Tag Archives: Essex County

COYOTE MATING SEASON!

Are you seeing more Coyotes (Canis latrans) lately? The reason may be because Coyotes are breeding. Mating season peaks in mid-February and at this time of year we often observe pairs. If you are seeing Coyotes in your neighborhood, please write. Thank you!

Coyote on the Prowl – The beautiful robust Coyote seen in the above clips was successful hunting an Eastern Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus). After capturing and then, I think, double checking that it was fully incapacitated, he gleefully rolled around on the Meadow Vole many times over before resuming eating. Royalty free music by Antonio Vivaldi ” L’inv erno, Concerto No.4 In Fa Minore.”

I haven’t seen our neighborhood Coyotes recently, perhaps because several unfortunately had what appeared to be very advanced stages of mange.

Eastern Coyote pup image courtesy Wiki Commons media

The average gestation period for Coyotes Is about 63 days, which means the pups are usually born from mid-March to mid-May. The litter may be anywhere from four to seven pups. Coyotes usually sleep above ground. The only time they use a den is during pup season. A den my be a rocky outcrop, hollowed out tree stump, or an existing burrow made by a Racoon, Red Fox, or other mid-sized burrowing mammal. Sometimes the female digs a den from scratch.

The Eastern Coyote is a colossally successful species. The map below illustrates how dramatically the Eastern Coyote’s range has expanded in less than 120 years.

HANK HERON CATCHES A WHOPPER!

For many months, we lovers-of-Niles Pond have been treated to the presence of a regularly appearing Great Blue Heron. Great Blue Herons are nothing new to Niles Pond, it’s just that this one could be seen daily at one corner of the Pond. The elegant heron was assigned the nickname Hank by my friend Pat Morss. Hank hunted, preened, and rested for hours on end in this one particular spot. Occasionally we would see two Herons, Hank in his location, and the others around the perimeter of the Pond.

The fish in the film clip is the largest i have seen Hank catch. I think it’s a Common Yellow Perch, but if my fishermen friends know differently, please write.

Hank didn’t mind when the Pond briefly froze over as he was still able to find food. He departed after the ice skaters arrived. Of course the Pond is for all to enjoy, I just don’t think Hank felt comfortable sharing. Lately, a solitary GBH that looks alike like Hank has been foraging at the salt marsh at Good Harbor Beach. Hopefully, if it is Hank, he will get the 411 to head south 🙂

It’s not unusual for GBHerons to winter over on Cape Ann however, most do not. Hank will have an easier time of it if he does migrate. The purple shaded areas of the map denote the Great Blue Heron’s year round range.

 

FAR FLUNG NORTHERN LAPWING IN OUR MIDST – AND A PIPING PLOVER RELATION!

This beautiful Northern Lapwing has been residing in Ipswich; it is thought at least since the violent storm of December 22nd.

The Lapwing was so interesting to watch as it foraged in the pasture using the same foot tamping technique that we see Piping Plovers exhibit when hunting for mini mollusks and sea worms at the beach. The Lapwing was using its feet to instead stir up worms in the muddy field.

Also called the Green Plover, the Lapwing is very elegant looking, with glossy green plumage (when caught in the right light), and a fine crest accented with long wispy feathers.  It’s quite a bit larger than the Piping Plover, several inches larger than even a Killdeer.

The adorable chicks look like a cross between Killdeer, PiPl, and Semi-palmated Plover chicks! Chick images courtesy Wiki Commons media

Typically, the wind in the North Atlantic flows in a positive phase from west to east. We occasionally see Lapwing vagrants when the wind in the North Atlantic changes its pattern to a negative east to west flow.

To better understand why New England, Newfoundland, and Labrador are occasionally “invaded” by Northern Lapwings, read this easy to comprehend article by author Amy Davis here:

Lapwing distribution: yellow breeding range; purple wintering range; green year-long resident.

Lapwing distribution: yellow breeding range; purple wintering range; green year-long resident.

The map below shows where Northern Lapwings have been observed in the US and Canada.

Lapwings are sensitive to climate change, which is thought to explain a northward expansion of its range.

December 22nd storm damage to the berm that separates freshwater Niles Pond from the Atlantic Ocean.

3 – 2 -1 GLOUCESTER’S LOBSTER TRAP TREE!

3 -2 – 1 GLOUCESTER’S LOBSTER TRAP TREE!

WOW! WAY TO GO ROCKPORT!!!

TRIPLE WOW, actually! Hats off to the Rockport Department of Public Works and all who are involved with installing and decorating the spectacular tree in the center of town. I don’t recall ever seeing so many lights on the tree and it seems extra especially wondrous this year. 

Looking for her favorite ball on the tree, the red one with the “bumps,” has become a tradition for Charlotte and I. Happy girl finding it <3

Tonight is a perfect night to go and see the tree as it is Rockport’s Holiday Shopping Night. Lots of gift prizes and an after party at Fleur Cuisine. For more details visit Christmas in Rockport here.

LOBSTER TRAP TREE LIGHTING AND ART HAVEN OPEN HOUSE SATURDAY FROM 4:00 -5:30!

The Lobster Trap Tree lighting is Saturday, December 10th, at 4:30!

Please join Art Haven for their holiday open house for the Lobster Trap Tree lighting on Saturday (12/10) from 4-5:30.Art Haven is filled to the brim with buoys and they can’t wait to hang them up!

WONDROUS SUN PILLAR OVER CAPE ANN

Out filming wild creatures in the trees at dusk, and very focused, when I turned around and caught a brief glimpse of this beautiful red pillar in the sky.  Not a clue as to what it was called, I took a few snapshots as it progressively became fainter and am so glad I did. I am late in posting my photos and several folks have identified it as a sun pillar or solar pillar.

More about sun pillars from EarthSky –

“Sun pillars are beams of light that extend vertically upward (or downward) from a bright light source, such as the sun or another bright light low on the horizon. They can be 5 to 10 degrees tall and sometimes even higher. They might lengthen or brighten as you gaze at them.

They’re beautiful and wondrous. They’re also the source of some UFO reports!

Sun pillars or light pillars form when sunlight (or another bright light source) reflects off the surfaces of millions of falling ice crystals associated with thin, high-level clouds – for example, cirrostratus clouds. The ice crystals have roughly horizontal faces. They are falling through Earth’s atmosphere, rocking slightly from side to side.

When is the best time to see a sun pillar or light pillar? You’ll most often see sun pillars when the sun is low in the western sky before sunset, or low in the east just after the breaking of dawn. You might even see a sun pillar when the sun is below the horizon. Light pillars can be seen at any time of night.

They’re called sun pillars when the sun helps make them. But the moon or even streetlights can create this light phenomenon, too, in which case the name light pillar is more appropriate.

These pillars of light often prompt people to report sightings of UFOs. They can sometimes look strange! There are said to be a lot of UFO reports caused by light pillars over Niagara Falls, where the mist from the rush of descending water interacts with the city’s many upward facing spotlights. Light pillars do appear frequently over Niagara Falls, especially during the winter.

As always, the great website Atmospheric Optics is a wonderful place to go and learn more about sun pillars.”

LOBSTER TRAP TREE LIGHTING AND BUOY PAINTING AT CAPE ANN ART HAVEN!!

Cape Ann’s beautiful Lobster Trap Tree is ready for lights! Super excited to write that this year, David Brooks and friends have created the magical walk-through style tree. The past few years, because of Covid, the tree was fantastic but we weren’t able to enter, look up, and experience the starry wonderment of being surrounded by the holiday lights..

Lobster Trap Tree lighting is scheduled for Saturday, December 10th, at 4:30. 

Buoy painting is full underway. As usual, the event is tremendously well organized. Charlotte had a grand time painting her buoy with Christmas trees and rainbows. So many thanks to Traci and the Cape Ann Art Haven staff for providing a meaningful and fun holiday event for all the local kids. There is no charge although, if able, parents are asked to make a donation when it’s time to pick up the buoys.

 

 

WHERE EVER TRAVELS A FLOCK OF SONGBIRDS, SO FOLLOWS THE COOPER’S HAWK

Throughout the summer and autumn, juvenile Cooper’s Hawk(s) have been observed hunting on Eastern Point. We see them zooming low and stealthily down roadways and soaring high amongst the treetops. There is no way of knowing if they are one and the same although one bird in particular appears to have developed a keen interest in the flock of Dark-eyed Juncos currently foraging in the neighborhood. Nearly every evening at dusk he hungrily swoops in, but never seems to capture one.

Well-camouflaged Dark-eyed Juncos, also known as Snowbirds

The Snowbirds have a neat set of tricks. They all scatter to the surrounding trees and shrubs. The slate gray and brown Dark-eyed Juncos are well camouflaged but that is not their only secret to survival.  Rather than singing their typical lovely bird song, from their hiding places, they all begin making an odd chirping-clicking sound. From every bush and shrub within the nearby vicinity, you can hear the clicks. I think the clicking is meant to confuse the Cooper’s Hawk!

He’ll first dive into a bush hunting a Junco, come up unsuccessfully, then swoop over to a nearby tree, perched and well hidden in the branches while on the lookout for dinner. The Snowbirds click non-stop until the Cooper’s departs. After the hunter flies away, they all come out of their hiding places, some from branches mere feet from where the Cooper’s was perched. After a short time, they resume their lovely varied birdsong.  I recorded audio of the Junco’s clicking and hope to find out more about this fascinating behavior.

Although we hope the young Cooper’s is finding food, I am rather glad he’s not that good at catching Snowbirds.

Cooper’s Hawks are a conservation success story. You can read more about the reason why in a post form several years ago: SPLENDID COOPER’S HAWK – A CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORY GIVES HOPE. Note the difference in the plumage in the two stories. The Cooper’s Hawk in that post is an adult. The Cooper’s chasing the Snowbirds is a juvenile. Both are about crow-sized, with the typical flat topped head.

Adult Cooper’s Hawk

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

RARE LARK SPARROW RETURNS TO #gloucesterma!

The Lark Sparrow returns!  It’s been a delight to observe her foraging at Eastern Point. She has been here for over a week, finding plenty to eat in the seed heads of wildflowers. The Lark Sparrow is also eating caterpillars she uncovers at the base of plants and snatching insects tucked in the tree branches.

You can see from the Lark Sparrow’s range map that she is far off course, although this is the second time I have seen a visiting Lark Sparrow at Eastern Point. In November of 2019, we were graced with an extended visit from a Lark Sparrow. You can read more about that here:

THE RARELY SEEN IN MASSACHUSETTS LARK SPARROW IS STILL WITH US!

While working on the Piping Plover film project, I am also creating a half hour long documentary on the ecology of New England pond life. Some of the beloved creatures that we regularly see at our local ponds that are featured in the film include Beavers, Muskrats, Otters, herons, frogs (of course), raptors, butterflies, bees, spiders, turtles, snakes, songbirds, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Being able to include rarely seen wild creatures such the Lark Sparrow, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and the Orange-crowned Warbler adds to the joy and fun of the film and i am so excited to be working on this project.  I just hope I can edit everyone in within a half hour time frame!

 

Lark Sparrow Eastern Point 2022

When out in the field and only a quick glance is afforded, the easiest way to tell the difference between the the Lark Sparrow and the Song Sparrow, (the sparrow most commonly seen in these part) is to compare breast feathers. The Lark Sparrows breast is white with only faint streaking and a prominent black spot in the center of the upper chest. Compare that to the more heavily streaked Song Sparrow’s chest feathers (see below).

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS EATING POISON IVY

All around Cape Ann, from West Gloucester to East, from Cape Hedge to Good Harbor to Cox Reservation, I have been checking out the Poison Ivy patches and sure enough, there are Yellow-rumped Warblers relishing the white waxy fruits at every locale. Who knew it was a thing 🙂 And now I have a new favorite species to add to the long list of beloved wild creatures.

According to Cornell, Yellow-rumped Warblers are the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in Wax Myrtle and Bayberries. This ability to digest waxy fruit allows the Yellow-rumped Warbler to winter as far north as Newfoundland.

Yellow -rumped warblers are versatile foragers. They eat insects in the spring, summer, and when available. You may see them picking at insects on washed up seaweed. During migration and the winter months, their habit is to eat Poison Ivy fruits, grapes, Wax Myrtle, Bayberries, Virginia Creeper berries, dogwood fruits, and Juniper berries. Yellow-rumped Warblers also eat goldenrod seeds and beach grass seed, and if you are fortunate to have them at your feeder, provide Sunflowers seeds, raisins, peanut butter, and suet.

The Yellow-rumped Warblers have been dining on PI fruits for over a month. As autumn has unfolded, I’ve added new clips to the short film below. Filmed from mid-September to mid-October I see no signs of the feast abating as there is still plenty of fruit around. More photos to come when I have time to sort though.

See a story form March of this year, Yellow-rumped Warblers in the Snow.

For more about Poison Ivy, and the myriad species of wildlife this native vine supports, go here:

Leaves of Three, Let it Be

Please join the Town Green and the Save Salt Island Group for what promises to be a fantastic virtual webinar and workshop on the ecosystem of. Good Harbor Beach.

Event: The first of a three-part workshop/webinar series focusing on the Good Harbor Beach ecosystem: Protecting and Preserving the Good Harbor Beach Ecosystem for Current and Future Generations

When: Wednesday, October 26th from 6:30-8:30pm on Zoom (register here) (https://bit.ly/3RBEa3v)

What: An online workshop/webinar with several small group breakout sessions for participants to discuss the issues raised and reflect on the changes that have already happened

Speakers include:

  • Professor Charles Waldheim from the Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Jayne Knott, TownGreen board member and founder of HydroPredictions
  • Denton Crews from Friends of Good Harbor
  • Mary Ellen Lepionka, local historian

You will learn about:

  • The history of Good Harbor Beach
  • The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem and current climate threats
  • Incremental sea level rise, flooding, ecosystem adaptation, and vulnerable infrastructure
  • The Great Storm scenario based on research from Harvard Graduate School of Design

 The first workshop will be followed by a Good Harbor Beach field trip on October 27th to tour vulnerable areas identified in the workshop. The second and third workshop/webinars will address adaptation options and project planning for the Good Harbor Beach area. The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem workshop/webinar series is a pilot public education program that TownGreen will replicate to focus on climate impacts in Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport.

Jayne F. Knott, Ph.D.

JFK Environmental Services LLC

https://HydroPredictions.com

jfknott@hydropredictions.com

508-344-2831

LEAVES OF THREE, LET IT BE

In thinking about our community’s efforts to Save Salt Island from deforestation and development, I wanted to share evidence that the vines and shrubs on the island are an important source of food for a host of small mammals and birds.

One of the most reviled of plants, Poison Ivy, is an excellent food plant for wildlife and will not cause the itchy uncomfortable rash if you do not touch the leaves, stems, fruits, and roots. Poison Ivy can either look like a shrub or a vine. Regardless of the shape, the leaves are easily identifiable in that they are always arranged in three; two leaves opposite one another, and between them the third leaf is borne on a stem growing at a right angle from the two shorter leaves.

Common Bonnet Fungi and Poison Ivy

Out on Eastern Point there are large patches of Poison Ivy that grow smack on the edge of very well traveled pathways. They have grown that way for decades, yet no one bothers the Poison Ivy and the Poison Ivy bothers no one. The spring blooming greenish yellow clusters of flowers are beloved by bees and myriad pollinators, while the vitamin rich white waxy berries are relished by resident and migrating songbirds alike.

In autumn, the plant’s glossy green leaves turn a brilliant red, which acts as a “red flag” to hungry songbirds. The long list of birds that dine on Poison Ivy fruits include Yellow-rumped Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Mockingbirds, Song Sparrows, Gray Catbirds, Bobwhites, and many, many more.

Poison Ivy Tips – If you come in contact, rinse the area with cold water, not soap, as soon after contact as possible. Ocean water works well when near to the beach. If you have Jewelweed growing handily nearby, smear the juice of the stem on the exposed skin. Never burn Poison Ivy. With burning,  urushiol (the poisonous oil in Poison Ivy) becomes volatilized in the smoke and you can get it in your lungs, which is very dangerous and can even lead to death.

Yellow-rumped Warbler and Poison Ivy

PIPING PLOVER MIGRATING THROUGH CAPE ANN! #ploverjoyed

Very late  in the day Thursday, September 29th, while checking on Monarchs, and other travelers, a new friend pointed out a Piping Plover foraging in the seaweed at Brace Cove. I zipped down to the beach and sure enough, there was a very shy PiPl foraging alongside Semipalmated Plovers and sandpipers of several different species. He/she had a fairly steady gait so I am certain it wasn’t Hip Hop, although it was a little challenging to see in the super thick seaweed. And, too, this PiPl was extremely skittish of larger birds flying overhead, displaying an usual way of crouching its upper body and holding its tail end up high, a behavior not shared with Hip Hop.

I returned to Brace Cove early the following morning and the traveling PiPl had departed overnight.

I am posting this information especially for fans of Hip Hop to show that it is not unheard of for stragglers to have not yet left our region. It’s evolution and nature’s way for creatures to remain and depart over a period of time, to ensure survival of the species. If all the Monarchs and all the PiPlovers migrated at precisely the same time, one storm could wipe out the entire species.

Safe travels to all our little migrating friends. Hopefully they are finding shelter from the storm.

PIPLS IN THE GLOUCESTER TIMES – BEST YEAR EVER!

Good morning PiPl Friends!

Please check out today’s Gloucester Times for a terrific article about our GHB PiPls, written by Ethan Forman. https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/best-year-ever-for-plovers-at-good-harbor-beach/article_cba646a6-32d4-11ed-ba55-1fc4ad06ff8b.html

Ethan, Paul Bilodeau (the Times photographer), and I met last week at GHB. PiPl Ambassador Susan was out looking for HipHop that morning, too, and she stopped by during the interview. Ethan mentioned years ago he had written articles about the Plovers on Plum Island. He asked lots of great questions about our GHB Plovers and he’s such an excellent writer, I felt very good about the interview. Carolyn Mostello, our Massachusetts state waterbird biologist, provided a very thoughtful quote for the article. I was hoping to show Ethan and Paul Hip Hop that day, but he was doing his invisible act. Everyday I am hopeful he has departed however, as of yesterday, he was still here.

Hip Hop eleven weeks old September 12

I couldn’t find Hip Hop this morning feeding with the Semipalmated Plovers and Killdeers at the Creek, or at the front of the beach. The wind was blowing in great gusts and he knows where all the best locations are to get out of the wind. Hoping for the possibility that he joined the many travelers during last night’s massive migration

Semipalms at the Creek this morning

Thank you to all our super Ambassadors. We could not have had our “Best Year Ever” without each and every one of you and your tremendous gifts of time and patience. 
Have a super day and enjoy this exquisite weather!
xxKim

‘Best year ever’ for plovers at Good Harbor Beach

Efforts to protect piping plovers nesting at the popular Good Harbor Beach this summer paid off: Between two pairs nesting, there were seven eggs. Of those, six chicks hatched, and five chicks fledged.

“It’s our best year ever,” said Kim Smith, who heads up the group Piping Plover Ambassadors at the beach.

And the success here of the piping plovers — a threatened species — this summer revolved around the storyline of two handicapped shorebirds, a mom who had lost her foot but still successfully hatched a clutch of four eggs, and her chick dubbed “Hip Hop”, who had a lame right foot and was slow to develop.

FIND THE COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/best-year-ever-for-plovers-at-good-harbor-beach/article_cba646a6-32d4-11ed-ba55-1fc4ad06ff8b.html

PIPING PLOVER HIP HOP UPDATE!

Dear PiPl Friends,

Happy ten-week old birthday to the irrepressible Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Hip Hop! Monday marked Hip Hop’s 10 week, or 70 day, old birthday.

He spends his days alternating between resting well-camouflaged in depressions in the sand and robustly feeding, oftentimes off on his own, and occasionally with migrating shorebirds.

We don’t have experience with lone Plovers lingering this long into the summer. Despite his limping gait, he looks beautiful, healthy, and ready to migrate.

Massachusetts is at the fore of Piping Plover recovery. We have approximately 700 pairs nesting on Massachusetts beaches. It’s also great to hear about how well other states are doing. Maine has 140 nesting pairs and fledged a record number number of chicks, 252, to be precise (a record for Maine). Read more here, story shared by PiPl Ambassador Duncan Todd.

The water has been walk-in warm and perfect for swimming this past week. Enjoy these last days of August!

xxKim

WONDERFULLY GENEROUS DONATION TO THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS FROM THE BROOKLINE BIRD CLUB!

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors, and the entire community of Cape Ann’s Plover friends, would like to thank the Brookline Bird Club and board member John Nelson for the kind and very generous donation to help purchase signs and badges to help protect the Piping Plovers at Cape Ann beaches. We have such an amazing group of PiPl Ambassadors and to be recognized by the BBC is truly an honor.

The Brookline Bird Club, the largest and most active bird club in Massachusetts, is pleased to donate money to support the Piping Plover Ambassadors in their volunteer efforts to protect the Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach, to educate the public about this wonderful and endangered shorebird, and to help many people in Gloucester and beyond to experience the delight of watching these birds and following their story as they breed and raise their young on the beach. On behalf of the birding community and plover lovers everywhere, we thank you.” The Good Harbor Beach Plover Ambassadors (missing a few) Paula, Alexa, Jennie, Jonathan, Duncan T., Susan, Lisa, Duncan H, Jill, Sharen, Barbara, Deborah 

For more information about the Brookline Bird Club, please go here.

For more information about John Nelson, author of the beautiful book Flight Calls: Massachusetts Through Birds, please go here.

PPP (POSITIVELY PRO PLOVER!) AND PIPING PLOVER HIP HOP UPDATE

Tree Swallows currently coming in waves and massing at Good Harbor Beach

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Our little Hip Hop is still present at Good Harbor Beach. We’re hopeful that he will depart to begin his southward migration at some point soon but in the mean time, please know that he is foraging with great gusto, finding lots and lots of good food at the various habitats at GHB. In addition to his usual PiPl diet, the storm last week brought in great amounts of seaweed and that has become one of his favorite foraging locations. Piping Plovers eat a wide range of invertebrates, including insects, mini mollusks, and sea worms.

Piping Plover Hip Hop turned nine weeks old on Monday. Here he is at 60 days old.

Where do Plovers go in winter? is a question often asked of we Ambassadors. We know from banding programs at the University of Rhode Island that many Plovers from southern New England first head to the barrier beaches at Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. Here they will stay for about 45 days, foraging and storing up their lipid reserves for the next leg of the migration. Most will then continue on to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and remote islands in the Caribbean, where they will stay until early March.

Thank you to all in our community who have taken the time to write and to call in support of the Plovers, to our PiPl Friends and to new friends who have been prompted to write. We so very much appreciate your kind words and good wishes for the Plovers. We’d like everyone to understand how vulnerable is this tiny threatened bird however, not all people have the capacity nor vision to see the beauty and joy in conserving our wild creatures and wild spaces, for the protection of life on Earth as we know it, and for future generations to come.

We are keeping our messaging PPP – Positively Pro Plover! 

THE MOVIE – THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS #ploverjoyed

The story of a tiny pair of birds that arrived on the shores of Cape Ann, and the remarkable community that came together to help provide safe harbor for the pair to nest and to raise their young.

Excerpt from the film’s introduction – In 2016, a young pair of Piping Plovers began nesting at Good Harbor Beach, Cape Ann’s most popular seaside destination. The first several years were difficult for the Plovers. The community was neither prepared nor knowledgeable in how to manage a pair of highly vulnerable nesting shorebirds.

There were so many dog disturbances on the beach that the Plovers were driven into the beach parking lot…

I hope you enjoy this short film! Stay for the Epilogue <3

PIPING PLOVER HIP HOP AND FAMILY UPDATE

Dear PiPl Friends,

Truly a milestone for our Good Harbor Beach PiPl fledglings, today marks their seven week old birthday, or 49 days. Five chicks fledged and that in and of itself is also a milestone. Hip Hop isn’t the best of flyers as of this writing. Dad and one of the siblings are still with him, which is also remarkable. Every morning finds the three cozily snoozing within close proximity to one another, while the three super flyers are zooming around the beach.

Dad, Hip Hop, and sibling

This past week, several of we GHB PiPl Ambassadors attended the annual Northeast Coastal Waterbird Cooperators Meeting. Representatives from the Massachusetts seven coastal regions, along with coastal waterbird conservation leaders from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, and the Great Lakes provided data and stories from their respective shorebird conservation programs. Not only are Piping Plovers covered, but also Least Terns, Common Terns, Roseate Terns, and American Oyster Catchers.

We all should be very proud that Massachusetts is once again at the fore of Piping Plover conservation. There are about 700 breeding pairs in Massachusetts. Does that sound like a great number? Not really. There are only about 8,000 Piping Plovers worldwide. Compare that number to Snowy Owls; the population of Snowy Owls is thought to be around 28,000. There is still much work to be done in Piping Plover conservation.

Here are some local good news numbers shared at the meeting. The data was collected approximately two weeks ago. In 2022, the north of Boston region has so far fledged 135 chicks, with 54 chicks still on beaches for a possible total of 189 chicks! Five of which are from Good Harbor Beach!

I submitted a short film for the Coastal Waterbird meeting, titled The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, and am in the process of adding a few scenes. It should be ready to share with the community by the end of the week.

One of my favorite moments from this season, of all four siblings thermosnuggling under Dad.

CELEBRATING FIVE CHICK’S FIVE WEEK BIRTHDAY MILESTONE! #ploverjoyed

Dear PiPl Friends,

Happy five weeks old to our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover chicks! Today marks the day that all five are now five weeks old. The four Plover chicks from area #3 turned five weeks on Monday and the singleton from the Salt Island area #1 turns five weeks today. This is a milestone for both the Plovers and for the Cape Ann community!

The two Plover families have combined forces, or I should say the chicks are a unit; Super Dad is still reminding One Dad who is boss.

Hip Hop spends much of his time alone on the beach foraging. This is nothing new; we just have to keep our eyes peeled because Dad isn’t around quite as much to voice piping commands for him to get out of the way of foot traffic.

How long will the family stay together as a little unit? I have seen at other locations where I am filming, at the most, 49 days. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if they did stay, or at least Super Dad, because it would surely give Hip Hop a better chance of surviving.

The Squadron

Every year we have high hopes to successfully fledge chicks. This is most definitely our best year ever however, next year could be a complete bust. We know some things that contributed without a doubt to this year’s happy story. A tremendously dedicated group of round-the-clock Piping Plover Ambassadors is at the top of the list. If you see one of these kind-hearted PiPl Ambassadors, please let them how much you appreciate their efforts – Susan Pollack, Paula and Alexa Niziak, Marty Coleman, Jennie Meyer, Ann Cortissoz, Mary Keys, Sharen Hansen, Deb Brown, and Sally and Jonathan Golding. We also have a group of dedicated substitutes who are always willing to step in, even on a moment’s notice – Jill Ortiz, Barbara Boudreau, Duncan Hollomon, Karen Thompson, Lisa Hahn, Sarah Carothers, and Duncan Todd.

Working with our partners and PiPl Friends has provided a safe habitat for the Plovers.  Mark Cole and the DPW’s early actions in symbolically roping off nesting areas, placing important signage, and the decision not to rake the beach certainly contributed to this year’s success. Allowing the wrack to remain creates an abundance of foraging opportunities. Thank you to the entire DPW beach crew for keeping eyes on the chicks while working on the beach and for your always friendly demeanors  and interest in the Plover’s development.

Daily diligence and ticketing on the part of Gloucester’s Animal Control Officers Jamie Eastman and Tegan Dolan helped keep dogs off the beach after the March 31st date. We also want to thank the GPD and Mayor Verga for temporarily placing the large flashing light sign at Nautilus Road to let people know to keep pets off the beach, and the fine levied if caught.

Many thanks to Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship. For the past seven years, on a volunteer basis, Dave and his assistants have installed the wire exclosures that protect the Piping Plover’s eggs from avian and mammalian predation.

We’d also like to thank Carolyn Mostello, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist, for her thoughtful actions and continued excellent advice.

We are grateful for the help and timely actions taken by City Councilors Jeff Worthley and Scott Memhard who have taken an active interest in the Plovers and also Good Harbor Beach in general, particularly in the case of the contaminated Creek and getting swimmers out of the water.

We are so appreciative of the time and care Coach Lattof and the Gloucester Fishermen football team take in their attitude toward the Plovers. It has been a great teaching moment for the kids and the Coaches have developed and fully encouraged the kids’ tremendous positive outlook toward the birds.

Hip Hop and sibling, five-weeks-old

We also want to give a shout out to the GHB volleyball players who without fail, every evening pause their games to give the chicks the space they need to migrate back to their nighttime sleeping quarters.

We are so appreciative, too, of all the help given by the Plover’s community of well wishers, the early morning walkers including Pat and Delores, John Burlingham, Jan Bell, and Betty, to name only some, and who always jump in to lend a hand when needed. Thank you also to the Good Harbor Beach residential neighbors Sue and Donna who are always on alert, watching over the Plovers and sharing their concerns from their perspective as local residents.

The new beach reservation system has helped the Plovers in an unexpected way. Good Harbor Beach does not fill up as early and as frantically as it has on hot summer days in previous years. Early morning is an essential time of day for birds. They are extra hungry after the night long fast and need lots of space to forage undisturbed.

A heartfelt acknowledgement to all our PiPl Ambassadors, partners, and friends. The “it takes a village” adage has never been more true than in the case of Piping Plovers nesting at Cape Ann’s most popular seaside destination. Thank you!

xxKim

HIP HOP CATCHING UP! #ploverjoyed

Tiny handicapped Piping Plover chick Hip Hop, although developmentally challenged in comparison to his siblings, is nonetheless steadily growing. You can compare in the photos and video footage that he looks to be at about the same stage of development as were his siblings two weeks ago. His wings muscles are gaining in strength and fluffy tail feathers are beginning to grow.

Hip Hop is also wonderfully independent and forages far and wide along the length of the beach. If you see him on the beach, please remember that Hip Hop can’t yet fly to escape danger as can his siblings. Please give him lots and lots of space and please don’t try to take a close-up photo with your cell phone. The more he is able to forage without being disturbed, the more quickly he will grow.

This morning a scofflaw dog owner brought her dog to Good Harbor Beach. Fortunately, early morning daily GHB walkers P and D caught up with her to remind her of the dog ordinance. Hip Hop was only a few feet away, hunkered down in a divot, and could have so very easily been squished by a bouncy, enthusiastic off leash dog. Thank you P and D for your help this morning <3

Hip Hop’s sibling, photo taken about two weeks ago.

Hip Hop today

HAPPY NEWS TO SHARE FOR OUR JULY 24th PIPING PLOVER UPDATE

Good Morning PiPl People!

A gloriously beautiful sunrise at Good Harbor Beach!

We have a wonderfully interesting new development to share about out GHB PiPl families. Firstly, though, everyone is asking about Hip Hop. He is doing very well, albeit growing very slowly, and is perhaps about two weeks behind developmentally. Fortunately, he has a phenomenal Super Dad, who nurtures and protects him. As long as Dad does not leave to begin migrating before Hip Hop can fly, I am hopeful he will grow well. There have been documented cases where Plovers were on northern beaches into December and January. Hopefully, Hip Hop will not be here for an extended period of time, but if he is, as a community, I think we can keep watch over him.

Hip Hop, 34 days old

The happy news is that the one remaining chick at #1 (we lost the sibling last weekend) has joined Team Plover at #3, so we have a little family of five chicks and two Dads. The Dads just barely tolerate each other, but the kids are all getting along just fine!

Fledglings 34 and 31 days oldFour fledglings in beach camo

Our Good Harbor Beach Plovers are so fortunate to have the Creek, especially when the main beach is so packed full of people. And because the Creek is badly polluted, barely anyone is traveling down there. For some reason, the PiPls can tolerate the bacteria that is so toxic to humans, and are able to forage without disturbance.

Happy Sunday, stay cool, and have a great day! xxKim

Super Dad

 

 

STARTING YOUNG – OUR LITTLE WILDLIFE ADVOCATE

So proud of Charlotte this morning! She rose early with me to catch her first ever sunrise and to watch the Plovers. Rising in a dramatic fiery red ball, the sun was all that it could be for a first-ever sunrise experience.

We found the chicks foraging along the water’s edge, while she stood back as still as a statue to give them lots of space. She kept eyes on all four and helped herd a seagull away from my canvas beach bag, but not in the direction towards the chicks. She added more seashells and discarded “sand-shapers” to her collections and was most enamored of all our early morning friends.

The four thirty-day-old chicks at area #3, plus Dad, were all present and accounted for this morning. Little Hip Hop is still undersized, but quite independent.

Hip Hop and sibling at twenty-nine-days old

So very unfortunately, we lost one of the two chicks at area #1 over the weekend. Tomorrow, the one remaining area #1 chick attains the wonderful four week old milestone. Both Moms departed over a week ago so we have five chicks plus two Dads. The five chicks occasionally all forage together, while the Dads stay ever vigilant in watching over their respective chicks (and duking it out between themselves over “foraging rights.”)

HAPPY FOUR WEEKS OLD TO OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER PLUMPLINGS! #ploverjoyed

Hello Piping Plover Friends,

Today we are celebrating a milestone for our Piping Plover chicks at area #3, their four-week-old milestone. In one more week, the Plover chicks will be fully fledged. The three normally developing chicks are taking brief lift offs several feet above ground. We hope tiny Hip Hop won’t take too long to catch up to his siblings before he too is showing signs of flying.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful friends and partners who have worked with us to reach this important milestone of FOUR four-week-old chicks. Thank you Mark Cole and the Gloucester DPW beach crew, thank you to ACO officers Teagan and Jamie, thank you to City Councilors Scott Memhard and Jeff Worthley, thank you to the Gloucester football practice kids and coaches, thank you to the GHB volleyball players, and thank you to all the local residents and beachgoers who are watching out for the Plovers when they are at GHB enjoying a beach day. 

Hip Hop and sibling – you can compare in the photos how much more well-developed are the wings of Hip Hop’s siblings. Hip Hop is making great strides though and we have high hopes.

On a more difficult note, our area #1 family has become more elusive and with recent talk about eating Plovers we are concerned that we may be missing a chick after this weekend’s truly unnecessary “stirring the pot.” People don’t understand this kind of cruel talk encourages people to torment and to kill Plovers. They don’t get that this is a thing and that there is a well-documented history of grown men and women killing Plovers and destroying their nests and habitat because they were threatened by the presence of a tiny bird. Many of us hope this way of relating to wildlife died out in the previous century. I believe the great majority has evolved in how we think about protecting wild creatures, particularly in the case of safe guarding threatened, endangered, highly vulnerable and the smallest amongst us.

As has stated been countless times, the mission of the Piping Plover Ambassador program is to share the shore, to keep the beaches open for people and for shorebirds.

If you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador next year, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Our ambassadors are a wonderful group of kind hearted, funny, sweet, and dedicated people and we have become friends through our stewardship. We have tremendous support from most in the community however, a small handful have labeled us elites and silly bird watchers (not that there is anything wrong with bird watching!). Nothing could be further from the truth. We are an assemblage of hardworking professionals, artists, writers, poets, designers, to name but a few of our careers, who came together to take time out of our professional lives to care for a tiny endangered species that began calling Cape Ann home seven years ago. You don’t need prior “bird watching ” skills to join our Piping Plover Ambassador program and we would love to have you.

Four-week-old Plover plumplings