Dear PiPl Friends,
A brief note about film progress – Several friends have written to ask why I have not been posting as frequently as usual. For many months I have been working like crazy to get my forthcoming documentary, “The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay,” ready to bring to my film finishing editor, Eric. The schedule is tight, exacerbated by a complicated computer crash. We also have a houseful of family and guests, as I am sure is not atypical for the month of August for all of us who live on beautiful Cape Ann. The great news is I have made my deadline! Eric and and I will be working on finishing the documentary in September, along with raising the funds needed to finish and to submit to film festivals.
After weeks of unseasonably cooler temps, followed by a brief heat wave, the last few weeks here on Cape Ann have been mild and wonderfully enjoyable. We who live here are so very blessed to have escaped the baking temperatures experienced worldwide.
In some ways, our Cape Ann Piping Plovers benefitted from the off-weather but several extreme storms proved lethal. Super Mom and Super Dad laid a clutch of four eggs during the cool spring. Only three eggs hatched, which is unusual for our Super pair. A brief reminder- Super Mom and Super Dad are called as such as they are the breeding pair that first began nesting at Good Harbor Beach in 2016. Through pet disturbances, parking lot nests, bonfires, fireworks, 200 plus underage drinking parties, and physical disability, along with crows and gulls hungrily drawn to the garbage strewn beach, despite all that, they have managed to successfully breed at Good Harbor Beach for the past eight years. Super Mom and Dad are also the parents of HipHop, our handicapped fledgling from last summer.
Although the rain and colder than normal temperatures delayed nesting, when the weather is rotten, the beach is empty, which leaves nesting birds largely undisturbed. Shorebird monitors everywhere love to see foggy, rainy days as the birds get a break from the crowds. Paula, one of our stellar Ambassadors reminds us “rainy weather if for the birds,” and that is literally true, in a positive way 🙂
We inexplicably lost one of Super Mom and Dad’s chicks when it was about ten days old. The two remaining chicks, who soon gained the nicknames the Chubettes, grew fat and strong on a diet rich in sea life protein found in the tidal flats at GHB. We said farewell to the pair when they were approximately seven weeks old and had become ace flyers, zooming high and all around the beach.
Our second pair of Plovers did not fare as well. Two of the chicks hatched during a violent storm and the family did not survive.
Our third nesting pair, Mini Mom and Scruffy Dad, are a first time breeding pair at Good Harbor Beach. Mini Mom has very distinct feather patterning and I believe this was her third year attempting to nest at GHB. Late in the season, they laid a clutch of four eggs and all four hatched and were thriving. That terrible storm of several weeks ago, the one that raged all night and where lightening struck GHB several times, was devastating for the little family. It’s not unusual to lose one chick in a violent storm but to lose two chicks overnight was tough for us all. The good news though is that the remaining two offspring of Mini Mom and Scruffy Dad are the fattest little things you have ever seen and, at the time when this is published, may already have departed Good Harbor Beach for their wintering grounds.
This was the first year we Cape Ann PiPl Ambassadors have worked with Mass Audubon and Devon Harrington, the City’s assistant conservation agent. I simply cannot say enough good things about Devon and the fabulous Mass Audubon team. Headed by Lyra Brennan, Director of Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program, and Malarie (a Gloucester native), along with her fellow field agents Sydney (also from Gloucester), Kirsten, and Beth; the GHB Plovers had the best coverage ever! It was fantastic to have so many eyes on the PiPls throughout the day and communication between Mass Audubon and the Ambassadors was superb. Lyra and Devon had given an outstanding presentation on Mass Audubon protocols early in the spring and it set the tone for the summer. We are looking forward to working with Devon, Lyra, Malarie, Sydney, Kirsten, and the entire Mass Audubon team again next year!
Tiny PiPL chick learning to forage
Our dunes have not looked this healthy in many decades, due to an added benefit from roping off the low lying areas at the base of the dunes for Piping Plovers. Because the base of the dunes are being protected from foot traffic, for the most part, we no longer have receding bluffs with a sharply exposed face. The dunes are becoming gently sloped and covered with beach grass, Sea Rocket, Seaside Goldenrod, and Common Milkweed, all filling in and holding the sand in place.
Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship, shares that over at Coffins Beach in West Gloucester, he and his team have been managing a wonderfully active summer.The final count is not yet in, but it appears as though eight chicks will have fledged from Coffins. This may well bring the total of chicks from Gloucester beaches to a whopping one dozen!!
A huge shout out to Gloucester’s DPW. The GHB parking lot has been maintained beautifully this summer. The DPW is super on top of removing the giant mound of trash that is found at the footbridge nearly every morning and also emptying the barrels that are often overflowing after a busy beach day.
Gloucester’s DPW crew also installed the handicapped ramp at Boardwalk #2, making it much easier for wheelchairs and wagons to access the beach. Within hours of installing, the blue ramp was in much use!
An hour after install