. The pair were their usual energetic and early-morning-hungry selves. Marshmallow did his floppy, floppy fly thing for several minutes, giving me a much needed lift, too.

Thank you everyone for your dedication of time and energy, watchful eyes, and end of the shift notes. I don’t think I have mentioned this previously, but I also want to thank you all for wearing MASKS, it sets a fantastic example! We don’t want to plan our end of the season get together just yet (we don’t want to jinx ourselves), but I am looking forward to it.

xxKim

The adult tern has a USFWS band

Snapshots from Wednesday morning and afternoon

THANK YOU TAYLOR ANN BRADFORD AND THE GLOUCESTER TIMES FOR THE GREAT STORY ABOUT OUR GHB PIPLS! AND HAPPY FOUR WEEKS OLD MARSHMALLOW!

Good Morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

As I was leaving, Heidi and I crossed paths on the footbridge. What a joy to be replaced each day by Heidi and have a moment of good conversation, something I am sure many of us are not getting enough of during the pandemic.

The raker had not yet come but Dad and Marshmallow were peacefully foraging down at the Creek. More bathing, preening, floofing, and flippy floppy flying thing, with only the Killdeers causing Dad to leave his post.

Taylor Ann Bradford from the Gloucester Times wrote a very thoughtful article about our PiPls – here is the link: https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/local_news/piping-plovers-are-back/article_bf6d8ab4-da1b-59ce-b3c2-2bb8ca6ccf50.html I think she is doing a fantastic job at the Times and it was a pleasure to speak with her!

Terrific quote from Jennie, thank you Jennie so much for keeping it positive <3

Here is the link to Marshmallow taking a bath yesterday- https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2020/07/19/marshmallow-takes-a-bath/

A heartfelt thank you to all our Ambassadors, Mayor Sefatia, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Councilor Memhard, PiPl Friends, City Council, GDP, GPD, and all who are lending a hand and good wishes for Marshmallow reaching the tremendous milestone of 28 days, tremendous in the way that, thanks to you all, he is getting off to an excellent start, despite growing up in our most highly trafficked and wildly popular City beach. Only (roughly) two more weeks to go <3

Have a great day!
xxKimMarshmallow preening after bathing

MARSHMALLOW TAKES A BATH!

Marshmallow takes a dip on a warm summer morning!

Piping Plovers take baths daily, starting from a very early age. It’s nearly always the same, no matter the age. The only difference really is younger chicks will splash around more. Twenty-seven-days-old Marshmallow takes a bath now much the same way as does Dad, quickly and efficiently.

Adults and older chicks will first eye-ball the area, while cautiously considering whether or not it’s safe to immerse in water. Small birds especially are vulnerable to predator attacks when their feathers are wet.

Plover bathing entails a thorough dunking, from tip to toe, ending with a leap from the water, with wings spread wide and tail feathers shaking, to dry off droplets. Bath time is followed by floofing, poofing, preening, and head scratching. And then, generally speaking, a return to the most important business of all, foraging to not only grow strong and develop well, but to build up their fat reserves for the long migration south.

SUNDAY MORNING PIPING PLOVER FAMILY UPDATE

Good Morning PiPl friends and Ambassadors –

Thank you Heidi for the morning update. And aren’t we so blessed for yesterday and the actions Mayor Sefatia has taken. Praying for a second day of relative calm at GHB today. See post here – Mayor Sefatia Restores Peace and Order to Gloucester Beaches

Thank you so very much Friends for all you are doing to help our GHB PiPls. If you cannot make your shift or need to shorten it, thank you for trying to switch, but if not covered, try not to worry. The next Ambassador will be along and it seemed positively calm at the Creek yesterday. I hope they stay there all day but the tide was high last night and they may come back to the main beach during high tide, at 11:07am today. Many, many beachgoers were already being dropped off at the footbridge when I left at 7:30 this morning, so perhaps the worst of it will be before noon, which would be a good thing.

Hoping to post footage of Marshmallow taking a bath from today, if I can find the time.
Have a great day – so gorgeous out!!
xxKim