Tag Archives: #gloucesterplover

PIPING PLOVER CHRONICLES – WE LOST A NEST – AND SOME GOOD NEWS

Hello Friends, update on the Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach and other PiPl news-

First, a bit of sad news. We lost the second nest at Good Harbor Beach, which was located at area #1, the opposite end of the nest at #3, down by Salt Island Road. It only had two eggs and the exclosure installation was scheduled for Monday.

Good Harbor Beach Nest at Area #1

There is no way of knowing what happened because it was very windy yesterday and the tracks of predator or pet have been blown away.

There is the strong likelihood that the pair will renest and they appear to be making attempts to however, it is getting rather late in the year. This would be truly historic to have two nests at GHB if they do renest.

The good news is that our pair at #3 are coming along beautifully. They are constantly brooding the eggs and are doing an awesome job defending their “territory” against avian species (real and imagined predators) that fly onto the scene including sparrows, finches, Mockingbirds, gulls, and Crows. No bird is too small or too large to escape defense of their territory.

Good Harbor Beach Papa Plover brooding eggs.

A bit of amazing news –there is a Piping Plover nest for the first time ever in Quincy! More to come on that 🙂

Massachusetts is at the forefront of Piping Plover recovery and we can all be so proud of our local and state agencies and how they are managing beaches for both people and wildlife to share, despite the global pandemic. Just some of the organizations include Mass Wildlife, Massachusetts Department of Conservation, Essex Greenbelt, The Trustees of Reservations, Parker River National Wildlife USFWS, and many, many more. Thank you Massachusetts Piping Plover partners for all you are doing to help this tiny threatened shorebird.

On a separate note, over the past several days I have been filming a beautiful nest of four PiPl chicks hatching at a location in the area. It was amazing to witness, so very life reaffirming, and pure joy to see. Hopefully I’ll have time tomorrow to share more of the photos.

In this one photo,  you can see the hole where the chick is just starting to peck its way out (far left egg). I had lost track of the days with this particular family and only stopped by to check, not realizing it was “the day.” I said to myself, I don’t recall seeing that big black spot on that egg. After studying it for a few moments, I realized there was movement beneath the hole in the shell. Hatching was about to begin at any moment!

Piping Plover nest with egg cracking!

FRIENDS CHECK OUT THIS SUPER INTERESTING AND FAMILY ORIENTED ZOOM WEBINAR I AM PARTICIPATING IN, ALONG WITH WITH JOHN NELSON AND MARTIN RAY

Save the date for the Zoom event “Try Birding in Your Own Backyard” with fellow guests Martin Ray and John Nelson, moderated by Eric Hutchins and hosted by Literacy Cape Ann.

So very much looking forward to participating and so very honored to be asked.

Try birding in your backyard!
Zoom in for something fun on summer solstice eve!
Three of our favorite chroniclers of birds and nature share birding tips and experiences via Zoom and all are invited. Literary Cape Ann presents authors/naturalists John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray on Friday, June 19, from 6:30 to 7:30 for a lively talk the family will enjoy. Learn ways not just to observe birds but to capture your experience with birds via blogs, journals, photos or sketches. Make some popcorn, gather your family and join us.

Check in with the Literary Cape Ann Facebook page on June 19 for the Zoom link.

NEW YOUTUBE SHOW – BEAUTY BY THE SEA EPISODE #9

 

Male American Bullfrog mating serenade

Beaver, Beaver Lily Pad Eater

Reinventing our culture to benefit the many, not just the few.

Pitch Perfect Pandemic Precautions –

Alexandra’s Bread

Blue Collar Lobster Co – Steamers!

Beauport Hotel

Cedar Rock Gardens

Wolf Hill native noneysuckle (Lonicera semervirens) and super Hummingbird attractant ‘John Clayton’

Common Eider Duckling Rescue with Hilary Frye

Thank you Jodi from Cape Ann Wildlife Inc!

Piping Plover Chronicles –

Exclosure installed by Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and Gloucester’s DPW’s Joe Lucido.

Huge Shout Out to Essex Greenbelt and Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship.

Huge thank you to Joe Luciodo!

People’s Letters Really Helped. Thank you, thank you for writing!

Castaways Vintage Café Street Boutique

Charlotte Pops In ❤

WE HAVE THE ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES SIGNS FOR THE PIPLS!!!

Thank you to Mayor Sefatia, Councilor Memhard, and to all our Gloucester City Councilors, Gloucester DPW, Gloucester Conservation, Gloucester City Admin, and to anyone and everyone who helped get the signs posted at Good Harbor Beach. We are beyond grateful and appreciative!

We’d especially like to thank everyone who took the time to write your emails to the City Councilors. Letter writing and emails truly help and I think a great many wrote.

 ❤ ❤ ❤ 

There are approximately nine signs running the length of the beach. This is a good first step, and as the birds become settled at their nests, hopefully we can increase, or rearrange, the signs to reflect where the birds are nesting.

So many thanks again to Councilor Memhard and Mayor Sefatia, and to all who lent a hand in helping to inform the community about the Good Harbor Beach nesting Plovers. The PiPls thank you, too!.

 

WHY ARE THERE STILL NO ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES SIGNS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH?

It is the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. As of this morning, at 10am, there are still NO threatened and endangered species signs posted at Good Harbor Beach.

Despite the pandemic, every other city and town along the Massachusetts coastline that has threatened and endangered birds nesting on their beaches has SIGNS.

Friends, I hate to ask you, but if you could, Please share this post and please write to your Councilors (see address below). Thank you!

This is why we need signs and the reason could not be any clearer.

Woman leaving the dunes after going to the bathroom (not posting her going to the bathroom photo)

and cutting through through the nesting area.

As I was leaving the beach several nights ago and turned to have one last look at how beautiful was the light, the woman in the photos was cutting through the nesting area to use the dunes as a bathroom. You can’t blame the beachgoers for cutting through the nesting area because there is not a single sign at GHB explaining about the birds. 

The lack of signage is just plain cruel to the birds. And it is equally as cruel to our citizens because what if, God forbid, a beachgoer accidentally steps on an egg or stray ball injures a Piping Plover? How terrible will they feel, and how many tens of thousands of dollars will we be fined by the state and federal government if there is a take?

Why are signs so important and impactful? For the simple reason that they alert people to the presence of the birds. They are used at every beach along both the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, as well as at lakes regions.

Please don’t write to say the City is short of manpower because we have a very simple solution. Essex County Greenbelt has signs. They are willing to put them up immediately and only need the go-ahead from the City. 

Additionally, who will we call when the inevitable eggs are laid? Gloucester’s conservation agent applied for, but was denied, a permit, for her lack of experience.

We have been writing letters to the City, beginning this past January and prior to the pandemic outbreak, to try to understand the City’s overall plan for the Piping Plovers, but we have been completely stonewalled. We were assured months ago that “everything was under control.”

It is utterly ridiculous that we are being put in this position of endless letter writing to beg for signs, especially during the pandemic when we have families and work to take care of. 

This year we thought was going to be easy, with the new dog ordinance for the beach, Greenbelt’s trusted assistance, and a cadre of people who care deeply about the birds, along with their willingness to spend time monitoring tiny chicks at Gloucester’s most popular and populous of beachesAfter four years of working toward improving conditions for the nesting shorebirds at GHB, the PiPls are being thrown under the bus for what we can only surmise are personal and political reasons.

It is my understanding that Governor Baker made continuing to protect endangered species part of the original essential worker pandemic plan and that is why state wildlife officials have not been furloughed.

A Piping Plover update from the City administration is planned for the City Council meeting Tuesday at 7Pm.  It is a live Zoom meeting. I think a link will be provided and I will post that here and on Facebook.

If you have not already done so, and you have a spare moment, please write to our City Councilors. 

Please keep letters kind and friendly, or just simply copy paste the following:

Subject Line: Piping Plovers Need Our Help

Dear City Councilors,

Gloucester Plovers need our help. Please ask the Conservation Commission to install the threatened species signs at the symbolically cordoned off nesting areas and at the entrances at Good Harbor Beach.

Thank you for helping these birds raise their next generation.

Your Name

Link to all the City Councilors, but I believe that if you send one letter and also cc to Joanne Senos, a copy will be sent to all the City Councilors. Her address is: JSenos@gloucester-ma.gov

Our Good Harbor Beach mated PiPl pair courting – Papa fanning his tail feathers and bowing, all for Mama’s benefit. Photo taken yesterday, May 21, 2020.

Here is a timeline compiled based on film footage, photos, and notes. As you can see, because of the timely assistance provided by Greenbelt, at this time last year, our chicks more than half way to hatching. We don’t even have eggs yet this year!

2019 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach 

March 25  Piping Plover pair arrive GHB.

March 27  Symbolic fencing and signage installed by Greenbelt at areas #3 and #1

April 28  First egg laid (estimated date).

May 3  Greenbelt installs wire exclosure.

May 4  Adults begin brooding all four eggs.

May 31  Four chicks hatch.

2020 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach

March 22 Piping Plover pair arrive at GHB

March 27  11.5 foot deep narrow strip of symbolic roping is installed along the length of the entire beach. No one has responded from the conservation office re. Is this meant to protect the dunes? It is much, much narrower than the area delineated the previous four years by Greenbelt.  No signs installed at this time, as they had in previous years at the time of installing roping.

April 17  Symbolically roped off area widened by boardwalk #3, the area where the PiPls have nested and courted the previous four years. No signs installed at this time.

May 11  A second pair of PiPls is trying to become established at GHB.

May 13  Still no signs, continued dog disturbance, kite flying next to nesting area, human and dog footprints in roped off  #3 area.

May 21 Exclosure erected at Coffins Beach for nesting PiPls. Installed by Greenbelt.

May 22 Still no threatened or endangered species signs at Good Harbor Beach, continued dog disturbance, kite flying next to nesting area, human and dog footprints in roped off  #3 area.

 

CALL TO ACTION: GLOUCESTER PLOVERS NEED OUR HELP

Despite the fact that our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers arrived 3 days earlier this year (March 22), they are struggling to become established. While the weather has been cold and windy (I think they like wind even less than freezing temperatures), the problem is largely due to dog and human disturbance in the nesting area. This is not the fault of beachgoers. The difficulty stems from a complete and utter lack of signage at Good Harbor Beach. There are no signs at any entrance, but more importantly, there are no signs on the fence posts around the nesting area.

The above are the informational signs we have had the previous four years, from 2016-2019, which were installed by Essex County Greenbelt. Last year, the Piping Plovers arrived at Good Harbor on March 25th. Two days later, on March 27th, Greenbelt had installed protective symbolic roping and signs. The PiPls early arrival and early assistance from Greenbelt helped the Plovers to establish a nest early in the season.

Why don’t we have signs? No one knows; it is an utter mystery. Greenbelt has time and again offered their assistance to the City and volunteered to install signs, so it is not a question of coronavirus, available man power, or time.

Why is it so important to help the PiPls as soon as they arrive? Because the earlier in the season they are able to nest, the older the chicks will be when the beach becomes busy, the earlier the chicks will fledge, and the sooner they will be off the beach, which will give them the greatest chance of survival. It was thanks to Greenbelt’s assistance last year and because of our fantastic corps of volunteer Piping Plover monitors that we were able to successfully fledge three chicks last summer.

How can you help? It’s a great deal to ask of people during coronavirus to care for, and write letters about, tiny little shorebirds, but people do care. For over forty years, partners have been working to protect these threatened creatures and it is a shame to put them at risk like this needlessly.  We have been working with Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard and he has been beyond terrific in helping us sort through the problems this year; however, I think if we wrote emails or letters to all our City Councilors and asked them to help us get signs installed it would be super helpful. Please keep letters kind and friendly, or just simply copy paste the following:

Subject Line: Piping Plovers Need Our Help

Dear City Councilors,

Gloucester Plovers need our help. Please ask the Conservation Commission to install the threatened species signs at the symbolically cordoned off nesting areas and at the entrances at Good Harbor Beach.

Thank you for helping these birds raise their next generation.

Your Name

Link to all the City Councilors, but I believe that if you send one letter and also cc to Joanne Senos, a copy will be sent to all the City Councilors. Her address is: JSenos@gloucester-ma.gov

Here is a timeline compiled based on film footage, photos, and notes. As you can see, because of the timely assistance provided by Greenbelt, at this time last year, our chicks were a third of the way to hatching. We don’t even have eggs yet this year!

2019 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach 

March 25  Piping Plover pair arrive GHB.

March 27  Symbolic fencing and signage installed by Greenbelt at areas #3 and #1

April 28  First egg laid (estimated date).

May 3  Greenbelt installs wire exclosure.

May 4  Adults begin brooding all four eggs.

May 31  Four chicks hatch.

2020 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach

March 22 Piping Plover pair arrive at GHB

March 27  11.5 foot deep narrow strip of symbolic roping is installed along the length of the entire beach. No one has responded from the conservation office re. Is this meant to protect the dunes? It is much, much narrower than the area delineated the previous four years by Greenbelt.  No signs installed at this time.

April 17  Symbolically roped off area widened by boardwalk #3, the area where the PiPls have nested and courted the previous four years. No signs installed at this time.

May 11  A second pair of PiPls is trying to become established at GHB.

May 13  Still no signs, continued dog disturbance, kite flying next to nesting area, human and dog footprints in roped off  #3 area.

Again, the disturbances are not the fault of beachgoers; you can’t blame people if there are no informational signs.

Our Good Harbor beach Mom and Dad courting: Dad digging a nest scrape (1) and bowing (2). Mom coming over to inspect his handiwork (3) and Dad all puffed out and doing the mating dance (4).

Aren’t these PiPl eggs beautiful!? This photo was taken yesterday at another beach I am following. The Plovers at this beach arrived on the very same day to their beach as our Gloucester Plovers arrived to Good Harbor Beach.

 

 

PIPING PLOVERS ARE HERE AND THEY NEED OUR HELP!

Friends, the Piping Plovers are on Good Harbor Beach!! They arrived on March 22nd and are definitely here to stay. The endangered/threatened species signs have Not Yet been installed, so most people are unaware that they are nesting at Good Harbor.

These are the signs that were installed last year on March 27, two days after the Piping Plovers arrived. Dave Rimmer and Essex County Greenbelt were working with us last summer and their ongoing support was one of the key reasons why we were able to successfully fledge three chicks.

Piping Plover nest scrape, March 2020

The little Dad is building tiny nest scrapes in the sand in nearly the exact same area they were nesting at last year. Please be on the look out and please give them some space until the proper roping and signs are installed. Thank you so much!!!

In case you don’t recall where they were last year (and the three years prior to that), they have made an area between Boardwalk No.3 and the corner of Saratoga Creek their home.

About a week ago, a very narrow corridor of symbolic roping was installed along the entire length of the beach; we presume for dune conservation, because it is far too narrow for the PiPls.

Also, no signs are there to indicate the purpose of the symbolic rope fence, so many folks are walking through and within the roped off area. Last year’s installation, March 27, 2019

Currently, the PiPls are hanging out and nest scraping about ten to twelve feet outside the area where the symbolic fencing ends. We need to widen the area to create a similar footprint to last year’s to make a safe zone for the PiPls.

In the above photo taken a few days ago, you can see where the PiPls are trying to nest, outside the roped off area (Papa Plover is in the lower left quadrant, almost to the midline of the photo). The bird’s efforts are constantly thwarted by people and dogs, no fault of the peoples, because no one knows the PiPls are here without proper signage.

People are sitting in the area where the PiPls are repeatedly trying to nest. This nice group of young folks was not aware that the PiPls are here, because there are no signs posted.

The most important thing for everyone to remember is that the earlier the Piping Plovers are allowed to nest, the earlier they are off the beach. Allowing them to nest early is doubly important this year because as the pandemic breaks, our beaches are going to be flooded with people.  It’s no use to say well they should just find another beach, because these lack of habitat issues are taking place at beaches on both coasts. Wildlife doesn’t stop being threatened or endangered because there is a pandemic, nor does our responsibility to help the birds survive.

If the city has the manpower to place fencing along the entire length of the beach, then we have the manpower to set aside one small area for the PiPls, and to install the endangered/threatened species signs.

If the City does not have the manpower or the funds for signage, then it is not too late to contact Essex Greenbelt for assistance.

Piping Plovers foraging last night at low tide

CAPE ANN EARLY SPRING WILDLIFE UPDATE

Hello Friends,

I hope you are all doing well, or as well as can be expected during this heartbreaking pandemic event. The following kind words were spoken by Pope Francis today and I think they could not be truer.

“We are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed,” he said.

“All of us called to row together, each of us in need of each other.”

In the world of wildlife, spring migration is well underway and gratefully, nothing has changed for creatures small and large. That may change in the coming days as resources for threatened and endangered species may become scarce.

A friend posted on Facebook that “we are all going to become birders, whether we like it or not.” I love seeing so many people out walking in the fresh air and think it is really the best medicine for our souls.

Several times I was at Good Harbor Beach over the weekend and people were being awesome at practicing physical distancing. Both Salt Island Road and Nautilus Road were filled with cars, but none dangerously so, no more than we would see at a grocery store parking lot. I’m just getting over pneumonia and think I will get my old bike out, which sad to say hasn’t been ridden in several years. Cycling is a great thing to do with a friend while still practicing distancing and I am excited to get back on my bike.

An early spring wildlife scene update

The Niles Pond Black-crowned Night Heron made it through the winter!! He was seen this past week in his usual reedy location. Isn’t it amazing that he/she survived so much further north than what is typical winter range for BCHN.

Many of the winter resident ducks are departing. There are fewer and fewer Buffleheads, Scaups, and Ring-necked Ducks at our local ponds and waterways.

Male and female Scaups

No sign lately of the American Pipits. For several days there were three! Snow Buntings at the Brace Cove berm.

I haven’t seen the Northern Pintail in a over a week. Sometimes the Mallards play nice and on other days, not so much.

Male Northern Pintail and Mallards

As some of the beautiful creatures that have been residing on our shores depart, new arrivals are seen daily. Our morning walks are made sweeter with the songs of passerines courting and mating.

Black-capped Chickadees collecting nesting fibers and foraging

Song Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Robins, Cardinals, Chicadees, Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, and Carolina Wrens are just a few of the love songs filling backyard, fields, dunes, and woodland.

Newly arrived Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets have been spotted at local ponds and marshes.

Cape Ann’s Kildeers appeared about a week or so ago, and wonderful of wonderful news, a Piping Plover pair has been courting at Good Harbor Beach since they arrived on March 22, a full three days earlier than last year.

Kildeers, Gloucester

Why do I think it is our PiPls returned? Because Piping Plovers show great fidelity to nesting sites and this pair is no exception. They are building nest scrapes in almost exactly the same location as was last year’s nest.

Piping Plover Nest Scrape Good Harbor Beach 2020

I’m not sure if the Red Fox photographed here is molting or is the early stages of mange. It does seem a bit early to be molting, but he was catching prey.

We should be seeing Fox kits and Coyote pups any day now, along with baby Beavers, Otters, and Muskrats 🙂
It’s been an off year for Snowy Owls in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic with relatively many fewer owls than that wonderful irruptive winter of 2017-2018 when Hedwig was living on the back shore. 2019 was a poor summer for nesting however, reports of high numbers of Lemmings at their eastern winter breeding grounds are coming in, which could lead to many owlets surviving the nesting season of 2020, which could lead to many more Snowies migrating south this coming winter of 2020-2021.

Take care Friends and be well ❤

Mini-nature lover

WE HAVE A PIPING PLOVER NEST SCRAPE!

As you may recall from Sunday’s post, our sweet Piping Plover pair arrived on March 22nd. This is three days earlier than last year. The two are concentrating their courtship in exactly the same area they have been courting, nesting, and raising their chicks for the previous four years (with the exception of the parking lot nest). Today PapaPl made a serious nest scrape about five feet away from last year’s nest.

Each year, as they become better at migrating and better parents, they are arriving earlier, and earlier, and are wasting no time in getting down to the business of reproducing. Piping Plovers famously show great fidelity to their nesting sites and our PiPls are no exception.

Piping Plover nest scrape today at 8:30am

You can see in the photos, the male is in the nest scraping, and the sand is flying in the middle photo as he digs out the nest.

We are very much hoping the symbolic Piping Plover fencing can be installed as quickly as possible. Yesterday, protective dune fencing was installed the length of Good Harbor Beach. What was installed yesterday only needs to be widened in a relatively small area  to accommodate the Piping Plover’s nest scrape.

With all the terrible consequences of Covid-1 taking place all around us, some people may think it not important during the pandemic to help the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. I don’t think I am in the minority when I write nothing could be further from the truth. It’s critical to post the threatened/endangered signs and symbolic fencing and let the community know the birds are here. Helping endangered and threatened species is a meaningful way for us all to better understand our natural environment. The fact that the PiPls successfully fledged three chicks last summer gives us hope for a brighter future for all living creatures on our Planet.Pops Plover getting down to business this morning!

#GLOUCESTERPLOVER ! JOYFUL NEWS TO SHARE – OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS HAVE RETURNED

Daily I have been checking and this afternoon we were overjoyed to see two foraging at low tide at Good Harbor Beach. They were super hungry, looking for food non-stop at the sand bar and in the water.

The PiPls are three days ahead of last year. Each spring they have been arriving earlier and earlier.

The Piping Plovers annual return is an event that I and many others have come to look forward to. Especially this year, not only because they are a sign of hope and renewal during the extremely challenging times we are experiencing but because of the hurricane that destroyed much of their Bahamian habitat last autumn.

Thanks to our amazing crew of volunteers, Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, Gloucester’s DPW, Gloucester City Council, and to all our Piping Plover friends, three chicks successfully fledged at Good Harbor Beach last summer. Let’s stay positive for another fantastic year with our PiPl family!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY PIPL PEOPLES

Happy Valentine’s Day PiPl Friends! I hope to see you soon

Male and female Piping Plovers courting, Good Harbor Beach

 

WELCOMING BACK GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS AND WHY BANDING OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH NESTING PAIR IS NOT A GOOD IDEA

Hello dear Piping Plover Friends and Partners,

As are you, I am looking forward to the return of our Gloucester Plovers. With the relatively mild winter we are experiencing, and the fact they have been arriving earlier and earlier each spring, we could be seeing our tiny shorebird friends in little over a month.

About this time of year I imagine well wishers and monitors are becoming anxious, wondering if our PiPls survived all the challenges winter brings to migrating birds.

Gloucester’s Mated Piping Plover Pair, Mama in the background, Dad in the fore.

Last August at the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, I met Professor Paton. He is involved with a program that bands and nanotags birds at Southern New England beaches, mostly Rhode Island beaches. He provided some terrific maps based on the data collected from the banding program.

After departing Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the majority of the program’s tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

Although our Good Harbor Beach Piping plovers are not tagged, there is no reason to believe that they too are not traveling this route.

As you can see in the map above, it’s easy to understand why the majority of Southern New England PiPls stage in North Carolina.

Why wouldn’t we want to tag out GHB family? Not often publicized is the down side of tagging. Some species of birds adapt well to tagging and some, like Piping Plovers, develop life threatening problems like leg movement disorder. But most troubling of all is that small sticks and other debris can become lodged between the skin and the tag, which causes the area to become infected, which has lead to loss of leg. Tiny shorebirds like Piping Plovers use their legs to propel them all over the beach, to both forage and escape danger. Left crippled by the loss of a leg, the birds will barely survive another year. At one point several years back there was even a moratorium placed on banding plovers.

Perhaps if we had dozens of pairs of Piping Plovers nesting all over around Cape Ann it would be worth the risk of banding a bird or two. But with only one nesting pair, coupled with the typical survival rate of Piping Plovers at less than five years, why not let our one pair nest in peace? Plovers at popular city beaches need all the help they can get from their human stewards. I for one am happy to simply imagine where our GHB PiPls spend the winter.

If you have ever been to a New Jersey beach, you might be sickened as was I to see birds with no less than eight tags, four on each leg. It doesn’t make sense to me in this day and age why one band wouldn’t suffice. Each time the bird was spotted the one set of data  provided by one tag could be recorded in a national database.

According to coastal ecologist with The Trustees of Reservations, Jeff Denoncour, this past year (2019), 49 pairs of plovers raised 96 chicks at Crane Beach. They do not band birds at Crane Beach, nor are birds banded at other beaches where the PiPl has been successfully increasing in population, including Winthrop Shore Reservations and Revere Beach.

The species existence is precarious. In 2000 at Crane Beach just 12 fledglings survived 49 pairs and that was because of a major storm. Considering all that a Piping Plover pair has to face at the city’s most popular beach, we don’t need to decrease their chances of survival.

It’s wonderful and reassuring to see updated reports of banded birds we have observed at Good Harbor Beach however, because of data collected in the past, we can fairly accurately imagine where our little family resides during the winter. Banding a single pair will only serve to satisfy our own curiosity, and will do nothing to increase the bird’s chance of survival.

ETM, spotted last year by PiPl monitor Heather Hall at Good Harbor Beach, is currently spending the winter on Cumberland Island, Georgia.

Seven too many bands on this bird!!! Bands are placed both above and below the tibiotarsal joint on plovers (terns are given bands below the tibiotarsal joint only). There are eight possible band locations on a bird’s leg according to banding schemes: The Upper Left Upper, Upper Left Lower (left leg, above the tibiotarsal joint), Lower Left Upper, Lower Left Lower (left leg, below the tibiotarsal joint), Upper Right Upper, Upper Right Lower (right leg, above the tibiotarsal joint), Lower Right Upper, and Lower Right Lower (right leg below the tibiotarsal joint).Looking forward to the upcoming Piping Plover season!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

HERE’S TO A HAPPY NEW YEAR AND A HAPPY NEW DECADE! 

In spending the afternoon reflecting on the past year’s wildlife stories and photos, I have been thinking about what an extraordinary place is Cape Ann. How fortunate we all are to see amazing and beautiful wildlife stories unfolding in our own backyards each and every day! I am planning a Cape Ann Wildlife 2019 Year in Pictures and hope to find the time to post that this week.

News this year of an increase in Monarchs at the butterfly’s overwintering sites in Mexico, as well as strong numbers during the summer breeding season and fall migration, gives me great hope for the future of this beautiful species, and for all wildlife that we take underwing.

Monarchs flying into Gloucester butterfly trees, forming an overnight roost.

Our community has taken under its wings a pair of Piping Plovers. The two began calling Good Harbor Beach home in 2016. Because the community came together and worked as a team, this year we were able to fledge three tiny, adorable marshmallow-sized fluff balls at Gloucester’s most well-loved and populous beach. Thank you Piping Plover friends and Community for all that you did to help these most vulnerable of shorebirds successfully reach flying age. 

Another example of “underwing” – three nearly full grown PiPl chicks, all determined to nestle for warmth under Papa

PRAYERS FOR THE PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE OF THE BAHAMIAN ISLANDS

Stay safe little fledgling!

It’s heartbreaking to read about the death and devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian. Never having been, but greatly wishing to go someday, our hearts go out to the people of this beautiful and magical archipelago, the Bahamas.

Several friends have written asking about what happens to shorebirds, especially the Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers, during a monster hurricane like Dorian. Some lose their lives, some are blown far off course and hopefully, more will survive than not.

One somewhat reassuring thought regarding the Piping Plovers that are tagged in Massachusetts and Rhode Island is that they may not yet have left the States. After departing Massachusetts and RI, a great many tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

A male Piping Plover that I have been documenting since April, nicknamed Super Dad, still in Massachusetts at his breeding grounds as of August 28th.

Here is Super Dad watching over his two fledglings, aged 31 days, On August 24th, 2019.

Thirty-one-day-old fledglings sleeping after a morning of intensive foraging and fattening-up.

GLOUCESTER PLOVERS GO SWIMMING!

Gloucester Plovers Go Swimming! New short created for Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Cooperators.

No one knew these tiny little shorebirds could swim. They don’t have webbed feet so how do they swim?  I think the sheer movement of their little feet going a mile a minute keeps them afloat–they paddle as fast as they run on the beach. Turn up the volume to hear the chicks peeping and Dad Plover piping.

POSTS AND ARTICLES ABOUT PIPING PLOVERS:

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART ONE

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART TWO

THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT PLOVERS – The story of a remarkably spirited pair of birds and how a community came together to help in their struggle for survival 

National Audubon feature story: How Plover Chicks Born in a Parking Lot Spurred a City to Make Its Beach Safer

100 Plus Piping Plover Articles, Posts, and Stories by Kim Smith April 2018 – May 2019

TREMENDOUS COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

On Tuesday I attended the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, which took place at the Harwich Community Center on Cape Cod. The meeting is held annually to bring together people and organizations that are involved with population monitoring and conservation efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds. Threatened and endangered species such as Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Roseate Terns, and American Oystercatchers are given the greatest attention.

I was invited by Carolyn Mostello, event organizer, to create a short film, Gloucester Plovers Go Swimming, for the “Strange and Unusual” section about our three little chicks and the fact that for about a week they were SWIMMING in the tidal creek (see next post). I also provided a group of photos of the late hatching chicks for DCR. The film and the photos were well-received, which was gratifying to me, to be of help in documenting these wonderful stories.

Conservationists from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby states, including representatives from Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the organizations presenting at the meeting-Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Essex Greenbelt, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Mass Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.

In the morning, each region gave the 2019 population census report for nesting birds as well as providing information about problems and solutions. We all share similar challenges with predation from crows and gulls, uncontrolled dogs, enforcement, and habitat loss and it was very interesting to learn about how neighboring communities are managing problems and issues.

Trustees of Reservations Coastal Ecologist Jeff Denoncour presented on behalf of the north of Boston region, of which Gloucester is a part. Essex Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer and intern Fionna were in attendance as well. Both Crane Beach and Parker River are having a fantastic year and the numbers are up across Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. There are still many young chicks yet to fledge on Massachusetts beaches so the final count has not been determined.

The afternoon session was filled with outstanding lectures presented by conservation biologists and all the programs were tremendously informative.

I met Beth Howard from Mass Audubon, who has been involved with care taking the L Street Piping Plovers and Paige Hebert from Mass Wildlife who has been helping manage Roseate Terns. The DCR staff managing the shorebirds at Nahant, Salisbury, Winthrop, and Revere Beach were all there and they are just a stellar group of young people.

It was a great day! Many attendees expressed congratulations for Gloucester fledging three chicks. Last year after attending the meeting I wrote the following and it’s wonderful that our hope for Gloucester’s Plovers was realized this year: “After attending the cooperators meeting, I am more hopeful than ever that our community can come together and solve the problems that are preventing our PiPl from successfully nesting and fledging chicks. What we have going in our favor is the sheer number of amazing super volunteers along with strong community-wide support.” 

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART TWO

I stopped by on my way home from work, fully expecting to see all three chicks hatched. Dad was sitting on the nest and two fluffy chicks were zooming in and out. He left the nest for a moment and wonderful luck of luck, the third chick was making its appearance!!

When I write messy, it is because while the third chick was hatching, the two older ones needed to thermoregulate, or cuddle, beneath the parent’s wing. There was a great deal of seeming disorder going on beneath the canopy provided by Dad’s fluffed out feathers.

Because the two older siblings were running in and out of the nest, as well as the parents leaving to discard the remaining chick’s eggshell pieces, I had a longer window into the third chick’s hatching (by mere seconds, I mean). Plus the twelve-hour-old chicks were just as adorable as could be!

From a nest of three eggs, two chicks hatched at dawn and the third, at day’s end. During both times, I had my movie camera on a tripod zoomed in on the nest and was able to film and simultaneously take still photos. A very unforgettable and happy day!!!!!!!!!!

Mom switched places with Dad but only stayed for a few moments before hopping up quickly. All three chicks were in the nest. You can see the newly hatched chick with its two older siblings. 

Read Part One Here

Hello World! Eyes barely open and first peek at the world.

Twelve-hour-old chick -my what big feet I have 🙂

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART ONE

As many of our readers know, this summer while finishing up with editing my Monarch film, I have also been continuing to document our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. To make the best and most informed documentary, I have also been filming at other north of Boston beach locations. During our last heat wave, we posted about about how PiPl parents protect their eggs during extreme temperatures. The chicks that you see hatching in the photos are the same eggs that survived the heat wave! and are from a very, very special Piping Plover pair. More about these two parents in an upcoming post; for now I just have time to write about the chicks hatching.

Witnessing a beautiful family of Piping Plover chicks hatch is a day I won’t soon forget. Not only struck by the sheer beauty of it all, I was highly aware of the formidable challenges these valiant little birds face at every stage of development. Even hatching was messy and challenging.

On my way into work, I had been checking daily on the nest and knew the hatching day was soon approaching. Arriving at dawn on the twenty-fifth day from when the pair had begun brooding all three eggs, it was apparent and wonderfully exciting to see something was going on in the nest. Mom was on the nest and she was unusually active, moving around and adjusting the eggs repeatedly. She popped up for a split second and I could see an egg cracking. A miracle truly, that the eggs were viable, as it was so late in the season and the heat had been so extreme.

During hatching, the Mom (or Dad, whoever happens to be brooding the eggs at the time hatching begins) makes a canopy over the nest with their fluffed-out feathers. The nest is a mere depression in the sand, below eye level, so the only time you can see what is happening is when the parent leaves the nest. This only happens for the briefest of moments. A chick begins emerging and while it is still half in its eggshell, the nesting parent takes any parts of the broken eggshell in his/her mouth and runs, then flies further with it, dropping the eggshell far away from the nest. During those few brief seconds when the parent leaves to discard the eggshell, you can see what is taking place in the nest.

In the last three photos, the chick’s feathers are almost completely dry and fluffy.

Enthralled, I watched as two chicks hatched over an hour period, but then had to leave to be on site for a job installation that couldn’t wait. I hated to leave wondering, not knowing how the third chick would fare, and just prayed that it would still be light out when I stopped back on my way home from work that night.

Part two tomorrow.

PiPl Mom brooding eggs during heat wave.

Eggshell camouflaged amongst shells and sea bits.

HOW DO NESTING BIRDS SUCH AS PIPING PLOVERS KEEP FROM BOILING THEIR EGGS IN A HEAT WAVE?

During this heat wave I have been concerned about one of the Piping Plover families that I am documenting. They are nesting in an exposed site and it is late in the season. I wondered if their eggs were at risk of becoming overheated. As of Saturday, my worries were for naught.

Both the Mom and Dad are sitting high on the nest. Typically when brooding eggs, Piping Plovers fluff out their brood feathers and the eggs are entirely hidden. During these 90-degree-plus days, the parents are continuing to sit on the nest to keep predators from seeing the eggs from overhead, but they are raising their bodies enough to allow air to flow beneath.

Both parents are struggling in the heat; they are overheated and panting while minding their nest, yet despite their obvious discomfort, they are determinedly continuing to brood.

Panting nesting Plover in 95 degree temperatures.

Allowing for air circulation is really a pretty genius way of managing their eggs and I am keeping my hopes up that the pair will be successful ❤

Dad PiPl says why is it so dang hot!

THANK YOU PIPL VOLUNTEERS!

We PiPl volunteer monitors had a sweet get together last night to celebrate our three fledged Piping Plovers. Not everyone could attend and I didn’t take the photo until several had already departed. Despite the fact that the City prematurely dismantled the Piping Plover refuge, it didn’t dampen our spirits. It was super to talk to fellow volunteers and learn more about them while sharing a beautiful cake that Heather Hall had made, with some fantastic Sangria, made by Laurie Sawin.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all our fantastic volunteers for your hours of dedication. It was a great year for PiPls at Good Harbor Beach. We hope our Mama and Papa return next year, and if they do, we will be even more prepared!

 

PIPING PLOVER PARTY!

COME HELP US CELEBRATE OUR THREE FLEDGLINGS.EVERYONE IS INVITED!

WE’D LIKE TO SAY THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS LENT A HAND (OR SIMPLY BEEN A WELL-WISHER) IN SEEING OUR THREE BEAUTIFUL PIPL CHICKS FLEDGE. HEATHER IS HAVING A SPECIAL CAKE MADE AND WE WILL HAVE SOME BEVERAGES. FEEL FREE TO BYOB (BEVERAGE).

WHEN: SUNDAY, JULY 14TH, AT 7:30 PM.

WHERE: GOOD HARBOR BEACH, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE VOLLEYBALL CORNER AND BOARDWALK NO. 3

RAIN DATE: SUNDAY, JULY 21, AT 7:30PM

WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

36 Day Old Piping Plover Fledglings 

Our Piping Plover fledglings (all three present!) at 40 days old, readying to fly and sleeping in the enclosure.

WHY IT IS A TERRIBLE AND POINTLESS IDEA TO DESTROY THE PIPING PLOVER HABITAT AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH

There are several reasons as to why it is vitally important to leave the Piping Plover refuge in place at GHB. PiPl chicks and fledglings are like human babies in that they eat and eat all day and evening, rest, and then resume eating. Their appetites are voracious. Not only are they growing but they are building their fat reserves for the journey south.

Our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers forage at the shoreline and also within the enclosure. Because this area is not raked or disturbed by human foot traffic, plants have a chance to grow. The plants attract insects, which in turn becomes food for the shorebirds.

On hot summer days, when the beach is jam packed, especially at high tide, the young birds and adults do not have access to the shoreline.They forage exclusively on the insects in the enclosed roped off area.

Each morning we find the family together within the enclosure, either foraging or sleeping, or at the shoreline in front of their refuge.

What will happen to the family now that the roping was removed prematurely? We don’t know. It’s been suggested that they will simply leave and try to find refuge at other beaches. Will they be able to maintain their family bond or will they become separated? If, for example, the fledglings find their way to Winthrop Beach where there are other PiPls nesting, the adults at that beach will surely attack them and chase the fledglings out of their territory. The nesting PiPl at Winthrop would be disrupted and the GHB fledglings won’t be eating and fattening up, but expending energy flying and fighting.

I am documenting PiPls at several other north shore beaches. Nowhere else are the PiPl refuges being dismantled. As a matter of fact, just this past week, the Department of Conservation and Recreation actually increased an area to create additional habitat for a new young family.

We monitors have spoken with and made friends with many of the local homeowners along Nautilus and Salt Island Roads. Every resident we have met is 100 percent for the PiPs and many have become valued monitors. Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer is for leaving the roping up as long as the Piping Plovers are at GHB.

We are having a difficult time trying to understand who or what is driving the rush to destroy the PiPls habitat.

Even on the slenderest blade of grass, insects are found

Insects provide food for PiPls at all stages of their lives. Note this little guy is stretching for all he’s worth and his left foot is on tiptoes trying to reach a bug on the leaf.

Food is plentiful within the enclosure because of the vegetation that grows when this area of the beach is not raked.

Morning wing stretches in the safety of the enclosure.

Resting behind the mounds of sand that form inside the enclosure.

HUMPBACK WHALE OFF GOOD HARBOR BEACH, AN OSPREY SWOOPS IN TO FEED, AND PIPL UPDATE

On my morning PiPl check, I met up with a super nice gentleman, Bill, who walks the beach every morning. He loves wildlife (including PiPls), is a Coast Guard veteran, was a fisherman, and grew up on a marsh. Bill pointed out the whale (or he thought possibly a large dolphin), breaching and blowing blow holes off in the distance. Bill mentioned there had been a crowd along the back shore earlier and that there is tons of good bait fish off the coast right now.

How exciting at see an Osprey swoop in and snatch up a large fish precisely where the whales were fishing. All were too far away to get some really fine shots, but you can at least get an idea from the photos.

PiPl Update- all three fledglings are doing beautifully on this, their 39th day 🙂 The three spent the hours of five to seven mostly foraging in the area front of the enclosure, and also preening within the enclosure. Papa was on the scene, too.

July 10, 2019 Good Harbor Beach Sunrise

Friend Joe Dasilva shares it’s pogies or menhadden that is bringing out the whales and the Osprey?

DON’T MESS WITH MAMA (OR PAPA) – YOUR DAILY PIPING PLOVER SMACK DOWN

These beautiful shorebirds, so small you can hold one in the palm of your hand, and so softly hued, they melt into summer shades of driftwood and sand, are actually tough as nails. You would have to be mighty fierce to battle hungry gulls and crows twenty times your size, an ever shrinking habitat, extremes in weather, and oddest of all, unmated males of your own kind.

We usually refer to our disrupter as the Bachelor; in WWE terms, I think he would be called a heel. Daily, there are impromptu smack downs, mostly Papa defending the chicks, but Mama often rescues the chicks, too. Even on the 38th day of our fledgling’s lives, the Bachelor went after one of the chicks this morning. The heel snuck up and then moved aggressively towards an unsuspecting fledgling, sleepy-eyed in the sand. Papa was nearby, gave the Bachelor the business, and down the beach they both flew.

Unmated males pose a problem not only at Good Harbor Beach, but at Piping Plover nesting sites everywhere. Early in the season, I imagine it may be good for the success of the species to have a few extra males present in case the male of a mated pair is killed. But why do they continue to harass throughout the summer, especially when the female may even have left the area? Papa’s and Mama’s defense of the chicks against the Bachelor’s villainous behavior is perhaps demonstrating to the young birds life lessons in how to defend their own future broods.

The Bachelor this morning, hiding behind a sand castle, waiting to pounce on a resting fledgling.

The sleepy 38-day-old fledgling.

Several mornings ago I observed the family feeding together in the intertidal zone, but wait, there were six, not five. Mom looked up from finishing her bath and quickly realized the Bachelor had wormed his way into the family’s territory. She went straight at him, but he held his ground. Papa heard the commotion and full on charged, chasing the Bachelor all the way down to the snack bar.

Mama taking a bath.

She looks up and recognizes it’s the Bachelor.

She flies straight at him, even wrassling for a moment, but the Bachelor refuses to leave.

Papa gives chase up the beach.

CONGRATULATIONS TO GLOUCESTER AND TO OUR CHICKS! 37 DAYS OLD AND OFFICIALLY FLEDGED!!!

Saturday marked the thirty-five-day old milestone in a Piping Plover’s life, when USFWS considers a chick fully fledged. At five weeks, a chick has by far the greatest chance of surviving and going on to become a breeding adult. That we fledged three from Good Harbor Beach is nothing short of astounding considering the very many potential threats. The average success rate per nest of four is 1.2 fledglings.

Gloucester’s citizens are proof positive of what a community can accomplish when we work together to effect change.

FLYING! One, two, three, lift off!

What did the chicks have going in their favor this year?

Number One was the change in the dog ordinance, which was to disallow dogs on the beach after March 31st.

Number Two was enforcing the new dog ordinance. Because of the ordinance change, and stepped up enforcement, the adults moved back to the beach to nest, and relatively early in the season. By helping the birds nest earlier in the spring, by the time the Fourth of July weekend arrived, the fledglings were bigger, stronger, and much better at following the parent’s voice commands that alert them to danger.

Number Three was the weather. With cooler than usual temperatures, there were fewer beach goers, which allowed for fewer disturbances.

Number Four, last but not least, was an amazing corp of volunteers who have dedicated hours upon hours to keeping watch over the babies, from sunrise til sunset. Our volunteers are truly the envy of other communities where PiPl nest. I am filming at several locations and staff at these beaches wish they had volunteers as dedicated as are ours.

With a happy, heartfelt thanks to a fantastic group of dedicated volunteer PiPl monitors, to Essex Greenbelt Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer for his continued help, to our Gloucester City Councilors for having the collective wisdom to vote to change the ordinance, to Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard for his ongoing assistance, to ACO Officers Teagan and Jamie, to Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee, to Mayor Sefatia and her administration, to the DPWs Mike Hale and Joe Lucido, and to everyone in the community (and beyond) who have expressed their interest, their support, and who have loved learning about these tiniest, but most spunkiest, of sweet little shorebirds as we have watched them grow in their fascinating life story journey.

The photos are from July Fourth weekend, at 35 and 36 days old. These past several mornings at daybreak I find the three fledglings, Mom, and Dad foraging and preening together on the tidal flats and wrack line in front of the enclosed area. They move back within the roping when the tractor comes through, preen for a bit, head back down to the tidal flats, or fly off to the creek. The family is continuing to stay together, but are dispersed during the day when feeding. There is a wide variety of insects and small sea creatures to forage from at Good Harbor Beach as the PiPls plump up for their southward migration.

Bath time and drying wings.

Morning wake up calisthenics – right wing stretches, then left wing, shimmy shake, and then off to forage.

Every morning the beach rake drives over the wrack line where the fledglings and adults are foraging. It was very scary when the chicks were younger. At thirty-five-days old, the birds can fly away to escape the heavy equipment but usually choose to run instead. PiPls are better camouflaged when they don’t fly, and that is why they often run at top speed to escape danger, rather than flying.

Resting and preening in the morning within the enclosed area.

Because the area inside the enclosure is not raked, a nutritious buffet of insects can be found within the roping. The enclosed area not only provides good food, but is where the family spends most of their time when the tide is high and the beach is full of visitors. Dave Rimmer has let us know he fully supports keeping the roping in place as long as the PiPl family is at Good Harbor Beach. This is a tremendous relief to we volunteers because we see the many ways in which the PiPl family are continuing to utilize this important habitat.