Avery from the Tufts Wildlife Clinic at the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center phoned this morning to let us know that our Piping Plover chick passed away in the night. Although he was showing some positive signs yesterday, after a traumatic brain injury such as his, bleeding on the brain and other complications can occur. Know that he was well cared for by the incredible team at Tufts and that they did their very utmost best to save him.
I spoke with Avery about what would have happened had he survived. Little chick would have been re-habituated with other Piping Plovers. As Piping Plovers are a protected species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife dictate where his recovery were to take place.
Although it was very unusual for the clinic to have a Piping Plover, they have helped even smaller animals recover from injury. Most recently, a wounded hummingbird in their care was healed and released back in the wild.
Thank you to everyone for your kind concern.
Thank you to Jodi Swenson from Cape Ann Wildlife for meeting us at the beach at nine in the evening and caring for our little injured chick until the following morning when Catherine, George, and Charles delivered him to Tufts veterinary school. We should all thank our volunteers, Catherine, Caroline Haines, Hazel Hewitt, George King, Charles King, Paul Korn, Cliff King, Chris Martin, Diana Peck, Lucy Merrill-Hills, Cristina Hildebrand, Carol Ferrant, Jeanine Harris, Ruth Peron, Karen Shah, Annie Spike, and conservation agent Ken Whittaker for their diligent and continued monitoring of our two remaining chicks.
Please let’s everyone be mindful of the chicks afoot, help keep the beach clean, and please, please dog owners, please leave your sweet pooches off Good Harbor Beach. Thank you.
If you find orphaned or injured wildlife, the clinic has pages to guide you in appropriate procedures for birds, squirrels, mammals, and more, as well as a list of links to wildlife organizations. Go here for more information: Useful Links from the Tufts Wildlife Clinic
Our little injured chick is hanging on. Crystal from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine phoned to report that she fed him through the night. He remains on supportive care and is being given antibiotics and pain medication. Little chick has been moved to a heated incubator. The veterinarians are again stating that prognosis is unpredictable.
Meanwhile, these two chick were having an easier morning than usual. There were no fires, dogs, or beach rake, and with the cooler temperatures and overcast skies, many fewer people. PiPl super volunteer monitor Hazel came by with flyers of the injured chick and she posted them around the beach, hoping to help people understand why we need to be on the look out for chicks afoot.
Not a great deal of information is known about when exactly PiPl fledge. Some say 25 days and some reports suggest up to 32 days. In my own observations filming a PiPl family last summer on Wingaersheek Beach, the fledglings could not fly very well until mid-August. The PiPl fledglings and parents maintained a family bond through the end of August, even after it was becoming difficult to tell whether they were fledglings or adults. All during that period, the fledglings appeared still dependent upon the adults, who were still parenting, for example, offering distinctive piping instruction especially when perceived danger such as joggers and dogs were in the vicinity.
Very sadly, I have to report that dogs were running around the beach unleashed at the time of the injury. No one witnessed exactly what happened, but last year I saw a dog running over and instantly killing a chick, despite my very best efforts to get the owner to control his dog. This morning at 6am dogs were on the beach leashed, but the owner was obliviously walking her two dogs through the sanctuary area precisely where the chicks were darting about. Leashed or unleashed, irresponsible dog owners are one of the chick’s greatest threats. Please, please folks tell your friends and neighbors about the Plovers and why it is so important to follow the dog ordinances. It seems as though late in the day, after 5 and before sunset, the chicks are the most vulnerable. Perhaps folks think its okay to bring dogs to the beach after the life guards leave. Early evening is exactly the same time of day that the chick was killed last year.
Two of our three Piping Plover chicks are doing beautifully, the third however is hanging on for dear life. The littlest chick was found limp and helpless by beach goers, on the dune edge near the creek. The chick was placed in the wire enclosure where Catherine Ryan and I found it at around nine pm. Jodi Swenson from Cape Ann Wildlife arrived shortly thereafter. She immediately tucked the chick into her shirt and has been keeping the chick in a warming nest. Jodi reports that the chick’s eye is swollen and that it is having neurological problems. More information to follow.
This morning at 5am found all three adorable balls of fluff zig zagging in and out of their roped off area. All was going well and I had planned to leave at 6:30 for work when the beach rake arrived on the scene. At the very moment the roaring rake was passing in front of the roped off safety area, the chicks decided to head to the water. It was harrowing trying to herd the chicks back up towards the wrack zone and at one point I lost sight of one. The rake passed twice in front of the sanctuary and both times the chicks were in extreme, extreme danger. The beach rake driver is super conscientious and stopped for Papa Plover when he ran in front of the rake, but not in a million years would a chick have been seen. I think eventually the chicks will learn to run in the opposite direction of the giant noise-making machine, but at this stage of development, they are running directly towards the beach rake. Additionally, while the rake drama was unfolding, half a dozen gulls flew in. I don’t know if they were there to check on what was tumbled up by the beach rake, or if they knew the babies were vulnerable as both parents were trying to herd the chicks away from the rake.
After writing this post, the next order of business is emailing Dave from Greenbelt and our conservation agent Ken Whittaker about the beach rake. I sincerely hope it can be redirected to stay on either side of the safety zone, traveling behind the beach through the parking lot road to clean both sides, but completely avoiding the area the PiPls are using as their morning and night time sanctuary.
Compare the photo on the left of a one-day-old chick and the photo on the right of the thirteen-day-old chick.