Category Archives: shorebirds

WHERE DO PIPING PLOVERS GO IN BAD WEATHER?

A question often asked is “where do the birds go when the weather is inclement?”

The answer depends on what type of bird. Some birds, like perching birds, have it a bit easier than seabirds and shorebirds because their little toes reflexively cling tightly to a branch or limb. But many, many birds lose their lives in hurricanes and super storms.

Extreme weather events are especially harmful to threatened and endangered shorebirds. Wave action, high winds, and storm surges destroys coastal habitats and flooding decreases water salinity. Birds, especially young birds, are blown far off course away from their home habitats. A great deal of energy is expended battling the winds and trying to return home.

In the case of Piping Plovers, for the most part, business continues as usual during average inclement weather. You won’t see them sit in a tree or dune shrub because they will lose their primary advantage against predators, that of the safety afforded them by the camouflage of their sandy beach coloring.

Piping Plovers and Dunlin taking shelter behind the landmark rock at Good Harbor

Perhaps they’ll find a rock on the beach, or ridge in the sand, to crouch behind and out of the path of the wind. Piping Plovers are much harder to find in inclement weather because their feathers mirror shades of rain and snow and fog. Drenching rain, spring snow squalls, and biting summer sand storms won’t stop these indefatigable creatures, we see them foraging during every kind of weather event.

Even Piping Plover chicks, weighing not much more than nickel, have the ability to withstand harsh summer sandstorms.

Nearly freezing and made worse by whipping wind.

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE AGAIN ATTEMPTING TO NEST IN THE PARKING LOT

Our little Piping Plover family has for the second year in a row been shunted into the parking lot. Saturday morning at 7am they were seen courting and nest scraping on the beach. After a full morning of plenty of dogs off leash romping on the beach, they were nest scraping in the parking lot. By nightfall, they were mating in the parking lot.

Piping Plover Good Harbor beach nest scrape April 13, 2019

This behavior is precisely what happened last year. The PiPls would begin their morning courting and nest scraping on the beach but by the end of each warm April weekend day, especially off leash days, they were found courting and nest scraping in the parking lot.

Piping Plover parking lot courtship Good Harbor Beach April 2019

Sadly, there is a contingency that endlessly denies that the people not following the leash laws have any responsibility. They expertly spread misinformation and twist words around and this is not helping the Piping Plovers successfully nest and fledge chicks. It’s heartbreaking really because nesting in the parking lot very adversely affects the health of the parents and chicks for a whole host of reasons. The adults will be expending twice as much energy, guarding a nest scrape in both the parking lot and on the beach. Last year, the birds maintained their territory on the beach the entire time they were brooding eggs in the parking lot. Intelligently so, when you think about it, because the beach nest is the precise location they marched their chicks to only one day after hatching.

To help quell the endless misinformation, falsehoods, and downright lies being perpetuated on Facebook –

Piping Plover monitors are not dog haters. Many of us are dog owners (some with multiple dogs) and most of us love all animals, wild and domestic.

I have, as well as have many of our PiPl advocates, been addressing not only the issue of people not following the leash laws at Good Harbor Beach, but problems around littering and trash collection and how these issues adversely affects Piping Plovers and all wildlife. Before there was the Animal Advisory Committee list of recommendation and the city’s Piping Plover Plan, I presented a list of recommendations, which included how to help the PiPl in regard to littering. This plan was presented on July 9, 2018. We fully recognize the threat gulls and Crows pose to the chicks. The focus of late has been the dogs on the beach because they are the greatest disrupters to courtship and brooding and because the PROBLEM IS STILL NOT RESOLVED, despite the ordinance change. There were dogs off leash all over Good Harbor Beach at the time of this writing (Saturday night) and only a very few gulls and Crows.

To address the controversy over “other predators.”

As we have posted many times (including photos of), there are Eastern Coyotes and Red Fox on our local beaches. We see their easily recognized tracks in the sand. But one coyote or one fox, which is the most set of tracks that we ever see on a beach on a given morning at dawn or an evening at dusk, does not in any way equal the disruption to Piping Plovers while they are courting and brooding to that which is caused by several hundred dogs romping on the beach on a single day.

ADULT BIRDS ARE NOT IN DANGER OF BEING EATEN BY FOX, COYOTES, AND DOGS BECAUSE THEY CAN FLY AWAY FROM MAMMALIAN PREDATORS.

Crane Beach, which has by far many more natural predators than does GHB, successfully fledges chicks every year.

Crow in the dune this morning at daybreak. I have posted often about the problem of gulls, Crows, and litter and how the issue negatively impacts Piping Plovers.

ADULT PIPING PLOVERS AND GULLS FEED SIDE BY SIDE ALONG THE SHORELINE.

Gulls and Crows threaten Piping Plover chicks, but we are not even at the chick stage yet. Folks might want to know that because of the restaurants lining the boulevard at Revere Beach, the community has a much, much greater problem with gulls and Crows than we could ever imagine, literally hundreds, if not thousands, on any morning or afternoon. And yet, Revere Beach successfully fledges chicks each year in the exact same locations, and only doors down from where the restaurants are located.

Winthrop Shores Reservation Beach, a densely packed neighborhood with rows upon rows of of triple decker homes facing their beach has a problem with house cats on the beach, and yet this community manages to successfully fledge chicks year in and year out, in the exact same locations.

What do these three very different types of beach habitats have in common, and what are these three beach communities doing right that we are not doing? Perhaps it is because the citizens respect their community’s leash laws.

Repeatedly claiming disbelief at the number of dogs we are encountering at Good Harbor Beach, I have been pressured and cajoled into sharing photos of dogs on the beach by the dog friendly group’s administrator, and when I do, they publicly object. I invite all the negative PiPl Facebook commenters who we NEVER, EVER, EVER see at Good Harbor Beach, to come lend a hand. You were invited to work with us on solving the dogs on the beach issue and our invitation was ignored.

Additional note- Today, Sunday, a former off-leash day, there were fewer dogs on the beach than yesterday, a former on-leash day (as of 12pm). Puzzling, but we are not questioning the PiPls good fortune! Huge shout out to ACOs Teagan and Jamie for their hard work, to to all the people who did not bring their dogs to the beach today, to Gloucester’s DPW for installing the unmissable new signs, and to all the folks who came to GHB today, read the signs, and departed (we saw that happen)!

Our GHB Piping Plovers are weighing their options. Perhaps if we can keep the dog disturbance to a minimum, they will abandon their nest scrape in the parking lot and stay on the beach.

List of Articles and Links Provided That Explain How Dog Disruptions on Beaches Harm Piping Plovers

Very briefly gorgeous sunrise this morning, before the heavier clouds descended

 

 

 

 

 

THANK YOU CITY COUNCILOR SCOTT MEMHARD!

In addition to following through with a number of critical issues related to the Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach, Scott has printed up educational USFish and Wildlife brochures, and other handouts, for the PiPl monitors to distribute to beachgoers. We are so grateful to Scott and just want to give him a huge shout out!

The PiPl volunteer monitors are also deeply appreciative of all the good will and work done by many of Gloucester’s City Councilors including Melissa Cox, who along with Scott ,introduced  the ordinance change to the Council when it had been stalled, and to Paul Lundberg, Steve Leblanc, Jamie O’hara, and Sean Nolan for pushing the ordinance through when not much time remained to get it done before April 1st. Also, thanks to Jamie O’hara who checks in regularly with the PiPls progress. Thank you to all the Councilors for voting for the ordinance change. 

EVEN THE THE BACHELOR HAS RETURNED TO GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

The Bachelor has returned and he was up to his old tricks this morning, trying to horn in on Mama. Neither Papa nor Mama were having any of it and all three took off down the beach with the mated pair pursuing the unmated male. A confrontation (PiPl style) then ensued where both males puffed out their chests and repeatedly ran towards each other, until the bachelor backed down and flew away.

The photos were taken far down the beach, but at least you can see all three, with the two males positioned for battle. Disputes between PiPls, over territory and mates, take place where ever the shorebirds nest.

REMINDER: The new Good Harbor Beach ordinance is in place prohibiting dogs during shorebird nesting season. No Dogs are allowed at Good Harbor Beach anytime of day or night from April 1st to October 1st.

City Councilor Scott Memhard forwarded the following three photos. They are of the signs that Mike Hale is having made for Good Harbor Beach–note that they measure a whopping 24″ by 36″!

Scott has been working with Laurinda and Patti from the Cape Ann Photography Club on the glass box signs. Scott posted the flyers and the Club has changed the date at the footbridge entrance. We’re looking forward to seeing the changes at the other glass box display cases. Thank you Scott for your tremendous follow through!

Folks are disbelieving of the fact that there were a plethora of dogs on Good Harbor Beach on Saturday , with nearly as many on Sunday. The images aren’t that great and I wasn’t planning on posting the photos but because people (who know better) are saying outlandish things, here are two batches from Saturday. The first batch are only some of the dogs because when you are standing at the Whitham Street entrance, it is impossible to document the dogs at the footbridge end, and vice versa. The second batch were taken at approximately 4:15 from the footbridge end.

Saturday morning – approximately 10:30am to 12:30pm on Saturday April 6, 2019

Saturday afternoon at approximately 4:15

HAPPY NEWS- OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS HAVE RETURNED, AND A SECOND CHANCE FOR OUR COMMUNITY TO GET IT RIGHT!

This morning we found Papa and Mama in precisely the same nesting areas as last Friday. ACOfficers Teagan and Jamie pointed them out. It was too wet and drizzly for my camera, so we don’t have photographic evidence, but we could clearly see they were courting, Papa fan bowing his tail feathers and Mama inspecting the nest.

Papa and Mama courting (photos taken last week)

We don’t know where they disappeared to while the weekend disturbances to the nesting area were taking place, but I do know this is a gift and a second chance for our community to get it right.

It will take our entire community working together to help mitigate some of the threats the PiPls daily face.

Gloucester’s DPW has installed dune fencing, which is helping to restore the dunes. Protecting the dunes benefits both people (our beloved beach) and wildlife.

Improved trash collection and heavier fines for littering helps keep predators such as gulls, crows, foxes, and coyotes from scavenging the beach for garbage left behind by people, and makes for a much more pleasant beach going experience.

The Gloucester City Council passed an ordinance to prohibit dogs from Good Harbor beginning April 1st.

Now it is up to the citizens of Gloucester to respect its ordinances and laws by not littering, not trampling through the dunes, and by not bringing dogs to the beach during shorebird nesting season.

And for the City to enforce these laws.

I frankly blame myself for being caught off guard. It had been so quiet on the beach the previous week, I thought people were getting the information that the ordinance has changed to prohibiting dogs on the beach. But the warm weather brought out both locals and out of towners and they have not gotten the information that the rules have changed.

Today is Tuesday. In order to be prepared for the very real possibility of another warm weekend day in April (five days from now) we need an IMMEDIATE CALL TO ACTION

  1. SIGNS, SIGNS, SIGNS! We need to remove the ultra-confusing blue sings. Replace with simple, easy to read LARGE and PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED NO DOG signs.
  2. Very Important: The locked glass door signs with the May 1st date need to be updated before the weekend. Folks are using this as a reason to bring their dogs on the beach.
  3. Update the City’s website with the ordinance change. The City is aware of this and we pray this simple change can be accomplished before the weekend. Folks are also using the incorrect information posted there as a reason to bring their dogs on the beach.
  4. WE NEED HELP with enforcement from the GDP. There is only one dog officer on duty each weekend day and they are covering the entire city.
  5. Staff the parking lot booth at Good Harbor Beach. This will prevent dogs from coming in through the lot (and bring in $$).
  6. In addition to staffing the booth, position staff or volunteers at the footbridge and at the Whitham Street entrance, before people even have a chance to walk on the beach with their dogs.
  7. Be active, you can help by speaking to folks when you see them coming onto the beach with their dogs or when littering.

The following two photos are posted to show as an example as to why we need help from uniformed officers in enforcing the ordinance. This family was politely told that the ordinance had changed and that the ACOfficers were issuing tickets.  The father’s response was “we’ll keep the dog in our pocket.” Moments later, the mother and daughter were taking their dog on a stroll, off leash, at the creek.

Folks don’t understand that if we had chicks on the beach, this would pose an incredible threat. Even the smallest dog is no match for a tiny shorebird chick crouched down in the sand, unable to fly away, and at risk of being stepped on. Our Piping Plover parents often bring the teency weency chicks down to the creek to feed on hot crowded summer days.

Please be reminded that it was constant unrelenting dog disturbance that drove the PiPls into the parking lot last April. Knowing what we know, and in learning from last year’s debacle, it  would be a crime if we let that happen again for a second year in a row.

The Piping Plover is the littlest of shorebirds struggling against extremes- loss of habitat, rising sea level, natural predators, and human-created predators and disturbances. We have been given a gift, to be able to witness part of the life story of the Piping Plover here on our Good Harbor Beach.

To better understand what is happening on the beach and in response to recent comments–

Two of the three birds went missing during the day on Saturday. There are no coyotes or foxes roaming Good Harbor during the busiest part of the day while the beach is teeming with thousands of people and hundreds of dogs. 

Coyotes and foxes do not pose a threat to adult birds, only to the eggs and hatchlings because adult birds can fly away, and eggs and hatchlings cannot.

Piping Plovers feed alongside gulls, and many other species of shorebirds. Gulls and Crows eat baby chicks and eggs, not adults. One of the most astonishing scenes you will see when observing the dynamics between the gulls and the PiPls is to watch this tiny shorebird chase a gull away from its nest and chicks, biting and nipping the gulls tail fathers and even latching on. Both parents get involved and they will chase the gull far down the beach.

List of Articles and Links Provided That Explain How Dog Disruptions on Beaches Harm Piping Plovers

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE MISSING

All three Piping Plovers were last seen early Saturday morning. We were only been able to locate one by day’s end on Saturday, only one all day Sunday, and none today, Monday. I scoured the beach and creek this morning at daybreak, and friends were again there this afternoon searching. If anyone has seen or knows differently, please, please email us at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

Papa Plover spent a good part of Sunday morning fruitlessly piping plaintive calls for Mama.

Sunday afternoon, ACOfficer Teagan and I found Papa all alone at the No. 1 nesting area, standing on one leg and tucked up by the dune.

I found this beautiful feather Sunday morning near some Piping Plover tracks and think it is a PiPl feather. The feather measures just shy of 6cm. A reader wrote to say she thinks it is a Common Loon feather. I’ve never seen a Common Loon at Good Harbor but they’re all around and it could have washed ashore.

OUR PIPING PLOVERS HAVE ARRIVED AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Our beautiful Piping Plovers have returned! Monday afternoon we observed them foraging at the shoreline, then chased up to the wrack line by a bounding off-leash dog. After the dog departed the area, the two PiPls dozed off in the drifts of sand and dry beach grass.

The pair look plump and vigorous, not nearly as weary looking as the PiPls that arrived last year on April 3rd, after the four March nor’easters.

Unbelievably, the male is already displaying courtship behavior! And even more amazingly so, he was doing it within mere feet of where they have nested for the past three years.

I know I sound like a broken record, but today was an on-leash day. There were at least a half a dozen dogs off-leash in the forty-five minutes Charlotte, Tom, and I were there. I purposefully bring Charlotte to the beach on on-leash days because of the out of control dogs. A forty to fifty pound off-leash Golden Retriever puppy came bounding up to Charlotte, while its owner stood back shouting he’ll slobber all over her. I was more concerned with the oversized pup knocking her over and used considerable force to hold the puppy back, while Tom scooped up Charlotte. Everyone I spoke with was not aware of the dog laws, old laws and the new laws, and the new 300.00 fines. All the ordinances on the books are not going to do a thing, unless they are enforced.