Tag Archives: Piping Plover chicks

PIPING PLOVER CHICK AND DAD

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

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

Little Chick snuggling under Dad this morning

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

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

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

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

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

Warmest wishes,
Kim

Little Chick 9-10 days old

ONE WEEK MILESTONE FOR OUR LITTLE CHICK!!!

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Whether the chick hatched last Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, today marks the one week milestone. His chance of survival improves exponentially. That is not to say we aren’t needed as much, just that the chick is getting better at listening to the adult’s piping voice commands and growing smarter and more savvy everyday.

Sue and Jonathan – I don’t recall the protective exclosure being removed this close to hatching in past years but will try to find out why.

Did not see the beach raker this morning before leaving, but did clean the PiPl and Creek side of the beach and it looks good- I am getting a break with the amount of trash left behind because the rain is keeping folks away 🙂

This morning I arrived later than usual and while crossing the footbridge, one of our GHB Red Foxes ran through the roped off area. Even though far off, I could hear an adult piping the danger call very loudly and saw a flash of feathers trying to lead the Fox away from their home base. Then the Fox stopped to eat something? Thankfully it wasn’t one of our PiPls, but it took me another half hour to locate all three. There were no bones or feathers where he had been chowing down, and he ran off empty-mouthed, so I don’t have a clue as to what he was eating. Love our Red Fox family, but they sure are a worry as far as the PiPls are concerned!

Have a great day everyone and so thankful for all your help and interest!
xxKim

PIPING PLOVER FAMILY ALL THREE PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors!

All three family members were present, the chick feeding on insects up by the Sea-rocket at the base of the dune in the roped off area, and parents taking turns minding the chick or foraging at the water’s edge.

The new beach raker was there, and he was great!! He entered the beach at the snack bar, stayed at that end, and then drove to the Creek but stopped to ask if we were taking care of the trash at the east end. Yes I said and we are happy to do it. So thankful for his consideration!

We have a new ambassador. I met Duncan last week and he has an interest in the PiPls well being. Duncan and his wife Sarah have a summer home on Salt Island Road. He is taking Shelby’s shift from 7 to 8am and Shelby is moving to 6 to 7pm so it all worked out very nicely. Thank you so much Duncan and welcome 🙂

Thanks again so much to everyone for all your help with our GHB PiPls.
xxKim

Piping Plover Chick Morning Stretches Routine – with beautiful tiny wing buds

In the above photo you can see the chick’s teeny tongue lapping up insects found on Sea-rocket. See article about Sea-rocket here

ONLY ONE PIPING PLOVER CHICK

Dear PiPl Friends,

So sorry to write that I could only find one chick this morning. Both parents were very attentive and did not let the little one out of their sight for even a minute. All three were in the symbolically roped off area and down at the shoreline for very brief moments.

Jonathan and Sally saw the family last night; it happened sometime between sunset and sunrise. So very sad, but I just want to remind everyone that the average survival rate for chicks after hatching is 1.2, and most chicks are lost in the first week. Everyone is doing a great job despite the challenges we have faced this year.

Four day old Piping Plover chick

Last year was a very successful year (3 out of 4 fledged) for one very important reason- Greenbelt was helping from the get go and the area for the PiPls was roped off and signs put up two days after the mated pair arrived. This allowed them to become established early on and they nested nearly a month earlier than this year.

In 2019, signs and roping were put in place by Greenbelt on March 27th.

This year, an adequately roped off area did not go up until April 16 and signs not installed until Memorial Day weekend.

It has been proven time and again, the earlier PiPls nest in the spring, the greater their chance of survival.

What can we learn from this? Councilor Memhard has a tremendous suggestion in that we change the ordinance to reflect that it is mandated that Plover protections, ie. signs and roping, must go up immediately upon the PiPls arrival, ideally the third week in March. This year they arrived on March 22nd, last year on March 25th.

Jonathan and Sally, thank you for your super generous gift of signs. The one you left was there this morning and I left it there, too. It’s in a good spot if the family goes back to the Creek. My signs were ready yesterday as well and I have them on my front porch if anyone needs them, please help yourself. With only one chick, hopefully the Mom and Dad will be able to keep him/her safe.

Thank you and take heart everyone, our one chick has a better chance of surviving with every one of you looking out for this tiny little bird.

P.S. About the garbage, I did not see the beach raker by the time I left at 6:45. There was garbage on the beach and I will check back this afternoon after Charlotte goes down for a nap and clean up what is there (with gloves!). My son broke two ribs on the job yesterday so I have our little darling again with me most of the time.

Four day old Piping Plover chick and Dad, Good Harbor Beach, June 26, 2020

MASS AUDUBON’S COASTAL WATERBIRD PROGRAM ANNOUNCES 2019 BEST RESULTS IN DECADE

Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program Announces 2019 Results Best in Decade

June 24, 2020

LINCOLN, MA—Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP), which has monitored and supported vulnerable shorebird species including Piping Plovers for 35 years, has announced that the 2019 season was its best in a decade.

The Mass Audubon program, which works with local, state, and federal wildlife partners, protected 226 pairs—30% of the Commonwealth’s population of Piping Plovers and roughly 12.5% of the Atlantic Coast population estimated at 1,800 pairs.

According to recently released U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service statistics for 2019, state abundance of the protected species—listed as Threatened on both federal and state wildlife protection registers—rose to 755 pairs, up from 688 in 2018. Reproductive success, defined by the number of birds reaching flight stage, increased by more than 11 percent over the previous year.

Plovers at CWP-protected sites produced a record 1.5 fledglings per pair compared to 1.1 per pair in 2018. Although hatching rates were similar in both years, survival of chicks was 30% greater in 2019.

The CWP monitors 177 sites from Plum Island to the South Coast, virtually the entire Massachusetts coastline.

Piping Plovers are small, roundish, sandy-colored shorebirds that make a repetitive piping call (hence their name). Because Atlantic Coast plovers lay eggs directly on sandy beaches, their populations face a variety of threats, from coastal storms and rising sea levels to predators such as coyotes and crows, and intrusion on their habitats by humans and their pets.

CWP Director Dr. Katharine C. Parsons noted that good weather during May 2019 contributed to greater success among “first clutch” nesting.  If first attempts at nesting are unsuccessful, plovers will re-nest, which prolongs the weeks they are sharing beaches with the beach-going public. Studies show that early nestlings have a greater change of fledging.

“Piping Plovers were the most successful they’ve been in more than a decade due to the committed efforts of many shorebird champions throughout the state—including  conservation organizations and beach goers who have kept away from fenced areas and have leashed their dogs or walked them in areas where nesting is not taking place,” Parsons said.

Carolyn Mostello, Coastal Waterbird Biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, noted, “In Massachusetts we are very fortunate that the public has a strong conservation ethic and is supportive of measures that protect beach-nesting birds like the Piping Plover.

“That ethic, together with the dedication of our conservation partners and a little luck, makes a successful recipe for plover success,” Mostello added.

To learn more about Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program and the remarkable 2019 results, visit massaudubon.org/cwp.

THREE CHICKS TODAY – I DON’T THINK THE LAST HATCHLING SURVIVED

I could only spot three beautiful chicks zooming around the beach this morning during my 2 plus hour shift. The siblings looked about the same age so it appears the last hatchling did not make it. This is not unusual and is happening at several beaches around the north shore because of the cold snap we had during the egg-laying period. Perhaps there was just too much time between eggs laid and that is why the last chick hatched more than a day after the first chick hatched.

There are many other possible reasons as to why the chick did not survive, but I also want to take this opportunity to let our Ambassadors know that if a chick is taken during your shift, please don’t take it personally or feel responsible. We are doing our best to keep the chicks safe from stray balls, other avian predators, dogs off leash, people not aware of the cotton puffballs presence, and the list goes on. Just do your best and that is all we can ask for.

Huge shout out to Gloucester’s DPW – Yesterday morning we found two signs intentionally knocked over. We called Joe, our DPW liaison, and they fixed the posts right away. We are so grateful to the DPW for all their help!

Three three-day-old Piping plover chicks

THREE COTTONBALL-SIZED PIPING PLOVER CHICKS IN BEACH CAMO

Huge shout out of thanks to our newest Piping Plover Ambassadors

One of the many reasons why it’s not easy being a Piping Plover Ambassador

CAN YOU FIND THREE OF THE FOUR CHICKS IN THE PHOTO TAKEN THS MORNING?

It’s nearly impossible to see these two-day-old tiny cotton ball-sized PiPl chicks, especially on a foggy morning.

All four chicks are present and accounted for. One appears to have hatched within the past several hours so he’ll be the one who will always be a bit smaller.

The gulls are an issue, more so this year because the area is so much larger than in the past and it has become a safe haven for them as well. Also, I think because there are fewer people, which means less picnicking, which means less food for them, but still the same amount of beaks and bellies to fill. They were not acting predatory yesterday afternoon when I was watching them, just very distressing for the adults.

Yesterday morning I wrote Dave about the apparently abandoned Salt Island nest. No adults have been seen on that nest since Sunday. There are a multitude of reasons why that may be, but they were again not on the nest this morning. Just waiting to hear from Dave about what to do with the eggs and dismantling the exclosure.

Have a super day :
Thank you!
Kim

OUR GOOD HAROR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE HATCHING!

Three chicks have hatched and one more still to come!!

From the appearance of the oldest hatchling running around in the roped off area by the Creek, the chicks probably began hatching yesterday late afternoon (Monday, the 22nd). One may have even been hatching while we were there having a PiPl Ambassador informational meeting 🙂
The PiPl family will most likely stay closish to the nesting area for the next day. Fortunately it is very foggy today, which means the beach won’t be too busy and that will give them some space.
We had a great meeting yesterday with a new crew of Piping Plover Ambassadors. Thank you to everyone for coming ❤ We still have some empty spots on the schedule, noon to 4. If anyone is interested in becoming a PiPl Ambassador, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you!

 

One day old Piping Plover chick, Good Harbor Beach, June 23, 2020

Educate, Not Enforce!

WE’RE GETTING CLOSE TO HATCH DAY – PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS ARE NEEDED DURING THE AFTERNOONS

Hello Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,

Our Ambassador schedule is looking great for mornings and I am so appreciative of all who have volunteered to lend a hand.

We need Ambassadors during the afternoons. Please write at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com and let me know if you would like to volunteer for an hour a day for the next several weeks, possibly a month. The first week in a chick’s life is the most critical. When a chick reaches the 7 to 10 day milestone its chances of survival increase exponentially.

One hour old Piping Plover chick

We are meeting Monday, June 22nd, at 5:30pm, to go over any questions Ambassadors may have. We’ll meet at the the Saratoga Creek end of the beach, by the symbolic roping, on the Nautilus Road side of the beach, just after boardwalk #3. There should be no difficulty parking in the lot at that time of day.

I look forward to seeing familiar friends and meeting our new ambassadors. Thank you so much again for your willingness to help. Our new motto this year is Educate, not Enforce and our goal is to keep the energy positive and kind. Our City government is managing many, many issues due to the global pandemic and we do not wish in any way to add to their responsibilities.

Here is the schedule so far:

Kim 5am to 7am

Shelby  7am -8am

Jane Marie 8am -9am

Bette Jean 9am-10am

Jennie  11am to 12pm

Jonathan and Sally 5pm to 6pm

OUR SALT ISLAND PIPING PLOVER FAM HAS A SECOND EGG IN THE NEST!

The most tenacious of Piping Plover pairs has a second egg in their nest!

For the next few days you may see them on and off the nest. The pair won’t start brooding full time until all the eggs are laid. The reason being is that the hatchlings are precocial, which means active from birth. The parents want the chicks to hatch as closely together as possible so the tiny rockets zooming around the beach are more easily managed. The difference in a PiPl day old hatchling and a PiPl week old chick in human years is like trying to look after a newborn and a precocious preteen simultaneously.

Salt Island Family Mom briefly on nest this morning.

SI Dad at the shoreline foraging at sunrise.

Piping Plovers take about a week to complete the nest and lay all their eggs (sometimes two eggs or three or five, but most often four eggs). If they started brooding one egg full time, that egg would hatch a week earlier than the last egg laid, which would spell disaster for a precocial chick. Observing PiPl chicks that had hatched twenty-four hours apart was hard enough on the parents, let alone a week apart!

If you stop by to see the PiPls on the beach, please bear in mind they are working hard at completing their nest and laying eggs. Please don’t hover around the roped off areas or when you see the birds on the shore. Trust me, hovering attracts gulls and crows. Both species are smart and I’ve seen over and over again how human interest in the PiPls  attracts these super predators to the nesting sites. Additionally, hovering around the adults off the nest stymies courtship and mating as well. Have a look with binoculars or take photo or two with a long lens and move on, especially when with more than one adult.

Thank you so much for your consideration!

Good Harbor Beach Salt Island Family Two Eggs June 16, 2020

Saratoga Creek Family Dad brooding this am

Sunrise and Crescent Moon rising today

 

SUPER EXCITING NEWS – THERE ARE NOW TWO PAIRS OF PIPING PLOVERS NESTING AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our first family of Good Harbor Beach chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. Many of the morning times are filled, so we are especially looking for help mid-day, afternoon, and early evenings if you can lend a hand. Thank you! HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

This morning the awesome Dave Rimmer and his assistant Mike Galli installed an exclosure at the area we call #1 (because it is closer to boardwalk #1). I write “awesome” because Dave Rimmer is Director of Land Stewardship at Essex County Greenbelt Association and for the fifth year in a row, he has lent his experience and expertise at absolutely NO CHARGE $$ to the City of Gloucester. We all owe Dave and Greenbelt huge thanks of appreciation. Thank you once again Dave for your kind assistance.

The exclosure was quickly and efficiently assembled and sledge hammered into place. Would the young pair accept the wire exclosure? It looked dicey for about half an hour or so. I had Charlotte with me and had to leave but a short time later, Dave texted that they were back on the nest. In all his years of installing exclosures  (30 plus), only one pair has ever rejected an exclosure.

This nest with currently one egg is located in an extremely open site and not at all where expected. It is their fourth attempt at a serious nest. The first was up by the dune edge in a nicely camouflaged location but as it was not symbolically roped off, it was visibly disturbed by people and pets. Their next nest was located in the roped off area at #1 and that sweet nest had two eggs. Sadly, the eggs disappeared from the nest. The third active nest scrape was actually in the dunes but unfortunately again that was disturbed by people, this time by people going along their same path to go to the bathroom in the dunes. So this fourth nest is in a most open spot and not entirely safe from a stormy high tide.

New nest location, with no protective vegetation

Our Salt Island pair mating and nest scraping, with one egg.

June 15th is late in the year to begin a new nest but it happens often enough. Last year I filmed a PiPl family nesting in July, with three eggs. The nest gets hot as the summer progresses, but the adults were very smart about brooding. They would stand over the nest, not actually sitting on it, which provided shade from the melting sun, without their additional body heat. The adults were also panting to keep cool in the heat. One chick was lost in a storm, but two survived to fledge and the Dad stayed with them the entire time.

In the photos above you can see the PiPl heat wave brooding technique.

I think we should change the names of the nests to the Creek Family and the Salt Island Family. It sounds a lot more personable than #3 and #1. What do you think?

BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- AFTERNOON

SEE PART ONE HERE

SEE PART TWO HERE

Saturday afternoon I arrived back to the nest at about 5:30pm hoping to see if the fourth and last chick had hatched. Yes it had hatched! Judging by how sleepy and that he appeared to be still a bit wet and sticky, I think it had happened within the past hour.

Piping Plover chicks are precocial birds. That is a word biologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Precocial means that shortly after hatching, the bird is fully mobile. Plover chicks are not completely mature, they still need parents to help regulate their body temperature, but they have downy feathers and can run and feed themselves within an hour or so after emerging.

The opposite of precocial is altricial. Birds that hatch helpless, naked, usually blind, and are incapable of departing the nest, are altricial. Robins and Cardinals are examples of altricial birds.

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

Please don’t eat my toe!

Tiny wing bud stretches

It makes it hard on the parents when hatching is stretched over a twenty four hour period. The day old chick was full of vim and vigor while the newborn could barely walk. To make matters even more challenging, and because the nest was sited in an extremely exposed location, the parents were trying to move the entire family, including the newborn hatchling, to a safer and less exposed site on the beach.

The adults piped softly to the newborn, coaxing him to leave the nest. He kept taking a few steps and then flopping back toward the nest.

In the meantime, the three older chicks were out exploring the beach in short forays and then snuggling together under Mom or Dad.

Mom takes a much needed break

After an hour or so of watching the youngest hatchling struggle, slowly making its way across the beach, the parents eventually succeeded in moving all four chicks to a safer location at the base of the dune where there were  divots, dried beach grass and seaweed, and new vegetation sprouting, providing much needed cover.

Mom returned several times to inspect the empty nest.

You can see the tiny one’s feathers are still sticky and not fully fluffed out.

By day’s end all four were tucking under Mom and Dad.

It was a gift to witness the beautiful Clam Fam hatch day, a day I won’t soon forget. So small and sparrow-sized, you could hold an adult Piping Plover in the cup of your hand, but so beautiful, fascinating, resilient, and intelligent a species of bird.

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our GHB chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- MORNING

SEE PART ONE HERE

I arrived at daybreak the following morning with myriad questions –would the first hatchling make it through the night, would they all have hatched over night, would the nest still be in the same location if all had hatched? The nest was sited in the most extraordinarily vulnerable location. And this beach in particular is plagued by a plethora of hungry avian predators that readily make a meal of both eggs and chicks.

Hooray!  First glimpse showed a fluffy puffball snuggling next to Mom and the next peek showed at least two eggs still remaining in the nest. I couldn’t tell initially if there was a new chick or three eggs.

Mom popped off the nest for a moment and there were two perfect little chicks! And one of the two remaining eggs was showing a mosaic of tiny cracks with the tiniest of external pips beginning to appear (egg on the right).

It’s Dad’s turn back on the nest. Both parents were active in helping the chicks hatch.

Early in the morning, the two hatchings stayed close to the nest and only made periodic and brief forays further out onto the beach. The one that was twelve hours old that had hatched the night before was clearly stronger, while the newly hatched wobbled along on unsteady legs, spending more time stumbling than standing. 

At about 7:15, I could see Dad beginning to help pull apart the eggshell with his beak.

He and Mom switched places and only twelve minutes later, nestling #3 was completely free of its eggshell.

Chick #1 was outside the nest observing all, while #2 was fast asleep as baby sibling was hatching in the nest next to him. Mom and Dad took turns removing the eggshells from the nest.

Two chicks, newborn hatchling, and one egg .

Newborn chick drying in the nest with one egg remaining.

The third chick to hatch was nearly dry and the last egg was still in the nest when I departed at noon, with plans to return later in the day.

From the moment of hatching, both parents give constant soft melodious piping calls and commands to the chicks and they learn within a few days time to listen and obey.

As the morning progressed, the most remarkable observation is that the family split in half. In roughly twenty minute intervals, Mom or Dad would watch the two older, stronger chicks as they began to run around on the beach learning to forage while either Mom or Dad would brood the remaining egg and the most recently hatched and still sleepy-eyed chick.

I can’t make it up this hill Bro!

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our GHB chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

 

CALL OUT FOR PIPING PLOVER VOLUNTEER AMBASSADORS

Dear Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,

I hope everyone is doing well and taking good care. I am writing to let you know that our Piping Plover pair at area #3 will soon be hatching their chicks, possibly by June 23rd. This is super exciting but also somewhat worrisome because it is more than a month later than when the chicks hatched last year. As we all know, GHB only becomes busier and busier as the season progresses.

What can we do to help the chicks reach the fledging age? I am organizing a group of citizen Piping Plover Ambassadors. This will be a volunteer group, not connected with the City administration. Our main objective is to keep the Piping Plover chicks safe and by doing so, we will ensure our beloved beach stay open to the public.

Ambassadors will be at the beach observing as well as informing interested beach goers about Piping Plover behaviors.

I’d like to try something different with scheduling that I hope will make things much less complicated. Ambassadors are needed for approximately one month. I am asking people to commit one set hour a day for that month.

So for example, I will be at the beach every morning from approximately sunrise until 7:00am

We need volunteers every hour from 7am to sunset; the 7am to 8am shift, the 8am to 9am shift, the 9am to 10am shift, etc. If you know you can commit to one hour every day for a month, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

If we get a viable nest at Area #1, we will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

This week I am ordering several coroplast signs, just like the ones we had last year. I wish I could afford to purchase many, but am asking volunteers to pay for and order the signs for yourself. The information to purchase signs will be at Seaside Graphics. During your shift, you would place the signs in the vicinity of where the chicks are located and then take your signs home with you at the end of your shift.

Ambassadors will wear a mask during their shift and maintain social distancing.

We will not be speaking directly with people regarding aberrant behavior, especially not to children. We can put ourselves between flying balls, runaway pets, joggers and children running towards the chicks, in a friendly manner. Especially with the global pandemic, many people are on edge. We do not want heated discussions taking place on the beach. We will not be taking photos of people’s behavior noticeably. If someone is acting badly, take a photo without them seeing you, and record any other information.

If someone is behaving very badly, ie. drunk and disorderly, or committing a crime, you are asked to stay clear, for your own personal safety, and to call the police. If there is a dog on the beach during your shift, it is imperative to call the dog officer. Without your calls, there is no record.

I am planning to make up data sheets where we can record our daily observations. And am happy to train anyone interested in lending a hand.

Please email and let me know if you would like to volunteer to be a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador. We would love, love to have your help! Thank you!

Take care and be well.

Warmly, Kim

Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Family 2019

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER FIRST HATCH DAY

Dear Friends,

So sorry to not be posting as much as usual and if I promised to stop by your store or business to take photos this week I am doubly sorry. Our nation is undergoing a sea change for social justice and how I wish I could join the peaceful protest but know that I am super high risk. February was pneumonia month; perhaps maybe what I really had was corona because breathing was so difficult and it took so long to recover, and now June has become Shingles month. I am learning how to manage the pain and since it was diagnosed early enough I am hoping it won’t linger. So again, I am so sorry if I haven’t made it to your shop or restaurant, but I will surely do so soon!

In the mean time, here is a beautiful scene I wanted to share with you. The Piping Plover family in the photos is one I have been following for several years. This pair is truly remarkable in so many ways I can’t even begin to explain here. You will see why when my PiPl film comes out, but trust me, these two have co-parenting down to an art form. I have learned so much from watching specific families of Plovers at specific sites, and especially my Clam Fam.

I call them the Clam Fam because the pair always make use of large Atlantic Surf Clams, which is pretty smart because from an avian predators overhead point of view, a nesting PiPl looks like a clam shell. I can’t wait to share it all!

Here they are in early April. The pair returned to their nesting site about a week and a half  later than our GHB nesting PiPl pair. These two famously always nest early in the season.

This year’s Clam Fam nest was sited right next to a pedestrian walkway and that is why we have such a clear view into the nest. 

Dad’s potential nest scrapes and Mom inspecting.

First two eggs in early May

The tiniest peep hole appeared and you could see movement beneath the surface. The peep hole is called an external pip.

Mom and Dad take turns guarding and sitting on the nest while the chick is hatching.

Once the eggshell has unzipped, the parents oftentimes help the chick hatch by pulling away the shell.

Eggshells are a concern to the PiPl parents because they can attract predators. Here you see Dad kicking the eggshell away. Mom quickly ran to the nest and carried off one half of the  shell. Shortly after that Dad did the same.

The newborn chick’s feathers are matted wet with fluid.

In an hour or so the chick is dry and fluffy and has already learned to push up under Dad or Mom’s wings to keep warm.

A sweet sleepy chick – it’s early evening and there are three more eggs to go. I’ll return tomorrow morning first thing

Read More and see the photos here of how a chicken chick hatches. As both PiPl and chickens are precocial birds, and from what I have observed, PiPl chicks are very similar in hatching.

Piping Plovers are listed as a US threatened species. Threatened species share the same protections as endangered species.

READ THE LATEST ON THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION’S PROPOSAL TO WEAKEN THE MIGRATORY BIRD SPECIES ACT

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

HERE’S TO A HAPPY NEW YEAR AND A HAPPY NEW DECADE! 

In spending the afternoon reflecting on the past year’s wildlife stories and photos, I have been thinking about what an extraordinary place is Cape Ann. How fortunate we all are to see amazing and beautiful wildlife stories unfolding in our own backyards each and every day! I am planning a Cape Ann Wildlife 2019 Year in Pictures and hope to find the time to post that this week.

News this year of an increase in Monarchs at the butterfly’s overwintering sites in Mexico, as well as strong numbers during the summer breeding season and fall migration, gives me great hope for the future of this beautiful species, and for all wildlife that we take underwing.

Monarchs flying into Gloucester butterfly trees, forming an overnight roost.

Our community has taken under its wings a pair of Piping Plovers. The two began calling Good Harbor Beach home in 2016. Because the community came together and worked as a team, this year we were able to fledge three tiny, adorable marshmallow-sized fluff balls at Gloucester’s most well-loved and populous beach. Thank you Piping Plover friends and Community for all that you did to help these most vulnerable of shorebirds successfully reach flying age. 

Another example of “underwing” – three nearly full grown PiPl chicks, all determined to nestle for warmth under Papa

Two-Day-Old Least Tern Chicks

Clamoring for dinner, feed Me, feed Me!

In only one day’s time, you can see the teeny shorebirds gaining strength. As Dad approaches with dinner, the two-day-old Least Tern chicks stretch and flap their wings and open wide their beaks. The noisiest and flappiest is fed first. After depositing a minnow in one beak, off he flies to find dinner for the second sibling.

Camouflaged

The polka-dot fluff balls blend perfectly with the surrounding sand and rocks. The brilliant red inside the chicks mouth makes it easier for the adult terns to find them against the monochromatic pebbly beach habitat.

Waiting for dinner.

The tern parents will share feeding their chicks and fledglings non-stop for weeks; the chicks won’t be on their own for another two months.

For the first several days after hatching, Least Tern chicks keep fairly close to Mom in scooped out scrapes and natural divots in the sand, or well-hidden hidden behind rocks and beach vegetation.Tiny Least Tern Chick camouflaged in the sand, flanked by an adult Least Tern and Piping Plover male passing by (right).

The Rosetti’s Piping Plover fledglings (three) sharing the nesting site with the Least Tern Rosetti’s family.

Least Tern One Day Old Chicks!

The Rosetti’s Least Terns hatched both eggs and both chicks are doing beautifully!

Least Tern eggs are astonishingly well camouflaged on a pebbly beach, making them nearly impossible to see. It’s easy to understand why the species is threatened, and in some regions, endangered. Least Terns nest on sandy beaches with little vegetation, the same type of beach habitat that people love. Piping Plovers and Least Terns often nest in association with each other. In Massachusetts, the Least Tern is considered a Species of Special Concern.

Mom and Dad Least Terns take turns brooding the eggs. Here they are changing places. Least Terns are monogamous and the Rosetti’s Least Terns are especially good parents.

Least Terns are semi-precocial. Like Piping Plovers, which are fully precocial, Least Terns are mobile after one or two days and can leave the nest.

Unlike Piping Plovers, they cannot feed themselves and will be fed for the next eight weeks by Mom and Dad, a diet consisting mostly of tiny fish.

Tiny minnows, for tiny chicks. Dad does most of the feeding while Mom mostly broods the babies during the first few days. As the nestlings grow, the parents feed the chicks increasingly larger fish.

First day venturing away from the nest, and then returning to Mom for warmth and protection.

Just as the eggs are perfectly camouflaged, so too are the tiny nestlings.

Almost as adorable as are Piping Plover chicks are Least Tern chicks. However, they are much, much harder to film and to photograph. Least Terns are shyer of humankind than are Piping Plovers. Anyone who has seen PiPl in action know that they have a high tolerance for people and may come right up to you especially if you are standing perfectly still and are perfectly quiet. Least Terns on the other hand are elusive and skittish. The nestlings quickly take cover behind a rock or clump of beach vegetation when disturbed. The Mom and Dad when both courting and nesting will let you know if you are too close by dive bombing and if you still can’t take a hint, will poop on your head. If either happens, then you know for sure you are way too close and are interfering with the chicks feeding. Back away and observe from a more considerate (considerate-to-the-Terns distance that is).

Unfortunately, I recently observed a fellow photographer repeatedly being dive-bombed by a nesting pair of Terns, and that person has a humongously long telephoto lens. She would have gotten perfectly lovely photos from a distance more respectful of the Terns.

Fishing For Sex

FISHING FOR SEX

Or is it Sex for Fish? –The Quid Pro Quo Courtship of the Least Tern

While learning more about Piping Plovers on North Shore beaches I happened to be on Winthrop Shore Beach on an afternoon in May when dozens and dozens of Least Terns were pairing up in an elaborate dance of courtship and mating. It was fascinating to observe their courtship feeding and I was so curious to learn more.

That very same afternoon, the “Rosetti’s” Piping Plovers were mating, too. Well known to the area is a pair of Plovers that nest every year directly in front of Café Rosetti’s, a fabulous Italian restaurant located on the main boulevard that runs along the beach. The Rosetti’s Plovers are very successful and each year they fledge a clutch of chicks. This year was no exception!

For the past several months I have been documenting through film and photographs the Rosetti’s Plovers and the Rosetti’s Terns, along with a family of PiPl at Revere Beach (more about the Winthrop and Revere Beach’s PiPl in future posts). Both species of birds are on the state and federal threatened species list. Piping Plovers and Least Terns began nesting on the area’s urban beaches as a direct result of the Boston Harbor cleanup, a wonderful, and very surprising to all involved, turn of events. In some regions, both species share the same habitat, as is the case with Winthrop Shore Reservation.

The more we learn about how and why Plovers (and other species of threatened shorebirds) successfully nest on other north of Boston much loved and much utilized beaches, the more we can help our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers successfully nest in years to come.

During the breeding season Least Terns perform courtship displays in the air and on the ground. In dramatic aerial display, a fish-carrying male is chased by the female, sometimes up to four females.

On the ground, the male parades his fish to a prospective mate. With fish dangling from his bill, he bobs his head from side-to side, then opens and closes his wings over the female.

The male mounts the female, still with fish dangling. During copulation he passes the fish to the female.

The funniest thing is, when the female allows the male to mount, she sometimes snatches the fish and flies away before mating has occurred.

No privacy, and lots of piracy!

The male continues to feed the female throughout the incubation period. Both parents incubate the eggs however, the female does about eighty percent of the brooding, while the male provides most of the fish for she and the chicks.

When one adult Least Tern feeds another, whether during courtship when the pair are first becoming established, or during the incubation period, this behavior is called “courtship feeding.”

The courtship feeding display perhaps provide the female tern the assurance that her male mate will be a good provider of fish for both she and the young. Both male and female Least Terns feed the chicks for the first several months after hatching; the better the fisherman, the stronger the chicks. Studies have shown too that courtship feeding provides the female with considerable nutritional benefit. The number of eggs, and weight of the eggs, are determined by the female’s nutritional status and how much food is fed her by her mate.

In Massachusetts, Least Terns primarily eats fish, including Sand Lance, Herring, and Hake. They also eat insects and crustaceans.

And we have a nest, with two eggs!

Read more about Winthrop Shore Reservation here.

Winthrop Shore Reservation Nesting Bird Observers

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #4, WINTHROP BEACH IS AMAZING, AND LOTS OF SEX ON THE BEACH

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #4, WINTHROP BEACH IS AMAZING, AND LOTS OF SEX ON THE BEACHPiping Plover Mama and Chick, Winthrop Beach

Recently an “Anonymous” person made a comment on the post “Heartbreaking to See the Piping Plovers Nesting in the Good Harbor Beach Parking Lot.” The name Anonymous is placed in quotes, because the commenter is so oddly uninformed and factually incorrect, I am wondering if an actual Winthrop resident even wrote the comment. Anyway, here is the comment:

“I live in Winthrop. One pair nested on Winthrop Beach about 6 years ago. Now there are 7 nesting pairs. 80% of the beach is now roped off for the plovers. They are rarely successful and keep trying to breed until August. Gloucester needs to determine whether it would like the income from parking or a successful plover population on one of its nicest recreational beaches. I was at Good Harbor the other day and it appears that there is not much of a sandy beach left to use. I realize the birds are endangered and federal law protects them. Gloucester may have to by law pay for 24 hour security like they do in Plymouth.”

Just like the towns of Gloucester and Revere, Winthrop has a beautiful beach (officially named Winthrop Shores Reservation), which within the last decade has become home to nesting shorebirds. Both Revere and Winthrop beaches are managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and both Revere Beach and Winthrop Beach have been on my to do list of places to visit to learn how other communities in Massachusetts manage their nesting shorebird populations.

Least Tern Nesting

Revere and Winthrop Beaches are relatively narrow at high tide, similar to Good Harbor Beach, and both beaches run adjacent to densely populated urban neighborhoods. I have been making good use of my commute from Cambridge and Boston to Gloucester this spring by regularly visiting Revere Beach, and have now added Winthrop Beach. I am so glad that I did! Go to Winthrop Beach if you have never been, or haven’t been in recent years. It is a delight in every way. Visitors sunbathe, picnic, windsurf, paddle board, ride bikes, hold hands, walk their babies, and do all the things visitors do at our Gloucester beaches. You don’t need a sticker to park, and parking is free, if you can get a spot along the main thoroughfare.

Winthrop Beach wasn’t always beautiful. Over the course of the past one hundred years, the devastating effects of pollution and erosion had washed the sand off shore, causing the beach to dip twenty feet below the seawall in some areas. This meant that every time there was a major storm, the waves were not slowed by a gradually inclining beach, but instead slammed into the seawall, flooding streets and homes, and further eroding the foundation of the seawall.

Despite this, in 2008, two pairs of Piping Plovers began nesting at Winthrop Beach. Not only has Winthrop Beach become home to nesting PiPls, at least ninety pairs of Least Terns (Sternula antillarum), a similarly threatened species of shorebirds, have also begun to nest there. The endangered Red Knot (Calidriss canutus), along with a locally nesting pair of American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliates) forage at Winthrop Beach as well.

One half of Winthrop’s resident American Oystercatcher breeding pair.

Winthrop Beach is in the midst of a 31 million dollar restoration project. To renourish the beach, 500,000 cubic yards of sand have been distributed along the one-mile stretch, the seawall has been rebuilt, improvements to beach access and amenities have been made, road repairs to Winthrop Shore Drive completed, sidewalks widened and made handicap accessible, and gorgeous new lighting is being installed.

During the Winthrop Beach major renovation project, care was taken to protect the Piping Plovers and by 2017, the population had quadrupled. Unfortunately, despite the community’s best efforts, 2017 was an unusually bad year. No chicks fledged due to predation by a male American Kestrel. The Kestrel was subsequently captured and moved to the western part of the state.

Massachusetts holds about 30 to 40 percent of the world’s population of Piping Plovers. It is a testament to our clean beaches and water. The Piping Plover’s diet consists of invertebrates and insects, and both require a clean environment.

From my observation during the past several weeks, there are only two roped off areas; one small, similar in size to GHB nesting area #3, and the other, about three times larger. The thing is, the large area is comprised of a restricted dune restoration project and the other part is filled with popples and cobbles, not in the least an ideal location to sunbathe or picnic. There is a wide sandy area in the center of the beach for recreation. Each time that I have been there, including the Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, there were very few people on the beach. The only people I had a free moment to speak with, a group of young women that live directly across from the cordoned off area, said they LOVE that their beach is home to the nesting shorebirds. The point is, just as exists at Good Harbor Beach, there is plenty of room to share the shore.

The shorebird nesting area is pebbly and part of a dune restoration project.

The “Five Sisters” breakwater area is well loved by windsurfers and paddle boarders as well as a favored habitat by foraging shorebirds.

Beautiful Beach Pea (Lathyrus maritimous) growing in the restored dune/shorebird nesting area.

Access to Winthrop Beach is restricted by what appears to be a complete lack of public parking. Even with no one on the beach, it has been difficult to find a spot to park on the main drive along the beach, and it is not yet summer time.

On my first visit to Winthrop Beach, the timing could not have been more perfect. Least Terns and Piping Plovers were mating like crazy. It was wonderful to observe both species mating dances and rituals, and both are unique to each other. I’ll post more about the Least Terns courting, essentially “sex in exchange for fish,” as it was so terribly funny to observe.

Least Terns Mating. Males offer a minnow to a prospective female. She will allow him to mount her while simultaneously taking the fish although, sometimes the females take the fish before mating and fly off.

I’ve been back several times since and have seen some courtship displays, but nothing like the free for all of the first visit. There was however a newly hatched Piping Plover family of four tiny little chicks. And one of the pairs of Piping Plovers that I had observed mating is now nesting!

Piping Plovers Mating 1) The male’s high stepping dance, asking the female if she is interested. She says yes by positioning herself with her rear end tilted upward. 2) He dances on her back. 3) The Plovers join cloaca to cloaca 4)Invariably, love making ends with a not too nice sharp nip from the male.

The mating pair are now nesting, with at least three eggs in the nest!

Camouflaged! Can you spot the four birds in the above photo?

Just south of Winthrop Shore Reservation is Winthrop’s Yirrell Beach and it is home to several nesting Piping Plover pairs, as well as a pair of nesting American Oystercatchers.

Point Shirley and Crystal Cove with views of the Boston skyline

OUTSTANDING PIPING PLOVER GROWTH CHART

Friend Dawn Vesey shared the Piping Plover Growth Chart to my facebook timeline and I thought our plover lovers would appreciate seeing. The chart was made by Jim Verhagen and he has offered a high resolution version, gratis, to anyone who would like it for education/research purposes. Contact Jim via his website “Readings from the Northside.”

 

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

Confident Little Chick

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

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

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

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

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

Twenty-day-old Piping Plover Chick

Chick Yoga

Piping Plover chick yoga that is, mastering Warrior Three.A funny little morning stretch the PiPl chicks do often.

What Do Piping Plovers Eat?

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

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

Run, Stop, Peck

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

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

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

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

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