Tag Archives: piping plover eggs

REMINDER: PIPING PLOVER INFORMATIONAL MEETING THURSDAY JUNE 16TH AT 5:45PM

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

A reminder of our Piping Plover informational meeting this Thursday the 16th, at 5:45 pm, at area #3. For new PiPl friends, park in the lot at the far end, near Boardwalk #3. Walk down the boardwalk and turn right towards the footbridge. You will see the symbolically roped off area and we will meet there. I am looking forward to seeing everyone, old and new <3

We are looking for more volunteers. If you know someone who would like to help, please feel free to bring them to the meeting and please share my email.

Mini-update on our GHB nesting pairs. Both Moms were on the nests this morning while both Dads were foraging at the tidal flats and in the wrack. Everyone looks healthy and ready for chicks! There was hardly any trash on the beach, which was wonderful to see. Thank you Gloucester’s DPW beach crew!

#3 Dad eating a Painted Lady Butterfly

#3 Mom on the nest, well-camouflaged in beach grass

There are many tracks in Area #2 and I am hoping perhaps, if Cape Hedge Mom is still alive, we will have a renest there, but there are no nest scrapes, only footprints. We’ll keep checking.

Thank you to all our PiPl friends, old and new. We’ll see you Thursday!
Warmest wishes,
xxKim

#1 Mom on the nest, next to a shoot of Sea Rocket

#1 Dad preening

ALL FOUR CHICKS MISSING/KILLED – REST IN PEACE SWEET CAPE HEDGE PLOVER FAMILY

Dear PiPl Friends,

We’re so very sorry to write that all four Cape Hedge Plover chicks, and possibly Mom, are gone. The Dad was last seen yesterday. The chick in the above photo was found in the intertidal zone at the end of day by PiPl Ambassador DBrown

I think as a community we can do better than this. We have let the Plovers down. Speaking for myself, not only let the Plovers down, but the community. I had to attend a funeral out of state the day after the chicks hatched but had been hoping the chicks would hatch after we returned, not prior to. Their nest was so well-hidden we didn’t learn about it until after it was well-established and had no clear idea of the hatch date.

There is a slim possibility that if the Mom is still alive she will return and renest this season. This scenario seems unlikely though because no one has seen her. Plovers will renest up to five times in the same season. And Plovers typically return to the same nesting site every year. If we do have a renest this year we will be more organized in our ability to help the Plovers.

We are not experts by any means however, we PiPl Ambassadors in Gloucester have six, going on seven, years of experience learning about how people and Plovers can coexist on a beach. We are willing to help and share everything we have learned with our Rockport neighbors because I believe that to a Plover’s way of thinking, Good Harbor to Cape Hedge is just one long continuous beach.

Suggestions on moving forward –

In speaking to people on the beach there was a great deal of confusion about the Plover’s life cycle. For example, folks thought the chicks needed to be “rescued” when they were up on the rocks doing their thing foraging away from an adult. Beachgoers did not get the information that Plover chicks, after only several hours from hatching, begin foraging on their own.

A large, clearly visible basic informational Piping Plover dos and don’ts sign at both ends of the beach entrances/parking areas would go a long way in helping to educate beachgoers what to do and what not to do when a Plover chick or adult is seen on the beach.

I have developed a fun, informational program to help communities better understand the Piping Plover life story and how we can become better stewards. I am happy to present this program, free of charge, to any Rockport community organization that would like to host us.

I met a photographer on the beach Tuesday, I believe it was. I watched as she followed Cape Hedge Dad Plover up and down the beach, much too closely, with an 800mm lens. When gently suggested in a chatty way she move back, she said to the effect, not to worry, she hates other photographers as they get too close, but she on the other hand was conscious not to disrupt.  I didn’t argue with her however, this was a complete fallacy on her part. She was too close, and following a bird, any bird, at close range for over an hour, especially a bird that is not familiar with you, is incredibly disruptive. With a lens anywhere from 400 to 800mm, a person can capture beautifully cropped close-up images. Please, fellow photographers and Piping Plover observers, observe and take photos from at a minimum a hundred feet away and then move on.

Pet regulations on beaches must be posted in a timely fashion. Why even take them down? Both Rockport and Gloucester take down the summer beach regulations signs, which only causes confusion. If they are left in place year round, then it won’t come as a surprise when the summer regulations go into effect.  Other important informational signs are left in place year round.

The Rockport dog laws are clearly stated on the town’s website. No dogs are allowed on the beach beginning June 1st, yet as of today, June 8th, over the course of the past few days there have been countless dogs running Cape Hedge, both on and off leash. The folks on the beach with dogs that we have spoken with are under the impression the leash laws go into effect on June 15th. There is no signage alerting people to the leash laws. Four beautiful and perfectly healthy chicks hatched overnight May 31st to June 1st , at the time of year when the dogs are prohibited from the beach. We need the town government to take seriously the protection of threatened and endangered species and to define what their role is in helping provide protections.

I would be happy to speak with anyone about suggestions for better protecting the Plovers. Please leave a comment, email at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com, or PM me on Facebook with a phone number if you would prefer to talk.

Very best,

xxKim

Every other type of sign, but where are the no dogs on beach signs? We were assured the signs would be posted by June 1st.

Town of Rockport Animal Control website page unambiguously states no dogs allowed June 1st through September 15th.

TENDER TINY EPHEMERAL BEINGS – BEAUTIFUL HOURS OLD PIPING PLOVERS IN THE POPPLES

Overnight on May 31st, the precious Cape Hedge Piping Plover chicks hatched. The photos of these tender tiny ephemeral beings were taken the morning of June 1st when the chicks were only several hours old. In all the photos of the chicks you can still see their teeny white egg tooth, which falls off after a day or so. The hatchlings use their sharp egg tooth to pip, or peck, their way out of the egg shell.

 

The most well-camouflaged nest in Massachusetts –

THE FINAL GRAND TOTAL OF PIPING PLOVER EGGS!

Dear PiPl Friends,
Happy Memorial Day. I hope you are spending the day with family and friends <3

We have a whopping new grand total of Piping Plover eggs for Cape Ann’s eastern shore and it is an even dozen! This morning when I stopped by for PiPl check in, Salt Island Dad popped off the nest to reveal a fourth egg. All three Cape Ann PiPl families are brooding nests with four eggs in each. We are so blessed to see their beautiful life story unfold!

An added note about the nesting pair at #1, the Salt Island side of Good Harbor Beach – The pair first had a nest of three eggs up in the dune grass. We think it was predated, possibly by a seagull. There were no tracks near the nest and the only evidence found was one crushed egg.

#1 Salt Island original nest

After the first clutch of eggs disappeared, the pair immediately began setting up house away from the grass and closer to the wrack line. Piping Plovers will attempt to re-nest up to five times. The pair eventually settled on a scrape behind a mini mound of dried seaweed, albeit a more vulnerable location than the first.

Salt Island renest

As of today, the Salt Island pair have a nest of four, for a total of seven eggs laid over the past several weeks. Egg laying takes a toll on the Mom. At Good Harbor we now have handicapped Mom at #3 and over extended Mom at #1. When you see Plovers on the beach resting and foraging, please give them lots and lots of space and let them be to do their thing. Thank you!

Tired Mama at #1

Handicapped Mom at #3

GRAND TOTAL CAPE ANN PIPING PLOVER EGGS IN NEST COUNT

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

Joyful update to share from Cape Ann PiPl nest check-up this morning –

Cape Hedge

The Cape Hedge Plover parent’s are doing an excellent job guarding their clutch of four eggs, the most well-camouflaged nest in Massachusetts, as our state coastal waterbird biologist Carolyn Mostello refers to the nest. There was a Coyote scavenging around the wrack line near the nest but Mom and Dad went into full protective mode trying to distract. The “broken wing” display wasn’t too necessary though as the second the Coyote saw me, he/she hightailed into the marsh.

Area #1 Salt Island

Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer installed the exclosure at #1 (Salt Island end of the beach) yesterday afternoon and there are now three eggs in the nest! The Salt Island pair are not yet brooding full time and still continuing to mate. Quite possibly, we’ll have a fourth egg at #1. This little Mama has up to this point laid a total of six eggs, three in the first nest, which we think was predated, and three currently.

Area #3 Saratoga CreeK

In saving the best for last, our amazing handicapped Mom and ever vigilant Super Dad at #3 now have FOUR eggs in the nest. Mom popped off for a brief moment and I was “ploverjoyed” to see a fourth egg. I am not sure when this last egg was laid. It’s going to be a challenge to gauge when is the hatch date but I am working on that this weekend. *Borrowing the expression #ploverjoyed from our PiPl friends at Conserve Wildlife New Jersey 🙂

GHB #3 Mom well-camouflaged on the nest this foggy, foggy morning

Cape Ann’s current grand total of eggs in nests is Eleven (with a possibility of one more).

Yesterday morning, City Councilor Jeff Worthley and I met at Good Harbor Beach. He was very interested in learning about the Plovers and their history at GHB. Jeff agreed that Martha’s idea to speak before the next City Council meeting was a good plan; the next full council meeting is June 14th. He also suggested we do a brief presentation before City Council. The presentation has to be pre-planned and approved by City council president, Valerie Gilman. I don’t know if it’s either/or, or if we would be able to do both. What are your thoughts, PiPl friends? I think also we should definitely plan a “lessons learned” meeting at the end of the season, per Jonathan’s suggestion.

The Good Harbor Beach pre-reservation parking system goes into effect today. Some of the issues will be alleviated with the DPW and parking crew present, restrooms open, and end-of-the school-year high school senior parties behind us. We will still have issues with intoxicated persons tromping through the protected nesting area, but not the sheer numbers as the past two weeks, and hopefully we will see stepped up police enforcement on the beach.

A very brief Monarch update – Monarchs are here (first sightings by friends MJ on the 21st and Patti on May 23rd!) We see them in gardens, meadows, and dunes. Many other species of butterflies, too, have been sighted, including Tiger Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, American Coppers, Common Ringlets, and Spring Azures. May 23rd is early in the season for Monarchs. About every ten years or so we have an extra wonderful year with butterflies. The last was 2012. We are due and perhaps 2022 will be one of those years 🙂

Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly has been invited to screen at the Essex National Heritage Pollinator Week Program on the evening of June 22nd. For more information go here. Also, Beauty on the Wing is an official selection at the Santa Barbara Film Awards.

If anyone stops by GHB or CHB this weekend, please let us know. I feel fairly confident that the nests at GHB are safe, ensconced in their exclosures, but we like to check regularly nonetheless.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with friends and family,
xoKim

Pair of Snow Egrets at Saratoga Creek

HANDICAPPED MOM AND DAD HAVE A NEST OF THREE! #ploverjoyed

Wonderful news for our handicapped Mom and Dad pair at #3. The eggs are safely ensconced in an exclosure, and the pair are brooding a nest of three!

Dad on the nest in the exclosure <3

Our deepest thanks and gratitude to Dave Rimmer, Director of Land Stewardship at Greenbelt for installing the exclosure and for his ongoing assistance with Cape Ann’s Plovers.  If you feel so inclined, please think about making a donation to Greenbelt in Dave’s name to thank Greenbelt for their strictly volunteer assistance over the past seven years. Donate page of Greenbelt here.

Handicapped Mom

Thank you to Everyone for your suggestions regarding Pollution, Urination, and the Underage Drinking Crisis at Good Harbor Beach. Thank you to Andrea Holbrook and Ethan Forman for “Gloucester Beaches Bustling Weekend Before Memorial Day” article in the Gloucester Daily Times for the coverage.

I have to say, we were collectively dismayed by the City’s sugar coated response to the issues at Good Harbor Beach as reported in the Times.

We have written to the Mayor’s office, all City Councilors, and Chief Conley. We have heard back from City Councilor Jeff Worthley. On Saturday, Jeff went from person to person at GHB to let them know that the Creek was contaminated and on Sunday had signs posted by the board of health. During the 1990s, Jeff worked at Good Harbor Beach for five summers and that first summer, when he was only 19 years old, made a list of 25 suggestions on how to improve GHB. Two of those suggestions included opening earlier in the year and dune restoration! We are very much looking forward to meeting with Jeff.

PLOVERS IN THE POPPLES MOST EXQUISITELY CAMOUFLAGED NEST!

Our Cape Hedge “Plovers in the Popples” pair have a nest of four eggs! It’s extraordinarily beautiful in how well the eggs blend with the surrounding popples.

Popple Camo!

Tuesday morning the symbolically roped off area was installed by Mass Fish and Wildlife. For friends new to Plover protections, the roping is placed around the nesting area to keep people and pets away from the nest. Signs will be going up shortly. If you are on the beach, please do not stand right up next to, or hover around the roping. We would have liked to have made the area ten feet deeper, but because of the high tide line, it wasn’t possible. Please, please give the birds lots and lots of space. Thank you!

The fantastic thing about the roping installed by Mass Wildlife is that it is four heights of rope, from several inches off the ground to waist height, which really helps keep pets and little persons from slipping through.

Many, many thanks to Carolyn Mostello, the Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird Biologist for coordinating the installation, to Mass Wildlife technicians Joshua and Derek, and special thanks to Rockport resident and Cape Hedge neighbor Sue Catalogna for her great communication with the Cape Hedge plovers <3

Joshua and Derek

Mom and Dad taking turns on the nest

Can you spot the nest?

OUR BEAUTIFUL MOM HAS LOST HER FOOT

A story of patience, fidelity, resilience, and hope 

You may recall that last year our Piping Plover Mom’s foot became entangled in what appeared to be both dried seaweed and monofilament. Mom visibly struggled with her foot entanglement. Although initially she could still thermoregulate the chicks and stayed nearby, we began to see less and less of her. Much of the parenting of chicks was left to Dad as she was infrequently seen lying low in the tall beach grass. We wondered if she even made it through the summer.

Mom’s very painful looking injury caused her to behave as though she was trying to adapt to the awkwardness of carrying a ball and chain. Sometimes the chicks would get caught in the seaweed and monofilament entanglement and she was continuously pulling at it, trying to remove.

Fast forward to April of this year. For a month we have had a new pair of Plovers attempting to nest, first at area #3, the original pair of Plover’s original nesting site (beginning in 2016), and then I believe shifting further north up the beach, toward Salt Island. I checked on that pair on Wednesday morning, the fifth, just before leaving for Ohio and despite the unseasonably cool temperatures and rough winds, everything was as it should be in Ploverville.

Upon our return Monday morning all had turned upside down in the world of Plover nesting. It took me a day to understand what had taken place.  Miraculously, our original Mom and Dad have returned to #3. We are overjoyed to see them both, Mom especially, but the bittersweet of it is that she has lost her foot.

Dad is clearly eager to mate but, for lack of a better word, is being extraordinarily patient with Mom. She spent the first few days after arriving quietly lying in the grass, so much so we were becoming concerned. But Mom has rallied and is showing interest in Dad and his nest scrapes. He is very attentive, staying nearby and defending her against real and imagined intruders. We all got a laugh when Assistant Library Director Beth Pocock’s commented, “Not very Darwinian of him.”

Dad in one of his nest scrapes

The pair are approximately five weeks later in arriving than the past several years.  It’s not entirely unexpected that Mom’s foot has been amputated by the monofilament and seaweed wrapped so tightly that it was cutting off her circulation. Plovers historically have survived with one foot/leg. One of the most common reasons for loss of foot or leg is when debris becomes caught in a leg band on Plovers that have been banded. The thing is, it is taking double the amount of effort for Mom to do things that Plovers ordinarily do daily. Her gait step is twice as many steps as compared to Dad’s. She is spending a good amount of time lying down, rather than standing.

Piping Plovers show tremendous fidelity to each other and to their nesting site. Our Good Harbor Beach Original Plovers are fantastically resilient — recalling just one of their many trials and adventures — the year they nested in the parking lot, driven to this measure by the plethora of dogs allowed off leash by their owners; dogs running and  prancing through the  Plover’s roped off area disrupting their nesting.

Will Mom be able to breed and take care of chicks this summer? Only time will tell. But because  she is now “handicapped,” it’s imperative that we eliminate all disturbances.

Mom is able to use her peg leg to scratch an itch

On Saturday, we had a serious problem with several very large groups of teens drinking, creating a mountain of trash, playing in the nesting area, and running through the area to use the dunes as their bathroom. Their complete disregard of the clearly marked off area destroyed the Plover’s nest scrapes, which are the potential possible sites for eggs. The police were called. The officers were very patient with the teens. One girl in particular was extremely rude to the officers, barely coherent and nearly falling down drunk.  It took more patience than you can possibly imagine for the officers to de-escalate as they did.  It wasn’t until the police appeared that the teens began attempting to clean up their trash, which without the officer’s insistence that they clean up, surely would have resulted in the more than one huge trash bag that I filled this morning.

These were not local kids but we have to do better than this as a community. There must be a way to have some authority figure patrol the beach on warm spring and summer afternoons. These teens were completely smashed and the amount of trash from alcoholic beverages was astounding. As soon as the officers appeared on the beach, the teens began to clean up their behavior, language, and garbage. But I don’t believe it should have gotten to this point.

We’ll keep an eye on the weather and we Ambassadors will mobilize on the next warm beach day but frankly, we have very little authority. None of us feel safe approaching a group of 30 or 40 unruly and intoxicated (and foul mouthed as was the case Saturday) teens. Truly, the ideal solution is to assign an officer or ranger to patrol the beach on warm afternoons and evenings.

If anyone sees people rough housing in, playing in, or repeatedly entering the roped off areas, please call the police and explain what you are seeing. If a nest with eggs or an adult or a chick is harmed in any way or killed by this kind of behavior, that is considered a “take” by both state and federal regulations. The City and the individuals responsible are liable for thousands of dollars in fines and potential closure of Good Harbor Beach. Our mission is to keep our beautiful GHB open for everyone and to keep our Plovers safe.From Saturday – how people treat our beautiful beach – trash on the beach brings crows and gulls, which eat Plover eggs and chicks

 

THANK YOU SAWYER FREE LIBRARY AND GUESTS! AND COINCIDENTALLY, TODAY IS WORLD MIGRATORY BIRD DAY!

Thank you to Jennifer Santomauro, Beth Pocock, and Linda Bossleman at the Sawyer Free Library and to everyone who came to the Piping Plover program this afternoon. Despite the gorgeous weather and protest marches nationwide, we had a wonderful group of interested attendees. It’s the first in-person presentation I’ve given in several years and I just want to thank everyone so much for coming.

World Migratory Bird Day is held annually on the second Saturday of May (May 14th in 2022).This year’s WMBD focuses on the impact of light pollution on migratory birds.

“Most birds migrate at night. They have been doing this for eons, as a night sky typically means calmer air space and fewer predators. Nocturnally migrating birds include ducks and geese, plovers and sandpipers, and songbirds of all kinds. These birds may travel thousands of miles between their breeding and non-breeding grounds.

However, the night sky is under threat. Artificial light is increasing globally by at least two percent a year, presenting a problem for birds. Light pollution from homes, businesses, and other infrastructure attracts and disorients migrating birds, making them more likely to land in dangerous areas where they are more vulnerable to collisions and predation. Artificial light also impacts birds in the breeding and winter seasons, disrupting feeding and other vital behaviors.

In 2022, the impact of light pollution is the focus of World Migratory Bird Day, an annual global campaign that celebrates the migration of birds across countries and continents. Throughout the year we will spread the message to “dim the lights for birds at night” and highlight the steps that individuals, communities, and governments can take to reduce the impact of light pollution on our shared birds.”

One of the featured species in WMBD 2022 is the Baltimore Oriole (as seen in the above illustration)!

 

Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)

Length: 8.3” (21.1cm)

Wingspan: 11.5” (29.2cm)

Weight: 1.2oz (34g)

You may find this colorful member of the blackbird family in open woodlands, parks, or even your backyard. It eats a lot of insects, especially caterpillars, as well as fruit and nectar. Baltimore Orioles and many other songbirds need dark skies to safely migrate—you can help by reducing the amount of light outside your home at night.

Conservation Status: Low Concern

WHAT IS WORLD MIGRATORY BIRD DAY?

In 1993, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center created International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). This educational campaign focused on the Western Hemisphere celebrated its 25th year in 2018. Since 2007, IMBD has been coordinated by Environment for the Americas (EFTA), a non-profit organization that strives to connect people to bird conservation.

In 2018, EFTA joined the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) to create a single, global bird conservation education campaign, World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD). Continuing our tradition with IMBD, WMBD celebrates and brings attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas – bird migration.

This new alliance furthers migratory bird conservation around the globe by creating a worldwide campaign organized around the planet’s major migratory bird corridors, the African-Eurasian flyway, the East Asian-Australasian flyway, and the Americas flyway. By promoting the same event name, annual conservation theme, and messaging, we combine our voices into a global chorus to boost the urgent need for migratory bird conservation.

EFTA will continue to focus its efforts on the flyways in the Americas to highlight the need to conserve migratory birds and protect their habitats, and will continue to coordinate events, programs, and activities in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean at protected areas, refuges, parks, museums, schools, zoos, and more. As many as 700 events and programs are hosted annually to introduce the public to migratory birds and ways to conserve them.

READ MORE HERE

PIPING PLOVER UPDATE AND PLEASE JOIN ME SATURDAY FOR A FREE IN-PERSON PIPL PRESENTATION

Good afternoon PiPl Friends!

We returned Monday from a trip to visit my husband’s dear family in Ohio. If you can imagine, we were celebrating my father-in-law’s 97th birthday!! He is simply amazing and boasts his doctor told him he has the legs of a 70 year-old! We also squeezed in a trip to the butterfly exhibit at the Krohn Conservatory, the Cincinnati Zoo, and visited the old homestead located at the Hauck Botanical Gardens. And had the BEST BBQ at Eli’s Riverside. The Hauck Botanical Gardens, set in downtown Cincinnati, is a relatively small public park created decades ago by my father-in-law’s father (husband’s grandfather) and is richly planted with a collection of rare and North American native trees. Photos coming in a future post 🙂

A week away from Cape Ann’s Plovers and much has been taking place. The GHB PiPls are getting off to a slow start nesting this year and three solid days of fierce wind from the northeast is not helping matters. Yesterday morning there was a great deal of flying and piping at each other, but the funny thing was, they would take periodic breaks from skirmishing and huddle close to each other to get out of the wind.

The Cape Hedge Plover pair are settling in and I will have more on the CHB family towards the end of the week. The photo of the CHB Dad was taken Tuesday. He spent the better part of the time Charlotte and I were there trying to distract dogs that were running off leash.

Please join me Saturday at the Sawyer Free for a presentation about the Plovers (see below). Please feel free to wear a mask and please practice social distancing. Covid cases are on the rise in Gloucester (and everywhere) and I think I will be wearing a mask when not speaking.

I hope to see you there.
Warmest wishes,
Kim

Please join me at the Sawyer Free Library on Saturday, May 14th, at 2pm for a FREE in-person all ages presentation about the life story of the Piping Plover –

Why Give a Peep for Plovers?

The Piping Plover is one of only a handful of birds that nests on North Atlantic beaches. By learning about this tiny but most resilient of shorebirds, we gain a deeper understanding on how best to protect Piping Plovers and our shared coastal habitat.

Told through the lens of Kim Smith’s photo journal work, the Piping Plover’s life story is presented from migration to nesting to fledging. We’ll also cover the current status of the bird’s population, learn about where Piping Plovers spend the winter, and how communities and conservation organizations can work together to help Piping Plovers flourish for generations to come.

If you are new to or have ever considered joining our Piping Plover Ambassador group, this presentation is a great way to become introduced to Piping Plovers. Please come and learn more about these most lovable and charismatic shorebirds.

We hope to see you there!

WHY GIVE A PEEP FOR PLOVERS? SAVE THE DATE – PIPING PLOVER PRESENTATION AT THE SAWYER FREE LIBRARY!

Please join me at the Sawyer Free Library on Saturday, May 14th, at 2pm for a FREE in-person all ages presentation about the life story of the Piping Plover –

Why Give a Peep for Plovers?

The Piping Plover is one of only a handful of birds that nests on North Atlantic beaches. By learning about this tiny but most resilient of shorebirds, we gain a deeper understanding on how best to protect Piping Plovers and our shared coastal habitat.

Told through the lens of Kim Smith’s photo journal work, the Piping Plover’s life story is presented from migration to nesting to fledging. We’ll also cover the current status of the bird’s population, learn about where Piping Plovers spend the winter, and how communities and conservation organizations can work together to help Piping Plovers flourish for generations to come.

If you are new to or have ever considered joining our Piping Plover Ambassador group, this presentation is a great way to become introduced to Piping Plovers. Please come and learn more about these most lovable and charismatic shorebirds.

We hope to see you there!

GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER UPDATE

Our GHB Mom and Dad have, for the most part, been lying low during this recent cold snap. However, given the warming temps over the past few days, the pair has resumed courting. And our pair at Cape Hedge continues to spotted regularly. More PiPls will likely be arriving soon. I am so looking forward to the magical month of May in Massachusetts for the magnificent peak migration that takes place all along our shores.

Courtship has resumed!

Willets at Good Harbor Beach

Our beloved Good Harbor Beach is yet another reason to protect shorebirds. Where ever conservation measures have been put in place to help shorebirds, these same actions have had a profoundly positive impact on helping to protect coastlines.

 

HAPPY EASTER, HAPPY PASSOVER, JOYFUL SPRING!

Wishing dear friends and readers Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and a Joy-filled Spring 

Beauty everywhere you turn in these first few weeks of spring – the return of songbirds, shorebirds, and Osprey, blossoming trees, beach bunnies, and garden helpers.

Beach bunny, Piping Plovers courting, neighbor Melissa’s flowering plum tree, Charlotte, Osprey, Killdeer eggs, Piping Plover eggs, Cedar Waxwings courting, and male Eastern Bluebird wing waving

PIPING PLOVER UPDATE FROM GLORIOUS GOOD HARBOR BEACH – AND ADDRESSING SENIOR SKIP DAY

There appear to be two pairs of Piping Plovers at Good Harbor however, after another week of super highs tides, powerful winds and heavy rain, our Piping Plover nest scrapes have all but disappeared. Saturday afternoon all four were foraging in the outgoing tide. Two are our original pair, a third is a bossy territorial male, and the fourth wasn’t on the scene long enough to tell. Late Sunday afternoon found all four huddled together behind mini hummocks and divots escaping the whipping wind.

The highest tide of the spring (on the night of April 16), the one that brought in the heap of ghost fishing gear to GHB and a dead Minke Whale to Folly Cove, went straight away up to the base of the dune.  That tide washed away all active nest scrapes.

Storm tide night of April 16th brought ghost gear to GHB and a Minke Whale to Folly Cove

The high tide on the night of April 29th , although not quite as high as the tide two weeks earlier in April, again washed away all active nest scrapes. Hopefully, the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers will catch some better weather in May!

Note- the above update was written Sunday evening. On this mild Monday morning, I found Mama and Papa back to courting and nest scraping! 

At several of the other beaches that I am filming at, the nests and scrapes have not been disturbed by the tides. Here you can see this beautiful nest with three eggs as it was thankfully spared.

Senior Skip Days This past week there was reportedly a tremendous gathering of kids on Good Harbor Beach, for senior skip day. Thursday morning I was on the beach when about twenty or so arrived. We had several friendly conversations. They are good kids and were there simply to enjoy a fun day with their friends, something that we did not see much of last year because of the pandemic.

I was not in the least concerned for the safety of the Plovers. Because of the super high tides and as of this writing, there are currently no nests scrapes, no nests, and no chicks on the beach. Adult Plovers fly away if a person gets too close.

Later that afternoon, after reading the reports of hundreds of kids trashing the beach I stopped by again at GHB. There were again only about twenty kids. It had become so unpleasantly windy I didn’t stay long and can’t imagine the kids stayed much later. The following morning after another high tide there was only a smattering of cans and bottles half buried in the sand. I have to say, we see much, much worse harmful plastic pollution and garbage left behind on the beach by adults and families, especially after sporting events and parties, and of course, there is the ever present dog poop in plastic.

Party remnants after kid’s senior skip day – not great but we’ve all seen much, much worse…

such as the adult’s dog poop mess left at Wingaersheek Beach, May 1, 2021 

Our community has done a fantastic job in restricting pets from GHB, beginning April 1st, which makes the beach safer and cleaner for all. Joe Lucido and the Gloucester DPW are amazing in installing the symbolic roping to coincide with the Plovers arrival. These actions are the two most essential in helping Piping Plovers get off to a good start.

We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. So many of us have been isolated from our friends and family for many, many months. There will be tens of thousands of visitors to our shores this summer enjoying summer fun. People flock to Good Harbor Beach because they recognize it is a very special place. From daybreak til day’s end, everything about Good Harbor Beach is magnificent! The way the tides and wind change the landscape daily, the most glorious sunrises and rosy pink sunsets, views of the Twin Lighthouses, families strolling, sunbathing, surfing, kite flying, picnicking, volleyball playing, hikes to Salt Island, swimming (especially kids in the tidal creek!), dunes teaming with life, and the wild creatures attracted.

Once the chicks hatch, Plover Ambassadors will be on the beach throughout the day offering insights about the Plovers. I know we can all be tolerant and respectful towards each other and the wild creatures that find safe harbor at Good Harbor. I think it’s going to be a fantastic summer!

Piping Plover Ambassadors 2020

PIPL WEEKLY UPDATE AND HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SANDERLING AND A PIPING PLOVER

Earlier in the week, our PiPl pair were zooming  up and down the beach nest scraping hither and thither. They appear to be a bit calmer the past few days. Perhaps they are settling on a nesting location?? Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

Dad taking a much needed siesta

Our hope is Mom and Dad will have an early nest, which will give their babies the greatest chance of surviving. A second family of Plovers that I am documenting this year has laid their second egg. This pair arrived in Massachusetts the same day as did our GHB pair. It will be interesting to compare and contrast as the season progresses.

Please note – The eggs pictured are NOT at Good Harbor Beach, just making sure everyone understand this 🙂

Sanderlings are migrating northward and there are many currently foraging along our local beaches. Folks often confuse Sanderlings with Piping Plovers. The above sanderling is in non-breeding plumage, with somewhat similar coloring to Piping Plovers. You can faintly see some of the rusty breeding plumage coming in. Sanderlings have much longer bills and both bills and legs are black.Piping Plovers in breeding plumage have stout, orange bills that are tipped black, striking black collar and neck bands, a yellow orange ring around the eye, and orangish legs. As the PiPls plumage fades later in the season, from a distance especially it can be hard for people to to tell the two apart.

Sanderlings foraging

FIRST PLOVER EGG OF THE SPRING!

Although not photographed at Good Harbor Beach but at one of the many locations where I am documenting Piping Plovers, the egg is noteworthy because the pair of Plovers that laid this egg arrived in Massachusetts the same week as did our Good Harbor Beach pair.Precious wildlife eggs symbolizing new life and fresh beginnings, glowing pearlescent and arrestingly beautiful in myriad sizes and colors. Piping Plover egg laid April 20, 2021

PIPING PLOVER MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND UPDATE

HAPPY NESTING AND HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY FRIENDS!

Mama on the nest

Our GHB Piping Plover family is doing beautifully and all appears to be going as expected. It’s almost been a week since the PiPls began incubating the eggs full time. Mama Pippi and Big Papi take turns at the nest, in approximately 20 to 30 minute intervals. The “changing of the guards” happens in seconds, but you can catch a glimpse of the eggs in the nest during the switch.

Pippi and Papi changing places. You can see in the above photo all four eggs are present and accounted for.

The Bachelor is still around, and he is clearly unhappy, skulking in sandy depressions, and causing Papa to give him chase down the beach.

Big Papi lying in wait and readying to ambush the Bachelor

I have been filming PiPls at area beaches and our pair is on a similar egg laying schedule as several other pairs. It’s super interesting tracking all and noting the (mostly) similarities and some differences. At one location, the pair are nesting under a stick, just as are the GHB pair.

Our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers at the nest last Friday, before the wire exclosure was installed. Note what an awesome location they chose this year–it’s behind a rise of sand and is surrounded by plenty of twigs, dry seaweed, and bits of shell to help provide additional camouflage.

Piping Plover Dad nesting at a neighboring beach

THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT PLOVERS – The story of a remarkably spirited pair of birds and how a community came together to help in their struggle for survival 

The Good Harbor Beach Parking Lot Plover

The story of a remarkably spirited pair of birds and how a community came together to help in their struggle for survival 

By Kim Smith

May 6, 2019

For the past four years, beginning in May of 2016, a pair of Piping Plovers has been calling the sandy shores of Good Harbor Beach their home. Located in the seaside city of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Good Harbor Beach is the city’s most popular beach. Visitors are attracted to her natural beauty, soft sandy beach, and gently sloping shoreline. Good Harbor Beach provides a beautiful and well-kept location for every kind of fun-in-the-sun activity, and beachgoers can be found swimming, sunbathing, surfing, picnicking, volleyball playing, jogging, strolling, kite flying, and wind surfing. Even weddings take place at Gloucester’s welcoming “little good harbor” at the edge of the sea.

The Piping Plovers arrive from where no one knows for sure. Perhaps they wintered at the wide sandy beaches of North Carolina’s Cape Lookout, or further south at the highly productive tidal flats of the Laguna Madre in Texas, or southwestward at the remote Turks and Caicos Island of Little Water Cay. What we do know is the pair is arriving earlier and earlier each spring. Is it because they are older and are more familiar with landmarks marking the migratory route? Do they arrive earlier because they are stronger flyers, or because they now have a specific destination in mind?

Piping Plovers winter primarily along Gulf Coast beaches from Florida to northern Mexico, along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Florida, and at Caribbean Islands.

For whatever reason, in 2018, the male and female arrived at Good Harbor Beach in early April.

That year coastal regions all along the Eastern seaboard had been devastated by four late winter nor’easters and Good Harbor was no exception. The beach had narrowed greatly while great expanses of dune had eroded or simply disappeared.

Soon several more Piping Plovers, and a single Dunlin, arrived to join the scene. The small flock of shorebirds appeared weary after what must have been a wild and windy northward migration, and all spent several days recuperating by resting on the beach and foraging at the tidal flats.

Foraging and flying through spring wind storms and snow squalls.

Despite April snow squalls and a changed landscape, the Piping Plover mated pair set about reclaiming their previous years’ nesting site.

Mama Plover, left, and Papa Plover, right, shortly after arriving in April 2018

Piping Plovers are a shorebird so small you can easily hold one in the palm of your hand. They have a rounded head and rounded body feathered in coastal hues of sand and driftwood. Their jet-black eyes are large and expressive while slender yellow-orange legs propel them around the beach with lightning speed.

During the breeding season, the bill appears orange with a black tip, and both male and female sport a distinguishing crescent-shaped head band and black collar around the neck. All markings may be more pronounced in the male. By summer’s end, the collars and crowns of both male and female fade to gray and the bill becomes a solid black.

The Piping Plover’s (Charadrius melodus) name comes from the characteristic piping vocalizations the birds make. Warning of pending danger, the adult’s calls are sharply rattling. When parents are piping to their chicks, the peeps are softly melodic and barely audible. The most notable of all is the repetitious piping Papa makes to Mama, calling her to join him in courtship.

Within several days after arriving, the Good Harbor Beach Mama and Papa were courting and making nest scrapes on the sandy beach.

What does Piping Plover courtship look like? The male makes a small nest scrape in the sand about three to four inches in diameter, and only as deep as the saucer of a teacup. The scrape is not often tucked under vegetation or in the dunes, but sited between the wrack line and edge of the dune, open and exposed to all the world.

He pipes his mating call, urging the female to come inspect his handiwork, his mere little scrape. He’ll continue to pipe while tossing bits of seashells, dried seaweed, or tiny pebbles into the nest scrape. If she is enticed, and that is a very big if, she will make her way to the nest scrape.

The male will continue refining the scrape, vigorously digging, with his legs going a mile a minute and sand flying in every direction. If he’s proven his nest building skills, she’ll peer into the nest. With tail feathers fanned widely, he then bows. The female not only inspects the nest, but the male’s cloaca, the V-shaped vent on the underside of a bird that is the opening to its digestive and reproductive tracts. If she decides to stay a moment longer, the male stands at attention with chest expanded while doing a high stepping dance around the female.

When and if satisfied with all her mate has to offer, she will position herself to allow the male to mount her. He dances more high steps upon her back in preparation for the “cloacal kiss,” where they touch cloaca to cloaca. It only takes a few seconds for sperm to be transferred to the female. Up to this point all has appeared rather courtly and refined, so it is always surprising to observe the last bit of the mating encounter where the male holds the female down to the ground with a rough hold on her neck for several more moments, after which she will pick herself up and run off. From separate stances, they end with a round of preening before then dozing off or zipping off to the shoreline to forage for food.

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers courtship and mating

Enter the troublesome “Bachelor.” Each year, the Good Harbor Beach nesting pair have an unmated male joining the mating game, and does he ever like to cause trouble. The Bachelor is constantly in the pair’s established territory, not only trying to trick Mama into mating with him, but later in the season will fly aggressively at the young chicks and fledglings.

The “Bachelor”

Countless Piping Plover smackdowns ensue, where the Papa and the Bachelor repeatedly run pell-mell torpedo-like towards each other, then puffing out their feathers to appear larger, brandishing their wings and oftentimes biting, and then retreating. Sometimes the female joins the battle with a flourish of wings and both do figure eight flights and run-abouts all around the Bachelor. At other times, she watches from a distance as the two duke it out. Most often the dual ends with the mated pair heading to their respective corner of the beach, while the lonely Bachelor lays low.

Trouble with unmated males, “disrupters,” so to speak, is not uncommon to the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. A great deal of time and energy is spent by males defending their territories from other males.

Piping Plover Smackdown

Depending on weather and air temperature, the female begins laying eggs in the nest scrape. In Massachusetts, this usually takes place near towards the end of April or at the beginning of May. Stormy weather, cooler temperatures, and disturbances by dogs often result in delayed nesting. She usually lays four eggs, less typically three. She does not lay all the eggs all at once, but one every day, or every other day, over an approximate week-long period.

Not until three eggs have been laid do the plovers begin continuously sitting on the nest. During daylight hours, both the male and female take equal turns brooding the eggs. The “changing of the guard” takes place in half hour intervals and the nest is never left unprotected, unless a predator is being chased off the scene.

The Atlantic Coast breeding population has more than doubled, from 790 pairs when it was first listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1986. Over these past thirty-plus years, collaborating conservation organizations throughout the bird’s breeding regions have devised a practical way to help keep people and pets out of endangered and threatened shorebird nesting areas. Symbolic areas are roped off, with “keep out” signs that explain to beachgoers about the nesting birds.

DCR symbolic fencing

In 2018, the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair arrived on April 3, nearly a month earlier than in previous years. At the time of their arrival, the citywide leash laws allowed for dogs on the beach during the month of April; however, symbolic fencing was installed and a designated area was clearly defined. The mated pair began to zero in on one particular nest scrape only a few feet away from where they had nested the prior two years.

Piping Plover eggs, chicks, and hatchlings are subject to predation, mostly from avian predators, and largely by crows and gulls. Adult Piping Plovers perceive all canids as threats, whether a dog on leash, a dog off leash, fox, or coyote, largely because fox eat Piping Plover eggs and because off-leash dogs chase shorebirds, inadvertently step on the eggs, and with their curious nature, generally disrupt the nesting area.

Vandalism, bonfires and dog disturbance in the nesting area

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers were no exception. Because of the constant disruption by dogs running off leash through the roped off nesting area at Good Harbor Beach, the pair were shunted off the beach and began spending their days huddled on the white lines in the adjacent parking lot. After several warm April weekend beach days, when each day there were several hundred off leash dogs, with dozens tearing through the nesting area, on April 22 the birds made their first nest scrape on one of the white lines in the parking lot.

To you and I, nesting in the parking lot may seem like a crazy alternative, but when you think about it, their solution was really quite smart. At Good Harbor Beach during the month of April, there is street parking for beachgoers and few, if any, cars are in the parking lot. Most people are walking their pets on the beach, not in the lot. And the painted white lines provide camouflage in much the same way as does beach sand.

Parking lot nest scrape, 2018

Calls for help were made to the community, urgently requesting that people keep their off leash dogs out of the roped off nesting areas. Many people made an effort to control their dogs, but many did not, and on May 5, the first egg was laid in the parking lot nest.

Within hours after the egg was discovered, Gloucester’s DPW crew, under the direction of Mike Hale and Joe Lucido, erected a barricade around the nest so that the egg would not be run over by a vehicle. Many in the community rallied around the displaced plover family. After the second egg was laid, Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship at Essex County Greenbelt Association, along with his assistant Mike Carbone, placed around the nest a wire exclosure.

Kevin Mazzeo, Phil Cucuru, Kenny Ryan, Joe Lucido, and Steve Peters were immediately on the job, placing a barricade around the nest.

An exclosure is used to protect the eggs of threatened and endangered species. The structure is approximately four feet in diameter, constructed with wire that allows the birds and chicks to run freely through the openings, but is too small an opening to allow most predators to enter.

A group of dedicated Piping Plover volunteer monitors set up camp in the parking lot and began monitoring the nest from sunrise to sunset. It was a highly unnatural situation and distressing to observe the birds brooding the eggs while also trying to defend their foraging territory on the beach. Piping Plover mated pairs communicate constantly with piping calls, and with one in the parking lot sitting on the nest and the other on the beach foraging, they were beyond hearing range from one another.

Mama on the parking lot nest


As the chick’s hatching day drew closer, advice was sought from John Regosin, deputy director of MassWildlife, on how to help the Piping Plover family return to the beach after the chicks had hatched.

MassWildlife Intern Jasmine Weber and local resident Aunt Terry Weber

On a sunny June afternoon, the chicks began hatching. By early morning the following day, on June 9, all four perfect tiny chicks had hatched.

Piping Plover chicks are impossibly adorable. Unlike songbirds that hatch blind, naked, and helpless, Piping Plover chicks are precocial, which means that within hours of emerging they are able to move about and feed themselves. Weighing about as much as a nickel, the downy balls of fluff are at first clumsy, falling over themselves and tripping about on oversized feet. Although they can feed themselves, the hatchlings are not completely mature and still need parents to help regulate their body temperature. The chicks snuggle under Mom and Dad for warmth and protection.