Tag Archives: birds of Massachusetts

OUTSTANDING PIPING PLOVER GROWTH CHART

Friend Dawn Vesey shared the Piping Plover Growth Chart to my facebook timeline and I thought our plover lovers would appreciate seeing. The chart was made by Jim Verhagen and he has offered a high resolution version, gratis, to anyone who would like it for education/research purposes. Contact Jim via his website “Readings from the Northside.”

 

Chick Yoga

Piping Plover chick yoga that is, mastering Warrior Three.A funny little morning stretch the PiPl chicks do often.

What Do Piping Plovers Eat?

The question should really be what don’t they eat in the world of insects and diminutive sea creatures. Over the past two summers I have filmed PiPl eating every kind of beach dwelling crawly insect and marine life imaginable.

Piping Plovers eat freshwater, land, and marine invertebrates. Their general fashion of foraging is to run, stop, peck, repeat, all the day long, and during the night as well.

Run, Stop, Peck

When foraging along the wrack line and up to the dune edge Piping Plovers eat insects, both alive and dead, including ants, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles, along with insect larvae such as fly larvae. Foraging at the intertidal zone, Piping Plovers find sea worms, tiny mollusks, and crustaceans, as well as crustacean eggs.

When the chicks get a little older they will learn how to do a sort of foot tamping technique where they rapidly shake their feet in the sand to stir up crustaceans. I have yet to see our chicks do this, but soon enough.

The purpose of discontinuing to rake the beach to help the Piping Plovers is twofold. Not raking in the nesting site creates a habitat rich in dry seaweed and dry grasses, which attracts insects, the PiPl food on dry land. Secondly, raking in the vicinity of the Plovers after they hatch can be deadly dangerous to the chicks. Not only is there danger of being squished, but also, they can easily become stuck in the impression in the sand made by the tires of heavy machinery.

This morning I had a disagreeable conversation with a woman about her unleashed puppy. She feigned lack of knowledge about the dog ordinances, but aside from that, she informed me that her large puppy would be “afraid” of a chick. And there seems to be a frustrating lack of understanding about where the chicks forage. We can only share again that the Piping Plovers, both adults and chicks, feed from the dunes’s edge to the water’s edge, and everywhere in between. Sunrise and sunset are not safe times to walk dogs on the beach because Piping Plovers forage at all times of the day, and into the night. Adult birds can fly away from a person or dog walking and running on the beach, but a shorebird chick cannot.

Big Beach, Tiny Chick ~ Sixteen-day-old Piping Plover Chick Foraging at the Ocean Edge

ONLY ONE CHICK SEEN THIS MORNING (*EDITED RE DOGS ON THE BEACH)

Our one remaining Piping Plover chick spent the early morning in the vegetation at the edge of the dune.

Perhaps we lost the third chick to the tremendous deluge late yesterday that happened not once, but twice. Or perhaps to the crows. When I arrived at the sanctuary this morning there was a tremendous kerfuffle underway between two crows and both adults. As the crows were departing, after being vigorously chased away by the PiPl parents, I couldn’t see clearly whether or not they were carrying off a chick. Or perhaps, none of the above. There was an unleashed puppy on the beach, but after speaking with the woman, she and her dog departed. The PiPl were up by the sanctuary at that time so I am sure it wasn’t because of the puppy. I hope with all my heart we can don’t loose the one remaining chick.

*Comment added from my Facebook friend Susanne: Thank you to all for your kindness re the baby plovers. Yesterday after the downpour, I went to Good Harbor. No life guards and it was relatively quiet. There were three groups of people with dogs and two dogs were unleashed, One unleashed dog was near the piping plovers and too far from me to catch easily. I talked to two of the other dog owners. One said they didn’t know the rules and thanked me. The other said her dog is very old and this may be the last time she ever gets to walk on a beach. I love dogs and hope people have a lovely time on our beautiful beaches. I also wish they cared more about following our beach rules, which are common sense and about caring for others.

The adults and chick were acting oddly this morning, not wanting to venture too far from the symbolically roped off area. Papa Plover spent a great deal of time perched on the party rock and surveying the family’s territory (not usual behavior), and got into several times with the Interloper.

Thank you so much to all our volunteers who are trying their best to help keep these beautiful protected birds safe.

OUR LITTLE PIPING PLOVER CHICK PASSED AWAY

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

Two sixteen-day-old chicks snuggling under Papa Plover this morning at daybreak.

INJURED (AND NON-INJURED) PIPING PLOVER CHICKS UPDATE

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.

What are these things called wings?

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.

Fifteen-day-old Piping Plover Chick with Mama

I wonder what a baby bird think of its funny little appendages that will soon grow into beautiful wings?

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.

Two little butts, extra snuggles under Dad’s brood patch on this chilly day fifteen.

INJURED PIPING PLOVER UPDATE #2

4:20pm Update:
Catherine, George, and Charles drove our littlest chick to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts. Thanks to Jodi, they were prepared and waiting for him. Little chick was assigned a case number and we were told to call after 3pm. As I am writing this report, Avery from the school just returned my phone call. She sounds terrific and was very helpful in explaining little chick’s injury and care. He has a traumatic brain injury, most likely caused by being stepped on. Little chick is being given supportive care, which includes pain medication, an anti-inflammatory, and fluids. He is also in an oxygen cage that allows him to breathe more easily. The vets are guarded in their prognosis as recovery from head trauma is very unpredictable.

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.

Our two Good Harbor Beach siblings, this morning at fourteen days old.
Earlier this morning updates:
Catherine writes, “I called Kim who met me right away at the beach. Soon After 9pm Jodi was there getting the bird. Jodi implemented  ER incubator and hydration methods. By 11pm chick pooped which may be sign that he was reacting to rehydration. (She explained that body shuts down digestion quickly to protect brain and heart. Pooping could be things working.) One eye swollen may equal head injury or seizure. All was speculation and she hoped chick would make it through night.”
Volunteer Nancy, who found the chick wrote, “My daughter spotted the chick on the soft sand lying just off the wet sand of the creek bed near where we were this morning. My son in law carried the chick from creek bed to large enclosure. I held chick while giving it water and tried to keep it warm, then put it in the covered part of the enclosure on advice of Audubon woman, hoping its mom would be able to give care. We called every emergency number we could find but no one picked up. Thank you so much for responding as you did.”
Today at 6:15am–dog walking through the Plover’s sanctuary–leashed or unleashed, dogs (as well as people) unintentionally step on Plovers. Please be careful.