TWO-DAY-OLD LEAST TERN CHICKS

Clamoring for dinner, feed Me, feed Me!

In only one day’s time, you can see the teeny shorebirds gaining strength. As Dad approaches with dinner, the two-day-old Least Tern chicks stretch and flap their wings and open wide their beaks. The noisiest and flappiest is fed first. After depositing a minnow in one beak, off he flies to find dinner for the second sibling.

Camouflaged!

The polka-dot fluff balls blend perfectly with the surrounding sand and rocks. The brilliant red inside the chicks mouth makes it easier for the adult terns to find them against the monochromatic pebbly beach habitat.

Waiting for dinner.

The tern parents will share feeding their chicks and fledglings non-stop for weeks; the chicks won’t be on their own for another two months.

For the first several days after hatching, Least Tern chicks keep fairly close to Mom in scooped out scrapes and natural divots in the sand, or well-hidden hidden behind rocks and beach vegetation.

Tiny Least Tern Chick camouflaged in the sand, flanked by an adult Least Tern and Piping Plover male passing by (right).

The Rosetti’s Piping Plover fledglings (three!) sharing the nesting site with the Least Tern Rosetti’s family.

LEAST TERN ONE DAY OLD CHICKS!

The Rosetti’s Least Terns hatched both eggs and both chicks are doing beautifully!

Least Tern eggs are astonishingly well camouflaged on a pebbly beach, making them nearly impossible to see. It’s easy to understand why the species is threatened, and in some regions, endangered. Least Terns nest on sandy beaches with little vegetation, the same type of beach habitat that people love. Piping Plovers and Least Terns often nest in association with each other. In Massachusetts, the Least Tern is considered a Species of Special Concern.

Mom and Dad Least Terns take turns brooding the eggs. Here they are changing places. Least Terns are monogamous and the Rosetti’s Least Terns are especially good parents.

Least Terns are semi-precocial. Like Piping Plovers, which are fully precocial, Least Terns are mobile after one or two days and can leave the nest.

Unlike Piping Plovers, they cannot feed themselves and will be fed for the next eight weeks by Mom and Dad, a diet consisting mostly of tiny fish.

Tiny minnows, for tiny chicks. Dad does most of the feeding while Mom mostly broods the babies during the first few days. As the nestlings grow, the parents feed the chicks increasingly larger fish.

First day venturing away from the nest, and then returning to Mom for warmth and protection.

Just as the eggs are perfectly camouflaged, so too are the tiny chicks.

Almost as adorable as are Piping Plover chicks are Least Tern chicks. However, they are much, much harder to film and to photograph. Least Terns are shyer of humankind than are Piping Plovers. Anyone who has seen PiPl in action know that they have a high tolerance for people and may come right up to you especially if you are standing perfectly still and are perfectly quiet. Least Terns on the other hand are elusive and skittish. The nestlings quickly take cover behind a rock or clump of beach vegetation when disturbed. The Mom and Dad when both courting and nesting will let you know if you are too close by dive bombing and if you still can’t take a hint, will poop on your head. If either happens, then you know for sure you are way too close and are interfering with the chicks feeding. Back away and observe from a more considerate (considerate-to-the-Terns distance that is). Unfortunately, I recently observed a fellow photographer repeatedly being dive-bombed by a nesting pair of Terns, and that person has a humongously long telephoto lens. She would have gotten perfectly lovely photos from a distance more respectful of the Terns.

 

FISHING FOR SEX

FISHING FOR SEX

Or is it Sex for Fish? –The Quid Pro Quo Courtship of the Least Tern

While learning more about Piping Plovers on North Shore beaches I happened to be on Winthrop Shore Beach on an afternoon in May when dozens and dozens of Least Terns were pairing up in an elaborate dance of courtship and mating. It was fascinating to observe their courtship feeding and I was so curious to learn more.

That very same afternoon, the “Rosetti’s” Piping Plovers were mating, too. Well known to the area is a pair of Plovers that nest every year directly in front of Café Rosetti’s, a fabulous Italian restaurant located on the main boulevard that runs along the beach. The Rosetti’s Plovers are very successful and each year they fledge a clutch of chicks. This year was no exception!

For the past several months I have been documenting through film and photographs the Rosetti’s Plovers and the Rosetti’s Terns, along with a family of PiPl at Revere Beach (more about the Winthrop and Revere Beach’s PiPl in future posts). Both species of birds are on the state and federal threatened species list. Piping Plovers and Least Terns began nesting on the area’s urban beaches as a direct result of the Boston Harbor cleanup, a wonderful, and very surprising to all involved, turn of events. In some regions, both species share the same habitat, as is the case with Winthrop Shore Reservation.

The more we learn about how and why Plovers (and other species of threatened shorebirds) successfully nest on other north of Boston much loved and much utilized beaches, the more we can help our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers successfully nest in years to come.

During the breeding season Least Terns perform courtship displays in the air and on the ground. In dramatic aerial display, a fish-carrying male is chased by the female, sometimes up to four females.

On the ground, the male parades his fish to a prospective mate. With fish dangling from his bill, he bobs his head from side-to side, then opens and closes his wings over the female.

The male mounts the female, still with fish dangling. During copulation he passes the fish to the female.

The funniest thing is, when the female allows the male to mount, she sometimes snatches the fish and flies away before mating has occurred.

No privacy, and lots of piracy!

The male continues to feed the female throughout the incubation period. Both parents incubate the eggs however, the female does about eighty percent of the brooding, while the male provides most of the fish for she and the chicks.

When one adult Least Tern feeds another, whether during courtship when the pair are first becoming established, or during the incubation period, this behavior is called “courtship feeding.”

The courtship feeding display perhaps provide the female tern the assurance that her male mate will be a good provider of fish for both she and the young. Both male and female Least Terns feed the chicks for the first several months after hatching; the better the fisherman, the stronger the chicks. Studies have shown too that courtship feeding provides the female with considerable nutritional benefit. The number of eggs, and weight of the eggs, are determined by the female’s nutritional status and how much food is fed her by her mate.

In Massachusetts, Least Terns primarily eats fish, including Sand Lance, Herring, and Hake. They also eat insects and crustaceans.

And we have a nest, with two eggs!

Read more about Winthrop Shore Reservation here.Winthrop Shore Reservation Nesting Bird Observers

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #4, WINTHROP BEACH IS AMAZING, AND LOTS OF SEX ON THE BEACH

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #4, WINTHROP BEACH IS AMAZING, AND LOTS OF SEX ON THE BEACH

Piping Plover Mama and Chick, Winthrop Beach

Recently an “Anonymous” person made a comment on the post “Heartbreaking to See the Piping Plovers Nesting in the Good Harbor Beach Parking Lot.” The name Anonymous is placed in quotes, because the commenter is so oddly uninformed and factually incorrect, I am wondering if an actual Winthrop resident even wrote the comment. Anyway, here is the comment:

“I live in Winthrop. One pair nested on Winthrop Beach about 6 years ago. Now there are 7 nesting pairs. 80% of the beach is now roped off for the plovers. They are rarely successful and keep trying to breed until August. Gloucester needs to determine whether it would like the income from parking or a successful plover population on one of its nicest recreational beaches. I was at Good Harbor the other day and it appears that there is not much of a sandy beach left to use. I realize the birds are endangered and federal law protects them. Gloucester may have to by law pay for 24 hour security like they do in Plymouth.”

Just like the towns of Gloucester and Revere, Winthrop has a beautiful beach (officially named Winthrop Shores Reservation), which within the last decade has become home to nesting shorebirds. Both Revere and Winthrop beaches are managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and both Revere Beach and Winthrop Beach have been on my to do list of places to visit to learn how other communities in Massachusetts manage their nesting shorebird populations.

Least Tern Nesting

Revere and Winthrop Beaches are relatively narrow at high tide, similar to Good Harbor Beach, and both beaches run adjacent to densely populated urban neighborhoods. I have been making good use of my commute from Cambridge and Boston to Gloucester this spring by regularly visiting Revere Beach, and have now added Winthrop Beach. I am so glad that I did! Go to Winthrop Beach if you have never been, or haven’t been in recent years. It is a delight in every way. Visitors sunbathe, picnic, windsurf, paddle board, ride bikes, hold hands, walk their babies, and do all the things visitors do at our Gloucester beaches. You don’t need a sticker to park, and parking is free, if you can get a spot along the main thoroughfare.

Winthrop Beach wasn’t always beautiful. Over the course of the past one hundred years, the devastating effects of pollution and erosion had washed the sand off shore, causing the beach to dip twenty feet below the seawall in some areas. This meant that every time there was a major storm, the waves were not slowed by a gradually inclining beach, but instead slammed into the seawall, flooding streets and homes, and further eroding the foundation of the seawall.

Despite this, in 2008, two pairs of Piping Plovers began nesting at Winthrop Beach. Not only has Winthrop Beach become home to nesting PiPls, at least ninety pairs of Least Terns (Sternula antillarum), a similarly threatened species of shorebirds, have also begun to nest there. The endangered Red Knot (Calidriss canutus), along with a locally nesting pair of American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliates) forage at Winthrop Beach as well.

One half of Winthrop’s resident American Oystercatcher breeding pair.

Winthrop Beach is in the midst of a 31 million dollar restoration project. To renourish the beach, 500,000 cubic yards of sand have been distributed along the one-mile stretch, the seawall has been rebuilt, improvements to beach access and amenities have been made, road repairs to Winthrop Shore Drive completed, sidewalks widened and made handicap accessible, and gorgeous new lighting is being installed.

During the Winthrop Beach major renovation project, care was taken to protect the Piping Plovers and by 2017, the population had quadrupled. Unfortunately, despite the community’s best efforts, 2017 was an unusually bad year. No chicks fledged due to predation by a male American Kestrel. The Kestrel was subsequently captured and moved to the western part of the state.

Massachusetts holds about 30 to 40 percent of the world’s population of Piping Plovers. It is a testament to our clean beaches and water. The Piping Plover’s diet consists of invertebrates and insects, and both require a clean environment.

From my observation during the past several weeks, there are only two roped off areas; one small, similar in size to GHB nesting area #3, and the other, about three times larger. The thing is, the large area is comprised of a restricted dune restoration project and the other part is filled with popples and cobbles, not in the least an ideal location to sunbathe or picnic. There is a wide sandy area in the center of the beach for recreation. Each time that I have been there, including the Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, there were very few people on the beach. The only people I had a free moment to speak with, a group of young women that live directly across from the cordoned off area, said they LOVE that their beach is home to the nesting shorebirds. The point is, just as exists at Good Harbor Beach, there is plenty of room to share the shore.

The shorebird nesting area is pebbly and part of a dune restoration project.

The “Five Sisters” breakwater area is well loved by windsurfers and paddle boarders as well as a favored habitat by foraging shorebirds.

Beautiful Beach Pea (Lathyrus maritimous) growing in the restored dune/shorebird nesting area.

Access to Winthrop Beach is restricted by what appears to be a complete lack of public parking. Even with no one on the beach, it has been difficult to find a spot to park on the main drive along the beach, and it is not yet summer time.

On my first visit to Winthrop Beach, the timing could not have been more perfect. Least Terns and Piping Plovers were mating like crazy. It was wonderful to observe both species mating dances and rituals, and both are unique to each other. I’ll post more about the Least Terns courting, essentially “sex in exchange for fish,” as it was so terribly funny to observe.

Least Terns Mating. Males offer a minnow to a prospective female. She will allow him to mount her while simultaneously taking the fish although, sometimes the females take the fish before mating and fly off.

I’ve been back several times since and have seen some courtship displays, but nothing like the free for all of the first visit. There was however a newly hatched Piping Plover family of four tiny little chicks. And one of the pairs of Piping Plovers that I had observed mating is now nesting!

Piping Plovers Mating 1) The male’s high stepping dance, asking the female if she is interested. She says yes by positioning herself with her rear end tilted upward. 2) He dances on her back. 3) The Plovers join cloaca to cloaca 4)Invariably, love making ends with a not too nice sharp nip from the male.
The mating pair are now nesting, with at least three eggs in the nest!

Camouflaged! Can you spot the four birds in the above photo?

Just south of Winthrop Shore Reservation is Winthrop’s Yirrell Beach and it is home to several nesting Piping Plover pairs, as well as a pair of nesting American Oystercatchers.

Point Shirley and Crystal Cove with views of the Boston skyline.

CELEBRATING DAY TWENTY WITH OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK–ALMOST FLEDGLING

Confident Little Chick

With each passing day, our Little Chick looks less and less like a chick and more and more like a fledgling. As with all Piping Plover new fledglings, the pretty stripe of brown feathers across the back of the head is becoming less pronounced, while flight feathers are rapidly growing and replacing the baby’s downy fluff. It won’t be long before we see sustained flying.

Little Chick spent a good part of the morning at the intertidal zone finding lots of yummy worms and mini crustaceans.

Thanks to all our volunteers for their continued work in monitoring the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. Volunteer Hazel Hewitt has created a series of informative signs, placing them all around the beach and at every entrance. 

Thanks to GLoucester High School Coach Mike Latoff and the players for keeping an eye on the Plovers.

Papa Plover, sometimes feeding in close proximity to Little Chick, but more often, now watching from a distance. Twenty-day-old Piping Plover Chick

WHAT DO PIPING PLOVERS EAT?

The question should really be what don’t they eat in the world of insects and diminutive sea creatures. Over the past two summers I have filmed PiPl eating every kind of beach dwelling crawly insect and marine life imaginable.

Piping Plovers eat freshwater, land, and marine invertebrates. Their general fashion of foraging is to run, stop, peck, repeat, all the day long, and during the night as well.

Run, Stop, Peck

When foraging along the wrack line and up to the dune edge Piping Plovers eat insects, both alive and dead, including ants, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles, along with insect larvae such as fly larvae. Foraging at the intertidal zone, Piping Plovers find sea worms, tiny mollusks, and crustaceans, as well as crustacean eggs.

When the chicks get a little older they will learn how to do a sort of foot tamping technique where they rapidly shake their feet in the sand to stir up crustaceans. I have yet to see our chicks do this, but soon enough.

The purpose of discontinuing to rake the beach to help the Piping Plovers is twofold. Not raking in the nesting site creates a habitat rich in dry seaweed and dry grasses, which attracts insects, the PiPl food on dry land. Secondly, raking in the vicinity of the Plovers after they hatch can be deadly dangerous to the chicks. Not only is there danger of being squished, but also, they can easily become stuck in the impression in the sand made by the tires of heavy machinery.

This morning I had a disagreeable conversation with a woman about her unleashed puppy. She feigned lack of knowledge about the dog ordinances, but aside from that, she informed me that her large puppy would be “afraid” of a chick. And there seems to be a frustrating lack of understanding about where the chicks forage. We can only share again that the Piping Plovers, both adults and chicks, feed from the dunes’s edge to the water’s edge, and everywhere in between. Sunrise and sunset are not safe times to walk dogs on the beach because Piping Plovers forage at all times of the day, and into the night. Adult birds can fly away from a person or dog walking and running on the beach, but a shorebird chick cannot.

Big Beach, Tiny Chick ~ Sixteen-day-old Piping Plover Chick Foraging at the Ocean Edge

ONLY ONE CHICK SEEN THIS MORNING (*EDITED RE DOGS ON THE BEACH)

Our one remaining Piping Plover chick spent the early morning in the vegetation at the edge of the dune.

Perhaps we lost the third chick to the tremendous deluge late yesterday that happened not once, but twice. Or perhaps to the crows. When I arrived at the sanctuary this morning there was a tremendous kerfuffle underway between two crows and both adults. As the crows were departing, after being vigorously chased away by the PiPl parents, I couldn’t see clearly whether or not they were carrying off a chick. Or perhaps, none of the above. There was an unleashed puppy on the beach, but after speaking with the woman, she and her dog departed. The PiPl were up by the sanctuary at that time so I am sure it wasn’t because of the puppy. I hope with all my heart we can don’t loose the one remaining chick.

*Comment added from my Facebook friend Susanne: Thank you to all for your kindness re the baby plovers. Yesterday after the downpour, I went to Good Harbor. No life guards and it was relatively quiet. There were three groups of people with dogs and two dogs were unleashed, One unleashed dog was near the piping plovers and too far from me to catch easily. I talked to two of the other dog owners. One said they didn’t know the rules and thanked me. The other said her dog is very old and this may be the last time she ever gets to walk on a beach. I love dogs and hope people have a lovely time on our beautiful beaches. I also wish they cared more about following our beach rules, which are common sense and about caring for others

The adults and chick were acting oddly this morning, not wanting to venture too far from the symbolically roped off area. Papa Plover spent a great deal of time perched on the party rock and surveying the family’s territory (not usual behavior), and got into several times with the Interloper.

Thank you so much to all our volunteers who are trying their best to help keep these beautiful protected birds safe.

Today’s Good Harbor Beach sunrise

OUR LITTLE PIPING PLOVER CHICK PASSED AWAY LAST NIGHT

Avery from the Tufts Wildlife Clinic at the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center phoned this morning to let us know that our Piping Plover chick passed away in the night. Although he was showing some positive signs yesterday, after a traumatic brain injury such as his, bleeding on the brain and other complications can occur. Know that he was well cared for by the incredible team at Tufts and that they did their very utmost best to save him.

I spoke with Avery about what would have happened had he survived. Little chick would have been re-habituated with other Piping Plovers. As Piping Plovers are a protected species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife dictate where his recovery were to take place.

Although it was very unusual for the clinic to have a Piping Plover, they have helped even smaller animals recover from injury. Most recently, a wounded hummingbird in their care was healed and released back in the wild.

Thank you to everyone for your kind concern.

Thank you to Jodi Swenson from Cape Ann Wildlife for meeting us at the beach at nine in the evening and caring for our little injured chick until the following morning when Catherine, George, and Charles delivered him to Tufts veterinary school. We should all thank our volunteers, Catherine, Caroline Haines, Hazel Hewitt, George King, Charles King, Paul Korn, Cliff King, Chris Martin, Diana Peck, Lucy Merrill-Hills, Cristina Hildebrand, Carol Ferrant, Jeanine Harris, Ruth Peron, Karen Shah, Annie Spike, and conservation agent Ken Whittaker for their diligent and continued monitoring of our two remaining chicks.

Please let’s everyone be mindful of the chicks afoot, help keep the beach clean, and please, please dog owners, please leave your sweet pooches off Good Harbor Beach. Thank you.

If you find orphaned or injured wildlife, the clinic has pages to guide you in appropriate procedures for birds, squirrels, mammals, and more, as well as a list of links to wildlife organizations. Go here for more information: Useful Links from the Tufts Wildlife Clinic

Two sixteen-day-old chicks snuggling under Papa Plover this morning at daybreak.

INJURED (AND NON-INJURED) PIPING PLOVER CHICKS UPDATE

Our little injured chick is hanging on. Crystal from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine phoned to report that she fed him through the night. He remains on supportive care and is being given antibiotics and pain medication. Little chick has been moved to a heated incubator. The veterinarians are again stating that prognosis is unpredictable.

What are these things called wings?

Meanwhile, these two chick were having an easier morning than usual. There were no fires, dogs, or beach rake, and with the cooler temperatures and overcast skies, many fewer people. PiPl super volunteer monitor Hazel came by with flyers of the injured chick and she posted them around the beach, hoping to help people understand why we need to be on the look out for chicks afoot.

Fifteen-day-old Piping Plover Chick with MamaI wonder what a baby bird think of its funny little appendages that will soon grow into beautiful wings?

Not a great deal of information is known about when exactly PiPl fledge. Some say 25 days and some reports suggest up to 32 days. In my own observations filming a PiPl family last summer on Wingaersheek Beach, the fledglings could not fly very well until mid-August. The PiPl fledglings and parents maintained a family bond through the end of August, even after it was becoming difficult to tell whether they were fledglings or adults. All during that period, the fledglings appeared still dependent upon the adults, who were still parenting, for example, offering distinctive piping instruction especially when perceived danger such as joggers and dogs were in the vicinity.

Two little butts, extra snuggles under Dad’s brood patch on this chilly day fifteen.

INJURED PIPING PLOVER UPDATE #2

4:20pm Update:
Catherine, George, and Charles drove our littlest chick to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts. Thanks to Jodi, they were prepared and waiting for him. Little chick was assigned a case number and we were told to call after 3pm. As I am writing this report, Avery from the school just returned my phone call. She sounds terrific and was very helpful in explaining little chick’s injury and care. He has a traumatic brain injury, most likely caused by being stepped on. Little chick is being given supportive care, which includes pain medication, an anti-inflammatory, and fluids. He is also in an oxygen cage that allows him to breathe more easily. The vets are guarded in their prognosis as recovery from head trauma is very unpredictable.

Very sadly, I have to report that dogs were running around the beach unleashed at the time of the injury. No one witnessed exactly what happened, but last year I saw a dog running over and instantly killing a chick, despite my very best efforts to get the owner to control his dog. This morning at 6am dogs were on the beach leashed, but the owner was obliviously walking her two dogs through the sanctuary area precisely where the chicks were darting about. Leashed or unleashed, irresponsible dog owners are one of the chick’s greatest threats. Please, please folks tell your friends and neighbors about the Plovers and why it is so important to follow the dog ordinances. It seems as though late in the day, after 5 and before sunset, the chicks are the most vulnerable. Perhaps folks think its okay to bring dogs to the beach after the life guards leave. Early evening is exactly the same time of day that the chick was killed last year.

Our two Good Harbor Beach siblings, this morning at fourteen days old.
Earlier this morning updates:
Catherine writes, “I called Kim who met me right away at the beach. Soon After 9pm Jodi was there getting the bird. Jodi implemented  ER incubator and hydration methods. By 11pm chick pooped which may be sign that he was reacting to rehydration. (She explained that body shuts down digestion quickly to protect brain and heart. Pooping could be things working.) One eye swollen may equal head injury or seizure. All was speculation and she hoped chick would make it through night.”
Volunteer Nancy, who found the chick wrote, “My daughter spotted the chick on the soft sand lying just off the wet sand of the creek bed near where we were this morning. My son in law carried the chick from creek bed to large enclosure. I held chick while giving it water and tried to keep it warm, then put it in the covered part of the enclosure on advice of Audubon woman, hoping its mom would be able to give care. We called every emergency number we could find but no one picked up. Thank you so much for responding as you did.”
Today at 6:15am–dog walking through the Plover’s sanctuary–leashed or unleashed, dogs (as well as people) unintentionally step on Plovers. Please be careful.

INJURED PIPING PLOVER UPDATE

Our littlest Piping Plover is on its way to Tufts with Catherine and her sons George and Charles.

Photo: Jodi Swenson, Cape Ann Wildlife. Jodi is Cape Ann’s resident bird rescue expert.

BREAKING: TWO CHICKS CELEBRATING TWO WEEK MILESTONE, ONE CHICK HANGING ON BY A THREAD

Mama and the two fourteen-day-old chicks this morning at daybreak.

Two of our three Piping Plover chicks are doing beautifully, the third however is hanging on for dear life. The littlest chick was found limp and helpless by beach goers, on the dune edge near the creek. The chick was placed in the wire enclosure where Catherine Ryan and I found it at around nine pm. Jodi Swenson from Cape Ann Wildlife arrived shortly thereafter. She immediately tucked the chick into her shirt and has been keeping the chick in a warming nest. Jodi reports that the chick’s eye is swollen and that it is having neurological problems. More information to follow.Little Chick’s right eye is very swollen.
Jodi’s snapshot from last night.

GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS DAY THIRTEEN

Thirteen-day-old Piping Plover Chicks

Foraging for tiny crustaceans at the high water line.

This morning at 5am found all three adorable balls of fluff zig zagging in and out of their roped off area. All was going well and I had planned to leave at 6:30 for work when the beach rake arrived on the scene. At the very moment the roaring rake was passing in front of the roped off safety area, the chicks decided to head to the water. It was harrowing trying to herd the chicks back up towards the wrack zone and at one point I lost sight of one. The rake passed twice in front of the sanctuary and both times the chicks were in extreme, extreme danger. The beach rake driver is super conscientious and stopped for Papa Plover when he ran in front of the rake, but not in a million years would a chick have been seen. I think eventually the chicks will learn to run in the opposite direction of the giant noise-making machine, but at this stage of development, they are running directly towards the beach rake. Additionally, while the rake drama was unfolding, half a dozen gulls flew in. I don’t know if they were there to check on what was tumbled up by the beach rake, or if they knew the babies were vulnerable as both parents were trying to herd the chicks away from the rake.

After writing this post, the next order of business is emailing Dave from Greenbelt and our conservation agent Ken Whittaker about the beach rake. I sincerely hope it can be redirected to stay on either side of the safety zone, traveling behind the beach through the parking lot road to clean both sides, but completely avoiding the area the PiPls are using as their morning and night time sanctuary.

Compare the photo on the left of a one-day-old chick and the photo on the right of the thirteen-day-old chick.

Despite their growing size, warmth and cuddles are still needed from Papa and Mama.

One of my favorite images, I think I’ll call this photo OctoPop.

Thirteen-day-old Piping Plover chick looking mighty confident.

GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS DAY TWELVE

Twelve-day-old Piping Plover Chick

This morning found all three chicks (hooray for three!) hungrily zooming around the symbolic enclosure, as well as outside the roped off area, and occasionally down to the water’s edge, but only for very brief moments. When the PiPl chicks get to the water they drink quickly before mom or dad calls them back up towards the wrack zone. Later in the morning they will journey over to the creek, where they can safely spend more time in the water drinking and feeding.

Zooming around the beach at top speed.

So this morning, five of the endangered nesting bird signs were either knocked over or mangled. Young adults lighting fires on a busy public beach is just plain dumb, but destroying the signs is just plain unkind. The Piping Plover monitor volunteers are so terrific and 99.99999999999 percent of the community are rooting for the Plovers; it’s just sad to see how a tiny minority can so negatively impact Plover recovery programs.

More food for thought–why do you think there was a Coyote spotted this morning on Nautilus Road in nearly exactly the same spot where there should be a trash barrel? Because of the disgusting pile of food and plastic garbage that sits there every night and well into the morning (or blows into the marsh and ocean), until the DPW arrives. The Coyote’s favorite meal is the the human garbage they have scavenged. Additionally this morning, I filmed super up close two crows alongside the Plover area and they were very expertly digging in the sand and un-burying food that had been buried there in the sand.

Mama Plover and twelve-day-old chicks.

Thankfully, Patti Amaral and the King family reset the signs and a full schedule of volunteers will be monitoring the PiPlover family again today. Thank you to all the volunteers and to our wonderful community for all you are doing to help the Piping Plovers survive our busiest of beaches.

Happy Fourth of July Glorious Beach Day!

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Nesting Bird signs mangled overnight.

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PIPING PLOVER UPDATE: CELEBRATING DAY TEN!

My, what big feet you have little chick.

Thank you to all who are watching out for the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Family! Reports throughout the day from the Piping Plover monitors tell of folks who are curious and interested in the welfare of the chicks. One of our little babies has gone missing, but the three remaining are doing beautifully. They are growing rapidly and getting better at following the parent’s voice commands. In the early morning and evening, for the most part, the chicks go in and out of the symbolic roped off area. During the heat of the day, the chicks stay closer to the grassy dune edge, seeking shade from the sun.

At sunrise this morning it was foggy and chilly. The chicks needed extra cuddling under Mom (ten-day-old chicks).

Interestingly, there is a male interloper. He was first reported by my husband about a month ago, when Tom called and said you have to get down here because the Piping Plovers are fighting! I hurried over, and sure enough an epic battle was taking place between our nesting pair and the strange male. I filmed the fighting, which went on for about half an hour, when Mama Joy and Papa Joe chased the interloper far out to sea. Unfortunately, the “third wheel” keeps reappearing, almost daily. I write unfortunately because as is the case with so many episodes that play out in the life of our little Plover family, when the adults are distracted by a perceived threat and leave the chicks, it makes it easier for a predator, such as a crow or seagull, to swoop in and carry off a baby. Later in the summer, as the Plovers are preparing to migrate south, the fledglings and adults will gather in larger groups, but at this point in the chicks development, the pesky interloper is clearly not welcome.

Eight-day-old chick. Could you be any better camouflaged little Plover?

 

FIESTA BABY PLOVERS!

Four of the sweetest little Piping Plover chicks hatched Thursday morning, June 22, at Good Harbor Beach. They are all beautiful and perfectly formed and healthy. Within hours of hatching, the mini-marshmallow-rockets were zooming and tumbling about the shore. Mom Joy and Dad Joe are in full on protective mode, doing their best to chase seagulls and people out of their territory.

Don’t mess with Mama Joy!

Last year the East Gloucester neighborhood kids named the parents, Joy and Joe; and chicks PuffPuff, FluffFluff, and Tootsie Pop. The parents are most likely the same pair as they have nested in nearly the exact same spot as last year. Comment in the comment section for name suggestions if you would like. Wouldn’t it be great if the four names were somehow Fiesta inspired 🙂

Good Harbor Beach is going to be very crowded this weekend. If the chicks manage to survive the first ten days, their odds of surviving increase dramatically.

How we can all help the Piping Plover chicks survive:

1) Perhaps the most important point to understand is that within hours of hatching, Piping Plover chicks are on the move. They soon begin to explore outside the symbolically roped off area. Keep an eye out for the chicks. Educate friends and family that they may see these tiny vulnerable creatures on the beach. Do not approach the chicks or adults, but observe quietly from a distance. Mom and Dad Plover will let you know if you are too close.

2) 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.

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

4) Keep dogs off the beach at all times of the day and evening.

 

Snuggling next to Mom for warmth.

 

Clip from last year’s year Piping Plover Family —

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.

MEET THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER BABY CHICKS!

Please help get the word out that the Good  Harbor Piping Plover chicks have hatched and that they are extremely vulnerable. Feel free to share these photos on social media.Piping Plovers chicks nestlings babies Kim Smith

Monday Day One: Judging from when the nest was first spotted, I had a feeling the Plovers were going to hatch Monday. The morning was drizzly and foggy and it was difficult to see into the nest but there appeared to be more activity than usual. By the time I returned later in the afternoon it was a wonder and joy to see all three Plovers had hatched!

Unlike songbirds, the Piping Plover chicks leave the nest almost immediately. They are not fed by the adults and begin to forage for insects in the sand soon after hatching. Although only hours old, they can run, and run they do, looking mostly like jet propelled cotton balls.

Piping Plovers chicks nestlings babes copyright Kim Smith 6-11-16

The chicks snuggle under Dad. Both Mom and Dad take turns guarding the nestlings, in thirty minute intervals, just as they did when on the nest waiting for the babies to hatch. 

Piping Plover chicks Mom Dad copyright Kim Smith 6-12-16Dad (left) and Mom (right) changing guard.

Tuesday Day Two:

Piping Plover chicks nestlings -3 copyright Kim Smith 6-12-16Miniature rockets zooming over miniature sand mounds, running so fast, they’ll often land in a face plant.  I captured a somersault on film!Piping Plover chicks nestlings copyright Kim Smith 6-12-16

Nature’s camouflage in hues of sand and dune.

Piping Plover chicks nestlings -2 copyright Kim Smith 6-12-16

Mom and chick, all three survive day number two!

Read More Here Continue reading “MEET THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER BABY CHICKS!”