Category Archives: shorebirds

HURRICANE #HUMBERTO DELIVERS GORGEOUS SURF AND RARELY SEEN IN #GLOUCESTER MA NEOTROPICAL BLACK SKIMMERS!!!

Thanks so much to my friend Heidi Wakeman who texted to let me know there was what she thought a trio of Black Skimmers down the creek at Good Harbor Beach. I raced over and sure enough there were three Black Skimmers, as well as several Laughing Gulls, resting on the creek edge, along with a flock of gulls.

You could tell they were weary and wind tossed so we observed from the far side of the creek so as not to disturb the little travelers. Heidi and I enjoyed watching for a bit. A Great Blue Heron briefly flew on the scene, joining a mixed gathering of herons and egrets. Heidi stayed awhile longer and got to see them fly and skim-feeding.

Black Skimmers are called as such because they have a unique-to-their species method of foraging. Their lower mandible is longer than the upper, which allows them to skim the surface for small fish.

Southern Massachusetts is at the very northern range of the Black Skimmers breeding range. I imagine they have been blown off course by Humberto’s wildy winds.

Black Skimmers are not all that Hurricane Humberto delivered to our shores. The surf was tremendous Friday afternoon, with long lovely rolling waves that towered and crashed ashore. The late day softening light and a fine mist from the heavy amounts of moisture in the air lent an atmospheric light to all.

Here are some photos I took of Black Skimmers two years ago at Cape May while documenting the Monarch migration along the southern New Jersey coast. Just as do Monarchs, Skimmers gather in great numbers at Cape May in late summer and early autumn, waiting for the right conditions to cross the Delaware Bay.

GLOUCESTER PLOVERS GO SWIMMING!

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

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

POSTS AND ARTICLES ABOUT PIPING PLOVERS:

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

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

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

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

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

TREMENDOUS COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

On Tuesday I attended the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, which took place at the Harwich Community Center on Cape Cod. The meeting is held annually to bring together people and organizations that are involved with population monitoring and conservation efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds. Threatened and endangered species such as Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Roseate Terns, and American Oystercatchers are given the greatest attention.

I was invited by Carolyn Mostello, event organizer, to create a short film, Gloucester Plovers Go Swimming, for the “Strange and Unusual” section about our three little chicks and the fact that for about a week they were SWIMMING in the tidal creek (see next post). I also provided a group of photos of the late hatching chicks for DCR. The film and the photos were well-received, which was gratifying to me, to be of help in documenting these wonderful stories.

Conservationists from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby states, including representatives from Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the organizations presenting at the meeting-Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Essex Greenbelt, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Mass Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.

In the morning, each region gave the 2019 population census report for nesting birds as well as providing information about problems and solutions. We all share similar challenges with predation from crows and gulls, uncontrolled dogs, enforcement, and habitat loss and it was very interesting to learn about how neighboring communities are managing problems and issues.

Trustees of Reservations Coastal Ecologist Jeff Denoncour presented on behalf of the north of Boston region, of which Gloucester is a part. Essex Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer and intern Fionna were in attendance as well. Both Crane Beach and Parker River are having a fantastic year and the numbers are up across Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. There are still many young chicks yet to fledge on Massachusetts beaches so the final count has not been determined.

The afternoon session was filled with outstanding lectures presented by conservation biologists and all the programs were tremendously informative.

I met Beth Howard from Mass Audubon, who has been involved with care taking the L Street Piping Plovers and Paige Hebert from Mass Wildlife who has been helping manage Roseate Terns. The DCR staff managing the shorebirds at Nahant, Salisbury, Winthrop, and Revere Beach were all there and they are just a stellar group of young people.

It was a great day! Many attendees expressed congratulations for Gloucester fledging three chicks. Last year after attending the meeting I wrote the following and it’s wonderful that our hope for Gloucester’s Plovers was realized this year: “After attending the cooperators meeting, I am more hopeful than ever that our community can come together and solve the problems that are preventing our PiPl from successfully nesting and fledging chicks. What we have going in our favor is the sheer number of amazing super volunteers along with strong community-wide support.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Part One Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part two tomorrow.

PiPl Mom brooding eggs during heat wave.

Eggshell camouflaged amongst shells and sea bits.

FANTASTIC PIPING PLOVER NEWS FROM COASTAL ECOLOGIST JEFF DENONCOUR AT CRANE BEACH

Jeff Denoncour, Trustees of Reservations Coastal Ecologist, shares some record breaking Piping Plover news from Crane Beach. Jeff writes that “at Crane 49 pairs nested and 87 chicks have fledged, with 8 chicks remaining, a great year and breaking records for Crane!”Piping Plover lift off, times two!

THANK YOU PIPL VOLUNTEERS!

We PiPl volunteer monitors had a sweet get together last night to celebrate our three fledged Piping Plovers. Not everyone could attend and I didn’t take the photo until several had already departed. Despite the fact that the City prematurely dismantled the Piping Plover refuge, it didn’t dampen our spirits. It was super to talk to fellow volunteers and learn more about them while sharing a beautiful cake that Heather Hall had made, with some fantastic Sangria, made by Laurie Sawin.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all our fantastic volunteers for your hours of dedication. It was a great year for PiPls at Good Harbor Beach. We hope our Mama and Papa return next year, and if they do, we will be even more prepared!