Cheery news to share from PiPl Ambassador Deb- Friday, March 3rd, a Piping Plover was spotted at beautiful West Dennis Beach, on Cape Cod! It won’t be long 🙂
Thank you so very much to Jonathan and Sally for hosting the PiPl meeting and for organizing and compiling the notes. There’s a great deal to tackle here, but we’ll work away at the list. And many thanks to Jeff for sending the beach regulations, which are also attached. Additionally, Jayne Knot sent along the data from the contaminated Creek reports – very interesting read. I’ve been in touch with Rory McCarthy, who is heading up the Clean the Creek initiative and hope to speak with her this week to see how we can help. She shares lots of great information on her Instagram page at clean_the_creek.
PiPls in a windy March snowstorm several years ago
We’re glad you stopped by to learn more about Piping Plovers! The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about nesting Plovers. If you don’t find an answer to your question here, please write in the comments and let us know. The question you have, others may have as well. Thank you!
Do Plovers really start walking as soon as they hatch?
Yes! Plovers are precocial birds. That is a term biologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Unlike songbirds, which generally hatch helpless, naked, and blind, Plovers hatch with downy soft feathers and are fully mobile. They can run, peck, and are learning to forage within a few hours after hatching. The one thing they can’t do is regulate their body temperature. Plover chicks feed in short intervals, then run to snuggle beneath Mom or Dad’s warm underwings.
Do they have predators? What is their greatest threat?
Plover chicks are vulnerable to a great number of predators including Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, American Crows, Peregrine Falcons, Eastern Coyotes, Red Foxes, and Gray Foxes. The greatest threat to Plovers is when dogs are allowed to run freely through the nesting area, which causes the adults to chase the dogs, which leaves the eggs and chicks vulnerable to avian predators. The second greatest threat to Plovers is the garbage left behind by beachgoers, which attracts crows and gulls, both of which eat chicks and eggs.
How many generally survive?
On average, only 1.3 chicks survive per nesting pair. Most chicks are lost within the first two days.
How long does it take a Plover chick to learn to fly?
By the time a Plover is about 25 days old, it can take very brief test flights. At about 35 days, or five weeks, a Plover is considered fully fledged.
Where do they migrate to when they leave their northern breeding grounds?
We know from Plover banding programs conducted at the University of Rhode Island that the majority of Massachusetts Piping Plovers fly non-stop to the outer banks of North Carolina. Here they will stage for about a month. After fattening up for the next leg of their journey, many Plovers from the north Atlantic region migrate to the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Turks and Caicos.
During this staging period, Plovers also undergo a molt, where they lose their old tired feathers and grow new fresh feathers.
Just as Piping Plovers are site faithful to their breeding grounds, so too are they are site faithful to their winter homes.
Do they come back to the same nest site every year?
Remarkably, many mated pairs do return to the very same nesting site. Piping Plovers show tremendous fidelity to each other and to their nesting site. Even though they may winter-over in different locations, Piping Plover pairs may return to their breeding grounds within days of each other, and sometimes on the very same day. The chicks will most likely not return to the precise location of their birth, but may return to the same region.
Why are the areas on the beach roped off .
Plovers need a safe haven from dogs and people when they are nesting, especially on busy beach days. Even after the nestlings have hatched and are running on the beach, the Plovers know that it is generally safe from disturbance within the symbolically protected area. The roped off areas also allows beach vegetation to regrow, which provides shelter and food for the chicks and adults. The new growth helps fortify the dunes against future storm damage and rising sea level.
Why don’t Plovers nest in the dunes.
Plovers generally do not nest in the dunes, but in the sand, precisely where beachgoers enjoy sitting. Plovers evolved to nest in sand. For one reason in particular, their eggs are very well camouflaged in sand, so well camouflaged in fact that is is easy for people and pets to accidentally step on them. Prior to the mid-1900s, beaches were not as widely used as the recreational areas they have become today. There was far less interaction with humans. Nesting in dunes poses an even less safe set of challenges, including predation of their eggs by mammals and rodents.
What’s the story with the local organization that is advocating to harm, eat, and/or kill Piping Plovers?
Piping Plovers are listed as a federal and state protected endangered and threatened bird species. Threatened species are afforded the same exact protections as are endangered species. It is illegal to eat, kill, harm, or harass Plovers in any way, and punishable by fines in the tens of thousands of dollars. If humans intentionally create an untenable situation for nesting birds, a beach may become closed for the season
Plovers are very small, only slightly larger than a sparrow, with unfortunately, a history of harassment that in some cases, has led to death. It’s amazing that such a tender tiny bird can elicit the worst behavior in some humans while also evoking the best in people who recognize their vulnerability.
Fortunately for the Plovers, conservation groups, volunteers, and an ever increasingly aware beach-going population of educated and kind hearted citizens are working toward helping folks better understand that by sharing the shore, we not only allow for our own enjoyment by keeping the beach open to the public, we are protecting and promoting the continuation of a species.
Can’t we just capture the Plovers and take them to a less trafficked beach, or build the birds a nest in a tree?
Plovers do not nest in trees. If the Plovers were removed from the beach, they would very likely return. Plovers will rebuild a nest up to five time during a single season. With continual disturbance to the birds, the end result would be no eggs and no chicks. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act and shorebird conservation programs is to rebuild the population to return the Plovers to safe numbers where we know the species will survive.
Do volunteers come every day?
Yes, PiPl Ambassadors are on the beach everyday, seven days a week, from sunrise until sunset. If you would like to be a Piping Plover volunteers, please contact Kim Smith at email@example.com or leave a comment.
Looking out the window at snow covered scapes, it’s hard to imagine that in just about a month little feathered friends will be arriving at our local beaches. For the past several years our original Piping Plover pair at #3 have arrived on March 25th. It’s very possible they may have flown directly from their wintering sites, hundreds of miles, if not over a thousand (we know this from banding programs at URI). The pair are usually weary and in need of quiet rest, at least for the first several days… then comes the business of courting and establishing a nest. I am so hopeful our handicapped Mom will be returning for a second summer after losing her foot. It’s unlikely we will see HipHop, not because he wasn’t strong enough to return, but because offspring don’t usually return to their exact birth location. We may see HipHop though at area beaches.
As usual, we will be providing Plover updates in emails, on our new website, Facebook, and Instagram. We are so appreciative of the Gloucester Daily Times’s Andrea Holbrook and Ethan Forman for their recent article highlighting the upcoming Plover season and helping to get the word out about our Ambassador program!
Welcome to our new friends and possible volunteers, George, Meah, Susan, Leslie, and Terry! Thank you so much for offering to volunteer and/or support us in other ways through getting the word out about our Ambassador program.
At our recent Plover organizational meeting, hosted by Jonathan and Sally, we decided our areas of focus are: Safety, Education, Volunteers, and City Support (thank you for organizing the topics Sally!) Jonathan added April/May strategies, which as we seasoned volunteers know, poses a different set of challenges. City Councilor Jeff Worthley was in attendance, and it was a huge help to have someone who can provide insights into what can be accomplished through working with the City. Jeff shared that in the 90s he worked at Good Harbor Beach for five summers and he was also the chairperson of Beach Parking and Traffic Committee that brought us the advance ticket reservation system, so he also has great historical perspective on the ongoing issues at GHB.
The Creek is still closed due to storm/sewage runoff and it appears the City is no closer to determining the exact source. The fecal matter levels are 14,000 times what is acceptable. This may not seem like a Plover matter (so far, it does not appear to affect their well-being) but it often falls upon the Ambassadors to let people know how unsafe it is to swim there. The high levels are frequently reported on in the GDTimes, but if the City posted the actual levels on the signs at the beach, people might not be so quick to dismiss the warnings. We also discussed that it is probably not safe for swimmers at the mouth of the Creek either as a bunch of surfers that were recently surfing there are reportedly ill. We’d like to thank Councilors Scott Memhard and Jeff Worthley for addressing the contamination at the Creek issue, including walking the beach to let people know, and ensuring the warning signs are in place.
Here is a link to our new website – The Piping Plover Project. Many thanks to PiPl Ambassadors Paula and Alexa for sending along their most frequently asked questions, it was super helpful in putting the list together (link to FAQs). Please let me know if you have any FAQs you would like added to the list.
We have received outstanding news from our Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird Biologist, Carolyn Mostello. She shared the “Summary of the 2022 Massachusetts Piping Plover Census.” The grand total for Massachusetts breeding pairs of Plovers is a whopping 1033, up 6.8 percent relative to 2021. A total of 1,330 chicks was reported fledged for an overall productivity of 1.31 fledglings per pair.
The summary is prepared each year by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, a division of Mass Wildlife. The Summary is in pdf form and I am happy to email anyone the report if you are interested. Please leave a comment in the comment section and your email will pop up on my end. Thank you for your interest!
The following are some highlights from the Summary –
This report summarizes data on abundance, distribution, and reproductive success of Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) in Massachusetts during the 2022 breeding season. Observers reported breeding pairs of Piping Plovers present at 209 sites; 150 additional sites were surveyed at least once, but no breeding pairs were detected at them. The population increased 6.8% relative to 2021. The Index Count (statewide census conducted 1-9 June) was 1,013 pairs, and the Adjusted Total Count (estimated total number of breeding pairs statewide for the entire 2022 breeding season) was 1,033 pairs. A total of 1,330 chicks was reported fledged in 2022, for an overall productivity of 1.31 fledglings per pair, based on data from 98.6% of pairs.
Piping Plovers are small, sand-colored shorebirds that nest on sandy beaches and dunes along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Newfoundland. The U.S. Atlantic Coast population of Piping Plovers has been federally listed as Threatened, pursuant to the U.S. Endangered Species Act, since 1986. The species is also listed as Threatened by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife pursuant to the Massachusetts’ Endangered Species Act.
Population monitoring is an integral part of recovery efforts for Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996, Hecht and Melvin 2009a, b). It allows wildlife managers to identify limiting factors, assess effects of management actions and regulatory protection, and track progress toward recovery. In this report, we summarize data on abundance, distribution, and reproductive success of Piping Plovers breeding in Massachusetts in 2022, as observed and reported by a coast-wide network of cooperators.
Monitoring and management of Piping Plovers and other coastal waterbirds in Massachusetts is carried out by wildlife biologists, seasonal shorebird monitors, beach managers, researchers, and volunteers affiliated with over 20 federal and state agencies, local municipalities, local and regional land trusts, private conservation organizations, and universities. Cooperators monitored 359 sites in Massachusetts in 2022 for the presence of breeding Piping Plovers.
* * *
Long term trends in breeding Piping Plover population size and productivity are shown in Figure 5. The five-year running average of productivity has declined overall since 1995; however, there is a noticeable increase since reaching a low point in 2013. Since 2018, the five-year average of productivity has been above the approximately 1.2 fledglings per pair thought to be necessary to maintain a stable population (Melvin & Gibbs 1996) 2, and the breeding population has increased dramatically over that period. In fact, since state-wide monitoring began, this is the first year where the estimated number of territorial pairs has exceeded 1,000 in the state of Massachusetts, far exceeding the goal of 625 pairs throughout New England identified in the Piping Plover Atlantic Coast Population Recovery Plan. Although the New England Piping Plover population has exceeded the population recovery goal, that is not the case for other regions along the Atlantic Coast.
A Gloucester group is seeking volunteers to help look after the piping plovers when they nest at Good Harbor Beach, and setting up a website, pipingploverproject.org, offering information on the birds.
“We have received a number of inquiries regarding the upcoming plover season,” said Gloucester resident and Piping Plover Ambassador Kim Smith of the website. “And we wanted to have a page ready where people could find sign up information.”
“I envision this site as a place where we can not only get information, updates, and stories about our Cape Ann plover families, but to also learn more about plovers in general, other shorebirds, habitat conservation, and how climate change is impacting all,” said Smith in an email.
Our new website, The Piping Plover Project, is under construction nonetheless, I wanted to get it up and running. We’ve received a number of inquiries regarding the upcoming Plover season (just around the corner if you can believe it!) and we wanted to have a page ready where people could find sign up information.
I envision this site as a place where we can not only get information, updates, and stories about our Cape Ann Plover families, but to also learn more about Plovers in general, other shorebirds, habitat conservation, and how climate change is impacting all. If you come across a story or article you would like to see posted here, please forward along. Or if you have a story of your own you would like to share, please, by all means we would love to read it. If you would like to follow this site, move your cursor in the lower right corner and a “follow” box should appear.
Still to come is the FAQs page, which you can help me write if you would like. If an Ambassador is reading this, please let me know what questions you are frequently asked. If a PiPl Friend, please write if you have a question you would like answered. Thank you!
More about becoming a Piping Plover Ambassador
What are the responsibilities of a Plover Ambassador? Plover management is as much about people management as it is about caring for the Plovers. We believe we play an important role in not only representing the Plovers, but it is equally as important to represent Gloucester and Rockport in a positive light. We are there to answer questions, share information, point out the location of the Plovers to interested beachgoers, and direct foot traffic away from the chicks when they are on the beach foraging and resting. Many of our Ambassadors even share their binoculars to better help visitors enjoy watching the chicks.
We begin watching over the chicks on their first day, the day they hatch. The shifts are roughly an hour long, everyday, for about five weeks. We provide coverage from sunrise until sunset. Each person signs up for a specific time ie., 7 to 8, 8 to 9, etc. Several of our Ambassadors like to share their shift with a friend and switching your times around with a fellow Ambassador is okay, too.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about becoming a Piping Plover Ambassador, please contact Kim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment in the comment section
We are also planning to link this site to a QR code to help folks on the beach who are curious and want to learn more about Cape Ann Plovers.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to being in touch during this upcoming season of Piping Plover chronicles.
Thank you to Taylor Ann Bradford and the Gloucester Times for the excellent story about local Rockport resident Alexa Niziak (who is also one of our wonderful Piping Plover Ambassadors) <3
CAPE ANNER STARS IN LATEST STEPHEN KING FILM
By Taylor Ann Bradford | Times Correspondent
Time – and piping plovers – fly when you are having fun.
And for Cape Ann resident Alexa Niziak, that fun is found on the beach with the tenacious fledglings and on the big screen.
“It is too fun for it not to fly,” she said of being on the set of the newest Stephen King film. “At the end of the day, you are wishing you would be called back the next day because it is addictive in a way.”
Piping Plover Ambassador Alexa Niziak, 21, is starring in John Lee Hancock and Stephen King’s “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” a horror film that follows a young boy who begins to receive text messages from his dead friend.
The film, which came out earlier this month on Netflix, is an adaptation of King’s previously unpublished short story that was released in 2020. The film showcases the talent of Academy Award winning Donald Sutherland and “Knives Out” star Jaeden Martell.
Niziak got the phone call that she had landed the job after just one self tape her manager had submitted.
I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying these beautiful dog days of August. I sure miss you all!
Last week I had the joy to attend the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting. Next year we are all hoping for in person but for the past two years, the organizers have done a fantastic job creating an interesting and engaging online event.
The meeting is held annually to bring together people and organizations that are involved with population monitoring and conservation efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds. Threatened and endangered species, which include Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Roseate Terns, and American Oystercatchers, are given the greatest attention.
Nahant Beach chicks hatch day
Participants were invited by Carolyn Mostello, Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist and the event organizer, to submit to the “Strange and Unusual” part of the program. I created a short film about the Nahant Piping Plovers. It was extraordinary to observe the Nahant PiPl Dad valiantly try to rescue an egg after the king tides of Memorial Day weekend. You can see the video here:
Conservation organizations from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby New England states, including representatives from Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the local organizations presenting at the meeting were Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Essex Greenbelt, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Mass Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.
In the morning, each region gave the 2021 population census report for nesting birds as well as providing information about problems and solutions. We all share similar challenges with predation from crows and gulls, uncontrolled dogs, enforcement, extremely high tides, storm washout, and habitat loss and it was very interesting to learn about how neighboring communities are managing problems and issues.
Unfortunately because of a doctor’s appointment, I had to miss the first part during which Trustees of Reservations Coastal Ecologist Jeff Denoncour presented on behalf of the North of Boston region, of which Gloucester and Rockport are a part.
I am hoping to get the stats from the part of the meeting that I missed and will share those as soon as they are available.
The absolutely tremendous news is that New England is doing fantastically well, particularly when compared to other regions. The policies of New England conservation organizations are extremely successful and are truly making an impactful difference, as you can see from the graph.
As Massachusetts citizens, we can give ourselves a collective pat on the back for the great work our state is accomplishing. The strides being made in Massachusetts are because of the dynamic partnerships between conservation organizations, towns, citizen scientists, volunteers, and ambassadors, just like ourselves, all working together!
Above two screenshots courtesy Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators event.
Super PiPl Ambassador Jonathan Golding sent a photo of two Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach. I can’t get down to the Creek bed but I stood on the footbridge Saturday morning and took several snapshots of two Plovers that were way down the Creek. The pair were foraging together when suddenly they began piping their beautiful melodic peeps and off they flew together down the Creek.
If folks are wondering if the Plovers at the Creek are the Salt Island Dad and chick that went missing, these two are not them. Our Salt Island chick would be about 31 days and would look more like this 33 day old chick from 2019. And it would not be flying as well as the Plovers seen in the photos from Saturday morning.
Have a great rest of your weekend!
33 day old PiPl chick, from 2019
Plovers at the Creek Saturday morning –
Pair of Piping Plovers a Good Harbor Beach, August 7
This week our fledglings/chicks have reached important milestones. Junior is 44 days old, the Cape Hedge chicks are about 35 days old, and our Littlest is two weeks and a day! The Cape Hedge chicks are doing the wonderfly flippy-floppy-fly-thing, and the Littlest is growing roundly, making magnificent treks up and down the beach.
Thank you everyone for your watchful eyes, diplomacy, eagerness to share with the public, and big hearts. You are all creating a wonderfully positive image for shorebirds everywhere and a super positive image for Cape Ann as well!!!
Skittles has been found! He was only about a block away from where he went missing, and sunning himself in a neighbor’s backyard. As Scott said, he was only waiting for the sun to come out 🙂
What a gorgeous SUNNY morning! And it’s not humid 🙂
Thank you so much to Denten Crews for the addition of signs at the concession stand and at the Witham Street entrance!
The GHB and CHB PiPls are foraging night and day, as they should be. My biologist friends who are monitoring beaches north of Boston share that they are getting an influx of fledglings and adults from area beaches as they are departing their nesting grounds.
Like shorebirds everywhere, the newly arrived Piping Plovers are intently foraging at tidal flats in preparation for their southward migration. My friends also shared many success stories, but also great challenges including terrible predation of PiPl eggs and chicks by Crows, and a colony of Least Terns wiped out by a skunk.
Skunks eat shorebird eggs and their presence can cause an entire colony to vacate a location. Gulls have taken over many coastal islands, leaving many of the smaller shorebirds to nest in less than desirable locations such as urban beaches. There is the potential for far greater disturbance at popular town and city beaches than at island locations due to cats, dogs, skunks, and people.
Here’s ambassador Jonathan Golding from the lifeguard watch tower
Nothing to do with Plovers, but especially for our Rockport readers and Ambassadors, please keep your eyes posted for a lost Iguana that goes by the adorable name Skittles. The Fitch family writes that they have had Skittles for eight years and he’s a beloved member of their family. He was lost in the Cape Ann Motor Inn area and is most likely in a tree. Iguanas are strictly vegetarians so he may also be in someone’s garden. Skittles is about five feet long. Don’t approach but contact Rockport ACO Diane Corliss at 978-546-9488 or you can call me, I have the family’s phone number.
I hope everyone is doing well. I sure miss seeing you at the beaches.
Salt Island Update (thank you to our Ward One Councilor Scott Memhard for the information) – the Salt Island hearing has been postponed upon Mr. Martignetti’s request. The hearing will be rescheduled for August.
In the meantime we can add Adrienne Lennon, the Conservation Commission clerk to the people who we should be sending our emails to –
Please also send an email to Robert Gulla, the Conservation Commission co-chair –
You can find a list of all members of the Conservation Commission here: https://gloucester-ma.gov/1027/Conservation-Commission, where their snail mail only addresses are provided
Several years ago, in 2019 I believe, our GHB PiPls began swimming daily across the Creek to forage on the other side. This year Junior was observed swimming, and now our littlest is also swimming.
PiPl Ambassador Deb writes, “Here’s the story. Dad and chick were feeding in different spots along the creek, then stopped to take a rest at the end of the creek. When they got back to work, Dad flew to the other side of the creek; chick dabbled her feet in the water, then swam over to the other side. At that point the creek was only about three feet wide.”
Deb sent a video but I am having trouble uploading. Thank you Deb for sharing! Here is the video from 2019 – Gloucester Plovers Go swimming
Sunday marked the late nest little chick’s ten-day-old milestone. Thank you to all our GHB and CHB ambassadors for your wonderfully watchful eyes and updates. And thank you Deb and Duncan for the late day/ early evening misty sightings.
Susan Pollack writes from her morning shift,
“Good morning all,
On this drizzly morning I found the new dad and chick all the way down the beach, foraging at the water’s edge. It was high tide, no time to be at the creek.
The dad was as protective ever, chasing off sanderlings skittering at the tideline and piping at walkers to keep their distance. In quieter moments he and the chick, as lively as ever, resorted to some thermo-snuggling.
When Jane arrived at 8, I headed west to look for Handsome and the fledgling. I found them with Mom, who seems to have lost a leg, and a plover I assume is the mother of the new chick. All four birds were resting contentedly in the sand, their bodies cocked into the wind. No other birds were in sight, a peaceful scene.”
and Jennie shares a haiku for Heidi,
Heavy cloud day—
refuge for chick and dad
at river’s bend.
A brief update from Dave Rimmer – although there were PiPls at Coffins Beach, for the first time in a long while, there were no nests. The good news is that there are three chicks in Beverly!! Thanks so much to Dave for sharing the 411.
Jill, please let me know if you touch base with Joe regarding the monofilament bin. Thank you 🙂
Have a great day!
Some photos of our little ten-day-old chick and family
From a nest of three eggs, two hatched
The egg that didn’t
First daysThe tiny one-day-old chick that perished
Salt Island Dad puffed out, making himself look larger while defending the littlest chick from Handsome
Eventful day for our PiPls and our Ambassadors was yesterday!
Thank you Jennie and Ann for being on top of the drone issue. The City’s website only says 50 feet but I am not sure if that follows federal and state guidelines. I thought the distance was 200 meters (650 feet, or approximately two football fields as my husband pointed out), which is what I wrote on the informational one sheets. We can find out from Carolyn where specifically it is written and exactly what is the distance. Either distance, causing a disturbance to the Plovers is considered harassment and is fineable.
Last summer I watched a drone hovering over a Plover family with only one-day-old chicks. It was mortifying to see how terrified the adults were and it took hours for them to settle down. Later that summer, I observed a drone chase a Great Blue Heron from treetop to treetop. These drone operators were there intentionally to film the birds. It was difficult to observe how oblivious they were to the bird’s responses. I reported the PiPl drone incident to the DCR biologists, but the man had left the area.
Thankfully the two guys yesterday at GHB stopped after some talking to by Jennie, and the Plovers were not their focus. Thank you Jennie and Ann for seeing the issue through and staying until they packed up.
Regarding the Great Blue Herons at Good Harbor yesterday, GBH are frequent visitors to GHB, both in the marsh, at the Creek, and along the front of the beach, too. They eat everything, including adult Plovers and chicks 🙁 As much as I love them, I keep a close watch.
Sue Winslow has been by to check on the GHB PiPls. She hasn’t yet seen them but can hear peeps in the marsh. Hopefully all survived the unrelenting deluge this early am. High tide was at 6:07, precisely when the storm was at its worse.
Udate, the parent and chick have been spotted down the Creek.
Thank you so very much again to everyone for your kind well wishes and offers to help. I have an appointment with a specialist tomorrow afternoon and will know then whether an operation is needed.
Have a lovely Sunday, funday!
Although I made this video over eight years ago its still fun to see the Great Blue Heron at GHB eating an eel.
Thank you all so very much for the updates and great insights. And for all your watchful eyes over our Cape Ann PiPls!
Many thanks again to Denton Crews for installing the posters, to Jonathan for organizing the printing and laminating, and to Duncan Todd for designing. What a tremendous contribution! Thanks to Jonathan for providing the photos, it’s so nice to see!
Thank you Deb and Sally for pointing out the Least Terns. Both Least and Common Terns were here last summer at this time. I wonder if they are nesting on Salt Island? Wouldn’ that be exciting!
A note about the age of the Cape Hedge chicks, which are approximately four weeks old as of last Thursday. The first sighting was reported on Friday June 18th and was confirmed by Sue Catalogna on June 26th. The chicks were teenie tiny on the 18th so I am assuming their hatch date was roughly Thursday the 17th, which would make them approximately four weeks old last Thursday, the 15th of July.
They look smaller than our GHB chicks at the same age, due largely I think to their diet at Cape Hedge. Chicks develop at different rates, depending on the availability and quality of food.
The sun is shining now, but it looks as though the rest of the weekend may be another overcast and quietly perfect day for chick rearing 🙂
All good news to share about our Cape Ann PiPl families!
Happy Birthday to our oldest chick/fledgling who reached the five week/36 day old milestone today!
Happy Birthday to our Cape Hedge chicks who we think are 28 days, or four weeks old, approximately today!
And last, but not least, Happy Birthday to our littlest Salt Island chick, who turned one week old today!Dad and chicks, it’s not easy to spot the Cape Hedge Family in the fog and popples!
Wonderful sightings about all three families are being shared by our great team of Piping Plover Ambassadors. They are keeping excellent watch over Cape Ann’s Plovers but it hasn’t been easy, trying to locate these beautifully well-camouflaged chicks in the super dense fog of recent days.
Hello and a haiku from ambassador Heidi Wakeman this morning:
Fledgling, Dad at bridge, Teeny, Dad,thermosnuggling Up the creek, all’s well!
Later in the morning, ambassador Duncan adds this haiku
On this misty morning Where are the miracle birds? Ah…see?… right… here.
The Plover informational posters are being installed at the Good Harbor Beach kiosks either today or tomorrow. With gratitude and deep appreciation to Duncan Todd for creating the posters, to Jonathan and Sally for printing and laminating, and to Denton Crews for installing in the kiosks. Hooray Team Plover!
Keep your eyes peeled for interesting shorebirds visiting our beaches. The summer southward migration has begun! Today ambassador Maggie spotted two Semipalmated Sandpipers and several days ago, a Dowitcher was seen at Brace Cove. Both species are returning from their northern breeding grounds at the Arctic tundra.Dowitchers at Good Harbor last spring on their northward migration
Spotted Sandpiper, left, Semipalmated Sandpiper, right
I am so sorry to write that we lost one of the teeny weeinies yesterday afternoon. Mid-morning, the family made the trek from #1 to the Creek, which I think is at least half a mile. This is a tremendous journey for three-day-old chicks and proved to be too much for the one that was a little more sleepy-eyed and not as strong as its sibling. It was difficult to observe how torn the parents were between sheltering the weak and dying chic and defending the mobile, healthy chick.
The #1 family spent the entire day at the Creek. There weren’t too many people however, the greatest disturbances were from fellow Plovers. A tremendous battle for territory is underway. For six years, the Creek has been the original Dad’s territory and is now being impinged upon by the new family. This behavior we predicted, I just didn’t realize the fighting would last an entire day, into the early evening. Piping Plovers display this same ferocity when establishing their nesting territory in early spring. Unfortunately, when territorial disputes take place around chicks, they often become targeted.
Piping Plover Smackdown
On a brighter note, this early rainy morning found Mom and Dad and the little one at the Creek contentedly foraging in the rain undisturbed.
Both Handsome and Junior were at #3 stuffing themselves in this year’s very excellent wrack!
Thank you to everyone who could for coming to the meeting. We were able to welcome our newest member of team Plover, Ann Cortissoz. She has been following along with our Plover chronicles and is going to take the impossible-to-fill two to four shift!!!! So nice to meet Ann, and so many thanks for lending a hand.
Our Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard stopped by to say hello. Scott is running for re-election, so please sign his nomination papers when you see him. Thanks so much to Scott for being a super early supporter of the Plovers!
Unless the rain lets up, please take a much deserved day off. I’ll send the new schedule and phone numbers later this afternoon.
Have a great fun rainy-splash-in-the-puddles-sort-of-day (at least that is how I am presenting the day to Charlotte) 🙂
Beautiful, beautiful morning! Early morning at GHB and the three day old teenie weenies were actively foraging between #1 and #2. Heidi noted Handsome (Sally’s name for Dad) and 32 day old plumping were spotted between #2 and #3. One of the pluses about #1 is that there is a Mockingbird nest in the vicinity. The Mockingbirds are unrelenting in chasing away the Crows 🙂
Lying low in the foxholes, waiting for dad to return
CHB between 7 and 7:30 found all four–the two chicks, and Mom and Dad–feeding in the flats. Mom caught a super fat juicy seaworm and the chicks were foraging nonstop, with foot tamping expertly executed.
Yesterday I found a dozen sand collars at CHB and this morning, none. Posting a story about sand collars later today. Such an amazing creation!
Hoping so much the cloudy weather predicted will help keep beachgoers to a minimum.
I could only locate two chicks at Cape Hedge Beach. Perhaps one is off foraging on his own. Hopefully he will be spotted later today. I am so sorry to say though that it is not unusual for chicks to become separated from their family during a storm (or fireworks!).
Cape Hedge chicks
Our two-day-old pair of chicks at Good Harbor are doing wonderfully and spent the early morning foraging and thermosnuggling. One still has his little egg tooth, which typically falls off after the first or second day. The parents are awesome and going after very gull and crow in their ever changing territory. I didn’t see little fledgling and Handsome down by #3, but spent most of the morning with the new teeny tinies.
Jane shares that she and Maggie spotted a deer at GHB this morning, how wonderful!!
Today we are celebrating Charlotte’s fourth birthday so I will be home but tied up with family.
Thank you so very much to everyone for your continued dedication and big hearts.
The one day old and two newest members of the Cape Ann PiPls club are doing beautifully. Mom, Dad, and the teeny tinies were foraging in the wrack. Dad and Mom both went after a Herring Gull that flew in a little too close for comfort. Despite the parent’s best efforts to incubate, the last egg will not hatch and that is not entirely unusual, especially for a nest this late in the season.
Our beautiful plumpling-almost-fledged-30-day-old chick, and Dad, were running along the length of the beach and too, finding lots to eat in the wrack.
Cape Hedge chicks were also enjoying the beautiful peace and quiet of a misty morning beach. Too wet to bring cameras today, but here is a sequence of one of the Cape Hedge chicks capturing a large insect several days ago.
Enjoy this perfect for shorebird chick rearing weather. Hopefully the worst of Elsa will stay off shore.
Lots to share – Heidi wrote that she watched our GHB chick take flight for several feet. Hooray! Many, many thanks to Susan for filling in for Heidi, who did a wonderful job and is a joy to talk with, and it’s so nice to have Heidi back. Heidi remarked what a difference a week makes in growth and development.
Proud Dad and 30 day old fledgling
The chicks are hatching at the Salt Island end of the beach!!! This is phenomenal, to have two successful nests at Good Harbor Beach.
It’s going to be a tough situation at this end of the beach and we have myriad questions, namely will the family try to make the super long trek to the Creek on hot, busy beach days to forage?
Mom and Dad are taking turns snuggling the two chicks that have hatched. The third egg has yet to hatch. We’ll check back at the end of the day.
I met several lovely couples and families at Cape Hedge this morning. Everyone is super interested in the Plovers, just as they are at GHB. All three chicks there are thriving, foraging in the tidal flats and between the popples, running for the shelter of the rocks when the occasional dog comes near, and staying relatively close to each other. A smart little one completely flattened in the sand as the Barn Swallows swooped low across the flats.
Two of the three Cape Hedge chicks navigating the popples
I was hoping the Ambassadors would have a little break between looking out for the Nautilus Road chicks and the Salt Island chicks. We are losing several Ambassadors during this flux. I have either a very rotten summer cold or the flu and am not able to take on extra shifts this week. Please email if you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador – email@example.com. You will meet the nicest, most kind hearted group of people.
Thank you to our Cape Ann community and Ambassadors. It’s going to take a village to fledge all these chicks!
Only one chick and Dad were feeding in the flats this morning. The take happened yesterday when Jill was watching the chicks and Dad up by the dune beach grass. A Great Black-backed, quickly joined by a flock, swooped in and appeared to be fighting over a bag of chips when the GBB Gull grabbed the chick. Dad tried once again valiantly to rescue his chick but was unsuccessful.
Our GHB chicks have been growing right on schedule and are finding good foraging at the Creek and in the flats. It is incredibly heartbreaking to lose chicks at any age, but especially these older stronger chicks, one at 22 days and now one at 27 days.
No ambassador should feel responsible in any way. Everyone of you is doing a fantastic job and your dedication of time and energy is so very much appreciated and worthwhile. Takes can happen on anyone’s shift and as I said before it is tremendous for the collective knowledge of PiPls to know how these takes happen and why their numbers are dwindling.
Would these two deaths have occurred if Mom had not been injured? It’s very hard to know because up until a few days ago, she appeared to be managing her injury, while both supervising and defending her chicks, and feeding herself.
What we do know is that American Crows and Great Black-backed Gulls are wreaking havoc on Piping Plover populations on the North Shore. For example, Crows have eaten every egg and chick on Revere Beach (with the exception of one nest still intact) and gulls are eating nearly fully fledged birds.
Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls are relatively new breeders to the Massachusetts coastline. Up until 1912, they were primarily winter visitors. The first Herring Gull nest ever recorded was in 1912 and the first Great Black-backed Gull nest in 1930. Because of easy access to food, they are thriving. Gulls are colonial breeders. They have pushed terns off islands (traditional tern nesting areas), forcing the terns to breed in less desirable locations. I think until we can somehow manage the gull population, the threatened and endangered Massachusetts shorebird species will continue to struggle greatly and recovery will be painstakingly slow..
This weekend I watched a couple dump all the remains of their picnic in front of a gull in the GHB parking lot. The two laughed as an enormous flock suddenly appeared, dining and squabbling over on the garbage. Humans feeding gulls and crows is exacerbating the problem tenfold and dogs running on the beach, which forces the PiPl parents to stop tending nests and chicks to chase after the dogs, leaves the babies vulnerable to gull and crow takes.
Area #3 Dad and one remaining chick, 28 days old
On a brighter note, the three Cape Hedge chicks are all present and accounted for on this beautiful July morning. I am estimating they are twenty days old, not based on their size, but because of the first sighting submitted. The family was joined by two Great Blue Herons, until a photographer frightened the herons off the beach, which may be just as well because GBH eat Plovers, too.
Sally witnessed a most beautiful PiPl parenting moment last night, and it is one of the reasons why we all continue to work so hard for these tender tiny creatures. She writes, ” I found Dad and one chick at the Creek. Dad showed off his flying skills to the baby and then encouraged his chick to cross the creek from the island to the mainland. It was a wonderful experience to watch the communications between the two of them and to see the little one paddle across the creek.”
Thank you PiPl Ambassadors for all you are doing to help grow Cape Ann’s Plover population.
Yesterday we received a call from Rockport ACO Diane Corliss and Cape Hedge neighbor Bethany that there was a chick stranded near the ramp.
Sure enough, a teeny was isolated from the family and heading up the ramp to the lookout and parking area. I scoured the beach and quickly found Mom and Dad and one chick, then ran back to the little lost one, scooped him up, and holding him securely in my hands, we then ran back to the parents.
As I approached, the Mom piped a single warning pipe that we were too close. Hearing Mom pipe, that little tiny chick in my hands called out the loudest, sharpest, PEEP you have ever heard from a chick. Hearing the little guy peep, Mom and Dad both began fluttering and piping. Knowing all were aware of each other’s presence, I gently placed the chick in the sand, backed out cautiously, and within seconds, Dad was snuggling the tiny displaced bird.
The Cape Hedge chick that became separated from its Mom and Dad and siblings after the fireworks has been reunited and all three chicks were thremosnuggling and foraging this morning!
As my Rockport friend and wonderful conservationist Eric Hutchins wrote, this year at Cape Hedge is more triage than planning. Next year there will be a managed plan in place, possibly headed by Eric and friends, and we are looking forward to helping in any way.
I am sharing this story because we all need to be aware of the nesting shorebird’s presence on the beach however, no one should ever, ever touch a chick and could receive a vey hefty fine from the federal government by doing so. The chicks wander far and wide on the beach, but in this case, where the chick had been sepeartated from Mom and Dad for many hours, we felt it was urgent to get the family back together again The beachgoers did the right thing, initiating a call to their town’s ACO, in this instance, Diane Corliss.
Good morning PiPl Friends,
Lots to talk about this morning. First a huge shout out to Jonathan for the fantastic new ambassador lanyards – here’s beautiful Sally modeling – you can practically see these from a mile away. Many, many thanks to Jonathan – the green ones were awesome but these yellow and orange customized ones are fantabulous!! and I love the little bird 🙂Sally and our new custom ambassador lanyards!
Super Valliant Mom, Dad, and the two 26 day old chicks are all present and accounted for. Mom is not putting any weight on her bad leg. But she is foraging and doing a tremendous job supervising the chicks. I want to prepare everyone that Mom may very well lose her leg. This occasionally happens to shorebirds when there is a filament tightly wrapped. They do survive, and often go on with nicknames such as peg-leg (I don’t think I could bring myself to call our Mom that). We really hope this does not happen, but I just want to let everyone know.
It appears there was only one area where fireworks had been detonated at GHB; much, much improved over last year where fireworks were detonated next to, and within, the PiPl roped off refuge.
Good Harbor Beach 26 day old Piping Plovers
The nest at the Salt Island end of the beach is doing perfectly as expected. Dad was brooding and Mom was foraging at the incoming tide. To clarify, the nest is not on Salt Island, but at the Salt Island end of the beach, in area #1. No evidence of fireworks there.
Fireworks debris Cape Hedge
I could only find two chicks and Mom and Dad at Cape Hedge Beach this morning. If anyone sees the third, please write.
Sadly, the beach was littered with fireworks debris. It is not unusual to lose chicks, and adults, after a night of fireworks, especially as these were being detonated within feet of where the PiPls like to snuggle.
Cape Hedge Beach Dad thermosnuggling two chicks
Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts. I wish towns would enforce this, especially where there are nesting Plovers. We are going to be more proactive on this front next year. Community, please, if you see people detonating fireworks at GHB or CHB, please call the police.
Last night I stopped in to check on ambassador Barbara and there were five dogs in the space of the twenty minutes that I was there. Three leashed and two not on leashes. Everytime the PiPls went to the shore to forage, they ran back in terror to the roped off refuge. Early morning and evening are ideal times for the PiPls to forage as there are fewer people on the beach. Very little foraging was taking place while much running away in fear was happening.
Barbara and dog owner – the dog owner was lovely and departed, not all are so kind
The problem is worse this year than last year. Last year we had the bold yellow signs in the parking lot and at the Witham Street end and we are still working on getting those reinstalled. Not everyone knows the rules, especially out of towners, air b and bers (is that a word), house guests, and hotel guests. The yellow signs really help, or at least compared to last year when we had the signs up, there were fewer dogs after hours.
Free wheeling pup in front of the PiPl refuge. Where was the owner?
I haven’t had time to read everyone’s emails from yesterday but will this afternoon. If there was anything pressing, please write again.
Jill, I can’t recall if you said you were covering the 11-12 and 2-4 times today as well as the weekend? It’s tough to tell if this is going to be a typical holiday beach day, but if anyone has some free time, please stop by in case, especially during mid-day. Thank you! Hurrying to write this as the youngest member of Team Plover is getting dropped off shortly.
Again, many thanks to Jonathan for the brilliant lanyards!!
Thank you Susan, Maggie, and Jane for the morning update. Adding to update that the CHB chicklets (all three) were snuggled in when I left Cape Hedge.
Sharing a sweet short story – For six years, since our PiPl Dad and Mom first arrived, I have also been filming and photographing a Killdeer Mom and Dad. I am pretty certain they are the same pair from year to year because they nearly always make their nests in the exact same spot in the dunes, with the exception of one year when there was a particular person allowing her dog to run through the dunes every night, and the pair moved to the perimeter of the parking lot.
Killdeer Chicks hatching, 1st brood
Killdeers are very similar in many ways to Piping Plovers. They lay four speckled eggs (although darker and larger), do not begin brooding until all four have been laid, defend their territory, nests, and chicks in a variety of ways including the broken wing thing. We have all seen the incessant battles over foraging rights at the Creek between the Killdeers and Plovers. Killdeers are larger and nest in a wider variety of habitats than do PiPl and that may be just two of many reasons why there are many more Killdeers than Plovers.
The Good Harbor Beach pair of Killdeers are wonderfully successful parents. This year they had a very early nest and all four eggs hatched.The amazing thing was that when the chicks were only a few days old, and without much fanfare (nothing like the PiPl courtship dance), they mated!
Killdeer mating with day old chicks
I lost track of exactly when the eggs from the second nest hatched but several days ago, I caught a glimpse of the family, Mom, Dad and three younger chicks zooming around the marsh, foraging, and thermoregulating.