Again this past week, our dynamic duo has been busily bonding, nest scraping, and mating up and down the full length of the beach. However, the extremely high tide that rose to the base of the dunes washed out the pair’s nest scrapes and temporarily put the kibosh on all things romantic. The two disappeared for a full day after the storm departed, with no spottings anywhere, not even tell tale PiPl tracks.
Super high tide through the spray zone
My heart always skips a beat after a day or two of no “eyes on the PiPls,” but I am happy to report Mom and Dad are back to the business of beginning a new family, seemingly unfazed. The storm and super high tide left in its wake lots of great bits of dried seaweed and sea grass which will in turn attract tons of insects, one of the PiPls dietary mainstays. There is a silver lining to every storm cloud 🙂
Just a friendly reminder if you would please, if you see the PiPls at the edge of the symbolic rope line or foraging in the tide pools, please do not hover. Hovering will distract the Plovers and delay courtship. And hovering attracts gulls and crows to the scene. Step back at least 50 to 60 feet and give them some space. Bring binoculars or a strong lens if you would like to observe the PiPls from a comfortable distance, comfortable to them that is. Thank you much!
Our sweet pair of PiPls has been left largely undisturbed this past week. Word is getting out that the dog officers are ticketing. There are fewer dog tracks running through the symbolically roped off areas, which is fantastic.
Mom and Dad are running the length of the beach, as evidenced by their tiny fleur-de-lis imprints in the sand. They are also nest scraping along the length of the beach however, the pair are primarily sticking within areas #1 (Salt Island side) and #3 (Creekside).
I am excited to think about the possibility of an early nest! If this warm, mild weather continues we may be in luck. For our newest Ambassadors and new friends of Gloucester’s Plovers, the earlier in the season that Piping Plovers nest, the greater the chance the chicks have of surviving. We owe tremendous thanks to Gloucester DPW assistant director Joe Lucido and his crew for installing the roping early. I just can’t express how grateful we are for the early action taken.
This past week I was traveling along the Massachusetts coastline documenting other Piping Plover locations for the PiPl film project and came across a duo of banded Plovers from Eastern Canada. I am waiting to hear back from the Canadian biologist in charge and will write more as soon as she writes back. It was wonderfully exciting to see not one, but two, all the way from Canada and I can’t wait to find out more!
Looking forward to working with you all!
Piping Plovers foraging Good Harbor Beach April 2021
Just a brief note to let you know the first nest scrape of the season was spotted in Area #3 (Creekside) and even though the following two days were stormy and windy, the pair scraped in the exact location three days later. They are settling in and it is happy news!
Many have written and phoned about the dogs still on the beach. Please, if you are on the beach, and you see a dog, whether on leash, off leash, large, medium sized, or the tiniest most cutest dog you have ever seen, please call the AC officer. The number is 978-281-9746. If we don’t continue to call, there will be no record of the extent of the disturbances. We are very aware of the problem and trying to solve. Thank you. 🙂
On another note, the Massachusett Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) installed symbolic roping at the same time as did Gloucester. We are right on par with other north shore communities in providing Piping Plover protections! Again, many thanks to Joe Lucido and Gloucester’s awesome DPW crew!
I hope everyone had a joyful Easter. Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Everything <3
Thank you so very much to Gloucester Times Editor Andrea Holbrook and staff writer Michael Cronin for sharing about the fence post installation and the great information provided for the public. We are so appreciative of the ongoing support given by the community and the Gloucester Times.
By Michael Cronin
Photo by Paul Bilodeau
March 29, 2021
Part of Good Harbor Beach is fenced off to protect some tiny seasonal visitors.
A crew of Public Works personnel began fencing out an area of the beach on Monday to protect migrating piping plovers. The first pair of the threatened shorebirds reportedly landed this weekend.
“They put up the posts today,” said Kim Smith, a local documentarian and advocate for the piping plovers. “The roping will come next and then they’ll put up the signage telling people what’s going on. This is super that they’re doing it early this season. The earlier it goes up, the earlier the chicks hatch which gives them a better chance of survival as the beaches aren’t so busy yet.”
According to Smith, the piping plovers that visit Good Harbor typically nest in the same spot each year.
“One year they nested out in the parking lot because they were pushed out by the dogs on the beach,” she recalled. “But once the ordinance was put in place they were able to return to their usual spot.”
Dog are banned from Good Harbor Beach between April and September. Wingaersheek will remain open to canines on odd numbered days until April 30.
Smith said she’s waiting for the birds to lay their eggs. Once they do, members of the Essex County Greenbelt Association will encapsulate the nest with wire netting.
“Dave Rimmer of Essex County Greenbelt has been guiding us since 2016,” said Smith. “He’s the first one I call when the first egg is laid. The holes in the cage are big enough for the birds to enter and leave, but small enough to keep predators out.”
Huge shout out to Gloucester’s DPW crew today for installing the metal posts that the rope and signs will attach to. It’s simply awesome that the posts are going up so early in the season! The PiPls thank you, too!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to get the posts, signs, and roping up as early in the season as possible. The earlier the protected areas are in place, the earlier the PiPls will nest generally speaking. The earlier in the season that they nest (when the beach is relatively quieter), the greater the chance the chicks will have of surviving and going on to fledge.
It was so windy on the beach this morning, but I think the gentlemen said their names were Brian, Dean, and Dan, but I could have that completely wrong. It’s so challenging to tell who is who when masks are worn.
Thanks so much again to the DPW crew for the fine job this morning, and many thanks for wearing masks, too.
There isn’t a day on the PiPlover beat that we don’t see members of Gloucester’s DPW crew working hard to keep Good Harbor Beach beautiful and beautifully functioning. The coronavirus pandemic is making their tasks doubly challenging, yet they always do a top-notch professional job.
I’d also like to point out that when we see photos of our parks and beaches that have been left trashed with garbage, the snapshots are almost always taken early, early in the morning before the DPW crew begins working. Our beaches and parks are always clean by the the time the vast majority wakens and visits. Everyday there is a pile of trash left by residents and nonresidents alike at the entrance to GHB; by around 7am it is gone and most never see it.
Mike Tarantino and Kevin Mazzeo measuring to repair one of the lifeguard chairs at Good Harbor
I checked on the PiPls early this morning, or more accurately should write, one Piping Plover. We haven’t seen the second PiPl since Monday afternoon. The beach was quiet, with only two dogs, and they were both on leash. Officer Teagan was also present, walking the length of the beach and keeping an eye out on our singular PiPl.
Officer Teagan Dolan
Mid-morning I returned and the beach was bustling with activity. Dave Rimmer and his crew, Dave McKinnon (the above photo is for Dave’s Mom!), and Mike were installing the symbolic fencing. Gloucester’s Conservation Agent was present as well as volunteer monitor Mary. The group was soon joined by Joe Lucido. Joe was there to check on the signs, which are a work in progress, and a DPW crew was present cleaning up all the winter trash that accumulates and blows into the marsh. Joe has been posting about the PiPls on the Gloucester Beaches facebook page and he mentioned the Plover posts get tons of likes!
Thank you to Mayor Sefatia and her administration, all our City Councilors, Joe Lucido and the entire DPW, Heather Hall and all our volunteers, Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, Dave McKinnon, and Mike, Gloucester’s Conservation Agent, and everyone who is helping our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers get off to a great start!
High-stylin’ Freya, in her hand crocheted rainbow sweater and hat (with matching rainbow shoes), and her Mom were at GHB enjoying the sunshine.
Great foraging in the tide flats for our PiPl. Notice in the super copped photo, a tiny little shrimp!
Check out the awesome new dune fencing recently installed at Good Harbor Beach by our DPW crew. The wire fencing runs along the length of the beach. The DPW did an outstanding job, very neat and unobtrusive.
Dune fencing plays an important role in reducing erosion. One of the main benefits of dune fencing is to help keep pets and people out of the dunes. Why is it detrimental to the dunes to allow uncontrolled dogs to run through the dunes and for people to use the dunes to access the parking lot, or worse, as their personal toilet? Repeated traffic through the dunes damages and kills the plants growing in the dunes. Plants help control erosion by stabilizing soil and sediments with their roots. Dune vegetation helps break the impact of of wave splash and rain, and also traps sand to help build up the dunes.
The fencing material installed by the DPW is an excellent choice for nesting shorebirds. This year especially, with much of the beach vegetation washed away and with the beach greatly narrowed, the Piping Plover adults and chicks had learned to use the area behind the old wire fencing for shade and to hide from predators. The open fencing still allows for small wild creatures to go in and out of the holes to find shelter and safety at the base of the dune.
Pip snuggled under Mama PiPl
Thank you Gloucester DPW for a super job well done!
Adult Piping Plovers and chicks found shelter along the wire fencing (the Bachelor left, and Mama and Pip, right).
Phil Cucuru and Mike Tarantino installing the sign board.
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 ❤
That’s City Councilman Scott Memhard walking the footbridge to check on the PiPl. So sorry to Scott for not getting a better photo.
THE NEW FOOTBRIDGE LOOKS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! Phil and Mike have been doing the finish work the past few days and a deep layer of sand was added to the beach end for safety sake. I think it looks super sharp with the diagonal cuts across the pilings.
It’s been a really tough spring for the DPW after the extensive damage caused by back to back nor’easters, but getting the bridge completed before the summer crowds was made a priority. Thanks so much to Phil and Mike for working though the weekend. If you see these guys around town, please tell them how great the footbridge looks!
Tommy Nolan helps keep both Wingaersheek and Good Harbor Beaches looking sparkling clean. He mans the beach rake, and last year did an incredible job of keeping an eye out for Piping Plover chicks. Tommy also has an interest in birds and enjoys watching the wildlife in his own backyard. He collected seaweed this week from Good Harbor and placed it around the nesting area. Thanks so much to Tommy and to the entire Good Harbor Beach team for looking out for our nesting PiPls 🙂
Gloucester’s DPW Phil Cucuru and Mike Tarantino arrived at Good Harbor Beach this morning ready to work with a truckload of pressure treated marine wood. Work will continue for the next two weeks. Looks like the footbridge will be operational by Fiesta weekend!
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.
After installing the exclosure the fear is that the PiPl will abandon the nest site. Our Mama Plover returned to the nest a short time after the exclosure was installed!
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!
Nest with egg in the parking lot at Good Harbor Beach
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.
Kevin Mazzeo, Phil Cucuru, Kenny Ryan, Joe Lucido, and Steve Peters were immediately on the job, placing a barricade around the nest.
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.
Mama and Papa courting in the nesting area in today’s early morning fog.
Good Harbor Beach was slammed hard again by yesterday’s April storm. The high tide was hitting the edge of the dune, with more water surging through the openings in the dunes, dumping sand several feet deep ten feet down the boardwalks.
Half the newly installed Piping Plover signs were were buried in the sand, as well as the ropes.
The DPW was on the scene digging out the snack bar boardwalk, beach entrance #2.
Fresh dog and owner tracks on the dune side of the fence. Why?? Our beaches are in trouble folks. Please keep off the dunes.
With so many dogs and people trampling the Piping Plovers nesting area over the weekend, followed by the fierce storm and historic high tides, I wonder if the PiPl will even return to the nesting areas. A total of five had been here since April 3rd (what appear to be two nesting pairs and one bachelor) but I could only find one lone male this morning.
Thank you to Phil Cucuru for the Good Harbor Beach information and news of restoration plans to begin soon, after the public school’s April vacation. During the week when the school children are off premises, the DPW turns its attention to the school buildings and grounds. As soon as vacation is over the DPW will be resume work at Good Harbor Beach and all the Gloucester Beaches.
We lost about three to four feet –in depth– from Good Harbor Beach (Wingaersheek, as well). As you can see in the above photo, Phil is pointing to where the sand came up to the #3 sign prior to the March storms. This is why the tide is coming in so high and so close to the bluffs, and why the big rock has become even more exposed.
Up until the March storms, the metal fence posts were nearly completely buried beneath sand that had built up, with only about 3 inches protruding above the sand. Now they are completely exposed, with a sheer bluff, rather than a gently sloping dune.
Plans have been in place since last year to restore the dune fencing this coming summer! I was so happy to hear this update about the dunes from Phil because the fencing helps to create areas of vegetation on the beach, at the base of the bluffs, and fencing helps to keep people and pets out of the dunes and from trampling the fragile habitat, especially the wildflowers and beach grass so necessary for a strong, healthy, and vital dune ecosystem.
All three boardwalk accesses to the beach were severely damaged. Believe it or not, the storm surge was so strong, it broke away huge sections of the boardwalks, and pushed them twenty and thirty feet back into the dunes. Boardwalk number two is nearly destroyed, which is especially frustrating because the DPW completely redid boardwalk #2, and made wider for handicap accessibility, last spring. The surging ocean water poured all kinds of debris into the dunes as well, and widened the walkways onto the beach. Phil said that in twenty years of working for the DPW he has never seen the likes of the March nor’easters and, with that, such extensive damage to Gloucester beaches.
Phil measuring for repairs.Good Harbor Beach footbridge torn from its footings and in the marsh.
The day before the first nor’easter Phil and fellow crew members added steel braces to help shore up the bridge but unfortunately, nothing was safe from the power of the late winter storms. Plans too are being developed to repair the footbridge, with the goal of full restoration by Memorial Day weekend.
Thanks again to Phil Cucuru for the updates, so glad to hear the good news!
Landscape design work is keeping me away from beloved film projects (although I do love my work no doubts). I did mange this morning to go to Good Harbor Beach to check on the Piping Plovers, to Henry’s to see Mr. Swan, and to the marsh for the ducklings. There were two plovers awakening in the little GHB cordoned off sanctuary, feeding and chasing away intruders. Mr. Swan was chilling at Henry’s, and the three sweet duckling families I have been filming don’t appear to have lost any additional members.
Spending time at Good Harbor Beach filming the plovers before the beach has been cleaned has certainly been an eye opener. Although not even officially summer yet, every morning at daybreak I find the beach littered with an astonishing amount of plastic bottles, trash, food, and plastic bags. According to Rose Piccolo at the DPW, the cleanup crew arrives around 7am and typically has the beaches cleaned by 8:30am. They do a really truly phenomenal job of making our beaches look pristine and attractive before the 9am opening.
A most sincere thank you to Joe Lucido and the Gloucester DPW for a job well done.