Tag Archives: Male Piping Plover

A WONDERFULLY UNEVENTFUL MORNING WITH THE PIPLS!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors,

Dad and Marshmallow spent the morning mostly in the protected enclosure with only two trips down to the water. Marshmallow is discovering just how very cool are his wings; he spent a great deal of time doing the crazy flutter-hop dance, as well as meticulously wing-washing. After the beach rake had finished and left for the morning, about fifteen minutes later, the pair headed down to the Creek.

A new PiPl Ambassador has joined us, Heidi Wakeman. Heidi is a friend of mine, she Loves wildlife, and is the middle school Spanish teacher. Heidi is going to be taking Duncan’s shift, from 7am to 8am.

I’m so glad so many have heard our PiPl chick peeping! Piping Plover chicks begin peeping when they are still in the egg. This helps the chick make contact with its parents. Peeping within the egg is also thought to be a way for the siblings to communicate amongst themselves, and also to help synchronize hatching.

Have a wonderful day and thank you all so very much!

xxKim


Piping Plover Chick, Marshmallow, 17 days old . Doesn’t he look extra marshmallow-like in this photo 🙂

DAD AND MARSHMALLOW!

Dad and Marshmallow spent the early morning alternating between foraging at the tide flats and within the protected area.

Several frights this morning – joggers jogging in the wrack line, exactly where Marshmallow was foraging, but Dad did his broken wing thing and it distracted perfectly. This was followed by the Red Fox traveling the beach, followed by the couple who walk their dog every morning, again, exactly where the chick is foraging. I have a call out to our excellent dog officers and it should be an easy $300.0 for the City because the couple and their large dog come at the same time everyday.

The greatest fright though occurred when a friend came far too close to the Dad and Marshmallow while they were quietly thermoregulating. This caused the pair to tear off into the protected area, and then Dad immediately began piping orders to head to the Creek. Unfortunately, and very unexpectedly, some heavy machinery, a backhoe loader I think, was rounding the bend just as the two were hightailing it down to the Creek. The machine frightened the bejesus out of them and they moved with lightening speed into the furthest most points of the Creek.

I am writing an email to the friend to gently ask her not to come so close to the family. The combination of a person coming much too close, coupled with the machinery at the worst  time, could have spelled disaster.  It sure is tough being a PiPl. Even when people are well meaning, coming too close is as frightening to the birds as is a fox, a dog, or heavy machinery.

Last evening, our granddaughter Charlotte and I took took the late shift, until she was just too soaked and too cold to stay another moment. 

Dad and Marshmallow thermoregulating after a good bit of foraging this morning

Marine worms that fight back! Marshmallow polished off the one in the above photos and here is a photo from last year, the same, or similar, species.

Piping Plover Chick, Marshmallow, 16 days old, and Dad

BEAUTIFUL MORNING AT GOOD HARBOR WITH DAD AND MASTER WORM-CATCHER! AND THANK YOU TO AMBASSADOR SUE FOR DONATING TO GREENBELT!!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors,

Finally, a bit of sun this morning! Dad and Little Chick spent the morning feeding at the tide pools at the main beach. An adult Red Fox was far, far down the beach, but that didn’t stop Dad from giving chase. I left at about 7:15, after the beach raker. Following the near fatal raking mishap on Duncan’s shift yesterday, I didn’t want to take any chances. Today the raking gentleman stayed close to the footbridge and then onto Whitham Street end, via the Creek road. Thankfully he did not drive across the front of the roped off area.

Surprisingly, not too much garbage, and hopefully, we have seen the last of the fireworks.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by the Creek and had the joy to see both Deb, who was finishing up, and Jonathan who was coming on. Wonderful talking to them both! I am so appreciative of everyone’s interest and thank you all so very much.

There is so much good eating at the Creek. Dad and Chick were finding lots of fat juicy sea worms. No worm was too large or too small for our Little One.

I met Zöe and her Mom, who both adore our PiPl family and follow their story daily. Zöe has even named one of her stuffed animals Marshmallow, after Little Chick, and Marshmallow was there at the beach with her. Next year they are planning to sign up to be Ambassadors! Perhaps we should name our chick Marshmallow; it’s really very charming. What do you all think about that?

Edited Note – I just received some fantastic news from Sue, one of our PiPl Ambassadors. She is writing an article about our GHB PiPl for a local publication. Sue is donating her entire writing fee to Essex County Greenbelt as a way to thank Dave Rimmer and ECGA for their tremendous help in managing our GHB Plovers We are so grateful and appreciative of Greenbelt, especially so because of the fact that they have never charged any fee for their kind assistance these past five years. 

Thank You and a Truly Outstanding Gift Sue!!!! 

xxKimZöe, future PiPl Ambassador

Master Worm-Catcher

Monarch Butterfly Good Harbor Beach Milkweed Patch July 5, 2020

 

OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK IS TWO WEEKS OLD TODAY!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors,

A major milestone for this most plucky of PiPl chicks! But it is the fathers who are the true super heroes in the life story of the Piping Plovers. Dad was zipping back and forth between snuggling the chick, feeding in  the flats, and defending the Little One from a number of hovering gulls, as well as in high gear alarm mode when both a Red Fox and dog trotted in the vicinity of the chick. The dads are often the first to arrive in spring to establish their nesting territory and the last to leave, but only after their babes are fully fledged.

We’ve lost chicks before in storms less fierce  than last night’s so I was greatly relieved to find the pair this morning. Several of our GHB PiPl well wishers were out walking this morning and also concerned about the Little One after that deluge. Thank you John, Susan, Pat, and Delores; it’s always a joy to see you.

This is Duncan’s last morning. He is returning to Lexington but will be back later this summer. It’s been great having Duncan and seeing him every morning promptly at 7, despite the fact that he is not a morning person 🙂 He wants to remain on the Ambassador email thread to stay in touch. Thank you so much to Duncan, it has been an especially big help to have eyes on the chick during morning beach raking

I am going to take Duncan’s shift for the time being. My son is off for another week with his broken ribs so I don’t have to hurry home and make breakfast at 6:45.

Too misty to bring my camera down to the beach lately so here is one of my favorite photos of our Little Chick doing morning wake up stretches. A friend commented that its wing buds look like bunny ears. I hadn’t thought of that, but so true 🙂

Have a super day and once again, so many, many thanks for your help,
xxKim

 

MORE EXPLOSIVES AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH BUT LITTLE CHICK AND DAD COME THROUGH THE NIGHT!

Good Morning Piping Plover Ambassadors,

Miraculously Little Chick and Dad were found at their home base snuggling on yet another chilly, foggy morning. Despite a second night of Good Harbor Beach Wild West activity, the duo were foraging and thermoregulating as is usual for these cooler days.

Jonathan and Sally stopped by the beach around 8pm and Tom and I about 8:30 pm and all appeared relatively calm and peaceful. I lost my phone in the sand and my sweet guy went back to GHB about an hour later to look for it where he found a bunch of kids INSIDE home base, lighting firecrackers. We both called the police, he from the beach and me from home, but after forty minutes he couldn’t wait any longer. The police dispatcher said they were dealing with over 100 phone calls about fireworks!!

Edited Note – Mayor Sefatia writes that the police were at GHB last night, but they also had to be at many, many other places as well. “We are lucky there were no fires or serious injuries and that the Plovers survived.”

And in trying to see the humor in a very challenging situation, she adds, our GHB PiPls must be Sicilian Plovers because they have such a high tolerance for screaming and loud noises 🙂
The threatened species roped off area was lined with the boxes of spent fireworks that you see in the photos above and below. What are these things?? I’ve been piling them up for trash removal but I wonder if it is even safe to handle.

What are solutions for next Fourth of July weekend if we have another late nest? Duncan had a great idea; perhaps hire a private police officer, or an off duty officer, to stay near PiPl home base on the nights of July 3rd and 4th.

Shelby is starting back to work on Monday. Thank you so very much Shelby, you were terrific and we so appreciate your help. Best, best wishes, starting back to work.

Little Chick thermoregulating on a chilly morning

Let’s keep our hopes up our little family makes it through the rest of the holiday weekend.

xxKim

HAPPY FOURTH! AND OUR LITTLE CHICK AND DAD SURVIVED DYNAMITE AND FIREWORKS

It’s the Wild West at Good Harbor Beach in the evening, even more so this year with coronavirus. Last night we heard an explosion so loud I didn’t believe it was fireworks. This morning at the entrance to the footbridge there was evidence of fireworks but I don’t know if this is what caused that extraordinary boom.

As are many wild and domesticated animals, Piping Plovers are extremely frightened by fireworks and I was just praying both would still be in their protected area. To make matters worse, there were remains of fireworks surrounding their home base area.

Gratefully so, both Dad and Little Chick were present and just fine. The pair made a beeline for the Creek as soon as they heard the raking machine. Our PiPls have caught a tiny bit of a break with the overcast Fourth of July weather, hopefully cloudy skies will continue throughout the weekend.

Do you think someone actually carted the lifeguard chair down to the Beach Club or did the tide carry it?

OUR LITTLE CHICK IS TEN DAYS OLD!

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

Today marks another milestone, ten days old. After today, we begin to think of chicks as two weeks old, three weeks, old, etc. Thank you to Everyone for your watchful eyes and kind interest!

Yes, Duncan, if the tracks you saw were down by the water, it was our GHB Red Fox. I think it was the Dad (the Mom is much skinnier, from nursing and scavenging food for the kits). He was bringing a rabbit breakfast to the kits.

Sally – such a joy to see when they stretch and try to “flap” their tiny wing buds ❤

The cooler weather this weekend is a tremendous break for the PiPls. Last night I stopped by and people are partying much later on the beach on weeknights than in previous years, surely because of coronavirus and a lack of jobs. I picked up six empty full-sized whiskey bottles, three were in the roped off area, and fifty plus beer cans that had been buried in the sand. That smell of stale beer at 6 in the morning is so Gross!

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Good Harbor Beach

Thank you Deb for the Monarch sighting report. The milkweed is in full bloom in the dunes–perfect timing for the Monarchs to begin arriving. I have a friend who is so worried she hasn’t seen any in her garden. I’ve been telling her they usually arrive around July 4th, in a normal year. She will be thrilled when I share your sighting.

Thank you PiPl Ambassadors!
Happy July 3rd.
xxKim

Ten to eleven day old chick

PIPING PLOVER CHICK AND DAD

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

The chick looked healthy and vibrant this morning, alternating between foraging in the roped off area and at the shoreline, and then snuggling under Dad on this cool, foggy morning.

Little Chick snuggling under Dad this morning

I was there for approximately 1.5 hours, until Duncan arrived at 7am, and during that entire time I only saw Dad. At the end of my shift as I was picking up trash at the roped off area at the Creek side, another PiPl flew in piping loudly. I couldn’t stay to see if it was Mom. If any Ambassadors see both parents at the same time, changing guard, please write and let us know.

It’s not entirely unusual for one or the other to disappear for a few hours but this is also a good opportunity to let everyone know that the female may leave to begin migrating southward at anytime. We are about a month later with this year’s nest and I have seen often at other beaches that some females leave around the first week of July. I don’t know if it is that they are genetically programmed to depart early or if because there are many more fireworks and bonfires on beaches beginning around now, or a combination of both.

At another beach where I am documenting PiPls, last year I observed an awesome single Dad raise two chicks to fledgling; the Mom left when the chicks were not even a week old. She departed after a night of fireworks.

Another morning of beautiful fog and great surf. I don’t think I have ever seen as many surfers as have been at GHB the past few mornings. It’s wonderful to see so many enjoying the beach in a safe, non-covid threatening way!

Thanks so much again everyone. I am hearing crazy stories from many of you about people behaving inappropriately, such as Duncan’s guy who read the threatened species sign, then proceeded to lift up the rope and march right into the enclosure and right up to the chick to photograph. Duncan could see the chick was safe so did not say anything, which is good. I appreciate so very much everyone keeping their cool. It’s going to be a tough weekend on the PiPl family and tough on all of you, too, dealing with the public, especially if they have been drinking. Our goals are to keep the chick safe and educate as much as possible, in a non-confrontational manner, and you are all doing a superb job!!

Warmest wishes,
Kim

Little Chick 9-10 days old

SWEETEST ONE-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICKS AND HOW TO SIGN UP TO VOLUNTEER

We had a terrific informal Piping Plover informational gathering at Good Harbor Beach this afternoon. If you would like to sign up to volunteer, please follow this easy link. We would love to have you join us.

http://bit.ly/2Vsw2Wd  

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or leave a comment in the comment section.

Today the chicks are two days old; the photos are from yesterday at daybreak. It was foggy and overcast and the chicks mostly wanted to warm up under Mama and Papa.

All four chicks are doing fantastically, feeding well and venturing further and further from the upper wrack zone. Because of the cool temperatures, the beach has been relatively quieter this past spring, which has been ideal not only for our GHB PiPl family, but for nesting and hatching PiPl families all around the state.

Pint-sized mountain climbing

PIPING PLOVERS DAY TWO AND TINIEST OF WING BUDS

Briefest update just to let everyone know the hatchlings are all doing beautifully. So many thanks to everyone who is volunteering ❤

One-day-old teeny tiny wing buds

WE ARE HAVING AN INFORMAL GET TOGETHER AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH SUNDAY AFTERNOON AT 4:00 FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN BECOMING A PIPING PLOVER MONITOR AND LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE PIPLS. MEET AT BOARDWALK #3. WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

FIRST LOOK – OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPNG PLOVER CHICKS (ALL FOUR!) HATCHED!!!

Only hours-old, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover chicks were learning to navigate the varied terrain–climbing mini hummocks, falling into divots, somersaulting, tripping over dried bits of beach grass and seaweed, running for short bits, and just generally stumbling and tumbling. In one photo you can even see a chick already eating a tiny ant. After an afternoon of exploring, all four seemed pretty tuckered out and were taking turns snuggling under both Mama and Papa. 

Weighing about as much as a nickel at the time of hatching, Piping Plover chicks are able to feed themselves but are unable to regulate their body temperature. They need to tuck under Mom and Dad to warm up.

A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E HOURS OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICKS!

These sweet Piping Plover chicks are only hours old. All four are healthy, vigorous, and already feeding themselves and stretching their wing buds. They sure were giving their Mom and Dad reason to panic as they ran hither and thither, not yet understanding the adults piping voice commands. A dog ran through the nesting area and a pair of Crows added to the parent’s stress. After both parents briefly left the chicks to distract the dog and give chase to the Crows, calmness was restored and three snuggled under Mom while the fourth kept dad on the run.

*Note–I have been following and filming half a dozen PiPl nests around the state and just to be clear in case of any confusion, these are not our Good Harbor Beach PiPls 🙂

There have been quite a few PiPl chicks hatching around New England beaches. The cool, overcast weather will benefit the hatchlings tremendously. The beaches are relatively quieter, with fewer people, dogs, and trash that attracts avian predators, which will help allow the babies to reach that critical one week old age.

Finding insects in the wrack zone

Tiny wing buds

Adorableness

PIPING PLOVER WEEKLY UPDATE – ONE-DAY-OLD CHICKS AND NESTING AROUND MASSACHUSETTS!

One-day-old chicks foraging at the shoreline on a foggy Memorial Day Monday

It was a beautiful Memorial Day weekend in more ways than one. Piping Plover chicks have been hatching all around Massachusetts this past week and I was fortunate to observe two nests with a total of six one-day-old chicks zooming around beaches. We’re so blessed that our Good Harbor Beach pair are also on a relatively early track, which greatly increases the chicks chance of surviving.

Mama and Papa spent the weekend on the crowded beach incubating their eggs and foraging. Ironically, I think they benefitted from beach goers picnics (minus the gulls and crows). Papa spent a busy Monday morning pecking at the sand and devouring mouthfuls of large tasty black ants.

Anteater

Many more hatchlings to come!

NOT ONE, NOT TWO, BUT THREE PIPING PLOVERS TODAY AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Throughout the day, a threesome has been actively feeding, battling for territory, and two of the three, displaying courtship behavior.

Often times I have read that Piping Plovers in Massachusetts do not begin to actively court until mid-April. That simply has not been the case with our Good Harbor Beach pair. As soon as they arrive to their northern breeding grounds, they don’t waste any time and get right down to the business of reproducing! Last year, the PiPls were courting within a week of arriving, and this year, on the first day.

I only had brief periods of time to visit the beach this morning, but within that window, FOUR separate times the male built a little scrape, called Mama over to come investigate, while adding bits of dried seaweed and sticks, and fanning his tail feathers.

Papa scraping a nest in the sand.

Fanning his tail and inviting Mama to come inspect the nest scrape.

Tossing sticks and beach debris into the scrape.

Papa high-stepping for Mama.

It was VERY cold and windy both times I stopped by GHB and the PiPls were equally as interested in snuggling down behind a clump of dried beach grass as they were in courting.

Mama and Papa finding shelter from the cold and wind in the wrack line.

Good Harbor Beach was blessedly quiet all day. Our awesome dog officer Teagan Dolan was at the beach bright and early and there wasn’t a single dog in sight, I think greatly due to his vigilance and presence educating beach goers this past week.

Heather Hall, Katharine Parsons, Alicia Pensarosa, Laurie Sawin

Saturday we had the pleasure of meeting Katharine Parsons, Director of the Mass Audubon Coastal Waterbird Program. She gave an outstanding program to a crowd of Piping Plover advocates and interested parties, which was held at the Sawyer Free Library. Katharine covered everything from life cycle, management strategies and tools, habitat conservation, and the fantastic role Massachusetts is playing in the recovery of Piping Plovers, Least Terns, Roseate Terns, and Oystercatchers. We are so appreciative of Alicia Pensarosa and Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee for sponsoring Katharine!

Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard and Katharine

City Council President Paul Lundberg, Katharine, and Alicia

Fun Fact we learned from Katharine’s presentation–a Piping Plover chick weighs six grams at birth. In comparison, and after consulting Google, a US nickel weighs a close 5.5 grams.

HAPPY NEWS TO SHARE ABOUT OUR #GLOUCESTERMA PIPING PLOVERS! AND HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MALE AND FEMALE PIPING PLOVER

We have a definite female joining our male! On Monday when I first spotted a pair of PiPls on the beach, I think I mistook them for a male and female because one was doing a kind of torpedo-like run, and the other was following behind. This behavior is often followed by nest scraping. I think what we actually saw was one male establishing his territory over the other male. Since Monday (Tuesday through Thursday), only one singular male has been seen foraging at Good Harbor Beach.

This morning my daughter Liv and I went to check on the little male and a beach goer gave us a heads up that she had seen two. Liv spotted the pair in the tide flats and they were most clearly a male and a female. The two were at any one time only several feet apart, foraging in the tidal zone and preening on the shore, primarily in front of the nesting No. 3 area. There were a bunch of dogs off leash, despite it being an on leash day, and there were several dogs on leash, too.

Will these two that are currently at Good Harbor Beach stay and mate and nest? Will we have more Piping Plover pairs join the scene (as did last year)? Will we have troubles with a “Bachleor” again? It’s still so early in the season and I sure am excited to see what lies ahead!

The following photos, of the pair currently at Good Harbor, were taken this morning in the rain, and despite the dreary light, clearly show the difference between male and female Piping Plovers. I am eventually going to redo this post with photos from a sunny day because it will be even easier to tell the difference.

Female Piping Plover, left, male Piping Plover, right

During the courting and nesting season, the female’s crescent-shaped head band is paler in color than the male’s jet black head band. The male’s collar band is usually darker and larger, too, often completely circling the neck. Typically, the male’s bill is a brighter, deeper colo orange at the base than the female’s.

Female Piping PLover, left, male Piping Plover, right.

It’s very easy to tell the difference during courtship and mating because of behaviors exhibited and I’ll post more about that in the coming months.

There are exceptions to this general rule of thumb–sometimes a female will have darker shading and sometimes the male will be paler.

By the end of the summer, the coloring of both male and female becomes paler and it is much more challenging to see the difference between the two.

Good Harbor Beach on a sunny day earlier this week.

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #5: PIPING PLOVER HELPERS ARE NOT CALLING FOR AN OUTRIGHT BAN OF DOGS ON THE BEACH

Despite the extremely inflammatory posts you may have been reading elsewhere, the Piping Plover volunteer monitors and local wildlife experts are not in any way, shape, or form promoting the permanent ban of dogs from Good Harbor Beach.

Currently, dogs are not allowed on the beach from May 1st to September 30th. The PiPl volunteer monitor core group, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Ken Whittaker, who is Gloucester’s conservation agent, and Mass Wildlife’s John Regosin all agree that dogs should not be allowed on Good Harbor Beach beginning April 1st, but that it would be safe for Piping Plover fledglings and other migrating shorebirds for dogs to return after September 15th.

This new suggested time frame will allow birds to nest with far less interruption, shorebirds will nest earlier in the season (which will help with the chicks survival rate), and the chicks will be stronger by the time Good Harbor fills with summer crowds. This is a very logical and simple solution. Disallowing dogs on Massachusetts coastal beaches where shorebirds are nesting, beginning April 1st, is quite common. Allowing them to return after September 15, and in many cases after September 30th, is also very common. For Piping Plovers and other nesting shorebirds, protecting their habitat and sharing the shore is a matter of life and death.

To be very, very clear, we Piping Plover volunteers do not wish to permanently and forever ban dogs off Good Harbor Beach, or any Gloucester beaches.

Please email or call Mayor Sefatia’s office and your City Councilors and let them know your thoughts about Piping Plovers, dogs, and all the wildlife that finds a home at Good Harbor Beach. We hope you agree that making this simple change in the ordinance from April 1st to September 15th is the best solution for all our wild and domestic creatures. This modification to the dog ordinance will also show the federal agents that the Gloucester community recognizes our responsibility and takes very seriously our commitment to protecting endangered and threatened species.

Thank you.

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken: sromeotheken@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-281-9700

Councillors At Large

Paul Lundberg, President: plundberg@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-282-8871

Melissa Cox: mcox@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-631-9015

Jamie O’Hara: johara@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-979-7533

Jen Holmgren: jholmgren@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-335-4748

Ward 1 Councilor Scott Memhard: smemhard@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-283-1955

Ward II Councillor Ken Hecht: khecht@gloucester-ma.gov, 617,755-9400

Ward III Councillor and Vice-president Steven LeBlanc: sleblanc@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-283-3360

Ward IV Valerie Gilman: vgilman@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-621-4682

Ward V Councillor Sean Nolan: snolan@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-375-8381

If you would like to be a Piping Plover volunteer monitor, please contact Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov.

  *   *   *

Our Nine-day-old Piping Plover Little Pip and Mama

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAPA PLOVER

Papa and Pip snuggling today

Whenever folks stop by to ask questions at the nesting area and they see the little chicks snuggling under the adult PiPl, they almost automatically assume it is the Mama Plover. Half the time it is the female, and the other half, the male. Mom and Dad share equally in caring for the chicks, generally in twenty minute to half hour intervals. They are always within ear shot and while one is minding the chicks, the other is either feeding itself, grooming, or patrolling for predators. Last year, as is often the case, the Mama Plover departed Good Harbor Beach several weeks before the chick fledged, leaving Little Chick entirely under Papa’s care.

Eight-Day-Old Little Pip

Papa piping a warning call to Mama, while snuggling Pip 

If you would like to help monitor Pip and our PiPl family, please contact Ken Whittaker at kwhittaler-ma.gov.

PIPING PLOVERS DRIVEN OFF THE BEACH

Despite the case that posted signs were in place for Saturday’s off leash day, it was a complete disaster for the Piping Plovers.

When I was there early in the morning there was a large group of dog owners by the Good Harbor Beach Inn area and the dogs were playing by the water’s edge, away from the nesting sites, and it was wonderful to see!

Piping Plover nesting signs at Good Harbor Beach.

At noon I stopped by for a quick check on the PiPl, in between a meeting and babysitting, and it was a complete and utter disaster. There were dozens of dogs and people frolicking WITHIN the nesting areas, as if the signs were completely invisible. The nesting areas were so full of people and dogs, one of the pairs of PiPl had been driven off the beach and into the parking lot. They were trying to make nest scrapes in the gravel. Heartbreaking to see.

My husband and I put up roping as soon as I was finished babysitting. We ran out of rope for both areas and came back today to finish cordoning off the nesting sites. Hopefully the rope will help.

Perhaps because of climate change, and for reasons not fully understood, for the third year in a row, we now have a beautiful species of shorebird nesting at Good Harbor Beach. This year they arrived on April 3rd. Piping Plovers are a federally threatened species and it is our responsibility to do all that is humanly possible to insure their safety.

We live in coastal Massachusetts, which means we also have a responsibility in the chain of migration along the Atlantic Flyway to do our part to help all wildlife, particularly endangered wildlife.

Wouldn’t it be tremendous if the dog friendly people and all citizens of Gloucester would work together to change the leash laws to restrict dogs from our barrier beaches, Good Harbor Beach (and Wingaersheek, too, if birds begin nesting there as well), beginning April 1st?

Much, much better signage is needed as well as a wholehearted information campaign. And better enforcement of the current laws would be of great help as well however, if the laws are written such that dogs are allowed on the beaches during the month of April, which is the beginning of nesting season, then we are not being good stewards of species at risk.

We need help enforcing rules about keeping people and pets out of the dunes. The dunes are our best protection against rising sea level and are weakened terribly by trampling through the beachgrass and wildflowers.

It may be helpful for people to understand that the earlier the PiPl are allowed to nest, the earlier the chicks will be born, and the greater their chance of survival. Yesterday morning one pair mated and the female helped the male dig a nest, which means we could very well see eggs very soon (if they return to the nesting sites after yesterday’s debacle).

Papa Plover bowing in the courtship dance.

And here he is puffed out and high-stepping in the mating dance.

If the PiPl begin laying eggs now, and it takes about another month for hatching from the time the first egg is laid, the chicks would be a month old by the time July 4th arrives, when GHB becomes packed with visitors.

If the eggs and nest are destroyed, the nesting cycle will begin all over again and we will have chicks born over Fiesta weekend, with days-old chicks running around the beach on July 4th, as happened last year.

One-day-old Piping Plover chick – a marshmallow-sized chick with toothpicks for legs is super challenging to watch over on a typical Good Harbor Beach summer day!

I believe that as a community we can work together to help the Piping Plovers, as was done last year. It took a tremendous effort by a fabulous group of volunteers. The hardest thing that the volunteers had to deal with were the seemingly endless encounters with scofflaw dog owners. Especially difficult were the sunrise and sunset shifts because folks think they can get away with ignoring the laws at those times of day. I cannot tell you how many times I have had terrible things said to me when I tried to speak to people about keeping their dogs away from the PiPl nesting sites. Some folks do not want to be told that their dog cannot play there.

Rather than expecting volunteers and citizens to call the dog officer, when it is usually too late by the time they arrive, the dog officers should be stationed at the beach at key times, on weekends, and after five pm, for example.

Now that we know the Piping Plovers are here this early in the season, better rules, signage, and more information need to be in place. Gloucester is not the only north shore coastal Massachusetts area this year experiencing Piping Plovers arriving earlier than usual. We can learn much historically from how other communities manage these tiniest and most vulnerable of shorebirds. For example, after April 1st, no dogs are allowed at Crane Beach. Throughout the year, no dogs are allowed at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and at Revere Beach (also home to nesting Piping Plovers), which was the first public beach established in the United States, no dogs are allowed from April 1st to mid-September.

The female Piping Plover lays one egg approximately every day to every few days, usually until a total of three to four eggs are laid. The male and female begin sitting on the eggs when all are laid. Until that time, the eggs are extremely vulnerable to being stepped upon.

Currently the two nesting areas identified on Good Harbor Beach are taking up more space than will be the case once the PiPl begin to lay eggs. As soon as the first egg is laid, an exclosure will be placed over the nest and the overall cordoned off area will shrink some.

Mama PiPl and one-day-old chick

HELPING PIPING PLOVERS AND A HUGE SHOUT OUT TO GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER AND DAVE MCKINNON

Help arrived for the Piping Plovers yesterday afternoon when Greenbelt’s Dave McKinnon installed the symbolic posts and informative signage. Roping will come next week, but at the very least, cordoning off the nesting area informs the community to tread lightly and where to keep out. Two nesting areas have been identified. The signs are posted between boardwalk 3 and the footbridge, as well as between boardwalks 1 and 2.

So many thanks to Dave Rimmer and Dave McKinnon. I happened to meet up with them yesterday morning and initially Dave R. thought they would not be able to help until next week. What great relief when I read the email from Dave R. that Dave M. would be back later in the day to install the posts and signs!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

REMINDER: TOMORROW IS AN OFF LEASH SATURDAY, WHICH IS GOING TO BE VERY, VERY TOUGH ON THE PIPING PLOVERS. PLEASE DOG OWNERS, IF YOUR DOG IS NOT UNDER VOICE COMMAND, THEN THE RULE IS, THE DOG IS NOT ALLOWED ON THE BEACH. PLEASE TRY TO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS THREATENED SPECIES OF SHOREBIRDS NEEDS EVERYONE’S HELP. THANK YOU!

I wrote the above because yesterday I got a very disturbing call from a friend, a person who is usually mild mannered and not easily angered. He was calling to say that he had just observed a woman with her “birder” dog chasing the Plovers up and down the beach over and over again. When he spoke with her about the Plovers, she said she was aware of the threatened birds, but that she couldn’t control her dog because he “was having a bad day.” All I can write, is please, please, please do not allow your dog to chase the Piping Plovers. It may be fun and games for you and your dog, but allowing the PiPl to nest is a matter of survival for these beautiful and tiniest of shorebirds.

Two adorable sweet dogs, off leash today, on an on leash day.

Currently there are four PiPl at Good Harbor Beach. One very bonded pair (excellent possibility that it is our Mama and Papa Plover from the past two summers) and two unattached males. The above photo is of one of the two bachelors.

FENCING IS URGENTLY NEEDED FOR THE NESTING PIPING PLOVERS!! PLEASE SHARE THIS POST

The Piping Plovers are nesting between Good Harbor Beach entrance #3 and the footbridge area. They have been here for eight days, since last Tuesday, and courtship is fully underway.

Greenbelt has not yet put up the posts and roping that the PiPl so desperately need to keep safe. In the mean time, would it be possible for dog owners to spread the word and let fellow dog owners know that on off-leash days it would be so very helpful to the Plovers if folks allowed their dogs to play from #3 entrance to the Good Harbor Beach Inn? That encompasses most of the beach. This would create a safe nesting zone for the PiPl.

Please share if you would. Thank you so very much for your kind help.

Foggy Morning Plovers Courting

Papa creates a variety of nest scrapes by digging shallow miniature teacup-size craters in the sand.

He pipes his love call to Mama, inviting her to come inspect the potential nest site.  

And adds some dried bits of seaweed to the nest to make it extra appealing to her.

With a flourish of her wings she says NO.

Nest inspecting is very tiring and Mama takes a nap in between inspections (even though Papa is doing all the work!)

PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS NEEDED!

If you would like to become a Piping Plover ambassador and cover Plover monitoring shifts this season at Good Harbor Beach please contact Gloucester’s conservation agent Ken Whittaker to volunteer.

Thank you so much, and the PiPl thank you, too!!

Ken Whittaker contact information: kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov

Male Piping Plover sleeping and PiPl tracks in the sand.

NOT THREE BUT FOUR PIPING PLOVERS ON GOOD HARBOR BEACH! (AND ONE DUNLIN)

April 7th

Saturday at 5:30pm and there are not three, but four PiPl!! The Dunlin is still here and doing everything Plover, it is so funny to see. I think we have three males and one female.

They were sleeping at the wrack line but as the sun was setting, more and more dogs. They don’t seem to mind people playing in close proximity, but then a bunch of dogs ran through where they were resting and so down to the water’s edge they flew.

Sixteen off leash between 5:30 – 7pm, and it’s an on leash day. I avoid GHB during the off season because of dog owners that allow their dogs to jump on you, but it is so disheartening to see them running wild through the dunes. So much habitat destruction taking place. How will the dog owners respond when they learn the Piping Plovers have returned and are nesting again at GHB I wonder.

April 8th

Total mayhem on the beach. Dogs are everywhere, on the shoreline, the wrack zone, and running completely wild through the dunes. One knocked me over. I love dogs but this is crazy. The PiPl don’t have a chance and it’s too distressing to watch them try and rest and forage and nest and constantly be chased off.

Precisely where they were sleeping at the wrack line, a couple threw their dog’s tennis ball right smack at the PiPl. So startled, I and the PiPl both jumped up half a foot, before they flew off. Of course the couple didn’t know the PIPl were sleeping but it’s just really, really frustrating.

I wish so much we could do what they do at Crane’s Beach, where during the off season, dogs are allowed on a section of the beach. And at Cranes dog owners do not allow their dogs to run rampant through the dunes.

Tom came back from a walk at noon and couldn’t find the PiPl anywhere, and he is really good at spotting. I’ll check back at sunset to see if the PiPl can be found. Praying and hoping they have found a safe place.

Heartbroken. No plovers at sunset, anywhere, walked from the creek to the hotel twice. Still chaotic with dogs. Will try tomorrow at dawn.

Pretty Mama Plover

The boys of spring.

April 9th

Hooray!! Daybreak and I found them, three Plovers sleeping all in a row! Hopefully will find the other PiPl and Dunlin later today. Emailed Ken Whittaker, Gloucester’s awesome conservation agent, and we are meeting this afternoon. The goal is to get a cordoned off area in place before the next weekend when dogs are off leash. Reminder to let people know to contact Ken if they would like to help this summer by being a Plover ambassador.

Three in a row sleeping this morning, with Mama in the middle

Large dead Black-backed Gull on the beach near the big rock and will move that this afternoon after I speak with Ken. We don’t want to attract varmints to the Plovers’ nesting area!

CELEBRATING DAY TWENTY WITH OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK–ALMOST-FLEDGLING

Confident Little Chick

With each passing day, our Little Chick looks less and less like a chick and more and more like a fledgling. As with all Piping Plover new fledglings, the pretty stripe of brown feathers across the back of the head is becoming less pronounced, while flight feathers are rapidly growing and replacing the baby’s downy fluff. It won’t be long before we see sustained flying.

Little Chick spent a good part of the morning at the intertidal zone finding lots of yummy worms and mini crustaceans.

Thanks to all our volunteers for their continued work in monitoring the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. Volunteer Hazel Hewitt has created a series of informative signs, placing them all around the beach and at every entrance. 

Thanks to GLoucester High School Coach Mike Latoff and the players for keeping an eye on the Plovers.

Papa Plover, sometimes feeding in close proximity to Little Chick, but more often, now watching from a distance. 

Twenty-day-old Piping Plover Chick

What Do Piping Plovers Eat?

The question should really be what don’t they eat in the world of insects and diminutive sea creatures. Over the past two summers I have filmed PiPl eating every kind of beach dwelling crawly insect and marine life imaginable.

Piping Plovers eat freshwater, land, and marine invertebrates. Their general fashion of foraging is to run, stop, peck, repeat, all the day long, and during the night as well.

Run, Stop, Peck

When foraging along the wrack line and up to the dune edge Piping Plovers eat insects, both alive and dead, including ants, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles, along with insect larvae such as fly larvae. Foraging at the intertidal zone, Piping Plovers find sea worms, tiny mollusks, and crustaceans, as well as crustacean eggs.

When the chicks get a little older they will learn how to do a sort of foot tamping technique where they rapidly shake their feet in the sand to stir up crustaceans. I have yet to see our chicks do this, but soon enough.

The purpose of discontinuing to rake the beach to help the Piping Plovers is twofold. Not raking in the nesting site creates a habitat rich in dry seaweed and dry grasses, which attracts insects, the PiPl food on dry land. Secondly, raking in the vicinity of the Plovers after they hatch can be deadly dangerous to the chicks. Not only is there danger of being squished, but also, they can easily become stuck in the impression in the sand made by the tires of heavy machinery.

This morning I had a disagreeable conversation with a woman about her unleashed puppy. She feigned lack of knowledge about the dog ordinances, but aside from that, she informed me that her large puppy would be “afraid” of a chick. And there seems to be a frustrating lack of understanding about where the chicks forage. We can only share again that the Piping Plovers, both adults and chicks, feed from the dunes’s edge to the water’s edge, and everywhere in between. Sunrise and sunset are not safe times to walk dogs on the beach because Piping Plovers forage at all times of the day, and into the night. Adult birds can fly away from a person or dog walking and running on the beach, but a shorebird chick cannot.

Big Beach, Tiny Chick ~ Sixteen-day-old Piping Plover Chick Foraging at the Ocean Edge

INJURED (AND NON-INJURED) PIPING PLOVER CHICKS UPDATE

Our little injured chick is hanging on. Crystal from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine phoned to report that she fed him through the night. He remains on supportive care and is being given antibiotics and pain medication. Little chick has been moved to a heated incubator. The veterinarians are again stating that prognosis is unpredictable.

What are these things called wings?

Meanwhile, these two chick were having an easier morning than usual. There were no fires, dogs, or beach rake, and with the cooler temperatures and overcast skies, many fewer people. PiPl super volunteer monitor Hazel came by with flyers of the injured chick and she posted them around the beach, hoping to help people understand why we need to be on the look out for chicks afoot.

Fifteen-day-old Piping Plover Chick with Mama

I wonder what a baby bird think of its funny little appendages that will soon grow into beautiful wings?

Not a great deal of information is known about when exactly PiPl fledge. Some say 25 days and some reports suggest up to 32 days. In my own observations filming a PiPl family last summer on Wingaersheek Beach, the fledglings could not fly very well until mid-August. The PiPl fledglings and parents maintained a family bond through the end of August, even after it was becoming difficult to tell whether they were fledglings or adults. All during that period, the fledglings appeared still dependent upon the adults, who were still parenting, for example, offering distinctive piping instruction especially when perceived danger such as joggers and dogs were in the vicinity.

Two little butts, extra snuggles under Dad’s brood patch on this chilly day fifteen.