CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2018: A YEAR IN PICTURES AND STORIES Part Three: Summer

Go here to read Part One: Winter

Go here to read Part Two: Spring

PART THREE: SUMMER

The most joyous story about Cape Ann wildlife during the summer months of 2018 is the story of the high number of Monarch butterflies and caterpillars in gardens and meadows, seen not only in strong numbers along the Massachusetts coastline, but throughout the butterfly’s breeding range–all around New England, the Great Lakes region, Midwest, and Southern Canada.

Three days after celebrating the two week milestone of our one remaining Piping Plover chick, Little Pip, he disappeared from Good Harbor Beach. It was clear there had been a bonfire in the Plover’s nesting area, and the area was overrun with dog and human tracks. The chick’s death was heartbreaking to all who had cared so tenderly, and so vigilantly, for all those many weeks.

Our Mama and Papa were driven off the beach and forced to build a nest in the parking lot because of dogs running through the nesting area. Despite these terrible odds, the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair hatched four adorable, healthy chicks, in the parking lot. Without the help of Gloucester’s DPW, the Piping Plover volunteer monitors, Ken Whittaker, Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, and the AAC, the parking lot nest would have been destroyed.

These brave little birds are incredibly resilient, but as we have learned over the past three years, they need our help to survive. It has been shown time and time again throughout the Commonwealth (and wherever chicks are fledging), that when communities come together to monitor the Piping Plovers, educate beach goers, put in place common sense pet ordinances, and reduce trash, the PiPl have at least a fighting chance to survive.

Little Pip at twelve- through seventeen-days-old

All four chicks were killed either by crows, gulls, dogs, or uneducated beach goers, and in each instance, these human-created issues can be remedied. Ignoring, disregarding, dismissing, or diminishing the following Piping Plover volunteer monitor recommendations for the upcoming 2019 shorebird season at Good Harbor Beach will most assuredly result in the deaths of more Piping Plover chicks.

FOUR WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN HELP THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS SUCCESSFULLY FLEDGE CHICKS: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE MAYOR

 

Piping Plover chick testing its wings.

Not one, but at least two, healthy and very hungry North American River Otters families are dwelling at local ponds, with a total of seven kits spotted. We can thank the fact that our waterways are much cleaner, which has led to the re-establishment of Beavers, and they in turn have created ideal habitat in which these beautiful, social mammals can thrive.

Several species of herons are breeding on our fresh water ponds and the smaller islands off the Cape Ann coastline. By midsummer, the adults and juveniles are seen wading and feeding heartily at nearly every body of water of the main island.

In order to better understand and learn how and why other Massachusetts coastal communities are so much more successful at fledging chicks than is Gloucester, I spent many hours studying and following Piping Plover families with chicks at several north of Boston beaches.

In my travels, I watched Least Terns (also a threatened species) mating and courting, then a week later, discovered a singular nest with two Least Tern eggs and began following this little family, too.

Least Tern Family Life Cycle

Maine had a banner year fledging chicks, as did Cranes Beach, locally. Most exciting of all, we learned at the Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird meeting that Massachusetts is at the fore of Piping Plover recovery, and our state has had the greatest success of all in fledging chicks! This is a wonderful testament to Massachusetts Piping Plover conservation programs and the partnerships between volunteers, DCR, Mass Wildlife, the Trustees, Greenbelt, Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.

Fledged chick

Cape Ann Museum

Monarch Madness

Friends Jan Crandall and Patti Papows allowed me to raid their gardens for caterpillars for our Cape Ann Museum Kids Saturday. The Museum staff was tremendously helpful and we had a wonderfully interested audience of both kids and adults!

In August I was contacted by the BBC and asked to help write the story about Monarchs in New England for the TV show “Autumnwatch: New England,. Through the course of writing, the producers asked if I would like to be interviewed and if footage from my forthcoming film, Beauty on the Wing, could be borrowed for the show. We filmed the episode at my friend Patti’s beautiful habitat garden in East Gloucester on the drizzliest of days, which was also the last  day of summer.

 

 

Happy Two-week Birthday to Our Little Pip

Common Eider Ducklings at Captain Joes

Little Pip Zing Zanging Around the Beach

Our Little Pip is Missing

Piping Plover Update – Where Are They Now?

FOUR WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN HELP THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS SUCCESSFULLY FLEDGE CHICKS: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE MAYOR

What’s For Breakfast Mama?

42 Pairs of Piping Plovers Nesting at Cranes Beach!

Fishing for Sex

Welcome to Good Harbor Beach Mama Hummingbird!

Least Tern One Day Old Chicks!

Welcome to the Mary Prentiss Inn Pollinator Paradise

Piping Plover Symbolic Fencing Recomendations

Good Morning! Brought to You By Great Blue Herons Strolling on the Beach

Two-day Old Least Tern Chicks

OUTSTANDING COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Grow Native Buttonbush for the Pollinators

A Fine Froggy Lunch for a Little Blue Heron

Snowy Owls in Massachusetts in August!?!

Monarch Butterfly Eggs and Caterpillars Alert

Learning to Fly!

Snapshots from Patti Papows Magical Butterfly Garden

Keep Those Monarch Babies Coming!

A Chittering, Chattering, Chetamnon Chipmunk Good Morning to You, Too!

Butterflies and Bird Pooh, Say What?

Caterpillar Condo

Monarch Madness!

Thank You To Courtney Richardson and the Cape Ann Museum Kids

A Banner Year for Maine’s Piping Plovers

Snowy Egret Synchronized Bathing

Good Harbor Beach Super High Tide

Otter Kit Steals Frog From Mom

Monarch Butterfly Ovipositing Egg on Marsh Milkweed: NINETEEN SIBLINGS READYING TO EMERGE

Monarch Butterfly Rescue

FILMING WITH THE BBC FOR THE MONARCHS!

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2018: A YEAR IN PICTURES AND STORIES Part Two: Spring

Go Here For Part One

Mama (left) and Papa (right) return to Good Harbor Beach on a bitterly cold day, April 3, 2018. 

Part Two: Spring

By Kim Smith

The return of Mama and Papa Piping Plover to Good Harbor Beach filled our hearts with hope and heartache. Although not tagged with a definitive id, we can be fairly certain they are the same because the pair attempt to build their nest each year within feet of the previous year’s nest. Not only did our returning pair try to nest on Good Harbor Beach, there were two additional pairs of Piping Plovers, and several free-wheeling bachelors.

The GHB Bachelors

Papa guarding all-things-Mama

Papa and Mama courting, building a nest scrape, and establishing their territory on the beach.

The PiPls are forced off the beach by dogs running through the nesting area. They begin building a second nest in the Good Harbor Beach parking lot.

Each spring the Good Harbor PiPl have returned earlier than the previous, which show us that the pair is gaining in maturity, and in familiarity with the area. Tragically, at the time of their arrival in April, dogs are permitted on the beach. Dog traffic running through the Piping Plover nesting area was unrelenting, despite signs and roping. The Plover family never caught a break, and were soon making overtures at nesting in the parking lot.

Even with desperate calls for help and repeated warnings from the Piping Plover volunteer monitors, owners continued to allow off leash and on leash dogs to run freely through the PiPl’s nesting area, daily forcing the PiPl off the beach. They were at first torn between maintaining the territory they had established on the beach or establishing a new territory on the white lines in the parking lot. After one particularly warm sunny Sunday in April, they gave up completely on their beach nest scrape.

We learned that during the month of April, dogs at Massachusetts barrier beaches, such as Good Harbor Beach, not only endangers the lives of threatened Piping Plovers, but many species of migrating and nesting shorebirds.

On May 5th, the first egg was laid in the parking lot. Thanks to Gloucester’s amazing DPW crew, a barricade around the nest was installed within hours of the first egg laid. Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer soon followed to install a wire exclosure around the parking lot nest.

Four!

No shortage of vandals.

Garbage left on the beach brings predatory gulls and crows and they, too, became a serious threat to our Piping Plover family after the chicks hatched. The lack of a common sense ordinance to keep dogs off Good Harbor Beach during the month of April, the unaware dog owners, the garbage scavenging gulls and crows, and the vicious vandals are absolutely our responsibility to better manage and to control. For these reasons, and despite the kindness and care of dozens of PiPl volunteer monitors, as well as good people from around the community (and beyond), the Piping Plovers face terrible odds nesting at Good Harbor. 

Scroll down to the end of the post to find links to some of the dozens of stories that I have written about the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. Many communities throughout Massachusetts and coastal New England have in place common sense management rules and are successfully fledging chicks. I wrote about that extensively during the summer months and you will find a list of the posts regarding that topic in Part Three: Summer.

Most of the Snowies from the great Snowy Owl irruption of 2017-2018 had departed for their Arctic breeding grounds by the time the Piping Plovers arrived to Cape Ann beaches. This was a relief as I imagined that the Piping Plovers might make a tasty meal in the mind of a Snowy Owl. Thinking we’d seen the last of Hedwig and all Snowies, Bob Ryan called to let us know there was a Snowy Owl hanging around the distillery. I jumped in my car and raced right over. She appeared in good health and stayed for a day.

We did learn weeks later that during July and August there were still a few Snowies remaining on Massachusetts beaches and, from examining their pellets, it was clear they had been eating Piping Plover adults.

I was deeply honored to receive Salem State University’s Friend of the Earth Award.

and to give my conservation program about the Monarch Butterflies as their keynote speaker.

In May, three Wilson’s Plovers were spotted briefly on Good Harbor Beach. This was a very, very rare northern sighting, especially so as there were three.

The Young Swan of Niles Pond was released by Lyn and Dan, only to lose his life later in the spring.

Amelie Severance sent us a lovely and detailed drawing of the Young Swan.

A fabulous Green Heron was photographed and filmed on an area pond–signs of a great summer season for all species of herons, yet to come.

For the past several years, at least, Killdeers, which is another species of plover (although not endangered) have been nesting in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach. This year we had, at a minimum, two successful nests!

All four chicks hatched and, at only one-day-old, made the epic journey to the beach. Miraculously, four teeny tiny mini marshmallow-sized baby birds, led by Papa and Mama, zig zagged across the parking lot, trekked through the dunes, and landed within feet of the parent’s original nest scrape.

Only one chic, the one PiPl volunteer monitor Heather names Little Pip, survives into summer.

 

Piping Plovers Return to Good Harbor Beach!

Kim Smith to Receive “Friend of the Earth Award” and Keynote Speaker Salem State earth Days Week

Piping Plovers Driven Off the Beach

Monarch Butterflies at Salem State University

Fencing is Urgently Needed for the Piping Plovers

Check Out Gloucester’s DPW Phil Cucuru Showing Extensive Storm Erosion

How You Can Help the Piping Plovers

Gloucester Celebrates Earth Day With Great News: Lyn and Dan Release the Young Swan Back to the Wild

Piping Plovers Forced off the Beach By Dogs for the Second Weekend in a Row

Piping Plovers and Thoughts About Signs, Dogs, and Why We are in This Predicament

We Need Volunteer Piping Plover Monitors Saturday at the PiPl Nesting Area #3

Heartbreaking to See the Piping Plovers Nesting in the Parking Lot

Snowy Owl at Ryan and Woods Distillery

Breaking: Plover Egg in the Parking Lot at Good Harbor Beach

Breaking: Two Eggs in the Nest: Shout Out to Greenbelt for Installing the PiPl Wire Enclosure

PiPl Egg #3

Swan Crisis

Rarest of Rare Visits from Wilson’s Plovers

Vandals Harming the Piping Plovers

Four!

Tonight on Fox See Our GHB Piping Plovers

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #1

Amelie Severance’s Lovely Drawing of the Young Swan

Debunking Piping Plover Myths #2 and #3

More Shorebirds Nesting at Good Harbor Beach!

Angie’s Alpacas

So Sorry to Write Our Young Swan Passed Away this Morning

Beautiful Shorebirds Passing Through

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #4, Winthrop Beach is Amazing, and Lots of Sex on the Beach

Our Good Harbor Beach Killdeer Chicks

Breaking News: Our Piping Plover Good Harbor Beach Chicks Have Hatched

Piping Plover Makes the Epic Journey to the Beach

Good Harbor Beach Two-Day Old PiPl Chicks

Good Morning! Brought to You By the Fiercely Patient Green Heron

We Lost Two Chicks Today

Shout Out to Gloucester’s Animal Control Officers Teagan and Jamie!

Our Third Piping Plover Chick was Killed This Morning

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #5: Piping Plover Volunteers Are NOT Calling for and Outright Ban of Dogs on the Beach

What Do Piping Plovers Eat?

Happy Father’s Day, Brought to You By Papa Plover

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #5: PIPING PLOVER HELPERS ARE NOT CALLING FOR AN OUTRIGHT BAN OF DOGS ON THE BEACH

Despite the extremely inflammatory posts you may have been reading elsewhere, the Piping Plover volunteer monitors and local wildlife experts are not in any way, shape, or form promoting the permanent ban of dogs from Good Harbor Beach.

Currently, dogs are not allowed on the beach from May 1st to September 30th. The PiPl volunteer monitor core group, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Ken Whittaker, who is Gloucester’s conservation agent, and Mass Wildlife’s John Regosin all agree that dogs should not be allowed on Good Harbor Beach beginning April 1st, but that it would be safe for Piping Plover fledglings and other migrating shorebirds for dogs to return after September 15th.

This new suggested time frame will allow birds to nest with far less interruption, shorebirds will nest earlier in the season (which will help with the chicks survival rate), and the chicks will be stronger by the time Good Harbor fills with summer crowds. This is a very logical and simple solution. Disallowing dogs on Massachusetts coastal beaches where shorebirds are nesting, beginning April 1st, is quite common. Allowing them to return after September 15, and in many cases after September 30th, is also very common. For Piping Plovers and other nesting shorebirds, protecting their habitat and sharing the shore is a matter of life and death.

To be very, very clear, we Piping Plover volunteers do not wish to permanently and forever ban dogs off Good Harbor Beach, or any Gloucester beaches.

Please email or call Mayor Sefatia’s office and your City Councilors and let them know your thoughts about Piping Plovers, dogs, and all the wildlife that finds a home at Good Harbor Beach. We hope you agree that making this simple change in the ordinance from April 1st to September 15th is the best solution for all our wild and domestic creatures. This modification to the dog ordinance will also show the federal agents that the Gloucester community recognizes our responsibility and takes very seriously our commitment to protecting endangered and threatened species.

Thank you.

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken: sromeotheken@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-281-9700

Councillors At Large

Paul Lundberg, President: plundberg@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-282-8871

Melissa Cox: mcox@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-631-9015

Jamie O’Hara: johara@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-979-7533

Jen Holmgren: jholmgren@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-335-4748

Ward 1 Councilor Scott Memhard: smemhard@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-283-1955

Ward II Councillor Ken Hecht: khecht@gloucester-ma.gov, 617,755-9400

Ward III Councillor and Vice-president Steven LeBlanc: sleblanc@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-283-3360

Ward IV Valerie Gilman: vgilman@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-621-4682

Ward V Councillor Sean Nolan: snolan@gloucester-ma.gov, 978-375-8381

If you would like to be a Piping Plover volunteer monitor, please contact Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov.

  *   *   *

Our Nine-day-old Piping Plover Little Pip and Mama

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAPA PLOVER

Papa and Pip snuggling today

Whenever folks stop by to ask questions at the nesting area and they see the little chicks snuggling under the adult PiPl, they almost automatically assume it is the Mama Plover. Half the time it is the female, and the other half, the male. Mom and Dad share equally in caring for the chicks, generally in twenty minute to half hour intervals. They are always within ear shot and while one is minding the chicks, the other is either feeding itself, grooming, or patrolling for predators. Last year, as is often the case, the Mama Plover departed Good Harbor Beach several weeks before the chick fledged, leaving Little Chick entirely under Papa’s care.

Eight-Day-Old Little Pip

Papa piping a warning call to Mama, while snuggling Pip 

If you would like to help monitor Pip and our PiPl family, please contact Ken Whittaker at kwhittaler-ma.gov.

OUR THIRD GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER CHICK WAS KILLED THIS MORNING

We are so very sorry to share that the third chick was killed this morning. The seven-day-old chick was taken and eaten by a very large crow that swooped in unexpectedly, as witnessed by the volunteer monitors.

One week ago today all four Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers hatched in the parking lot. We celebrated, but also knew that the really hard part was yet to come. Monitoring tiny marshmallow sized fluff balls, made the color of their surroundings, is like looking for sand upon sand. To do this several hours at a time is no small feat, made even more challenging on Gloucester’s busiest of beaches.

I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to all our super dedicated PiPl monitors. Know that they are doing the very best they can to fend off predators of every kind, ill mannered people, astronomically high tides, diminished beach, people who have been drinking in the hot sun all day, garbage left behind on the beach (which attracts crows and gulls), and every other creepy thing you can think of. The core group is putting in many hours, are sunburnt, and neglecting their families.

A terrible mishap of death or injury to a chick could happen on anyone of our shifts. When you see a PiPl monitor at GHB, stop and feel free to ask questions about the plovers, and please thank them for their dedication. I honestly hope I don’t see one more facebook post/comment blaming the monitors about how we are not doing enough to keep the chicks safe and not reporting enough about the scofflaws. It is just plain cruel. Thank you. 

Our one remaining chick, the one volunteer monitor Heather Hall calls Pip, is the smallest of the hatchlings and the one we think hatched last. This afternoon Mom was keeping watchful eye while Pip was foraging between the foot of the dunes and line of folks at the rope’s edge.

Climbing Mount Washington

Mama Plover and Pip

Early this morning when we still had both chicks.
 

SHOUT OUT TO GLOUCESTER’S ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS TEAGAN AND JAMIE!

Gloucester’s Animal Control Officers Teagan and Jamie were on the scene at the crack of dawn at 4:30 this morning fixing the posts around the PiPl nesting area and writing tickets. Last night Jamie was on the beach as well. Thank you Jamie, Teagan, and Chief McCarthy for the stepped up patrolling.

The posts needed to be pulled out of the sand because last night we had yet another super high tide, all the way up to the bluff for most of the length of the beach.

I read a comment yesterday that stated falsely that the animal control officers make $80,000.00 a year and sit around and drink coffee all day. I have it on good authority that their combined incomes do not total $80,000.00 a year. Stating misinformation and disparaging the hard working people in our community is creating a false narrative and is hurtful to everyone involved, to the people, the dog owners, and to the shorebirds.

Teagan and Jamie writing tickets at dawn this morning.

We don’t have as much an enforcement problem as we do an issue with entitlement and ignorance. Ignorance in the sense that scofflaws may be from out of town and may be unable to read, and entitlement in that some people know the rules and know the dangers that dogs pose to the shorebirds, yet choose to do as they please.

Upon entering Good Harbor Beach this morning, the scofflaws with their dog walked by these three signs.

Walking a dog on a beach is a purely recreational activity. For teeny tiny nesting shorebird chicks, protecting that same beach habitat is a matter of life and death.

If you see a dog at anytime or anywhere on Good Harbor Beach, please call this number: 978-281-9900.

As of late, it appears as though many more people now have the need of a service dog. Having a service dog requires that it be on leash at all times, not jumping on people, and not running through the dunes. Service dogs cannot go in the dunes, or anywhere on the beach that is restricted to humans.

Would the people with service dogs consider taking their dog to any other of Cape Ann’s stunning beaches, rather than to Good Harbor Beach during shorebird nesting season I wonder? 

 Folks getting ticketed and escorted off the beach.

Truly, the most important action people can take is to volunteer to help watch over the chicks. We have a number of folks posing as helpers but sadly, they are not actually volunteering for shifts. Two monitors on each shift would be ideal, but this year we have fewer volunteers, and don’t even have single person coverage during large chunks of time. Keeping watch over the baby birds will make a difference in whether or not the chicks survive. Anyone can be a volunteer and anyone of us can show you what to do. Finding people to help has been especially difficult on the weekends. Please contact kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov if you would like to lend a hand. Thank you so very much  

Six-day-old Piping Plover Chick

This morning’s dog tracks at Good Harbor Beach – Dog tracks are easy to spot and to differentiate from other canids (fox and coyote). For example, notice the sharp toenail indentation. Coyotes have rounded toe tip prints because they wear their nails down.

Dog tracks Good Harbor Beach

Look what other tracks were spied this week, deer! These too are easy to spot in the sand. The deer’s cloven hoof makes a broken heart shape.White-tailed Deer Tracks Good Harbor Beach

Today’s early morning Good Harbor Beach view of Thacher Island Twin Lights 

GLOUCESTER DPW GETTING THE JOB DONE-THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN!

Phil Cucuru and Mike Tarantino installing the sign board.

Thank you again to the Gloucester DPW, and again to Phil Cucuru and Mike Tarantino. The repaired footbridge looks beautiful and the signage placement is very noticeable. We are grateful to Phil, Mike, Joe Lucido, Tommy Nolan, Kenny Ryan, Newt, Cindy, and the entire DPW and Good Harbor Beach crew for their outstanding effort in helping our PiPl family, since when they first arrived, way back on April 3rd. Their assistance, interest, and kindness is making a difference. Thank you That’s City Councilman Scott Memhard walking the footbridge to check on the PiPl. So sorry to Scott for not getting a better photo.

WE LOST TWO CHICKS TODAY

We’re so very sorry to write that two chicks were killed today. Catherine Ryan witnessed a terrible scene with a large dog tearing around in the nesting area at dawn, and a volunteer monitor observed one taken by a gull.All that’s left of our little GHB Pipl Family – Mama (left), Papa (right) and our two remaining chicks. 

Please volunteer to be a PiPl monitor. You will truly be making a difference in whether or not our PiPl chicks survive. And you’ll meet the nicest bunch of people. Anyone of us can show you what to do. The shifts can be as long as you like, but an hour is all we are asking. The weather forecast looks gorgeous this weekend, and it is Father’s Day on Sunday, so we are hoping to have two on at each shift. Contact kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov.

Please share this post and help spread the word that we need volunteers. Thank you ❤

GOOD HARBOR BEACH TWO-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICKS

Our little family is settling in, most importantly, finding lots of tiny insects in the wrack area. Cars weren’t the only threat in nesting at the parking lot, there simply did not seem to be sufficient food in the gravel and hard pack. Today, the chicks spent the early morning snuggling often under Mama and Papa; the temperature was chilly and the wind had picked up. Once the sun was shining brightly, they made their way to the water’s edge, learning how to forage on teeny mollusks and sea creatures.

The seagulls were ferocious this afternoon, so much so that our fearless pint-sized PiPl Papa bit a comparatively ogre-sized Great Black-backed in the butt, and made him squwack! The gulls were attracted to a Dunkin munchkin box that had blown into the roped off area. And although I arrived at sunrise, a dog owner and its pet had made fresh tracks through the nesting area. Between the dogs and the garbage-hungry gulls, human-created threats are far more dangerous than natural predators.

Sleepy eyes after morning snuggles

Looking mighty confident for only two-days old!

We definitely need more Piping Plover volunteer monitors, especially during the mid part of the day. If you would like to be a PiPl monitor, please email Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov. Thank you

 

BREAKING: OUR GHB PIPING PLOVER FAMILY MAKES THE EPIC JOURNEY TO THE BEACH

Late this afternoon, Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and my husband Tom observed the Plover family leaving the parking lot and heading toward the dunes. Dave shares that they 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 Boardwalk #3. They went part way down #3, then back toward the parking lot, then back down #3. The family next began to go through the dunes toward the the middle of the beach, away from the #3 roped off area. After all the zig and zagging, the little family returned to the boardwalk, and then headed straight through the dunes, in the direction of #3 nesting zone. Dave lost sight of the chicks, but could hear the parents urging them on. Out they tumbled, down the dune edge, and into the roped off #3 area!

Please keep your eyes peeled for tiny toothpick-legged mini-marshmallow sized chicks zooming around in the sand.

We are elated that all four chicks made it safely out of the parking lot. Quite possibly this was the PiPl plan all along. Several times I observed the adults making the overland route at the very same time that they began nesting in the parking lot, which I had not seem them do in the the previous two years that they nested at GHB (in the very same location all three years).

The PiPl left the beach due to extreme dog disturbance while trying to court and nest, sadly finding the parking lot to be the quietest and safest place. Yesterday afternoon, we all observed folks trying to bring their dogs through the parking lot and onto the beach, after the life guards had left. The presence of dogs caused extreme alarm by the parents, they would pipe loud warnings and then leave the chicks to try to distract the dog. This is when chicks are at their most vulnerable, when the adults have to leave them to defend against predators. The problem is only going to get worse now that the footbridge has reopened. Please, please to the folks bringing your dogs to the beach after hours, now it is more critical than ever to please leave your pets at home. If any of our readers see a dog on the beach at anytime of day for any reason, first make sure the chicks are safe, and then please don’t hesitate to call the police.

Trash left on the beach is another huge issue for endangered shorebird chicks, of any species. Trash on the beach equals a plethora of seagulls. As do dogs, seagulls cause extreme duress for the PiPl parents. Even though the gulls prefer the easy garbage pickings left behind, they also eat baby chicks.

If you would like to be a a volunteer PiPl monitor, please contact kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov. Thank you!

Huge Shout Out to all our volunteers, Gloucester’s awesome DPW, Dave Rimmer, Ken Whitaker, Jasmine Weber, and Jonathan Regosin

Both Mama and Papa are now able to tend the chicks, while they are also able to feed and take care of themselves simultaneously keeping within earshot and eyesight of each other.

PIPING PLOVERS DRIVEN OFF THE BEACH

Despite the case that posted signs were in place for Saturday’s off leash day, it was a complete disaster for the Piping Plovers.

When I was there early in the morning there was a large group of dog owners by the Good Harbor Beach Inn area and the dogs were playing by the water’s edge, away from the nesting sites, and it was wonderful to see!

Piping Plover nesting signs on the beach.

At noon I stopped by for a quick check on the PiPl, in between a meeting and babysitting, and it was a complete and utter disaster. There were dozens of dogs and people frolicking WITHIN the nesting areas, as if the signs were completely invisible. The nesting areas were so full of people and dogs, one of the pairs of PiPl had been driven off the beach and into the parking lot. They were trying to make nest scrapes in the gravel. Heartbreaking to see.

My husband and I put up roping as soon as I was finished babysitting. We ran out of rope for both areas and came back today to finish cordoning off the nesting sites. Hopefully the rope will help.

Perhaps because of climate change, and for reasons not fully understood, for the third year in a row, we now have a beautiful species of shorebird nesting at Good Harbor Beach. This year they arrived on April 3rd. Piping Plovers are a federally threatened species and it is our responsibility to do all that is humanly possible to insure their safety.

We live in coastal Massachusetts, which means we also have a responsibility in the chain of migration along the Atlantic Flyway to do our part to help all wildlife, particularly endangered wildlife.

Wouldn’t it be tremendous if the dog friendly people and all citizens of Gloucester would work together to change the leash laws to restrict dogs from our barrier beaches, Good Harbor Beach (and Wingaersheek, too, if birds begin nesting there as well), beginning April 1st?

Much, much better signage is needed as well as a wholehearted information campaign. And better enforcement of the current laws would be of great help as well however, if the laws are written such that dogs are allowed on the beaches during the month of April, which is the beginning of nesting season, then we are not being good stewards of species at risk.

We need help enforcing rules about keeping people and pets out of the dunes. The dunes are our best protection against rising sea level and are weakened terribly by trampling through the beachgrass and wildflowers.

It may be helpful for people to understand that the earlier the PiPl are allowed to nest, the earlier the chicks will be born, and the greater their chance of survival. Yesterday morning one pair mated and the female helped the male dig a nest, which means we could very well see eggs very soon (if they return to the nesting sites after yesterday’s debacle).

Papa Plover bowing in the courtship dance.

And here he is puffed out and high-stepping in the mating dance.

If the PiPl begin laying eggs now, and it takes about another month for hatching from the time the first egg is laid, the chicks would be a month old by the time July 4th arrives, when GHB becomes packed with visitors.

If the eggs and nest are destroyed, the nesting cycle will begin all over again and we will have chicks born over Fiesta weekend, with days-old chicks running around the beach on July 4th, as happened last year.

One-day-old Piping Plover chick – a marshmallow-sized chick with toothpicks for legs is super challenging to watch over on a typical Good Harbor Beach summer day!

I believe that as a community we can work together to help the Piping Plovers, as was done last year. It took a tremendous effort by a fabulous group of volunteers. The hardest thing that the volunteers had to deal with were the seemingly endless encounters with scofflaw dog owners. Especially difficult were the sunrise and sunset shifts because folks think they can get away with ignoring the laws at those times of day. I cannot tell you how many times I have had terrible things said to me when I tried to speak to people about keeping their dogs away from the PiPl nesting sites. Some folks do not want to be told that their dog cannot play there.

Rather than expecting volunteers and citizens to call the dog officer, when it is usually too late by the time they arrive, the dog officers should be stationed at the beach at key times, on weekends, and after five pm, for example.

Now that we know the Piping Plovers are here this early in the season, better rules, signage, and more information need to be in place. Gloucester is not the only north shore coastal Massachusetts area this year experiencing Piping Plovers arriving earlier than usual. We can learn much historically from how other communities manage these tiniest and most vulnerable of shorebirds. For example, after April 1st, no dogs are allowed at Crane Beach. Throughout the year, no dogs are allowed at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and at Revere Beach (also home to nesting Piping Plovers), which was the first public beach established in the United States, no dogs are allowed from April 1st to mid-September.

The female Piping Plover lays one egg approximately every day to every few days, usually until a total of three to four eggs are laid. The male and female begin sitting on the eggs when all are laid. Until that time, the eggs are extremely vulnerable to being stepped upon.

Currently the two nesting areas identified on Good Harbor Beach are taking up more space than will be the case once the PiPl begin to lay eggs. As soon as the first egg is laid, an exclosure will be placed over the nest and the overall cordoned off area will shrink some.

Mama PiPl and one-day-old chick