Deborah Cramer wrote an outstanding feature for Audubon published May 2019. This feel good – feel proud story is a great read inspiring efforts near and far. It takes a city.
“…(Kim) Smith, a photographer and filmmaker, had inspired much of the effort. While not everyone can be on the beach every day, her images, videos, and blog offered the entire city an up-close portrait of the birds’ daily lives.”– Deborah Cramer
“How Plover Chicks Born in a Parking Lot Spurred a City to Make its Beach Safer: The dramatic ups and downs of a piping plover family in Gloucester, Massachusetts, show what it takes to protect a threatened species” By Deborah Cramer published by Audubon May 23, 2019.
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The story of a remarkably spirited pair of birds and how a community came together to help in their struggle for survival.
By Kim Smith
May 6, 2019
For the past four years, beginning in May of 2016, a pair of Piping Plovers has been calling the sandy shores of Good Harbor Beach their home. Located in the seaside city of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Good Harbor Beach is the city’s most popular beach. Visitors are attracted to her natural beauty, soft sandy beach, and gently sloping shoreline. Good Harbor Beach provides a beautiful and well-kept location for every kind of fun-in-the-sun activity, and beachgoers can be found swimming, sunbathing, surfing, picnicking, volleyball playing, jogging, strolling, kite flying, and wind surfing. Even weddings take place at Gloucester’s welcoming “little good harbor” at the edge of the sea.
The Piping Plovers arrive from where no one knows for sure. Perhaps they wintered at the wide sandy beaches of North Carolina’s Cape Lookout, or further south at the highly productive tidal flats of the Laguna Madre in Texas, or southwestward at the remote Turks and Caicos Island of Little Water Cay. What we do know is the pair is arriving earlier and earlier each spring. Is it because they are older and are more familiar with landmarks marking the migratory route? Do they arrive earlier because they are stronger flyers, or because they now have a specific destination in mind?
Piping Plovers winter primarily along Gulf Coast beaches from Florida to northern Mexico, along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Florida, and at Caribbean Islands.
For whatever reason, in 2018, the male and female arrived at Good Harbor Beach in early April.
That year coastal regions all along the Eastern seaboard had been devastated by four late winter nor’easters and Good Harbor was no exception. The beach had narrowed greatly while great expanses of dune had eroded or simply disappeared.
Soon several more Piping Plovers, and a single Dunlin, arrived to join the scene. The small flock of shorebirds appeared weary after what must have been a wild and windy northward migration, and all spent several days recuperating by resting on the beach and foraging at the tidal flats.
Foraging and flying through spring wind storms and snow squalls.
Despite April snow squalls and a changed landscape, the Piping Plover mated pair set about reclaiming their previous years’ nesting site.
Mama Plover, left, and Papa Plover, right, shortly after arriving in April 2018
Piping Plovers are a shorebird so small you can easily hold one in the palm of your hand. They have a rounded head and rounded body feathered in coastal hues of sand and driftwood. Their jet-black eyes are large and expressive while slender yellow-orange legs propel them around the beach with lightning speed.
During the breeding season, the bill appears orange with a black tip, and both male and female sport a distinguishing crescent-shaped head band and black collar around the neck. All markings may be more pronounced in the male. By summer’s end, the collars and crowns of both male and female fade to gray and the bill becomes a solid black.
The Piping Plover’s (Charadrius melodus) name comes from the characteristic piping vocalizations the birds make. Warning of pending danger, the adult’s calls are sharply rattling. When parents are piping to their chicks, the peeps are softly melodic and barely audible. The most notable of all is the repetitious piping the male makes to the female, calling her to join him in courtship.
Within several days after arriving, the Good Harbor Beach Mama and Papa were courting and making nest scrapes on the sandy beach.
What does Piping Plover courtship look like? The male makes a small nest scrape in the sand about three to four inches in diameter, and only as deep as the saucer of a teacup. The scrape is not often tucked under vegetation or in the dunes, but sited between the wrack line and edge of the dune, open and exposed to all the world.
He pipes his mating call, urging the female to come inspect his handiwork, his mere little scrape. He’ll continue to pipe while tossing bits of seashells, dried seaweed, or tiny pebbles into the nest scrape. If she is enticed, and that is a very big if, she will make her way to the nest scrape.
The male will continue refining the scrape, vigorously digging, with his legs going a mile a minute and sand flying in every direction. If he’s proven his nest building skills, she’ll peer into the nest. With tail feathers fanned widely, he then bows. The female not only inspects the nest, but the male’s cloaca, the V-shaped vent on the underside of a bird that is the opening to its digestive and reproductive tracts. If she decides to stay a moment longer, the male stands at attention with chest expanded while doing a high stepping dance around the female.
When and if satisfied with all her mate has to offer, she will position herself to allow the male to mount her. He dances more high steps upon her back in preparation for the “cloacal kiss,” where they touch cloaca to cloaca. It only takes a few seconds for sperm to be transferred to the female. Up to this point all has appeared rather courtly and refined, so it is always surprising to observe the last bit of the mating encounter where the male holds the female down to the ground with a rough hold on her neck for several more moments, after which she will pick herself up and run off. From separate stances, they end with a round of preening before then dozing off or zipping off to the shoreline to forage for food.
The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers courtship and mating
Enter the troublesome “Bachelor.” Each year, the Good Harbor Beach nesting pair have an unmated male joining the mating game, and does he ever like to cause trouble. The Bachelor is constantly in the pair’s established territory, not only trying to trick Mama into mating with him, but later in the season will fly aggressively at the young chicks and fledglings.
Countless Piping Plover smackdowns ensue, where the Papa and the Bachelor repeatedly run pell-mell torpedo-like towards each other, then puffing out their feathers to appear larger, brandishing their wings and oftentimes biting, and then retreating. Sometimes the female joins the battle with a flourish of wings and both do figure eight flights and run-abouts all around the Bachelor. At other times, she watches from a distance as the two duke it out. Most often the dual ends with the mated pair heading to their respective corner of the beach, while the lonely Bachelor lays low.
Trouble with unmated males, “disrupters,” so to speak, is not uncommon to the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. A great deal of time and energy is spent by males defending their territories from other males.
Piping Plover Smackdown
Depending on weather and air temperature, the female begins laying eggs in the nest scrape. In Massachusetts, this usually takes place near towards the end of April or at the beginning of May. Stormy weather, cooler temperatures, and disturbances by dogs often result in delayed nesting. She usually lays four eggs, less typically three. She does not lay all the eggs all at once, but one every day, or every other day, over an approximate week-long period.
Not until three eggs have been laid do the plovers begin continuously sitting on the nest. During daylight hours, both the male and female take equal turns brooding the eggs. The “changing of the guard” takes place in half hour intervals and the nest is never left unprotected, unless a predator is being chased off the scene.
The Atlantic Coast breeding population has more than doubled, from 790 pairs when it was first listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1986. Over these past thirty-plus years, collaborating conservation organizations throughout the bird’s breeding regions have devised a practical way to help keep people and pets out of endangered and threatened shorebird nesting areas. Symbolic areas are roped off, with “keep out” signs that explain to beachgoers about the nesting birds.
DCR symbolic fencing
In 2018, the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair arrived on April 3, nearly a month earlier than in previous years. At the time of their arrival, the citywide leash laws allowed for dogs on the beach during the month of April; however, symbolic fencing was installed and a designated area was clearly defined. The mated pair began to zero in on one particular nest scrape only a few feet away from where they had nested the prior two years.
Piping Plover eggs, chicks, and hatchlings are subject to predation, mostly from avian predators, and largely by crows and gulls. Adult Piping Plovers perceive all canids as threats, whether a dog on leash, a dog off leash, fox, or coyote, largely because fox eat Piping Plover eggs and because off-leash dogs chase shorebirds, inadvertently step on the eggs, and with their curious nature, generally disrupt the nesting area.
Vandalism, bonfires and dog disturbance in the nesting area
The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers were no exception. Because of the constant disruption by dogs running off leash through the roped off nesting area at Good Harbor Beach, the pair were shunted off the beach and began spending their days huddled on the white lines in the adjacent parking lot. After several warm April weekend beach days, when each day there were several hundred off leash dogs, with dozens tearing through the nesting area, on April 22 the birds made their first nest scrape on one of the white lines in the parking lot.
To you and I, nesting in the parking lot may seem like a crazy alternative, but when you think about it, their solution was really quite smart. At Good Harbor Beach during the month of April, there is street parking for beachgoers and few, if any, cars are in the parking lot. Most people are walking their pets on the beach, not in the lot. And the painted white lines provide camouflage in much the same way as does beach sand.
Parking lot nest scrape, 2018
Calls for help were made to the community, urgently requesting that people keep their off leash dogs out of the roped off nesting areas. Many people made an effort to control their dogs, but many did not, and on May 5, the first egg was laid in the parking lot nest.
Within hours after the egg was discovered, Gloucester’s DPW crew, under the direction of Mike Hale and Joe Lucido, erected a barricade around the nest so that the egg would not be run over by a vehicle. Many in the community rallied around the displaced plover family. After the second egg was laid, Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship at Essex County Greenbelt Association, along with his assistant Mike Carbone, placed around the nest a wire exclosure.
Kevin Mazzeo, Phil Cucuru, Kenny Ryan, Joe Lucido, and Steve Peters were immediately on the job, placing a barricade around the nest.
An exclosure is used to protect the eggs of threatened and endangered species. The structure is approximately four feet in diameter, constructed with wire that allows the birds and chicks to run freely through the openings, but is too small an opening to allow most predators to enter.
A group of dedicated Piping Plover volunteer monitors set up camp in the parking lot and began monitoring the nest from sunrise to sunset. It was a highly unnatural situation and distressing to observe the birds brooding the eggs while also trying to defend their foraging territory on the beach. Piping Plover mated pairs communicate constantly with piping calls, and with one in the parking lot sitting on the nest and the other on the beach foraging, they were beyond hearing range from one another.
Mama on the parking lot nest
As the chick’s hatching day drew closer, advice was sought from John Regosin, deputy director of MassWildlife, on how to help the Piping Plover family return to the beach after the chicks had hatched.
MassWildlife Intern Jasmine Weber and local resident Aunt Terry Weber
On a sunny June afternoon, the chicks began hatching. By early morning the following day, on June 9, all four perfect tiny chicks had hatched.
Piping Plover chicks are impossibly adorable. Unlike songbirds that hatch blind, naked, and helpless, Piping Plover chicks are precocial, which means that within hours of emerging they are able to move about and feed themselves. Weighing about as much as a nickel, the downy balls of fluff are at first clumsy, falling over themselves and tripping about on oversized feet. Although they can feed themselves, the hatchlings are not completely mature and still need parents to help regulate their body temperature. The chicks snuggle under Mom and Dad for warmth and protection.
Chicks learn quickly, and after the first day, are fully mobile, confidently zooming around the beach. There are few baby birds more winsome at birth than Piping Plover chicks, and that is perhaps one of the reasons so many fall in love with these tiny creatures.
A portion of the parking lot was closed to beach traffic, and as was expected, within hours, the chicks were running in and out of the exclosure. By afternoon they were zing zanging around the parking lot, pecking at teeny insects found between the gravel stones.
Although an elaborate Piping Plover parking lot exit strategy had been devised, the Piping Plovers had their own solution in mind. The following afternoon, Dave Rimmer observed the tiny family of six attempt to depart the parking lot. They at 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 the boardwalk nearest their original beach nest site. They went part way down the boardwalk, and then headed back toward the parking lot, then back down the walk. The family next began to travel through the dunes in the opposite direction, toward the snack bar. After all the zig and zagging, the little family returned to the boardwalk, and then headed straight through the dunes, in the direction of the originally established beach nesting zone. For a few tense moments all sight of the chicks was lost, but the parents could be heard piping, urging the chicks onward. Suddenly, out they spilled, all four one-day old chicks, down the dune edge, into the roped off nesting area, and miraculously, within feet of where the adults had originally tried to nest.
The chicks spent the rest of their first day on the beach exploring their new territory, feeding on tiny insects, and warming under Mom and Dad.
It’s heartbreaking to write that three of the four chicks never made it past their first week. Volunteers witnessed one carried away by a gull and the second disappeared after an early morning dog disturbance in the nesting area. The third chick was observed taken away by a large crow. The fourth chick, the one named Little Pip by volunteer monitor Heather Hall, made it to two weeks. Both Little Pip and adults disappeared after what appeared to be an extreme disturbance by people and pets within the nesting area, made obvious by the many, many human and dog prints observed within the roped off area.
Meadow Anderson Poster
Much has changed for the better since the summer of 2018. Piping Plover recommendations were presented to the community by the author of this article. Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee, under the leadership of Alicia Pensarosa, developed a list of recommendations, which was presented in July of 2018. The Piping Plover volunteer monitors and Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee worked with Gloucester’s City Council members to change the ordinance to disallow pets on the beach after April 1. On February 27, 2019, the ordinance was passed with community-wide support and the full support of all members of the Gloucester City Council.
On March 25, 2019, the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair returned, a full nine days earlier than in 2018. They were observed foraging at the shoreline, dozing off in the drifts of sand, and remarkably, the male was already displaying territorial behavior. The pair look plump and vigorous, not nearly as weary as the small band of Piping Plovers that arrived the previous year, on April 3, after the four late winter nor’easters.
The symbolic fencing was installed on March 27 by Dave Rimmer and his assistant Dave McKinnon. Despite the ordinance change, come April 1, off leash dogs were still on the beach running through the cordoned off areas. Old habits are heard to change, visitors from out of town were not yet aware of the new rules, and not everyone in the community had received word of the change.
After two weeks of dog disturbance through the protected nesting area, the mated pair began spending all their time on the white lines in the parking lot. Within days, they had made a new nest scrape in the white lines of the lot, very near to the previous year’s nest.
April 2019 – For the second year in a row, the Piping Plovers are again shunted off the beach and into the parking lot. They return to the white lines, make a nest scrape, and are courting
The volunteer monitors worked closely with city councilor Scott Memhard, whose ward Good Harbor Beach falls under, to better educate the community about the ordinance change. Gloucester’s Department of Public Works employees Mike Hale and Joe Lucido provided clear, unambiguous signage, and the mayor’s administration, working with the Gloucester Police Department, stepped up the animal control officer patrols and began issuing and enforcing the newly increased fines.
Animal Control Officers Jamie and Teagan
As a result, dog disturbances through the protected areas greatly decreased during the second half of April, creating the best possible outcome of all, and that is, the Piping Plovers have returned to their beach nest scrape!
We know not what the summer of 2019 holds for the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover family. But by removing needless disturbance from dogs on the beach, we are at least providing the plovers with a fighting chance of successfully nesting on the beach, with the clear goal of fledging chicks.
Learning to fly
Piping Plover Fledgling
Warm weather brings an increased number of human and pet disturbances. People leaving trash behind on the beach attracts a great many crows and seagulls. Feeding the gulls and crows is illegal, but it is difficult to enforce laws of that nature.
Piping Plover eggs and chicks are in grave danger of being eaten by crows and gulls. The adults go to great lengths to distract gulls and crows from the nesting site, including feigning a broken wing and leading them away from the nest, to tag team flying after the much larger birds and nipping at their flight feathers. When the adult birds leave the nest to distract avian and canine creatures, the eggs and chicks are left vulnerable to attacks by avian predators. If the nest is destroyed, during a single season, Piping Plovers will re-lay eggs up to five times. The earlier in the season the birds are allowed to nest without disturbance, the greater the chance the chicks will survive.
A question often asked by beachgoers is why do Piping Plovers make their nest on the sandy beach where we like to recreate? Why don’t they nest in the dunes? The answer to that question is several fold. Piping Plovers evolved over millennia, long, long before there was recreational beach activity and the tremendous crowds seen today on sandy beaches, the preferred habitat of the Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers. The birds evolved with feathers that perfectly mirror the hues of sand, dry seaweed, and dry beach grass, providing camouflage and safety for the adults and chicks. In dune vegetation, their pale color would make them an easy target.
Because Piping Plover chicks are precocial, within days of hatching they feed at the water’s edge. They are so tiny, weighing only 5.5 grams at birth, and they need unfettered access to feed at the water. The hatchlings would surely be lost or eaten if home base were in the dunes.
Another comment heard is, “Well, they are obviously genetically inferior and stupid birds because they are unable to adapt to our human activity, you know, survival of the fittest, and all that.” Nothing could be further from the truth. By the earlier part of the previous century, the plume hunters hired by the millinery trade to provide feathers, and even whole birds, to adorn women’s hats, had nearly hunted Piping Plovers and many other species of birds to extinction. Under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which prohibits the taking of migratory birds, their eggs, and nests, the Piping Plover population began to recover. Tragically, beginning in the mid-twentieth century the population again plummeted, as habitat was lost to development, recreational use greatly intensified along the Atlantic Coast, and predation increased.
The Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers are slowly making a comeback because of tremendous conservation efforts. Massachusetts is at the leading edge of Piping Plover recovery, and other states and provinces comprising the Atlantic Coast populations are learning from protocols and guidelines established by Massachusetts Piping Plover conservation partners. These partners include the Trustees of Reservations Shorebird Protection Program, MassWildlife, Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program, Essex County Greenbelt’s Land Conservation Program, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MDCR), and communities all along the Massachusetts coastline with burgeoning populations of Piping Plovers.
I am hopeful for the future of our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. It takes time and patience to effect change and we have come a very long way in four years. Nearly everyone we speak with has fallen in love with the plovers. Working with our dedicated volunteer monitors, Mike Hale, Joe Lucido, and the entire crew of Gloucester’s Department of Public Works, Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee, former police chief John McCarthy, Mayor Romeo-Theken’s administration, animal control officers Teagan and Jamie, Dave Rimmer and the Essex County Greenbelt staff, city councilor Scott Memhard, and nearly all the members of Gloucester’s City Council, I have met some of the kindest and most tender hearted people. Documenting the story of the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers though writing, photographing, and filmmaking, while learning and sharing with my community along the way, has provided a fascinating window into the life story and challenges of this surprisingly tough, resilient, and beautiful little shorebird.
Monday, May 6, 2019. As I write this, earlier today I observed Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and intern Fiona Hill install a wire exclosure around the Piping Plover’s nest. The nest is on the beach! And very close to where the pair nested in 2016 and 2017.
Nature’s camouflage palette – pale blue gray eggs, mirroring the hues of sand, fog, and rain, and dotted with speckles the color of dried seaweed.
Last Friday, I noticed the pair had zeroed in on a nest scrape far back in the roped off area, well clear of the high tide line. A stick protruding from the sand adjacent to the nest makes it easy to spot the location. There are bits of shells, dried seaweed, and small pieces of driftwood surrounding the outer perimeter of the nest and it is very well disguised. Nice location Mama and Papa, well done! Mama was in the nest moving her belly and legs, as if turning the eggs. Papa showed up about twenty minutes later and they changed places, he to sit on the nest, and she to forage. They have been continuously sitting on the nest since Saturday.
Dave and Fiona constructed the wire exclosure outside the nesting area to minimize disturbance. With great caution, they approached the nest. It was Papa’s shift and he valiantly tried everything he could to try to distract us from his nest of eggs, piping loudly and running very near to Dave and Fiona while displaying a “broken” wing. It only took the two of them fifteen minutes to place the exclosure around the nest, and within a moment after completion, Papa was back on the nest brooding the eggs.
Papa feigning a broken wing to distract.
As of early May 2019, I think we can confidently change the name of the story from The Good Harbor Beach Parking Lot Plovers to The Good Harbor Beach Plovers.
The Good Harbor Beach dunes and Piping Plover habitat is recovering from the late winter storms of 2018. Phil Cucuru points to how much of the beach washed away in the first photo (April, 2018). In the next photo, the space between the old dune fencing posts and the edge of the dune show how much of the dune was carved away. The last two photos show the new dune fencing and the natural recovery taking place.
Just some of the many friends of the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers – I wish I had photos of everyone
Here we go again! The Parley SnotBot team is off on expedition, we’re taking along some other ‘Bots and will be having some long distance chats!
This time we’re in the Dominican Republic (DR), visiting the breeding / calving grounds of the North West Atlantic humpback whales (photo 1). I was first here in the 1990’s aboard the RV Siben and then the RV Odyssey so it is great to be back. This location and this group of whales is very special to us, because while the humpbacks mate and give birth in the waters off the DR, some of them migrate up the East Coast of the U.S. to spend their summers feeding on Stellwagen Banks, right off the coast from our headquarters in Gloucester, Mass. (Photo 2)
During Expedition 9 we took the Parley SnotBot out to study and collect (Exhaled Breath Condensate) “Snot” samples from the Gloucester population of humpbacks and we’re very excited to bring all of our skills and tools to bear to add what knowledge we can, about these whales in their winter grounds.
As with every Parley SnotBot expedition, this one started out with us at the airport with a ridiculous number of bags (total of 20 bags with 2 carry on’s each ☹). We flew Boston to Miami, Miami to Santo Domingo where we picked up a rental mini van. We then drove for almost 3 hours to our Air B&B accommodation (Photo 3) in Samana. Six people and twenty bags was a bit of a squeeze in the mini van. So when we got to Samana Chris and I removed some of the chairs from the mini-van to make it a bit more SnotBot friendly (Photo 4).
In addition to SnotBot, we are putting energy into another member of the Drones For Whale Research family while we are in the DR EarBot. EarBot was first seen in Alaska in 2016 and 2017 (photo 5). While our other drone work has kept us busy, our Robotics manager Chris Zadra has given EarBot some much needed TLC over the last few months and we are excited to be putting EarBot back to work to record humpback whale songs in the DR. As well as doing some behavioral studies and working with regional scientists monitoring the whale watch industry here we will also be doing photogrammetry work (measuring the size of whale with a drone) using our LIDAR array (photo 6) mounted on one of our Inspire 2 drones.
We have a bigger team here this year as we continue to try to improve Parley SnotBot and our Drones for Whale Research program. The team from past expeditions are Iain Kerr, Andy Rogan, Christian Miller & Chris Zadra. Now we have Ocean Alliance staff member Britta Akerley helping Andy with the science and data and Angie Sremba from Dr. Scott Bakers lab at Oregon State. Angie has been doing most of the DNA analysis of our Snot samples so we thought it important for her to see the collection process. Next week Ainsley Smith from Gloucester will be joining us to be trained on our data protocols and management. As if this was not enough we will be joined by Germany’s largest TV network ZDF (https://www.zdf.de) to shoot a documentary short.
We did get out on the water today but it was blowing close to 20 knots (photo 7) which like Gabon makes the work more challenging. To try and beat these trade winds the plan is to be on the boat tomorrow at 6:00 am (before sunrise) and be with the whales as the sun rises – hopefully we will have some spectacular photos and will be able to collect plenty of Snot before the wind picks up (fingers crossed).
Last but not least I am excited to report that these blogs are going Live! Our good friends at Maritime Gloucester will host an evening with a live discussion from the DR with the Parley SnotBot team along with live and archival footage. We hope that we can share some of the expedition excitement and let people know what it is like to be working in the field and answer a few questions….LIVE. If you live near Gloucester, please come on down and be part of the conversations at Maritime Gloucester on Sunday March 3rd, you can Register here. Next time we do Expedition Live we hope to webcast as well but for this first one we are trying to keep it simple as we can.
So once again we will be keeping busy, that said I am sure we will have some great stories to tell along with Christian Miller’s stunning photos.
As always thanks again to our partners and expedition supporters Parley.
Onwards Upwards and Fair Winds from the Dominican Republic!
Thanks to city staff like Ken Whittaker, Gloucesters conservation agent, and experts like Kim Smith, volunteers have been inspired to have some fun helping wildlife in our own backyard. You can join in and follow their reports on Twitter
No sign in required for either format. There’s a link for the 2017 records, too. Last year’s monitors were all ages and a few commuted from over the bridge. One mother daughter duo from the tri-state area scheduled a volunteer vacation in Gloucester because of Kim Smith and the city’s outreach!
The Massachusetts Whale Trail“is a special collection of museums and attractions, whale watching, and historic sites and tours with a connection to whales.” Capt Bill & Sons, 7 Seas Whale Watch, and Cape Ann Whale Watch are included.
Naturally, Gloucester had created a version on the HarborWalk which you can find on line or on the trail at marker #36 right by Tonno Restaurant, Gloucester, MA. Whale watching is beloved here in town. The Gloucester HarborWalk has whale watch information, points of interest and a tab to all the local whale watching companies.”Most offer daily whale watching trips from April through October.”
SEVEN SEAS WHALE WATCH +1 (888) 283-1776
CAPE ANN WHALE WATCH +1 (800) 877-5110
CAPT BILL & SONS +1 (800) 339-4253
YANKEE FLEET +1 (978) 283-0313
When O’Maley 6th graders study Gloucester and visit the HarborWalk, the student thank you drawings featured whale tails and spouting whales. It’s common for local kids to be invited to birthday parties on whale watch trips. Donna Ardizzoni photographed and wrote about her Right Whale sightings from shore spring 2018, and more whale sightings around town. Parsons Street wall Mural (by the Fish Net HarborWalk street mural) was painted by local kids under the direction of Cape Ann Art Haven and features a great whale.
What do you do when your home repair goes very wrong? Upon evaluation, sometimes you just have to hire a new contractor to remedy mistakes. In the fall of 2014 memorial honor roll plaques in City Hall received some cleaning. The monuments were due some attention. Over time the names were no longer legible and the surfaces were grimy defeating their noble purpose. Gloucester’s outstanding City Archives and the Cape Ann Office of Veterans Services were and are able to help with research for those who can’t come in person or see them clearly.
photo caption: BEFORE photograph of one of four WW1 honor rolls in the rotunda City Hall, ca.2014
The 2014 project was not handled by the city nor administered through its committee for the arts, of which I am a member. Funds were raised privately to work on the plaques. Though well intentioned, those restoration efforts were botched (and costly at the time, so I’m told.) The names were made more visible, but the plaques were damaged and results are scratched, streaked and blotchy.
A small annual budget (FY2018 $4000) that’s set aside for care of City arts and culture and monuments as part of its mission must now be redirected to fix the fix.Yes, “Sometimes you have to hire a new contractor to remedy mistakes,” frustrating, but necessary. Perhaps the 2014 group will reimburse this cost.
Throughout 2018, you may see specialists from Skylight Studios repairing plaques within City Hall through the Committee for the Arts on behalf of the City. (Gloucester residents may recall that Skylight Studios was hired by the Commonwealth to restore the bronze doors of the Abram Piat Andrew Bridge; the doors were temporarily displayed at Cape Ann Museum before being reinstalled.)
The detailed work on the City Hall plaques will be completed in brief, focused intervals. One plaque in the rotunda will be restored last, because it’s a great opportunity to show before and after examples of contemporary restoration projects- the good, the bad and the quality. As the plaques are repaired, the detail of the raised carving and borders and most importantly the names of so many veterans will become easier and easier to read and remember.
Gloucester Ma Veterans Honor Rolls and Monuments
*author note- this post is listing interior Honor Rolls within City Hall; it’s not a complete list for all tributes in Gloucester
GROUND FLOOR, CITY HALL
Spanish American War- “Men of Gloucester who served in the War with Spain volunteers all 1898-1902. Gloucester ‘s men, serving on land and sea won for their city the honor of giving to her country the largest per capita of men in this war. Erected by the City of Gloucester 1930.”
World War I Honor Rolls (rotunda and upstairs)
World Ward II Honor Roll (outside clerk’s office)
Korean Honor Roll (outside clerk’s office)
Vietnam Honor Roll (outside clerk’s office; Brian Hamilton 1980 painting of fisherman)
just outside Kyrouz Auditorium, FIRST FLOOR, CITY HALL
“Civil War (1861 1865)This tablet records the service of Company G 8th Regiment MVM in the Civil War; and War with Spain (1898 1899) occupation of Cuba; and World War 1917 1919″ Corrective repairs are underway on this trio Honor Roll. Waxy build up added in 2014 is being removed all over, and names in a small lower right corner have been attended.
The multi story memorial to Gloucester fishermen lost at sea was a major public art project led, designed and hand painted by Norma Cuneo, with Irma Wheeler and Ellen Ferrin in 1978, a beautiful shrine lighted by day by two tall windows. Mark Newton, then city clerk-historian, and Jerry Cook were lead researchers; the team eventually compiled a card index that could be accessed by the public along with checking this massive lost at sea mural. Research incorporated historic materials like The Fishermen’s Memorial and Record Book, by George H. Procter, published by Procter Bros. in 1873, printed matter, family archives, and newspapers. Volunteers and historians amend the sources and statistics over time. The sense of the power of a name and life is inspiring. The response and need to a tangible, accessible record was tremendous. Their work was the basis for the cenotaph installed in 2000 by the Fisherman at the Wheel memorial on Stacy Boulevard, a sacred place and pilgrimage site accessible day and night.
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This is a follow up about the public meeting held by Gloucester City Councilor Scott Memhard February 15, 2018 at Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library on beach traffic and parking with a focus on his ward. This post includes Councilor Memhard’s meeting notes, and the Beach & Traffic Ad Hoc committee presentation to City Council. Look for information and maps related to Long Beach, Good Harbor Beach, Stage Fort Park, and more. Chances are your ideas or concerns were mentioned–doublecheck for yourself. Future public meetings to be announced.
Here’s the presentation packet to the City Council from the Gloucester Beach Parking and Traffic Ad Hoc Committee, January 2017
Here’s Councilor Memhard’s recap of the Summer Beach and Traffic public meeting held at Sawyer Free Library February 16, 2018 (advertised in the Beacon, Gloucester Daily Times, and elsewhere long in advance):
“The Ward 1 Beach Parking Ordinance community meeting last night at the library was well attended. We had a lively airing of concerns and opinions, addressing the specific Parking Ordinance proposed changes, and general, wide-ranging discussion of the problem and various potential solutions, including:
> expanded off-site parking* and trolly/bus service to the beaches; > better signage notifying drivers that lots are full and closed, with posted directions to alternate parking options; and > other practical steps to relieve severe safely, access, and disruption from on-street parking congestion in our beach neighborhoods.“
*park n ride options would ease traffic especially with smartphone reservations/options. Locales like Rockport, Manchester, Provincetown limit cars. Several lots mentioned maximizing extant options such as negotiating with Stop&Shop, Shaws, Fuller, Blackburn, schools, etc. Stage Fort Shuttle already established and more train/bike. Train-trolley services have a rich history here.
Generous Great Marsh coalition symposium supporters (many are coalition members)- local municipalities, Essex County Greenbelt, Essex National Heritage Area, Mass Audubon, Ipswich River Watershed Assoc., League of Women Voters Cape Ann, Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (MAPC), National Wildlife Federation, and The Trustees
Salt Island, Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, MA, is for sale. Unimproved and undeveloped, Salt Island is a natural monument, a beacon. For generations,the Island seemed as free as the air and sea, the beaches and shore. All were welcome at the right tide– daily the beach and island are connected. There’s an innate understanding that visitors need to respect the natural property much as they would when visiting a national park. Yet Salt Island is owned privately; it’s simply left wild and public.
Yearly taxes were paid by the family. The City provided yearly services; for instance lifeguards to help stranded visitors, unaware of the tides.
Is it possible to compensate the owner in the most advantageous way (some combination of sale, waiving estate taxes, credit for donation) to clear up any future ownership confusion and protect the means of public access, minus vague qualifiers (“left open as resources allow”) or increasing any necessary costs? Land steward organizations sometimes sell property or limit access, laws and environment change, funds for care deplete. Is there a common sense path that considers Salt Island as Good Harbor Beach– it’s attached daily– and accorded the same balance of care that the beach has legally maintained since the 1920s?
above – Lifeguards have a summer suggestion in the VIDEO linkFor Sale in Mass: A $750K Island Packed With History.“This small island in Gloucester, Massachusetts has hosted a major salt theft, a lobstering hermit and a Hollywood production.” by Rob Michaelson for NECN NBC Boston
above- photos of Good Harbor Beach lifeguards moving a signature chair after a morning conditioning training session that involved swimming and running the length of Good Harbor Beach, twice. Foggy drizzle, low tide connection to Salt Island
There are more than 15,000 historic house museums across the county, and just a few that were artists’ home and studios. One of the most influential is the Pollock-Krasner house in East Hampton, Long Island, established in 1988. A welcome recent addition is the Winslow Homer property in Portland, ME. Here’s hoping the Manship estate is a member on this Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios (HAHS) map soon. Currently, the Massachusetts sites include Daniel Chester French’s Chesterwood in Stockbridge, and the Frelinghuysen Morris home in Lenox.
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Cycle 25 mile or 50 mile (not timed) circuits for land conservation on the 3rd annual Tour de Greenbelt. Pass through and by North Shore towns and sites — Essex, Rowley, Newburyport, Topsfield, plus more than 50 Greenbelt properties
Date and Time: Saturday, September 16th, 2017 – 3rd annual ride!
9:00am start for the 50-mile ride
9:45am start for the 25-mile ride
BBQ and post-ride festivities to enjoy when you finish! Ends at 3:00 p.m.
*Packet Pick Up: Wednesday, Sept. 13th & Thursday, Sept. 14th @Cox Reservation 4:00-7:00 PM
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As with Manchester Singing and other North Shore beaches, the white or “dry” sand of Long Beach sings a musical sound as you scuff ahead. Lately though it’s whistling a shorter tune because there’s an astonishing loss of the dry grains.
Over the last 10 years, so much sand has been washed away from Long Beach most every high tide hits the seawall. Boogie boarders need to truncate their wave rides else risk landing on the rip-rap. It’s become a competitive sport to lay claim to some beach chair and towel real estate if you want a dry seat. On the plus side, low tide is great for beach soccer and tennis, long walks and runs. Bocce ball has replaced can jam and spikeball as the beach games of summer 2017.
Seasoned locals recall having to ‘trudge a mile’ across dry sand before hitting wet sand and water. In my research I’ve seen historic visuals that support their claims.
Vista: Entrance from the Gloucester side of Long Beach
Historic photos and contemporary images –from 10 years ago– show a stretch of white sand like this one looking out from the Gloucester side of Long Beach to the Rockport side.
This next vintage postcard flips the view: facing the Gloucester side of Long Beach –looking back to glacial rocks we can match out today, a tide line that shows wet and dry sands, and the monumental Edgecliffe Hotel which welcomed thousands of summer visitors thanks to a hopping casino. The white sand evident in front of the Edgecliffe bath houses (what is now Cape Ann Motor Inn) has plummeted since a 2012 February storm and vanished it seems, perhaps temporarily, perhaps not. It’s most evident where several feet of sand was cleaved off from the approach to the boardwalk.
Seasons of sand
I find the annual sand migration on Long Beach a fascinating natural mystery. It’s dramatic every year. Here are photos from this last year: fall (late Sept 2016), winter (December- sand covers rip-rap), spring (April -after winter storms with alarming loss), and summer (today)
SPRING April rip-rap uncovered, exposed. Climbing to the boardwalk is an exciting challenge for two boys I know (when the sand is filled in like the December photo it’s a short drop)
SUMMER July 14 sand is coming back though all boulders are not entirely submerged
Storms (namely February) strip the silky soft top sand away and expose the boulders strengthening the seawall. It’s easy to feel alarmed that the beach is disappearing. By summer, the sand fills back, though not always in the same spot or same quantity. Some rip-rap expanses remain exposed. Most is re-buried beneath feet of returning sand. New summer landmarks are revealed. One year it was a ribbon of nuisance pebbles the entire length of beach. The past two years we’ve loved “the August Shelf”. (Will it come again?)
This year there’s a wishbone river.
“Apparently you do bring sand to the beach, according to the selectmen appointed committee ascribed with repairing the Long Beach seawall, which could cost up to $25 million.”
“This Saturday morning forum is offered in collaboration with Essex County Greenbelt, Friends of Dogtown, Lanesville Community Center and Mass Audubon and held at Cape Ann Museum. The forum will be moderated by Ed Becker, President of the Essex County Greenbelt Association.”
UPDATE: Cape Ann TV is scheduled to film the event!
Chris Leahy gave a presentation at Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library on February 23, 2017: Dogtown- the Biography of a Landscape: 750 Million Years Ago to the Present A photographic history through slides presented by the Gloucester Lyceum and the Friends of the Library. Mary Weissblum opened the program.
Chris broadly covered the history of the local landscape from an ecological bent with a bias to birds and blueberry picking, naturally. New England is a patchwork of forested landscapes. He stressed the evolution of bio diversity and succession phenomenon when the earth and climate change. “Nature takes a lot of courses.” He focused on Dogtown, “a very special place”, and possible merits of land stewardship geared at fostering greater biodiversity. Perhaps some of the core acres could be coaxed to grasslands as when parts of Gloucester were described as moors? Characteristic wildlife, butterflies, and birds no longer present may swing back. There were many philosophical takeaways and tips: he recommends visiting the dioramas “Changes in New England Landscape” display at Harvard Forest HQ in Petersham.
“Isolation of islands is a main driver of evolution”
“Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester has the highest concentration* of native butterflies in all of Massachusetts because of secondary habitats.” *of Mass Audubon’s c.40,000 acres of wildlife sanctuaries statewide. “The fact that Brook Meadow Brook is in greater Worcester, rather than a forested wilderness, underscores the value of secondary habitats.”
“1830– roughly the time of Thoreau (1817-1862)– was the maximum period of clearing thus the heyday for grasslands…As farmsteads were abandoned, stages of forests return.”
Below are photos from February 23, 2017. I added some images of art inspired by Dogtown. I also pulled out a photograph by Frank L Cox, David Cox’s father, of Gallery on the Moors (then) compared with a photo of mine from 2011 to illustrate how the picturesque description wasn’t isolated to Dogtown.
Louise Upton Brumback (1867-1929), Dogtown- Cape Ann, 1920 oil on canvas
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Ocean Alliance CEO Ian Kerr writes: “I am working on a project with Adidas who are making shoes out of recycled plastic. I am off to the Maldives Islands where we are intercepting plastic before it reaches the oceans (principally plastic bottles) with a team from Adidas. Ill be sending back posts to the Ocean Alliance website so please check it out.”
For more than four decades, Ocean Alliance has been a global leader dedicated to whale research and ocean health. In 2008 the organization moved its headquarters to one of Gloucester’s landmarks, the Paint Factory (built ca.1880s). Ocean Alliance http://www.whale.org/
By 2017, Adidas will produce 1 million UltraBOOST sneakers with material made from trash grabbed from the ocean. “Meanwhile, soccer jerseys that use the plastic will be worn by the Real Madrid squad when it plays Real Sporting de Gijón later this month. Eric Liedtke, responsible for global brands at Adidas, claims that the jerseys will be the first to be made completely from materials found in oceans.” Read more Fortune magazine
For those interested in conservation right where people live, Essex Heritage and Peabody Essex Museum are co-hosting a daylong conference focused on the big topic of Scaling Up. Local, national and international experts interested in conservation planning and policy will have a chance to share, learn and network. Register on line. The conference will take place on Friday October 7th from 8-5PM at the Peabody Essex Museum and will finish up at the Salem Visitor Center. Who will be there from your town?
Speakers and symposium participants include: Keynote P. Lynn Scarlett, Global Director Public Policy, Nature Conservancy; Bob McIntosh, National Park Service; Brent Mitchell, Atlantic Center for the Environment; Stephanie Toothman, National Park Service; Emily Bateson, Practicioners’ Network for Large Landscape Conservation; Ed Becker, Essex County Greenbelt; Amanda Babson, Coastal Landscape Adaptation, Northeast Region, National Park Service; Robert O’Connor, Director of Land and Forest Policy, MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs; Janey Winchell, Sara Fraser Robbins Director, Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center, Peabody Essex Museum; Eric Hove, Metropolitan Area Planning council; Colin Novic, Greater Worcester Land Trust; Wayne Castonguay, Ipswich River Watershed Assoc; Kathy Abbott, President and CEO, Boston Harbor Now; Tim Abbott, Director Litchfield Hills Greenprint, Housatonic Valley; and Rebecca Stanfield McCown, Director, National Park Service Stewardship Institute.
Call to order, welcome, and/or moderating by: Annie Harris, CEO Essex National Heritage Commission; Mayor of Salem Kimberly Driscoll; Jay Finney of Peabody Essex Museum; and Jessica Brown, Executive Director for the New England Biolabs Foundation.