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 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.
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 email@example.com
Thank you, but most importantly, the Piping Plovers will thank you too when chicks hatch and chicks fledge!
Thanks to our awesome DPW, who has barricaded the area, and to my husband Tom, who discovered the egg, our PiPlover egg is protected from cars and trucks. I checked on the PiPl this morning before work at about 6:30 to 7am and the PiPl were courting in the #3 nesting area. A dog off leash ran by and they quickly flew. I checked for an egg in their nest scrape in the parking lot before leaving and the egg had not yet been laid. Tom discovered the single egg at 11am and immediately spoke to Phil Cucuru, who was working on the boardwalks.
We are all going to work together to help our PiPl pair, despite this most difficult of all locations. One thing the pair has going for it is that this is relatively early in the season. If all four are laid within the upcoming week, we could have chicks by mid-June, a full two weeks earlier than last year. Dave Rimmer, from Greenbelt, will be placing the exclosure around the egg shortly. The DPW is placing a second tier barricade around the nest.
Please, please please, do not allow your dog in the GHB parking lot or on the beach. There were umpteen dogs, off leash and on, at Good Harbor Beach this past week, despite the fact that there should be no dogs after May 1st. I asked each person who had brought their dog where they were from–it seemed fairly equal–half were from out of town and half were local.
Our Mama and Papa are still mating in the nesting area. Whether the parking lot is their alternate plan or the only plan, at this point, please no dogs.
A second pair of PiPl arrived yesterday. Will they be staying or is GHB is just a stopover? The following may sound like a strange request, but part of the problem this weekend was kites. Just as we love dogs, there are few things more magical to a young child than flying a kite on the beach. The issue is, when folks are flying their kite over the nesting area, to a PiPl, a kite looks like a giant vulture looming overhead, ready to snatch them up. Please when flying a kite (or a drone) on the beach, please fly away from the nesting area, keeping the kite at least 500 yards away from the Plovers. Early in the season there was a pair of Turkey Vultures eating a dead seagull on the beach. It was amazing to film the PiPl reaction because as the Vultures flew overhead, all the PiPl, and the one Dunlin, foraging in the intertidal zone flattened to the sand in unison, and stayed that way long after the Vulture had disappeared over the horizon.
Thank you to everyone for all that you are doing to help the PiPl. Special thanks to Joe Lucido, Phil Cucuru, and the tremendous support from the DPW crew, to PiPl monitor Heather Hall, who spent many hours at GHB this past weekend watching over the PiPl, and to my husband Tom, for his eagle eyes.
During some part of each of the past four off leash beach days, the Piping Plovers have been found in the parking lot, forced off the beach by a barrage of dogs in the nesting area, and dogs chasing them and and down the beach. For the first three of those four off leash days that they were driven off the beach, the PiPl spent a good part of the time going from white painted line to white painted line, using the color white as camouflage against predators such as hawks, crows, and falcons. They are miniature “sitting ducks” when in the parking lot, not only to natural predators, but because they are so well camouflaged, and so tiny, they are in tremendous danger from car and truck drivers who would not see them until it is too late.
Nesting and courting in the parking lot.
Yesterday morning at 7am, an off leash day, the PiPl were chased off the beach by a dog and its owner. They flew to the parking lot. For the next twelve and a half hours, Mama and Papa did not leave the parking lot. They did not eat or drink, but spent the entire time courting, mating, and building a nest scrape in the gravel, traveling from white line to white line. It was sadly beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. Beautiful in the way that no matter what obstacles they face, the little pair’s desire to reproduce is so powerful that they will continue to try, even in a habitat that is so wholly unsuitable for raising chicks. Sad and heartbreaking because this scenario was unquestionably and completely unnecessary.
Yesterday the dogs were in the nesting area, poohing, peeing, romping, and digging. It happened throughout the day, from 6:30am to 8pm, but was especially challenging during high tide, when so little beach remains. The following batch of photos was taken in the short period of time that I was on the beach and not in the parking lot, as the tide was receding.
When dog owners were asked by volunteer Preston if they were aware of the PiPl–most said yes–as they allowed their dog to wander into the nesting area.
Dog runs into nesting area, dog goes poop, owner enters nesting area to clean up poop, can’t find poop, has to muck around in nesting area to find, finally finds poop, cleans up, dog meets a new friend in the nesting area.
Last night Mama and Papa flew back to the beach after the coast was clear, at sunset. As you can imagine, they were ravenous, and ate with great gusto at the water’s edge.
Early this morning I found all three eating and bathing in the tide pools, before they were chased off again later in the morning. As I write this, the Mama and Papa are taking turns sitting on their nest scrape, in the rain, in the parking lot.
The Piping Plovers can’t catch a break – off leash dogs this morning on an on leash day.
It is difficult for the animal control officers to give out tickets as the ordinance is written, when it is an off leash day, especially when the dogs are running willy nilly and far away from their owners. And it is impossible for them to be there 24/7.
Early this morning, which is an on leash day, Officer Dolan was handing out tickets.
Call your councilors and Mayor Sefatia’s office and let them know your thoughts on protecting the Piping Plovers. Tomorrow is the last day of the spring summer season 2018 that dogs are allowed on the beach. But they are not allowed under ANY circumstances in the nesting area. If you see a dog on the beach at any time of day or night after April 30th please call the dog officer at 978-281-9746. Thank you.
I have an idea to make a brochure to not only hand out to people at the parking lot entrance to the beach, but to circulate door to door around the neighborhood. We need to help folks understand why it is so important that we help the PiPing Plovers.
Thank you to all the volunteers who helped yesterday. If you came and I unfortunately did not see you it is because most of the day was spent in the parking lot. Thank you to Lillian and Craig, Leontine, Deborah, Heather, and Preston for your good work!!
No one paid attention to our signs that we added to the nesting area yesterday. My friend Deborah Cramer stopped by to see the PiPl and watched half a dozen dogs running through and playing in the nesting area. When I returned to the beach at 6:30, the PiPl were in the parking lot, again driven out of the nesting area by off leash dogs. Very frightening when an SUV drove past and they didn’t budge.
While the PiPL were in the parking lot, I thought would be good time to reinforce the signs with duct tape. When at the nesting area adjusting signs, there were more dogs owners allowing dogs to run through and completely ignoring the signs.
“Pets should be leashed and under control of their owners at all times from April 1 to August 31 on beaches where piping plovers are present or have traditionally nested. Pets should be prohibited on these beaches from April 1 through August 31 if, based on observations and experience, pet owners fail to keep pets leashed and under control.”
All the signs in the world won’t make people who don’t care, care.
Tomorrow, especially at high tide, and as the skies are clearing, I am afraid will be another terrible situation for the PiPl. If you would like to lend a hand, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just come. I will be there for the better part of the day and will show you what to do. High tide tomorrow is at 10:54 am. Thank you!
My friend Lauren Mercadante from Manchester stopped by today to volunteer with the Piping Plovers and we added twenty signs on the posts surrounding the roped off area at boardwalk #3.
We had a new group of Piping Plover travelers fly in overnight, earlier in the week, but since that one-day stopover, where they rested and foraged at the nesting area around boardwalk #1, the travelers have not since been seen. If we see evidence of PiPl tracks at #1, we can add more signs there, too.
There has been tremendous criticism regarding signage. The signs that Greenbelt posted at Good Harbor Beach are similar in size and scope of information to signs used up and down the East Coast, and on the West Coast, too, for Snowy Plovers, a similarly threatened species. I especially like the first one and the second sign in the gallery and would like to design one for our Good Harbor Beach similar to one of these.
Kind folks have suggested adding banners to the posts, which I am afraid would only serve to attract gulls and crows, and would also disturb the PiPl. More kind folks have suggested fencing. I think that conservationists don’t use dune fencing for several reason. The adults (and chicks) need to run freely to and from the water’s edge to forage, the fencing would be disruptive to install, in our case, part of the fencing would need to be in the tidal zone and would easily be damaged during high tides, and because it would trap small predatory mammals within.
Regardless of whether or not we have adequate signs, we find ourselves in the struggle of Dog Owner versus Piping Plover. It’s partly because the Plovers have arrived a full month earlier than in previous years. In 2016 and 2017, they arrived at Good Harbor Beach when the beaches are closed to dogs for the season, on May 15th, and May 3rd, respectively. This year, the PiPl arrived on April 3rd. I know this for certain because this spring I had been checking everyday since mid-March.
There are many, many dog owners who are keeping their dogs leashed when at Good Harbor Beach and many who are walking their dogs at alternative locations during this last week in April. We should all be grateful and appreciative to these friends of the PiPl, I know I sure am!
The struggle of Dog Owner versus Plover is not simply an issue at this time of year, with dogs off leash during the month of April, but is consistently challenging throughout the summer during the entire nesting season. Yes, there are folks from out of town who aren’t familiar with our no dogs on the beach between May 1st through October 1st ordinance, but the folks who most frequently ignore our ordinances are people who live here and are aware of the rules. This is especially apparent in the early hours of the morning and after five, when people know there are few enforcers on duty at those times of day.
Another threat to Piping Plovers, again created by humans, are people that leave their trash on the beach. Good Harbor Beach looks pristine and incredibly beautiful after the tremendous job done by the Clean City Commission’s Great Gloucester Cleanup volunteers. Daily there are typically only a handful of crows and gulls. Soon that will change. People will leave their trash on the beach, which attracts a plethora of hungry gulls and crows, which eat baby chicks.
Piping Plovers face many other threats including fox and coyotes that forage on eggs, large predatory birds such as Great Horned Owls, plastic pollution, loss of habitat, and rising sea level. But the two threats that are under our immediate ability to manage are preventing dogs and people from disturbing the nesting sites, and keeping the beaches super clean of trash.
Many North Shore beaches that find themselves home to the Piping Plovers are also under the management of federal and state organizations. Plum Island is a US Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Nahant and Revere Beaches are managed by DCR, and Crane Beach is managed by the Trustees of Reservations.
Gloucester has none of the daily oversight and funds provided by federal and state organizations. The Piping Plovers need our help and so it is up to we citizens of Gloucester and Cape Ann to do all we can.
Piping Plovers are facing extinction. There are approximately only one thousand five hundred breeding pairs in the world, and that simply isn’t enough to sustain the population, especially since the rate of fledging has recently dropped precipitously. Conservationists hope to raise the number to at least two thousand five hundred pairs, and the bird will not be taken off the threatened species list until that time.
The early arrival of the Piping Plover this year signals a success of sorts. The pair successfully fledged one chick last summer, which is better than the current overall Massachusetts state average of .6. The birds are maturing and finding their way more easily to GHB.
This year, there simply wasn’t enough time to change the dog ordinances, which as they are currently written, allow dogs off leash fifteen days out of the month of April. Because the leash ordinances at this time allow dogs off leash, the only way we are going to help the Plovers is if we work together as a community, to help each other understand what is happening with the PiPl, and do all we can to protect this tiniest of shorebirds on the busiest of our beaches.