I could only locate two chicks at Cape Hedge Beach. Perhaps one is off foraging on his own. Hopefully he will be spotted later today. I am so sorry to say though that it is not unusual for chicks to become separated from their family during a storm (or fireworks!).
Cape Hedge chicks
Our two-day-old pair of chicks at Good Harbor are doing wonderfully and spent the early morning foraging and thermosnuggling. One still has his little egg tooth, which typically falls off after the first or second day. The parents are awesome and going after very gull and crow in their ever changing territory. I didn’t see little fledgling and Handsome down by #3, but spent most of the morning with the new teeny tinies.
Jane shares that she and Maggie spotted a deer at GHB this morning, how wonderful!!
Today we are celebrating Charlotte’s fourth birthday so I will be home but tied up with family.
Thank you so very much to everyone for your continued dedication and big hearts.
The one day old and two newest members of the Cape Ann PiPls club are doing beautifully. Mom, Dad, and the teeny tinies were foraging in the wrack. Dad and Mom both went after a Herring Gull that flew in a little too close for comfort. Despite the parent’s best efforts to incubate, the last egg will not hatch and that is not entirely unusual, especially for a nest this late in the season.
Our beautiful plumpling-almost-fledged-30-day-old chick, and Dad, were running along the length of the beach and too, finding lots to eat in the wrack.
Cape Hedge chicks were also enjoying the beautiful peace and quiet of a misty morning beach. Too wet to bring cameras today, but here is a sequence of one of the Cape Hedge chicks capturing a large insect several days ago.
Enjoy this perfect for shorebird chick rearing weather. Hopefully the worst of Elsa will stay off shore.
Lots to share – Heidi wrote that she watched our GHB chick take flight for several feet. Hooray! Many, many thanks to Susan for filling in for Heidi, who did a wonderful job and is a joy to talk with, and it’s so nice to have Heidi back. Heidi remarked what a difference a week makes in growth and development.
Proud Dad and 30 day old fledgling
The chicks are hatching at the Salt Island end of the beach!!! This is phenomenal, to have two successful nests at Good Harbor Beach.
It’s going to be a tough situation at this end of the beach and we have myriad questions, namely will the family try to make the super long trek to the Creek on hot, busy beach days to forage?
Mom and Dad are taking turns snuggling the two chicks that have hatched. The third egg has yet to hatch. We’ll check back at the end of the day.
I met several lovely couples and families at Cape Hedge this morning. Everyone is super interested in the Plovers, just as they are at GHB. All three chicks there are thriving, foraging in the tidal flats and between the popples, running for the shelter of the rocks when the occasional dog comes near, and staying relatively close to each other. A smart little one completely flattened in the sand as the Barn Swallows swooped low across the flats.
Two of the three Cape Hedge chicks navigating the popples
I was hoping the Ambassadors would have a little break between looking out for the Nautilus Road chicks and the Salt Island chicks. We are losing several Ambassadors during this flux. I have either a very rotten summer cold or the flu and am not able to take on extra shifts this week. Please email if you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador – email@example.com. You will meet the nicest, most kind hearted group of people.
Thank you to our Cape Ann community and Ambassadors. It’s going to take a village to fledge all these chicks!
Only one chick and Dad were feeding in the flats this morning. The take happened yesterday when Jill was watching the chicks and Dad up by the dune beach grass. A Great Black-backed, quickly joined by a flock, swooped in and appeared to be fighting over a bag of chips when the GBB Gull grabbed the chick. Dad tried once again valiantly to rescue his chick but was unsuccessful.
Our GHB chicks have been growing right on schedule and are finding good foraging at the Creek and in the flats. It is incredibly heartbreaking to lose chicks at any age, but especially these older stronger chicks, one at 22 days and now one at 27 days.
No ambassador should feel responsible in any way. Everyone of you is doing a fantastic job and your dedication of time and energy is so very much appreciated and worthwhile. Takes can happen on anyone’s shift and as I said before it is tremendous for the collective knowledge of PiPls to know how these takes happen and why their numbers are dwindling.
Would these two deaths have occurred if Mom had not been injured? It’s very hard to know because up until a few days ago, she appeared to be managing her injury, while both supervising and defending her chicks, and feeding herself.
What we do know is that American Crows and Great Black-backed Gulls are wreaking havoc on Piping Plover populations on the North Shore. For example, Crows have eaten every egg and chick on Revere Beach (with the exception of one nest still intact) and gulls are eating nearly fully fledged birds.
Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls are relatively new breeders to the Massachusetts coastline. Up until 1912, they were primarily winter visitors. The first Herring Gull nest ever recorded was in 1912 and the first Great Black-backed Gull nest in 1930. Because of easy access to food, they are thriving. Gulls are colonial breeders. They have pushed terns off islands (traditional tern nesting areas), forcing the terns to breed in less desirable locations. I think until we can somehow manage the gull population, the threatened and endangered Massachusetts shorebird species will continue to struggle greatly and recovery will be painstakingly slow..
This weekend I watched a couple dump all the remains of their picnic in front of a gull in the GHB parking lot. The two laughed as an enormous flock suddenly appeared, dining and squabbling over on the garbage. Humans feeding gulls and crows is exacerbating the problem tenfold and dogs running on the beach, which forces the PiPl parents to stop tending nests and chicks to chase after the dogs, leaves the babies vulnerable to gull and crow takes.
Area #3 Dad and one remaining chick, 28 days old
On a brighter note, the three Cape Hedge chicks are all present and accounted for on this beautiful July morning. I am estimating they are twenty days old, not based on their size, but because of the first sighting submitted. The family was joined by two Great Blue Herons, until a photographer frightened the herons off the beach, which may be just as well because GBH eat Plovers, too.
Sally witnessed a most beautiful PiPl parenting moment last night, and it is one of the reasons why we all continue to work so hard for these tender tiny creatures. She writes, ” I found Dad and one chick at the Creek. Dad showed off his flying skills to the baby and then encouraged his chick to cross the creek from the island to the mainland. It was a wonderful experience to watch the communications between the two of them and to see the little one paddle across the creek.”
Thank you PiPl Ambassadors for all you are doing to help grow Cape Ann’s Plover population.
Life at the Edge of the Sea- Double-crested Cormorant Feeding Frenzy!
A note about the photos – for the past five years I have been photographing and filming the Cormorants massing. The photos are from 2016 – 2019, and most recently, from 2020. Some of the earliest ones were taken at Niles Beach in 2017. In 2018, my friend Nina wrote to say that the massing also takes place in her neighborhood on the Annisquam River. Several weeks ago, while hiking on the backside of Sandy Point, facing the Ipswich Yacht Club, the Cormorants were massing there, too. Please write if you have seen this spectacular event taking place in your neighborhood. Thank you so much!
Massing in great numbers as they gather at this time of year, Double Crested Cormorants, along with many species of gulls and herons, are benefitting from the tremendous numbers of minnows that are currently present all around the shores of Cape Ann.
Waiting for the Cormorants early morning
At inlets on the Annisquam and Essex Rivers, as well as the inner Harbor and Brace Cove, you can see great gulps of Cormorants. In unison, they push the minnows to shore, where gulls and herons are hungrily waiting. The fish try to swim back out toward open water but the equally as hungry Cormorants have formed a barrier. From an onlooker’s point of view, it looks like utter mayhem with dramatic splashing, diving, and devouring. In many of the photos, you can see that the birds are indeed catching fish.
The Double-crested Cormorants are driving the feeding frenzy. I have seen this symbiotic feeding with individual pairs of DCCormorants and Snowy Egrets at our waterways during the summer, but only see this extraordinary massing of gulls, herons, and cormorants at this time of year, in late summer and early autumn.
Cormorants catch fish by diving from the surface, chasing their prey under water and seizing it with the hooked bill.
Double-crested Cormorants are ubiquitous. When compared to Great Cormorants, DCCormorants are a true North American species and breed, winter over, and migrate along the shores of Cape Ann.
Nearly all the species of herons that breed in our region have been spotted in the frenzy including the Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Black-crowned Night Heron.
After feeding, the herons often find a quiet place to preen before heading back in the late afternoon to their overnight roosting grounds.
With sadness, but not entirely unexpected, I am sorry to report that only one baby Piping Plover chick remains at Good Harbor. The good news is that the one surviving chick is doing fantastically as of this writing. Don’t worry when I write too that the Mom has left the family. She has begun to migrate southward. This is somewhat normal and I don’t think she would have left had not the chick been doing so well. Dad is minding the baby full time and he is doing a tremendous job.
A week since the Plovers hatched and it sure has been a joy to film, and wonderfully educational. I am very inspired to work on this short film and hope to have it ready for our community this summer.
Notice the growing wing buds!
A heartfelt reminder to please, please, please let’s all work together to keep the dogs off the beach. I had a terrible encounter, really frustrating and the owner and his friends very cruel. Ninety nine point nine percent of dog owners are wonderful and respectful and are rooting for the Plovers as much as are non-dog owners. The Plovers are all over the sandy beach, at the water’s edge, and down the creek. Although growing beautifully, the chick is still about the size of a cotton ball, maybe a cotton ball and a half. Up until fourteen days old, they are at their most vulnerable.
As with before, please fee free to share the photos and information on social media. The more people know about the garbage and dog owner trouble (certain dog owners that is), the more likely the chick’s chance of survival. Thank you!
Garbage left on the beach late in the day and overnight continues to be an issue. Bring a bag with you and we can help the DPW by cleaning up after the the folks who don’t know any better. Garbage strewn on the beach attracts gulls, and they, especially Great Black-backed Gulls, eat baby Plovers.
Piping Plovers, like many shore birds, are precocial. That means that within hours after hatching, they are ready to leave the nest and can feed themselves. They cannot however immediately regulate their body temperature and rely on Mom and Dad to warm them under their wings. Although the chick is six days old in the above photo, it still looks to Dad for warmth and protection. Examples of other precocial birds are ducks, geese, and chickens.
If you spot the baby and want to observe, I recommend staying fifteen to twenty feet away at least. Any closer and Dad has to spend a great deal of energy trying to distract you. We don’t want him to get tired out and unable to care for the baby. Also, you’ll appear less threatening if you sit or kneel while observing the chick. No sudden movements and talk quietly and the baby may come right up to you!
A sweet dog with a very unkind owner.
Around 6pm Saturday evening, this playful dog came bounding down the water’s edge, within inches of the baby. I stood between the owner, dog, and Plovers, with cameras in hand, and cell phone unfortunately back in my bag. After a good twenty minutes of arguing he and his equally unkind friends departed. In the mean time, the Plovers were able to get away from the dog and further down the shore line.
Dad and chick Monday morning, the July 18th, exactly one week old!