Tag Archives: Charadrius melodus

Mom, Why are the Plovers in Jail?

Mama Plover sitting on an egg

This question was asked by a young child visiting the plover nesting area at Good Harbor Beach. Another asked, why are the Piping Plovers in a cage? And today while on plover wellness check, I overheard an adult telling her daughter that the little tufts of dried seaweed within the roped off area are all Piping Plover nests, filled with Piping Plover eggs.

In actuality, there is only one nest in the roped off area, and that nest is in the middle of the net and wire exclosure. The prefix ex in the word exclosure gives us a clue as to the meaning of the word. The contraption is designed to exclude other creatures, not to confine the plovers.

Wildlife monitors will place an exclosure over a nest to prevent people and dogs from accidentally stepping on the eggs and to prevent foxes, other mammals, seagulls, crows, and owls from eating the eggs. The holes in the wire are large enough for a Piping Plover to run freely in an out of the exclosure, and small enough to keep predators out.

What is Foxy Loxy up to? It’s morning and the young fox is very hungry He is foraging in the sand for plover eggs!

You can clearly see the Mom and Dad plover taking turns on the nest. About every twenty minutes or so, they exchange places. When there visiting the plovers with your children bring binoculars or your camera and watch this wonderful story unfolding right here our beautiful Good Harbor Beach.

The very slight depression in the sand in the photo above shows a Piping Plover nest scrape. The diameter of the scrape is about the size of a tennis ball. Sometimes the Dad plover tosses tiny bits of shells or pebbles in the scrape, but just as often as not, the scrape is unlined.

WHAT ARE THOSE CRAZY BIRDS RUNNING AROUND GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT?

Killdeer Chick

Lost of folks are asking, are the Piping Plovers nesting in the Good Harbor Beach parking lot? The answer is no, the Piping Plovers are nesting on the beach near boardwalk #3. The mama and papa, and now chicks, that are running all around the GHB parking lot are a shorebird named Killdeers. Comparatively quite a bit larger, and more commonly seen, Killdeers are related to Piping Plovers, but are a different species.

Killdeer Chicks and Parent, Good Harbor Beach 2016

That I am aware of, this is the second year in a row Killdeers have chosen to nest at the Good Harbor Beach parking lot. It is frightening to see the babies zoom in and out between the cars. The mom and dad give vocal cues to the chicks, but still they run willy nilly. Killdeers have a fondness for human modified habitats, such as the GHB parking lot, and a willingness to nest close to people.

Like Piping Plover chicks, Killdeer chicks are precocial. That is a word ornithologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Precocial means that shortly after hatching, the bird is fully mobile. Plover chicks are not completely mature, they still need parents to help regulate their body temperature, but they have downy feathers and can run and feed themselves within moments after emerging. The opposite of precocial is altricial. Birds that hatch helpless, naked, usually blind, and are incapable of departing the nest are altricial. Robins and Cardinals are examples of altricial birds.

Adult Kildeer

If you encounter the Kildeer family and would like to take a photo, or simply observe these adorable babies on-the-go, my advice is to stand quietly and don’t chase after them. Running after the chicks will put the parents into panic mode and they may lose sight of the other siblings. As the chicks mature, they will spend less time in the parking lot, and more time in the marsh and at the tidal river edge. Kildeer adults, and even the chicks, are actually good swimmers. Last year the Kildeer family crossed the tidal river and spent the second half of the season on the opposite side of the marsh.

Compare the Killdeer chick above, to the Piping Plover chick below.

Piping Plover Chick and Mom

Killdeer Family all grown up, September 2016

HOORAY!!! The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers are Officially Nesting

Two Perfect Piping Plover Eggs!

After last week’s harrowingly warm weather, we lost all sight of the Piping Plover pair trying to establish a nest by the boardwalk #3 location. Thursday and Friday brought record temperatures of over 90 degrees, drawing unseasonably large crowds and literally, a ton of garbage, which was not only beyond disgusting, but in turn, attracted a plethora of seagulls and crows. Saturday, there was absolutely no sign of the Plovers, from one of end of Good Harbor to the other. Sunday, my husband Tom discovered a few tracks and Monday, I found a few as well, but nothing like we had seen earlier.

Thinking our Plover Pair were lost to us, lo and behold Tuesday morning I spied Papa Plover sitting in one location, for a very long time (half an hour is a long time for a plover to sit in one spot). Could there be an egg beneath Papa? Unfortunately, where Papa was sitting was on the edge of the roped off area, next to the party rock, with dog tracks only several inches away.

Dog tracks running through the roped off area and next to the Piping Plover nesting site.

I quickly called Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship for Essex County Greenbelt. He came by immediately and confirmed yes, we have a nest!!!

An exclosure has been installed and the plover parents are adapting well to the protective wire frame.

The roping has been rearranged with the nest now in the center.

You Didn’t Actually Think I’d Want to Live in That Dump Did You?

Dad Piping Plover spends considerable time showing Mom how good he is at nest-building.

Mom nonchalantly makes her way over to the nest scrape.

She thoroughly inspects the potential nest.

Dad again rearranges the sand. Mom pipes in, “Honey, i think I’d prefer that mound of dried seaweed over there, nearer the blades of seagrass. And can you please add a few seashells to the next one, rather than bits of old kelp.”

Rejected!

Here we go again!

Five Piping Plovers have been observed at Good Harbor Beach. They are battling over territory and beginning to pair up. The male builds perhaps a dozen nests scrapes in a single day–all in hopes of impressing the female. Hopefully, within the next week, they will establish a nest; the earlier in the season Plovers begin nesting, the greater the chance of survival for the chicks.

Dave Rimmer from Essex County Greenbelt reports that although many nest scrapes have been seen, no nests with any egg on any of Gloucester’s beaches have yet been discovered. He suggests that perhaps the cooler than usual spring temperatures are slowing progress.

An active Piping Plover nest scrape, with lots of PiPl tracks 🕊

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Not one, but two, potential nesting sites have been roped off for the Piping Plovers. The second site is near the Good Harbor Beach Inn.

 

 

 

 

PIPING PLOVERS COURTING ON GOOD HARBOR BEACH!!

The Piping Plovers have returned to nest on Good Harbor Beach. Last night I counted five plovers, and today four!

Above the wrack line, males are creating nest scrapes for females to approve (or disapprove, as is often the case). The gents use their back legs to vigorously dig a slight depression. They then sit in the scrape and beckon to the ladies with a continuous piping call to come inspect the potential nesting site.

Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt director of land stewardship, this morning installed fencing around a possible nesting area. We are all hoping that the Piping Plovers will quickly establish a nest and the chicks will have hatched before the July 4th crowds descend upon the beach. Dave’s message to everyone enjoying GHB is that if the Plovers are left undisturbed, the chicks will have a far better chance of survival the earlier in the season they hatch. If the nest site is continually disturbed and egg laying is delayed again and again, the Plovers will be here all that much longer.

It’s not easy being a Piping Plover. Rest time between foraging and courting.

The Plovers have traveled many thousands of miles to reach our shores and are both weary from traveling and eager to establish nesting sites.

What can you do to help the Piping Plovers? Here are four simple things we can all do to protect the Plovers.

1) Don’t leave behind or bury trash or food on the beach. All garbage attracts predators such as crows, seagulls, foxes, and coyotes, and all four of these creatures EAT plover eggs and chicks.

2) Do not linger near the Piping Plovers or their nests. Activity around the Plovers also attracts gulls and crows.

3) Respect the fenced off areas that are created to protect the Plovers.

4) If pets are permitted, keep dogs leashed.

The last is the most difficult for folks to understand. Dogs threaten Piping Plovers in many ways and at every stage of their life cycle during breeding season, even the most adorable and well-behaved of pooches.

Dogs love to chase Piping Plovers (and other shorebirds) at the water’s edge. After traveling all those thousand of miles, the birds need sustenance. They are at the shoreline to feed to regain their strength.

Dogs love to chase piping Plovers at the wrack line. Here the birds are establishing where to nest. Plovers are skittish at this stage of breeding and will depart the area when disturbed.

Dogs love to chase Piping Plover chicks, which not only terrifies the adult Plovers and distracts them from minding the babies, but the chicks are easily squished by a dog on the run.

 

M is for May Migration Through Massachusetts

During the month of May, Massachusetts is graced daily with species arriving from their winter homes. Some need to fortify for the journey further north, to the boreal forests, bogs, and tundra of Canada and Alaska. Some will nest and breed in Massachusetts, finding suitable habitat along the coast, and in the marsh, scrub, shrub, forest, and grassland found throughout the state. For several projects on which I am currently working, I have been exploring wildlife sanctuaries along the Massachusetts coastal region. Here is just a sampling of some recently spotted migrants, and it’s only May 4th. Lots more to come!

Biggety Brant ~ This Brant Goose appeared to be the bossy boots of his gaggle, chiding, nipping, and vocally encouraging the group along. A large of flock of approximately 40 Brants was recently reported by readers Debbie and Dan, seen at Back Beach in Rockport. The Brants are heading to the wet, coastal tundra of the high Arctic. No other species of goose travels as far north or migrates as great a distance as do Brants.

W is for Wading Willet. A PAIR were well hidden in the marshy grass! Both the flesh and the eggs of Willets are considered tasty. They were nearly hunted to extinction, saved only by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Willets breeding in Massachusetts is nothing short of a miracle. Notice how closely they resemble Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs; all three belong to the Genus Tringa.

Y is for Yawping Yellowlegs. Both Greater and Lesser Yellow are seen in Massachusetts marshes at this time of year. Greater Yellowlegs have a loud, distinct call, which they utilize often. The Greater Yellowlegs are feeding on tiny crustaceans, killfish, and minnows to fortify for the journey to the boggy marshes of Canadian and Alaskan coniferous forests.

Piping Plover Piping ~ We should be proud that our state of Massachusetts has the greatest record of Piping Plover recovery. I recently saw a bar graph at a lecture presentation, given by Dave Rimmer at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, which illustrated that the recovery rate has flatlined in Canada and New Jersey, and diminished in the Great Lakes region.

T is for Tree Swallow Tango ~ Males arrive on the scene prior to the females. The courtship ritual involves the gents showing the ladies possible nesting sites.

Tree Swallow preparing for takeoff.

 

Piping Plovers Have Returned to Cape Ann Beaches!

Male Piping Plover

The sweetest and tiniest of shorebirds has been spotted at several of our local beaches, including Wingaersheek and Good Harbor Beach. They have also been seen at Plum Island, as well as other Massachusetts barrier beaches, for several weeks. The Plovers have traveled many thousands of miles to reach our shores and are both weary from traveling and eager to establish nesting sites.

What can you do to help the Piping Plovers? Here are four simple things we can all do to protect the Plovers.

  1. Don’t leave behind or bury trash or food on the beach. All garbage attracts predators such as crows, seagulls, foxes, and coyotes, and all four of these creatures EAT plover eggs and chicks.
  2. Do not linger near the Piping Plovers or their nests. Activity around the Plovers also attracts gulls and crows.
  3. Respect the fenced off areas that are created to protect the Plovers.
  4. If pets are permitted, keep dogs leashed.

The last is the most difficult for folks to understand. Dogs threaten Piping Plovers in many ways and at every stage of their life cycle during breeding season, even the most adorable and well-behaved of pooches.

Dogs love to chase Piping Plovers (and other shorebirds) at the water’s edge. After traveling all those thousand of miles, the birds need sustenance. They are at the shoreline to feed to regain their strength.

Dogs love to chase piping Plovers at the wrack line. Here the birds are establishing where to nest. Plovers are skittish at this stage of breeding and will depart the area when disturbed.

Dogs love to chase Piping Plover chicks, which not only terrifies the adult Plovers and distracts them from minding the babies, but the chicks are easily squished by a dog on the run.

Please keep dogs leashed when at the beach. Thank you!

Female Piping Plover

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Dave Rimmer, Greenbelt’s director of land stewardship, is giving a lecture about the Piping Plovers at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday, April 27th, from 2:00 to 4pm. Preregister by email at: Andrew@ecga.org.