A second egg was laid yesterday by our Parking Lot Plover family. The second egg is an indication by the PiPl that they are committed to the nest, which means it is time to put up the wire exclosure. If the exclosure is installed earlier, the risk of the PiPl abandoning the first egg is far greater. We immediately called Essex County Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer to let him know about the second egg.
Dave and his assistant Mike Carbone arrived early this morning to set up the exclosure. Roughly six feet in diameter and made of wire with four inch spacing, the exclosure’s four inch openings are the ideal size to let PiPl in and out, and to keep large predatory birds and small mammals from entering. With thanks and gratitude to Dave and Mike for coming so quickly to exclose the nest.
After installing the exclosure the fear is that the PiPl will abandon the nest site. Our Mama Plover returned to the nest a short time after the exclosure was installed!
And thanks again to dog officer Teagan Dolan, who stopped by to check on the Piping Plovers and has been regularly ticketing 🙂
How You Can Help the Piping Plovers
1) Under no circumstances is it acceptable for people or dogs to enter the Piping Plover nesting area.
2) Please drive slowly and cautiously when in the parking lot. Our Mama and Papa PiPl are now residing between the parking lot and nesting area #3.
3) Keep ALL dogs off the beach and out of the parking lot. The parking lot is considered part of the beach according to Gloucester Police Chief McCarthy. A Piping Plover’s brain does not differentiate between a dog on-leash versus a dog off-leash. When a dog, off-leash or on-leash, comes within twenty feet of a PiPl, they immediately stop what they are doing, whether foraging, courting, mating, nesting, or resting. Please call the following number to report any dog sightings or dog related incidences at Good Harbor Beach: 978-281-9746.
4) When observing, please bear in mind that Piping Plovers tolerate one or two quiet persons, from a distance, but crowds of three or more put them in panic mode. Large groups of people hovering near the PiPl also attracts crows and gulls, a nesting shorebird’s natural enemy because they eat both baby chicks and eggs.
5) Help spread the word about the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers.
6) Sign up to be a Piping Plover volunteer ambassador by emailing Ken Whittaker at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, but most importantly, the Piping Plovers will thank you too when chicks hatch and chicks fledge!
Nest with egg in the parking lot at Good Harbor Beach
Thanks to our awesome DPW, who has barricaded the area, and to my husband Tom, who discovered the egg, our PiPlover egg is protected from cars and trucks. I checked on the PiPl this morning before work at about 6:30 to 7am and the PiPl were courting in the #3 nesting area. A dog off leash ran by and they quickly flew. I checked for an egg in their nest scrape in the parking lot before leaving and the egg had not yet been laid. Tom discovered the single egg at 11am and immediately spoke to Phil Cucuru, who was working on the boardwalks.
Kevin Mazzeo, Phil Cucuru, Kenny Ryan, Joe Lucido, and Steve Peters were immediately on the job, placing a barricade around the nest.
We are all going to work together to help our PiPl pair, despite this most difficult of all locations. One thing the pair has going for it is that this is relatively early in the season. If all four are laid within the upcoming week, we could have chicks by mid-June, a full two weeks earlier than last year. Dave Rimmer, from Greenbelt, will be placing the exclosure around the egg shortly. The DPW is placing a second tier barricade around the nest.
Please, please please, do not allow your dog in the GHB parking lot or on the beach. There were umpteen dogs, off leash and on, at Good Harbor Beach this past week, despite the fact that there should be no dogs after May 1st. I asked each person who had brought their dog where they were from–it seemed fairly equal–half were from out of town and half were local.
Our Mama and Papa are still mating in the nesting area. Whether the parking lot is their alternate plan or the only plan, at this point, please no dogs.
A second pair of PiPl arrived yesterday. Will they be staying or is GHB is just a stopover? The following may sound like a strange request, but part of the problem this weekend was kites. Just as we love dogs, there are few things more magical to a young child than flying a kite on the beach. The issue is, when folks are flying their kite over the nesting area, to a PiPl, a kite looks like a giant vulture looming overhead, ready to snatch them up. Please when flying a kite (or a drone) on the beach, please fly away from the nesting area, keeping the kite at least 500 yards away from the Plovers. Early in the season there was a pair of Turkey Vultures eating a dead seagull on the beach. It was amazing to film the PiPl reaction because as the Vultures flew overhead, all the PiPl, and the one Dunlin, foraging in the intertidal zone flattened to the sand in unison, and stayed that way long after the Vulture had disappeared over the horizon.
Thank you to everyone for all that you are doing to help the PiPl. Special thanks to Joe Lucido, Phil Cucuru, and the tremendous support from the DPW crew, to PiPl monitor Heather Hall, who spent many hours at GHB this past weekend watching over the PiPl, and to my husband Tom, for his eagle eyes.
Mama and Papa courting in the nesting area in today’s early morning fog.
THE PIPING PLOVERS HAVE GIVEN UP ON THE BEACH AND ARE NESTING IN THE PARKING LOT.
During some part of each of the past four off leash beach days, the Piping Plovers have been found in the parking lot, forced off the beach by a barrage of dogs in the nesting area, and dogs chasing them and and down the beach. For the first three of those four off leash days that they were driven off the beach, the PiPl spent a good part of the time going from white painted line to white painted line, using the color white as camouflage against predators such as hawks, crows, and falcons. They are miniature “sitting ducks” when in the parking lot, not only to natural predators, but because they are so well camouflaged, and so tiny, they are in tremendous danger from car and truck drivers who would not see them until it is too late.
Nesting and courting in the parking lot.
New little nest scrape.
Yesterday morning at 7am, an off leash day, the PiPl were chased off the beach by a dog and its owner. They flew to the parking lot. For the next twelve and a half hours, Mama and Papa did not leave the parking lot. They did not eat or drink, but spent the entire time courting, mating, and building a nest scrape in the gravel, traveling from white line to white line. It was sadly beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. Beautiful in the way that no matter what obstacles they face, the little pair’s desire to reproduce is so powerful that they will continue to try, even in a habitat that is so wholly unsuitable for raising chicks. Sad and heartbreaking because this scenario was unquestionably and completely unnecessary.
Yesterday the dogs were in the nesting area, poohing, peeing, romping, and digging. It happened throughout the day, from 6:30am to 8pm, but was especially challenging during high tide, when so little beach remains. The following batch of photos was taken in the short period of time that I was on the beach and not in the parking lot, as the tide was receding.
When dog owners were asked by volunteer Preston if they were aware of the PiPl–most said yes–as they allowed their dog to wander into the nesting area.
Dog runs into nesting area, dog goes poop, owner enters nesting area to clean up poop, can’t find poop, has to muck around in nesting area to find, finally finds poop, cleans up, dog meets a new friend in the nesting area.
Last night Mama and Papa flew back to the beach after the coast was clear, at sunset. As you can imagine, they were ravenous, and ate with great gusto at the water’s edge.
The Bachelor returned to the nesting area at sundown, too.
Early this morning I found all three eating and bathing in the tide pools, before they were chased off again later in the morning. As I write this, the Mama and Papa are taking turns sitting on their nest scrape, in the rain, in the parking lot.
The Piping Plovers can’t catch a break – off leash dogs this morning on an on leash day.
It is difficult for the animal control officers to give out tickets as the ordinance is written, when it is an off leash day, especially when the dogs are running willy nilly and far away from their owners. And it is impossible for them to be there 24/7.
Early this morning, which is an on leash day, Officer Dolan was handing out tickets.
Call your councilors and Mayor Sefatia’s office and let them know your thoughts on protecting the Piping Plovers. Tomorrow is the last day of the spring summer season 2018 that dogs are allowed on the beach. But they are not allowed under ANY circumstances in the nesting area. If you see a dog on the beach at any time of day or night after April 30th please call the dog officer at 978-281-9746. Thank you.
I have an idea to make a brochure to not only hand out to people at the parking lot entrance to the beach, but to circulate door to door around the neighborhood. We need to help folks understand why it is so important that we help the PiPing Plovers.
Thank you to all the volunteers who helped yesterday. If you came and I unfortunately did not see you it is because most of the day was spent in the parking lot. Thank you to Lillian and Craig, Leontine, Deborah, Heather, and Preston for your good work!!
Mama sleeping on the white lines in the parking lot
No one paid attention to our signs that we added to the nesting area yesterday. My friend Deborah Cramer stopped by to see the PiPl and watched half a dozen dogs running through and playing in the nesting area. When I returned to the beach at 6:30, the PiPl were in the parking lot, again driven out of the nesting area by off leash dogs. Very frightening when an SUV drove past and they didn’t budge.
While the PiPL were in the parking lot, I thought would be good time to reinforce the signs with duct tape. When at the nesting area adjusting signs, there were more dogs owners allowing dogs to run through and completely ignoring the signs.
Reading the federal regulations from the USFWS:
“Pets should be leashed and under control of their owners at all times from April 1 to August 31 on beaches where piping plovers are present or have traditionally nested. Pets should be prohibited on these beaches from April 1 through August 31 if, based on observations and experience, pet owners fail to keep pets leashed and under control.”
All the signs in the world won’t make people who don’t care, care.
Tomorrow, especially at high tide, and as the skies are clearing, I am afraid will be another terrible situation for the PiPl. If you would like to lend a hand, please email me at email@example.com or just come. I will be there for the better part of the day and will show you what to do. High tide tomorrow is at 10:54 am. Thank you!
We had a new group of Piping Plover travelers fly in overnight, earlier in the week, but since that one-day stopover, where they rested and foraged at the nesting area around boardwalk #1, the travelers have not since been seen. If we see evidence of PiPl tracks at #1, we can add more signs there, too.
There has been tremendous criticism regarding signage. The signs that Greenbelt posted at Good Harbor Beach are similar in size and scope of information to signs used up and down the East Coast, and on the West Coast, too, for Snowy Plovers, a similarly threatened species. I especially like the first one and the second sign in the gallery and would like to design one for our Good Harbor Beach similar to one of these.
Kind folks have suggested adding banners to the posts, which I am afraid would only serve to attract gulls and crows, and would also disturb the PiPl. More kind folks have suggested fencing. I think that conservationists don’t use dune fencing for several reason. The adults (and chicks) need to run freely to and from the water’s edge to forage, the fencing would be disruptive to install, in our case, part of the fencing would need to be in the tidal zone and would easily be damaged during high tides, and because it would trap small predatory mammals within.
Regardless of whether or not we have adequate signs, we find ourselves in the struggle of Dog Owner versus Piping Plover. It’s partly because the Plovers have arrived a full month earlier than in previous years. In 2016 and 2017, they arrived at Good Harbor Beach when the beaches are closed to dogs for the season, on May 15th, and May 3rd, respectively. This year, the PiPl arrived on April 3rd. I know this for certain because this spring I had been checking everyday since mid-March.
There are many, many dog owners who are keeping their dogs leashed when at Good Harbor Beach and many who are walking their dogs at alternative locations during this last week in April. We should all be grateful and appreciative to these friends of the PiPl, I know I sure am!
The struggle of Dog Owner versus Plover is not simply an issue at this time of year, with dogs off leash during the month of April, but is consistently challenging throughout the summer during the entire nesting season. Yes, there are folks from out of town who aren’t familiar with our no dogs on the beach between May 1st through October 1st ordinance, but the folks who most frequently ignore our ordinances are people who live here and are aware of the rules. This is especially apparent in the early hours of the morning and after five, when people know there are few enforcers on duty at those times of day.
Another threat to Piping Plovers, again created by humans, are people that leave their trash on the beach. Good Harbor Beach looks pristine and incredibly beautiful after the tremendous job done by the Clean City Commission’s Great Gloucester Cleanup volunteers. Daily there are typically only a handful of crows and gulls. Soon that will change. People will leave their trash on the beach, which attracts a plethora of hungry gulls and crows, which eat baby chicks.
Red Fox foraging for shorebird eggs, West Gloucester
Piping Plovers face many other threats including fox and coyotes that forage on eggs, large predatory birds such as Great Horned Owls, plastic pollution, loss of habitat, and rising sea level. But the two threats that are under our immediate ability to manage are preventing dogs and people from disturbing the nesting sites, and keeping the beaches super clean of trash.
Crows in the PiPl nesting area, fighting over chicken bones left on the beach, 2017.
Many North Shore beaches that find themselves home to the Piping Plovers are also under the management of federal and state organizations. Plum Island is a US Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Nahant and Revere Beaches are managed by DCR, and Crane Beach is managed by the Trustees of Reservations.
Gloucester has none of the daily oversight and funds provided by federal and state organizations. The Piping Plovers need our help and so it is up to we citizens of Gloucester and Cape Ann to do all we can.
Piping Plovers are facing extinction. There are approximately only one thousand five hundred breeding pairs in the world, and that simply isn’t enough to sustain the population, especially since the rate of fledging has recently dropped precipitously. Conservationists hope to raise the number to at least two thousand five hundred pairs, and the bird will not be taken off the threatened species list until that time.
The early arrival of the Piping Plover this year signals a success of sorts. The pair successfully fledged one chick last summer, which is better than the current overall Massachusetts state average of .6. The birds are maturing and finding their way more easily to GHB.
This year, there simply wasn’t enough time to change the dog ordinances, which as they are currently written, allow dogs off leash fifteen days out of the month of April. Because the leash ordinances at this time allow dogs off leash, the only way we are going to help the Plovers is if we work together as a community, to help each other understand what is happening with the PiPl, and do all we can to protect this tiniest of shorebirds on the busiest of our beaches.
The Piping Plover is a “threatened” species under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. As such, the City, along with the Commonwealth, is required to protect them under the law. Having said that, we are committed to making every effort possible to protect the nesting Piping Plovers at our beaches while, at the same time, maintaining public access.
Piping Plovers typically arrive from their southern wintering areas to our local beaches in late March or early April. Males and females quickly form breeding pairs that begin the process of courtship and select a nest site throughout April and May. During these months, it is critically important to limit any disturbance of the birds and their habitat.
Chicks can hatch from nests in late May and are immediately mobile and move out of the nest in search of food. As chicks grow older and larger, they will roam from the dunes to the water’s edge in search of food. Chicks are very vulnerable to human disturbance and are susceptible to predators like gulls, foxes, and dogs.
While dogs are allowed to run free during this time of year on many of our beaches, that right does not supersede the requirements under federal law to protect the Piping Plovers on those beaches. Unleashed dogs can pose a very real threat to Piping Plover adults and chicks. As such, dog owners are responsible for controlling their dogs and keeping them as far away from Piping Plover areas as possible. The owner of any dog that adversely or negatively impacts the Piping Plovers and their habitats will be in violation of federal law and will likely face legal action.
Please keep a close eye or your dog during this Piping Plover season.
A Piping Plover nest is a mere depression in the sand.
Male and female Plovers do not begin sitting on the eggs 24/7 until all are laid, which takes about a week. Especially during that time, the eggs are often left exposed and are extremely vulnerable to being stepped upon by people and dogs.
Despite best efforts, the Piping Plovers were again driven off the beach.
Knowing an off leash weekend day was going to be tough on the PiPl, I spent most of Sunday at Good Harbor Beach. During the morning hours, it wasn’t so bad because most dog walkers were with their pooches by the water’s edge. As the tide came in, the situation quickly deteriorated. Countless dogs ran into the roped off area; I lost track after forty. The PiPl gave up on courtship and tried to forage. A pair of bird dogs chased all three Plovers up and down the beach repeatedly, when they finally gave up.
I searched for an hour and couldn’t find. As I was leaving, there were Mama and Papa, in the parking lot. Mama was sitting quietly on the painted white lines and Papa was desperately trying to dig a nest scrape in the course gravel. This exact same scenario happened last Saturday, on the off leash beach day.
Papa trying to scrape a nest in the gravel parking lot
I had hoped that by spending the day trying to keep dogs out of the #3 nesting area, the parking lot scene would not be repeated. Volunteers are desperately needed during this last week of off leash days. For the area around #3, where I was stationed, at least two are needed, because as you are trying to keep dogs out of one side, they are coming in from the opposite end.
Please email Ken Whittaker if you would like to help. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
The worst days are going to be Thursday, Saturday, and Monday, the three last off leash days of April, with Saturday being by far the hardest.
High tides for the upcoming weekend off leash days:
Thursday April 26th – 9:03 am – off leash day
Friday April 27th – 10:01am – on leash
Saturday April 28th 10:54am – off leash day
Sunday April 29th 11:42am – on leash
Monday April 30th 12:27pm – off leash day
Our Piping Plover pair are resilient. They left the parking lot and returned to the beach at sunset, but again, the same pair of dogs chased them off the beach.
Mama and Papa Plover, and the little Bachelor, survived this past off leash weekend day, but as you can imagine, courting and nesting are again delayed. The most important thing for folks to understand is that the earlier in the season the Piping Plovers are allowed to nest, the earlier the chicks will hatch, which means they will have a thousand fold better chance of surviving.
Some good news—overnight four new additional Piping Plovers arrived! They are in a battle with one another over turf at the roped off area by boardwalk #1.
The following video was produced in 2014. The number of Piping Plover chicks that have survived has gone down since that year, but I thought that what coastal biologist Jorge Ayub from DCR at Revere Beach has to say is especially relevant to our Good Harbor Beach. He begins speaking at 2:45.”We have seen this year an improvement, relative to last year, and acceptance. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of success. This year the Plovers fledged earlier in the season and the reason for that is thanks to the visitors and the residents who didn’t disturb them earlier in the season.”
Thank you to all the friends of our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, to dog owners who are staying away from Good Harbor Beach, and to all who are advocating for the PiPl.
Early this morning I found both Mama and Papa feeding in the intertidal zone, along with the “Bachelor.” The second pair has not been seen since they were chased off the beach last weekend. There seemed to be fewer dogs on the beach this morning and I am so grateful to the dog owners who are helping to watch over the Plovers.
Yesterday was a much needed quiet day for the Plovers; it was cold and rainy, and an on-leash day. There were folks with dogs off-leash, though they weren’t near the PiPl. But there were fresh tracks running through the nesting area.
Here is why, at this very critical time during Piping Plover breeding, it is imperative to keep dogs and people out of the nesting area. The Plovers are actively courting. What does that mean exactly?
The Plovers first stake out a territory. For the third year in a row, they have chosen the area around the big rock, by boardwalk #3.
Both male and female vigorously defend the territory from other Piping Plovers, as well as other species of large and small birds.
Throughout an average quiet day, the male PiPl builds many “nest” scrapes for the female to inspect. If the female is interested, the male displays an involved courtship dance. If she continues to be interested, he will mate with her by jumping on her back where they join together cloaca to cloaca, but for only mere seconds. During that time the male fertilizes the female’s egg.
Piping Plover courtship requires a tremendous amount of energy, and each courtship episode takes about twenty minutes, from nest scrapings to mating. If the birds are constantly interrupted by dogs tearing through, and people walking through, the nesting area, courtship and mating are delayed, over and over again.
If the Piping Plovers are allowed to mate early in the season, the chicks will be born that much earlier. The earlier the chicks hatch the greater their chance of survival, especially in the case of Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester’s most beloved and heavily trafficked beach.
In addition to repeated courtship interruptions, we are having an unseasonably cold April. The Piping Plovers are spending a great deal of energy just trying to keep warm. This is evidenced by how often they stand on one leg to thermoregulate.
Papa Plover defending all things Mama Plover.
Papa Plover energetically building shallow teacup-sized nest scrapes.
Papa Plover inviting Mama Plover to inspect.
Male Plover cloaca. All birds have a cloaca, the V-shaped vent from where sperm, eggs, and pooh are emitted. During courtship, the male’s cloaca swells considerably.
Meet “the Bachelor,” the bird bane of Papa’s existence.
How You Can Help the Piping Plovers
1) Under no circumstances is it acceptable to enter the Piping Plover nesting area.
2) Keep ALL dogs far away from the nesting areas. A Piping Plover’s brain does not differentiate between a dog on- leash versus a dog off-leash. When a dog, off-leash or on-leash, comes within twenty feet of a PiPl, they immediately stop what they are doing, whether foraging, courting, mating, or resting.
3) During courtship, the Piping Plovers tolerate one or two quiet persons, from a distance, but crowds of three or more put them in panic mode.
4) Help spread the word about the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers.
5) Sign up to be a Piping Plover volunteer ambassador by emailing Ken Whittaker at email@example.com
Thank you, but most importantly, the Piping Plovers will thank you too when chicks hatch and chicks fledge!