Thank you again to the Gloucester DPW, and again to Phil Cucuru and Mike Tarantino. The repaired footbridge looks beautiful and the signage placement is very noticeable. We are grateful to Phil, Mike, Joe Lucido, Tommy Nolan, Kenny Ryan, Newt, Cindy, and the entire DPW and Good Harbor Beach crew for their outstanding effort in helping our PiPl family, since when they first arrived, way back on April 3rd. Their assistance, interest, and kindness is making a difference. Thank you ❤
We’re so very sorry to write that two chicks were killed today. Catherine Ryan witnessed a terrible scene with a large dog tearing around in the nesting area at dawn, and a volunteer monitor observed one taken by a gull.
Please volunteer to be a PiPl monitor. You will truly be making a difference in whether or not our PiPl chicks survive. And you’ll meet the nicest bunch of people. Anyone of us can show you what to do. The shifts can be as long as you like, but an hour is all we are asking. The weather forecast looks gorgeous this weekend, and it is Father’s Day on Sunday, so we are hoping to have two on at each shift. Contact email@example.com.
Please share this post and help spread the word that we need volunteers. Thank you ❤
Our little family is settling in, most importantly, finding lots of tiny insects in the wrack area. Cars weren’t the only threat in nesting at the parking lot, there simply did not seem to be sufficient food in the gravel and hard pack. Today, the chicks spent the early morning snuggling often under Mama and Papa; the temperature was chilly and the wind had picked up. Once the sun was shining brightly, they made their way to the water’s edge, learning how to forage on teeny mollusks and sea creatures.
The seagulls were ferocious this afternoon, so much so that our fearless pint-sized PiPl Papa bit a comparatively ogre-sized Great Black-backed in the butt, and made him squwack! The gulls were attracted to a Dunkin munchkin box that had blown into the roped off area. And although I arrived at sunrise, a dog owner and its pet had made fresh tracks through the nesting area. Between the dogs and the garbage-hungry gulls, human-created threats are far more dangerous than natural predators.
Sleepy eyes after morning snuggles
Looking mighty confident for only two-days old!
We definitely need more Piping Plover volunteer monitors, especially during the mid part of the day. If you would like to be a PiPl monitor, please email Ken Whittaker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you ❤
Late this afternoon, Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and my husband Tom observed the Plover family leaving the parking lot and heading toward the dunes. Dave shares that they first appeared to be heading to the beach via the marsh creek end, when they suddenly switched direction and started back in the opposite direction towards Boardwalk #3. They went part way down #3, then back toward the parking lot, then back down #3. The family next began to go through the dunes toward the the middle of the beach, away from the #3 roped off area. After all the zig and zagging, the little family returned to the boardwalk, and then headed straight through the dunes, in the direction of #3 nesting zone. Dave lost sight of the chicks, but could hear the parents urging them on. Out they tumbled, down the dune edge, and into the roped off #3 area!
We are elated that all four chicks made it safely out of the parking lot. Quite possibly this was the PiPl plan all along. Several times I observed the adults making the overland route at the very same time that they began nesting in the parking lot, which I had not seem them do in the the previous two years that they nested at GHB (in the very same location all three years).
The PiPl left the beach due to extreme dog disturbance while trying to court and nest, sadly finding the parking lot to be the quietest and safest place. Yesterday afternoon, we all observed folks trying to bring their dogs through the parking lot and onto the beach, after the life guards had left. The presence of dogs caused extreme alarm by the parents, they would pipe loud warnings and then leave the chicks to try to distract the dog. This is when chicks are at their most vulnerable, when the adults have to leave them to defend against predators. The problem is only going to get worse now that the footbridge has reopened. Please, please to the folks bringing your dogs to the beach after hours, now it is more critical than ever to please leave your pets at home. If any of our readers see a dog on the beach at anytime of day for any reason, first make sure the chicks are safe, and then please don’t hesitate to call the police.
Trash left on the beach is another huge issue for endangered shorebird chicks, of any species. Trash on the beach equals a plethora of seagulls. As do dogs, seagulls cause extreme duress for the PiPl parents. Even though the gulls prefer the easy garbage pickings left behind, they also eat baby chicks.
If you would like to be a a volunteer PiPl monitor, please contact email@example.com. Thank you!
Huge Shout Out to all our volunteers, Gloucester’s awesome DPW, Dave Rimmer, Ken Whitaker, Jasmine Weber, and Jonathan Regosin ❤
When I was there early in the morning there was a large group of dog owners by the Good Harbor Beach Inn area and the dogs were playing by the water’s edge, away from the nesting sites, and it was wonderful to see!
At noon I stopped by for a quick check on the PiPl, in between a meeting and babysitting, and it was a complete and utter disaster. There were dozens of dogs and people frolicking WITHIN the nesting areas, as if the signs were completely invisible. The nesting areas were so full of people and dogs, one of the pairs of PiPl had been driven off the beach and into the parking lot. They were trying to make nest scrapes in the gravel. Heartbreaking to see.
My husband and I put up roping as soon as I was finished babysitting. We ran out of rope for both areas and came back today to finish cordoning off the nesting sites. Hopefully the rope will help.
Perhaps because of climate change, and for reasons not fully understood, for the third year in a row, we now have a beautiful species of shorebird nesting at Good Harbor Beach. This year they arrived on April 3rd. Piping Plovers are a federally threatened species and it is our responsibility to do all that is humanly possible to insure their safety.
We live in coastal Massachusetts, which means we also have a responsibility in the chain of migration along the Atlantic Flyway to do our part to help all wildlife, particularly endangered wildlife.
Wouldn’t it be tremendous if the dog friendly people and all citizens of Gloucester would work together to change the leash laws to restrict dogs from our barrier beaches, Good Harbor Beach (and Wingaersheek, too, if birds begin nesting there as well), beginning April 1st?
Much, much better signage is needed as well as a wholehearted information campaign. And better enforcement of the current laws would be of great help as well however, if the laws are written such that dogs are allowed on the beaches during the month of April, which is the beginning of nesting season, then we are not being good stewards of species at risk.
We need help enforcing rules about keeping people and pets out of the dunes. The dunes are our best protection against rising sea level and are weakened terribly by trampling through the beachgrass and wildflowers.
It may be helpful for people to understand that the earlier the PiPl are allowed to nest, the earlier the chicks will be born, and the greater their chance of survival. Yesterday morning one pair mated and the female helped the male dig a nest, which means we could very well see eggs very soon (if they return to the nesting sites after yesterday’s debacle).
If the PiPl begin laying eggs now, and it takes about another month for hatching from the time the first egg is laid, the chicks would be a month old by the time July 4th arrives, when GHB becomes packed with visitors.
If the eggs and nest are destroyed, the nesting cycle will begin all over again and we will have chicks born over Fiesta weekend, with days-old chicks running around the beach on July 4th, as happened last year.
I believe that as a community we can work together to help the Piping Plovers, as was done last year. It took a tremendous effort by a fabulous group of volunteers. The hardest thing that the volunteers had to deal with were the seemingly endless encounters with scofflaw dog owners. Especially difficult were the sunrise and sunset shifts because folks think they can get away with ignoring the laws at those times of day. I cannot tell you how many times I have had terrible things said to me when I tried to speak to people about keeping their dogs away from the PiPl nesting sites. Some folks do not want to be told that their dog cannot play there.
Rather than expecting volunteers and citizens to call the dog officer, when it is usually too late by the time they arrive, the dog officers should be stationed at the beach at key times, on weekends, and after five pm, for example.
Now that we know the Piping Plovers are here this early in the season, better rules, signage, and more information need to be in place. Gloucester is not the only north shore coastal Massachusetts area this year experiencing Piping Plovers arriving earlier than usual. We can learn much historically from how other communities manage these tiniest and most vulnerable of shorebirds. For example, after April 1st, no dogs are allowed at Crane Beach. Throughout the year, no dogs are allowed at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and at Revere Beach (also home to nesting Piping Plovers), which was the first public beach established in the United States, no dogs are allowed from April 1st to mid-September.
The female Piping Plover lays one egg approximately every day to every few days, usually until a total of three to four eggs are laid. The male and female begin sitting on the eggs when all are laid. Until that time, the eggs are extremely vulnerable to being stepped upon.
Currently the two nesting areas identified on Good Harbor Beach are taking up more space than will be the case once the PiPl begin to lay eggs. As soon as the first egg is laid, an exclosure will be placed over the nest and the overall cordoned off area will shrink some.