The weekend was spent learning a new film editing program. I thought using the early morning B-roll that I shot of the beautiful sea smoke event we are experiencing would make wonderful content to practice my new skills. Filmed along Cape Ann’s eastern most shore from Thacher Island to Loblolly Cove, Pebble Beach, Back Shore, Good Harbor Beach, scenes around Gloucester Harbor, and ending at Brace Cove.
We are so very sorry to share that the third chick was killed this morning. The seven-day-old chick was taken and eaten by a very large crow that swooped in unexpectedly, as witnessed by the volunteer monitors.
One week ago today all four Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers hatched in the parking lot. We celebrated, but also knew that the really hard part was yet to come. Monitoring tiny marshmallow sized fluff balls, made the color of their surroundings, is like looking for sand upon sand. To do this several hours at a time is no small feat, made even more challenging on Gloucester’s busiest of beaches.
I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to all our super dedicated PiPl monitors. Know that they are doing the very best they can to fend off predators of every kind, ill mannered people, astronomically high tides, diminished beach, people who have been drinking in the hot sun all day, garbage left behind on the beach (which attracts crows and gulls), and every other creepy thing you can think of. The core group is putting in many hours, are sunburnt, and neglecting their families.
A terrible mishap of death or injury to a chick could happen on anyone of our shifts. When you see a PiPl monitor at GHB, stop and feel free to ask questions about the plovers, and please thank them for their dedication. I honestly hope I don’t see one more facebook post/comment blaming the monitors about how we are not doing enough to keep the chicks safe and not reporting enough about the scofflaws. It is just plain cruel. Thank you.
Our one remaining chick, the one volunteer monitor Heather Hall calls Pip, is the smallest of the hatchlings and the one we think hatched last. This afternoon Mom was keeping watchful eye while Pip was foraging between the foot of the dunes and line of folks at the rope’s edge.
Gloucester’s Animal Control Officers Teagan and Jamie were on the scene at the crack of dawn at 4:30 this morning fixing the posts around the PiPl nesting area and writing tickets. Last night Jamie was on the beach as well. Thank you Jamie, Teagan, and Chief McCarthy for the stepped up patrolling.
The posts needed to be pulled out of the sand because last night we had yet another super high tide, all the way up to the bluff for most of the length of the beach.
I read a comment yesterday that stated falsely that the animal control officers make $80,000.00 a year and sit around and drink coffee all day. I have it on good authority that their combined incomes do not total $80,000.00 a year. Stating misinformation and disparaging the hard working people in our community is creating a false narrative and is hurtful to everyone involved, to the people, the dog owners, and to the shorebirds.
Teagan and Jamie writing tickets at dawn this morning.
We don’t have as much an enforcement problem as we do an issue with entitlement and ignorance. Ignorance in the sense that scofflaws may be from out of town and may be unable to read, and entitlement in that some people know the rules and know the dangers that dogs pose to the shorebirds, yet choose to do as they please.
Upon entering Good Harbor Beach this morning, the scofflaws with their dog walked by these three signs.
Walking a dog on a beach is a purely recreational activity. For teeny tiny nesting shorebird chicks, protecting that same beach habitat is a matter of life and death.
If you see a dog at anytime or anywhere on Good Harbor Beach, please call this number: 978-281-9900.
As of late, it appears as though many more people now have the need of a service dog. Having a service dog requires that it be on leash at all times, not jumping on people, and not running through the dunes. Service dogs cannot go in the dunes, or anywhere on the beach that is restricted to humans.
Would the people with service dogs consider taking their dog to any other of Cape Ann’s stunning beaches, rather than to Good Harbor Beach during shorebird nesting season I wonder?
Folks getting ticketed and escorted off the beach.
Truly, the most important action people can take is to volunteer to help watch over the chicks. We have a number of folks posing as helpers but sadly, they are not actually volunteering for shifts. Two monitors on each shift would be ideal, but this year we have fewer volunteers, and don’t even have single person coverage during large chunks of time. Keeping watch over the baby birds will make a difference in whether or not the chicks survive. Anyone can be a volunteer and anyone of us can show you what to do. Finding people to help has been especially difficult on the weekends. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to lend a hand. Thank you so very much
Six-day-old Piping Plover Chick
This morning’s dog tracks at Good Harbor Beach – Dog tracks are easy to spot and to differentiate from other canids (fox and coyote). For example, notice the sharp toenail indentation. Coyotes have rounded toe tip prints because they wear their nails down.
Dog tracks Good Harbor Beach
Look what other tracks were spied this week, deer! These too are easy to spot in the sand. The deer’s cloven hoof makes a broken heart shape.
White-tailed Deer Tracks Good Harbor Beach
Today’s early morning Good Harbor Beach view of Thacher Island Twin Lights
Phil Cucuru and Mike Tarantino installing the sign board.
Thank you again to the Gloucester DPW, and again to Phil Cucuru and Mike Tarantino. The repaired footbridge looks beautiful and the signage placement is very noticeable. We are grateful to Phil, Mike, Joe Lucido, Tommy Nolan, Kenny Ryan, Newt, Cindy, and the entire DPW and Good Harbor Beach crew for their outstanding effort in helping our PiPl family, since when they first arrived, way back on April 3rd. Their assistance, interest, and kindness is making a difference. Thank you ❤
That’s City Councilman Scott Memhard walking the footbridge to check on the PiPl. So sorry to Scott for not getting a better photo.
We’re so very sorry to write that two chicks were killed today. Catherine Ryan witnessed a terrible scene with a large dog tearing around in the nesting area at dawn, and a volunteer monitor observed one taken by a gull.
All that’s left of our little GHB Pipl Family – Mama (left), Papa (right) and our two remaining chicks.
Please volunteer to be a PiPl monitor. You will truly be making a difference in whether or not our PiPl chicks survive. And you’ll meet the nicest bunch of people. Anyone of us can show you what to do. The shifts can be as long as you like, but an hour is all we are asking. The weather forecast looks gorgeous this weekend, and it is Father’s Day on Sunday, so we are hoping to have two on at each shift. Contact email@example.com.
Please share this post and help spread the word that we need volunteers. Thank you <3
Our little family is settling in, most importantly, finding lots of tiny insects in the wrack area. Cars weren’t the only threat in nesting at the parking lot, there simply did not seem to be sufficient food in the gravel and hard pack. Today, the chicks spent the early morning snuggling often under Mama and Papa; the temperature was chilly and the wind had picked up. Once the sun was shining brightly, they made their way to the water’s edge, learning how to forage on teeny mollusks and sea creatures.
The seagulls were ferocious this afternoon, so much so that our fearless pint-sized PiPl Papa bit a comparatively ogre-sized Great Black-backed in the butt, and made him squwack! The gulls were attracted to a Dunkin munchkin box that had blown into the roped off area. And although I arrived at sunrise, a dog owner and its pet had made fresh tracks through the nesting area. Between the dogs and the garbage-hungry gulls, human-created threats are far more dangerous than natural predators.
Sleepy eyes after morning snuggles
Looking mighty confident for only two-days old!
We definitely need more Piping Plover volunteer monitors, especially during the mid part of the day. If you would like to be a PiPl monitor, please email Ken Whittaker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you <3
Late this afternoon, Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and my husband Tom observed the Plover family leaving the parking lot and heading toward the dunes. Dave shares that they first appeared to be heading to the beach via the marsh creek end, when they suddenly switched direction and started back in the opposite direction towards Boardwalk #3. They went part way down #3, then back toward the parking lot, then back down #3. The family next began to go through the dunes toward the the middle of the beach, away from the #3 roped off area. After all the zig and zagging, the little family returned to the boardwalk, and then headed straight through the dunes, in the direction of #3 nesting zone. Dave lost sight of the chicks, but could hear the parents urging them on. Out they tumbled, down the dune edge, and into the roped off #3 area!
Please keep your eyes peeled for tiny toothpick-legged mini-marshmallow sized chicks zooming around in the sand.
We are elated that all four chicks made it safely out of the parking lot. Quite possibly this was the PiPl plan all along. Several times I observed the adults making the overland route at the very same time that they began nesting in the parking lot, which I had not seem them do in the the previous two years that they nested at GHB (in the very same location all three years).
The PiPl left the beach due to extreme dog disturbance while trying to court and nest, sadly finding the parking lot to be the quietest and safest place. Yesterday afternoon, we all observed folks trying to bring their dogs through the parking lot and onto the beach, after the life guards had left. The presence of dogs caused extreme alarm by the parents, they would pipe loud warnings and then leave the chicks to try to distract the dog. This is when chicks are at their most vulnerable, when the adults have to leave them to defend against predators. The problem is only going to get worse now that the footbridge has reopened.Please, please to the folks bringing your dogs to the beach after hours, now it is more critical than ever to please leave your pets at home. If any of our readers see a dog on the beach at anytime of day for any reason, first make sure the chicks are safe, and then please don’t hesitate to call the police.
Trash left on the beach is another huge issue for endangered shorebird chicks, of any species. Trash on the beach equals a plethora of seagulls. As do dogs, seagulls cause extreme duress for the PiPl parents. Even though the gulls prefer the easy garbage pickings left behind, they also eat baby chicks.
If you would like to be a a volunteer PiPl monitor, please contact email@example.com. Thank you!
Huge Shout Out to all our volunteers, Gloucester’s awesome DPW, Dave Rimmer, Ken Whitaker, Jasmine Weber, and Jonathan Regosin <3
Both Mama and Papa are now able to tend the chicks, while they are also able to feed and take care of themselves simultaneously keeping within earshot and eyesight of each other.
Cape Ann provides welcome habitat for a menagerie of creatures beautiful, from the tiniest winged wonder to our region’s top predator, the Eastern Coyote. Last year I posted a Cape Ann Wildlife Year in Pictures 2016 and I hope you will find the wildlife stories of 2017 equally as beautiful. Click on the image to find the name of each species.
Winter: Only partially frozen ponds allowed for dabblers and divers such as Mallards, Mergansers, and Buffleheads to forage at the freshwater. Mr. Swan had his usual entourage of quwackers and daily heads to the other side of the pond to get away for his morning stretches. Sightings of Red-tailed Hawks and other raptors abounded. Although photographed in Newburyport, the owl photos are included, well, just because I like them. An Eastern Screech Owl (red-morph) was seen daily perched above a playground and Barred Owl sightings too were reported throughout the winter. Raptors live on Cape Ann all year round but are much easier to see in winter when the trees are bare of foliage.
The beautiful green eyes of the juvenile Double-crested Cormorants were seen wintering at both Niles Pond and Rockport Harbor. And during a warm February day on a snowless marsh a turkey bromance shindig commenced.
In early spring, a male and female American Wigeon arrived on the scene making local ponds their home for several weeks. In the right light the male’s electric green feathers at the top of his head shine brightly and both the male and female have baby blue bills.
Meadow and marsh, dune and treetop were graced with the heralding harbingers of spring with photos of a Red-winged Blackbird, a pair of Cedar Waxwings, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Kingbird, Tree Swallow, and Grackle included here.
The Great Swan Escape story made the news in Boston as Mr. Swan eluded captors for hours. He had re-injured his foot and someone took it upon themselves to call the animal rescuers, which would have surely meant death for our beloved 27-year old swan if he had been wrangled into captivity.
M is clearly for Migration through Massachusetts and the month-long arrivals and departures did not abate. Short-billed Dowitchers, winsome Willets, Yellow Legs, and Ruddy Turnstones are just some of the migrating shorebirds spied on Cape Ann beaches and marshes. The best news in May was the return of the Piping Plovers. Of the five or six that camped at Good Harbor Beach to investigate potential nesting sites, one pair bonded and built their nest mere yards from the nesting pair of last year. Could it be the same pair? The nesting Piping Plover story took up much of the spring and by early summer four little Piping Plover chicks hatched over Fiesta weekend. Hundreds of photos and hours of film footage are in the process of being organized with a children’s book and documentary in progress.
Piping Plover Courtship Dance
Piping Plover Nest
The survival of one Piping Plover chick was made possible by a wholesale community effort, with volunteers covering all hours of daylight, along with Mayor Sefatia and her team, Ken Whittaker from the conservation office, Chief McCarthy, and animal control officer Diane Corliss all lending a hand.
Sadly, several Northern Gannets came ashore to die on our Cape Ann beaches, struck by the same mysterious and deadly disease that is afflicting Northern Gannets in other regions. During the summer season they are typically at their North American breeding grounds, which are six well-established colonies, three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Newfoundland.
An orphaned swan was introduced to Niles Pond, much to the dismay of Mr. Swan. Eastern Point residents Skip and Lyn kept watch over the two while they reluctantly became acquainted.
By mid-July many of us were seeing Monarchs in much greater numbers than recent years. Nearly every region within the continental United States experienced a fantastic Painted Lady irruption and butterflies of every stripe and polka dot were seen flitting about our meadows, fields, and gardens.
The tadpoles and froglets of American Bullfrogs and Green Frogs made for good eating for several families of resident otters, who are making their homes in abandoned beaver lodges. Little Blue Herons too, find plentiful frogs at our local ponds.
In early August we see the Tree Swallows begin to mass for their return migration. They find an abundance of fruits and insects in the dunes, headlands, and beaches. The Cedar Waxwings and Ruddy Trunstones were back again observed foraging on their southward journey, along with myriad species of songbird, shorebird, diver, and dabbler.
Tree Swallows Massing
The Late Great Monarch migration continued into the fall as we were treated to a wonderfully warm autumn. Waves and waves of Monarchs came ashore and more butterflies arrived on the scene including new batches of Painted Ladies, Clouded Sulphurs and Common Buckeyes (nothing common about these beauties!).
A pair of Northern Pintails called Cape Ann ponds and coves home for nearly a month while we seem to be seeing more and more raptors such as Red-tailed Hawks, Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons. Juvenile herons of every species that breeds on Cape Ann lingered long into the fall—Black-crowned Night Herons, Yellow-crowned Herons, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, and Green Herons.
Just as Mr. Swan and the Young Swan appeared to be warming to each other, the Young Swan, who has yet to learn to fly, became trapped in the ice at Niles Pond. He was rescued by caretakers Lyn and Dan and is now spending the winter at a cozy sanctuary built by Lyn and friends.
Thank you to all our readers for your kind comments of appreciation throughout the year for the beautiful wild creatures with which we share this gorgeous peninsula called Cape Ann. If you’d like to read more about a particular animal, type the name of the animal in the search box and the original post should come up
With its expansive marshes and dunes, bodies of fresh clear water, saltwater coves and inlets, and geographic location within the Atlantic Flyway, 2017 has been a banner year for Cape Ann’s wild and wonderful creatures. I can’t wait to see what awaits in 2018!
Snowy Owl “Hedwig” January 2018 Backshore Gloucester
Brace Cove and Niles Pond in the lifting fog ~ When I first got to the causeway, Brace Rock was completely obscured. As the fog drifted away an army of cormorants began to appear, joining the gulls on the rocks and feeding from the surf.
One morning in late November I followed the elusive Great Blue Heron up and down the length of the salt marsh creek while a stunning sunrise unfolded in the background. The dance of the lone heron feeding was as hauntingly beautiful as is the ebb and flow of Fauré’s “Pavane” through its series of musical climaxes, and seemed perfectly choreographed to the intensely focused movements of the heron.
Earlier in the month of November I had filmed three herons feeding simultaneously—the most I typically see at Good Harbor are two at a time. That footage is lost, and perhaps it is just as well because it may not have been the most interesting as the focal length was some distance in order to capture all three in the frame. I found it captivating to see this lone heron feeding alongside the seagulls and ducks, not an event I have often seen. Whenever a dog approached or some other imagined disturbance startled the birds, all would take flight; the seagulls and ducks dispersed and the heron invariably headed to the opposite end of the marsh. This went on for several hours, back and forth, up and down the salt marsh. The Great Blue Heron is majestic in flight, with deep powerful wing beats, and a wingspan of five and a half feet to six and a half feet. Oftentimes difficult to find in the cameras’ lens, the heron’s subdued blue-gray and brown plumage is perfect camouflage against the rocky shoreline, particularly in the pre-dawn light and early hours of sunrise.
I looked for the herons again after that late date of November 29th, but I think they had all departed for warmer shores further south.
If you stay until the end, look for a funny clip after the credits have rolled. I couldn’t figure out how to make this most ordinary of body functions fit with the heron’s beautiful dance.
“Pavane in F-sharp minor, Opus 50,” was composed by Gabriel Fauré in 1887. Fauré’s “Pavane” obtains it slow processional rhythm from the Spanish and Italian court dance of the same name. The earliest known pavane was published in Venice in 1508 by Ottaviano Putrucci and is a dignified partner dance. The original music seems to have been fast, but like many dances, became slower over time. For this film I looked for a recording approximately 8 minutes in length, although Fauré’s “Pavane” is more typically six minutes long. The origin of the term is unknown; possibilities include from the Spanish pavón meaning peacock.
The following is the same video, only shared on vimeo. I find in both vimeo and youtube you get a better viewing experience if you watch full frame, but i am curious to know what my readers prefer–vimeo or youtube. Please let me know if you have a moment. Thank you!