HOW DO NESTING BIRDS SUCH AS PIPING PLOVERS KEEP FROM BOILING THEIR EGGS IN A HEAT WAVE?

During this heat wave, I have been concerned about one of the Piping Plover families that I have been documenting. They are nesting in an exposed site and it is late in the season. I wondered if their eggs were at risk of becoming overheated. As of Saturday, my worries were for naught.

Both the Mom and Dad are sitting high on the nest. Typically when brooding eggs, Piping Plovers fluff out their brood feathers and the eggs are entirely hidden. During these 90-degree-plus days, the parents are continuing to sit on the nest to keep predators from seeing the eggs from overhead, but they are raising their bodies enough to allow air to flow beneath.

Both parents are struggling in the heat; they are overheated and panting while minding their nest, but despite their obvious discomfort, they are determinedly continuing to brood.

Panting nesting Plover in 95 degree temperatures.

Allowing for air circulation is really a pretty genius way of managing their eggs and I am keeping my hopes up that the pair will be successful ❤

Dad PiPl says why is it so dang hot!

50 years ago today…the art of the first moon landing and Gloucester Daily Times front page

Today is the anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969. When I think about this momentous day, I mostly remember the artist Robert Rauschenberg, one of the established artists paid a tiny honorarium to travel to see space launches first hand. NASA gave artists total freedom to create any visual response if so awed. They were. Decades later, Rauschenberg agreed to loan rare works of art inspired by the space program for a solo exhibit that I co-curated. It was a big surprise when he scheduled a visit. He spent a morning at the show with me, closely observing each and every piece, some he hadn’t seen since he made them.  Many were created long after his residency. He was flooded; it’s very emotional.

Where were you on this day? I was in Plymouth, MA.

As i’m in a wishing and reflective mode, may I add that I look forward to the day when all Massachusetts newspapers are scanned and searchable. In the meantime, the Gloucester Daily Times coverage of that inspiring moon walk is on microfilm at the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library. Enjoy the headlines and some local quotes from 1969.

“Older folks take moon in stride–They’ve seen a lot, but this one…” by Henry Meyer, Gloucester Daily Times

article excerpts including quotes from Arthur Jones, Mrs. Bertha Silva, and John Bordreau (91)

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This moon shot business: Can you dig it?  Arthur W. Jones, 67, who lives at the Huntress Public Medical Institution can. Jones and some of his fellow residents on Emerson Avenue have seen the entire panorama of the development of aircraft… “This is one of the greatest things that has happened to our country.” The moon shot had helped to “unite people together,” he said…“When this country gets together, they do things right. No matter what they start, they finish it.”

Mrs. Bertha Silva said that Lindbergh’s flight was exciting back then. However she agreed with Jones that the landing of the first man on the moon really outdid all other flying feats…

John Bordreau, 91, also a resident of the institution was delighted by the whole affair. Boudreau predicted that astronauts soon will be flying all over the solar system…”We’ll just have to wait and see where they’re headed.” Both Jones and Boudreau said they had heard there was oil and gas on the moon. Boudreau remarked, “That’s kind of a long drive for just a couple of gallons of gas. Jones predicted that within 10 years men will be living on the moon. Some scientists said over the radio that there were eaves on the moon where people might live. He said there was oil up there and that they might be able to extract water from rocks.”…One person said that at her age she tended to be leery of these things…Others expressed confusion at the speed at which this generation seems to be moving…

excerpts from Our men on the moon: ‘A long day’…a hazardous return, by Edward K. Delong, Space Center, Houston, UPI article ran in the Gloucester Daily Times.

Mrs. Stephen Armstrong, Neil’s mother who watched her son on television from her home in Wapakoneta, Ohio, noticed this: “I could tell he was pleased and tickled and thrilled,” she said.

“Magnificent desolation,” commented Aldrin. “It has a stark beauty all of its own. It’s much like the desert of the United States.”

“It’s different, but it’s very pretty out here,” said Armstrong, who lived in California’s Mojave Desert when he was flying the X15 rocket plane. Armstrong and Aldrin, both about 5’11” cast 35 foot shadows…Zint said he was surprised by the emotion in Armstrong’s voice when he stepped onto the moon. “That was more emotion than I’ve ever heard him express before. Even when he talked about things he was excited about like space travel he always had a calm voice.”

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THANK YOU PIPL VOLUNTEERS!

We PiPl volunteer monitors had a sweet get together last night to celebrate our three fledged Piping Plovers. Not everyone could attend and I didn’t take the photo until several had already departed. Despite the fact that the City prematurely dismantled the Piping Plover refuge, it didn’t dampen our spirits. It was super to talk to fellow volunteers and learn more about them while sharing a beautiful cake that Heather Hall had made, with some fantastic Sangria, made by Laurie Sawin.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all our fantastic volunteers for your hours of dedication. It was a great year for PiPls at Good Harbor Beach. We hope our Mama and Papa return next year, and if they do, we will be even more prepared!

WHY IT IS A TERRIBLE AND POINTLESS IDEA TO DESTROY THE PIPING PLOVER HABITAT AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH

There are several reasons as to why it is vitally important to leave the Piping Plover refuge in place at GHB. PiPl chicks and fledglings are like human babies in that they eat and eat all day and evening, rest, and then resume eating. Their appetites are voracious. Not only are they growing but they are building their fat reserves for the journey south.

Our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers forage at the shoreline and also within the enclosure. Because this area is not raked or disturbed by human foot traffic, plants have a chance to grow. The plants attract insects, which in turn becomes food for the shorebirds.

On hot summer days, when the beach is jam packed, especially at high tide, the young birds and adults do not have access to the shoreline.They forage exclusively on the insects in the enclosed roped off area.

Each morning we find the family together within the enclosure, either foraging or sleeping, or at the shoreline in front of their refuge.

What will happen to the family now that the roping was removed prematurely? We don’t know. It’s been suggested that they will simply leave and try to find refuge at other beaches. Will they be able to maintain their family bond or will they become separated? If, for example, the fledglings find their way to Winthrop Beach where there are other PiPls nesting, the adults at that beach will surely attack them and chase the fledglings out of their territory. The nesting PiPl at Winthrop would be disrupted and the GHB fledglings won’t be eating and fattening up, but expending energy flying and fighting.

I am documenting PiPls at several other north shore beaches. Nowhere else are the PiPl refuges being dismantled. As a matter of fact, just this past week, the Department of Conservation and Recreation actually increased an area to create additional habitat for a new young family.

We monitors have spoken with and made friends with many of the local homeowners along Nautilus and Salt Island Roads. Every resident we have met is 100 percent for the PiPs and many have become valued monitors. Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer is for leaving the roping up as long as the Piping Plovers are at GHB.

We are having a difficult time trying to understand who or what is driving the rush to destroy the PiPls habitat.

Even on the slenderest blade of grass, insects are found.

Insects provide food for PiPls at all stages of their lives. Note this little guy is stretching for all he’s worth and his left foot is on tiptoes trying to reach a bug on the leaf.

Food is plentiful within the enclosure because of the vegetation that grows when this area of the beach is not raked. 
Morning wing stretches in the safety of the enclosure.
Resting behind the mounds of sand that form inside the enclosure.

PIPING PLOVER PARTY!

Come help us celebrate our three fledglings. Everyone is invited!

We’d like to say thank you to everyone who has lent a hand (or simply been a well-wisher) in seeing our three beautiful PiPl chicks fledge. Heather is having a special cake made and we will have some beverages. Feel free to BYOB (beverage).

When: Sunday, July 14th, at 7:30 pm.

Where: Good Harbor Beach, somewhere between the volleyball corner and boardwalk no. 3

Rain date: Sunday, July 21, at 7:30pm

WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

36 Day Old Piping Plover Fledglings 

Our Piping Plover fledglings (all three present!) at 40 days old this morning, readying to fly and sleeping in the enclosure.

BREAKING: LARGE MARINE MAMMALS OFF GOOD HARBOR BEACH – DOLPHIN OR WHALE OR BOTH? AN OSPREY SWOOPS IN TO FEED, AND PIPL UPDATE

On my morning PiPl check, I met up with a super nice gentleman, Bill, who walks the beach every morning. He loves wildlife (including PiPls), is a Coast Guard veteran, was a fisherman, and grew up on a marsh. Bill pointed out the whale (or he thought possibly a large dolphin), breaching and blowing blow holes off in the distance. Bill mentioned there had been a crowd along the back shore earlier and that there is tons of good bait fish off the coast right now.

Can a marine specialist please help us identify what we are looking at. Please comment in the comment section if you have a moment. Thank you so much!

Editor’s Note – Piping Plover volunteer monitor Val Cabral shares that this is a Humpback Whale. Thank you Val for writing!

How exciting at see an Osprey swoop in and snatch up a large fish precisely where the whales were fishing. All were too far away to get some really fine shots, but you can at least get an idea from the photos.

PiPl Update- all three fledglings are doing beautifully on this, their 39th day 🙂 The three spent the hours of five to seven mostly foraging in the area front of the enclosure, and also preening within the enclosure. Papa was on the scene, too.

July 10, 2019 Good Harbor Beach Sunrise

I wonder what kind of fish is bringing out the whales and the Osprey?

DON’T MESS WITH MAMA (OR PAPA) – YOUR DAILY PIPING PLOVER SMACK DOWN

These beautiful shorebirds, so small you can hold one in the palm of your hand, and so softly hued, they melt into summer shades of driftwood and sand, are actually tough as nails. You would have to be mighty fierce to battle hungry gulls and crows twenty times your size, an ever shrinking habitat, extremes in weather, and oddest of all, unmated males of your own kind.

We usually refer to our disrupter as the Bachelor; in WWE terms, I think he would be called a heel. Daily, there are impromptu smack downs, mostly Papa defending the chicks, but Mama often rescues the chicks, too. Even on the 38th day of our fledgling’s lives, the Bachelor went after one of the chicks this morning. The heel snuck up and then moved aggressively towards an unsuspecting fledgling, sleepy-eyed in the sand. Papa was nearby, gave the Bachelor the business, and down the beach they both flew.

Unmated males pose a problem not only at Good Harbor Beach, but at Piping Plover nesting sites everywhere. Early in the season, I imagine it may be good for the success of the species to have a few extra males present in case the male of a mated pair is killed. But why do they continue to harass throughout the summer, especially when the female may even have left the area? Papa’s and Mama’s defense of the chicks against the Bachelor’s villainous behavior is perhaps demonstrating to the young birds life lessons in how to defend their own future broods.

The Bachelor this morning, hiding behind a sand castle, waiting to pounce on a resting fledgling.

The sleepy 38-day-old fledgling.

Several mornings ago I observed the family feeding together in the intertidal zone, but wait, there were six, not five. Mom looked up from finishing her bath and quickly realized the Bachelor had wormed his way into the family’s territory. She went straight at him, but he held his ground. Papa heard the commotion and full on charged, chasing the Bachelor all the way down to the snack bar.

Mama taking a bath.

She looks up and recognizes it’s the Bachelor.

She flies straight at him, even wrassling for a moment, but the Bachelor refuses to leave.

Papa gives chase up the beach.

CONGRATULATIONS TO GLOUCESTER AND TO OUR CHICKS! 37 DAYS OLD AND OFFICIALLY FLEDGED!!!

Saturday marked the thirty-five-day old milestone in a Piping Plover’s life, when USFWS considers a chick fully fledged. At five weeks, a chick has by far the greatest chance of surviving and going on to become a breeding adult. That we fledged three from Good Harbor Beach is nothing short of astounding considering the very many potential threats. The average success rate per nest of four is 1.2 fledglings.

Gloucester’s citizens are proof positive of what a community can accomplish when we work together to effect change.

FLYING! One, two, three, lift off!

What did the chicks have going in their favor this year?

Number One was the change in the dog ordinance, which was to disallow dogs on the beach after March 31st.

Number Two was enforcing the new dog ordinance. Because of the ordinance change, and stepped up enforcement, the adults moved back to the beach to nest, and relatively early in the season. By helping the birds nest earlier in the spring, by the time the Fourth of July weekend arrived, the fledglings were bigger, stronger, and much better at following the parent’s voice commands that alert them to danger.

Number Three was the weather. With cooler than usual temperatures, there were fewer beach goers, which allowed for fewer disturbances.

Number Four, last but not least, was an amazing corp of volunteers who have dedicated hours upon hours to keeping watch over the babies, from sunrise til sunset. Our volunteers are truly the envy of other communities where PiPl nest. I am filming at several locations and staff at these beaches wish they had volunteers as dedicated as are ours.

With a happy, heartfelt thanks to a fantastic group of dedicated volunteer PiPl monitors, to Essex Greenbelt Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer for his continued help, to our Gloucester City Councilors for having the collective wisdom to vote to change the ordinance, to Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard for his ongoing assistance, to ACO Officers Teagan and Jamie, to Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee, to Mayor Sefatia and her administration, to the DPWs Mike Hale and Joe Lucido, and to everyone in the community (and beyond) who have expressed their interest, their support, and who have loved learning about these tiniest, but most spunkiest, of sweet little shorebirds as we have watched them grow in their fascinating life story journey. 

The photos are from July Fourth weekend, at 35 and 36 days old. These past several mornings at daybreak I find the three fledglings, Mom, and Dad foraging and preening together on the tidal flats and wrack line in front of the enclosed area. They move back within the roping when the tractor comes through, preen for a bit, head back down to the tidal flats, or fly off to the creek. The family is continuing to stay together, but are dispersed during the day when feeding. There is a wide variety of insects and small sea creatures to forage from at Good Harbor Beach as the PiPls plump up for their southward migration.

Bath time and drying wings

Morning wake up calisthenics – right wing stretches, then left wing, shimmy shake, and then off to forage.

Every morning the beach rake drives over the wrack line where the fledglings and adults are foraging. It was very scary when the chicks were younger. At thirty-five-days old, the birds can fly away to escape the heavy equipment but usually choose to run instead. PiPls are better camouflaged when they don’t fly, and that is why they often run at top speed to escape danger, rather than flying.


Resting and preening in the morning within the enclosed area.

Because the area inside the enclosure is not raked, a nutritious buffet of insects can be found within the roping. The enclosed area not only provides good food, but is where the family spends most of their time when the tide is high and the beach is full of visitors. Dave Rimmer has let us know he fully supports keeping the roping in place as long as the PiPl family is at Good Harbor Beach. This is a tremendous relief to we volunteers because we see the many ways in which the PiPl family are continuing to utilize this important habitat.

MYSTERY CHICK AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH THIS MORNING

There were not one, not two, not three, but four chicks feeding together at the wrack line at day break this morning. The mystery chick appears to be about the same age as our brood, exhibiting all the same behaviors, although it is not a Piping Plover fledgling. I think it is a Semipalmated Plover fledgling.

The chick was sopping, soaking wet and very disheveled, but feeding as vigorously as our family finding Good Harbor Beach ants, beetles, mollusks, and sea worms to be excellent breakfast fare.

When Papa Plover voiced danger warnings, the little visitor listened as attentively as did our brood of three. At one point Papa ran towards him, I thought to scare him away, but Papa was really after the Bachelor and kept on charging.

How could such a little fledgling fly from their northern breeding grounds at such an early age I wonder. He was so drenched, he appeared to have “washed” ashore, not flown. Semipalmated Plovers breed as far south as Newfoundland so perhaps he only traveled across the Gulf of Maine.

Evocative light at daybreak this morning.

HAPPY JULY FOURTH PIPING PLOVER UPDATE – MOM RETURNS!

Just a very brief update from my morning 5-7am shift- I was happy to see Mom has returned to looking after the chicks. It’s really a relief because the beach was so crowded today with beach goers, beginning very early this morning. The chicks (all three!) spent most of the day at the creek with volunteer monitors keeping a watchful eye on the babes throughout the day.

Mom keeping watch while occasionally pausing to forage and to preen.

Thirty-three-day old Piping Plover chick.

Dad on alert for crows and the Bachelor.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY PIPING PLOVER UPDATE – MOM RETURNS!

Just a very brief update from my morning 5-7am shift- I was happy to see Mom has returned to looking after the chicks. It’s really a relief because the beach was so crowded today with beach goers, beginning very early this morning. The chicks (all three!) spent the day at the creek with volunteer monitors keeping a watchful eye on the babes throughout the day.

Mom keeping watch while occasionally pausing to forage and to preen.

Thirty-three-day old Piping Plover chick.

Dad on alert for crows and the Bachelor.

HAPPY THIRTY-TWO-DAYS OLD LITTLE CHICKS (ALL THREE)!

Almost entirely fledged, our Good Harbor Beach chicks are taking short flights around the creek and sandy beach. USFWS considers Piping Plovers fledged at 35 days, which will bring us to Saturday.

Nearly as large as the adults, the chicks still take direction and heed the parent’s warning piping calls alerting them to approaching danger. Every morning I typically find both adults protecting and monitoring the chicks, but this morning, only Papa was seen and that has been the case reported all day by fellow volunteers. Female Piping Plover parents often depart earlier than their male counterparts and that was the case with our family with the one surviving chick in 2017.

*Edited -found Mama this morning (a day after she disappeared), supervising all three chicks. Both parents still present and still on duty. Happy Fourth everyone!

What will happen at thirty-five-days? Will the chicks suddenly begin migrating southward? I don’t think it will be as precise as all that. The family maintains a loose association for an undetermined amount of time. Another PiPl family that I am documenting at a different location, where the chicks are four days older, is still hanging out together and the four siblings often nap together, within close proximity to Mom and Dad.

Under Dave Rimmer’s advice, the City has agreed to keep the roped off area in place until after the busy Fourth of July weekend (thank you!). By keeping the area within the rope protected, we are continuing to provide a safe harbor and good foraging habitat for the fledging birds, which will surely be needed this weekend.

Thank you to everyone who is watching out for our sweet little PiPl family

 

PiPl sandwich

Going, going, gone!

Thirty-two-day Old Piping Plover Chicks

Papa supervising this morning

HAPPINESS IS KNOWING ALL YOUR BABIES ARE SAFE AND TUCKED IN FOR THE NIGHT

Our chicks are 26 days old today. We’ve nearly made it to the four-week-old milestone!

Doesn’t Papa look content? 🙂

Although state guidelines say piping Plover chicks have fledged by 25 days, that simply is not the case with our chicks. They cannot fly more than a few feet and are still swimming across the creek to the other side (about ten feet wide at mid-tide). If they could fly across, they would.

Every morning I find the chicks thermoregulating under Mom or Dad. Throughout the day, the parents guide the chicks up and down the beach to the most safe locations for foraging. And in the evening, they return to the protected area to snuggle under Mom or Dad, spending the night as a family unit.

The Federal guidelines are much more accurate when comparing my own observations and documentation. USFWS mandates protection up to 35 days. We PiPl monitors are going with protecting our family to 35 days, at five weeks old.

Thank you to all our wonderful Piping Plover volunteer monitors. Without a doubt, our chicks would not have made it this far if not for your time, patience, and dedication.

THE JOHNSON FAMILY OF YOUNG CONSERVATIONISTS!

Thank you to the Johnson Family of Wakefield and Connecticut for their interest in learning about the Piping Plovers and for giving them the space they needed when trying to get to the creek.

Volunteer monitor Laurie Sawin spent time with the family on Wednesday, sharing her binoculars and teaching the young conservation-minded kids all about Piping Plovers and their habitat. The kids were so interested and considerate of the birds, it was a joy to meet them!

People love the portable new signs, both beach goers and the volunteer monitors. The signs provide an opportunity for beach guests to ask questions and learn about the PiPls, and they also provide a reference for the monitors. Many thanks to volunteer monitor Heather Hall for sharing a photo online of the signs used at PiPl protected areas in Ontario.

Our PiPl family are finding lots of fat sea worms at the creek.