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.
While I began writing this note yesterday morning and was looking out my office window, there were Monarchs drinking nectar from the Zinnias in the front flower border and Monarchs nectaring at the New England Asters around back. The migration is underway, with small assemblages here and there. I’m keeping my hopes up that we will see a greater influx in the coming days. And hopefully, too, the drought has not too badly harmed the Monarchs as there seems to have been enough moisture in the air that native wildflowers such as goldenrods and asters are blooming.
Our sweet little Hip Hop has not been seen for several days (as of this writing), but as Piping Plover Ambassador Deb writes, he has a Houdini-like way of disappearing and reappearing. Hopefully, he has departed. I am not sure if I sent this along to you – Ethan Forman from the GTimes wrote a fantastic article about our GHB Plovers. You can find the story here: Best Year Ever for Plovers at Good Harbor Beach.
I was so happy to read in the Gloucester Times that Mayor Verga’s new beach reservation system is a success, not only for the City, but because an interesting outcome is that I think the reservation system also helped the PiPls. Folks with reservations weren’t desperate to get to the beach by 7am and took their time arriving. The net result was that the wildlife that finds shelter and sustenance on the beach was less disturbed and could forage in relative peace. The new system appears to be a win for all!
In the sixties with mostly sunny skies this weekend. There are many creatures migrating along the coast and through New England currently. I believe I saw a pair of American Golden Plovers but haven’t had time to check my footage to verify 100 percent. I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy the predicted beautiful weather and see some wildlife.
Charlotte’s first day of kindergarten with a newly emerged Monarch to send her off – her idea to accessorize 🙂
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 email@example.com. 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.