Tag Archives: Piping Plover nest

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT! Please give the Piping Plovers lots of space

The main reason why we have become increasingly reluctant to publicly share information about the Piping Plover families nesting at Good Harbor Beach is because of photographers. We want to help educate the community and share their beautiful life story unfolding but on the other hand, sharing information and images entices folks who are not as conscientious as you or I would hope. I think most of our local photographers, filmmakers, and well-wishers are very sensitive to giving wildlife their space but out-of- towners, not so much.

The one morning I wasn’t able to stay for my full shift at GHB, a photographer parked herself for several hours smack dab in the midst of the primary Plover area where they traverse back and forth. When the next Ambassador came on duty there was a great deal of confusion  locating chicks with their respective parents and I can’t help but wonder if having a stranger stationed for several hours precisely where they are accustomed to foraging displaced the chicks.

One need not bring a blanket and sit right on top of the Plovers, especially when one has a ginormous telephoto lens. Please stop by, take a few photos from a comfortable distance, and then please, move on. Folks don’t realize too that sitting on top of the baby birds like this also attracts Crows and Gulls, especially in the early and later part of the day when there are few other humans around for the C and Gs to swipe food from. I am quite sure the photographer knew that she was not following good wildlife observing guidelines because the minute she saw me coming as I returned to the beach, she packed up her blanket and gear.

Next year we are going to request the DPW pull the roping out further into the beach. The symbolically roped off area does not need to be quite as wide as it is, but for the general safety and well-being of the PiPls, it needs to be deeper. However, in the meantime, especially early and late in the day when the Plovers are mostly feeding, please give the baby birds the space they need to forage. These few weeks they are at Good Harbor Beach are the most critical days of their little lives. They need lots and lots of space to continuously forage to  fatten up for the long journey south. Thank you!

A SIX PIPL CHICK MORNING!

Good Morning!

All feeding with great gusto except when a hungry family of Starlings appeared on the scene. Mom and Dad both went after the three with much buzzing and brandishing of wings.

Super Mom, with only one foot, giving the Starlings the business!

We are so thankful to Councilor Jeff Worthley, Mark Cole, Coach Lafferty, and athletic director Byran Lafata for their response in moving the sports teams back to the original footbridge location, where they have been practicing for 36 years. Additionally, Coach Lafferty is having the kids run in groups of three, not thirty across, which will help give chicks the opportunity to scamper away if they get caught in the midst. This was the Coach’s idea!

Several days ago, I met the gentleman who owns the house at Cape Hedge where the Plover family had the nest. He was overjoyed to see our pLover chicks and is super bummed about the CHB family. He is dismayed that the no dogs signs still have not been posted at his end of the beach. We are going to have to provide more assistance to our Rockport friends in helping them get organized for next year.

Thank you Everyone for all your great work! Jennie, I am going to post about your Gloucester Writer’s Center event in a separate post. I am hoping to attend and looking forward to listening to your Plover poems, but if not, congratulations and best wishes for a wonderful event <3

Have a beautiful day,
xxKim

SIX PIPING PLOVER CHICKS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH! #ploverjoyed

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

We have wonderful news to share. Four chicks have hatched at Good Harbor Beach at the area we call #3! Today they are one week old, a milestone in a PiPl chick’s life. All four are doing beautifully on this their one week old anniversary. At the north end of the beach, the Salt Island side, we have a pair of four day old chicks, also thriving. This pair came from a re-nest of four eggs. We know three eggs hatched but the third chick, the one that hatched late, did not make it.

I don’t think we have ever had six chicks at GHB and it shows that when a community works together, amazing, beautiful things can happen. The adage,’it takes a village’ rings true when raising Piping Plovers to fledge. We hope with all our hearts all six chicks will survive to adulthood but also recognize that isn’t always the case.

We could not have had this year’s early success without the help of Gloucester’s DPW crew, Animal Control Officers Jamie Eastman and Teagan Dolan, City government especially Councilors Jeff Worthley and Scott Memhard, and the Gloucester Police Department.

We have simply the best Piping Plover Ambassador team imaginable. They are all extraordinarily kind, creative, and helpful individuals devoted to the well being of the tiniest members of our community. With heartfelt thanks and gratitude to our devoted daily monitors Deb Brown, Jennie Meyer, Sally and Jonathan Golding, Susan Pollack, Paula and Alexa Niziak, Jill Ortiz, Sharen Hansen, Marty Coleman, and Mary Keys. Thank you to our outstanding crew of substitutes including Barbara Boudreau, Ann Cortissoz, Duncan Holloman, Peter Van Demark, Linda Bouchard, Karen Thompson, Duncan Todd, and Sue Winslow.

Please, if you go to GHB to see the Plover chicks give them lots and lots of space.  When the parents are concerned you are too close, they will pipe loudly at you to warn the chicks are underfoot. I emphasize underfoot because they are scurrying around all over the beach.

What can you do to help the Piping Plovers? Here are five simple things we can all do to protect the Plovers.

1) Give them them space, lots and lots of space, to forage and to rest. 

2) Do not linger near the Piping Plovers or their nests. Activity around the Plovers  attracts gulls and crows.

3) Do not feed gulls and crows. Gulls eat chicks in all stages of development and crows eat eggs.

4) Don’t leave behind or bury trash or food on the beach. All garbage attracts predators such as crows, seagulls, foxes, and coyotes, and all four of these creatures eat plover eggs and chicks.

5) Respect the fenced off areas that are created to protect the Plovers.

Thank you!

 

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

Maine’s Piping Plovers Had Another Record Nesting Season

Thanks to Piping Plover Ambassador Deborah Brown for sharing the following story. Way to go Maine!

For the third consecutive year, Maine saw a record number of nesting piping plovers and fledglings despite greater traffic at some beaches as people looked to get outside during the pandemic.

There were 98 nesting pairs and 199 fledglings at the 25 beaches where the birds are monitored, up from last year’s mark of 89 nesting pairs and 175 fledglings, said Laura Minich Zitske, the plover project director at Maine Audubon, which runs the program for the state. Zitske attributes the banner year to the work of hundreds of volunteers who helped educate the public – such as at Higgins Beach, where there were 40 patrolling, and in Wells, where 40 volunteers helped at three beaches.

“I do think the big year is unrelated to the pandemic. We expected to have a lot of birds back after last year’s record year,” Zitske said. “But we did have a lot of pandemic-related problems. Birds nested right next to paths when the beaches were closed. And some people struggled to follow rules. Some people left common sense behind. You definitely could see that to a degree.”

READ the full story here

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

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

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

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

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

Have a super day :
Thank you!
Kim

OUR GOOD HAROR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE HATCHING!

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

From the appearance of the oldest hatchling running around in the roped off area by the Creek, the chicks probably began hatching yesterday late afternoon (Monday, the 22nd). One may have even been hatching while we were there having a PiPl Ambassador informational meeting 🙂
The PiPl family will most likely stay closish to the nesting area for the next day. Fortunately it is very foggy today, which means the beach won’t be too busy and that will give them some space.
We had a great meeting yesterday with a new crew of Piping Plover Ambassadors. Thank you to everyone for coming <3 We still have some empty spots on the schedule, noon to 4. If anyone is interested in becoming a PiPl Ambassador, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you!

 

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

Educate, Not Enforce!

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

Hello Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,

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

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

One hour old Piping Plover chick

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

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

Here is the schedule so far:

Kim 5am to 7am

Shelby  7am -8am

Jane Marie 8am -9am

Bette Jean 9am-10am

Jennie  11am to 12pm

Jonathan and Sally 5pm to 6pm

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

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

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

Salt Island Family Mom briefly on nest this morning.

SI Dad at the shoreline foraging at sunrise.

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

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

Thank you so much for your consideration!

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

Saratoga Creek Family Dad brooding this am

Sunrise and Crescent Moon rising today

 

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

Educate, Not Enforce!

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

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

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

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

New nest location, with no protective vegetation

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

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

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

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

TREMENDOUS COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

On Tuesday I attended the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, which took place at the Harwich Community Center on Cape Cod. The meeting is held annually to bring together people and organizations that are involved with population monitoring and conservation efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds. Threatened and endangered species such as Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Roseate Terns, and American Oystercatchers are given the greatest attention.

I was invited by Carolyn Mostello, event organizer, to create a short film, Gloucester Plovers Go Swimming, for the “Strange and Unusual” section about our three little chicks and the fact that for about a week they were SWIMMING in the tidal creek (see next post). I also provided a group of photos of the late hatching chicks for DCR. The film and the photos were well-received, which was gratifying to me, to be of help in documenting these wonderful stories.

Conservationists from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby states, including representatives from Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the organizations presenting at the meeting-Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Essex Greenbelt, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Mass Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.

In the morning, each region gave the 2019 population census report for nesting birds as well as providing information about problems and solutions. We all share similar challenges with predation from crows and gulls, uncontrolled dogs, enforcement, and habitat loss and it was very interesting to learn about how neighboring communities are managing problems and issues.

Trustees of Reservations Coastal Ecologist Jeff Denoncour presented on behalf of the north of Boston region, of which Gloucester is a part. Essex Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer and intern Fionna were in attendance as well. Both Crane Beach and Parker River are having a fantastic year and the numbers are up across Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. There are still many young chicks yet to fledge on Massachusetts beaches so the final count has not been determined.

The afternoon session was filled with outstanding lectures presented by conservation biologists and all the programs were tremendously informative.

I met Beth Howard from Mass Audubon, who has been involved with care taking the L Street Piping Plovers and Paige Hebert from Mass Wildlife who has been helping manage Roseate Terns. The DCR staff managing the shorebirds at Nahant, Salisbury, Winthrop, and Revere Beach were all there and they are just a stellar group of young people.

It was a great day! Many attendees expressed congratulations for Gloucester fledging three chicks. Last year after attending the meeting I wrote the following and it’s wonderful that our hope for Gloucester’s Plovers was realized this year: “After attending the cooperators meeting, I am more hopeful than ever that our community can come together and solve the problems that are preventing our PiPl from successfully nesting and fledging chicks. What we have going in our favor is the sheer number of amazing super volunteers along with strong community-wide support.” 

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART TWO

I stopped by on my way home from work, fully expecting to see all three chicks hatched. Dad was sitting on the nest and two fluffy chicks were zooming in and out. He left the nest for a moment and wonderful luck of luck, the third chick was making its appearance!!

When I write messy, it is because while the third chick was hatching, the two older ones needed to thermoregulate, or cuddle, beneath the parent’s wing. There was a great deal of seeming disorder going on beneath the canopy provided by Dad’s fluffed out feathers.

Because the two older siblings were running in and out of the nest, as well as the parents leaving to discard the remaining chick’s eggshell pieces, I had a longer window into the third chick’s hatching (by mere seconds, I mean). Plus the twelve-hour-old chicks were just as adorable as could be!

From a nest of three eggs, two chicks hatched at dawn and the third, at day’s end. During both times, I had my movie camera on a tripod zoomed in on the nest and was able to film and simultaneously take still photos. A very unforgettable and happy day!!!!!!!!!!

Mom switched places with Dad but only stayed for a few moments before hopping up quickly. All three chicks were in the nest. You can see the newly hatched chick with its two older siblings. 

Read Part One Here

Hello World! Eyes barely open and first peek at the world.

Twelve-hour-old chick -my what big feet I have 🙂

THE WONDERFUL MIRACLE AND MESSINESS OF BIRTH – PIPING PLOVER CHICKS HATCHING PART ONE

As many of our readers know, this summer while finishing up with editing my Monarch film, I have also been continuing to document our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. To make the best and most informed documentary, I have also been filming at other north of Boston beach locations. During our last heat wave, we posted about about how PiPl parents protect their eggs during extreme temperatures. The chicks that you see hatching in the photos are the same eggs that survived the heat wave! and are from a very, very special Piping Plover pair. More about these two parents in an upcoming post; for now I just have time to write about the chicks hatching.

Witnessing a beautiful family of Piping Plover chicks hatch is a day I won’t soon forget. Not only struck by the sheer beauty of it all, I was highly aware of the formidable challenges these valiant little birds face at every stage of development. Even hatching was messy and challenging.

On my way into work, I had been checking daily on the nest and knew the hatching day was soon approaching. Arriving at dawn on the twenty-fifth day from when the pair had begun brooding all three eggs, it was apparent and wonderfully exciting to see something was going on in the nest. Mom was on the nest and she was unusually active, moving around and adjusting the eggs repeatedly. She popped up for a split second and I could see an egg cracking. A miracle truly, that the eggs were viable, as it was so late in the season and the heat had been so extreme.

During hatching, the Mom (or Dad, whoever happens to be brooding the eggs at the time hatching begins) makes a canopy over the nest with their fluffed-out feathers. The nest is a mere depression in the sand, below eye level, so the only time you can see what is happening is when the parent leaves the nest. This only happens for the briefest of moments. A chick begins emerging and while it is still half in its eggshell, the nesting parent takes any parts of the broken eggshell in his/her mouth and runs, then flies further with it, dropping the eggshell far away from the nest. During those few brief seconds when the parent leaves to discard the eggshell, you can see what is taking place in the nest.

In the last three photos, the chick’s feathers are almost completely dry and fluffy.

Enthralled, I watched as two chicks hatched over an hour period, but then had to leave to be on site for a job installation that couldn’t wait. I hated to leave wondering, not knowing how the third chick would fare, and just prayed that it would still be light out when I stopped back on my way home from work that night.

Part two tomorrow.

PiPl Mom brooding eggs during heat wave.

Eggshell camouflaged amongst shells and sea bits.

HOW DO NESTING BIRDS SUCH AS PIPING PLOVERS KEEP FROM BOILING THEIR EGGS IN A HEAT WAVE?

During this heat wave I have been concerned about one of the Piping Plover families that I am documenting. They are nesting in an exposed site and it is late in the season. I wondered if their eggs were at risk of becoming overheated. As of Saturday, my worries were for naught.

Both the Mom and Dad are sitting high on the nest. Typically when brooding eggs, Piping Plovers fluff out their brood feathers and the eggs are entirely hidden. During these 90-degree-plus days, the parents are continuing to sit on the nest to keep predators from seeing the eggs from overhead, but they are raising their bodies enough to allow air to flow beneath.

Both parents are struggling in the heat; they are overheated and panting while minding their nest, yet despite their obvious discomfort, they are determinedly continuing to brood.

Panting nesting Plover in 95 degree temperatures.

Allowing for air circulation is really a pretty genius way of managing their eggs and I am keeping my hopes up that the pair will be successful ❤

Dad PiPl says why is it so dang hot!

FIRST LOOK – OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPNG PLOVER CHICKS (ALL FOUR!) HATCHED!!!

Only hours-old, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover chicks were learning to navigate the varied terrain–climbing mini hummocks, falling into divots, somersaulting, tripping over dried bits of beach grass and seaweed, running for short bits, and just generally stumbling and tumbling. In one photo you can even see a chick already eating a tiny ant. After an afternoon of exploring, all four seemed pretty tuckered out and were taking turns snuggling under both Mama and Papa. 

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

A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E HOURS OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICKS!

These sweet Piping Plover chicks are only hours old. All four are healthy, vigorous, and already feeding themselves and stretching their wing buds. They sure were giving their Mom and Dad reason to panic as they ran hither and thither, not yet understanding the adults piping voice commands. A dog ran through the nesting area and a pair of Crows added to the parent’s stress. After both parents briefly left the chicks to distract the dog and give chase to the Crows, calmness was restored and three snuggled under Mom while the fourth kept dad on the run.

*Note–I have been following and filming half a dozen PiPl nests around the state and just to be clear in case of any confusion, these are not our Good Harbor Beach PiPls 🙂

There have been quite a few PiPl chicks hatching around New England beaches. The cool, overcast weather will benefit the hatchlings tremendously. The beaches are relatively quieter, with fewer people, dogs, and trash that attracts avian predators, which will help allow the babies to reach that critical one week old age.

Finding insects in the wrack zone

Tiny wing buds

Adorableness <3

PIPING PLOVER WEEKLY UPDATE – ONE-DAY-OLD CHICKS AND NESTING AROUND MASSACHUSETTS!

One-day-old chicks foraging at the shoreline on a foggy Memorial Day Monday

It was a beautiful Memorial Day weekend in more ways than one. Piping Plover chicks have been hatching all around Massachusetts this past week and I was fortunate to observe two nests with a total of six one-day-old chicks zooming around beaches. We’re so blessed that our Good Harbor Beach pair are also on a relatively early track, which greatly increases the chicks chance of surviving.

Mama and Papa spent the weekend on the crowded beach incubating their eggs and foraging. Ironically, I think they benefitted from beach goers picnics (minus the gulls and crows). Papa spent a busy Monday morning pecking at the sand and devouring mouthfuls of large tasty black ants.

Anteater

Many more hatchlings to come!

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #5: PIPING PLOVER HELPERS ARE NOT CALLING FOR AN OUTRIGHT BAN OF DOGS ON THE BEACH

Despite the extremely inflammatory posts you may have been reading elsewhere, the Piping Plover volunteer monitors and local wildlife experts are not in any way, shape, or form promoting the permanent ban of dogs from Good Harbor Beach.

Currently, dogs are not allowed on the beach from May 1st to September 30th. The PiPl volunteer monitor core group, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Ken Whittaker, who is Gloucester’s conservation agent, and Mass Wildlife’s John Regosin all agree that dogs should not be allowed on Good Harbor Beach beginning April 1st, but that it would be safe for Piping Plover fledglings and other migrating shorebirds for dogs to return after September 15th.

This new suggested time frame will allow birds to nest with far less interruption, shorebirds will nest earlier in the season (which will help with the chicks survival rate), and the chicks will be stronger by the time Good Harbor fills with summer crowds. This is a very logical and simple solution. Disallowing dogs on Massachusetts coastal beaches where shorebirds are nesting, beginning April 1st, is quite common. Allowing them to return after September 15, and in many cases after September 30th, is also very common. For Piping Plovers and other nesting shorebirds, protecting their habitat and sharing the shore is a matter of life and death.

To be very, very clear, we Piping Plover volunteers do not wish to permanently and forever ban dogs off Good Harbor Beach, or any Gloucester beaches.

Please email or call Mayor Sefatia’s office and your City Councilors and let them know your thoughts about Piping Plovers, dogs, and all the wildlife that finds a home at Good Harbor Beach. We hope you agree that making this simple change in the ordinance from April 1st to September 15th is the best solution for all our wild and domestic creatures. This modification to the dog ordinance will also show the federal agents that the Gloucester community recognizes our responsibility and takes very seriously our commitment to protecting endangered and threatened species.

Thank you.

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken: sromeotheken@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-281-9700

Councillors At Large

Paul Lundberg, President: plundberg@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-282-8871

Melissa Cox: mcox@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-631-9015

Jamie O’Hara: johara@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-979-7533

Jen Holmgren: jholmgren@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-335-4748

Ward 1 Councilor Scott Memhard: smemhard@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-283-1955

Ward II Councillor Ken Hecht: khecht@gloucester-ma.gov, 617,755-9400

Ward III Councillor and Vice-president Steven LeBlanc: sleblanc@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-283-3360

Ward IV Valerie Gilman: vgilman@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-621-4682

Ward V Councillor Sean Nolan: snolan@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-375-8381

If you would like to be a Piping Plover volunteer monitor, please contact Ken Whitta