Category Archives: shorebirds

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  ❤

“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 ❤

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 ❤

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

Funny things PiPls do – photo of Dad floofing

PIPING PLOVER VIDEO FUNNY FLIPPY FLOPPY FLY THING

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO LEAVE THE PROTECTED AREA IN PLACE AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH UNTIL THE CHICK HAS FULLY FLEDGED AND THE BIRDS DEPARTED?

Good Morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors!

Dad and Marshmallow made a round about trip to the Creek just before the storm started at about 6:45. That’s it, nothing more to report from this cold rainy morning 🙂

Why is it so critical to leave the protected area in place for the full length of time the PiPls spend at Good Harbor Beach? The following video was shot in the early evening and is a chick from one of the other Piping Plover families that I am documenting. The chick in the clip is 39 days old. To avoid confusion, I have to repeat that this is NOT Marshmallow, but an entirely different chick. Actually, he/she is a near fledgling at 39 days old. Our Marshmallow is only 24 days old.

I would like folks to see in slower motion the funny flippy floppy fly thing all chicks and fledglings do, but the footage also serves the purpose of highlighting how vitally important it is to keep sheltering areas in place at the beach for as long as the Plovers are present.

You can see in the video that it takes several moments for the youngster to alight. While becoming proficient at flying, chicks are still very vulnerable to predator attacks from gulls, crows, owls, hawks, herons, dogs, coyotes, and foxes. Symbolically roped off areas continue to provide shelter and safety to Piping Plover adults and fledglings alike, even after the chicks have reached their so-called official fledge date. Not all chicks mature at precisely the same rate over precisely the same number of days. Their weight, development, and flying ability depend largely on how rich, plentiful, and accessible is their food source.

Have a great day 🙂

xxKim

Piping Plover 39 days old, Not Marshmallow

PIPING PLOVER CHONICLES CONTINUES!

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Thermo-snuggling for the better part of the early morning and all was quiet. Dad suddenly began piping loudly, jumped up, and flew from Marshmallow. I was busy watching Marshmallow when out of nowhere, our GHB Red Fox trotted through the backside of home base, mere feet from where they had been snuggling, with Dad hot on the Fox’s heels!

At this point in Marshmallow’s life, I don’t think the Red Fox poses a tremendous threat, but they are a threat nonetheless. Anything canid, whether dog, fox, or coyote may step inadvertently on a young chick when they are hunkered down in place and are not yet fully fledged. Additionally, Red Fox dig and hunt shorebird eggs. A Piping Plover cannot tell the difference between a Red Fox and a domestic dog. Dogs have been allowed by their owners to chase after shorebirds for sport, which is another reason the PiPls find the Fox so threatening.

Shortly after the Fox sighting, the pair headed to the Creek where lots of yummy invertebrates were had, including a mini mollusk that you can see the tail end of in Marshmallow’s mouth, and sea worms, fat and thin. Heidi came along soon after. I think the birds Heidi remarked on are the Killdeer family; they were there earlier at the Creek until Dad had chased them off the scene to clear the way for his Marshmallow 🙂Added note about the Red Fox family – The Red Foxes we see currently at Good Harbor Beach are almost always carrying fresh prey in their mouths, small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels, for example, and I don’t think they are going to drop an adult rabbit to chase after a Piping Plover. The Foxes are now crisscrossing the beach several times a day with their mouths full on the return trip, which leads me to believe, the kits have not yet dispersed and Mom and Dad Fox have their paws full supplying the rapidly growing youngsters with nourishment.

The Red Fox diet also includes fresh fruit and berries. If you have a Mulberry tree ripe with fruit you may currently be seeing them in your backyard. I am looking forward to when our neighbor’s apples begin falling from her tree and hope so much our neighborhood Red Fox finds the fallen apple feast.

Heads up – very buggy at the Creek this morning. Hardly any trash today, and isn’t that great news that Mayor Sefatia has closed the beach to nonresidents!

Have a super day!

xxKim

Morning wing stretches!

MARSHMALLOW AND DAD THERMO-SNUGGLING

Good afternoon PiPl Ambassadors,

As Bette, Jane, and Jennie have shared, the beach was very quiet this morning and activity was low.

I love Jonathan’s new term for thermoregulating –  “thermo-snuggling.” It more aptly describes their behavior, and that is all Marshmallow wanted to do this morning!  I wish the footage was more exciting but the temperature was in the low 60s and it was drizzling when Heidi came along at 7:00. Marshmallow ran out of the roped off area several times but returned just as quickly as there were several gulls and a crow getting too close for Dad’s comfort.

Taylor Ann Bradford from the Gloucester Times phoned this morning and I shared with her your names. You may have already received an email from her.

The following is a link to a post that I wrote addressing the overcrowding at GHB.  The last paragraph is about the PiPls. I have read on several social media sites that the PiPls are taking a bad rap for overcrowding at GHB, which, when you look at the pandemonium on the side streets and understaffed, overstuffed parking lot, even suggesting the PiPls are to blame is more than ridiculous.

https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2020/07/15/pandemic-pandemonium-at-cape-ann-beaches/

Video footage of Marshmallow from this morning –

Have a great day!

xxKim

HAPPY THREE WEEKS OLD LITTLE MARSHMALLOW!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors!

Dad and Marshmallow were so peaceful and well-camouflaged that I didn’t see them for nearly the first hour, which gave me a chance to tidy up the beach. I was just about ready to check on the Creek when they both came scooting across the center of the protected area, heading to the water’s edge.

Three weeks marks a tremendous milestone. Thank you Everyone for your dedication during this craziest of busy beach weekends. Thank you for staying long, long extra hours and keeping your eyes on our PiPl family. Little Marshmallow is growing visibly plumper and stronger by the day, thanks largely to our group’s collective effort to keep him safe and protected, especially while he is foraging at the Creek, his most important job.

Today was Heidi Wakeman’s first morning and within her first five minutes, Marshmallow flew across the sand about a six or seven foot distance, about four or five inches off the ground. This wasn’t a funny flutter-hop, but a true little test run. So exciting to see these first flights!!!

Thunderstorms predicted later today, so please don’t stay if it happens on your shift.

Thank you!
xxKimGood Harbor Beach during coronavirus pandemic July 12, 2020

DAD AND MARSHMALLOW!

Dad and Marshmallow spent the early morning alternating between foraging at the tide flats and within the protected area.

Several frights this morning – joggers jogging in the wrack line, exactly where Marshmallow was foraging, but Dad did his broken wing thing and it distracted perfectly. This was followed by the Red Fox traveling the beach, followed by the couple who walk their dog every morning, again, exactly where the chick is foraging. I have a call out to our excellent dog officers and it should be an easy $300.0 for the City because the couple and their large dog come at the same time everyday.

The greatest fright though occurred when a friend came far too close to the Dad and Marshmallow while they were quietly thermoregulating. This caused the pair to tear off into the protected area, and then Dad immediately began piping orders to head to the Creek. Unfortunately, and very unexpectedly, some heavy machinery, a backhoe loader I think, was rounding the bend just as the two were hightailing it down to the Creek. The machine frightened the bejesus out of them and they moved with lightening speed into the furthest most points of the Creek.

I am writing an email to the friend to gently ask her not to come so close to the family. The combination of a person coming much too close, coupled with the machinery at the worst  time, could have spelled disaster.  It sure is tough being a PiPl. Even when people are well meaning, coming too close is as frightening to the birds as is a fox, a dog, or heavy machinery.

Last evening, our granddaughter Charlotte and I took took the late shift, until she was just too soaked and too cold to stay another moment. 

Dad and Marshmallow thermoregulating after a good bit of foraging this morning

Marine worms that fight back! Marshmallow polished off the one in the above photos and here is a photo from last year, the same, or similar, species.

Piping Plover Chick, Marshmallow, 16 days old, and Dad

MORE EXPLOSIVES AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH BUT LITTLE CHICK AND DAD COME THROUGH THE NIGHT!

Good Morning Piping Plover Ambassadors,

Miraculously Little Chick and Dad were found at their home base snuggling on yet another chilly, foggy morning. Despite a second night of Good Harbor Beach Wild West activity, the duo were foraging and thermoregulating as is usual for these cooler days.

Jonathan and Sally stopped by the beach around 8pm and Tom and I about 8:30 pm and all appeared relatively calm and peaceful. I lost my phone in the sand and my sweet guy went back to GHB about an hour later to look for it where he found a bunch of kids INSIDE home base, lighting firecrackers. We both called the police, he from the beach and me from home, but after forty minutes he couldn’t wait any longer. The police dispatcher said they were dealing with over 100 phone calls about fireworks!!

Edited Note – Mayor Sefatia writes that the police were at GHB last night, but they also had to be at many, many other places as well. “We are lucky there were no fires or serious injuries and that the Plovers survived.”

And in trying to see the humor in a very challenging situation, she adds, our GHB PiPls must be Sicilian Plovers because they have such a high tolerance for screaming and loud noises 🙂
The threatened species roped off area was lined with the boxes of spent fireworks that you see in the photos above and below. What are these things?? I’ve been piling them up for trash removal but I wonder if it is even safe to handle.

What are solutions for next Fourth of July weekend if we have another late nest? Duncan had a great idea; perhaps hire a private police officer, or an off duty officer, to stay near PiPl home base on the nights of July 3rd and 4th.

Shelby is starting back to work on Monday. Thank you so very much Shelby, you were terrific and we so appreciate your help. Best, best wishes, starting back to work.

Little Chick thermoregulating on a chilly morning

Let’s keep our hopes up our little family makes it through the rest of the holiday weekend.

xxKim

HAPPY FOURTH! AND OUR LITTLE CHICK AND DAD SURVIVED DYNAMITE AND FIREWORKS

It’s the Wild West at Good Harbor Beach in the evening, even more so this year with coronavirus. Last night we heard an explosion so loud I didn’t believe it was fireworks. This morning at the entrance to the footbridge there was evidence of fireworks but I don’t know if this is what caused that extraordinary boom.

As are many wild and domesticated animals, Piping Plovers are extremely frightened by fireworks and I was just praying both would still be in their protected area. To make matters worse, there were remains of fireworks surrounding their home base area.

Gratefully so, both Dad and Little Chick were present and just fine. The pair made a beeline for the Creek as soon as they heard the raking machine. Our PiPls have caught a tiny bit of a break with the overcast Fourth of July weather, hopefully cloudy skies will continue throughout the weekend.

Do you think someone actually carted the lifeguard chair down to the Beach Club or did the tide carry it?

PIPING PLOVER CHICK AND DAD

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

The chick looked healthy and vibrant this morning, alternating between foraging in the roped off area and at the shoreline, and then snuggling under Dad on this cool, foggy morning.

Little Chick snuggling under Dad this morning

I was there for approximately 1.5 hours, until Duncan arrived at 7am, and during that entire time I only saw Dad. At the end of my shift as I was picking up trash at the roped off area at the Creek side, another PiPl flew in piping loudly. I couldn’t stay to see if it was Mom. If any Ambassadors see both parents at the same time, changing guard, please write and let us know.

It’s not entirely unusual for one or the other to disappear for a few hours but this is also a good opportunity to let everyone know that the female may leave to begin migrating southward at anytime. We are about a month later with this year’s nest and I have seen often at other beaches that some females leave around the first week of July. I don’t know if it is that they are genetically programmed to depart early or if because there are many more fireworks and bonfires on beaches beginning around now, or a combination of both.

At another beach where I am documenting PiPls, last year I observed an awesome single Dad raise two chicks to fledgling; the Mom left when the chicks were not even a week old. She departed after a night of fireworks.

Another morning of beautiful fog and great surf. I don’t think I have ever seen as many surfers as have been at GHB the past few mornings. It’s wonderful to see so many enjoying the beach in a safe, non-covid threatening way!

Thanks so much again everyone. I am hearing crazy stories from many of you about people behaving inappropriately, such as Duncan’s guy who read the threatened species sign, then proceeded to lift up the rope and march right into the enclosure and right up to the chick to photograph. Duncan could see the chick was safe so did not say anything, which is good. I appreciate so very much everyone keeping their cool. It’s going to be a tough weekend on the PiPl family and tough on all of you, too, dealing with the public, especially if they have been drinking. Our goals are to keep the chick safe and educate as much as possible, in a non-confrontational manner, and you are all doing a superb job!!

Warmest wishes,
Kim

Little Chick 9-10 days old

ONLY ONE PIPING PLOVER CHICK

Dear PiPl Friends,

So sorry to write that I could only find one chick this morning. Both parents were very attentive and did not let the little one out of their sight for even a minute. All three were in the symbolically roped off area and down at the shoreline for very brief moments.

Jonathan and Sally saw the family last night; it happened sometime between sunset and sunrise. So very sad, but I just want to remind everyone that the average survival rate for chicks after hatching is 1.2, and most chicks are lost in the first week. Everyone is doing a great job despite the challenges we have faced this year.

Four day old Piping Plover chick

Last year was a very successful year (3 out of 4 fledged) for one very important reason- Greenbelt was helping from the get go and the area for the PiPls was roped off and signs put up two days after the mated pair arrived. This allowed them to become established early on and they nested nearly a month earlier than this year.

In 2019, signs and roping were put in place by Greenbelt on March 27th.

This year, an adequately roped off area did not go up until April 16 and signs not installed until Memorial Day weekend.

It has been proven time and again, the earlier PiPls nest in the spring, the greater their chance of survival.

What can we learn from this? Councilor Memhard has a tremendous suggestion in that we change the ordinance to reflect that it is mandated that Plover protections, ie. signs and roping, must go up immediately upon the PiPls arrival, ideally the third week in March. This year they arrived on March 22nd, last year on March 25th.

Jonathan and Sally, thank you for your super generous gift of signs. The one you left was there this morning and I left it there, too. It’s in a good spot if the family goes back to the Creek. My signs were ready yesterday as well and I have them on my front porch if anyone needs them, please help yourself. With only one chick, hopefully the Mom and Dad will be able to keep him/her safe.

Thank you and take heart everyone, our one chick has a better chance of surviving with every one of you looking out for this tiny little bird.

P.S. About the garbage, I did not see the beach raker by the time I left at 6:45. There was garbage on the beach and I will check back this afternoon after Charlotte goes down for a nap and clean up what is there (with gloves!). My son broke two ribs on the job yesterday so I have our little darling again with me most of the time.

Four day old Piping Plover chick and Dad, Good Harbor Beach, June 26, 2020

WE’RE GETTING CLOSE TO HATCH DAY – PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS ARE NEEDED DURING THE AFTERNOONS

Hello Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,

Our Ambassador schedule is looking great for mornings and I am so appreciative of all who have volunteered to lend a hand.

We need Ambassadors during the afternoons. Please write at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com and let me know if you would like to volunteer for an hour a day for the next several weeks, possibly a month. The first week in a chick’s life is the most critical. When a chick reaches the 7 to 10 day milestone its chances of survival increase exponentially.

One hour old Piping Plover chick

We are meeting Monday, June 22nd, at 5:30pm, to go over any questions Ambassadors may have. We’ll meet at the the Saratoga Creek end of the beach, by the symbolic roping, on the Nautilus Road side of the beach, just after boardwalk #3. There should be no difficulty parking in the lot at that time of day.

I look forward to seeing familiar friends and meeting our new ambassadors. Thank you so much again for your willingness to help. Our new motto this year is Educate, not Enforce and our goal is to keep the energy positive and kind. Our City government is managing many, many issues due to the global pandemic and we do not wish in any way to add to their responsibilities.

Here is the schedule so far:

Kim 5am to 7am

Shelby  7am -8am

Jane Marie 8am -9am

Bette Jean 9am-10am

Jennie  11am to 12pm

Jonathan and Sally 5pm to 6pm