It’s not unusual to see Piping Plovers take a faceplant while learning to navigate beach terrain, resilient little tumblers that they are!
Hello PiPl Friends,
Just a reminder that our Piping Plover Ambassador informational meeting is tomorrow, Sunday, June 6th, at 5pm. We will meet at the footbridge side of the beach, by the symbolically roped off area. Please feel free to ask questions and bring up any concerns.
I do want to mention one very important topic ahead of time in case everyone can’t attend. Last year we had an issue with teenage boys late in the afternoon. Our objective as ambassadors is to help educate as well as to deescalate every situation. Especially when speaking with teenage boys after a hot sunny beach day and there may be underage drinking in the mix, the best we can do is not get into any discussions, but to try to keep a good eye on the chicks and sort of place your person in-between the culprits and the chicks. Please do not engage verbally, especially if they start taunting pro-Trump rhetoric, etc., as happened last year. We do not want to engage in any political discussions whatsoever. If persons are being very rude and threatening, please call the police. I would like everyone to have the police and animal control on speed dial on their phones.
Animal Control (Jamie and Teagan): 978-281-9746
Gloucester Police: 978-283-1212
I am not trying to frighten anyone and incidents usually only occur once a summer, if that. But in thinking about how on edge people are on airplanes and equally how folks are super eager to have fun on the beach, our mission at all times is to deescalate.
All that being said, I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow!
The best plover story of the week to share is this amazing Super Dad who tried so valiantly to save an egg. Last week’s King Tide wiped out many nests on North Shore beaches. I found this little family hatching two chicks outside of where their original nest scrape was located. The chicks were in a little divot, which looked much like a scrape, but it was not the nest where they had been prior to the storm. The nest had originally contained four eggs.
After watching the chicks hatch, Dad kept fussing about in a spot a foot or so away from the divot. Amazingly, there was a lone egg sitting in the flat sand. He tried and tried to roll and push the egg toward the two chicks, alternating between trying to also brood the egg. But because the egg was sitting high in the flat sand, not in a bowl, he couldn’t brood and kept sort of bellyflopping on top of the egg. He worked on the egg while simultaneously pausing to thermosnuggle the newborn hatchlings. The egg rolled toward a swath of wrack that had washed up during the storm and I think it got a little stuck there. This tremendous effort went on for about 45 minutes before I had to leave for work. Upon returning the following day, the egg was still there. Although not a happy ending, it was amazing and unforgettable behavior to observe, showing us once again, Dads are the super heroes of the Piping Plover world <3
See you tomorrow!
Goofy things chicks do!
I am so sorry to share that the Piping Plover egg that was washed down the beach did not hatch. It was all I could do to keep from helping the Dad who was trying to roll the egg into the nest but my actions could have caused major disruptions to the two chicks that had just hatched.
That tiny appendage is a wing bud! From day one, chicks begin stretching their buds This behavior strengthens flight muscles. They spread and flap often throughout the day.
This past week I had the joy of filming a Piping Plover pair hatch two teeny adorable chicks. It’s extraordinary how these tiny tots are capable of propelling themselves around the beach within hours after pipping their way out of the eggshell. To be very clear, the chicks did not hatch at GHB; our chicks are about two weeks away from hatching.
Piping Plovers are precocial birds, which means that the chicks hatch with a coat of downy fluff, are not blind, and quickly learn to find food without the help of Mom and Dad. However, precocial birds cannot escape danger until they learn to fly and generally cannot regulate their body temperature. The chicks need Mom and Dad for protection and for warmth (to thermoregulate their little bodies).And with Mom. Note the chick is no taller than the emerging shots of Sea Rocket!
The opposite of precocial is altricial. Most species of songbirds are altricial. Songbirds hatch blind, naked, helpless, and must be fed by the parents. Although Piping Plovers are active within hours after hatching, they are often sleepy and very easily tire the first few days.
The first day or so after hatching, Piping Plover chicks go through the motions of foraging, giving chase to bugs and pecking at the sand, but often the insects escape or the chicks don’t eat the capture. By the third day they have mastered the skills needed to forage successfully.
I think we’ll call these two Thompson and Thomson, after the delightful twin detectives from Tintin. I certainly will never be able to tell one from the other!
The twins were doing beautifully when last checked, despite high winds, high tides, cold temperatures, and storm surges. The nest originally held four eggs but very unfortunately, two eggs disappeared. The most likely culprit is a Crow, with which this beach is rife.
Piping Plover nests and chicks are subject to predation by crows, seagulls, small mammals, Red Fox, and crabs. Adult Piping Plovers are predated by owls and hawks. The Plover’s greatest defense is its ability to blend with its surroundings but this perfect sand-hued camouflage works to their disadvantage on busy urban beaches such as Good Harbor Beach.
Plovers everywhere caught a break this Memorial Day weekend. The foul weather means fewer people on the beach, which equals fewer disturbances to nesting adults and to chicks foraging. Soon enough there will be marshmallow-sized Plover chicks zooming around Good Harbor Beach.
How we often find Good Harbor Beach the morning after a warm sunny day and before the awesome DPW crew arrives to clean the beach.
5) Ball playing, kite flying, and drone flying are not permitted near nesting Piping Plovers. These activities are against city, state, and federal laws because stray balls have the potential to injure both nesting adults and chicks. To a Piping Plover’s way of thinking, kites and drones are avian predators. They will become super stressed and often fly after and try to attack a kite or drone, leaving the nest or chicks unattended and vulnerable to predation.
6) Help inform fellow beach goers about the chicks. We see so many folks approaching the symbolically roped off area to read the signs. Most people are interested in learning more about the Plovers and want to catch a glimpse. Point out the Plovers (from a safe distance away) and share what you know.
If you would like to become a Piping Plover ambassador, please leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Friends of Gloucester Plovers,
First the bad – the nest at Salt Island side was washed out by the storm surge and super high tide. The wrack left behind shows that the tide exceeded several feet beyond the exclosure.
I couldn’t locate the parents this morning, but that is not unusual after a storm. Oftentimes what follows are more attempts at nesting so we will see what we see. This sweet pair tried so hard to become established. Hopefully, they won’t give up.
Salt Island eggs washed away
The miraculous update is that our beautiful pair at #3, the footbridge end of the beach, has survived, but I think just barely. The tide came up past the exclosure. Wrack surrounds and is caught in the edges of the wire cage. Despite the 11 foot tide, both Mom and Dad were there, taking turns sitting on four eggs just like every other morning. Between the time I looked at daybreak and then returned later in the morning, they had dug the nest in slightly deeper.
The #3 nest that survived was built up on a slightly higher hummock. The beach narrows at the Salt Island end and I think the tide comes up higher and deeper at that end. The tides have risen well over 11 feet the past several nights. Today’s high tide at 3:26 is expected to be only 9. 2 feet and tonight’s 10.1 feet. I hope so much we are over the worst of it but with storm surges added to the equation, we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed for the best outcome.
The DPW has installed an additional symbolically roped off area between Boardwalk #1 and the snack bar entrance. There had been a pair attempting to nest there. Perhaps with all the disruption from the storm and high tides, they will return in the now protected area.
Barn Swallows were seemingly trying to sort themselves out. Usually we see them darting swiftly, crisscrossing the beach at top speed but this morning they struggled in the cold and wind to dry off and find a footing. There were several unleashed dogs running the beach and Not on voice command either.
We’ll count our blessings for our surviving nest. The next high tides will take place towards the end of June and by that time, the chicks will be several weeks old and able to skedaddle to higher ground.
More Good News story coming tomorrow!
The morning after the thunderstorm found both Piping Plover pairs doing remarkably well. I was super concerned about the full moon/storm combo tide because the beach is much narrower at the Salt Island end. Although the tide did rise to nearly the edge of the exclosed nest, nothing was damaged and the PiPl parents are seemingly unfazed.
Gloucester DPW’s Steve and Pat Marshall from Marshall’s Landscape Supplies were there bright and early. Pat is using the Bobcat to smooth the pathways through the dunes. FYI, I was talking to Pat about his landscaping and composting business. Did you know you can bring your large brown bags of leaves and yard waste (absolutely NO PLASTIC flower pots, nothing plastic!). It’s only two dollars per bag, and you aren’t restricted to certain days. Marshall’s Landscaping Supplies is located at 144 Concord Street in West Gloucester, phone number 978-281-9400, and you can visit their website here: Marshall’sSteve and Pat Marshall
This is the fourth time in the past two week that I have seen Glossy Ibis foraging in the tidal marsh at Good Harbor Beach. They are stunning, with plumage ranging in shades of rich chestnut to iridescent emerald green.
Dear Friends of Gloucester Plovers!
Such great news to share – the young family at the Salt Island end, the area we call #1, has a nest with (currently) three eggs!! We’re keeping our hopes up for a fourth egg. We now have two pairs of Plovers nesting at Good Harbor.
Dave and Adam installing the exclosure at Salt Island
Would you like to be a Piping Plover ambassador? You’ll join a great group of wildlife enthusiasts and kind citizens. We are having an informational meeting on Sunday, June 6th, at 5pm at Good Harbor Beach, near the nest next to the #3 boardwalk. If you would like to help keep an eye on adorable Plover chicks at Gloucester’s most popular beach, please contact me by leaving a comment or at email@example.com. We would love to have you!
Dear PiPl Friends!
Happy News! The nest at Area #3 is complete with four eggs. Based on when I think the last egg was laid, we can expect the chicks to hatch around June 8th or 9th, which is when we begin monitoring full time. The fact that they will be hatching relatively early in the season tremendously increases their chance of surviving. By the time the busiest beach days are upon us, usually beginning around the weekend of July 4th, the hatchlings will be more than three weeks old.
I ‘d like to plan a PiPl ambassador informational meeting on the weekend of the 4th -6th. I thought perhaps 5:00 on Sunday, the 6th would be a good time to meet? Mainly we’ll discuss any questions and issues along with protocol and our non confrontational roles as ambassadors for the Plovers and representatives of the City.
Saturday morning while checking on the PiPls, a man and a woman walked onto the beach with three unleashed dogs. Fortunately an officer appeared and escorted all off the beach. Way to go Gloucester GPD!!! It takes a community to help endangered and threatened species and without the police helping to enforce the laws, it just makes it all that much harder. We are grateful to the GPD for taking the time to check on the beach and remove the scofflaws!
Dad on nest within the exclosure
Sunday morning I met ambassadors Sally and Jonathan at #3. Dad was contentedly on the nest while all was quiet at the #2 and #1 areas. Just as we were readying to leave, the new Dad on the scene appeared, calling to the new Mom, the beautiful pale PiPl, and without wasting much time, the pair courted and mated. It was quite a thrill as it was Sally’s first time witnessing courtship and I was thrilled she was able to see! We were standing a safe distance away, and Sally came well prepared with a strong set of binoculars.
We need volunteers to commit to fill the time periods between 1 to 2pm, 2 to 3pm, and 3 to 4pm. Also, the 9am to 12pm, although we may have someone interested in filling that spot. Are you interested in becoming a Piping Plover Ambassador but don’t see a time slot that works for you? Let me know anyway because if we have two nests, we may be doubling up during the shifts. firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking forward to PiPl days ahead!
Oh Happy Day! Our amazing Mom and Dad Plover have done it once again. Despite raging wave and wind storms that brought super high tides all the way to the base of the dunes, along with cold wet weather, we have a nest with two beautiful eggs!!!
The pair nesting at area #3 are our original Mom and Dad; the two have nested in nearly exactly the same spot for six years. They are super experienced parents and because it is not too late in the season and if all goes well, the chicks will be approximately 2 to 3 weeks old by July 4th, which will increase their odds of surviving exponentially.
Over the course of the next several days, we hope the pair will lay two more eggs. They will continue to mate during the egg laying period. Please do not hover by the edges of the roped off area; this only serves to disrupt the Plovers reproductive behavior and attracts gulls and crows. Thank you!This morning Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt’s director of land stewardship, along with his assistant Adam Phippen, placed the wire exclosure around the nest. Encircling the nest with an exclosure is a simple, yet extremely effective way to help protect eggs from predators, including gulls, crows, and small mammals such as skunks and foxes. The spacing between the wires of the exclosure is just large enough for PiPl parents to run in and out, but too small for most other creatures.
I was so proud of our Papa Plover during the installation. After six years of nesting at GHB, he’s familiar with the routine, but installing the exclosure is still a dramatic event for a Plover parent. Papa piped vigorously and valiantly did his broken wing display, trying with all his tiny self to distract. At one point he fearlessly stood right next to Dave!
We owe tremendous thanks to Dave and to Greenbelt. This is the sixth year in a row he and his Greenbelt crew have installed the exclosures and provided expert advice and assistance to the City of Gloucester and Piping Plover Ambassadors. Greenbelt gives this assistance absolutely free of charge!
Would you like to volunteer to be a Piping Plover Ambassador? The shifts are one hour long, seven days a week, for approximately five weeks, from the day the chicks hatch til they fledge completely. We have a great team of Ambassadors and would love to have you join. Please email me at email@example.com if you would like to volunteer. We are looking for people to commit to cover the 1 to 2pm, 2 to 3pm, and 3 to 4pm shifts. Thank you 🙂
First things first though; the Good Harbor Beach Killdeer Plover family that nests every year in nearly an identical spot to the year before, hatched four perfectly healthy and vigorous chicks! Today marks their eight day old birthday and they are all four doing exceptionally well. More about this bundle of adorableness in an upcoming post.
Killdeer Plover Chicks in dune camo
Mid-week we had a rough morning, with four dogs from the same family. The dogs not only ran through the symbolically roped off area as Mom and Dad were just about to mate, the larger of the four chased Dad. The ACO and DPW have been made aware and they are thankfully managing the situation.
We hear so much gibberish nonsense from scofflaw dog owners. This week, for example, “I thought the date was Memorial Day,” or the sign says “dogs are permitted,” or “dogs are allowed after 5pm,” and my personal favorite, “my dog is special.”
Much of the week was cold and windy but on several mornings, including a slightly warmer today (Sunday), there were EIGHT Plovers! Three females and five males. We are not too concerned about all eight nesting at GHB. This influx seems to happen every year during May, which is peek migration month in Massachusetts. Many species of shorebirds arrive at GHB during May, stopping to rest and refuel before journeying further north. There were also half a dozen Black-bellied Plovers at GHB this past week and I was reminded of the May we had three Wilson’s Plovers show up one foggy morning.
The two new females that have joined the scene are easy to spot, with binoculars or a long lens. Please, please, do not stand at the edge of the roped off area with your cell phone, trying to take cell phone movies of courting and mating behavior. Hovering for long periods is incredibly disruptive to courtship behavior. Trust me, I have seen this disruption during courtship countless times and it only serves to dramatically slow, or inhibit all together, the nesting season.
Back to the new girls; they both have very faint headband and collar band markings, one is the palest I have ever seen a PiPl. I am already in love with her, she is feisty and ready for action, no fickle behavior on her part!
The three pairs, plus two odd boys out, are vying for territory. This morning there was a wildly intense smackdown between three of the boys. Repitiously charging, wing flourishing, then retreating, and as usual, no clear victor.
Dear Friends, please consider making a tax deductible donation to launching my Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly for distribution to national television. For more information, go here.
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!
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.
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
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!
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.
Dear Friends of Cape Ann’s Plovers,
Again this past week, our dynamic duo has been busily bonding, nest scraping, and mating up and down the full length of the beach. However, the extremely high tide that rose to the base of the dunes washed out the pair’s nest scrapes and temporarily put the kibosh on all things romantic. The two disappeared for a full day after the storm departed, with no spottings anywhere, not even tell tale PiPl tracks.
My heart always skips a beat after a day or two of no “eyes on the PiPls,” but I am happy to report Mom and Dad are back to the business of beginning a new family, seemingly unfazed. The storm and super high tide left in its wake lots of great bits of dried seaweed and sea grass which will in turn attract tons of insects, one of the PiPls dietary mainstays. There is a silver lining to every storm cloud 🙂
Just a friendly reminder if you would please, if you see the PiPls at the edge of the symbolic rope line or foraging in the tide pools, please do not hover. Hovering will distract the Plovers and delay courtship. And hovering attracts gulls and crows to the scene. Step back at least 50 to 60 feet and give them some space. Bring binoculars or a strong lens if you would like to observe the PiPls from a comfortable distance, comfortable to them that is. Thank you much!
Take care and Happy Spring!
High stepping Dad, courting Mom
On Friday I spotted two banded Piping Plovers and wrote the following day to Dr. Cheri Gratto-Trevor, who is a research specialist with the Canadian government and also the point person for reporting sightings of banded Piping Plovers from Canada. Plovers with white or black bands, and metal bands on the opposite tibia, are from Eastern Canada. Many thanks to Cheri for responding so quickly with with some fascinating information!
Cheri writes, “White 6U is band 2651-85405, banded as an adult male on 30 May 2018 at Big Merigomish Island in N Nova Scotia. He nested in that general area (James Beach) in 2019 and 2020. His black flag was faded so replaced with white flag 6U in the summer of 2020 (see, it was worth the effort in a pandemic, Julie!). He winters in the Bahamas (Man of War Cay, Abaco). The only other time he was reported from migration was fall 2018 in NC (South Point Ocracoke).
Black flag UU (terrific to get such a good photo of the faded code – you’ll have to go after her this summer, Julie) is band 2231-06500, banded as a chick on 19 July 2018 at Pomquet Beach, also N NS. She nested at East Beach, PEI in 2019, but then returned to nest at Pomquet Beach NS in 2020. She has never previously been reported from the non-breeding season, so we don’t know where she winters.
It will be interesting to see if they mate together in N NS this summer! (Normally pairs just meet up on the breeding grounds, so it’s probably unlikely).
Very much appreciated!! (and no, we don’t name our birds).
Now we can add Massachusetts to their migration route!
On April 16th in 2019, a banded Piping Plover from Cumberland Island Georgia was spotted at Good Harbor Beach. We learned that only five days prior to arriving at GHB, he had been seen at Cumberland Island, approximately 1,140 miles away. If any of our readers are so fortunate as to spy a banded Plover, here is the link with color coded guidelines: Great Lakes Piping Plover Color Band Information. And link to the GHB-Cumberland Island PiPl:
The black banded Plover was very tricky to photograph because the white painted letters had worn away. I tried my best to take a photo with the band in full light, not shaded, so we could see the engraved code.
I wish there was a more comprehensive map that clearly labels Canadian, American, and Bahamian PiPl locations and am thinking about making one.
Our sweet pair of PiPls has been left largely undisturbed this past week. Word is getting out that the dog officers are ticketing. There are fewer dog tracks running through the symbolically roped off areas, which is fantastic.
Mom and Dad are running the length of the beach, as evidenced by their tiny fleur-de-lis imprints in the sand. They are also nest scraping along the length of the beach however, the pair are primarily sticking within areas #1 (Salt Island side) and #3 (Creekside).
I am excited to think about the possibility of an early nest! If this warm, mild weather continues we may be in luck. For our newest Ambassadors and new friends of Gloucester’s Plovers, the earlier in the season that Piping Plovers nest, the greater the chance the chicks have of surviving. We owe tremendous thanks to Gloucester DPW assistant director Joe Lucido and his crew for installing the roping early. I just can’t express how grateful we are for the early action taken.
This past week I was traveling along the Massachusetts coastline documenting other Piping Plover locations for the PiPl film project and came across a duo of banded Plovers from Eastern Canada. I am waiting to hear back from the Canadian biologist in charge and will write more as soon as she writes back. It was wonderfully exciting to see not one, but two, all the way from Canada and I can’t wait to find out more!
Looking forward to working with you all!
Piping Plovers foraging Good Harbor Beach April 2021
Hello PiPl Friends,
Just a brief note to let you know the first nest scrape of the season was spotted in Area #3 (Creekside) and even though the following two days were stormy and windy, the pair scraped in the exact location three days later. They are settling in and it is happy news!
Many have written and phoned about the dogs still on the beach. Please, if you are on the beach, and you see a dog, whether on leash, off leash, large, medium sized, or the tiniest most cutest dog you have ever seen, please call the AC officer. The number is 978-281-9746. If we don’t continue to call, there will be no record of the extent of the disturbances. We are very aware of the problem and trying to solve. Thank you. 🙂
On another note, the Massachusett Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) installed symbolic roping at the same time as did Gloucester. We are right on par with other north shore communities in providing Piping Plover protections! Again, many thanks to Joe Lucido and Gloucester’s awesome DPW crew!
I hope everyone had a joyful Easter. Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Everything <3
Wednesday morning our little pair were intently courting. Papa was doing his fanciful high stepping and calling for Mama to come inspect his teacup saucer sized nest scrape. The Instagram is of one of Papa’s nest scrapes, which is located just outside the roped off area. A nest scrape is a shallow bowl dug mostly by the male. The male and female toss in bits of shell, dried beach grass, tiny pebbles, whatever is handily available.
Today’s colder temperatures will slow courtship. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a mild spring and few dogs disturbances on the beach. The combination of the two, along with the fact that the area has been roped off early in the season, will greatly increase the likelihood of a successful nesting season!
Thank you so very much to Gloucester Times Editor Andrea Holbrook and staff writer Michael Cronin for sharing about the fence post installation and the great information provided for the public. We are so appreciative of the ongoing support given by the community and the Gloucester Times.
By Michael Cronin
Photo by Paul Bilodeau
March 29, 2021
Part of Good Harbor Beach is fenced off to protect some tiny seasonal visitors.
A crew of Public Works personnel began fencing out an area of the beach on Monday to protect migrating piping plovers. The first pair of the threatened shorebirds reportedly landed this weekend.
“They put up the posts today,” said Kim Smith, a local documentarian and advocate for the piping plovers. “The roping will come next and then they’ll put up the signage telling people what’s going on. This is super that they’re doing it early this season. The earlier it goes up, the earlier the chicks hatch which gives them a better chance of survival as the beaches aren’t so busy yet.”
According to Smith, the piping plovers that visit Good Harbor typically nest in the same spot each year.
“One year they nested out in the parking lot because they were pushed out by the dogs on the beach,” she recalled. “But once the ordinance was put in place they were able to return to their usual spot.”
Dog are banned from Good Harbor Beach between April and September. Wingaersheek will remain open to canines on odd numbered days until April 30.
Smith said she’s waiting for the birds to lay their eggs. Once they do, members of the Essex County Greenbelt Association will encapsulate the nest with wire netting.
“Dave Rimmer of Essex County Greenbelt has been guiding us since 2016,” said Smith. “He’s the first one I call when the first egg is laid. The holes in the cage are big enough for the birds to enter and leave, but small enough to keep predators out.”
Huge shout out to Gloucester’s DPW crew today for installing the metal posts that the rope and signs will attach to. It’s simply awesome that the posts are going up so early in the season! The PiPls thank you, too!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to get the posts, signs, and roping up as early in the season as possible. The earlier the protected areas are in place, the earlier the PiPls will nest generally speaking. The earlier in the season that they nest (when the beach is relatively quieter), the greater the chance the chicks will have of surviving and going on to fledge.
It was so windy on the beach this morning, but I think the gentlemen said their names were Brian, Dean, and Dan, but I could have that completely wrong. It’s so challenging to tell who is who when masks are worn.
Thanks so much again to the DPW crew for the fine job this morning, and many thanks for wearing masks, too.
For the past three years, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers have returned during the first week of spring. This year they are again right on schedule!! Here is the little duo tucked behind a mini-hummock, keeping out of the path of last evening’s blustery wind.
The two are foraging together and are communicating, piping softly, yet audibly, to each other, which makes me believe they are a couple. At the end of the day, they were found together resting in the sand.
We have a great bunch of Piping Plover Ambassadors signed up and have covered almost all shifts. There are several openings in the afternoon, the 1 to 2pm, 2 to 3pm, and the 3 to 4pm shifts. Our goal is to help educate the public about the life story of the Plovers in a kind, friendly, non-confrontational, and informational manner. If you would like to join us, we would love to have you! There will be an informational meeting when the Plovers begin laying eggs and we can at that time provide a time frame of the weeks Ambassadors will be needed. If you would like to volunteer one hour a day for the six weeks the Plovers need our help, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
A hound dog unfortunately chased one of the Plovers up and down the beach and the pair became separated for a period. I do so hope dog owners recall that dogs are not permitted on the beach after March 31st. Today was a beautiful day and there were many dogs off leash at Good Harbor Beach even though it is an on leash day. Folks really seem to struggle with understanding Gloucester’s leash laws. A friendly reminder that it is a federal and state crime for owners to allow their dogs to harass threatened and endangered species, whether a leash day or not.
For everyone’s general information – In 2016 the pair arrived in mid-May; in 2017, early May; in 2018 in mid-April; in 2019 on March 25th; in 2020 on March 22; and this year, 2021, overnight between March 25th and March 26th.
Hello Friends of Gloucester’s Plovers!
I hope everyone is doing well. Great news! Piping Plovers are arriving at our local north of Boston beaches. Attached is a photo from this morning, a lone male having a quiet moment above the wrackine. He was a joy to see!!! <3
Our GHB pair have not yet arrived but I imagine it will be soon. If we are so very blessed as to have a family nesting again this year, we will again need Ambassadors. We are requesting volunteers to commit to one hour a day, everyday, for the roughly six weeks of Piping Plover chick rearing At this point we don’t know exactly when that will be but after the nest is established, we can provide a time frame. The hour long time slots are filling, so please let me know if you are interested. We would love to have you! You can get in touch through commenting in the comment section of this post, email me email@example.com, or through Facebook or Instagram
Please note that Ambassadors are welcome to share a time slot with a friend if that works best for you.
Just a kind note, we don’t need “floaters,” ie folks with some prior experience who show up now and then. We really need Ambassadors to commit to a time slot. I realize how great a commitment is an hour a day for six weeks during the summer and am so grateful to all of you who have volunteered in the past and are planning to be Ambassadors again this year.
Our message of super positivity, as well as focusing on education, was a great success last year and we are again continuing with these goals at the fore. You’ll meet a terrific bunch of people and if you have never volunteered for anything like this, you will learn so much about the life story of beautiful shorebirds nesting at a New England coastal beach.
I look forward to hearing from you.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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.
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.
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
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?