Tag Archives: Piping Plover chick

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS COPING WITH WINDSTORMS AND COLD TEMPERATURES

All three PiPls, Mom, Dad, and the Bachelor, are finding drifts of sand, clumps of dry beach grass, and this morning, even a clam shell, to hunker down behind to get out of the way of the harsh winds. They are also doing a great deal of standing and hopping around on one leg. I hope the wind dies down and soon so we can all enjoy more seasonably spring-like weather!

Mama taking a nap behind a clump of beach grass, and standing on one leg.

Papa standing on one leg even while doing wing stretches.

And what Piping Plover scene would be complete without a bachelor (an unmated male). I hope we get a “new girl” this summer!

Why do birds stand on one leg? “The short answer is that for the simple reason that you put your hands in your pockets when cold, birds stand on one leg to conserve heat. Birds also stand on one leg to relax muscle fatigue in the retracted leg.

The long answer is that birds’ legs have a blood flow referred to as “rete mirabile” that minimizes heat loss. The arteries that transport warm blood into the legs are next to the veins that return colder blood to the bird’s heart. The arteries act as a heat exchanger and warm the veins. Because the veins also cool the arteries, the bird’s feet are closer to environmental temperature and thus don’t lose as much heat as they would if they were at body temperature. By standing on one leg, a bird reduces the amount of heat lost through unfeathered limbs.

Birds that have short legs, such as Mourning Doves, do not need to stand on one leg because they have fleshy feet and they can snuggle down so that their warm belly presses against their feet.” Reposted from “Why is Little Chick Missing a Leg.”

If you see Gloucester’s dog officers, Teagan and Jamie, please thank them and let them know what a great job they are doing. Off and on throughout the day, they are walking the beach, talking to the dog owners who continue to bring their dogs to the beach, and handing out tickets.

MESSAGE FROM MAYOR SEFATIA REGARDING GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS

Message from Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken  

The Piping Plover is a “threatened” species under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.  As such, the City, along with the Commonwealth, is required to protect them under the law.  Having said that, we are committed to making every effort possible to protect the nesting Piping Plovers at our beaches while, at the same time, maintaining public access.
Piping Plovers typically arrive from their southern wintering areas to our local beaches in late March or early April.  Males and females quickly form breeding pairs that begin the process of courtship and select a nest site throughout April and May. During these months, it is critically important to limit any disturbance of the birds and their habitat.
Chicks can hatch from nests in late May and are immediately mobile and move out of the nest in search of food.  As chicks grow older and larger, they will roam from the dunes to the water’s edge in search of food. Chicks are very vulnerable to human disturbance and are susceptible to predators like gulls, foxes, and dogs.
While dogs are allowed to run free during this time of year on many of our beaches, that right does not supersede the requirements under federal law to protect the Piping Plovers on those beaches.  Unleashed dogs can pose a very real threat to Piping Plover adults and chicks.  As such, dog owners are responsible for controlling their dogs and keeping them as far away from Piping Plover areas as possible.  The owner of any dog that adversely or negatively impacts the Piping Plovers and their habitats will be in violation of federal law and will likely face legal action.
Please keep a close eye or your dog during this Piping Plover season.
A Piping Plover nest is a mere depression in the sand.
Male and female Plovers do not begin sitting on the eggs 24/7 until all are laid, which takes about a week. Especially during that time, the eggs are often left exposed and are extremely vulnerable to being stepped upon by people and dogs.

POSSIBLE LITTLE CHICK SIGHTINGS!

A postscript to yesterday’s “Farewell Little Chick” ~ 

Thank you to Everyone for your kind notes, thank yous, love, and interest in our Little Chick.

I thought  readers would like to know that since Little Chick departed Good Harbor Beach Friday morning several friends have shared that they have seen a small flock of Piping Plovers at other local beaches!

Carol Ferant wrote that Friday afternoon she was swimming by Corliss Landing and saw a small group feeding on lots of worms at the low tide sandbar. They stayed for a good long while and then flew off towards the marsh.

Abbie Lundberg wrote that in Annisquam on Saturday morning she saw a group of four Piping Plovers, three the same size, and one seemingly appeared smaller, about 2/3 the size of the others.

It makes complete sense to me that the Piping Plovers would move around from local beach to local beach before undertaking the long journey south. Comparing notes from last year, a mixed group of adults and fledglings grew larger and larger in number until one day, nearing the end of August, they all departed.

Today I was looking through the photos, from back in April though yesterday. We have every aspect of our Good Harbor Beach plover family documented–courtship, mating, eggs, all the different stages of development, friends, predators, other species of migrating shorebirds, scenery–thousands of images to organize. And after that, the next step is tackling all the film footage.  Big Project!

Four-day-old and five-week-old Little Chick

FAREWELL LITTLE CHICK!

Our six-week-old Little Chick has begun his southward journey. At sunrise this morning I found him sleeping in front of the roped off area. Way down by the water’s edge, was a small flock of three Piping Plovers, but the light was so soft I could not tell if they were males, females, or fledglings. Sensing Little Chick’s time to depart was nearing, I didn’t want to investigate just then, but stayed on the beach to film our plover.

Little Chick awoke with his usual stretching routine and then made his way through the tidal flats mostly eating, but stopping several times to arrange his feathers. In no time he was foraging alongside the three migrating Piping Plovers and, within mere moments he, and the Piping Plover flock flew, not along the beach or over to the creek as he has been doing, but this time, first straight out to sea and then curving around and disappearing behind the Sherman House.

I stopped by Good Harbor Beach several times later this morning and again in the afternoon, as have several of the volunteers, and no one has seen our Little Chick. Although feeling somewhat melancholy (but also very happy) to see him depart, this is the best possible outcome. We can all hope his journey is a safe one. And we hope too, that he fathers many offspring!

We have been treated to a window into the world of nesting Piping Plovers. Most species of shorebirds breed many thousands of miles away, in the Arctic tundra of Canada and Alaska. We were blessed to see this beautiful story unfold, despite taking place in the least of safe habitats.

The greatest thanks to all the Piping Plover volunteers: Carol Ferant, Caroline Haines, Jeannine Harris, Hazel Hewitt, Charles King, Cliff King, George King, Paul Korn, Chris Martin, Lucy Merrill-Hill, Diana Peck, Ruth Peron, Catherine Ryan, Karen Shah, and Ken Whittaker. Without their daily monitoring of people, balls, dogs, gulls, crows, and what have you, we most assuredly would not have seen our Little Chick grow into a fledgling. Thank you too for their eagerness in sharing information about the PiPls with interested beachgoers. There is still a great deal about Piping Plovers that is a mystery. Studying the life story of one plover family creates a focusing lens from which we can all learn.

If you see Ken Whittaker, Gloucester’s conservation agent, please thank him for all his help. After I discovered the Piping Plover nest on May 23rd, I spoke with Dave Rimmer to let him know precisely where the nest was located, and Ken immediately became available to lend a hand. In a way, we can thank Sharon Bo Abrams, too. After reading about how we were struggling to keep last year’s chicks alive, it was she who suggested that we form a group of volunteers. I mentioned this to Dave, who in turn spoke with Ken. It was Ken who spearheaded the volunteer effort and organized the group’s schedule so that at all times of day, from sunrise to sunset, someone was on the beach monitoring the Plover family.  We can also thank Ken for listening to us volunteers regarding the importance of leaving the symbolic fencing in place as long as the chick was using it as his “safety zone.”

Thank you to Mayor Sefatia, Chris Sicuranza, and Frank DiMecurio for their interest and support. Thank you to all our readers for your kind comments and interest in the Plover daily updates.  

Thank you to Gloucester Police Chief John McCarthy and Gloucester’s Animal Control Officer Dianne Corliss for their help monitoring the dog owner situation. They both made Good Harbor Beach part of their routine and their mere presence has made a tremendous difference.

A huge shout out to Gloucester’s Department of Public Works Mike Hale, Mark Cole, and Joe Lucido, and the DPW’s team of beach cleaners and rakers, who always went out of their way to keep an eye out for Little Chick and helped keep him safe.

Thanks is owed to Gloucester’s volunteer beach-picker-uppers who, on a daily basis, before everyone else arrives to enjoy the beach, are out there cleaning up what was left from the night before and helping to prevent a plethora of plastic from contaminating the ocean. Three who come to mind immediately, and who have been taking care of Good Harbor Beach for years are Patti Amaral, and husband and wife Patti and Kerry Sullivan. By cleaning the beach, it helps tremendously to keep down the crow, gull, and coyote populations, all of which are predators of shorebird eggs and chicks.

Thank you Community!  Without your support, care, and kindness I would not be writing this thank you note. 

Several readers have suggested that I write a children’s book, with photographs, about The Good Harbor Beach Little Chick. While I am giving this idea serious consideration, I would only want to work on a project like this with a top-notch publisher.
Bon voyage and safe travels Little Chick!

If I have neglected to thank you, please accept my sincere apology and please write and let me know so that I may add your name to the post. Thank you so much.

 

HAPPY SIX WEEK BIRTHDAY LITTLE CHICK!!!

Celebrating day forty-two with our Good Harbor Beach Little Chick!

Our Little Chick had a great morning, feeding in the intertidal zone, resting and preening by the enclosure, and flying more than several times up and down the length of Good Harbor Beach. He is gaining confidence in his flying ability. And, too, he quickly moves out of the way of approaching danger. Little Chick didn’t associate much with the other species of birds feeding at the water’s edge until the mixed flock got spooked by a jogger and all took flight at once.

He only flew to the edge of the enclosure while the Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, and Semipalmated Sandpipers headed down to the private end of Good Harbor. Last year, about mid-August, migrating Piping Plovers began arriving at Good Harbor Beach, staying for varying lengths of time to forage and to rest. My greatest hope for our Little Chick is that he will find a flock of Piping Plovers (or they will find him) to join with before undertaking the long journey south.

Notice how Little Chicks flight feathers are gaining in length and strength. Everyday his bill looks more and more like an adults’s bill, too.

Little Chick showing off his primary and secondary flight feathers.

Resting, Preening, and Piping, all on one leg!

Foraging at the tide pools at day break.

And at the intertidal zone later in the morning.

Sherman House reflection

WHY IS LITTLE CHICK “MISSING” A LEG?

Why is Little Chick “missing” a leg? That is a question I am often asked when filming Little Chick and an interested person stops by to visit our GHB Piping Plover. Or the comment, “Oh, no, he is one-legged!”

If you see Little Chick resting in the sand and he is standing on one leg, know that he is doing it very purposefully. The short answer is that for the simple reason that you put your hands in your pockets when cold, birds stand on one leg to conserve heat. Birds also stand on one leg to relax muscle fatigue in the retracted leg.

The long answer is that birds’ legs have a blood flow referred to as “rete mirabile” that minimizes heat loss. The arteries that transport warm blood into the legs are next to the veins that return colder blood to the bird’s heart. The arteries act as a heat exchanger and warm the veins. Because the veins also cool the arteries, the bird’s feet are closer to environmental temperature and thus don’t lose as much heat as they would if they were at body temperature. By standing on one leg, a bird reduces the amount of heat lost through unfeathered limbs.

Birds that have short legs, such as Mourning Doves, do not need to stand on one leg because they have fleshy feet and they can snuggle down so that their warm belly presses against their feet.

Forty-one-day old Piping Plover standing on one foot.

Our Little Chick is doing beautifully. I checked in on him briefly at day break and again at 9:30 this morning. Foraging, resting, flying (the longest distance yet, from the enclosure to the back of the Creek.) Both last night (thank you Heidi Wakeman) and this morning, I found him in the enclosure. I think our Little Chick is extra super smart to recognize the roped off area as his “safety” zone. We are grateful to the community and to Gloucester’s conservation agent Ken Whittaker for allowing the roping to remain in place.

The light was very low and the photo is a little too softly focused, nonetheless I liked the image of Little Chick taking off.

WHERE WILL YOU GO LITTLE CHICK?

Our Little Chick is growing stronger (and plumper) everyday. He will most likely leave Cape Ann by the end of August, based on the Plovers that I filmed last summer. His voyage is a long one for a little bird weighing only about six ounces. Like all migratory species of birds (and butterflies), he must build his lipid, or fat, reserves before undertaking the journey.

Where will Little Chick spend the winter? Perhaps along the Atlantic coastline of South Carolina or Florida, or possibly even further afield to the Caribbean Sea, to the Bahamas, or further still, to Turks and Caicos.

*Note to Friends of Little Chick ~ While walking toward the enclosure yesterday, I was slammed in the back with a football. It was very startling, painful, and wholly unexpected. I was under the impression that there are guidelines about not playing ball in densely populated areas of the beach, whether football or volleyball. This occurred after five, after the lifeguards had left, but the beach was still crowded. Facing toward the enclosure, the ball games were taking place just to the right. If the ball had hit the chick, he would have been killed instantly. I am hoping folks can help Little Chick keep safe by taking their ball games to less populated areas of the beach, away from the roped off area. Just hoping 🙂

Piping Plover Chick Day Forty

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXQZsc_lrpo/

BRAVO LITTLE CHICK!

All by his lonesome, Little Chick survived his first super busy Sunday entirely on his own. Perhaps he needs a new grown up name such as Tuffers, something that recognizes his strong spirit–or instinct for survival–subject to how anthropomorphic your views. I’ve gotten used to calling him Little Chick, but am open to suggestions 🙂

Little Chick in a Bowl

Stretch two three, right two three, left two three.
Thirty-nine-day old Piping Plover

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXNs7ZmFZoe/

PIPING PLOVER CHICK DAY THIRTY-SEVEN AND THIRTY-EIGHT AND NO PAPA PLOVER

Saturday through Sunday and still no sign of Papa. He has not been seen since Friday night. We can only surmise that he has departed of his own accord or been killed by a predator. Either way, it’s terribly worrisome for the chick, just one of its kind, at the city’s most popular of beaches. Little Chick hasn’t as of yet shown great flying skills, and only Friday, Papa was piping warning commands when predators approached.

Bonapartes Gull

The summer migration is underway and within this past week we’ve seen Bonarparte’s Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Least Sandpipers, Sanderlings, and Semipalmated Plovers at Good Harbor Beach.

Flock of Semipalmated Plovers at Good Harbor Beach

Little Chick has been foraging in close proximity to the Semipalmated Plovers, which are similar in size to Piping Plovers, only much darker. The SemiP know to fly away when the beach rake is near; Little Chick still only hunkers down deeper into the sand. His plumage works as both an advantage and disadvantage. He’s well camouflaged from predators, and too much so from well meaning beach goers.Notice how much paler the Piping Plover (foreground) is in comparison to the Semipalmated Plover. Little Chick tried to rest at the high tide line during yesterday’s blustery afternoon. He didn’t like the strong winds one bit and quickly changed his mind, taking shelter beneath the vegetation in the roped off area.Thirty-seven-day old Piping Plover

PAPA PLOVER IS MISSING

Papa Plover was no where to be found this morning (5:30 to 8am). This is very unusual as neither he nor Mama ever left the chicks alone for more than a few moments.Little Chick spent a good part of the morning resting alone in the sand except for a few moments when he was feeding with the migrating Semi-palmated Plovers. If you see Little Chick, keep a safe distance, which will allow him to forage and rest. If anyone notices Papa, please let us know in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns.com. Thank you so much.

EAT, SLEEP, STRETCH, CHECK IN WITH PA, REPEAT

Day thirty-six and our Superstar is growing beautifully. Barring people and predator dramas, Little Chick and Papa’s days have taken on a confident routineness –forage, sleep, wake, preen, do stretches, maybe practice flying (and maybe not), check in with Pa, repeat.

Extra shout out to Chief McCarthy for making Good Harbor Beach his early morning routine, too. Thank you everyone for all that you are doing to help the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers!

Eat

Nap

Wake up

Preen 

Stretches

Check in with Pa

Repeat

 

LITTLE CHICK CELEBRATING FIFTH WEEK MILESTONE! AND CURRENT STATUS UPDATE

Little Chick is spending greater amounts of time in the deeper tide pools.

On Gloucester’s busiest of beaches, a tiny Piping Plover chick has survived five whole weeks. His survival is in large part due to the tremendous effort and kind caring of our community.  My most heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped this resilient little guy come so far. Thank you especially to all the PiPl monitors, the crews of the DPW, especially the gentlemen who clean the beach and who drive the beach rake, beach picker uppers such as Patti Amaral, Patti and Kerry Sullivan, Gloucester conservation agent Ken Whittaker, Police Chief McCarthy, Animal Control Officer Dianne Corliss, the Volleyball Players, Coach Latoff and the GHS sports teams, the GHS cheerleaders, and countless others who have made allowances for the Piping Plovers to successfully nest at Good Harbor Beach.

All who are monitoring Little Chick have seen him fly fairly low to the ground in approximately ten foot distances. Within days he will have fully fledged, but it will still be several weeks more I think before he can undertake his first migration to the lower Atlantic states, Bahamas, or West Indies. He and Papa have adapted well to Good Harbor Beach and they very possibly could stay several weeks into August, feeding to build reserves for the long migration south. Or, they could leave GHB and join the Piping Plovers starting to gather at other barrier beaches such as Cranes and Plum Island. Young birds travel with old birds, who show them the way.

Hourly monitoring may no longer be needed, but it doesn’t hurt either to check in with the little guy and Papa regularly. It’s super important for the roping to stay in place as the family continue to use the cordoned off area as a “safe zone.” I will continue to film and update as long as they are at Good Harbor Beach, because that is part of the documentary, too.

The most rewarding moments are meeting on the beach fans of our Little Superstar. They are full of delighted interest and concern for the chick. Just this morning, I met mom Amy and her daughter Emma. They live in Southborough and have been daily following along with the adventures of Little Chick on Good Morning Gloucester. Amy thanked us for sharing Little Chick’s story.

The beach was awash in seaweed, perhaps brought ashore by the storm of several nights ago. Extra wormy and mini-sea creature breakfast deliciousness today.

Well camouflaged in the sand and taking a brief rest before returning to the tide pools.

Warrior Three mastered, and don’t you love the beautiful patterning of the Piping Plover feathers.

Papa never to far away and always, always watching.

LITTLE CHICK SUPERSTAR

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXAtYouF4aJ

 Hooray for day thirty-four Little Chick!

SUPER HIGH TIDES AND LITTLE CHICK IN SLO MO

Arriving at the beach at 5:30 this morning, Little Chick and Papa Plover were found quickly, both feeding in the the intertidal zone, and both doing beautifully, despite the previous day’s cold, wet, and windy weather.

What first caught my attention though was the fact that the high tide line was up to the edge of the dunes, so high that if a similar super high tide had happened in June, the PiPl nest would have been flooded. Are we experiencing a King Tide I wonder? I have been filming daily at GHB since April and have not previously seen the high water mark quite so high this season. Meteorologists reading this post, please let us know what you think. Google wasn’t much help. Thank you!

The seaweed deposited from last night’s tide shows that the high tide was up to the edge of the dunes in some areas.

With the tide so high, Papa and the chick were not feeding in the wrack line, no insects I imagine. We’ve all seen short little flights, but no sustained flights as of yet. I am not surprised as this coincides with what was recorded last summer filming Plovers.

Yesterday morning and today were too wet and drizzly to use the good cameras, especially my new (and this time, insured) lens, but I did have my cell phone with. The first shows Little Chick running in average speed, not the top speed in which he is capable. The second, in slo mo. He really is the cutest, a small little bird with a big huge personality 🙂

https://www.instagram.com/p/BW-BpGAlxPe/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWBpGAlxPe/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BW-CxytFHjG/

HAPPY ONE-MONTH-OLD BIRTHDAY MILESTONE TO OUR PIPING PLOVER LITTLE CHICK!

A simply glorious Good Harbor Beach morning on this weekend’s one-month-old Piping Plover milestone! Hatched on the morning of June 22nd, he is officially thirty-one-days old today.

Yesterday morning at daybreak it was warm and windless, and today, very breezy and chilly. The chick’s foraging and resting habits reflected the weather. During the warmer morning he spent a great deal of time at the water’s edge feeding hungrily.

Today he was chilled and, within the roped off sanctuary, he tried several times to nestle under Papa. It looked super silly because Little Chick is nearly as big as Papa Plover. Papa rebuffed him and Little Chick found a clump of vegetation under which to warm.

Little Chick on the left, looking not so little. Papa standing on one leg to conserve heat.

Papa Plover is an outstanding dad, never too far away, and always keeping a protective eye on Little Chick.

Folks are asking, where is Mama? With some Plovers, the female will leave the family to begin the southward migration, departing earlier than the male and fledglings. The GHB Mama has not been seen in over a week. This was not the case with the PiPl family that I filmed last year; they maintained a family bond through the end of the summer.

The Piping Plovers that migrate along the Atlantic Coast winter primarily from North Carolina to Florida, as well as the Bahamas and West Indies.

A sighting of Little Chick flying about ten feet across the beach has been reported!

Thirty-day-old Piping Plover Chick

 Thirty-one-day old Piping Plover

Good Harbor Beach weekend sunrises

LITTLE CHICK LEARNING TO FLY AND OTHER SCARY HAPPENINGS

Day twenty-nine (I suppose we could say four weeks and one day), and our Little Chick is growing gangbusters!

It’s always a relief to see our one surviving Piping Plover chick at first light.

Foraging in the seaweed at daybreak.

Little Chick seemed a little less independent today and spent a good amount of time with Papa Plover. I wonder if something frightened the Plovers?

Chief McCarthy, who now takes his morning run at Good Harbor Beach, has noticed tracks from folks that are still walking their dogs in and around (and through) the sanctuary. Not to disparage dog owners (I love dogs), a drunk guy also insisted on walking through the sanctuary. A super, super scary thing happened this morning where a small group had gathered around the enclosure. Two Great Blue Herons came flying low and slow over the roped off area, where both baby and Papa were resting. A conservationist told me awhile back to try to discourage folks from gathering round near the Plovers because it could alert predatory birds. I didn’t quite believe it, but after seeing the GBHerons flying so low, and seemingly fearless of the humans, I believe it now. Great Blue Herons are super predators and although their primary food is fish, they eat practically every small living creature, including birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, shrimp, crab, insects, and rodents.

Staying close to Papa Plover this morning.

Hmm, I think I’ll give flying another whirl.

Running to take off.

Hop Up!

Airborne for half a moment!

Landing, with a not-so-graceful skidding thud.

In the Pink

THE GREAT AUK AT THE PAINT FACTORY! AND PIPING PLOVER DAY 28 UPDATE

The Great Auk was an extraordinary seabird that was driven to extinction in the mid- 19th century. What made it so extraordinary was its ability to dive great depths and swim as fast as the fish it caught. The Auk’s amazing abilities were also its downfall. The same wings and webbed feet that propelled it through water with tremendous speed and agility evolved so that over time, the wings shrank. The bird became flightless and its feet unable to navigate well on land. Ten months out of the year when the Auk lived entirely on the sea this was not a problem but during the breeding season, the Great Auk would return to the rocky shore of its birth to find its life mate and deposit a single egg. Both male and female took turns incubating the egg with their large feet. During the two month period on land, the birds were slaughtered by the tens of thousands. The oily skin of the Great Auk that allowed it to float on the surface of the water and live on the sea was used for oil lamps, the warm downy feathers for quilts and pillows, and its meat eaten by hungry settlers and fishermen.

The Great Auk and very tragic story of its long, painful extinction has captured the imagination of Nathan Thomas Wilson, the first Goetemann Artist Residency Fellowship award recipient. Working on the grounds of the Paint Factory and in partnership with Ocean Alliance, Nathan is creating a twice-life size interpretation of the Great Auk (the Great Auk ranged in height from approximately 27 to 35 inches). Nathan’s Auk is made from plastic pollution and debris scavenged along the shore, created with the goal of highlighting the devastating effect pollution is having on all living creatures.

Great Auk in progress. Head to arrive soon–Nathan is casting the head off site as it will have a lighting component.

Nathan is giving a talk on the 25th of July. Go to his facebook page for details about the talk and for more about Nathan.

No two eggs alike – Great Auk eggs were unusual in that each egg was uniquely patterned to allow easy identification by the brooding parents.

Great Auk nesting habitat.

Day 28: Little Chick is growing beautifully, developing and honing a range of defensive skills. With each passing day, he can feed longer, run faster, and stay in a position of perfect stillness for greater and greater periods of time. Still though, only very short little five- to six-foot run-hop-airbore flutters have been observed by the PiPl monitors.

Twenty-eight-day old Piping Plover shown with a small sample of the plastic pollution found daily on Good harbor Beach. The plastic debris litters GHB every morning before Gloucester’s hard working DPW and trash-piker-uppers arrive to clean up the mess left by beach goers the day before.

GOOD HARBOR BEACH MAGICAL MORNING SUNRISE, FOGBOW, LAUGHING GULL, AND HOW VOLUNTEER PAUL SAVED LITTLE CHICK’S LIFE

Captivatingly beautiful was this morning’s ever-changing light as the rising sun was greeted by waves of fog.  

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWursnWlN0V/

A fogbow mysteriously appeared and lasted for a good while.

Our Little Chick was nearly impossible to spot on his twenty-seventh day during the early shift and I was super happy to see the sun reappearing when Paul arrived at 8am.

Yesterday morning Little Chick had an extremely close encounter with the beach rake. He’s learned how to crouch and flatten low into the sand when people or predators are approaching. The thing is, yesterday he hunkered down in the path of the oncoming beach rake. Paul had to stop the driver to allow our chick to escape. I think this is an excellent example of why, for the time being, we still need monitors for a bit longer. Thank you Paul for being so attentive.

Camouflaged!

A Laughing Gull arrived briefly on the scene and stayed just long enough to catch a crustacean. Laughing Gulls eat baby birds too, so we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on this fellow.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWutA4WllMO/

GRATEFUL SHOUT OUT TO GLOUCESTER POLICE CHIEF JOHN MCCARTHY AND ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICER DIANNE CORLISS

Thanks so much to Chief McCarthy and Dianne Corliss for their continued help with monitoring Good Harbor Beach. We so appreciate your interest in seeing to the survival of our Little Chick. We can’t thank you enough!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWsPEZzFYFU/

PIPING PLOVER PATROL UPDATE FROM DAY TWENTY SIX!

Good Morning from the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover patrol brigade! Today we were joined by Gloucester Chief of Police John McCarthy and animal control officer Dianne Corliss. Thank you to both for their continued help in monitoring the dog owner situation. They got to see our Little Chick and parents and it was awesome!

Day by day we see our Little Chick developing new skills. Today he stood on one leg while resting, just as do adult Piping Plovers. When birds stand on one leg, it is a way to conserve heat and energy. For the second day in a row, Little Chick has not needed his parents to regulate his body temperature. He now takes naps on his own in the sand.

Papa Plover and Little Chick standing on one leg.

Napping in the sand.

Regarding flying, there is misinformation circulating about the chicks flying ability. As of this morning, July 18th, our chick has only been seen by the PIPl monitors doing a run-hop-low-airborne thing for a distance of about five to six feet, not fifty to sixty feet. It’s important to clarify so folks don’t think that the chick can easily fly away from an approaching beach goer or four legged creature.

Twenty-six-day-old Piping Plover spreading its wings

Compare the size of the wings of the fifteen-day-old PiPl to the wings of the twenty-six day old chick.

What will happen to the chick after it becomes a fledgling and can sustain flight? From observing and filming nesting PiPl last year, one family that I can attest to stayed together as a unit, in the area of their nest, well into August, until joined at the end of the summer by more PiPl adults and fledglings. The answer is not easily predicted, but it is going to be exciting to learn as much as we can. One thing is certain is that the chick is not yet ready to make the long migration southward and must remain in this region to grow strong and fat. The fledglings that I filmed last year were so tubby by the end of the summer, you wouldn’t believe that they could fly at all!

Always a tasty morsel to be found in the dried seaweed on an unraked beach.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

The last several mornings I have been covering my usual 5:00 to 6:30am time plus the Ryan/King shift, from 6:30 to 8am, when super volunteer Paul Korn arrives (he’s very punctual). We need volunteer monitors this week to cover that 7:00 to 8am shift and several other times as well. If you would like to volunteer, please email Gloucester’s conservation agent Ken Whittaker at: kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov. Thank you!

CELEBRATING DAY TWENTY FIVE WITH OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK, AND WHAT’S WITH THE PENCIL NECK LOOK?

Flapping, hopping, jumping, preening–everything but flying yet with his gorgeous growing wings. Soon little chick, soon!

Little Chick Morning Preen

Papa Plover Piping Commands

Our chick is developing excellent communication skills. Papa Plover commanded him to stay low and still while several crows eating garbage invaded the enclosure. Perfectly camouflaged, he did just that, and for approximately fifteen minutes.

More Pencil Neck Poses

Kicking It Up!

DAY TWENTY FOUR WITH OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK/ALMOST FLEDGLING AND WHY MORE DOGS???

Beginning early this morning and continuing throughout the day, our Little Chick has almost fledged. He does a tiny run, then sort of hops into the air, flapping his wings for short distances, several feet perhaps. We can’t quite yet call it flying, but he is getting very, very close.

Every little clump of seaweed, dried or fresh, holds the promise of a tasty treat, insect treat that is.

The PiPlover volunteer monitors are amazing. I would like to again thank the following people, the Ryan-King family–Catherine, Cliff, Charles, and George–who divide their morning shift between all four family members, Caroline Haines, Hazel Hewitt, Paul Korn, Chris Martin, Diana Peck, Lucy Merrill-Hills, Cristina Hildebrand, Carol Ferrant, Jeanine Harris, Ruth Peron, Karen Shah, Annie Spike, and conservation agent Ken Whittaker.

Morning Wing Stretches ~ We hope you can fly soon Little Chick!

Papa on the job and in full on protective mode this morning.

We are pleading with folks to please, please keep your dogs off Good Harbor Beach. This morning I observed a dog owner purposefully and actively encourage his dog to chase Papa Plover. The owner had one of those retractable leashes and over and over again gave the dog more leash and encouragement to go after Papa. I stood between the dog, owner, and Papa with Little Chick on the other side in hopes of keeping him safe. As the owner and pooch came closer and closer, I tried to wave them away but they kept coming. Meanwhile Papa Plover was having a complete meltdown, employing every plover distraction trick imaginable. When I tried to speak with the man he cut me right off and barked that his was a SERVICE DOG and that service dogs are allowed. I again tried to explain but he was having none of it and said that if his dog caught the Plover, he wouldn’t hurt him.

Even if that were true, which it is not, I think the scofflaw dog owners are missing a huge point. To the PiPl, any four legged creature is a threat. It is very unlikely that the Piping Plover parent can ascertain the difference between a coyote, fox, or dog. I hope the following explanation helps people who don’t quite get it, better understand what all the fuss is about.

Your cute pooch is trotting down the beach. Even from a distance of several hundred feet away, your activity messages a ten alarm fire bell in the PiPl brain. The PiPl parent has no idea that your dog is the sweetest and most harmless dog that ever lived. Instead of staying nearby to where the chick is foraging or resting, the adult immediately goes on the defense, racing down the beach, flying after the dog/coyote/fox creature, alternating between dive bombing you and your dog and limping along the beach, pretending he has a broken wing.

Meanwhile, back where the chick is foraging, the crafty crows and ravenous gulls sense the golden opportunity they have been awaiting. Crows/Gulls don’t like the nasty defensive bites and pecks the adult Plovers inflict upon them when they get to close to the chicks, especially when tag teamed by both parents. But now there is no Plover parent anywhere within hundreds of feet of the baby because they are too busy defending the chick from the sweetest dog that ever lived. Time to swoop in and carry off the pleasingly plump chick, ripe for a wonderfully satisfying Gull/Crow breakfast.

A Tender, Tasty Plumpling

Shortly after the dog owner/service dog departed, and just as Catherine was arriving to take over my shift, coming from the footbridge end was an elderly woman and her adorable husky puppy. They were were walking the beach at the high tide mark, exactly where the chick was feeding. Simultaneously, coming from the private end of the beach were a Mom and her son, and their beautiful golden retriever. After a good deal of explaining to both parties, they all turned and headed toward the direction from where they had come and away from the boardwalk #3 area.

Three dogs in the span of twenty minutes.

Catherine’s photo of me approaching Golden Retriever family.

Please don’t write and tell us to call animal control at 6:00am. We have called and left messages, but their shifts do not begin until later in the morning. I think if we are serious about controlling the dog owner problem on Good Harbor Beach, possibly we could hire a part time person to ticket early in the morning and after the lifeguards leave in the late day. The tickets collected would easily pay the cost, and then some. It wouldn’t be long until the word got out.

I plan to find out if service dogs are allowed on beaches with shorebirds that are listed as a federally threatened or endangered species. If the dog was really a service dog, and service dogs are permitted, perhaps the owner could choose a different beach. And too, hopefully rentors in the area are letting their renters know that dogs are not allowed on the beach, leashed or unleashed, and at all hours of the day and night during the summer months.

Twenty-four-day-old Piping Plover Piping Plover chick assuming the crouch defense posture. 

“Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.”

HOORAY FOR OUR TWENTY-THREE-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICK!

Bravo to our little chick, who this evening, we are celebrating day twenty-three! Thank you to all our volunteers who are working so conscientiously to help the GHB PiPl survive Gloucester’s busiest beach.

Despite the fact that he can’t exactly still fit under Papa and Mama, at twenty-three-days-old, Little Chick still needs snuggles to thermoregulate.

Note how large Little Chick’s beak is growing.

Twenty-three-day-old Piping Plover: Of the four Piping Plover chicks that hatched on the morning of June 22nd (the first hatched at about 6am, and all had hatched by noontime), our little chick is the sole survivor.

At 6:30 this morning another fight with the interloper took place. I was able to capture some of it on film and, surprisingly, a very similar battle took place later this morning between the Coffin’s Beach Piping Plovers.

The Good Harbor Beach dunes are teeming with life. I spied five Monarch Butterflies on the Common Milkweed this afternoon, with many reports shared by readers of Monarch sightings all around Cape Ann and Massachusetts. We’ll do a post about Monarchs this coming week, and in the meantime, please share your Monarch sightings.

Dragonflies are predacious, and like our Piping Plover chick eat tiny invertebrates.

Beach bunny munching wild salad greens for breakfast.

Monarch Butterfly and Common Milkweed, Good Harbor Beach

OUR TWENTY-TWO-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER IS AS PLUMP AND PERKY AS A PICKLE

Running pell mell, pecking in the tide pools for tasty morsels, and softly peeping, our perky twenty-two-day-old Piping Plover is becoming quite the little plumpling.

We observed an exciting self-defense development today. While foraging in the sand at the high tide line, Little Chick suddenly crouched down, completely flattening himself level with the sand. Seconds later, a seagull swooshed over him, flying, very, very low. It was tremendous to see this defense mode kick in and wonder whether instinctual, or learned from the parents.

Piping Plover chick and Mom foraging at the high water line. Our chick is growing so quickly. Even though he is nearly as large as Mom, he still needs snuggles in the morning to thermoregulate.

Piping Plover volunteer Catherine Ryan keeping an eye on the PiPl from her favorite perch.

The cold weather may be dampening beach goers fun, but we lovers of the Piping Plovers like it because GHB has been much quieter than usual. Twenty-two-day-old Piping Plover

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers Update With Tips on Observing the Birds

Piping Plover male and chicks copyright Kim SmithWith sadness, but not entirely unexpected, I am sorry to report that only one baby Piping Plover chick remains at Good Harbor. The good news is that the one surviving chick is doing fantastically as of this writing. Don’t worry when I write too that the Mom has left the family. She has begun to migrate southward. This is somewhat normal and I don’t think she would have left had not the chick been doing so well. Dad is minding the baby full time and he is doing a tremendous job.

A week since the Plovers hatched and it sure has been a joy to film, and wonderfully educational. I am very inspired to work on this short film and hope to have it ready for our community this summer.

Piping Plover chick copyright Kim SmithNotice the growing wing buds!

Piping Plover tiny chick copyright Kim SmithThe tiniest

A heartfelt reminder to please, please, please let’s all work together to keep the dogs off the beach. I had a terrible encounter, really frustrating and the owner and his friends very cruel. Ninety nine point nine percent of dog owners are wonderful and respectful and are rooting for the Plovers as much as are non-dog owners. The Plovers are all over the sandy beach, at the water’s edge, and down the creek. Although growing beautifully, the chick is still about the size of a cotton ball, maybe a cotton ball and a half. Up until fourteen days old, they are at their most vulnerable.

As with before, please fee free to share the photos and information on social media. The more people know about the garbage and dog owner trouble (certain dog owners that is), the more likely the chick’s chance of survival. Thank you!

Piping Plover garbage and chick copyright Kim SmithGarbage left on the beach late in the day and overnight continues to be an issue. Bring a bag with you and we can help the DPW by cleaning up after the the folks who don’t know any better. Garbage strewn on the beach attracts gulls, and they, especially Great Black-backed Gulls, eat baby Plovers. 

Piping Plovers, like many shore birds, are precocial. That means that within hours after hatching, they are ready to leave the nest and can feed themselves. They cannot however immediately regulate their body temperature and rely on Mom and Dad to warm them under their wings. Although the chick is six days old in the above photo, it still looks to Dad for warmth and protection. Examples of other precocial birds are ducks, geese, and chickens.

If you spot the baby and want to observe, I recommend staying fifteen to twenty feet away at least. Any closer and Dad has to spend a great deal of energy trying to distract you. We don’t want him to get tired out and unable to care for the baby. Also, you’ll appear less threatening if you sit or kneel while observing the chick. No sudden movements and talk quietly and the baby may come right up to you!

DSCF3675A sweet dog with a very unkind owner.

Around 6pm Saturday evening, this playful dog came bounding down the water’s edge, within inches of the baby. I stood between the owner, dog, and Plovers, with cameras in hand, and cell phone unfortunately back in my bag. After a good twenty minutes of arguing he and his equally unkind friends departed. In the mean time, the Plovers were able to get away from the dog and further down the shore line.

Piping Plover male and chick -2 copyright Kim SmithDad and chick Monday morning, the July 18th, exactly one week old!