Again this past week, our dynamic duo has been busily bonding, nest scraping, and mating up and down the full length of the beach. However, the extremely high tide that rose to the base of the dunes washed out the pair’s nest scrapes and temporarily put the kibosh on all things romantic. The two disappeared for a full day after the storm departed, with no spottings anywhere, not even tell tale PiPl tracks.
Super high tide through the spray zone
My heart always skips a beat after a day or two of no “eyes on the PiPls,” but I am happy to report Mom and Dad are back to the business of beginning a new family, seemingly unfazed. The storm and super high tide left in its wake lots of great bits of dried seaweed and sea grass which will in turn attract tons of insects, one of the PiPls dietary mainstays. There is a silver lining to every storm cloud 🙂
Just a friendly reminder if you would please, if you see the PiPls at the edge of the symbolic rope line or foraging in the tide pools, please do not hover. Hovering will distract the Plovers and delay courtship. And hovering attracts gulls and crows to the scene. Step back at least 50 to 60 feet and give them some space. Bring binoculars or a strong lens if you would like to observe the PiPls from a comfortable distance, comfortable to them that is. Thank you much!
On Friday I spotted two banded Piping Plovers and wrote the following day to Dr. Cheri Gratto-Trevor, who is a research specialist with the Canadian government and also the point person for reporting sightings of banded Piping Plovers from Canada. Plovers with white or black bands, and metal bands on the opposite tibia, are from Eastern Canada. Many thanks to Cheri for responding so quickly with with some fascinating information!
Cheri writes, “White 6U is band 2651-85405, banded as an adult male on 30 May 2018 at Big Merigomish Island in N Nova Scotia. He nested in that general area (James Beach) in 2019 and 2020. His black flag was faded so replaced with white flag 6U in the summer of 2020 (see, it was worth the effort in a pandemic, Julie!). He winters in the Bahamas (Man of War Cay, Abaco). The only other time he was reported from migration was fall 2018 in NC (South Point Ocracoke).
Black flag UU (terrific to get such a good photo of the faded code – you’ll have to go after her this summer, Julie) is band 2231-06500, banded as a chick on 19 July 2018 at Pomquet Beach, also N NS. She nested at East Beach, PEI in 2019, but then returned to nest at Pomquet Beach NS in 2020. She has never previously been reported from the non-breeding season, so we don’t know where she winters.
It will be interesting to see if they mate together in N NS this summer! (Normally pairs just meet up on the breeding grounds, so it’s probably unlikely).
Very much appreciated!! (and no, we don’t name our birds).
Now we can add Massachusetts to their migration route!
On April 16th in 2019, a banded Piping Plover from Cumberland Island Georgia was spotted at Good Harbor Beach. We learned that only five days prior to arriving at GHB, he had been seen at Cumberland Island, approximately 1,140 miles away. If any of our readers are so fortunate as to spy a banded Plover, here is the link with color coded guidelines: Great Lakes Piping Plover Color Band Information. And link to the GHB-Cumberland Island PiPl:
The black banded Plover was very tricky to photograph because the white painted letters had worn away. I tried my best to take a photo with the band in full light, not shaded, so we could see the engraved code. I wish there was a more comprehensive map that clearly labels Canadian, American, and Bahamian PiPl locations and am thinking about making one.
Our sweet pair of PiPls has been left largely undisturbed this past week. Word is getting out that the dog officers are ticketing. There are fewer dog tracks running through the symbolically roped off areas, which is fantastic.
Mom and Dad are running the length of the beach, as evidenced by their tiny fleur-de-lis imprints in the sand. They are also nest scraping along the length of the beach however, the pair are primarily sticking within areas #1 (Salt Island side) and #3 (Creekside).
I am excited to think about the possibility of an early nest! If this warm, mild weather continues we may be in luck. For our newest Ambassadors and new friends of Gloucester’s Plovers, the earlier in the season that Piping Plovers nest, the greater the chance the chicks have of surviving. We owe tremendous thanks to Gloucester DPW assistant director Joe Lucido and his crew for installing the roping early. I just can’t express how grateful we are for the early action taken.
This past week I was traveling along the Massachusetts coastline documenting other Piping Plover locations for the PiPl film project and came across a duo of banded Plovers from Eastern Canada. I am waiting to hear back from the Canadian biologist in charge and will write more as soon as she writes back. It was wonderfully exciting to see not one, but two, all the way from Canada and I can’t wait to find out more!
Looking forward to working with you all!
Piping Plovers foraging Good Harbor Beach April 2021
Just a brief note to let you know the first nest scrape of the season was spotted in Area #3 (Creekside) and even though the following two days were stormy and windy, the pair scraped in the exact location three days later. They are settling in and it is happy news!
Many have written and phoned about the dogs still on the beach. Please, if you are on the beach, and you see a dog, whether on leash, off leash, large, medium sized, or the tiniest most cutest dog you have ever seen, please call the AC officer. The number is 978-281-9746. If we don’t continue to call, there will be no record of the extent of the disturbances. We are very aware of the problem and trying to solve. Thank you. 🙂
On another note, the Massachusett Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) installed symbolic roping at the same time as did Gloucester. We are right on par with other north shore communities in providing Piping Plover protections! Again, many thanks to Joe Lucido and Gloucester’s awesome DPW crew!
I hope everyone had a joyful Easter. Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Everything <3
A third Piping Plover has joined our original PiPls! The trio sometimes feed together although the newcomer is often chased away by both Mom and Dad.
Wednesday morning our little pair were intently courting. Papa was doing his fanciful high stepping and calling for Mama to come inspect his teacup saucer sized nest scrape. The Instagram is of one of Papa’s nest scrapes, which is located just outside the roped off area. A nest scrape is a shallow bowl dug mostly by the male. The male and female toss in bits of shell, dried beach grass, tiny pebbles, whatever is handily available.
Today’s colder temperatures will slow courtship. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a mild spring and few dogs disturbances on the beach. The combination of the two, along with the fact that the area has been roped off early in the season, will greatly increase the likelihood of a successful nesting season!
Thank you so very much to Gloucester Times Editor Andrea Holbrook and staff writer Michael Cronin for sharing about the fence post installation and the great information provided for the public. We are so appreciative of the ongoing support given by the community and the Gloucester Times.
By Michael Cronin
Photo by Paul Bilodeau
March 29, 2021
Part of Good Harbor Beach is fenced off to protect some tiny seasonal visitors.
A crew of Public Works personnel began fencing out an area of the beach on Monday to protect migrating piping plovers. The first pair of the threatened shorebirds reportedly landed this weekend.
“They put up the posts today,” said Kim Smith, a local documentarian and advocate for the piping plovers. “The roping will come next and then they’ll put up the signage telling people what’s going on. This is super that they’re doing it early this season. The earlier it goes up, the earlier the chicks hatch which gives them a better chance of survival as the beaches aren’t so busy yet.”
According to Smith, the piping plovers that visit Good Harbor typically nest in the same spot each year.
“One year they nested out in the parking lot because they were pushed out by the dogs on the beach,” she recalled. “But once the ordinance was put in place they were able to return to their usual spot.”
Dog are banned from Good Harbor Beach between April and September. Wingaersheek will remain open to canines on odd numbered days until April 30.
Smith said she’s waiting for the birds to lay their eggs. Once they do, members of the Essex County Greenbelt Association will encapsulate the nest with wire netting.
“Dave Rimmer of Essex County Greenbelt has been guiding us since 2016,” said Smith. “He’s the first one I call when the first egg is laid. The holes in the cage are big enough for the birds to enter and leave, but small enough to keep predators out.”
Huge shout out to Gloucester’s DPW crew today for installing the metal posts that the rope and signs will attach to. It’s simply awesome that the posts are going up so early in the season! The PiPls thank you, too!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to get the posts, signs, and roping up as early in the season as possible. The earlier the protected areas are in place, the earlier the PiPls will nest generally speaking. The earlier in the season that they nest (when the beach is relatively quieter), the greater the chance the chicks will have of surviving and going on to fledge.
It was so windy on the beach this morning, but I think the gentlemen said their names were Brian, Dean, and Dan, but I could have that completely wrong. It’s so challenging to tell who is who when masks are worn.
Thanks so much again to the DPW crew for the fine job this morning, and many thanks for wearing masks, too.
For the past three years, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers have returned during the first week of spring. This year they are again right on schedule!! Here is the little duo tucked behind a mini-hummock, keeping out of the path of last evening’s blustery wind.
The two are foraging together and are communicating, piping softly, yet audibly, to each other, which makes me believe they are a couple. At the end of the day, they were found together resting in the sand.
The pair were first spotted in the fog on the morning of March 26th.
We have a great bunch of Piping Plover Ambassadors signed up and have covered almost all shifts. There are several openings in the afternoon, the 1 to 2pm, 2 to 3pm, and the 3 to 4pm shifts. Our goal is to help educate the public about the life story of the Plovers in a kind, friendly, non-confrontational, and informational manner. If you would like to join us, we would love to have you! There will be an informational meeting when the Plovers begin laying eggs and we can at that time provide a time frame of the weeks Ambassadors will be needed. If you would like to volunteer one hour a day for the six weeks the Plovers need our help, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
A hound dog unfortunately chased one of the Plovers up and down the beach and the pair became separated for a period. I do so hope dog owners recall that dogs are not permitted on the beach after March 31st. Today was a beautiful day and there were many dogs off leash at Good Harbor Beach even though it is an on leash day. Folks really seem to struggle with understanding Gloucester’s leash laws. A friendly reminder that it is a federal and state crime for owners to allow their dogs to harass threatened and endangered species, whether a leash day or not.
For everyone’s general information – In 2016 the pair arrived in mid-May; in 2017, early May; in 2018 in mid-April; in 2019 on March 25th; in 2020 on March 22; and this year, 2021, overnight between March 25th and March 26th.
I hope everyone is doing well. Great news! Piping Plovers are arriving at our local north of Boston beaches. Attached is a photo from this morning, a lone male having a quiet moment above the wrackine. He was a joy to see!!! <3
Our GHB pair have not yet arrived but I imagine it will be soon. If we are so very blessed as to have a family nesting again this year, we will again need Ambassadors. We are requesting volunteers to commit to one hour a day, everyday, for the roughly six weeks of Piping Plover chick rearing At this point we don’t know exactly when that will be but after the nest is established, we can provide a time frame. The hour long time slots are filling, so please let me know if you are interested. We would love to have you! You can get in touch through commenting in the comment section of this post, email me email@example.com, or through Facebook or Instagram
Please note that Ambassadors are welcome to share a time slot with a friend if that works best for you.
Just a kind note, we don’t need “floaters,” ie folks with some prior experience who show up now and then. We really need Ambassadors to commit to a time slot. I realize how great a commitment is an hour a day for six weeks during the summer and am so grateful to all of you who have volunteered in the past and are planning to be Ambassadors again this year.
Our message of super positivity, as well as focusing on education, was a great success last year and we are again continuing with these goals at the fore. You’ll meet a terrific bunch of people and if you have never volunteered for anything like this, you will learn so much about the life story of beautiful shorebirds nesting at a New England coastal beach.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Saturday at 5:30pm and there are not three, but four PiPl!! The Dunlin is still here and doing everything Plover, it is so funny to see. I think we have three males and one female.
They were sleeping at the wrack line but as the sun was setting, more and more dogs. They don’t seem to mind people playing in close proximity, but then a bunch of dogs ran through where they were resting and so down to the water’s edge they flew.
Sixteen off leash between 5:30 – 7pm, and it’s an on leash day. I avoid GHB during the off season because of dog owners that allow their dogs to jump on you, but it is so disheartening to see them running wild through the dunes. So much habitat destruction taking place. How will the dog owners respond when they learn the Piping Plovers have returned and are nesting again at GHB I wonder.
Total mayhem on the beach. Dogs are everywhere, on the shoreline, the wrack zone, and running completely wild through the dunes. One knocked me over. I love dogs but this is crazy. The PiPl don’t have a chance and it’s too distressing to watch them try and rest and forage and nest and constantly be chased off.
Precisely where they were sleeping at the wrack line, a couple threw their dog’s tennis ball right smack at the PiPl. So startled, I and the PiPl both jumped up half a foot, before they flew off. Of course the couple didn’t know the PIPl were sleeping but it’s just really, really frustrating.
I wish so much we could do what they do at Crane’s Beach, where during the off season, dogs are allowed on a section of the beach. And at Cranes dog owners do not allow their dogs to run rampant through the dunes.
Tom came back from a walk at noon and couldn’t find the PiPl anywhere, and he is really good at spotting. I’ll check back at sunset to see if the PiPl can be found. Praying and hoping they have found a safe place.
Heartbroken. No plovers at sunset, anywhere, walked from the creek to the hotel twice. Still chaotic with dogs. Will try tomorrow at dawn.
Pretty Mama Plover
The boys of spring.
Hooray!! Daybreak and I found them, three Plovers sleeping all in a row! Hopefully will find the other PiPl and Dunlin later today. Emailed Ken Whittaker, Gloucester’s awesome conservation agent, and we are meeting this afternoon. The goal is to get a cordoned off area in place before the next weekend when dogs are off leash. Reminder to let people know to contact Ken if they would like to help this summer by being a Plover ambassador.
Three in a row sleeping this morning, with Mama in the middle
Large dead Black-backed Gull on the beach near the big rock and will move that this afternoon after I speak with Ken. We don’t want to attract varmints to the Plovers’ nesting area!
Oh Happy Day! Overjoyed to see the return of Little Chick and Friends!!!! Daily for the past several weeks I have been checking to catch sight of Piping Plovers. I looked this morning and nothing, but as Tom was leaving for a noon walk on GHB I asked him to keep his eyes peeled. My heart skipped a beat when he called only fifteen minutes later and said he thought there were three. I raced over, and sure enough, YES, three little plovers!!! They are so weary I don’t know what to think. Did they fly straight from the Carolinas or even further, from the Turks and Caicos, or possibly some remote island in the Bahamas? They are so sleepy-eyed and only want to rest.
Will they stay or are they on their way further north? Is this a passing passel of plovers? Could this be Little Chick or Papa and Mama Plover returning? It’s so cold and damp, rain is predicted and later this week, snow. What do Plovers do in the snow?
Wednesday April 4th
Dunlin in the drizzle
The Piping Plovers stayed the night, all three! They have been joined by a nearly as tiny little shorebird, a Dunlin I think. The PiPl appear to accept the Dunlin as part of the troupe. The Plovers seem a bit more perky today, foraging in the tidal flats.
Why oh why do folks encourage their dogs to chase shorebirds? Will have to post about the Plovers if they decide to stay. Too foggy and drizzly for my cameras on the beach today.
Thursday April 5th
Plover flying through a sand storm
Joy! They are still here. Terribly, terribly windy. The Plovers are trying to forage but are being blown sideways. So smart–they are seeking and finding shelter behind the big rock, and are huddling with the Dunlin. Too much sand blowing on my cameras.
Friday April 6th
The PiPl are courting!!! Does this mean they have made GHB home for the summer? If they lay eggs now, won’t that be tremendous because chicks will hatch well before July 4th. I think there are two males, one female, and the Dunlin is still here.Object of desire.
The male with the brightest orange bill made several nest scrapes, inviting the female to come sniff his cloaca and to inspect the site. Courtship was interrupted numerous times by curious and exuberant pooches. The dogs are off leash on even numbered days. Perhaps the Dog Friendly people will help and keep dogs on leash when near this potential nesting area. I hope so much we can make this happen. If the PiPl are able to nest early, the chicks will have a much, much better chance of survival. Millions and millions of dogs, but only about three thousand nesting pair of Piping Plovers remaining. Will the numbers again drop this year after multiple hurricanes and late season nor’easters?
Female left, male right – notice the female Plover’s paler crescent band across her forehead, just a beautiful example of the difference between a male and female PiPl.
It’s time to let folks know about the Plovers, and we need a roped off area as soon as possible.
Sunny and cold and beautiful, with snow later today.
Late afternoon–what do Piping Plovers do in a snow squall? They forage! No photos, but a tiny bit of film footage. What were nice puffy wet flakes at home in my garden became icy, stinging cold driving rain/snow mix on the beach and too much for cameras to stay long.
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) close-up
Posting Saturday and Sunday tomorrow when I have a chance to go through photos.
Great Gloucester citizen and friend to wildlife–kudos to this Mom for walking her dog on a leash, while carrying a child!