TREMENDOUS COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

On Tuesday I attended the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, which took place at the Harwich Community Center on Cape Cod. The meeting is held annually to bring together people and organizations that are involved with population monitoring and conservation efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds. Threatened and endangered species such as Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Roseate Terns, and American Oystercatchers are given the greatest attention.

I was invited by Carolyn Mostello, event organizer, to create a short film, Gloucester Plovers Go Swimming, for the “Strange and Unusual” section. The film features our three little chicks SWIMMING in the tidal creek (see next post). I also provided a group of photos of the late hatching chicks for DCR. The film and the photos were well-received, which was gratifying to me, to be of help in documenting and sharing these wonderful stories.

Conservationists from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby states, including representatives from Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the organizations presenting at the meeting-Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Essex Greenbelt, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Mass Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.

In the morning, each region gave the 2019 population census report for nesting birds as well as providing information about problems and solutions. We all share similar challenges with predation from crows and gulls, uncontrolled dogs, enforcement, and habitat loss and it was very interesting to learn about how neighboring communities are managing problems and issues.

Trustees of Reservations Coastal Ecologist Jeff Denoncour presented on behalf of the north of Boston region, of which Gloucester is a part. Essex Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer and intern Fionna were in attendance as well. Both Crane Beach and Parker River are having a fantastic year and the numbers are up across Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. There are still many young chicks yet to fledge on Massachusetts beaches so the final count has not been determined.

The afternoon session was filled with outstanding lectures presented by conservation biologists and all the programs were tremendously informative.

I met Beth Howard from Mass Audubon, who has been involved with care taking the L Street Piping Plovers and Paige Hebert from Mass Wildlife who has been helping manage Roseate Terns. The DCR staff managing the shorebirds at Nahant, Salisbury, Winthrop, and Revere Beach were all there and they are just a stellar group of young people.

It was a great day! Many attendees expressed congratulations for Gloucester fledging three chicks. Last year after attending the meeting I wrote the following and it’s wonderful that our hope for Gloucester’s Plovers was realized this year: “After attending the cooperators meeting, I am more hopeful than ever that our community can come together and solve the problems that are preventing our PiPl from successfully nesting and fledging chicks. What we have going in our favor is the sheer number of amazing super volunteers along with strong community-wide support.”  

BREAKING NEWS – PIPING PLOVER NEST WITH FOUR BEAUTIFUL EGGS AND MANY THANKS TO ESSEX GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER AND FIONA HILL FOR INSTALLING THE WIRE EXCLOSURE!

The Piping Plovers have a nest and it is not in the parking lot! Four beautiful, perfect eggs are now being tended to by both Mama and Papa Plover on the beach, in the same general location as the 2016 and 2017 nest locations.

Early this morning, Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, assisted by intern Fionna Hill, installed the wire exclosure that helps protect the Piping Plover eggs from canid, avian, and human disturbance and destruction.

Dave is permitted by Mass Wildlife, and is an expert in, building and installing PiPl wire exclosures. Dave and Fionna constructed the exclosure together outside the nesting area so that when they actually had to step into the nesting area to place the exclosure there was minimal disturbance to the nest. Dave noted that it only took the two of them about fifteen minutes to install the wire structure around the nest, and Papa Plover was back sitting on the nest within one minute of completion.

Gloucester’s conservation agent Adrienne Lennon was present at the onset, but had to tend to issues related to the dyke construction at Goose Cove. Dave’s new assistant, Fiona Hill, will be helping to monitor the Plovers for the summer. She grew up in Newburyport and is a a junior at UMass Amherst. Welcome to Good Harbor Beach Fiona and we look forward to working with you!

Papa feigning a broken wing in a classic diversionary display to distract predators.

So sorry the photos are very much on the pink side. I should convert the whole batch to black and white. My darling granddaughter was playing with my camera over the weekend and all the settings were messed up–the photos from the Cape Ann Museum were taken with the white balance set to underwater, and the beach photos this morning set to nine on the red scale! At least now I know how to fix it if it happens again 🙂

Papa back on the nest within a minute of exclosure installation completion.

Annisquam then and now | DPW and Greenbelt team up at Lobster Cove new land preserve to solve access at narrow and blind corner on Leonard Street

annisquam village circa 1901

In 2017, donations of $650,000 were secured to preserve four acres of Lobster Cove acquired by Essex County Greenbelt Ed Becker and Dave Rimmer working with the city staff (DPW Mike Hale, Ken Whittaker, Community Development) and many in the community. The property is co-owned by Mt. Adnah Cemetery.

Wilman Trail

Recently DPW teamed up with Greenbelt to scrub out trees, rocks, earth and stone to grade a pedestrian path along its Leonard Street stretch at the landing past Annisquam Church. Widening Leonard Street because of its variable and intermittent scale would be a very expensive and perhaps unwelcome project. This quick jaunt seems like a thoughtful solution to support safe access and property exploration in a tricky spot.

 

Essex County Greenbelt Annisquam Wilman Trail Lobster Cove Gloucester MA _20180702_©c ryan (5)

‘Squam rock has some practice boulders

No longer hidden by overgrowth, beautifully balanced granite outcroppings were exposed. If you look just so you might see the lines of a baby shorebird under wing or is that just me? Hmmm… Mother Ann, Squam Rock and baby Bird Rock.

Annisquam nestled bird rock_20180702_054907©c ryan

 

BREAKING: TWO EGGS IN THE NEST – HUGE SHOUT OUT TO GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER AND MIKE CARBONE FOR INSTALLING THE PIPING PLOVER WIRE EXCLOSURE

Piping Plover Eggs Good Harbor Beach Parking Lot

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 kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov

Thank you, but most importantly, the Piping Plovers will thank you too when chicks hatch and chicks fledge!

Cool science at Good Harbor Beach | sign up for Piping plover watch

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photo caption: Dave Rimmer, Director of Land Stewardship, Essex County Greenbelt (Left) with Ken Whittaker, City of Gloucester Conservation Agent (Right)

Contact: Ken Whittaker kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov

Ken Whittaker, City of Gloucester Conservation agent, put the word out seeking volunteers to help monitor the piping plovers (Gloucester Daily Times). Today was the first organizational meeting and informational session with Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt. Ken is coordinating the schedule, and there are plenty of open slots available. “We will take this a day at a time until I have the opportunity to put together a formal schedule.”  More than one volunteer is welcome on any shift, so please email if you’re interested in helping. Ken, Dave and other officials monitor the birds. When Kim Smith is there, she’s working on critical filming.

For those of you who could not make it, Ken Whittaker is holding a second meeting tomorrow evening about 4:30; Ken will be at Good Harbor Beach from about 3:30 to 5.

Piping Plover volunteers can receive free parking!

Planning on a beach day and can devote an hour of your time for observation? Email Ken to sign up for a shift and to learn more.

Volunteers are asked to bring binoculars and feel free to jot down some observations about the parents and the 2017 brood of 4. It’s simple. The birds need to be left alone and given wide berth when they’re on the move.  Don’t follow after them. Look but don’t touch. Maybe intercept trash tumbleweeds. What gets tricky is when the birds are going back and forth from the water to the enclosed area.

Thanks to the enclosure, it’s obvious to stay away from inside the protected area. What’s less obvious is where to put your towel outside the fence.  If you know your beach visit wouldn’t be complete without a vigorous paddle ball, can jam or football game, lining up your towels right outside the fencing is a little dicey. It happened today and the group was happy to move when Ken explained the situation. However, if you’re not one for major games and are happy to sit in your chaise for a long read and full day, you might want to think about doubling up as a piping plover volunteer for one hour. You’re there anyway. They are super cute and you’ll feel good helping out! Midday is low on sign ups.

You could make it a first class retreat: Good Harbor Beach rents umbrellas and cushy recliners. See “Good Harbor Beach Day: How To Pack Light”

Ken writes:

“I have been in contact with the animal control officer who says she has been monitoring the situation but will kick it up a notch.  Dogs are not allowed on the beach and you can remind scofflaws of this.  If this becomes an issue I suggest people immediately call 978-281-9746 – Diana Corliss is the animal control officer and she can guide you from there. (Note, three essentials for monitoring include cell phone, binoculars …. and sun screen!)”

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Essex County Greenbelt is responsible for the fencing of the protected area which is to the right of the boardwalk #3. They’ll tweak the fencing as needed. This year’s nest is within a close distance to last year’s nest.

 

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The piping plovers nested on the beach by the dune’s edge to the right of boardwalk 3 

 

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
FHL coffins beach mfa
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.”

Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach – Fenced Off Area

For Immediate Release from Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken

Public Works in conjunction with our local Conservation Commission, MA Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries and Mass Audubon have been following the activities of Piping Plovers on Good Harbor Beach for the past 4 weeks. The birds have shown signs of nesting activities in this area.

On a recommendation of the state we have fenced off an area approximately 200 feet by 200 feet – southwest of board walk number 3. This area starts at the base of the dunes and extends to the high tide rack or water line. This area is to be off llimits to all humans as well as any domestic pets. These birds are listed under the State and Federal Endangered Species Acts and are granted special protection.

We will continue to work with all agencies to provide the support they need to let nature take its course. We ask for the support of the general public to adhere to the regulations set forth. Any questions should be directed to the Department of Recreation and Conservation (DCR) and/or Mass Audubon.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

 

*   *   *

 

A little background information from Dave Rimmer, Director of Land Stewardship Greenbelt

There are clearly at least 2 pairs of Piping Plovers scoping out the upper beach for nesting. But no nests with eggs yet. Someone will get back to check the site Mon/Tue next week. If we find a nest that will trigger the following:
  • The nest site will be surrounded by a single strand fence with a few signs staying it is a RESTRICTED AREA. Usually on beaches like GHB, we try to keep this fencing to a minimum, but if it appears the birds are still being disturbed after the fence is in place, it may need to be expanded to provide an additional buffer.
  • Information will be provided to help beach staff understand Piping Plovers so they can communicate on some level why the area has restricted access.
Piping Plover Quick Facts:
  • they are a shorebird that is on the US Endangers Species List as a threatened species
  • they nest right on the sand, laying 4 light brown speckled eggs.
  • it takes them about 4 weeks to incubate and hatch the eggs.
  • Chicks are precocious and leave the nest immediately to begin foraging on the own for food. They may stay within fenced area for first day or so but eventually they will wander beyond the fence either along the high beach or down to the waters edge. They are extremely vulnerable during this time, so beach scraping may need to be curtailed. In addition, ATVs driving on the beach will need to be extremely careful.
  • chick fledge (fly) in about 25 days
  • So total time from egg laying to chicks fledging is about 8 weeks.
As I mentioned, the US Fish and Wildlife Service administers the US Endangered Species Act and enforce laws related to the “take” of listed species, inadvertent or deliberate. So during the chick phase, a high level of sensitivity it required.
It means you have a healthy well managed beach if you are attracting Piping Plovers. That’s the good news. Having Piping Plovers nesting on any beach requires some change, which I can be challenging. Drew and I (and Erik Amati from MADFW) stand at the ready to help in any way we can to make this work. If we find a nest next week we will let you know immediately. And from there, we just need to figure it out. Every beach is different.
Ken – Let’s coordinate your efforts. It will be a big help for you to go to the site from time to time to monitor Piping Plover activity.
Thanks all,
Dave
Dave Rimmer
Director of Land Stewardship
Greenbelt | Essex County’s Land Trust
82 Eastern Avenue
Essex, MA 01929
dwr@ecga.org
(978) 768-7241 x14