While filming at my friend Paul’s School Street Sunflowers late in the summer, a gorgeous flock of Bobolinks appeared on the scene. The sunflowers were just the right height for the birds to perch upon to eat the seed heads of the wildflowers and grasses growing in and amongst the field. Bobolinks perch while carefully extracting the seeds and fly-hop to the base of the plant for insect treats. I love Paul’s fields because unlike many flower fields, wildflowers and grasses grow in with the sunflowers. The insects attracted and the ripening seeds and berries provide a wealth of food for songbirds and all manner of wild creatures.
Especially beautiful to hear from the fields, every evening bells ring. I would love to learn to more about the bells. If any readers have more information about the bells, please write!
Sparrow-like, with more finch-like bills, Bobolinks are wonderfully fun to watch and listen to when seen in fields, with a range of songs and calls from metallic buzzy to chenks and zeeps. In the footage you will see females, juveniles, and males in non-breeding plumage.
The males are amazing looking during the breeding season, sporting striking black and white feathers with a straw colored crown.
Bobolink Male, image courtesy wiki commons media
Bobolinks are a migratory grassland songbird bird in decline. From Cornell – “Long-distance migrant. Bobolinks travel about 12,500 miles round-trip every year, in one of the longest migrations of any songbird in the New World. From their northern breeding grounds they fly in groups through Florida and across the Gulf of Mexico toward their wintering grounds in South America.”
Just a few of the species of wildlife found on Cape Ann that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treat Act of 1918!
From the Center for Biological Diversity
NEW YORK— A federal court today overturned a Trump administration reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that had upended decades of enforcement and let industry polluters entirely off the hook for killing birds.
The administration argued the law only applied to intentional killing of birds and not “incidental” killing from industrial activities, including oil spills, electrocutions on power lines, development and other activities that kill millions of birds every year.
The reinterpretation was first put in place in December 2017 through a legal opinion authored by the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior and former Koch Industries employee, Daniel Jorjani. This opinion was already allowing birds to be killed across the country.
Citing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni wrote that “if the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence.”
In rejecting the Jorjani opinion, the court noted that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it unlawful to kill birds “by any means whatever or in any manner” — thus the administration’s interpretation could not be squared with the plain language of the statute.
Had the Trump administration’s policy been in place at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, for example, British Petroleum would have avoided paying more than $100 million in fines to support wetland and migratory bird conservation to compensate for more than a million birds the accident was estimated to have killed.
The policy was put in place over objections from Canada, a co-signer of the treaty that led to the law. Scientists now estimate North American birds have declined by 29% overall since 1970, amounting to roughly 3 billion fewer birds.
Since the Jorjani opinion, snowy owls and other raptors have been electrocuted by perching on uninsulated power lines in Delaware, Maryland, Tennessee and North Dakota – with no consequences for the responsible utilities. Oil spills in Massachusetts, Idaho and Washington, all of which caused the subsequent deaths of many birds, did not prompt any penalties. Landscapers in San Diego were reported to have thrown live mourning dove chicks into a tree shredder, prompting a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services agent to go undercover to investigate. But the case was closed with no action taken due to the changed policy.
“The Trump administration’s policy was nothing more than a cruel, bird-killing gift to polluters and we’re elated it has been vacated,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Birds are in real trouble across the United States. We must do everything we can to ensure they continue to brighten our skies and sing to us in the morning, for which they ask nothing in return.”
“The court’s decision is a ringing victory for conservationists who have fought to sustain the historical interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect migratory birds from industrial harms,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “The Department of the Interior’s wrong-head reinterpretation would have left the fate of more than 1,000 species of birds in the hands of industry. At a time when our nation’s migratory birds are under escalating threats, we should be creating a reasonable permit program to ensure effective conservation and compliance, rather than stripping needed protections for birds.”
“This decision confirms that Interior’s utter failure to uphold the conservation mandate of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service simply cannot stand up in a court of law,” said Katie Umekubo, senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The MBTA protects millions of birds and the Trump administration’s reckless efforts to rollback bird protections to benefit polluters don’t fool anyone.”
“Today’s commonsense ruling is a much-needed win for migratory birds and the millions of Americans who cherish them,” said Mike Parr, president of American Bird Conservancy. “The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is one of our nation’s most important environmental laws, and has spurred industry innovation to protect birds, such as screening off toxic waste pits and marking power lines to reduce collisions. This decision represents the next vital step on the path to restoring our nation’s declining bird populations and is a major victory for birds and the environment.”
“Like the clear crisp notes of the wood thrush, today’s court decision cuts through all the noise and confusion to unequivocally uphold the most effective bird conservation law on the books–the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” said Sarah Greenberger, interim chief conservation officer for the National Audubon Society. “This is a huge victory for birds and it comes at a critical time. Science tells us that we’ve lost 3 billion birds in less than a human lifetime and that two-thirds of North American birds are at risk of extinction due to climate change.”
“Migratory birds are once again protected in the United States from industrial and other threats, thanks to a court ruling rejecting the Administration’s blatant misinterpretation of protections Congress put in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” said Mike Leahy, director of wildlife, hunting and fishing policy at the National Wildlife federation. “Common-sense measures to protect birds like the snowy egret, wood duck and greater sandhill crane have been restored, and bird advocates, affected industries, and Congress can now focus on developing a permit program to reduce harms to birds and impacts to businesses through best management practices.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visitDefenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter@Defenders.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at http://www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at http://www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.
American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org,Facebook,Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).
Piping Plover ambassador Deb Brown shared the following story. My readers know not to pick up a chick alone on the beach but please help spread the word. If you see someone attempting to do so, let them know that the parents are more than likely close by and waiting for “the rescuer” to leave the area. Keep your eye on the chick from 100 feet away and if after an hour an adult is not spotted in the vicinity, contact USFWS or a local rehabber. It is against the law to handle Piping Plover chicks. A protected piping plover chick that was illegally removed from a Westerly beach receives care at a wildlife center in Massachusetts. The chick later died. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Protected piping plover chick illegally removed from RI beach dies
by JESSICA A. BOTELHO, NBC 10 NEWS
The death of a protected piping plover chick that was illegally removed from a Westerly beach has prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Massachusetts to remind everyone that the birds should not be touched.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asks that people do not disturb or interfere with plovers or other wildlife,” the agency noted Monday in a press release, adding that the chick became ill after vacationers brought it home with them.
“Members of the public should never handle wildlife or remove it from the area before contacting authorities,” according to the release.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the vacationers brought the chick to a Massachusetts wildlife rehabilitator when it began to show signs of poor health.
It was eventually transferred to Tufts Wildlife Clinic, and then to Cape Wildlife in Barnstable, because its condition rapidly worsened and it later died.
“Despite the best efforts of veterinarians, the chick had become too weak from the ordeal and died,” according to the agency.
Piping plovers are protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Maureen Durkin, who is the Service’s plover coordinator for Rhode Island, said handling wild animals does more harm than good. She added that with such a small population of plovers, every single bird makes a difference.
“By sharing our beaches and leaving the birds undisturbed, we give plovers the best chance to successfully raise chicks each year,” Durkin said, with the release noting that about 85 pairs of piping plovers breed in Rhode Island “under the close watch of several agencies.”
It is illegal to possess or handle most wildlife, especially threatened and endangered species.
Piping plovers are on that list and should not be disturbed.
“While wild animals may appear to be ‘orphaned,’ they usually are not; parents are often waiting nearby for humans to leave. Plover chicks are able to run and feed themselves, and even if they appear to be alone, their parents are usually in the vicinity. Baby songbirds, seal pups, and fawns are also at risk from being removed from the wild unnecessarily by people mistaking them for orphans. If a young animal is encountered alone in the wild, the best course of action is typically to leave the area. In most cases the parents will return without human intervention,” the release noted.
Jonathan, Sally, Jennie, Heidi, Barbara, Sue, Deb, Jane, Duncan, and Bette Jean
Last night we had our end of the season Piping Plover Ambassadors get together. It’s so challenging with the pandemic because I just wanted so much to hug everyone and thank them for the fantastic job they did. Thanks to their enthusiasm, dedication, interest, and kindness, we were able to fledge our little Marshmallow. It’s not the number of birds that fledge that matters, but that they are in good health when they depart and our Marshmallow was strong and well fortified after a season of healthy, and largely uninterrupted, foraging at Good Harbor Beach.
A heartfelt thank you to all who helped make 2020 a tremendously joyous Piping Plover season!
Deb Brown made the funniest and most charming Marshmallow cupcakes (and they were delicious, too)! Don’t you think it should be a tradition?
Charlotte loving her marshmallow cupcake!
The following is the text of the program that I gave at this year’s Coastal Waterbird meeting –
Program for Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators Meeting
The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors
Thank you to Carolyn Mostello for the invitation to talk about our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors Program.
It is an honor and a joy to be included in the annual cooperators meeting.
Thanks so much to Carolyn for also providing advice and guidance throughout the course of the 2020 Piping Plover season. Early on, she shared a phrase she uses, Educate, Not Enforce and I found that sharing that thought with our Ambassadors really conveyed how we wanted to treat our community.
Good Harbor Beach is Gloucester’s most highly populated stretch of shoreline. Less than two miles long, during the summer months the beach is packed with beach goers from morning until after sunset. And because of the pandemic, Good Harbor has become even more popular.
We had a small but truly stellar group of people this year: Deb Brown, Jane Marie, Bette Jean, Jennie, Jonathan, Sally, Shelby, Barbara, Heidi, Duncan, and myself. Between the bunch of us we were able to provide coverage from 5:30 am to 8:30pm, from sunrise until sunset. I asked each person to commit to an hour a day simply because in the past there was too much confusion with scheduling, where some people could volunteer for an hour one day a week, or only on Tuesdays, etc. An hour a day, seven days a week, for a month is a tremendous volunteer commitment but no one seemed daunted, people volunteered for even longer time frames, and I think everyone’s time with the PiPls became something that they looked forward to very much.
After everybody’s shift, we shared our notes in the group’s email chain and to a person, it was always positive and informative.
We have been working in partnership with Essex County Greenbelt Association’s director of land stewardship, Dave Rimmer, who over the course of the past five years has provided help and guidance with everything Piping Plover and has given freely and generously of his time. Our Ward One City Councilor, Scott Memhard, has been super helpful in navigating the City’s role in Piping Plover management and we have also been working with the City of Gloucester’s Department of Public Works. Many of the DPW crew have taken a genuine interest in the birds, as has our Mayor Sefatia.
Our number one goal from early on has been to keep Good Harbor Beach open while also protecting the Plovers.
The most important thing has been to build a solid relationship with the community about why it is so important to protect threatened and endangered species. For the first four years that the Piping Plovers had been at Good Harbor Beach, I thought that writing stories, photographing, and filmmaking; sharing how beautiful, tiny, resilient, funny, spunky, and just plain adorable Piping Plovers are, people would fall in love and just naturally do the right thing. The thing is, 99 percent of people do fall in love when introduced and do want to help protect the Plovers, but there is always that 1 percent that simply does not care.
I’ve learned through experience that the very best way to handle difficult situations is to not engage, and most pointedly, to not mention enforcement. Especially during this age of coronavirus when we know people may be struggling and be very much on edge, the last thing we want to do is provoke a confrontation. We changed the name from Piping Plover Monitors, to Piping Plover Ambassadors, which has a much friendlier ring. This year we had a mostly new crew of volunteers and at the onset of this year’s first Piping Plover meeting we made it very clear that we were not to approach anyone about their behavior. We were there to speak positively about the birds, share information, and answer any and all questions.
For example, in the case where someone was walking directly toward a tiny newborn hatchling, we would say, “Hello, and have you had a chance to see our Piping Plover baby birds? Here, let me show you.” Several of the volunteers even shared their binoculars. That’s just one example, but by keeping a positive tone, people were just so thrilled to catch a glimpse and to learn about the birds on the beach.
One change that has really made a monumental difference is that we worked really hard to successfully change the City’s dog ordinance, which is now written to disallow all dogs on the beach, at all times of the day, beginning April 1st, rather than May 1st. There are still scofflaws, but this one change has greatly reduced tensions.
Next year I am planning to do more community outreach prior to the PiPls arrival. I have developed a program, which I was hoping to give freely to local audiences at places such as our Sawyer Free Library and Cape Ann Museum in the spring but because of the virus, that will have to wait until next year. I think presenting programs about the birds will also be a way to help recruit ambassadors.
One of our young Piping Plover fans who followed the bird’s stories daily, five-year-old Zoe, nicknamed our one surviving PiPl Marshmallow. Next year I think it would be great to have a Piping Plover naming contest as well as a Piping Plover art poster sign project for young people.
We also think it would be very helpful to have brochures, with fun photos and a brief outline of the life story of the Plovers to give to interested beachgoers. My one concern with that is generating litter. We made our own 24 x 36-inch signs on coroplast boards that could be placed easily in the sand and moved about, depending on where the chicks were foraging that day. These signs were a little bit funny and helped bring attention to the birds in a super friendly manner.
I am so grateful for the advice given by Carolyn at the onset of the season and for our Ambassadors. This kind, thoughtful group of people who came together in the worst of times, knowing that despite all the problems in the world and the personal toll the pandemic has taken on us all, taking care of threatened and endangered species remained a priority, and in a summer such as 2020, perhaps the birds needed even more special care.
On Tuesday I attended the annual Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting. This was my third year attending the conference. I love every minute and find them wonderfully educational. During a normal year, they take place on Cape Cod; this year was virtual. I took tons of screen shots of interesting data and and am writing an article about the meeting and what we learned is taking place at regions all around Massachusetts, as well as at other New England States. More to come 🙂
I was asked to make two presentations, one to share a film about Marshmallow and the second presentation, to talk about our Ambassador program. I’ll share the text of the second program tomorrow, and in the meantime, here is a short video, the finished version, of our marvelous Marshmallow Montage –
Thank you to Peter Van Demark for adding marvelous to Marshmallow’s name 🙂
For more about Piping Plovers, please see the Piping Plover Film Project page on my website. The page is progress but here you will find short films, information about my Atlantic Coast Piping Plover lecture program, photos, and links to hundreds of articles and posts that I have written from 2016 to the present (articles from 2019 have not yet been organized into the list).
This morning at 8:30 I stopped by the Creek to see if Marshmallow had returned. I’ve been checking every morning and haven’t seen him since the morning the roped off area was dismantled, but Deb thinks she saw him last evening. I ran into Todd and Sarah and they too were looking. The PiPl that was there at the Creek this morning I think is too slender to be a forty-one day old chick. This bird doesn’t have the round plump silhouette that Marshmallow had at 38 days. I am not sure if his body would change overnight like that. We’ll keep checking and see what we see.
It’s not unusual for Piping Plovers to be seen at GHB singularly or in small groups of two, threes, and fours as the Creek especially is a wonderful stop over point for migrating shorebirds. The most Piping Plovers I have ever seen in a group at a Gloucester Beach was a flock of nine at Coffins Beach and they were together for several days before all departed overnight.
Chubby Marshmallow at 38 days, left, mystery slender PiPl, right
We also saw a Least Tern feeding its fledgling!!, a Little Blue Heron chasing a Snowy Egret, and Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers foraging together.
Least Tern fledgling
Little Blue chasing a Snowy through the marsh this morning
The beautiful event that takes place every year at this time along the shoreline and at our local dunes are the Tree Swallow aerialists massing, with each day in progressively greater numbers. They stay as long as there are insects aplenty, until one morning, you will find they have vanished, migrating to the next insect-rich location.
Also, I just added a film to the post, a short that I made several years ago titled Dance of the Tree Swallows. It goes on way too long, and I would edit it differently today, but you may enjoy the first half at least. It was mostly filmed at Greenbelt’s Wingaersheek Uplands and Coffins Beach in West Gloucester. Here is the link https://vimeo.com/201781967 – and the password is treeswallows.
Regarding our end of the season meeting, I think the best day for most everyone is Thursday. We don’t want to do it on a weekend night, too many people and not safe with corona, and too hot or rain predicted on other nights. Barbara, i am wondering if we made it at 5:00, would that work for your shower schedule?
It appears as though Marshmallow has begun his southward migration. We know he is well fortified from his days at Good Harbor Beach, with a little belly full of sea worms and other PiPl yummies. His Dad has taught him extremely well, from important survival skills on how to avoid danger to bathing and frequent preening, giving his newly formed flight feathers extra conditioning.
His tiny wings will beat millions of times to reach the first important staging area. For Piping Plovers in our region, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is where they will most likely head. Last August at the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, I met Professor Paton. He is involved with a program that bands and nanotags birds at Southern New England beaches, mostly Rhode Island beaches. He provided some terrific maps based on the data collected from the banding program.
After departing Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the majority of the program’s tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.
Although our Good Harbor Beach Piping plovers are not tagged, there is no reason to believe that they too are not traveling this route.
Why are the Outer Banks such an important staging area? Perhaps because the great flats are filled with nutrient rich protein, which the adult birds need to regrow their flight feathers. Almost constantly in motion and exposed to strong sunlight during the spring migration and summer nesting season, the adult’s flight feathers are nearly completely worn down. They have become much paler in color and frayed. Shorebirds need these staging areas to molt the old feathers and grow new flight feathers. Possibly the need to be in a safe environment to begin molting explains why our Mom, and then Dad, departed prior to Marshmallow.
I know it’s disappointing that we were not given any kind of warning about dismantling the nesting area. It’s been such a great season so please don’t dwell on it. We are working to try to remedy the lack of communication between the Ambassadors and the City, with the goal of having the problem solved by next year’s season.
It’s time to start planning our end of the season get together. Would an evening work for everyone, say 6:00pm. Then everyone could get back to their families for dinner. On Thursday, August 6th, the weather looks clear and bright, not too hot or humid.
Thank you, you have all been such terrific Ambassadors, and most importantly, Marshmallow thanks you, too!
After a time (quite a bit of time and much walking) I found Marshmallow, back at the tide pool in front of the protected area. His Dad would have been so proud because as soon as the beach rake was heard in the distance, he ran into the roped off area, just as if Dad were there commanding him to do so. After the raking had finished, Heidi and I watched as Marshamllow did some terrific floppy floppy flying and then he flew along the shoreline looking for a place to forage, out of the way of joggers and walkers.
Thank you so very much to Heather Atwood and Kory Curcuru for sharing about our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. It’s a joy to participate in these interviews and I also want to thank Heather for stopping by to meet Marshmallow. I am so glad she got to see our super Dad in action!
You can follow 1623 Studios on Facebook. If you like the page, Cape Ann Today with Kory and Heather will pop up in your news feed.
Cuteness Alert! “Marshmallow,” this year’s Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover hatchling, stars in Kim Smith’s new video. Come for the fluffy, leggy sweetness; stay for the interview.
One of our amazing and awesome Piping Plover Ambassadors, Jonathan Golding, wrote the following, too beautiful not to share <3
“I wrote this two weeks ago. It is titled “My daughter, the PIPING PLOVER FLEDGLING . .. ”
Already I have spoken a mistruth. My daughter is not a Piping Plover Fledgling. She is a soon to be 20 year old rising junior at American University in D.C. majoring in Criminal Justice & Psychology, and has maintained an impressive 3.8 GPA. And, given the great pandemic pause, she has decided to take her own version of a Gap Year and work for AmeriCorps in Boston. She applied for several different programs and received an offer from her #1 choice as a Restorative Practices Fellow with the Dudley Promise Corps. She will be working at the Dearborn S.T.E.M. Academy in Roxbury.
This big new move is all very exciting. . . for her. I mean, here at home she has just finished her second week of remote working, interacting with new Americorp colleagues, learning more about what the job entails, and in communication about living arrangements in Boston. Hmmmmm . . . living arrangements in Boston. Lib has lived in Rockport, in Gloucester, and on campus at American University. Now the new reality is unknown roommates at an apartment in the Roxbury/Fort Hill area of Boston, east of Jamaica Plain. This is where the Piping Plover analogy comes in. Three weeks ago, Sally and I joined the ranks of Piping Plover Ambassadors for the 4 newly hatched chicks at Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach. As endangered shorebirds, it’s helps to give them some additional safety coverage as they mature and develop. A number of us armed with binoculars, good intentions, and the willingness to engage with the occasional unaware beach goer, keep a watchful eye over the young ones and their parents. What started as Mom, Dad, and four chicks, are now, three weeks later, just the dad and one chick. Three of the little ones sadly didn’t make it and mom, I guess feeling like her job was done, flew the coop. Yet DAD, and his only child – now named Marshmallow, stayed the course. Dad is there for him/her/they. He looks out for threats, does appropriate interventions if dogs, seagulls, crows, or people get too close to his baby. He also – new word for me – thermoregulates the chick. Marshmallow, with his/her/their still developing feathers need the warmth of a good parental snuggle. “Fledgling” is when a young chick has what it takes to . . . FLY. Once they got that flying thing down, then they can pretty much handle any threat coming their way. Before fledging, Marshmallow needs dad, and dad is there 100% for Marshmallow’s safety, care, and well-being. After fledging, Dad’s need to be involved with Marshmallow’s day -to-day activities and decision-making, well, not so much. Maybe not at all. I don’t know all this for a fact. I have never been a Piping Plover Ambassador before. Nor have I ever been a father to a soon-to-be 20 year old who is moving to Boston and becoming a Restorative Practices Fellow with the Dudley Promise Corps in Roxbury. My daughter is fledging.
I recently read an article in the NY Times about how many couples are “struggling to cope with the stress and tension” and one piece of advice stayed with me: “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be in a loving, connected relationship?” Granted, that question was aimed at partners in a relationship, yet for me it’s applicable in my relationship to my fledging daughter. I am full of questions and concerns about her venture into this great urban undertaking, and – not to be taken lightly – during this time of a pandemic environment, social distancing, and face-coverings. I understand the concepts of Endings, Beginnings, & Transitions. And, in my desire to maintain a loving, connected relationship, it’s probably best if I back off with my lists, the probing questions, and the catastrophic concerns that keep popping into my reptilian brain. Lib is a thoughtful, kind, generous, and smart young lady. She has had life experiences that have prepared her for this next chapter. As a parent, you do your best, give your best, and then . . . what . . Step Back? Step Aside? Offer Support and Assistance?
Sally, Libby and I went out to lunch yesterday, and I brought a notebook with a whole list of topics intending to discuss. . .. everything from bedroom sheets, to bus stop locations, to subway safety, to Covid appropriate interactions with her 3 new roommates. At some point, I turned the page over, and on a new page wrote simply “Lib, How Can We Best Support You?”. Couldn’t help but think about when I am down at Good Harbor Beach observing the Daddy Plover, he sure doesn’t seem to be overtly stressing over his little one. I suspect he feels he has done his best in preparing his kid to enter into the world as a young adult. When little Marshmallow becomes older-teen Marshmallow and truly finds his/her/their wings, and equally important his/her/their inner confidence , then the fully fledged piping Plover will fly off and effectively deal with the challenges and opportunities that life will surely present. Probably this is a good time for me to say “Hey JG . .. be more like the Daddy Plover. All will be fine.”🙏
It took awhile to discover where Marshmallow was this morning. He was at the wrack line calling nearly continuously with his soft melodious piping call, (which is how I was able to locate him), before then flying off over the dunes. I found him on my return walk, preening and fluffing at the PiPls favorite piece of driftwood within the enclosure. Note that is the very same driftwood that our PiPl Mom and Dad had their very first nest scrape at, way back in April!
No sign of Dad this morning.
Heidi noticed the pair of Semipalmated Plovers as well; it’s one of the first sightings of Semipalmated Plovers at GHB this summer and is a sure sign that the summer/fall migration is underway. Last year we had an unusual occurrence, Mystery Chick – a Semipalmated Plover fledgling appear suddenly and foraged for a bit with our three PiPl chicks.
Good Harbor Beach, and all of Cape Ann’s shorelines, continue to provide an extraordinary window into the world of migrating creatures. Despite 2020 being such a challenging summer on so very many levels, a saving grace has been our Piping Plovers and having the joy of meeting and getting to know our Ambassadors, and all of Marshmallow’s friends.
Semipalmated Plover fledgling, “Mystery Chick”
Heather Atwood updated us that the Cape Ann Today PiPl episode is not going to air until Friday or Monday and as soon as I know, will let you know.
Have a great day and thank goodness for today’s cooler temperatures 🙂
Many species of birds don’t generally migrate in a perfectly straight trajectory, but begin daily by setting off in a circular movement as they find the most suitable wind direction. That is why you may sometimes see when geese are flying overhead that some are going north and some are traveling south, as they gain their bearings for the next leg of their journey.
Our lone PiPl chick in 2017 (his name was Little Chick) departed about five days after Papa had left. I was with him on the morning he departed. A small flock of juvenile PiPls had flown in early in the day. Later that morning, I watched as Little Chick flew over Sherman’s Point with his new friends. We never saw him again after that.
Over the years I have observed that Coffins Beach becomes a staging point for Piping Plovers and Semi-palmated Plovers, beginning in mid-summer. They gather there in small and large groups, waiting for the right conditions to take the next leg of their journey. The Semi-palmated Plovers have journeyed from points much further north as they breed in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America. Perhaps the Piping Plover juveniles we see there at Coffins have flown over from Plum Island and Crane Beach, or perhaps they have traveled from points even further north.
Peninsulas such as our Cape Ann, as are places like Cape May and Point Pelee, are bird and butterfly migratory hotspots. We on Cape Ann are so fortunate to be able to witness this never ending flow of beautiful north-south movement that takes place each and every year without fail, in our own backyards and along our shoreline.
It’s going to be too hot today, so please don’t stay in the sun very long. Have a great day and Thank you!
Dad and Marshmallow this morning – Marshmallow at 36 days old
Today marks the five week old milestone for our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover fledgling Marshmallow. He is thriving, growing visibly stronger daily and adding to his lipid reserves for the long journey south. Marshmallow is the only one of four hatchlings to survive however, we are not too far off from the national average PiPl chick survival rate, which is 1.2 chicks.
Marshmallow and Dad spend their days between the main beach within the protected area, at the tide pools adjacent to the protected area, and “down the Creek.” Both the tide pools and Creek shallows provide richly nourishing, fat, juicy sea worms along with a variety of mini mollusks and other invertebrates.
It won’t be long now before the two will be winging off to their wintering grounds. From banding programs done at the University of Rhode Island, it appears that most PiPls from our region first travel to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a key migratory stopover for Piping Plovers. After spending approximately 30 to 40 days there, they will travel the next leg of their journey, to the Caribbean.
Will Dad and Marshmallow suddenly disappear, and together? In 2017, Dad left about five days before the fledgling. Last year, in 2019, the family suddenly dispersed, Dad and all three chicks simultaneously, but that was because the roped off area was removed prematurely and raked over. We are hoping to leave the symbolically roped off area in place as long as the birds are here. They know it is a safe space and find shelter, protection, and food there when the beach is super crowded. There really is no place else for them to forage and to find shelter on busy beach days and during high tide when there is no shoreline at the Creek.
A simply glorious morning! Marshmallow took a long bath in a tide pool, with Dad keeping a watchful eye, and after a few moments, Dad took a bath as well. Lots of healthy wing stretching and flippy floppy flying going on this morning, too.
I have been working on a short short, a Marshmallow Montage, from egg to five weeks old. I plan to make a slightly longer version for the Ambassadors, adding clips from the upcoming week. This shorter version will air on 1623 Studios tomorrow, Monday, morning at 11am, to augment the interview I gave and will post the link here as well. This past week I had a super conversation about all things PiPls with Heather and Kory for their show Cape Ann Today. Heather was so interested, she stopped by Saturday morning to meet Marshmallow. I think she was especially impressed with Dad’s stellar parenting skills!
Busy, busy beach days, but the City was towing on Nautilus Road over the weekend and the crowds looked manageable (from the roadside view). Stay safe and be well – I hope especially that all the City beach workers are able to stay safe.
Tomorrow I think we should talk about ambassador shifts and how you would like to be involved over the next week or so. Thank you all for all your good work and dedication to our little, not-so-little, Marshmallow <3.
Piping Plover Ambassador Zoe shares her Marshmallow. You may recall that it was Zoe’s idea to name our chick Marshmallow. I think next year we should have a naming contest 🙂 Thank you again Zoe for the very adorable and apropos name.
This morning I arrived to find the Common Tern parent quietly sitting at the Creek’ shoreline. This behavior seemed highly unusual as we have all been observing how passionately the adult safeguards her young and how equally as passionately, she was trying to teach Baby Huey how to fly a bit more energetically.
Yesterday Deb Brown and I observed as the parent flew in nearly half a dozen times, dangling the same minnow over the fledgling’s head and near his mouth, with the last attempt ending in a spectacularly long flight across the marsh. The juvenile seemed a little slow, but perhaps that was to be expected. We don’t know from where and how many miles this family has traveled. In reading about Common Terns, the juveniles stay with the individual family unit for several months after fledging. They don’t generally begin to leave home base and migrate until August. Nonetheless, we were hopeful the little guy would perk up.
The juvenile’s lifeless body was found by the edge of the marsh. There were no visible signs of injury and the body was stiff; he perhaps perished sometime during the night. The parent was staying nearby the body when he/she suddenly flew away high overhead. I thought how very sad for this wonderfully dedicated parent and wondered how long he had been holding vigil, but what next happened became unbearably difficult to watch as she returned with a large minnow in her mouth and began circling around and around, calling and calling for the little one. This went on until I left at 6:55.
It took more than a few moments to find Dad and Marshmallow in this morning’s pea soup thick fog. The pair were their usual energetic and early-morning-hungry selves. Marshmallow did his floppy, floppy fly thing for several minutes, giving me a much needed lift, too.
Thank you everyone for your dedication of time and energy, watchful eyes, and end of the shift notes. I don’t think I have mentioned this previously, but I also want to thank you all for wearing MASKS, it sets a fantastic example! We don’t want to plan our end of the season get together just yet (we don’t want to jinx ourselves), but I am looking forward to it.
A late day update as I had several meetings this morning, including a wonderful interview with Heather and Kory at 1623 Studios about Marshmallow and all things Piping Plover!
We have a first at Good Harbor Beach and that is a Plover chick and his Dad, along with a Common Tern fledgling and its parent! The Terns must have flown in sometime last night. Both pairs are currently together at the bend in the Creek as it is high tide, the beach is busy, and there aren’t any other places to go.
For more information about local terns, below are links to several articles that I have written about Least Terns that were nesting at other north of Boston beaches, but it is so interesting to think about because I have never seen a Common or a Least Tern fledgling in five years of daily monitoring at Good Harbor Beach and it’s pretty exciting!
Common Terns are about 12 to 14 inches, whereas PiPls are only about 7 inches. It is the fledglings though that are quite comical. I call them the Baby Hueys of the avian world because at this approximately one-month-old stage of development, they look larger than their parents. Common Terns are semi-precocial, which means they hatch with feathers and can run around shortly after hatching, just as do PiPl chicks, but Common Terns cannot feed themselves. The chicks and fledglings sit on the shoreline with mouths gaping open and squawking loudly as the parents fish non-stop, depositing minnows into their open beaks.
Common Tern Fledgling
Oftentimes Common Terns and Piping Plovers share the same beach habitat and they typically only go after one another when one is doing something really offensive to the other. Common Terns though are very territorial in terms of people and gulls. If you are observing a Common or a Least Tern and it is flying over your head, calling out constantly, or even dive bombing your head, you are much too close and need to move back. Today’s Common Tern has been going after Great Black-back Gulls, a hawk, and people as it establishes a protective zone around its fledgling.
I hope so much the Tern Family stays for more than a day and that you all get to see the Terns at GHB!
Common Tern adult harassing a Great Black-back Gull
As I was leaving, Heidi and I crossed paths on the footbridge. What a joy to be replaced each day by Heidi and have a moment of good conversation, something I am sure many of us are not getting enough of during the pandemic.
The raker had not yet come but Dad and Marshmallow were peacefully foraging down at the Creek. More bathing, preening, floofing, and flippy floppy flying thing, with only the Killdeers causing Dad to leave his post.
A heartfelt thank you to all our Ambassadors, Mayor Sefatia, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Councilor Memhard, PiPl Friends, City Council, GDP, GPD, and all who are lending a hand and good wishes for Marshmallow reaching the tremendous milestone of 28 days, tremendous in the way that, thanks to you all, he is getting off to an excellent start, despite growing up in our most highly trafficked and wildly popular City beach. Only (roughly) two more weeks to go <3
Have a great day!
xxKimMarshmallow preening after bathing
Piping Plovers take baths daily, starting from a very early age. It’s nearly always the same, no matter the age. The only difference really is younger chicks will splash around more. Twenty-seven-days-old Marshmallow takes a bath now much the same way as does Dad, quickly and efficiently.
Adults and older chicks will first eye-ball the area, while cautiously considering whether or not it’s safe to immerse in water. Small birds especially are vulnerable to predator attacks when their feathers are wet.
Plover bathing entails a thorough dunking, from tip to toe, ending with a leap from the water, with wings spread wide and tail feathers shaking, to dry off droplets. Bath time is followed by floofing, poofing, preening, and head scratching. And then, generally speaking, a return to the most important business of all, foraging to not only grow strong and develop well, but to build up their fat reserves for the long migration south.
Thank you so very much Friends for all you are doing to help our GHB PiPls. If you cannot make your shift or need to shorten it, thank you for trying to switch, but if not covered, try not to worry. The next Ambassador will be along and it seemed positively calm at the Creek yesterday. I hope they stay there all day but the tide was high last night and they may come back to the main beach during high tide, at 11:07am today. Many, many beachgoers were already being dropped off at the footbridge when I left at 7:30 this morning, so perhaps the worst of it will be before noon, which would be a good thing.
Hoping to post footage of Marshmallow taking a bath from today, if I can find the time.
Have a great day – so gorgeous out!!
Beautiful, tranquil early morning at Good Harbor Beach. I found the pair at the Creek, foraging and preening. Dad was in his usual super dad mode, chasing Killdeers, as well as some unseen-to-my-eyes imaginary beings.
Dad preening from tip to tail feather
Heidi and I had to laugh as we watched Marshmallow chase, and then capture and eat, a white butterfly, actually a moth I think.
Marshmallow eating a moth
Hopefully all the good work Mayor Sefatia and her administration have endeavored to do this past week will help keep the crowds down to a manageable size this weekend.
Will write more tomorrow, working on several stories to share. Thank you one again PiPl Ambassadors for your great gifts of time and kindness in helping our Good Harbor Piping Plovers survive Gloucester’s busiest of beaches.
Marshmallow taking a cue from Dad on excellent feather maintenance
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO LEAVE THE PROTECTED AREA IN PLACE AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH UNTIL THE CHICK HAS FULLY FLEDGED AND THE BIRDS DEPARTED?
Good Morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors!
Dad and Marshmallow made a round about trip to the Creek just before the storm started at about 6:45. That’s it, nothing more to report from this cold rainy morning 🙂
Why is it so critical to leave the protected area in place for the full length of time the PiPls spend at Good Harbor Beach? The following video was shot in the early evening and is a chick from one of the other Piping Plover families that I am documenting. The chick in the clip is 39 days old. To avoid confusion, I have to repeat that this is NOT Marshmallow, but an entirely different chick. Actually, he/she is a near fledgling at 39 days old. Our Marshmallow is only 24 days old.
I would like folks to see in slower motion the funny flippy floppy fly thing all chicks and fledglings do, but the footage also serves the purpose of highlighting how vitally important it is to keep sheltering areas in place at the beach for as long as the Plovers are present.
You can see in the video that it takes several moments for the youngster to alight. While becoming proficient at flying, chicks are still very vulnerable to predator attacks from gulls, crows, owls, hawks, herons, dogs, coyotes, and foxes. Symbolically roped off areas continue to provide shelter and safety to Piping Plover adults and fledglings alike, even after the chicks have reached their so-called official fledge date. Not all chicks mature at precisely the same rate over precisely the same number of days. Their weight, development, and flying ability depend largely on how rich, plentiful, and accessible is their food source.
Thermo-snuggling for the better part of the early morning and all was quiet. Dad suddenly began piping loudly, jumped up, and flew from Marshmallow. I was busy watching Marshmallow when out of nowhere, our GHB Red Fox trotted through the backside of home base, mere feet from where they had been snuggling, with Dad hot on the Fox’s heels!
At this point in Marshmallow’s life, I don’t think the Red Fox poses a tremendous threat, but they are a threat nonetheless. Anything canid, whether dog, fox, or coyote may step inadvertently on a young chick when they are hunkered down in place and are not yet fully fledged. Additionally, Red Fox dig and hunt shorebird eggs. A Piping Plover cannot tell the difference between a Red Fox and a domestic dog. Dogs have been allowed by their owners to chase after shorebirds for sport, which is another reason the PiPls find the Fox so threatening.
Shortly after the Fox sighting, the pair headed to the Creek where lots of yummy invertebrates were had, including a mini mollusk that you can see the tail end of in Marshmallow’s mouth, and sea worms, fat and thin. Heidi came along soon after. I think the birds Heidi remarked on are the Killdeer family; they were there earlier at the Creek until Dad had chased them off the scene to clear the way for his Marshmallow 🙂Added note about the Red Fox family – The Red Foxes we see currently at Good Harbor Beach are almost always carrying fresh prey in their mouths, small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels, for example, and I don’t think they are going to drop an adult rabbit to chase after a Piping Plover. The Foxes are now crisscrossing the beach several times a day with their mouths full on the return trip, which leads me to believe, the kits have not yet dispersed and Mom and Dad Fox have their paws full supplying the rapidly growing youngsters with nourishment.
The Red Fox diet also includes fresh fruit and berries. If you have a Mulberry tree ripe with fruit you may currently be seeing them in your backyard. I am looking forward to when our neighbor’s apples begin falling from her tree and hope so much our neighborhood Red Fox finds the fallen apple feast.
Heads up – very buggy at the Creek this morning. Hardly any trash today, and isn’t that great news that Mayor Sefatia has closed the beach to nonresidents!
As Bette, Jane, and Jennie have shared, the beach was very quiet this morning and activity was low.
I love Jonathan’s new term for thermoregulating – “thermo-snuggling.” It more aptly describes their behavior, and that is all Marshmallow wanted to do this morning! I wish the footage was more exciting but the temperature was in the low 60s and it was drizzling when Heidi came along at 7:00. Marshmallow ran out of the roped off area several times but returned just as quickly as there were several gulls and a crow getting too close for Dad’s comfort.
Taylor Ann Bradford from the Gloucester Times phoned this morning and I shared with her your names. You may have already received an email from her.
The following is a link to a post that I wrote addressing the overcrowding at GHB. The last paragraph is about the PiPls. I have read on several social media sites that the PiPls are taking a bad rap for overcrowding at GHB, which, when you look at the pandemonium on the side streets and understaffed, overstuffed parking lot, even suggesting the PiPls are to blame is more than ridiculous.
Dad and Marshmallow were so peaceful and well-camouflaged that I didn’t see them for nearly the first hour, which gave me a chance to tidy up the beach. I was just about ready to check on the Creek when they both came scooting across the center of the protected area, heading to the water’s edge.
Three weeks marks a tremendous milestone. Thank you Everyone for your dedication during this craziest of busy beach weekends. Thank you for staying long, long extra hours and keeping your eyes on our PiPl family. Little Marshmallow is growing visibly plumper and stronger by the day, thanks largely to our group’s collective effort to keep him safe and protected, especially while he is foraging at the Creek, his most important job.
Today was Heidi Wakeman’s first morning and within her first five minutes, Marshmallow flew across the sand about a six or seven foot distance, about four or five inches off the ground. This wasn’t a funny flutter-hop, but a true little test run. So exciting to see these first flights!!!
Thunderstorms predicted later today, so please don’t stay if it happens on your shift.
xxKimGood Harbor Beach during coronavirus pandemic July 12, 2020