EXCITING NEWS FOR OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PLOVER FANS!

Late yesterday afternoon, our Piping Plover volunteer monitor Heather Hall identified a new addition to the three Piping Plovers currently residing at Good harbor Beach. She observed that he was super hungry and that he was wearing not one, but two identifying bands! The green band is located on his upper left leg and is etched in white with the letters ETM. On his upper right leg is a nondescript aluminum band most likely placed there by USFW.

The little guy was tagged on October 7th of this past year at Cumberland Island, Georgia, by the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program. He is a first hatch year, which means he is not quite yet a year old. ETM was spotted several more times at Cumberland Island indicating that he spent the winter there.

Cumberland Island is a barrier island and is the largest and most furthest south of the “Sea Islands” of the southeastern United States. You may have heard of Sea Island cotton, a very luxurious type of cotton. The fibers of the cotton that are planted on the Sea Islands grow extra long. In spinning and weaving cotton, the longer the fibers, the smoother and more luxurious the cotton feels. The word long-staple is used to describe very fine cotton threads.

Cumberland Island National Seashore sounds like a stunning and fascinating place to visit and I hope to do just that someday soon 🙂

To learn more about the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program:

The Virginia Tech Shorebird Program is a consortium of conservation biologists in the Virginia Tech Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Although our biologists have a variety of interests, we share a common goal of conservation of coastal wildlife resources through transformational research. We work closely with managers and stakeholders to provide research that is timely and pertinent to management. The VT Shorebird Program began in 1985 with a study of piping plovers on the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. Since that time, our biologists have worked up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, along the shores of prairie rivers and lakes, and internationally in the Bahamas, Canada, and China, promoting the conservation of seabirds and shorebirds through research. We have worked with a variety of species, including piping plovers, least terns, snowy plovers, killdeer, spotted sandpipers, red knots, common terns, gull-billed terns, roseate terns, and black skimmers in an effort to conserve our coastlines and the animals that depend on it. Read More Here

And here’s more from Audubon –

Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. It is also one of the oldest barrier islands in Georgia, with rich soils capable of supporting a diversity of plants. It is bordered by the Cumberland River, Cumberland Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean. Three main natural communities are found on the island: extensive salt marshes on the western side comprise almost 17,000 acres; an ancient, mid-island maritime forest of live oak, pine, cedar and saw palmetto covers 15,100 acres; and a narrow strip of dune/beach stretches along the Atlantic Ocean side of the island. Parts of the island have regenerated from use as plantations, when clear-cutting for sea island cotton farming and timber harvests for ship building were profitable. It has several noteworthy features, including 50 miles of shoreline, freshwater marshes and ponds, high bluffs, interdune meadows, tidal mudflats and creeks, and a large, freshwater lake. It is accessible only by ferry, a concession arrangement with the national park service.

Ornithological Summary

As a United Nations-sanctioned International Biosphere Reserve, the wilderness on Cumberland Island protects many threatened and endangered species, including six species of migratory and shore birds and four species of sea turtles. It is clearly a place of global significance.

Cumberland Island is a major stopping point on the transatlantic migratory flyway, with over 335 species of birds recorded. Threatened and endangered species include Least Tern, Wilson’s Plover, and American Oystercatcher. The southernmost point of the island, known as Pelican Banks, is a favorite place for Black Skimmers, oystercatchers, pelicans, and numerous ducks and shore birds. The fresh water ponds provide excellent rookeries for Wood storks, white ibis, herons and egrets. In the forest canopy, warblers, buntings, wrens and woodpeckers abound. On the shores, osprey, peregrine falcons, and the occasional Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle can be seen. CI is a breeding site for endangered/threatened/high priority species such as Wood Stork, GAEA, Least Tern, Painted Bunting. Extensive, regular use by migrants and winter residents (warblers, shorebirds, PE, FA). The habitat is largely undisturbed and the island is one of GA’s largest. Area attracts several rare/accidental species (LBCU, GLGU, WEK). Northern edge for some species (i.e., WIPE winters) = seasonal use and range. Contains steadily increasing population of TUTI (uncommon to rare on many barrier islands). AMWP (winter and a few summer), REEG, etc.

Black Rail, Piping Plover, Saltmarsh sharp-tail Sparrow, Nelson’s sharp-tail Sparrow, Painted Bunting, Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Red-cockcaded Woodpecker (Source: Shelia Willis checklist) Read More Here

WHERE DO PIPING PLOVERS GO IN BAD WEATHER?

A question often asked is “where do the birds go when the weather is inclement?”

The answer depends on what type of bird. Some birds, like perching birds, have it a bit easier than seabirds and shorebirds because their little toes reflexively cling tightly to a branch or limb. But many, many birds lose their lives in hurricanes and super storms.

Extreme weather events are especially harmful to threatened and endangered shorebirds. Wave action, high winds, and storm surges destroys coastal habitats and flooding decreases water salinity. Birds, especially young birds, are blown far off course away from their home habitats. A great deal of energy is expended battling the winds and trying to return home.

In the case of Piping Plovers, for the most part, business continues as usual during average inclement weather. You won’t see them sit in a tree or dune shrub because they will lose their primary advantage against predators, that of the safety afforded them by the camouflage of their sandy beach coloring.

Piping Plovers and Dunlin taking shelter behind the landmark rock at Good Harbor

Perhaps they’ll find a rock on the beach, or ridge in the sand, to crouch behind and out of the path of the wind. Piping Plovers are much harder to find in inclement weather because their feathers mirror shades of rain and snow and fog. Drenching rain, spring snow squalls, and biting summer sand storms won’t stop these indefatigable creatures, we see them foraging during every type of weather event.

Even Piping Plover chicks, weighing not much more than nickel, have the ability to withstand harsh summer sandstorms.

Nearly freezing and made worse by whipping wind.

 

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE AGAIN MAKING NEST SCRAPES IN THE PARKING LOT

Our little Piping Plover family has for the second year in a row been shunted into the parking lot. Saturday morning at 7am they were seen courting and nest scraping on the beach. After a full morning of plenty of dogs off leash romping on the beach, they were nest scraping in the parking lot. By nightfall, they were mating in the parking lot.

Piping Plover Good Harbor beach nest scrape April 13, 2019

This behavior is precisely what happened last year. The PiPls would begin their morning courting and nest scraping on the beach but by the end of each warm April weekend day, especially off leash days, they were found courting and nest scraping in the parking lot.

Piping Plover parking lot courtship Good Harbor Beach April 2019

Sadly, there is a contingency that endlessly denies that the people not following the leash laws have any responsibility. They expertly spread misinformation and twist words around and this is not helping the Piping Plovers successfully nest and fledge chicks. It’s heartbreaking really because nesting in the parking lot very adversely affects the health of the parents and chicks for a whole host of reasons. The adults will be expending twice as much energy, guarding a nest scrape in both the parking lot and on the beach. Last year, the birds maintained their territory on the beach the entire time they were brooding eggs in the parking lot. Intelligently so, when you think about it, because the beach nest is the precise location they marched their chicks to only one day after hatching.

To help quell the endless misinformation and falsehoods being perpetuated on a social media site –

Piping Plover monitors are not dog haters. Many of us are dog owners (some with multiple dogs) and most of us love all animals, wild and domestic.

I have, as well as have many of our PiPl advocates, been addressing not only the issue of people not following the leash laws at Good Harbor Beach, but problems around littering and trash collection and how these issues adversely affects Piping Plovers and all wildlife. Before there was the Animal Advisory Committee list of recommendation and the city’s Piping Plover Plan, I presented a list of recommendations, which included how to help the PiPl in regard to littering. This plan was presented on July 9, 2018. We fully recognize the threat gulls and Crows pose to the chicks. The focus of late has been the dogs on the beach because they are the greatest disrupters to courtship and brooding and because the PROBLEM IS STILL NOT RESOLVED, despite the ordinance change. There were dogs off leash all over Good Harbor Beach at the time of this writing (Saturday night) and only a very few gulls and Crows. We recognize that compliance with the ordinance won’t happen overnight, but rather than helping, misinformation is continually spewed.

To address the controversy over “other predators.”

As we have posted many times (including photos of), there are Eastern Coyotes and Red Fox on our local beaches. We see their easily recognized tracks in the sand. But one coyote or one fox, which is the most set of tracks that we ever see on a beach on a given morning at dawn or an evening at dusk, does not in any way equal the disruption to Piping Plovers while they are courting and brooding to that which is caused by several hundred dogs romping on the beach on a single day.

ADULT BIRDS ARE NOT IN DANGER OF BEING EATEN BY FOX, COYOTES, AND DOGS BECAUSE THEY CAN FLY AWAY FROM MAMMALIAN PREDATORS.

Crane Beach, which has by far many more natural predators than does GHB, successfully fledges chicks every year.

Crow in the dune this morning at daybreak. I have posted often about the problem of gulls, Crows, and litter and how the issue negatively impacts Piping Plovers.

ADULT PIPING PLOVERS AND GULLS FEED SIDE BY SIDE ALONG THE SHORELINE.

Gulls and Crows threaten Piping Plover chicks, but we are not even at the chick stage yet. Folks might want to know that because of the restaurants lining the boulevard at Revere Beach, the community has a much, much greater problem with gulls and Crows than we could ever imagine, literally hundreds, if not thousands, on any morning or afternoon. And yet, Revere Beach successfully fledges chicks each year in the exact same locations, and only doors down from where the restaurants are located.

Winthrop Shores Reservation Beach, a densely packed neighborhood with rows upon rows of of triple decker homes facing their beach has a problem with house cats on the beach, and yet this community manages to successfully fledge chicks year in and year out, in the exact same locations.

What do these three very different types of beach habitats have in common, and what are these three beach communities doing right that we are not doing? Perhaps it is because the citizens respect their community’s leash laws.

Repeatedly claiming disbelief at the number of dogs we are encountering at Good Harbor Beach, I have been pressured and cajoled into sharing photos of dogs on the beach, and when I do, there is public objection on their part. I invite all the negative PiPl Facebook commenters who we NEVER, EVER, EVER see at Good Harbor Beach, to come lend a hand. You were invited to work with us on solving the dogs on the beach issue and our invitation was ignored.

Additional note- Today, Sunday, a former off-leash day, there were fewer dogs on the beach than yesterday, a former on-leash day (as of 12pm). Puzzling, but we are not questioning the PiPls good fortune! Huge shout out to ACOs Teagan and Jamie for their hard work, to to all the people who did not bring their dogs to the beach today, to Gloucester’s DPW for installing the unmissable new signs, and to all the folks who came to GHB today, read the signs, and departed (we saw that happen)!

Our GHB Piping Plovers are weighing their options. Perhaps if we can keep the dog disturbance to a minimum, they will abandon their nest scrape in the parking lot and stay on the beach.

List of Articles and Links Provided That Explain How Dog Disruptions on Beaches Harm Piping Plovers

Very briefly gorgeous sunrise this morning, before the heavier clouds descended

THANK YOU CITY COUNCILOR SCOTT MEMHARD!

In addition to following through with a number of critical issues related to the Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach, Scott has printed up educational USFish and Wildlife brochures, and other handouts, for the PiPl monitors to distribute to beach goers. We are so grateful to Scott and just want to give him a huge shout out!

The PiPl volunteer monitors are also deeply appreciative of all the good will and work done by many of Gloucester’s City Councilors including Melissa Cox, who along with Scott, introduced  the ordinance change to the Council when it had been stalled, and to Paul Lundberg, Steve Leblanc, Jamie O’hara, and Sean Nolan for pushing the ordinance through when not much time remained to get it done before April 1st. Also, thanks to Jamie O’hara who checks in regularly with the PiPls progress. Thank you to all the Councilors for voting for the ordinance change. 

GLOUCESTER GETS IT RIGHT WITH THE NEW DOG SIGNS!

The bright yellow and prominently positioned No Dog signs went up this afternoon. One is placed at each entrance–the footbridge, the parking lot and Whitham Street. They are also positioned to hide the ultra confusing blue signs.

I think the signs will be of immeasurable help in getting people to understand the ordinance change. Thank you so much to Gloucester’s DPW Mike Hale and to the City for getting it right!

EVEN THE BACHELOR HAS RETURNED TO GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

The Bachelor has returned and he was up to his old tricks this morning, trying to horn in on Mama. Neither Papa nor Mama were having any of it and all three took off down the beach with the mated pair pursuing the unmated male. A confrontation (PiPl style) then ensued where both males puffed out their chests and repeatedly ran towards each other, until the bachelor backed down and flew away.

The photos were taken far down the beach, but at least you can see all three, with the two males positioned for battle. Disputes between PiPls, over territory and mates, take place where ever the shorebirds nest.

REMINDER: The new Good Harbor Beach ordinance is in place prohibiting dogs during shorebird nesting season. No Dogs are allowed at Good Harbor Beach anytime of day or night from April 1st to October 1st.

City Councilor Scott Memhard forwarded the following three photos. They are of the signs that Mike Hale is having made for Good Harbor Beach–note that they measure a whopping 24″ by 36″!

Scott has been working with Laurinda and Patti from the Cape Ann Photography Club on the glass box signs. Scott posted the flyers and the Club has changed the date at the footbridge entrance. We’re looking forward to seeing the changes at the other glass box display cases. Thank you Scott for your tremendous follow through!

Folks are disbelieving of the fact that there were a plethora of dogs Good Harbor Beach on Saturday , with nearly as many on Sunday. The photos aren’t that great and I wasn’t planning on posting the images but because people (who know better) are saying outlandish things, here are two batches from Saturday. The first batch are only some of the dogs because when you are standing at the Whitham Street entrance, it is impossible to document the dogs at the footbridge end, and vice versa.

Saturday morning – approximately 10:30am to 12:30pm on Saturday April 6, 2019

Saturday afternoon at approximately 4:15

Dogs on beach photos posted at www.kimsmithdesigns.com

HAPPY NEWS- OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS HAVE RETURNED – A SECOND CHANCE FOR OUR COMMUNITY TO GET IT RIGHT!

This morning we found Papa and Mama in precisely the same nesting areas as last Friday. ACOfficers Teagan and Jamie pointed them out. It was too wet and drizzly for my camera, so we don’t have photographic evidence, but we could clearly see they were courting, Papa fan bowing his tail feathers and Mama inspecting the nest.

Papa and Mama courting (photos taken last week)

We don’t know where they disappeared to while the weekend disturbances to the nesting area were taking place, but I do know this is a gift and a second chance for our community to get it right.

It will take our entire community working together to help mitigate some of the threats the PiPls daily face.

Gloucester’s DPW has installed dune fencing, which is helping to restore the dunes. Protecting the dunes benefits both people (our beloved beach) and wildlife.

Improved trash collection and heavier fines for littering helps keep predators such as gulls, crows, foxes, and coyotes from scavenging the beach for garbage left behind by people, and makes for a much more pleasant beach going experience.

The Gloucester City Council passed an ordinance to prohibit dogs from Good Harbor beginning April 1st.

Now it is up to the citizens of Gloucester to respect its ordinances and laws by not littering, not trampling through the dunes, and by not bringing dogs to the beach during shorebird nesting season.

And for the City to enforce these laws.

I frankly blame myself for being caught off guard. It had been so quiet on the beach the previous week, I thought people were getting the information that the ordinance has changed to prohibiting dogs on the beach. But the warm weather brought out both locals and out of towners and they have not gotten the information that the rules have changed.

Today is Tuesday. In order to be prepared for the very real possibility of another warm weekend day in April (five days from now) we need an IMMEDIATE CALL TO ACTION

  1. SIGNS, SIGNS, SIGNS! We need to remove the ultra-confusing blue sings. Replace with simple, easy to read LARGE and PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED NO DOG signs.
  2. Very Important: The locked glass door signs with the May 1st date need to be updated before the weekend. Folks are using this as a reason to bring their dogs on the beach.
  3. Update the City’s website with the ordinance change. The City is aware of this and we pray this simple change can be accomplished before the weekend. Folks are also using the incorrect information posted there as a reason to bring their dogs on the beach.
  4. WE NEED HELP with enforcement from the GDP. There is only one dog officer on duty each weekend day and they are covering the entire city.
  5. Staff the parking lot booth at Good Harbor Beach. This will prevent dogs from coming in through the lot (and bring in $$).
  6. In addition to staffing the booth, position staff or volunteers at the footbridge and at the Whitham Street entrance, before people even have a chance to walk on the beach with their dogs.
  7. Be active, you can help by speaking to folks when you see them coming onto the beach with their dogs or when littering.

The following two photos (photos are not posted here, please see kimsmithdesigns.com) are posted to show as an example as to why we need help from uniformed officers in enforcing the ordinance. This family was politely told that the ordinance had changed and that the ACOfficers were issuing tickets. The father’s response was “we’ll keep the dog in our pocket.” Moments later, the mother and daughter were taking their dog on a romp, off leash, at the creek.

Folks don’t understand that if we had chicks on the beach, this would pose an incredible threat. Even the smallest dog is no match for a tiny shorebird chick crouched down in the sand, unable to fly away, and at risk of being stepped on. Our Piping Plover parents often bring the teency weency chicks down to the creek to feed on hot crowded summer days.

Please be reminded that it was constant unrelenting dog disturbance that drove the PiPls into the parking lot last April. Knowing what we know, and in learning from last year’s debacle, it  would be a crime if we let that happen again for a second year in a row.

The Piping Plover is the littlest of shorebirds struggling against extremes- loss of habitat, rising sea level, natural predators, and human-created predators and disturbances. We have been given a gift, to be able to witness part of the life story of the Piping Plover here on our Good Harbor Beach.

To better understand what is happening on the beach and in response to recent comments–

Two of the three birds went missing during the day on Saturday. There are no coyotes or foxes roaming Good Harbor during the busiest part of the day while the beach is teeming with thousands of people and hundreds of dogs. 

Coyotes and foxes do not pose a threat to adult birds, only to the eggs and hatchlings because adult birds can fly away, and eggs and hatchlings cannot.

Piping Plovers feed alongside gulls, and many other species of shorebirds. Gulls and Crows eat baby chicks and eggs, not adults. One of the most astonishing scenes you will see when observing the dynamics between the gulls and the PiPls is to watch this tiny shorebird chase a gull away from its nest and chicks, biting and nipping the gulls tail fathers and even latching on. Both parents get involved and they will chase the gull far down the beach.

List of Articles and Links Provided That Explain How Dog Disruptions on Beaches Harm Piping Plovers

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE MISSING

All three Piping Plovers were last seen early Saturday morning.

We were only been able to locate one by day’s end on Saturday, only one all day Sunday, and none today, Monday. I scoured the beach and creek this morning at daybreak, and friends were again there this afternoon searching. If anyone has seen or knows differently, please, please email us at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you.

Papa Plover spent a good part of Sunday morning fruitlessly piping plaintive calls for Mama.

Sunday afternoon, ACOfficer Teagan and I found Papa all alone at the No. 1 nesting area, standing on one leg and tucked up by the dune.

I found this beautiful feather Sunday morning near some Piping Plover tracks and think it is a PiPl feather. The feather measures just shy of 6cm. A reader wrote to say she thinks it’s a Common Loon feather. I’ve never seen a Common Loon at Good Harbor Beach but they are all around and it could have washed ashore.

CONSTANT STEADY STREAM OF DOGS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH, FROM DAWN TO DUSK

We could write that there were at least two hundred dogs at Good Harbor Beach today, but only those of us who were there for any length of time would believe it. There was a constant steady stream, from sunrise, to when I last checked at 4:00pm. For the most part, the folks that we spoke with were without a clue that the rules have changed. Suffice it to say, we need to do a better job getting the word.

For readers who may have missed the information. The new ordinance prohibits dogs at Good Harbor Beach at any time of the day or night from April 1st to October 1st.

There are people who are not getting the information–they don’t read local blogs, local papers, or are not on Facebook. There has to be a more effective way to let folks know. If you are reading this post, please share it with your friends and please let them know of the ordinance change. And if you have a suggestion, or experience on how to get information of this nature across, we would be so appreciative if you would share. Thank you!

Just saying, if 200 tickets had been issued x $300.00, that would equal $60,000.00, which is more than enough money to pay people to stand at all three entrances to the beach and let folks know about the rule change; one person at the footbridge, one at the parking lot entrance, and one person at the Whitham Street entrance. This would be a very effective way to get the word out, and may only be necessary in the early days of the rule change. It’s not fair to expect the monitors to shoulder this responsibility as people can behave in an extraordinarily entitled manner and are often aggressive and hostile in their response when told of the ordinance change.

The following photos are just several of dozens taken today. The owner appeared to have five dogs with her. While she was whipping the ball with several of her dogs at the low tide line, these two tore away and ran repeatedly through the nesting area.

No Dogs at Good Harbor Beach from April 1st to October 1st.

 

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS COPING WITH WINDSTORMS AND COLD TEMPERATURES

All three PiPls, Mom, Dad, and the Bachelor, are finding drifts of sand, clumps of dry beach grass, and this morning, even a clam shell, to hunker down behind to get out of the way of the harsh winds. They are also doing a great deal of standing and hopping around on one leg.

I hope the wind dies down and soon so we can all enjoy more seasonably spring-like weather!

Mama taking a nap behind a clump of beach grass, and standing on one leg.

Papa standing on one leg even while doing wing stretches.

And what Piping Plover scene would be complete without a bachelor (an unmated male). I hope we get a “new girl” this summer!

Why do birds stand on one leg? “The short answer is that for the simple reason that you put your hands in your pockets when cold, birds stand on one leg to conserve heat. Birds also stand on one leg to relax muscle fatigue in the retracted leg.

The long answer is that birds’ legs have a blood flow referred to as “rete mirabile” that minimizes heat loss. The arteries that transport warm blood into the legs are next to the veins that return colder blood to the bird’s heart. The arteries act as a heat exchanger and warm the veins. Because the veins also cool the arteries, the bird’s feet are closer to environmental temperature and thus don’t lose as much heat as they would if they were at body temperature. By standing on one leg, a bird reduces the amount of heat lost through unfeathered limbs.

Birds that have short legs, such as Mourning Doves, do not need to stand on one leg because they have fleshy feet and they can snuggle down so that their warm belly presses against their feet.” Reposted from “Why is Little Chick Missing a Leg.”

If you see Gloucester’s dog officers, Teagan and Jamie, please thank them and let them know what a great job they are doing. Off and on throughout the day, they are walking the beach, talking to the dog owners who continue to bring their dogs to the beach, and handing out tickets.

 

POSSIBLE LITTLE CHICK SIGHTINGS!

A postscript to yesterday’s “Farewell Little Chick” ~ 

Thank you to Everyone for your kind notes, thank yous, love, and interest in our Little Chick. 

I thought  readers would like to know that since Little Chick departed Good Harbor Beach Friday morning several friends have shared that they have seen a small flock of Piping Plovers at other local beaches!

Carol Ferant wrote that Friday afternoon she was swimming by Corliss Landing and saw a small group feeding on lots of worms at the low tide sandbar. They stayed for a good long while and then flew off towards the marsh.

Abbie Lundberg wrote that in Annisquam this morning, Saturday, she saw a group of four Piping Plovers, three the same size, and one seemingly appeared smaller, about 2/3 the size of the others.

It makes complete sense to me that the Piping Plovers would move around from local beach to local beach before undertaking the long journey south. Comparing notes from last year, a mixed group of adults and fledglings grew larger and larger in number until one day, nearing the end of August, they all departed.

Today I was looking through the photos, from back in April though yesterday. We have every aspect of our Good Harbor Beach plover family documented–courtship, mating, eggs, all the different stages of development, friends, predators, other species of migrating shorebirds, scenery–thousands of images to organize. And after that, the next step is tackling all the film footage.  Big Project!

 Four-day-old and five-week-old Little Chick

FAREWELL LITTLE CHICK!

Our six-week-old Little Chick has begun his southward journey. At sunrise this morning I found him sleeping in front of the roped off area. Way down by the water’s edge, was a small flock of three Piping Plovers, but the light was so soft I could not tell if they were males, females, or fledglings. Sensing Little Chick’s time to depart was nearing, I didn’t want to investigate just then, but stayed on the beach to film our plover.

Little Chick awoke with his usual stretching routine and then made his way through the tidal flats mostly eating, but stopping several times to arrange his feathers. In no time he was foraging alongside the three migrating Piping Plovers and, within mere moments he, and the Piping Plover flock, flew, not along the beach or over to the creek as he has been doing, but this time, first straight out to sea and then curving around and disappearing behind the Sherman House.

I stopped by Good Harbor Beach several times later this morning and again in the afternoon, as have several of the volunteers, and no one has seen our Little Chick. Although feeling somewhat melancholy (but also very happy) to see him depart, this is the best possible outcome. We can all hope his journey is a safe one. And we hope too, that he parents many offspring!

We have been treated to a window into the world of nesting Piping Plovers. Most species of shorebirds breed many thousands of miles away, in the Arctic tundra of Canada and Alaska. We were blessed to see this beautiful story unfold, despite taking place in the least of safe habitats.

The greatest thanks to all the Piping Plover volunteers: Carol Ferant, Caroline Haines, Jeannine Harris, Hazel Hewitt, Charles King, Cliff King, George King, Paul Korn, Chris Martin, Lucy Merrill-Hill, Diana Peck, Ruth Peron, Catherine Ryan, Karen Shah, and Ken Whittaker. Without their daily monitoring of people, balls, dogs, gulls, crows, and what have you, we most assuredly would not have seen our Little Chick grow into a fledgling. Thank you too for their eagerness in sharing information about the PiPls with interested beachgoers. There is still a great deal about Piping Plovers that is a mystery. Studying the life story of one plover family creates a focusing lens from which we can all learn. I’d like to add special thanks to volunteer Hazel Hewitt who created the informative signs describing the PiPl that you may have seen all around the beach entryway ways.

If you see Ken Whittaker, Gloucester’s conservation agent, please thank him for all his help. After I discovered the Piping Plover nest on May 23rd, I spoke with Dave Rimmer to let him know precisely where the nest was located, and Ken immediately became available to lend a hand. In a way, we can thank Sharon Bo Abrams, too. After reading about how we were struggling to keep last year’s chicks alive, it was she who suggested that we form a group of volunteers. I mentioned this to Dave, who in turn spoke with Ken. It was Ken who spearheaded the volunteer effort and organized the group’s schedule so that at all times of day, from sunrise to sunset, someone was on the beach monitoring the Plover family. We can also thank Ken for listening to us volunteers regarding the importance of leaving the symbolic fencing in place as long as the chick was using it as his “safety zone.”

Thank you to Mayor Sefatia, Chris Sicuranza, and Frank DiMecurio for their interest and support. Thank you to all our readers for your kind comments and interest in the Plover daily updates.

Thank you to Gloucester Police Chief John McCarthy and Gloucester’s Animal Control Officer Dianne Corliss for their help monitoring the dog owner situation. They both made Good Harbor Beach part of their routine and their mere presence has made a tremendous difference.

A huge shout out to Gloucester’s Department of Public Works Mike Hale, Mark Cole, and Joe Lucido, and the DPW’s team of beach cleaners and rakers, who always went out of their way to keep an eye out for Little Chick and helped keep him safe.

Thanks is owed to Gloucester’s volunteer beach-picker-uppers who, on a daily basis, before everyone else arrives to enjoy the beach, are out there cleaning up what was left from the night before and helping to prevent a plethora of plastic from contaminating the ocean. Three who come to mind immediately, and who have been taking care of Good Harbor Beach for years are Patti Amaral, and husband and wife Patti and Kerry Sullivan. By cleaning the beach, it helps tremendously to keep down the crow, gull, and coyote populations, all of which are predators of shorebird eggs and chicks.

Thank you Community!  Without your support, care, and kindness I would not be writing this thank you note.

Several readers have suggested that I write a children’s book, with photographs, about The Good Harbor Beach Little Chick. While I am giving this idea serious consideration, I would only want to undertake a project like this with a top-notch publisher.

Perhaps Papa Joe and Mama Joy will return to Good Harbor Beach for a third year. With less than 8,000 Piping Plovers remaining in the world, we can only hope.

Bon voyage and safe travels Little Chick!

If I have neglected to thank you, please accept my sincere apology and please write and let me know so that I may add your name to the post. Thank you so much.

MOM, WHY ARE THE PIPING PLOVERS IN JAIL?

Mama Plover sitting on an egg

This question was asked by a young child visiting the plover nesting area at Good Harbor Beach. Another asked, why are the Piping Plovers in a cage? And today while on plover wellness check, I overheard an adult telling her daughter that the little tufts of dried seaweed within the roped off area are all Piping Plover nests, filled with Piping Plover eggs. 

In actuality, there is only one nest in the roped off area, and that nest is in the middle of the net and wire exclosure. The prefix ex in the word exclosure gives us a clue as to the meaning of the word. The contraption is designed to exclude other creatures, not to confine the plovers.

Wildlife monitors will place an exclosure over a nest to prevent people and dogs from accidentally stepping on the eggs and to prevent foxes, other mammals, seagulls, crows, and owls from eating the eggs. The holes in the wire are large enough for a Piping Plover to run freely in an out of the exclosure, and small enough to keep predators out.

What is Foxy Loxy up to? It’s morning and the young fox is very hungry He is foraging in the sand for plover eggs!

You can clearly see the Mom and Dad plover taking turns on the nest. About every twenty minutes or so, they exchange places. When there visiting the plovers with your children bring binoculars or your camera and watch this wonderful story unfolding right here our beautiful Good Harbor Beach. 

The very slight depression in the sand in the photo above shows a Piping Plover nest scrape. The diameter of the scrape is about the size of a tennis ball. Sometimes the Dad plover tosses tiny bits of shells or pebbles in the scrape, but just as often as not, the scrape is unlined.

SUPER EXCITING NEWS: PIPING PLOVERS COURTING ON GOOD HARBOR BEACH!!

The Piping Plovers have returned to nest on Good Harbor Beach. Last night I counted five plovers, and today four!

Above the wrack line, males are creating nest scrapes for females to approve (or disapprove, as is often the case). The gents use their back legs to vigorously dig a slight depression. They then sit in the scrape and beckon to the ladies with a continuous piping call to come inspect the potential nesting site.

Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt director of land stewardship, this morning installed fencing around a possible nesting area. We are all hoping that the Piping Plovers will quickly establish a nest and the chicks will have hatched before the July 4th crowds descend upon the beach. Dave’s message to everyone enjoying GHB is that if the Plovers are left undisturbed, the chicks will have a far better chance of survival the earlier in the season they hatch. If the nest site is continually disturbed and egg laying is delayed again and again, the Plovers will be here all that much longer.

It’s not easy being a Piping Plover. Rest time between foraging and courting.

The Plovers have traveled many thousands of miles to reach our shores and are both weary from traveling and eager to establish nesting sites.

What can you do to help the Piping Plovers? Here are four simple things we can all do to protect the Plovers.

1) Don’t leave behind or bury trash or food on the beach. All garbage attracts predators such as crows, seagulls, foxes, and coyotes, and all four of these creatures EAT plover eggs and chicks.

2) Do not linger near the Piping Plovers or their nests. Activity around the Plovers also attracts gulls and crows.

3) Respect the fenced off areas that are created to protect the Plovers.

4) If pets are permitted, keep dogs leashed.

The last is the most difficult for folks to understand. Dogs threaten Piping Plovers in many ways and at every stage of their life cycle during breeding season, even the most adorable and well-behaved of pooches.

Dogs love to chase Piping Plovers (and other shorebirds) at the water’s edge. After traveling all those thousand of miles, the birds need sustenance. They are at the shoreline to feed to regain their strength.

Dogs love to chase piping Plovers at the wrack line. Here the birds are establishing where to nest. Plovers are skittish at this stage of breeding and will depart the area when disturbed.

Dogs love to chase Piping Plover chicks, which not only terrifies the adult Plovers and distracts them from minding the babies, but the chicks are easily squished by a dog on the run.

 

SHORT VIDEO CLIP: THE PIPING PLOVERS OF GOOD HARBOR BEACH

Work has begun in earnest sorting through all the Piping Plover footage and editing the documentary. In the mean time, I thought readers would enjoy this rare moment where we catch a glimpse of the new born chicks, with both mom and dad together.

Impossibly tiny—no larger than a marshmallow—moments after hatching a Piping Plover chick is on the move, running, tumbling, somersaulting, face-planting, and curious about every little thing in their brand new great big world. PuffPuff, FluffFluff, and TootsiePop are less than twenty-four hours old in this clip. Our East Gloucester neighborhood kids named the Plover family after spending an afternoon getting to know them, watching safely from outside the roped off area.

Dad Joe finds an impression in the sand and the chicks come running to warm under his protective wings. Piping Plover chicks can feed themselves at birth but can’t yet perfectly regulate their body temperature. They need Mom and Dad for protection and for the warmth they provide. After a few moments rest, Joe pops up and Joy zooms in to take his place. Watch how PuffPuff does a somersault and FluffFluff gives her a little bump out of their cozy nest. Mom runs off camera to create a new resting spot and the chicks are chided by piping calls to come join her.

In shades of bone and driftwood, note how beautifully the Plovers are camouflaged in the colors of the sand and dry beach grass. There isn’t a living thing that doesn’t pose a threat to these most vulnerable of creatures. For protection against predators they will soon learn how to stand perfectly still when Joe and Joy pipe commands, but for now, it’s willy-nilly around the beach, much to the parents great consternation.

Thanks to Esme, Lotus, Meadow, Frieda, and Ruby for naming the Piping Plover family!

piping-plover-chicks-babies-nestlings-male-female-copyright-kim-smithThe male Piping Plover is on the left, the female, on the right. The male’s little black forehead band makes it easier to distinguish between the two.

THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER UPDATE WITH TIPS ON OBSERVING THE BIRDS

Piping Plover male and chicks copyright Kim SmithWith sadness, but not entirely unexpected, I am sorry to report that only one baby Piping Plover chick remains at Good Harbor. The good news is that the one surviving chick is doing fantastically as of this writing. Don’t worry when I write too that the Mom has left the family. She has begun to migrate southward. This is somewhat normal and I don’t think she would have left had not the chick been doing so well. Dad is minding the baby full time and he is doing a tremendous job.

A week since the Plovers hatched and it sure has been a joy to film, and wonderfully educational. I am very inspired to work on this short film and hope to have it ready for our community this summer.

Piping Plover chick copyright Kim SmithNotice the growing wing buds!

Piping Plover tiny chick copyright Kim SmithThe tiniest

A heartfelt reminder to please, please, please let’s all work together to keep the dogs off the beach. I had a terrible encounter, really frustrating and the owner and his friends very cruel. Ninety nine point nine percent of dog owners are wonderful and respectful and are rooting for the Plovers as much as are non-dog owners. The Plovers are all over the sandy beach, at the water’s edge, and down the creek. Although growing beautifully, the chick is still about the size of a cotton ball, maybe a cotton ball and a half. Up until fourteen days old, they are at their most vulnerable.

As with before, please fee free to share the photos and information on social media. The more people know about the garbage and dog owner trouble (certain dog owners that is), the more likely the chick’s chance of survival. Thank you!

Piping Plover garbage and chick copyright Kim SmithGarbage left on the beach late in the day and overnight continues to be an issue. Bring a bag with you and we can help the DPW by cleaning up after the the folks who don’t know any better. Garbage strewn on the beach attracts gulls, and they, especially Great Black-backed Gulls, eat baby Plovers. 

Piping Plover male and chick copyright Kim Smith

Piping Plovers, like many shore birds, are precocial. That means that within hours after hatching, they are ready to leave the nest and can feed themselves. They cannot however immediately regulate their body temperature and rely on Mom and Dad to warm them under their wings. Although the chick is six days old in the above photo, it still looks to Dad for warmth and protection. Examples of other precocial birds are ducks, geese, and chickens.

If you spot the baby and want to observe, I recommend staying fifteen to twenty feet away at least. Any closer and Dad has to spend a great deal of energy trying to distract you. We don’t want him to get tired out and unable to care for the baby. Also, you’ll appear less threatening if you sit or kneel while observing the chick. No sudden movements and talk quietly and the baby may come right up to you!

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A sweet dog with a very unkind owner.

Around 6pm Saturday evening, this playful dog came bounding down the water’s edge, within inches of the baby. I stood between the owner, dog, and Plovers, with cameras in hand, and cell phone unfortunately back in my bag. After a good twenty minutes of arguing he and his equally unkind friends departed. In the mean time, the Plovers were able to get away from the dog and further down the shore line.

Piping Plover male and chick -2 copyright Kim SmithDad and chick this morning Monday, the 18th, exactly one week old!