TREMENDOUS COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Pairs of piping plovers and 9 chicks on Coffin’s Beach reports Greenbelt. And osprey project

20160715_143617-001

David Rimmer wrote a big thank you for all the GMG attention. He explained that Mass Wildlife and the Greenbelt Association are working with the City of Gloucester and sends this update:

  • “There are 4 pairs of piping plovers at Coffins Beach – 2 pairs on the front beach and 2 pairs on the inside beach.

 

  • 3 pairs are on private land and 1 pair is on Greenbelt land. Mass Wildlife and Greenbelt have been monitoring and managing this area, too, (as with Good Harbor)

 

  • at Coffins Beach, one pair has 4 chicks; one pair has 3 chicks; one pair has 2 chicks; and one pair has no chicks.

Greenbelt also has an Osprey Program, which focuses on managing and monitoring nesting Osprey from East Boston to Salisbury.”  Greenbelt has set up webcams and platforms. Learn more http://www.ecga.org/what_we_do/osprey_program.  Chris Leahy and Marion Larson from Ma Wildlife also mentioned Greenbelt’s fantastic Osprey program.

Coffins/Coffin’s Beach has a community Facebook page, Wingaersheek and Coffin’s Beach Past and Present. There are historic and contemporary photographs. Check out the incredible photo series of deer frolicking by Timmothy Burke Manlee.

20160715_142035

 

 

Washed up Finback Whale Being Disassembled!

The finback whale that has traveled the currents of the Boston and the North Shore to rest, post-Superstorm Sandy, on Cape Hedge beach, was taken apart by a team of hearty souls armed with butcher knives and a whetstone this morning. It looked like bloody hard work, hacking away gigantic pieces of flesh and whale muscle from gigantic bones. Like butchering a school bus.  Most of the people wielding the knives looked suitably attired with commercial rain gear covering all the parts that mattered, but a few looked like they had drifted over from the North Shore Mall with only sweatpants — sweatpants! — standing between their own flesh and that of the whale. Thousands of pounds of rotting whale flesh. I’m just guessing that those sweatpants, having absorbed dead whale moisture, are going straight into the trash can just off the beach, as it would be better to ride home naked than wearing sweatpants saturated with the smell of long-dead marine life.

The smell was epic when you were downwind, and on the car ride on the way home the air began to fill with an aroma suspiciously similar to that of our dead friend. It turns out that my 3-year-old managed to step in an infinitestimal string of whale flesh residue. His little shoes will probably be a casualty of the day along with the whale team members’ sweatpants.

It was an amazing sight and hats off to the team from Mass Wildlife and the New England Aquarium and the guy at the Rockport DPW who handled the backhoe with the delicacy of a surgeon. It was a rare privilege to see, here in New England and in this high-tech age, people on the beach breaking down a whale by hand, just like our ancestors. But in this case the whale died of natural causes and even better, he will live on in perpetuity, recreated piece by piece for display in a museum. Experiences like this remind me that living here on Cape Ann is a rare sort of gift.

The spinal cord

Whale butchering as a Family Field Trip! The 6-year-old is grossed out. The 3-year-old seems confused. The baby (not shown) just seems bored.
Jawbones of the whale: the first pieces of the skeleton loaded into the trailer.