GLOUCESTER’S “PIPING PLOVER PLAN” REVIEWED BY KEN WHITTAKER AND MEET ADRIENNE LENNON, GLOUCESTER’S NEW CONSERVATION AGENT!

Last evening at the City Council meeting, former Gloucester conservation agent Ken Whittaker reviewed the City’s 3PPlan (Piping Plover Plan) with the Councilors.

We Piping Plover volunteer monitors are grateful for the time and effort Ken has put forth in helping to protect our threatened Piping Plovers. We’re especially appreciative of the time he spent coordinating the volunteer monitors–not an easy task! We wish Ken all the best in his retirement.

Ken and PiPl Volunteer Monitors, Good Harbor Beach

Ken and Jim Destino introduced Adrienne Lennon, Gloucester’s new conservation agent. We had a few minutes after the introduction to speak with Adrienne. Her experience includes working for seven years at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, located in Ipswich on the Plum Island causeway, adjacent to the infamous Pink House. While there, Adrienne gained extensive knowledge in Piping Plover conservation. She is especially interested in preserving and protecting our beach dunes. Adrienne can be reached at alennon@gloucester-ma.gov.

Best of success to Adrienne in her new position as Gloucester’s Conservation Agent!

Photos of Ken and Adrienne at City Hall courtesy of City Council Vice President Steve LeBlanc

During Piping Plover nesting season, I have visited the public beach at the northern end of Plum Island, Newbury Beach. I believe the PiPl nesting areas at Newbury Beach are monitored by Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. Newbury Beach is similar in several ways to Good Harbor Beach in that it is a popular town beach in a residential area with many access points and nearby hotels. Last year the beach and dunes were extremely hard hit by late winter storms, just as was Good Harbor Beach.

About Joppa Flats Education Center: Overlooking the Merrimack River and near the entrance to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the Joppa Flats Education Center offers unique educational opportunities for people of all ages. Here, you can explore the region’s wildlife-rich habitats (salt marshes, mudflats, rivers, bays, and coastal waters) through guided tours, marine touch tanks, art exhibits, drop-in programs, and interpretive displays.

Scenes from behind the Joppa Flats Education Center and Plum Island causeway.

Councilors Steve LeBlanc and Melissa Cox wearing Piping Plover monitor hats provided by Ken Whittaker.

Coffins Beach and Wingaersheek Beach are going to be more closely monitored this year for Piping Plovers. The above photo is from 2016 when NINE chicks fledged at Coffins Beach!

Three-day-old Piping Plover Chick, Good Harbor Beach

 

SAVE THE DATE! Piping Plover Ecology, Management, and Conservation

Sponsored by the City of Gloucester Animal Advisory Committee

Nine Piping Plover Fledglings, Coffins Beach, Gloucester

On Saturday March 30, 2019 Dr. Katharine Parsons, Director, Coastal Waterbird Program for Mass Audubon will be giving a presentation on Piping Plovers. The talk will be held at the Library, downstairs in the Friend room.

Dr. Katharine Parsons received her Bachelor’s degree from Smith College and Ph.D. in Ecology from Rutgers University. She has 35 years of experience in coastal waterbird research, management and policy in the northeast. Since 2011, Dr. Parsons has directed Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program which works with coastal communities throughout Massachusetts to protect rare birds and their habitats. In addition, she has taught courses in coastal ecology and natural systems at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design since 2008. Her presentation at the Gloucester Public Library will cover Piping Plover ecology, management and conservation.

Gloucester’s Coffins Beach fledglings

NEW SHORT FILM: TREE SWALLOWS MASSING

This short film is dedicated a dear friend who recently lost a beloved family member. Along with the tender melody by Jules Massenet, especially the last bits of footage (before the credits) made me think of angels and of hope.

  *   *   *

Over the course of the summer while filming the Piping Plover Family at Wingaersheek Beach, Tree Swallows began flocking in ever increasing numbers. They became part of the Piping Plover story not only because a Tree Swallow will occasionally dive bomb a Piping Plover, for whatever reason I am not entirely sure, but also because they are beautiful to observe, and occasionally, seemingly playful, too.

Songbirds that they are, Tree Swallows make a cheery chirping chatter. They have long narrow forked tails, all the better for gliding and for their signature aerial acrobatics. The male’s upper parts are a brilliant iridescent blue-green, the female’s somewhat duller, and both female and male have white underparts. The migrating juveniles are almost entirely brown with either white or pale grayish underparts.tree-swallows-gloucester-massachusetts-11-copyright-kim-smith

Tree Swallows breed in the wetlands and fields of Cape Ann. Their name comes from the species habit of nesting in tree cavities. Tree Swallows have benefited tremendously from efforts to help save the Eastern Bluebird because they also nest in the nest boxes built specifically for the Bluebirds.

Acrobatic aerialists, they twist and turn mid-flight to capture a wide variety of insects including butterflies, dragonflies, greenheads, bees, beetles, and wasps.tree-swallows-gloucester-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

Tree Swallows eating insects on the beach and from the crevasses in the driftwood.

Utilizing both fresh and saltwater to bathe, Tree Swallows have a unique habit of quickly dipping and then shaking off the excess water while flying straight upwards.

Tree Swallows begin migrating southward in July and August. The flocks that we see gathering on Cape Ann migrate along the Atlantic Flyway. They overwinter in the southern states of the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Unlike migrating species of butterflies, several generations of Tree Swallows migrate together, the older birds showing the younger birds the way.

Music composed by Jules Massenet: “Méditation” from Thaïs

My Super Talented Friend

Anyone who follows GMG knows how much we love our friends at Cape Ann Giclee, James and Anna Eves. Not only do they do amazing work, but they are incredibly kind and generous.

So, how happy was I to see that one of my favorite peeps in the world now has reproductions of her gorgeous paintings available at Cape Ann Giclee. One of the coolest things about Paula Morgan?  Well, she’s actually Mrs. Morgan.  As in West Parrish’s very own art teacher.  How great for your child to own a piece of their teacher’s amazing artwork.  However, even if you don’t have a child in one of Paula’s classes, you’d be lucky to have one of these pieces in your home.

Check out Paula Morgan’s work here!  Hopefully more coming soon!

Here is a screen shot of the two paintings that are available now.  Obviously check out other work while visiting the site…including GMG’s, Joey Ciaramitaro. Be sure to visit the link above to see these close up…as this photo absolutely does not do them justice.  So much vibrant color and detail!

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Coffins Beach by Paula Morgan
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By Cranes Beach by Paula Morgan

Are you up for the 13-2 Gloucester beaches challenge? 13 beaches. 2 jumps. 1 city. Go!

A mid-week vacation day is the easiest. Oh, and you’ll need your resident beach sticker. We prepped our car with a picnic blanket for the seat, extra towels, and ice waters. Start early and grab a big  “lobsterjack”  breakfast because you’ll need the fuel. End late.

Let’s establish some base rules here.

First off, you need to spend at least 15 minutes at each beach. (You can tweak this a little if you want.) Next, you need to dive under. We suggest a ritual for each beach, e.g. ‘The Five and Dive’. Finally, you have to stop for ice cream and candy. Remember, you can do these beaches (or others in Gloucester) and jumps in any order. Be flexible for unexpected delays like staying at one beach for hours, or a friend asking you to drop off a sub (*cough* Joey *cough*). Most importantly, you have to do at least 13 beaches and 2 jumps in one day. Mind the tides. Be grateful we have so many choices.

The Beaches- partial list

alphabetical order

Annisquam lighthouse.  Coffin’s beach.  Good Harbor beach.  Long beach. Magnolia beach. Niles beach. Pavilion beach (by Beach Court). Pavilion beach bonus (by the cut). Plum Cove beach. Rocky Neck Oakes Cove beach. Stage Fort Park (1) – Cressy’s beach ( our alt. title ‘sea serpent’ big beach). Stage Fort Park (2) – Half Moon beach. Wheeler’s Point. Wingaersheek beach.

The Jumps- partial list

Annisquam bridge. Magnolia Pier.

*We do this challenge at least once each summer. Yesterday we started off with breakfast at Willow’s Rest and continued from there. Our timing was random especially as we spent hours at Wingaersheek. The second meal to get us through the day came from the sandwich counter at Annie’s by Wingaersheek. Yes, they have a sandwich counter.

Gloucester Beaches sandwich directory

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4 Pairs of piping plovers and 9 chicks on Coffin’s Beach reports Greenbelt. And osprey project

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David Rimmer wrote a big thank you for all the GMG attention. He explained that Mass Wildlife and the Greenbelt Association are working with the City of Gloucester and sends this update:

  • “There are 4 pairs of piping plovers at Coffins Beach – 2 pairs on the front beach and 2 pairs on the inside beach.

 

  • 3 pairs are on private land and 1 pair is on Greenbelt land. Mass Wildlife and Greenbelt have been monitoring and managing this area, too, (as with Good Harbor)

 

  • at Coffins Beach, one pair has 4 chicks; one pair has 3 chicks; one pair has 2 chicks; and one pair has no chicks.

Greenbelt also has an Osprey Program, which focuses on managing and monitoring nesting Osprey from East Boston to Salisbury.”  Greenbelt has set up webcams and platforms. Learn more http://www.ecga.org/what_we_do/osprey_program.  Chris Leahy and Marion Larson from Ma Wildlife also mentioned Greenbelt’s fantastic Osprey program.

Coffins/Coffin’s Beach has a community Facebook page, Wingaersheek and Coffin’s Beach Past and Present. There are historic and contemporary photographs. Check out the incredible photo series of deer frolicking by Timmothy Burke Manlee.

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piping plovers on Coffins Beach: intertidal mile and they’re holdin’ on.

20160715_143652Gloucester’s Coffins Beach is a long, long stretch of wide open sandy seashore framed by dunes, sea and sky. Growing up, we called it the private side of Wingaersheek. I could hear piping plovers and saw two ‘in the zone’– the intertidal bit that is still wet at low tide and well under water at high tide. I didn’t see birds in the safe retreats by the upper part of the beach, but heard the melodious chirps that inspired their nickname.

Listen to the piping plover

 

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Essex County Greenbelt protective measures in concert with  MA Wildlife
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dog prints by the rope fence
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saw 5 dogs on the beach
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Fitz Hugh Lane, Coffins Beach, MFA

 

Piping plovers have quite a story. In Massachusetts, the vast majority are south, Cape Cod and the islands. By the close of the 19th century, these birds were near extinction. They rebounded successfully by the 1950’s.

I spoke with Dave Rimmer of Essex County Greenbelt, Marion Larson with Ma Wildlife, Deborah Cramer and Chris Leahy. All of them have updates for GMG which I’ll add next. First,

Chris Leahy, MA Audubon, explained that a second age of precipitous piping plover decline occurred in the 1960’s and 70’s. What do you think it was?

Read on to find out.
Continue reading “piping plovers on Coffins Beach: intertidal mile and they’re holdin’ on.”

Curator Karen Quinn describes how artist Fitz Henry may have used a mechanical device

From mfaboston-

Curator Karen Quinn describes how artist Fitz Henry may have used a mechanical device to aid him in painting “Coffin’s Beach,” a shore scene from Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Image credits:
Fitz Henry Lane, Sketch of Coffin’s Beach. CAPE ANN MUSEUM, Gloucester, MA