Tag Archives: hatchlings

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.

HAPPY TEN-DAY-OLD BIRTHDAY TO OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICKS!

Today our little chicks, all three, turn ten-days-old. This is a milestone in that their chances of survival are greatly improved when they reach the age of ten-days-old.

The family of five spent the morning foraging, mostly in the protected area, and venturing to the shoreline only occasionally. A Mourning Dove made his way through the dune edge into the protected area and Mama was having none of it. She flew at the Dove, but it attacked back. Papa suddenly appeared out of nowhere and really gave the Dove the business, buzzing it several times. The Dove flew off and then returned. Both parents left the chicks briefly and both attacked the Dove simultaneously. It’s always dramatic when you see how these pint sized shorebirds go after the much larger birds, and usually win.

Our Papa and Mama will fight to the death for their chicks, and because of that the chicks have survived ten whole days. Additionally, the Piping Plover family could not have survived this long without the vigilance of tender hearted volunteer monitors. They are a tremendous bunch of people and if you would like to join our group, please contact Alicia Pensarosa and sign up for a shift. Everyone is welcome. Weekends, especially, volunteers are needed.

Thank you to all the volunteer monitors. Two volunteers deserve an extra huge shout out and they are Heather Hall and Laurie Sawin. These two daily spend hours upon hours monitoring the chicks. Thank you sweet ladies for all your time and devotion ❤

Bug Breakfast

Big Chair, Tiny Bird

Papa keeping a watchful eye on the family this morning.

CHICKS MADE THEIR FIRST FORAY DOWN TO THE CREEK TODAY!

Our Good Harbor Beach PiPls made their first journey down to the creek this morning. They left the protected area about 11:00am, just as the soccer tournament was heating up. The family traveled along the dune fencing, crossed the back road, and spent the better part of the day foraging in the creek tidal flats and in the vegetation at the marsh edge.

For volunteers who have never seen this behavior before, in 2016 the chicks hatched over Fiesta weekend, when the beach was very busy. At only two days old, the PiPl family began making the epic journey to the creek from the protected area. This is harrowing for them and we lost a chick during the 2016 trek. Volunteers can best help the chicks by following along, from a safe distance that does not impede their movement. Keep an eye on stray balls and let folks in the vicinity know what is happening, if possible. They typically return as the tide is coming in or at dusk.

I believe easy access to the creek is one reason why our GHB PiPls choose to nest at the No. 3 boardwalk over the No. 1 boardwalk area. The creek is closer to No. 3 and gives the birds a secondary option for feeding when the main beach is super crowded.

The hatchlings are eight days old and are nearing the ten-day-old milestone. They are growing visibly stronger and increasingly more independent everyday. I have lots of photos to share and will provide a longer update after the weekend. 

Chicklet tracks

Creek tide flats

Mom calling for a chick, which is hiding in the vegetation at the edge of the marsh 🙂

Seven-day-old Piping Plover Chicks

PIPING PLOVER CHICKS FIVE-DAYS-OLD AND ALL PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR :)

Our little Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover family of five all appear to be doing well. The three chicks made the five-day-old milestone today. They are becoming increasingly independent, so much so that is is occasionally difficult for the PiPl volunteers to find. We monitors have had it relatively easy up to this point. With the cooler temperatures, the chicks have spent a great deal of time tucked under Mama and Papa. This first warm day of June, they were zooming from one length of the beach by the No. 3 boardwalk, all the way to the creek end, in and out of the cordoned off area, and to the shoreline. The chicks were also observed by monitor Laurie Sawin running up into the edge of the dunes and taking shelter from the heat and sun under the beautiful native flowering Beach Pea.

Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard has provided laminated information about Piping Plovers, on a clipboard that any PiPl monitor can access via Cape Ann Coffees, which is around the corner from Good Harbor Beach at 86 Bass Avenue. The information can be picked up and dropped off by asking at the counter. Many, many thanks to Rick and Dorthe Noonan, proprietors of Cape Ann Coffees, for volunteering to keep the information at their wonderful coffee shop.

Gloucester Animal Advisory Committee chairperson Alicia Pensarosa reminds everyone to follow this link to sign up if you are interested in becoming a Piping Plover volunteer monitor: https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/2801244/true#/invitation

The weather prediction for the weekend is blue skies and seventies, so much help will be needed, especially during the mid-day when the beach is most congested. If you have any questions or comments, please email Alicia at gloucesterAAC@gmail.com.

Three-day-old PiPls waking up at sunrise, foraging in the wrack zone, and taking turns warming up under Mom and Dad.

Looking for the well-camouflaged PiPl chicks makes my head spin!

Four-day-old chick venturing into the dunes.

Five-day-old Piping Plover chick.

Great news from our PiPl friends at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge-as of May 31st, they have 39 pairs, 25 active nests, and their first chick is projected to hatch on June 6th!

WE LOST A CHICK LAST NIGHT

So sorry to have to post that we lost one of our little chicks last night. It’s impossible to know what happened; there were no tracks or signs of unusual activity. Could it be the chick became separated from the family in the heavy fog and last night’s thunderstorm? We’ve seen chicks survive on similar nights, and we lost one in 2017 after a thunderstorm. They are only three-days-old today so I imagine the rough weather is rough on the chicks, too.

Three-day-old chicks this morning