Tag Archives: Piping Plover migration

WITH THANKS AND DEEP APPRECIATION FOR OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS

Jonathan, Sally, Jennie, Heidi, Barbara, Sue, Deb, Jane, Duncan, and Bette Jean

Last night we had our end of the season Piping Plover Ambassadors get together. It’s so challenging with the pandemic because I just wanted so much to hug everyone and thank them for the fantastic job they did. Thanks to their enthusiasm, dedication, interest, and kindness, we were able to fledge our little Marshmallow. It’s not the number of birds that fledge that matters, but that they are in good health when they depart and our Marshmallow was strong and well fortified after a season of healthy, and largely uninterrupted, foraging at Good Harbor Beach.

A heartfelt thank you to all who helped make 2020 a tremendously joyous Piping Plover season!

Deb Brown made the funniest and most charming Marshmallow cupcakes (and they were delicious, too)! Don’t you think it should be a tradition?

Charlotte loving her marshmallow cupcake! 

 

The following is the text of the program that I gave at this year’s Coastal Waterbird meeting –

Program for Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators Meeting

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors

Thank you to Carolyn Mostello for the invitation to talk about our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors Program.

It is an honor and a joy to be included in the annual cooperators meeting.

Thanks so much to Carolyn for also providing advice and guidance throughout the course of the 2020 Piping Plover season. Early on, she shared a phrase she uses, Educate, Not Enforce and I found that sharing that thought with our Ambassadors really conveyed how we wanted to treat our community.

Good Harbor Beach is Gloucester’s most highly populated stretch of shoreline. Less than two miles long, during the summer months the beach is packed with beach goers from morning until after sunset. And because of the pandemic, Good Harbor has become even more popular.

We had a small but truly stellar group of people this year: Deb Brown, Jane Marie, Bette Jean, Jennie, Jonathan, Sally, Shelby, Barbara, Heidi, Duncan, and myselfBetween the bunch of us we were able to provide coverage from 5:30 am to 8:30pm, from sunrise until sunset. I asked each person to commit to an hour a day simply because in the past there was too much confusion with scheduling, where some people could volunteer for an hour one day a week, or only on Tuesdays, etc. An hour a day, seven days a week, for a month is a tremendous volunteer commitment but no one seemed daunted, people volunteered for even longer time frames, and I think everyone’s time with the PiPls became something that they looked forward to very much.

After everybody’s shift, we shared our notes in the group’s email chain and to a person, it was always positive and informative. 

We have been working in partnership with Essex County Greenbelt Association’s director of land stewardship, Dave Rimmer, who over the course of the past five years has provided help and guidance with everything Piping Plover and has given freely and generously of his time. Our Ward One City Councilor, Scott Memhard, has been super helpful in navigating the City’s role in Piping Plover management and we have also been working with the City of Gloucester’s Department of Public Works. Many of the DPW crew have taken a genuine interest in the birds, as has our Mayor Sefatia.  

 Our number one goal from early on has been to keep Good Harbor Beach open while also protecting the Plovers. 

The most important thing has been to build a solid relationship with the community about why it is so important to protect threatened and endangered species. For the first four years that the Piping Plovers had been at Good Harbor Beach, I thought that writing stories, photographing, and filmmaking; sharing how beautiful, tiny, resilient, funny, spunky, and just plain adorable Piping Plovers are, people would fall in love and just naturally do the right thing. The thing is, 99 percent of people do fall in love when introduced and do want to help protect the Plovers, but there is always that 1 percent that simply does not care.

I’ve learned through experience that the very best way to handle difficult situations is to not engage, and most pointedly, to not mention enforcement. Especially during this age of coronavirus when we know people may be struggling and be very much on edge, the last thing we want to do is provoke a confrontation. We changed the name from Piping Plover Monitors, to Piping Plover Ambassadors, which has a much friendlier ring.  This year we had a mostly new crew of volunteers and at the onset of this year’s first Piping Plover meeting we made it very clear that we were not to approach anyone about their behavior. We were there to speak positively about the birds, share information, and answer any and all questions.  

For example, in the case where someone was walking directly toward a tiny newborn hatchling, we would say, “Hello, and have you had a chance to see our Piping Plover baby birds? Here, let me show you.” Several of the volunteers even shared their binoculars. That’s just one example, but by keeping a positive tone, people were just so thrilled to catch a glimpse and to learn about the birds on the beach.

 One change that has really made a monumental difference is that we worked really hard to successfully change the City’s dog ordinance, which is now written to disallow all dogs on the beach, at all times of the day, beginning April 1st, rather than May 1st. There are still scofflaws, but this one change has greatly reduced tensions.

Next year I am planning to do more community outreach prior to the PiPls arrival. I have developed a program, which I was hoping to give freely to local audiences at places such as our Sawyer Free Library and Cape Ann Museum in the spring but because of the virus, that will have to wait until next year. I think presenting programs about the birds will also be a way to help recruit ambassadors. 

One of our young Piping Plover fans who followed the bird’s stories daily, five-year-old Zoe, nicknamed our one surviving PiPl Marshmallow. Next year I think it would be great to have a Piping Plover naming contest as well as a Piping Plover art poster sign project for young people. 

We also think it would be very helpful to have brochures, with fun photos and a brief outline of the life story of the Plovers to give to interested beachgoers. My one concern with that is generating litter. We made our own 24 x 36-inch signs on coroplast boards that could be placed easily in the sand and moved about, depending on where the chicks were foraging that day. These signs were a little bit funny and helped bring attention to the birds in a super friendly manner.

I am so grateful for the advice given by Carolyn at the onset of the season and for our Ambassadors. This kind, thoughtful group of people who came together in the worst of times, knowing that despite all the problems in the world and the personal toll the pandemic has taken on us all, taking care of threatened and endangered species remained a priority, and in a summer such as 2020, perhaps the birds needed even more special care.

NEW SHORT FILM – MARVELOUS MARSHMALLOW MONTAGE!

On Tuesday I attended the annual Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting. This was my third year attending the conference. I love every minute and find them wonderfully educational. During a normal year, they take place on Cape Cod; this year was virtual. I took tons of screen shots of interesting data and and am writing an article about  the meeting and what we learned is taking place at regions all around Massachusetts, as well as at other New England States. More to come 🙂

I was asked to make two presentations, one to share a film about Marshmallow and the second presentation, to talk about our Ambassador program. I’ll share the text of the second program tomorrow, and in the meantime, here is a short video, the finished version, of our marvelous Marshmallow Montage

Thank you to Peter Van Demark for adding marvelous to Marshmallow’s name 🙂

For more about Piping Plovers, please see the Piping Plover Film Project page on my website. The page is progress but here you will find short films, information about my Atlantic Coast Piping Plover lecture program, photos, and links to hundreds of articles and posts that I have written from 2016 to the present (articles from 2019 have not yet been organized into the list).

 

 

BEAUTIFUL MORNING AT THE CREEK AND THE TREE SWALLOWS ARE MASSING! with video

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

This morning at 8:30 I stopped by the Creek to see if Marshmallow had returned. I’ve been checking every morning and haven’t seen him since the morning the roped off area was dismantled, but Deb thinks she saw him last evening. I ran into Todd and Sarah and they too were looking. The PiPl that was there at the Creek this morning I think is too slender to be a forty-one day old chick. This bird doesn’t have the round plump silhouette that Marshmallow had at 38 days. I am not sure if his body would change overnight like that. We’ll keep checking and see what we see.

It’s not unusual for Piping Plovers to be seen at GHB singularly or in small groups of two, threes, and fours as the Creek especially is a wonderful stop over point for migrating shorebirds. The most Piping Plovers I have ever seen in a group at a Gloucester Beach was a flock of nine at Coffins Beach and they were together for several days before all departed overnight.

Chubby Marshmallow at 38 days, left, mystery slender PiPl, right

We also saw a Least Tern feeding its fledgling!!, a Little Blue Heron chasing a Snowy Egret, and Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers foraging together.

Least Tern fledgling

Little Blue chasing a Snowy through the marsh this morning

The beautiful event that takes place every year at this time along the shoreline and at our local dunes are the Tree Swallow aerialists massing, with each day in progressively greater numbers. They stay as long as there are insects aplenty, until one morning, you will find they have vanished, migrating to the next insect-rich location.

Also, I just added a film to the post, a short that I made several years ago titled Dance of the Tree Swallows. It goes on way too long, and I would edit it differently today, but you may enjoy the first half at least. It was mostly filmed at Greenbelt’s Wingaersheek Uplands and Coffins Beach in West Gloucester. Here is the link https://vimeo.com/201781967 – and the password is treeswallows.

Regarding our end of the season meeting, I think the best day for most everyone is Thursday. We don’t want to do it on a weekend night, too many people and not safe with corona, and too hot or rain predicted on other nights. Barbara, i am wondering if we made it at 5:00, would that work for your shower schedule?

Have a Super Sunday!

xxKim

Tree Swallow range map

FAREWELL MARSHMALLOW, SAFE TRAVELS LITTLE CHICK!

 

Marshmallow, 38 days old

Good morning PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

It appears as though Marshmallow has begun his southward migration. We know he is well fortified from his days at Good Harbor Beach, with a little belly full of sea worms and other PiPl yummies. His Dad has taught him extremely well, from important survival skills on how to avoid danger to bathing and frequent preening, giving his newly formed flight feathers extra conditioning.

His tiny wings will beat millions of times to reach the first important staging area. For Piping Plovers in our region, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is where they will most likely head. Last August at the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, I met Professor Paton. He is involved with a program that bands and nanotags birds at Southern New England beaches, mostly Rhode Island beaches. He provided some terrific maps based on the data collected from the banding program.

After departing Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the majority of the program’s tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

Although our Good Harbor Beach Piping plovers are not tagged, there is no reason to believe that they too are not traveling this route.

Why are the Outer Banks such an important staging area? Perhaps because the great flats are filled with nutrient rich protein, which the adult birds need to regrow their flight feathers. Almost constantly in motion and exposed to strong sunlight during the spring migration and summer nesting season, the adult’s flight feathers are nearly completely worn down. They have become much paler in color and frayed. Shorebirds need these staging areas to molt the old feathers and grow new flight feathers. Possibly the need to be in a safe environment to begin molting explains why our Mom, and then Dad, departed prior to Marshmallow.

I know it’s disappointing that we were not given any kind of warning about dismantling the nesting area. It’s been such a great season so please don’t dwell on it. We are working to try to remedy the lack of communication between the Ambassadors and the City, with the goal of having the problem solved by next year’s season.

It’s time to start planning our end of the season get together. Would an evening work for everyone, say 6:00pm. Then everyone could get back to their families for dinner. On Thursday, August 6th, the weather looks clear and bright, not too hot or humid.

Thank you, you have all been such terrific Ambassadors, and most importantly, Marshmallow thanks you, too!

xxKim

Marshmallow, from nestling to fledgling

FRIENDS OF LITTLE CHICK UPDATE

Piping Plover Flight Dance

Eclipse Day was a dream day filming wildlife on Cape Ann. I did the usual early morning stops at my “migrations stations,” but because I had taken the afternoon off to see the eclipse, I got to film in the afternoon, too, which I don’t often get a chance to do. First stop was Good Harbor Beach to see a beautiful subdued and rosy-hued sunrise.

The Tree Swallows were everywhere, in dunes, on the beaches, lined up on telephone lines, in meadows, and marsh. I filmed and photographed that hullabaloo for a bit, along with a dozen other species of migrating shorebirds and songbirds; there are simply too many images for one post. I’ll share these migration photos in the upcoming days.

Tree Swallows Biting and Fighting

The most wonderful of all was coming upon a tiny flock of Piping Plovers. Initially I thought only two, then a third joined the scene, and then a fourth!

One was definitely a juvenile, about the same age as would be our Little Chick. The PiPl were bathing, grooming, and foraging in the intertidal zone while also being dive-bombed by the Tree Swallows. This is behavior that I filmed last year as well. Tree swallows, although beautiful, are the fightenist little tuffies you’ll ever see. They’ll fly straight at other birds, biting one of their own kind, Barn Swallows, and plovers alike.

PiPl bath time

The PiPl that looked just like Little Chick also did the funny flight take-off dance that we all observed of LC. He flew around in a circle, backwards and forwards, spreading and unspreading his wings, and hopping up and down. It’s very comical and I can’t wait to share the film footage and storybook. Anyway, the little traveler I encountered on Eclipse Day was doing the PiPlover flight jig for an extended period of time.

Doing the Jig!

I stayed to watch the Plovers for a bit longer and then finished walking the length of the beach. Eclipse dayOn my return walk I was surprised from a quiet reverie to hear a flock of Plovers piping. I looked up and before I could turn my movie camera back on, a group of a dozen Piping Plovers flew past. Happy Day!

Tree Swallows Massing

Eclipse Day Sunrise Good Harbor Beach

 Backlogged with wildlife photos, more to come. Some wonderful surprises!

POSSIBLE LITTLE CHICK SIGHTINGS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAREWELL LITTLE CHICK!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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