Yesterday I had planned and written this post to be about the Good Harbor Beach and Cape Hedge Plover signs and symbolically roped off area installations but the grand news is that our first pair of PiPls arrived overnight!!
They are worn out from the long migration. The pair spent the morning sheltering behind mini hummocks, out of the way of the cold biting wind, and warming in the morning sun. If you see them on the beach please give them lots and lots of space. They are travel-weary and need to rest up. Thank you!
Thank you to Good Harbor Beach daily walkers and super Plover friends Pat and Dolores, and to my husband Tom, for being the first to spot the 2023 GHB Plovers!
We’d like to thank Mark Cole and the DPW Crew for installing the symbolically roped off areas ahead of April 1st. And for also reinstalling the pet rules sign at the footbridge. We are so appreciative of their kind assistance.
We’d also like to thank Plover Ambassador Eric Hutchins, who made the barrels to hold signs and installed all yesterday at Cape Hedge Beach. The barrels were Eric’s idea and I think it’s a fantastic solution for the deeply poppled beach scape.
If you would like to join our Piping Plover Ambassador Team, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment in the comment section and I will get back to you. Thank you!
Very Happy News to share – yesterday at GHB I spotted a little smattering of PiPl tracks. I could not locate any Plovers, but the beach has been very busy with dogs and they may just be lying low. Their arrival is right on schedule. The past several years the first sightings have been on the 25th and 26th.
Piping Plover tracks, Good Harbor Beach, March 27, 2023
If anyone is concerned as to why the dog regulations are not yet posted at the footbridge, it is because the old sign and posts were damaged during a winter storm. The DPW is building a new one, the second coat of paint is going on tomorrow, and signs should be posted by the 30th. Keeping our fingers crossed that they do go up before the 31st! The symbolically roped off areas have not yet been installed. Last year this was done prior to April 1st, so we are very much hoping that this job is on DPW’s agenda for this week as well.
Signage really helps more than many people fully understand. Yesterday was an on-leash day however, there are currently no signs at the footbridge end. At this time of year, the footbridge side of GHB is the main access point to the beach as the parking lot is still closed. I only ever take Charlotte to the beach on on-leash days because although dogs off-leash are supposed to be under voice command, that is simply not the case at any public space in Gloucester where dogs are allowed off-leash. In the forty-five minute time frame that Charlotte and I were there, 14 dogs were on the beach, two on-leash, the other 12 were not on-leash. I thought we were safe as we were up by the dunes looking for tracks while all the dogs were down by the water’s edge. We did not hear the German Shepherd approaching. The dog knocked Charlotte over and left her in hysterics. The owners did nothing to control their dog as it came back around a second time, only shouting that their dog was “friendly.” We walked back to the car through the parking lot as it was the least threatening choice. Charlotte is not prone to hysterics but when you are only three and a half feet tall and an animal twice your size knocks you down, well it just made us both feel terrible. Me, because I let it happen and her because she was so frightened. I don’t want my granddaughter to grow up feeling so terribly afraid of large dogs.
Back to good news – On Boston’s North Shore, Plovers have been spotted at Crane, Plum Island, and Winthrop Beaches. Our Cape Ann Plover Ambassadors are ready for a super summer of Plover monitoring. Rockport has a new conservation agent, John Lopez who, coincidentally, did his thesis on how off road vehicles impact Plovers. Gloucester City Councilors Scott Memhard and Jeff Worthley have been working with the ambassadors this winter on creating Plover awareness and also working with the Clean the Creek grassroots organization to get to the bottom of the Creek contamination. We have many new Ambassadors and are looking forward to meeting them all at our first informational meeting, which will take place when the Plovers are more settled in. If you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador this summer, please contact me at email@example.com or leave a comment in the comment section. We would love to have you!
Cheery news to share from PiPl Ambassador Deb- Friday, March 3rd, a Piping Plover was spotted at beautiful West Dennis Beach, on Cape Cod! It won’t be long 🙂
Thank you so very much to Jonathan and Sally for hosting the PiPl meeting and for organizing and compiling the notes. There’s a great deal to tackle here, but we’ll work away at the list. And many thanks to Jeff for sending the beach regulations, which are also attached. Additionally, Jayne Knot sent along the data from the contaminated Creek reports – very interesting read. I’ve been in touch with Rory McCarthy, who is heading up the Clean the Creek initiative and hope to speak with her this week to see how we can help. She shares lots of great information on her Instagram page at clean_the_creek.
PiPls in a windy March snowstorm several years ago
We’re glad you stopped by to learn more about Piping Plovers! The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about nesting Plovers. If you don’t find an answer to your question here, please write in the comments and let us know. The question you have, others may have as well. Thank you!
Do Plovers really start walking as soon as they hatch?
Yes! Plovers are precocial birds. That is a term biologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Unlike songbirds, which generally hatch helpless, naked, and blind, Plovers hatch with downy soft feathers and are fully mobile. They can run, peck, and are learning to forage within a few hours after hatching. The one thing they can’t do is regulate their body temperature. Plover chicks feed in short intervals, then run to snuggle beneath Mom or Dad’s warm underwings.
Do they have predators? What is their greatest threat?
Plover chicks are vulnerable to a great number of predators including Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, American Crows, Peregrine Falcons, Eastern Coyotes, Red Foxes, and Gray Foxes. The greatest threat to Plovers is when dogs are allowed to run freely through the nesting area, which causes the adults to chase the dogs, which leaves the eggs and chicks vulnerable to avian predators. The second greatest threat to Plovers is the garbage left behind by beachgoers, which attracts crows and gulls, both of which eat chicks and eggs.
How many generally survive?
On average, only 1.3 chicks survive per nesting pair. Most chicks are lost within the first two days.
How long does it take a Plover chick to learn to fly?
By the time a Plover is about 25 days old, it can take very brief test flights. At about 35 days, or five weeks, a Plover is considered fully fledged.
Where do they migrate to when they leave their northern breeding grounds?
We know from Plover banding programs conducted at the University of Rhode Island that the majority of Massachusetts Piping Plovers fly non-stop to the outer banks of North Carolina. Here they will stage for about a month. After fattening up for the next leg of their journey, many Plovers from the north Atlantic region migrate to the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Turks and Caicos.
During this staging period, Plovers also undergo a molt, where they lose their old tired feathers and grow new fresh feathers.
Just as Piping Plovers are site faithful to their breeding grounds, so too are they are site faithful to their winter homes.
Do they come back to the same nest site every year?
Remarkably, many mated pairs do return to the very same nesting site. Piping Plovers show tremendous fidelity to each other and to their nesting site. Even though they may winter-over in different locations, Piping Plover pairs may return to their breeding grounds within days of each other, and sometimes on the very same day. The chicks will most likely not return to the precise location of their birth, but may return to the same region.
Why are the areas on the beach roped off .
Plovers need a safe haven from dogs and people when they are nesting, especially on busy beach days. Even after the nestlings have hatched and are running on the beach, the Plovers know that it is generally safe from disturbance within the symbolically protected area. The roped off areas also allows beach vegetation to regrow, which provides shelter and food for the chicks and adults. The new growth helps fortify the dunes against future storm damage and rising sea level.
Why don’t Plovers nest in the dunes.
Plovers generally do not nest in the dunes, but in the sand, precisely where beachgoers enjoy sitting. Plovers evolved to nest in sand. For one reason in particular, their eggs are very well camouflaged in sand, so well camouflaged in fact that is is easy for people and pets to accidentally step on them. Prior to the mid-1900s, beaches were not as widely used as the recreational areas they have become today. There was far less interaction with humans. Nesting in dunes poses an even less safe set of challenges, including predation of their eggs by mammals and rodents.
What’s the story with the local organization that is advocating to harm, eat, and/or kill Piping Plovers?
Piping Plovers are listed as a federal and state protected endangered and threatened bird species. Threatened species are afforded the same exact protections as are endangered species. It is illegal to eat, kill, harm, or harass Plovers in any way, and punishable by fines in the tens of thousands of dollars. If humans intentionally create an untenable situation for nesting birds, a beach may become closed for the season
Plovers are very small, only slightly larger than a sparrow, with unfortunately, a history of harassment that in some cases, has led to death. It’s amazing that such a tender tiny bird can elicit the worst behavior in some humans while also evoking the best in people who recognize their vulnerability.
Fortunately for the Plovers, conservation groups, volunteers, and an ever increasingly aware beach-going population of educated and kind hearted citizens are working toward helping folks better understand that by sharing the shore, we not only allow for our own enjoyment by keeping the beach open to the public, we are protecting and promoting the continuation of a species.
Can’t we just capture the Plovers and take them to a less trafficked beach, or build the birds a nest in a tree?
Plovers do not nest in trees. If the Plovers were removed from the beach, they would very likely return. Plovers will rebuild a nest up to five time during a single season. With continual disturbance to the birds, the end result would be no eggs and no chicks. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act and shorebird conservation programs is to rebuild the population to return the Plovers to safe numbers where we know the species will survive.
Do volunteers come every day?
Yes, PiPl Ambassadors are on the beach everyday, seven days a week, from sunrise until sunset. If you would like to be a Piping Plover volunteers, please contact Kim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment.
Looking out the window at snow covered scapes, it’s hard to imagine that in just about a month little feathered friends will be arriving at our local beaches. For the past several years our original Piping Plover pair at #3 have arrived on March 25th. It’s very possible they may have flown directly from their wintering sites, hundreds of miles, if not over a thousand (we know this from banding programs at URI). The pair are usually weary and in need of quiet rest, at least for the first several days… then comes the business of courting and establishing a nest. I am so hopeful our handicapped Mom will be returning for a second summer after losing her foot. It’s unlikely we will see HipHop, not because he wasn’t strong enough to return, but because offspring don’t usually return to their exact birth location. We may see HipHop though at area beaches.
As usual, we will be providing Plover updates in emails, on our new website, Facebook, and Instagram. We are so appreciative of the Gloucester Daily Times’s Andrea Holbrook and Ethan Forman for their recent article highlighting the upcoming Plover season and helping to get the word out about our Ambassador program!
Welcome to our new friends and possible volunteers, George, Meah, Susan, Leslie, and Terry! Thank you so much for offering to volunteer and/or support us in other ways through getting the word out about our Ambassador program.
At our recent Plover organizational meeting, hosted by Jonathan and Sally, we decided our areas of focus are: Safety, Education, Volunteers, and City Support (thank you for organizing the topics Sally!) Jonathan added April/May strategies, which as we seasoned volunteers know, poses a different set of challenges. City Councilor Jeff Worthley was in attendance, and it was a huge help to have someone who can provide insights into what can be accomplished through working with the City. Jeff shared that in the 90s he worked at Good Harbor Beach for five summers and he was also the chairperson of Beach Parking and Traffic Committee that brought us the advance ticket reservation system, so he also has great historical perspective on the ongoing issues at GHB.
The Creek is still closed due to storm/sewage runoff and it appears the City is no closer to determining the exact source. The fecal matter levels are 14,000 times what is acceptable. This may not seem like a Plover matter (so far, it does not appear to affect their well-being) but it often falls upon the Ambassadors to let people know how unsafe it is to swim there. The high levels are frequently reported on in the GDTimes, but if the City posted the actual levels on the signs at the beach, people might not be so quick to dismiss the warnings. We also discussed that it is probably not safe for swimmers at the mouth of the Creek either as a bunch of surfers that were recently surfing there are reportedly ill. We’d like to thank Councilors Scott Memhard and Jeff Worthley for addressing the contamination at the Creek issue, including walking the beach to let people know, and ensuring the warning signs are in place.
Here is a link to our new website – The Piping Plover Project. Many thanks to PiPl Ambassadors Paula and Alexa for sending along their most frequently asked questions, it was super helpful in putting the list together (link to FAQs). Please let me know if you have any FAQs you would like added to the list.
We have received outstanding news from our Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird Biologist, Carolyn Mostello. She shared the “Summary of the 2022 Massachusetts Piping Plover Census.” The grand total for Massachusetts breeding pairs of Plovers is a whopping 1033, up 6.8 percent relative to 2021. A total of 1,330 chicks was reported fledged for an overall productivity of 1.31 fledglings per pair.
The summary is prepared each year by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, a division of Mass Wildlife. The Summary is in pdf form and I am happy to email anyone the report if you are interested. Please leave a comment in the comment section and your email will pop up on my end. Thank you for your interest!
The following are some highlights from the Summary –
This report summarizes data on abundance, distribution, and reproductive success of Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) in Massachusetts during the 2022 breeding season. Observers reported breeding pairs of Piping Plovers present at 209 sites; 150 additional sites were surveyed at least once, but no breeding pairs were detected at them. The population increased 6.8% relative to 2021. The Index Count (statewide census conducted 1-9 June) was 1,013 pairs, and the Adjusted Total Count (estimated total number of breeding pairs statewide for the entire 2022 breeding season) was 1,033 pairs. A total of 1,330 chicks was reported fledged in 2022, for an overall productivity of 1.31 fledglings per pair, based on data from 98.6% of pairs.
Piping Plovers are small, sand-colored shorebirds that nest on sandy beaches and dunes along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Newfoundland. The U.S. Atlantic Coast population of Piping Plovers has been federally listed as Threatened, pursuant to the U.S. Endangered Species Act, since 1986. The species is also listed as Threatened by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife pursuant to the Massachusetts’ Endangered Species Act.
Population monitoring is an integral part of recovery efforts for Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996, Hecht and Melvin 2009a, b). It allows wildlife managers to identify limiting factors, assess effects of management actions and regulatory protection, and track progress toward recovery. In this report, we summarize data on abundance, distribution, and reproductive success of Piping Plovers breeding in Massachusetts in 2022, as observed and reported by a coast-wide network of cooperators.
Monitoring and management of Piping Plovers and other coastal waterbirds in Massachusetts is carried out by wildlife biologists, seasonal shorebird monitors, beach managers, researchers, and volunteers affiliated with over 20 federal and state agencies, local municipalities, local and regional land trusts, private conservation organizations, and universities. Cooperators monitored 359 sites in Massachusetts in 2022 for the presence of breeding Piping Plovers.
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Long term trends in breeding Piping Plover population size and productivity are shown in Figure 5. The five-year running average of productivity has declined overall since 1995; however, there is a noticeable increase since reaching a low point in 2013. Since 2018, the five-year average of productivity has been above the approximately 1.2 fledglings per pair thought to be necessary to maintain a stable population (Melvin & Gibbs 1996) 2, and the breeding population has increased dramatically over that period. In fact, since state-wide monitoring began, this is the first year where the estimated number of territorial pairs has exceeded 1,000 in the state of Massachusetts, far exceeding the goal of 625 pairs throughout New England identified in the Piping Plover Atlantic Coast Population Recovery Plan. Although the New England Piping Plover population has exceeded the population recovery goal, that is not the case for other regions along the Atlantic Coast.
A Gloucester group is seeking volunteers to help look after the piping plovers when they nest at Good Harbor Beach, and setting up a website, pipingploverproject.org, offering information on the birds.
“We have received a number of inquiries regarding the upcoming plover season,” said Gloucester resident and Piping Plover Ambassador Kim Smith of the website. “And we wanted to have a page ready where people could find sign up information.”
“I envision this site as a place where we can not only get information, updates, and stories about our Cape Ann plover families, but to also learn more about plovers in general, other shorebirds, habitat conservation, and how climate change is impacting all,” said Smith in an email.
Our new website, The Piping Plover Project, is under construction nonetheless, I wanted to get it up and running. We’ve received a number of inquiries regarding the upcoming Plover season (just around the corner if you can believe it!) and we wanted to have a page ready where people could find sign up information.
I envision this site as a place where we can not only get information, updates, and stories about our Cape Ann Plover families, but to also learn more about Plovers in general, other shorebirds, habitat conservation, and how climate change is impacting all. If you come across a story or article you would like to see posted here, please forward along. Or if you have a story of your own you would like to share, please, by all means we would love to read it. If you would like to follow this site, move your cursor in the lower right corner and a “follow” box should appear.
Still to come is the FAQs page, which you can help me write if you would like. If an Ambassador is reading this, please let me know what questions you are frequently asked. If a PiPl Friend, please write if you have a question you would like answered. Thank you!
More about becoming a Piping Plover Ambassador
What are the responsibilities of a Plover Ambassador? Plover management is as much about people management as it is about caring for the Plovers. We believe we play an important role in not only representing the Plovers, but it is equally as important to represent Gloucester and Rockport in a positive light. We are there to answer questions, share information, point out the location of the Plovers to interested beachgoers, and direct foot traffic away from the chicks when they are on the beach foraging and resting. Many of our Ambassadors even share their binoculars to better help visitors enjoy watching the chicks.
We begin watching over the chicks on their first day, the day they hatch. The shifts are roughly an hour long, everyday, for about five weeks. We provide coverage from sunrise until sunset. Each person signs up for a specific time ie., 7 to 8, 8 to 9, etc. Several of our Ambassadors like to share their shift with a friend and switching your times around with a fellow Ambassador is okay, too.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about becoming a Piping Plover Ambassador, please contact Kim Smith at email@example.com or leave a comment in the comment section
We are also planning to link this site to a QR code to help folks on the beach who are curious and want to learn more about Cape Ann Plovers.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to being in touch during this upcoming season of Piping Plover chronicles.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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 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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.”)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Tiny Piping Plover Hip Hop is the exact same age as his three siblings; twenty-three-days-old when this video was shot. We’re not exactly sure why he is not developing as quickly as the other three but can surmise it is because he has an injured right foot. He doesn’t put weight on the foot and has a run-hop sort of gait. Hip Hop spends much more time thermosnuggling under the adult’s wings than his siblings but when he is out on the beach and tidal flats he eats with great gusto.
Please, if you see this little one on the beach, please give him lots of space to forage and to move around. This is our smallest chick, so nicknamed Hip Hop because his right foot does not work well, which causes him to do a sort of hop run. Despite the injury he is growing and moves with much independence, all around the beach.
Parents of young children, do not allow your child to chase the Plovers, any Plover, adult or chick. If you see a Plover on the beach, hold your child’s hand so they don’t lunge toward the bird and then both watch from a quiet distance. You will see so much more, and the bird may even approach you if you are standing still.
Community members, if you see a person(s) chasing Plovers, please alert a Plover Ambassador. Thank you!
Comparing two three-week-old siblings – Because of Hip Hop’s foot injury, he is growing at a slower pace however, he is robust, which gives us hope he will eventually fill out. Normally developed three-week-old chick stretching its wings
Interestingly, both Super Mom and Hip Hop have right foot handicaps; Mom has lost her foot and Hip Hop sustained an injury approximately during his first week of life.
Thank you Jonathan for the addition of new signs in all these prominent locations, so very much appreciated! And thank you Sally for last night’s lovely evening story, and to all our ambassadors for your thoughtful updates and wonderful information provided throughout the day.
Regarding drones, I was reminded by daily early morning beach walker John Burlingham, a former game warden, and the person who saved the day the other morning with the hostile drone family, that our own sign in the kiosk at the entrance to the footbridge states clearly that drones are not allowed near the Plovers. It gives the distance and I will check on that tomorrow because I don’t recall precisely what it said, but if you have a problem with a drone operator, please feel free to point out the sign in the kiosk.
Regarding the PiPl smackdowns we have all been witnessing –
When Piping Plovers arrive in early spring they begin almost immediately to establish a nesting territory. The males fly overhead piping loud territorial calls and chase and/or attack intruders including songbirds, Crows, gulls, and even members of their own species. The attacks on each other are brutal and can end in injury, or even worse, death.
Typically, the battles subside for a time while the mated pairs are brooding eggs and when the chicks are very young. The exception to that is when an unattached male, or disrupter, is circulating about the beach.
Later in the season, as the chicks are gaining independence and roam more freely, the youngsters will eventually cross into “enemy territory.” The males resume fighting to both protect their chicks and their turf. We are seeing these little dramas play out at Good Harbor Beach. One reason why I think the older pair at #3, our original pair, are so successful is because Super Mom will also often join in the battle (even with her foot loss), putting herself between the attacker and her chicks, and they will both go after the intruder, whether another Plover or a seagull. In the video, you can see Mom has positioned herself on the left, while Super Dad circles the other male, biting him during the scuffles, then leaping over and then chasing him out over the water. This was yesterday’s battle and today finds all six chicks and all four adults present and accounted for, with no visible injuries.
Happy three-week-old birthday to our area #3 chicks. Truly a milestone for the chicks and for the Good Harbor Beach community of Piping Plover friends and advocates. On Thursday, the twins at Salt Island will also be three weeks old. Imagine! I am trying not to get too excited because last year a gull swooped in and flew off with a 24 day old chick. The following day, we lost a 25 day old chick for the same reason. We’ll just keep hoping and working toward fledging all these six beautiful little babies 🙂 And finally, today for the first time, I saw Hip Hop stretch his wing buds! He is still not putting much weight on his right foot. I don’t think it was a problem at birth because in looking at all the early footage, no chicks had an obvious foot deformity.
Hip Hop, 20 days old, with right foot injury
Have a super July summer day and thank you for all you are doing to help the GHB PiPls!