All four Killdeer Plover chicks that hatched a little over a week ago are all doing remarkably well! They are zooming around the outskirts of Good Harbor Beach and managing to stay out of the way of people and automobiles.
Notice the newborn hatchling’s tiny white dot on the end of its bill. That is the egg tooth it used to pip its way out of the shell. The egg tooth falls off after the first day or so.
I wonder sometimes why Killdeers are so successfully able to reproduce while their smaller cousins struggle so. I think being that much bigger helps a great deal. Killdeer chicks don’t appear to need to thermo snuggle (thermoregulate) nearly as often as do Piping Plover chicks, even on the coldest mornings. And, too, Killdeers are the least beach dwelling Plovers of all and have adapted to nesting in a diverse range of habitats including fields, rooftops, parking lots, gravel pits, and grassy lawns.
My what big feet you have little chick!
The Killdeer Plover family is finding lots to eat amongst the dandelions and weeds at Good Harbor Beach.
On the afternoon of 25th, we had just refilled our newest hummingbird feeder when while cooking dinner a little whirr appeared at the window. He made several trips around the garden, alternately sipping sweetened sugar water at the feeders and nectar from the Japanese flowering quince ‘Toyo-nishiki.’ Like clockwork, for the past several years the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have arrived to our garden in April, while the quince is in bloom.
Hummingbird feeder recipe: To one cup warm water add 1/4 cup pure cane sugar (4 parts to1 part). Dissolve thoroughly. Please don’t put up feeders if you don’t have the time to change the water frequently, and even more frequently in warmer weather.
Over the past few days there has been a burst of Hummingbird sightings coming from around the state. Hang your feeders if you haven’t already done so and remember to change the sugar water often, every few days. Hummingbird feeders are a terrible idea if you are not willing to provide fresh water frequently. Hummingbirds get a fatal fungal infection on their tongue, called hummers candidiasis when folks don’t change the water, or when honey, or any sweetener other than pure white cane sugar is used. And never add red food coloring. The bird’s tongue becomes terribly swollen, they can’t retract it, and without medical attention will starve to death.
Japanese flowering quince ‘Toyo-nishiki.’
I love this newest feeder and purchased it with Charlotte in mind. It’s positioned at her eye level and suction cupped to the window she likes to stand at to look into the garden. The small feeder was modestly priced and bought at Smiths Hardware in Rockport.
Hummingbird feeders serve the purpose of providing sustenance especially during the time of year when there is a lull in blooms however, the very best gift you can give hummers is to provide their favorite plants, and there are many, including trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and annuals.
Gloucester’s February 2nd Nor’easter brought rain, high winds, and area flooding. Both Nautilus Road and Atlantic Road were temporarily closed at high tide due to over wash. The waves along the back shore were tremendous!!
Notice in the above photos of Good Harbor Beach the water that surrounds the dune. When the parking lot is flooded and the water comes right up to the base of the dune, you can see how the dune is really just a very narrow slip of land. One super powerful storm could reclaim Good Harbor Beach and turn the entire area into a marsh.
Hurricane Teddy delivered wild waves and flooding along Gloucester’s shoreline edges.The GHB parking lot was completely flooded, the high water mark was up to the very base of the dunes, but the footbridge came through with flying colors (last I checked and thanks to Gloucester’s awesome DPW).
Photos from Good Harbor Beach, the Back Shore, Brace Cove, and Eastern Point.
“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” – Oscar Wilde
This morning on my way out I saw the most gratifying sight. A Red Fox KIT was carrying a captured rabbit in its mouth! Why so happy to see this? Because it means our neighborhood Red Fox family is dispersing, the Mama and Papa fox have taught the kits well, and that the young ones are able to hunt for themselves! The moment was so fleeting I wasn’t able to take a photo but the sighting reminded me that I hadn’t finished posting the last batch of photos from the week with the Good Harbor Beach Red Fox Family.
Face to face encounter with a kit – I was very quietly filming his siblings when I heard a faint scraping/rustling noise behind me and turned to see this curious one, perched on a garage roof above looking down. We were only several feet apart and for many good long moments we were able to examine each other eye to eye before he scampered off the roof. Dad Red Fox
I just want to add for the benefit of people who think Red Fox are a nuisance and may even be a bit frightened by their presence. Red Fox are solitary animals (unless denning). They do not hunt in packs and are about half to two-thirds the size of the Eastern Coyote, also seen in our neighborhoods. Their diet consists largely of small rodents, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, fruits, berries, and insects. Generally speaking, they do not go after people’s cats and dogs.
A tremendous plus to having Red Fox in our community is that they are the best hunters of mice and chipmunks, far better than Eastern Coyotes. Chipmunks and mice are the greatest vectors (carriers) of Lyme disease. So the presence of Red Fox is a good thing to help cut down on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Because Red Fox compete with Eastern Coyotes for habitat, and because Coyotes eat fox kits, Red Fox are denning closer to human dwellings as they deem it a safer choice than denning where they may encounter a Coyote.
The one drawback to the presence of Red Fox is that they also eat chickens. I am sure. you have heard the phrase don’t allow the ‘fox to guard the henhouse.’ The root of that phrase comes from the fact that unlike many of their competing predators, fox cache their food, meaning they will kill a large number, and then hide the food, which has been known to happen at henhouses.
Here are some fun facts I learned about Red Fox while photographing and filming the Good Harbor Beach fox family –
Red Fox are super fast runners that can reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. And they can also leap more than six feet high!
The Red Fox was originally thought to be introduced from Europe in the 19th century, recent DNA tests have shown that these foxes are indeed native to North America.
To keep warm in winter, the Red Fox uses its bushy tail.
Enjoy any fox sightings, Red or Gray, and please let me know if you are continuing to see them in your neighborhood.
Due to storm overflow, no swimming at the Creek until further notice.
From Gloucester Beaches –
As a result of the storms that traveled through the area on Wednesday, our weekly test results were not favorable and therefore the creek at Good Harbor Beach is closed to swimming until further notice. We’re optimistic that the next 2 tide cycles will bring the levels back to acceptable. And will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.
Over the past several months of documenting our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, beginning in March, we have seen a beautiful collection of shorebirds, gulls, hawks, and wading birds. The continuous ebb and flow of replenishing waters at the tidal creek, expansive marsh, and intertidal pools make for a range of rich habitat where birds can find food and shelter. Minnows, sea worms, crabs, tiny mollusks, and a wide variety of other invertebrates provide fuel for hungry travelers as well as summer residents.
Too many photos for one post I just realized and will post heron and egret photos next.
It took awhile to discover where Marshmallow was this morning. He was at the wrack line calling nearly continuously with his soft melodious piping call, (which is how I was able to locate him), before then flying off over the dunes. I found him on my return walk, preening and fluffing at the PiPls favorite piece of driftwood within the enclosure. Note that is the very same driftwood that our PiPl Mom and Dad had their very first nest scrape at, way back in April!
No sign of Dad this morning.
Heidi noticed the pair of Semipalmated Plovers as well; it’s one of the first sightings of Semipalmated Plovers at GHB this summer and is a sure sign that the summer/fall migration is underway. Last year we had an unusual occurrence, Mystery Chick – a Semipalmated Plover fledgling appear suddenly and foraged for a bit with our three PiPl chicks.
Good Harbor Beach, and all of Cape Ann’s shorelines, continue to provide an extraordinary window into the world of migrating creatures. Despite 2020 being such a challenging summer on so very many levels, a saving grace has been our Piping Plovers and having the joy of meeting and getting to know our Ambassadors, and all of Marshmallow’s friends.
Semipalmated Plover fledgling, “Mystery Chick”
Heather Atwood updated us that the Cape Ann Today PiPl episode is not going to air until Friday or Monday and as soon as I know, will let you know.
Have a great day and thank goodness for today’s cooler temperatures 🙂
Over the week I spent filming the Red Fox family, the kits became habituated to my presence. I worried about that, worried for the sake of the kits, especially after one incident where I heard a noise behind me and a kit was standing over my head looking down at me, only a mere few feet away. Several weeks later I was walking in the same neighborhood and the sound of hooves running wildly alerted me to a deer running pell mell up the hill, with a kit in hot pursuit. Red Fox adults don’t even take down deer and I wondered if the kit was practicing its hunting skills and also wondered, thinking about my eye to eye encounter with a kit, if I hadn’t looked up when one was looking down at me, if he was planning to pounce on me!
Every morning the dog and vixen brought mouths full of fresh prey to their kits. It was startling to see when an entire nest of baby bunnies was delivered, which one would imagine would be breakfast for all three kits, but was quickly devoured by the first kit in line waiting for breakfast.
Baby bunny breakfast
As the season progressed, some early mornings we would see the foxes make several trips across the beach, always with a large rabbit, or two, clutched tightly in it jaws on the return trip.
Good Harbor Beach Dad with not one but two adult rabbits
Kits eating a Shrew for breakfast
Red Foxes also eat fruits, berries, and insects. The kit in the above photo is digging for grubs
The Red Fox adults left dead small mammals all around the family’s home base, I think to encourage the youngsters to begin hunting on their own.
My favorite few moments of filming was on a particularly beautiful morning when Dad was acting very chill. He had delivered breakfast, licked one of the kits clean, and was relaxing on the grassy knoll. The kit playfully surprise attacked him, coming in from behind and pouncing with an open jaw. It was beautiful to watch this familial scene with the Red Fox family unfold and is a moment I won’t soon forget.
Sneak attack on Dad!
Here are a few more photos. I have another batch, the last day with the Fox Family and will try to find the time to post next week.
As I was leaving, Heidi and I crossed paths on the footbridge. What a joy to be replaced each day by Heidi and have a moment of good conversation, something I am sure many of us are not getting enough of during the pandemic.
The raker had not yet come but Dad and Marshmallow were peacefully foraging down at the Creek. More bathing, preening, floofing, and flippy floppy flying thing, with only the Killdeers causing Dad to leave his post.
A heartfelt thank you to all our Ambassadors, Mayor Sefatia, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Councilor Memhard, PiPl Friends, City Council, GDP, GPD, and all who are lending a hand and good wishes for Marshmallow reaching the tremendous milestone of 28 days, tremendous in the way that, thanks to you all, he is getting off to an excellent start, despite growing up in our most highly trafficked and wildly popular City beach. Only (roughly) two more weeks to go <3
Have a great day!
xxKimMarshmallow preening after bathing
Piping Plovers take baths daily, starting from a very early age. It’s nearly always the same, no matter the age. The only difference really is younger chicks will splash around more. Twenty-seven-days-old Marshmallow takes a bath now much the same way as does Dad, quickly and efficiently.
Adults and older chicks will first eye-ball the area, while cautiously considering whether or not it’s safe to immerse in water. Small birds especially are vulnerable to predator attacks when their feathers are wet.
Plover bathing entails a thorough dunking, from tip to toe, ending with a leap from the water, with wings spread wide and tail feathers shaking, to dry off droplets. Bath time is followed by floofing, poofing, preening, and head scratching. And then, generally speaking, a return to the most important business of all, foraging to not only grow strong and develop well, but to build up their fat reserves for the long migration south.
Thank you so very much Friends for all you are doing to help our GHB PiPls. If you cannot make your shift or need to shorten it, thank you for trying to switch, but if not covered, try not to worry. The next Ambassador will be along and it seemed positively calm at the Creek yesterday. I hope they stay there all day but the tide was high last night and they may come back to the main beach during high tide, at 11:07am today. Many, many beachgoers were already being dropped off at the footbridge when I left at 7:30 this morning, so perhaps the worst of it will be before noon, which would be a good thing.
Hoping to post footage of Marshmallow taking a bath from today, if I can find the time.
Have a great day – so gorgeous out!!
After a week of planning, organizing, and press conferences, Mayor Sefatia has restored Good Harbor Beach to normal pre-pandemic beach day fun. People were spaced widely and the crowds manageable. Beach Rangers now patrol our busiest beaches. No parking signs have been installed and, based on the few streets I drove down today, the off street parking seemed much as on a usual summer day.
Parking lot attendants and Rangers are now on duty until 8pm nightly at Good Harbor Beach and they are strictly enforcing the new residents only policy, even after hours.
Tonight I spoke with new Beach Ranger Mark when entering the parking lot at GHB at 6pm. He was considerate and polite and remarked that he thought the scene at GHB was much improved, with people acting much more respectfully.
Because I wasn’t there, I can’t speak to Wingaersheek Beach and State Fort Park, but based on what we saw today at GHB, I can only imagine the improvements are equally as tremendous!
The Mayor, City Council, Administration, DPW, and Gloucester Police have extraordinary issues and problems to deal with during this most extraordinary of times. Thank you to all and especially to Mayor Sefatia for everything she is doing to keep Gloucester citizens safe.
Good Harbor Beach today at12:30, usually peak beach time
Mayor Sefatia wrote the following on her Facebook page –
Can we please give a BIG shout out first to Bob Ryan who’s been volunteering on the Traffic Commission, for over 40 years. If not for him all of the Streets/Roads/Drives/Ways wouldn’t be Residents Only, also a
BIG shout out to DPW ordering them and putting them up, in a day.
BIG shout out to all my beach attendants and Life Guards, DPW, Police for putting up with everything at beaches and SFP.
BIG shout out to GPD for helping the city stop all the illegal parking, and the craziness.
BIG shout out to my staff especially at City Hall with beach stickers, Kristen Lineberg thank you.
BIG shout out to BOH for working with my office Max Schenk and Karin Staiti Carroll
BIG shout out GFD Cert team.
BIG shout out to Vanessa Armano Krawczyk and Enza Ferrara Taormina Chip Payson/Dana, Joanne Senos, Holly Dougwillo Joe Lucido Mark Cole, Rose LoPiccolo, Michael Borgström Hale Ed Conley Joe Fitzgerald John Dunn for putting up with the #^*%% in the office to get everything in place for this weekend.
BIG shout out to AG Maura Healey to have access to you and your staff in case we are sure legally if things are allowable.
Ann Margaret Ferrante Bruce Tarr for always being there 24/7.. no really 24/7..
BIG shout out for Governor Charlie Baker and Lt Governor Karin Polito for all of your support and “Trusting your Mayors”, in knowing their Cities, Giving us the Guidance to do it right, to be able to protect our citizens.
It took this whole team to make today happen and hopefully tomorrow.
BIG shout out to our newest addition Our Park/Beach Rangers, thank you so much for being part of our team.
A BIG shout out to the citizens of Gloucester who had to endure the craziness last few weeks.
Thank you everyone from the
Mayor and City Council 💖
Beautiful, tranquil early morning at Good Harbor Beach. I found the pair at the Creek, foraging and preening. Dad was in his usual super dad mode, chasing Killdeers, as well as some unseen-to-my-eyes imaginary beings.
Dad preening from tip to tail feather
Heidi and I had to laugh as we watched Marshmallow chase, and then capture and eat, a white butterfly, actually a moth I think.
Marshmallow eating a moth
Hopefully all the good work Mayor Sefatia and her administration have endeavored to do this past week will help keep the crowds down to a manageable size this weekend.
Will write more tomorrow, working on several stories to share. Thank you one again PiPl Ambassadors for your great gifts of time and kindness in helping our Good Harbor Piping Plovers survive Gloucester’s busiest of beaches.
Marshmallow taking a cue from Dad on excellent feather maintenance
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO LEAVE THE PROTECTED AREA IN PLACE AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH UNTIL THE CHICK HAS FULLY FLEDGED AND THE BIRDS DEPARTED?
Good Morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors!
Dad and Marshmallow made a round about trip to the Creek just before the storm started at about 6:45. That’s it, nothing more to report from this cold rainy morning 🙂
Why is it so critical to leave the protected area in place for the full length of time the PiPls spend at Good Harbor Beach? The following video was shot in the early evening and is a chick from one of the other Piping Plover families that I am documenting. The chick in the clip is 39 days old. To avoid confusion, I have to repeat that this is NOT Marshmallow, but an entirely different chick. Actually, he/she is a near fledgling at 39 days old. Our Marshmallow is only 24 days old.
I would like folks to see in slower motion the funny flippy floppy fly thing all chicks and fledglings do, but the footage also serves the purpose of highlighting how vitally important it is to keep sheltering areas in place at the beach for as long as the Plovers are present.
You can see in the video that it takes several moments for the youngster to alight. While becoming proficient at flying, chicks are still very vulnerable to predator attacks from gulls, crows, owls, hawks, herons, dogs, coyotes, and foxes. Symbolically roped off areas continue to provide shelter and safety to Piping Plover adults and fledglings alike, even after the chicks have reached their so-called official fledge date. Not all chicks mature at precisely the same rate over precisely the same number of days. Their weight, development, and flying ability depend largely on how rich, plentiful, and accessible is their food source.
Thermo-snuggling for the better part of the early morning and all was quiet. Dad suddenly began piping loudly, jumped up, and flew from Marshmallow. I was busy watching Marshmallow when out of nowhere, our GHB Red Fox trotted through the backside of home base, mere feet from where they had been snuggling, with Dad hot on the Fox’s heels!
At this point in Marshmallow’s life, I don’t think the Red Fox poses a tremendous threat, but they are a threat nonetheless. Anything canid, whether dog, fox, or coyote may step inadvertently on a young chick when they are hunkered down in place and are not yet fully fledged. Additionally, Red Fox dig and hunt shorebird eggs. A Piping Plover cannot tell the difference between a Red Fox and a domestic dog. Dogs have been allowed by their owners to chase after shorebirds for sport, which is another reason the PiPls find the Fox so threatening.
Shortly after the Fox sighting, the pair headed to the Creek where lots of yummy invertebrates were had, including a mini mollusk that you can see the tail end of in Marshmallow’s mouth, and sea worms, fat and thin. Heidi came along soon after. I think the birds Heidi remarked on are the Killdeer family; they were there earlier at the Creek until Dad had chased them off the scene to clear the way for his Marshmallow 🙂Added note about the Red Fox family – The Red Foxes we see currently at Good Harbor Beach are almost always carrying fresh prey in their mouths, small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels, for example, and I don’t think they are going to drop an adult rabbit to chase after a Piping Plover. The Foxes are now crisscrossing the beach several times a day with their mouths full on the return trip, which leads me to believe, the kits have not yet dispersed and Mom and Dad Fox have their paws full supplying the rapidly growing youngsters with nourishment.
The Red Fox diet also includes fresh fruit and berries. If you have a Mulberry tree ripe with fruit you may currently be seeing them in your backyard. I am looking forward to when our neighbor’s apples begin falling from her tree and hope so much our neighborhood Red Fox finds the fallen apple feast.
Heads up – very buggy at the Creek this morning. Hardly any trash today, and isn’t that great news that Mayor Sefatia has closed the beach to nonresidents!
As Bette, Jane, and Jennie have shared, the beach was very quiet this morning and activity was low.
I love Jonathan’s new term for thermoregulating – “thermo-snuggling.” It more aptly describes their behavior, and that is all Marshmallow wanted to do this morning! I wish the footage was more exciting but the temperature was in the low 60s and it was drizzling when Heidi came along at 7:00. Marshmallow ran out of the roped off area several times but returned just as quickly as there were several gulls and a crow getting too close for Dad’s comfort.
Taylor Ann Bradford from the Gloucester Times phoned this morning and I shared with her your names. You may have already received an email from her.
The following is a link to a post that I wrote addressing the overcrowding at GHB. The last paragraph is about the PiPls. I have read on several social media sites that the PiPls are taking a bad rap for overcrowding at GHB, which, when you look at the pandemonium on the side streets and understaffed, overstuffed parking lot, even suggesting the PiPls are to blame is more than ridiculous.
A people and parking pandemonium marked the second weekend in July at Cape Ann beaches during the global pandemic. Mayor Sefatia, Chief Conley, City Council, and the DPW have been working to address last weekend’s pandemic pandemonium so same is not repeated.
The City of Gloucester has closed the parking lots at its three most densely populated beaches, Wingaersheek, Good Harbor Beach, and Stage Fort Park, to resident parking only. In addition, new no parking signs are being installed on residential streets this week, which include towing warnings. Gloucester is not the only community struggling with massive numbers of day trippers overcrowding beaches and parking illegally. Rockport is also experiencing many similar issues.
The amount of parking tickets issued last weekend shattered all previous records. According to Gloucester Times reporting by Taylor Ann Bradford, 478 tickets were issued, totaling approximately $31,000.00. Chief Conley states during the same weekend last year only 154 tickets were issued.
How will the City manage the issue of WALK-ONS? Without addressing this key component, nonresidents will continue to find places to park illegally and pour onto Good Harbor Beach. The parking lots at both Shaws and Stop and Shop were nearly filled to capacity on both Saturday and Sunday. You need only drive down Nautilus Road and watch the mass of beachgoers filing along, packed with a days worth of fun in the sun equipment, to understand the extent of the problem.
The parking lots need attendants during the entire time they are open. The word has gotten out that it’s free and unstaffed in the afternoon. On both weekend days at 5:00pm, the lot was filled to capacity however, cars were continuing to pile in.
Several of our parking attendants have tested positive for covid-19. I feel deeply for City dwellers and out-of-towners that want to come and enjoy our beautiful beaches but we are in the midst of a global pandemic and the first concern is for the safety of our community.
Nonresidents have alternatives to Good Harbor, Wingaersheek, and Stage Fort. Governor Baker has opened all DCR Northshore beaches, including Salisbury, Winthrop, Revere, Lynn Shores Reservation, and Nahant. These state run beaches have the facilities and staff to deal with the inordinate pandemic-sized crowds. Additionally, the police patrol beaches such as Revere on horseback. For Massachusetts residents parking is $10.00 at Nahant and $14.00 at Salisbury.
Stay Safe Friends! Please, WEAR MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCE! It shouldn’t be one or the other, but both!
Because the Piping Plovers are continually brought up as a reason for the beach overcrowding the following has been added to the original post –
Edited Note regarding the conservation areas set aside at Good Harbor Beach. A roped-off corridor eleven feet wide was created last spring, which runs the length of the entire beach. This corridor was established to help shore-up the dunes. We think protecting the dunes is a fantastic idea and you can already see positive results. Later in the spring, on April 17, an additional area was roped off for Piping Plover protection by the conservation agent. It was noted at the time that this area was twice as large as in previous years. The extremely large area we felt would obviously and unnecessarily frustrate the community and beach goers once the season was underway. Following that, at the time the nest exclosure was installed many weeks later, on May 29th, it was again noted and summarily dismissed that the area was unnecessarily too large. It’s not possible to change the size of the roped off area now while the PiPl chick is still present at GHB, but hopefully in the future there will be improved communication. Regardless of how anyone feels about Plovers, they are not causing the overcrowding, parking lot, and off street parking pandemonium.
Dad and Marshmallow were so peaceful and well-camouflaged that I didn’t see them for nearly the first hour, which gave me a chance to tidy up the beach. I was just about ready to check on the Creek when they both came scooting across the center of the protected area, heading to the water’s edge.
Three weeks marks a tremendous milestone. Thank you Everyone for your dedication during this craziest of busy beach weekends. Thank you for staying long, long extra hours and keeping your eyes on our PiPl family. Little Marshmallow is growing visibly plumper and stronger by the day, thanks largely to our group’s collective effort to keep him safe and protected, especially while he is foraging at the Creek, his most important job.
Today was Heidi Wakeman’s first morning and within her first five minutes, Marshmallow flew across the sand about a six or seven foot distance, about four or five inches off the ground. This wasn’t a funny flutter-hop, but a true little test run. So exciting to see these first flights!!!
Thunderstorms predicted later today, so please don’t stay if it happens on your shift.
xxKimGood Harbor Beach during coronavirus pandemic July 12, 2020