Tag Archives: Piping Plover nest

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTHS #2 AND #3

Debunking Piping Plover Myths #2 and #3

Myth #2: “The reason the Piping Plovers are nesting in the parking lot is because when they first arrived to Gloucester it was cold and they find the asphalt warmer.”

Not true and by this logic, Piping Plovers would be nesting in parking lots from here to Canada!

Piping Plovers arrive at Atlantic coast and Great Lakes beaches every year between April and May. Along the Atlantic Coast, they breed from the mid-Atlantic to New England all the way to the maritime provinces of Canada, as far north as Newfoundland and Labrador. The temperature is no colder on a Gloucester beach than a beach on Plum Island or a beach on Prince Edward Island.

Myth #3: “The reason the Piping Plovers are nesting in the parking lot is because the tides are higher and the beach area was disrupted after the winter storms.”

Also not true. 

Piping Plovers typically nest on both narrow and wide sandy beaches. Unfortunately, nests and eggs are occasionally swept away during a storm when the tides are high.

Beaches all along the Massachusetts coastline were hit hard by late winter storms however, Piping Plovers often do well on beaches where winter storms have created a change in the topography. Storms generate what is called overwash, when water from the sea carrying beach sediments flows onto the dunes. Overwash is critical for beaches to maintain their shape and size in the face of sea level rise. The best foraging areas for Piping Plovers are known where you have large expansive mudflats created by storm overwash.

Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover parking lot nest and eggs.

As you can see, there is a theme to these comments, to blame the fact that the PiPl are nesting in the parking lot on everything else except what in actuality drove them to the parking lot.

Constant and unrelenting disruption by dogs off leash in the nesting area is what forced the Piping Plovers to the parking lot.

By speaking frankly to help bring awareness about what occurred in the nesting area at Good Harbor Beach during the months of April and May is by no means meant to malign or portray as wicked and threatening dogs or dog owners. Disruption by dogs was witnessed by myself, by fellow PiPl volunteers, as well as by Greenbelt and Mass Wildlife representatives, and the dog officers. 

In the minds of our nesting pair of Piping Plovers, the Good Harbor Beach parking lot was seemingly the safest location at the time of mating and nest scraping, as it was also the quietest and least disrupted. Readers may be wondering, why did our pair not nest in the wide expanse of dunes? I think the green growth found in the dune habitat does not provide protective camouflage as do the white painted lines and gravel found in the parking lot. If you have stopped by to see the PiPl in the parking lot, you may have noticed that they are practically invisible, the way they blend in with their surroundings. The little pair are certainly resourceful!

Don’t mistake their resourceful choice of nesting locations as ideal. The parking lot is a horrendous place to nest. It is far away from their food and water. Piping Plover parents take turns sitting on the nest. In a normal situation where the nest is on the beach, one sits on the nest while the other forages close by, but at the same time is always on the lookout to zoom in and help defend the nest from real and imagined predators. Under the parking lot circumstance, while one is brooding in the lot and the other foraging on the beach, they are not in constant contact or communication with one another, making the chance of successfully hatching young all that much slimmer.

And safeguarding the chicks during their first days after hatching in the parking lot, until they make the epic journey to the beach, is going to be a monumental challenge and take tremendous teamwork.

Mama at the parking lot nest exclosure while Papa is foraging at the beach and out of the range of communication.

The problems that arise with dogs on the beach during shorebird nesting season has been dealt with and resolved conscientiously in coastal communities over decades.

Some solutions for next year:

  1. With gratitude to Mayor Sefatia and the DPW, effective signage has been posted at each beach entryway. The signs need to be in place all year round because they also have a No Dunes icon. Letting people know that throughout the year the dunes are off limits to people and pets will help lessen erosion and create a healthier dune habitat, which over time will help protect our beach for everyone.
  2. Enforcement of existing ordinances.
  3. Education about the life story of the Piping Plovers.
  4. Recently a meeting of the Animal Advisor Committee was held at City Hall. Many suggestions and proposals were discussed. A very simple and effective solution for Good Harbor Beach is to close the beach to all dogs beginning April 1st and to reopen on September 16th, making the time dogs are allowed on the beach only two weeks shorter than the existing ordinance. The time period from April 1st to September 15th would give all shorebirds the uninterrupted space needed to mate and establish their nests, and time enough for the young to fledge.

The Piping Plover mating dance is elaborate. Each time the PiPl are interrupted, they do not resume where leaving off, but begin the dance anew. In the above photo, the male is high stepping all around the female while she has positioned herself to accept the next step, where he jumps on her back, and they connect, cloaca to cloaca. The courtship dance takes about twenty to thirty minutes while copulation only lasts a mere minute.

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #1

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #1

“Because of those gosh darn *&%$@# Piping Plovers, Gloucester is going to lose tens of thousands of dollars in parking revenue.”

Not true.

Here is why. The Piping Plovers will be out of the parking lot, before the summer season begins and before school is out!

The one thing the parking lot PiPl have going for them is that they laid their eggs relatively early in the season. If the nest is left undisturbed, by the time the chicks hatch, we will be in the second week of June. It may take a day or two for them to make the epic journey to the beach, where they will much prefer to spend the summer. At the very latest, the chicks will be out of the parking lot by the third week of June.

So to be completely clear: the Good Harbor Beach parking lot is not closing and we will have ample parking during the summer months.

I hope this quells the rumors circulating. Look for more PiPl myths debunked this week in upcoming posts 🙂 Please share this post to help folks understand more about our Good Harbor Beach parking lot Plovers.

Fluffing and puffing – morning bath for Mama Plover.

COME LEND A VOICE TO HELP GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS AT TONIGHT’S ANIMAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING

Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee is meeting tonight at 6:30 to vote on whether or not to change the Good Harbor Beach dog rules. The meeting will be held at City Hall, 3rd floor. At present, dogs are allowed at GHB through April 30th. Our hope is that the new ordinance would shorten the time, to end on March 31st. Nesting Piping Plovers, as well as the many species of shorebirds migrating through (and some also nesting at) Good Harbor Beach would benefit tremendously from this change to the ordinance. Thank you!

Piping Plover on the Half Shell

TONIGHT ON FOX 25 WITH LITSA PAPPAS SEE OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT PLOVERS!

Thank you to reporter Litsa Pappas and videographer Steve Wright from Fox 25 for taking the time to learn about Gloucester’s nesting Piping Plovers and for sharing their story 🙂

Steve Wright and Litsa Pappas

The story airs tonight at 6 on Fox 25!

Four!

Four Piping Plover eggs in the Good Harbor Beach parking lot nest!

LEARNING ABOUT HOW MASSACHUSETTS COMMUNITIES MANAGE NESTING PIPING PLOVERS

To better understand how to help Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers survive nesting at our most well loved and highly trafficked beach I have been following a little Plover family at Revere Beach.

Like Gloucester, Revere is a city north of Boston. Only ten square miles, with six miles of land, four miles of water, and a population of 52,000 people, Revere is a much more densely populated city than Gloucester. Gloucester’s year round population is 28,000, covering an area of 41 square miles, with 26 miles of land and 15 miles of water.

Revere Beach is the first public beach established in America (1895). Misperceptions about a needle and trash littered shoreline are deeply held but in reality, Revere Beach is a beautiful beach, beautifully maintained.

Each year Revere Beach hosts the International Sand Sculpting Festival, with amazing sculpting competitions, amusements, food, and fireworks. This year’s festival will be held on the weekend of July 20-July 22nd (photo courtesy wiki commons media).

Piping Plovers began arriving at Revere Beach at the same time the GHB PiPl arrived, in late-March and very early April. There are at least half a dozen nesting areas cordoned off for Piping Plovers. Revere has had excellent success with fledging Piping Plover chicks because the PiPl are allowed to establish nests early in the season, without disturbance. From decades of field work, it is known that the earlier the chicks hatch, the greater their chance of survival.

I stopped by to check on the Revere Beach PiPl family on a recent Sunday afternoon; it’s not that out of the way to make it part of my regular routine coming home from Cambridge and Boston jobs. And then stopped at Good Harbor Beach. The difference was astounding. There wasn’t any trash or dog poop on Revere Beach, and there wasn’t a dog anywhere along the five mile stretch of beach. There were however six dogs off leash at Good Harbor Beach within the twenty minutes that I was there to say hello to PiPl monitor Heather and to check on our PiPl parking lot family.

Perhaps you might not think a fair comparison; Revere Beach is much longer than GHB, and it is under the management of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation but I did not see a single DCR employee or officer policing Revere Beach that dog-and-trash-free Sunday afternoon.

Over the past several decades, communities throughout Massachusetts have been learning how to live with Piping Plovers. I am hopeful that the more we learn about the issues confronting the Piping Plovers, the Gloucester community will come together to take the steps to insure their safety and successful nesting. 

There are a great number of helpful signs at Revere Beach.

The triangular-shaped signs that are posted at the PiPl nesting areas are on the small side, only about 8 inches. 

Just like at Nahant Beach (above) many of the roped off areas at Revere Beach have three rows of roping. 

At Revere Beach dogs are not allowed on the beach beginning April 1st. The rules are clearly posted at each and every entry to the beach. The signs and poles aren’t fancy and I imagine would be affordable and easy to obtain.

The Gabe and Gabby Family with their leashed dog on the boulevard, sitting next to a PiPl nesting area–no problem for this family to keep their dog off the beach during nesting season.

Plenty of trash barrels.

Some folks are under the false impression that the reason our GHB PiPl are nesting in the parking lot is because when they arrived it was cold and the parking lot hard pack is warm. Factually speaking, Piping Plovers arrived at beaches all along the Massachusetts coastline in mid-March and early April. As far as we know, the Good Harbor Beach PiPl are the Only Piping Plovers nesting in a parking lot.

Male Plover nesting at Revere Beach. The Revere Beach PiPl were creating their nest scrapes on the beach at exactly the same time our GHB PiPl were trying to establish a nest on the beach.

Just like our GHB PiPl family, it looks like there are four eggs in the Revere Beach nest!

Next time I stop to visit the Revere Beach PiPl family, I am going to have to bring home some Kelly’s roast beef sandwiches for dinner. I’ve heard the seafood is pretty good at Kelly’s, too!

VANDALS HARMING THE PIPING PLOVERS

Early this morning I found the endangered species signs covered in seaweed as well as tire and dog tracks in the nesting areas. The vandalism happened sometime overnight, between 6 pm and 6am.

The grossest thing were the poles bent over, with a wooden box holding down the roping, and on top of that, a huge pile of sand-covered DOG POOP. There was so much poop it had to have been collected.

I cleared off the signs, but rubber gloves and/or a shovel are needed to remove the dog poop on top of the wooden box.

People, and not just young people, were doing donuts in the parking lot on Sunday, right next to the PiPl cordoned off nesting area. When the PiPl monitor Heather asked if the donut-makers were aware of the PiPl, they said, “Yes, but we weren’t going to hit them.”

One pair of Plovers has already been forced into the parking lot by dog owners not properly managing their dogs. There is at least one more pair of PiPl, and The Bachelor, making use of the roped off nesting areas. It would be a heartbreaker to see a second pair forced off the beach and move their nest into the parking lot, too.

Please call 911 if you see anyone harassing or harming the Piping Plovers, or vandalizing the nesting areas on the beach or in the parking lot. Thank you so very much.

Tire tracks in the Piping Plover nesting area #3.