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.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.