Tag Archives: Beautiful Birds of Cape Ann

COME LEND A VOICE TO HELP GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS AT TONIGHT’S ANIMAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING

Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee is meeting tonight at 6:30 to vote on whether or not to change the Good Harbor Beach dog rules. The meeting will be held at City Hall, 3rd floor. At present, dogs are allowed at GHB through April 30th. Our hope is that the new ordinance would shorten the time, to end on March 31st. Nesting Piping Plovers, as well as the many species of shorebirds migrating through (and some also nesting at) Good Harbor Beach would benefit tremendously from this change to the ordinance. Thank you!

Piping Plover on the Half Shell

Four!

Four Piping Plover eggs in the Good Harbor Beach parking lot nest!

LEARNING ABOUT HOW MASSACHUSETTS COMMUNITIES MANAGE NESTING PIPING PLOVERS

To better understand how to help Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers survive nesting at our most well loved and highly trafficked beach I have been following a little Plover family at Revere Beach.

Like Gloucester, Revere is a city north of Boston. Only ten square miles, with six miles of land, four miles of water, and a population of 52,000 people, Revere is a much more densely populated city than Gloucester. Gloucester’s year round population is 28,000, covering an area of 41 square miles, with 26 miles of land and 15 miles of water.

Revere Beach is the first public beach established in America (1895). Misperceptions about a needle and trash littered shoreline are deeply held but in reality, Revere Beach is a beautiful beach, beautifully maintained.

Each year Revere Beach hosts the International Sand Sculpting Festival, with amazing sculpting competitions, amusements, food, and fireworks. This year’s festival will be held on the weekend of July 20-July 22nd (photo courtesy wiki commons media).

Piping Plovers began arriving at Revere Beach at the same time the GHB PiPl arrived, in late-March and very early April. There are at least half a dozen nesting areas cordoned off for Piping Plovers. Revere has had excellent success with fledging Piping Plover chicks because the PiPl are allowed to establish nests early in the season, without disturbance. From decades of field work, it is known that the earlier the chicks hatch, the greater their chance of survival.

I stopped by to check on the Revere Beach PiPl family on a recent Sunday afternoon; it’s not that out of the way to make it part of my regular routine coming home from Cambridge and Boston jobs. And then stopped at Good Harbor Beach. The difference was astounding. There wasn’t any trash or dog poop on Revere Beach, and there wasn’t a dog anywhere along the five mile stretch of beach. There were however six dogs off leash at Good Harbor Beach within the twenty minutes that I was there to say hello to PiPl monitor Heather and to check on our PiPl parking lot family.

Perhaps you might not think a fair comparison; Revere Beach is much longer than GHB, and it is under the management of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation but I did not see a single DCR employee or officer policing Revere Beach that dog-and-trash-free Sunday afternoon.

Over the past several decades, communities throughout Massachusetts have been learning how to live with Piping Plovers. I am hopeful that the more we learn about the issues confronting the Piping Plovers, the Gloucester community will come together to take the steps to insure their safety and successful nesting. 

There are a great number of helpful signs at Revere Beach.

The triangular-shaped signs that are posted at the PiPl nesting areas are on the small side, only about 8 inches. 

Just like at Nahant Beach (above) many of the roped off areas at Revere Beach have three rows of roping. 

At Revere Beach dogs are not allowed on the beach beginning April 1st. The rules are clearly posted at each and every entry to the beach. The signs and poles aren’t fancy and I imagine would be affordable and easy to obtain.

The Gabe and Gabby Family with their leashed dog on the boulevard, sitting next to a PiPl nesting area–no problem for this family to keep their dog off the beach during nesting season.

Plenty of trash barrels.

Some folks are under the false impression that the reason our GHB PiPl are nesting in the parking lot is because when they arrived it was cold and the parking lot hard pack is warm. Factually speaking, Piping Plovers arrived at beaches all along the Massachusetts coastline in mid-March and early April. As far as we know, the Good Harbor Beach PiPl are the Only Piping Plovers nesting in a parking lot.

Male Plover nesting at Revere Beach. The Revere Beach PiPl were creating their nest scrapes on the beach at exactly the same time our GHB PiPl were trying to establish a nest on the beach.

Just like our GHB PiPl family, it looks like there are four eggs in the Revere Beach nest!

Next time I stop to visit the Revere Beach PiPl family, I am going to have to bring home some Kelly’s roast beef sandwiches for dinner. I’ve heard the seafood is pretty good at Kelly’s, too!

VANDALS HARMING THE PIPING PLOVERS

Early this morning I found the endangered species signs covered in seaweed as well as tire and dog tracks in the nesting areas. The vandalism happened sometime overnight, between 6 pm and 6am.

The grossest thing were the poles bent over, with a wooden box holding down the roping, and on top of that, a huge pile of sand-covered DOG POOP. There was so much poop it had to have been collected.

I cleared off the signs, but rubber gloves and/or a shovel are needed to remove the dog poop on top of the wooden box.

People, and not just young people, were doing donuts in the parking lot on Sunday, right next to the PiPl cordoned off nesting area. When the PiPl monitor Heather asked if the donut-makers were aware of the PiPl, they said, “Yes, but we weren’t going to hit them.”

One pair of Plovers has already been forced into the parking lot by dog owners not properly managing their dogs. There is at least one more pair of PiPl, and The Bachelor, making use of the roped off nesting areas. It would be a heartbreaker to see a second pair forced off the beach and move their nest into the parking lot, too.

Please call 911 if you see anyone harassing or harming the Piping Plovers, or vandalizing the nesting areas on the beach or in the parking lot. Thank you so very much.

Tire tracks in the Piping Plover nesting area #3.

RAREST OF RARE VISIT FROM WILSON’S PLOVERS

Wilson’s Plover Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Earlier this week while checking on the PiPl, a small group of shorebirds caught my eye. They were foraging at the water’s edge. Although the fog was as thick as split pea soup and visibility not great, something seemed off with the birds–they looked like Piping Plovers–but seemed a tiny bit bigger, and the silhouette of their bills was larger and chunkier than that of our PiPl. When they scurried along, coming closer, I could see that their bills were solid black, too, and their legs and feet were a fleshy pink, not the bright PiPl orange.

The three foraged nearly identically to the way Piping Plovers forage, pecking and darting at the water’s edge, enough so that when Papa Plover caught sight, he chased them further down the beach and out of his territory.

Papa Piping Plover, with feathers puffed out to appear larger, chasing the Wilson’s Plover out of his #3 nesting area.

In the above two photos, compare the orange legs and feet of the PiPl, versus the Wilson’s fleshy pink legs and feet. The PiPl bill is black with differing degrees of orange; the Wilson’s bill is pure black and thicker.

The mystery plovers were fairly far down the beach and I only got few good photos, but did take some footage of Papa chasing the odd plovers with the pale pink legs.

Later at home I was able to identify the shorebirds and amazingly, they are Wilson’s Plovers!! I write amazingly because they are a southern species of plover, rarely seen as far north as New Jersey. I mentioned to Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer about the Wilson’s Plovers. I don’t think he believed me at first, but after taking a walk on the beach, he agreed, yes, they were Wilson’s Plovers!

Wilson’s Plovers live along beaches of the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They are named after the ornithologist Alexander Wilson who discovered them on Cape May in 1813. The species is (and was at that time, too) very rare for New Jersey, let alone northern Massachusetts!

Pretty pink legs of the Wilson’s Plover.

Wilson’s Plovers are listed as threatened or endangered in some states. As with Piping Plovers, disturbances to nesting areas and loss of habitat are the primary threats to this plover species.

I only spotted the Wilson’s Plovers early in the day. The fog engulfed the shoreline even more, making additional sightings nearly impossible. The following morning I stopped by GHB to check on the PiPl, and did not find the Wilson’s. Ornithologists call these visitors in places far outside the bird’s range “vagrants,” but I prefer to think of them as guests. Please write and let us know if you see a Wilson’s Plover, and please take a snapshot if possible. Thank you.

PIPING PLOVER EGG #3

Our Mama PiPl laid egg number three today!

BREAKING: TWO EGGS IN THE NEST – HUGE SHOUT OUT TO GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER AND MIKE CARBONE FOR INSTALLING THE PIPING PLOVER WIRE EXCLOSURE

Piping Plover Eggs Good Harbor Beach Parking Lot

A second egg was laid yesterday by our Parking Lot Plover family. The second egg is an indication by the PiPl that they are committed to the nest, which means it is time to put up the wire exclosure. If the exclosure is installed earlier, the risk of the PiPl abandoning the first egg is far greater. We immediately called Essex County Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer to let him know about the second egg. 

Dave and his assistant Mike Carbone arrived early this morning to set up the exclosure. Roughly six feet in diameter and made of wire with four inch spacing, the exclosure’s four inch openings are the ideal size to let PiPl in and out, and to keep large predatory birds and small mammals from entering. With thanks and gratitude to Dave and Mike for coming so quickly to exclose the nest.

After installing the exclosure the fear is that the PiPl will abandon the nest site. Our Mama Plover returned to the nest a short time after the exclosure was installed!

And thanks again to dog officer Teagan Dolan, who stopped by to check on the Piping Plovers and has been regularly ticketing 🙂

How You Can Help the Piping Plovers

1) Under no circumstances is it acceptable for people or dogs to enter the Piping Plover nesting area.

2) Please drive slowly and cautiously when in the parking lot. Our Mama and Papa PiPl are now residing between the parking lot and nesting area #3.

3) Keep ALL dogs off the beach and out of the parking lot. The parking lot is considered part of the beach according to Gloucester Police Chief McCarthy. A Piping Plover’s brain does not differentiate between a dog on-leash versus a dog off-leash. When a dog, off-leash or on-leash, comes within twenty feet of a PiPl, they immediately stop what they are doing, whether foraging, courting, mating, nesting, or resting. Please call the following number to report any dog sightings or dog related incidences at Good Harbor Beach: 978-281-9746.

4) When observing, please bear in mind that Piping Plovers tolerate one or two quiet persons, from a distance, but crowds of three or more put them in panic mode. Large groups of people hovering near the PiPl also attracts crows and gulls, a nesting shorebird’s natural enemy because they eat both baby chicks and eggs.

5) Help spread the word about the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers.

6) Sign up to be a Piping Plover volunteer ambassador by emailing Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov

Thank you, but most importantly, the Piping Plovers will thank you too when chicks hatch and chicks fledge!