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

Go here to read Part One: Winter

Go here to read Part Two: Spring

PART THREE: SUMMER

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

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

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

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

Little Pip at twelve- through seventeen-days-old

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

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

 

Piping Plover chick testing its wings.

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

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

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

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

Least Tern Family Life Cycle

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

Fledged chick

Cape Ann Museum

Monarch Madness

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

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

 

 

Happy Two-week Birthday to Our Little Pip

Common Eider Ducklings at Captain Joes

Little Pip Zing Zanging Around the Beach

Our Little Pip is Missing

Piping Plover Update – Where Are They Now?

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

What’s For Breakfast Mama?

42 Pairs of Piping Plovers Nesting at Cranes Beach!

Fishing for Sex

Welcome to Good Harbor Beach Mama Hummingbird!

Least Tern One Day Old Chicks!

Welcome to the Mary Prentiss Inn Pollinator Paradise

Piping Plover Symbolic Fencing Recomendations

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

Two-day Old Least Tern Chicks

OUTSTANDING COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Grow Native Buttonbush for the Pollinators

A Fine Froggy Lunch for a Little Blue Heron

Snowy Owls in Massachusetts in August!?!

Monarch Butterfly Eggs and Caterpillars Alert

Learning to Fly!

Snapshots from Patti Papows Magical Butterfly Garden

Keep Those Monarch Babies Coming!

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

Butterflies and Bird Pooh, Say What?

Caterpillar Condo

Monarch Madness!

Thank You To Courtney Richardson and the Cape Ann Museum Kids

A Banner Year for Maine’s Piping Plovers

Snowy Egret Synchronized Bathing

Good Harbor Beach Super High Tide

Otter Kit Steals Frog From Mom

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

Monarch Butterfly Rescue

FILMING WITH THE BBC FOR THE MONARCHS!

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

Go Here For Part One

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

Part Two: Spring

By Kim Smith

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

The GHB Bachelors

Papa guarding all-things-Mama

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four!

No shortage of vandals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Piping Plovers Return to Good Harbor Beach!

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

Piping Plovers Driven Off the Beach

Monarch Butterflies at Salem State University

Fencing is Urgently Needed for the Piping Plovers

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

How You Can Help the Piping Plovers

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

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

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

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

Heartbreaking to See the Piping Plovers Nesting in the Parking Lot

Snowy Owl at Ryan and Woods Distillery

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

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

PiPl Egg #3

Swan Crisis

Rarest of Rare Visits from Wilson’s Plovers

Vandals Harming the Piping Plovers

Four!

Tonight on Fox See Our GHB Piping Plovers

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #1

Amelie Severance’s Lovely Drawing of the Young Swan

Debunking Piping Plover Myths #2 and #3

More Shorebirds Nesting at Good Harbor Beach!

Angie’s Alpacas

So Sorry to Write Our Young Swan Passed Away this Morning

Beautiful Shorebirds Passing Through

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

Our Good Harbor Beach Killdeer Chicks

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

Piping Plover Makes the Epic Journey to the Beach

Good Harbor Beach Two-Day Old PiPl Chicks

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

We Lost Two Chicks Today

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

Our Third Piping Plover Chick was Killed This Morning

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

What Do Piping Plovers Eat?

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

SNAPSHOTS OF WBZ CARL STEVENS AND POSSIBLE HUMAN REMAINS FOUND

As part of my Piping Plover project, I often stop by Revere and Winthrop beaches when heading to and from job sites in Boston and Cambridge. While at Revere Beach yesterday, several TV news trucks pulled up in front of the police station and cameramen set up their cameras. I imagined perhaps another whale had washed ashore but bones of what are believed to be human have been collected by police.

I briefly met WBZ’s Carl Stevens and cameraman (both super nice). So sorry I didn’t get the cameraman’s name for the photo caption. If anyone knows, please write.

I didn’t have time to stick around and learn more although not much else is know at this time. 

WBZ’s Carl Stevens and cameraman on the scene

Point of Pines loster boat heading in

PIPING PLOVERS ON THE AGENDA AT TONIGHT’S AAC MEETING

ANIMAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE

OCTOBER MEETING TODAY AT 6:30

CITY HALL, 3RD FLOOR

1. Approval of meeting minutes from 9/12/2018
2. Education/Outreach Plans
3. Piping plover awareness and education
4. Off leash beach days
5. Rodenticides
6. Dogs in Cemetery
7. Materials
8. Shirts/Sweatshirts/Hats
9. Brochures
10. Public comment
11. New Business

STUCK BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

After exploring the beach, the three-day-old Least Tern chick decided to take a short cut through the rocks to nestle under Mom. She was well-camouflaged while brooding and keeping warm and cozy her second chick.

He tried and tried to get to her, first hopping from one foot to the other,

while trying to squeeze with all his tiny might through the space between the rocks…

before tumbling backward, with legs splayed and wings all akimbo.

Quickly righting himself (with directives from Mom),

around he went the long way and had himself a good long snuggle under Mom.

While observing and thinking about tiny shorebird chicks, like Least Terns and Piping Plovers, I am continually struck by their resiliency, by their tenacity, and by their ability to prevail, despite the natural and manmade threats to their survival.

OUTSTANDING COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

Piping Plover Chick Lift-off! – Not quite ready to fly yet, but testing his wings and airborne for a few seconds.

On Tuesday this past week my friend Deborah and I attended the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, which took place at Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable. 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, and American Oystercatchers are given the greatest attention, while the meeting also encompasses efforts on behalf of heron, cormorant, and egret species.

American Oystercatchers

Conservationists from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby states, including representatives from New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the organizations presenting at the meeting-Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and US Fish and Wildlife. Gloucester was well represented. In addition to Deborah and myself, two members of the Animal Advisory Committee also attended; chairperson Alicia Pensarosa and former animal control officer Diane Corliss. Many of you may remember our Mass Wildlife Piping Plover intern Jasmine. She was there to give a presentation on habitat vegetation utilized by nesting Piping Plovers. Her aunt, Gloucester’s Terry Weber, was there to support Jasmine. This was Jasmine’s first time speaking in public and she did an excellent job!

Each region gave the 2018 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.

Just one highlight of a day filled with helpful insights and useful information is that we can be very proud of our state—Massachusetts is at the leading edge of the Piping Plover recovery effort. The representative from New Jersey was there specifically to learn from Massachusetts conservationists on how they could possibly improve their recovery program as the New Jersey PiPl population is not growing, with fewer and fewer each year retuning to nest. As you can see from the graph provided at the meeting, the Canadian recovery is going very poorly as well.

Readers will be interested to know that our region’s Crane Beach continues to have one of their best year’s ever. Trustees of Reservations Jeff Denoncour shared information on the latest census data from 2018 and Crane’s has a whopping 76 fledglings, with 25 more chicks still yet to fledge. Because of the huge success at Cranes Beach, the northeast region, of which we are a part, has fledged a total 136 of chicks in 2018, compared to 108 in 2017, and as I said, with more fledglings still to come! The northeast region encompasses Salisbury Beach to the Boston Harbor Islands.

Jeff noted that this year they had less predation by Great Horned Owls. Because of owl predation, several years ago Crane Beach gave up on the wire exclosures and now use electric fencing extensively. The Great Horned Owls learned that the Piping Plover adults were going in an out of the exclosures and began perching on the edge of the wire, picking off the adults as they were entering and exiting the exclosure.

Crane has an excellent crew of Trustees staff monitoring the Least Terns and Piping Plovers, as well as excellent enforcement by highly trained police officers. No dogs are allowed on Crane Beach during nesting season and dogs are prevented from entering at the guarded gate. As we saw from one of the graphics presented about nesting Double-crested Cormorants, when a dog runs through a nesting area, the adults leave the nest, temporarily leaving the eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation by crows, gulls, raptors, and owls.

Crane Beach Least Tern fledgling.

Compare the Least Tern to Common Tern in the above photo. It’s easy to see why the birds are called Least Terns; they are North America’s smallest member of the tern and gull family (Crane Beach).

Another interesting bit of information shared–if you listen to our podcasts, back in April, we talked about the potential dilemma of what would happen if Snowy Owls remained on the beaches as the Piping Plovers returned from their winter grounds. Knowing that Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) and Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) are close cousins and that the Great Horned Owl eats Piping Plover chicks and adults, I was concerned that a Snowy might eat our PiPl. At one particular beach on Cape Cod, a Snowy stayed through mid-July. An adult Piping Plover skull was found in the owl’s pellet.

Snowy Owls remained in Massachusetts this year through July.

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.  

Piping Plover fully fledged and flying up and down the beach – we”ll have these next year!

GOOD MORNING GOOD HARBOR BEACH BABIES!

The Good Harbor Beach Killdeer Family has hatched a second clutch of four chicks!

The first nest was located in the dunes, the second on the edge of the parking lot. The staff at the GHB parking lot placed two large stones on either side of the nest. A week or so later, an orange cone.

Nesting patiently and well hidden in the scrubby parking lot growth. 

Mama and Papa Killdeer successfully distracted many a beach goer from getting too close to to the nest with their broken-wing distraction display.

Killdeers are a species of plovers, as are Piping Plovers, Semi-palmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, and Wilson’s Plovers. It takes about the same amount of time for the eggs to incubate, approximately 24-28 days.

Both male and female Killdeers brood the eggs. It is not easy to tell the difference between the male and female unless side-by-side. The male is typically a bit larger than the female.

Three of the eggs had hatched by nightfall, the fourth hatched early the next day. This new little Killdeer Family safely made it out of the parking lot the day after hatching, heading into the marsh, just as did the brood that hatched earlier in the summer.

 

THANK YOU GLOUCESTER VOLLEY BALL PLAYERS FOR KEEPING GOOD HARBOR BEACH SO CLEAN!

Last night the GHB volleyball players group appeared to be larger than usual yet, despite that, there wasn’t an ounce of trash left on the beach. Typically what happens after a large group gathering on the beach is that the gulls descend en masse, eating and dragging all over the beach the food and garbage that is left behind. It becomes particularly difficult for the PiPl parents to keep the chicks safe from the hovering and deadly dangerous gulls and crows. Keeping the beach clean helps tremendously in keeping the gulls away. Thank you!

WE LOST TWO CHICKS TODAY

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

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

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

GOOD HARBOR BEACH TWO-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICKS

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

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

Sleepy eyes after morning snuggles

Looking mighty confident for only two-days old!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUPER SHORT VIDEO ONE-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICKS WAKING UP IN THE MORNING SUN

Our GHB Parking Lot Family survived the first night and day two, despite shenanigans from Barn Swallows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and the ever present Bachelor. The Bachelor’s aggressive behavior seemed even more pronounced this morning. Unmated males will attack baby PiPls in hopes of mating with the female, but our Papa PiPl has his number and does his best to keep him at bay. As if they don’t have enough to contend with, Plover on Plover violence is a real threat.

Here are the chicks waking up this morning after a snuggling session with Papa.

Thank you once again to Joe Lucido and Gloucester’s DPW for their interest and help throughout and to our amazing cadre of PiPl volunteers. If you would like to be a Piping Plover volunteer monitor, please email Ken Whittaker, Gloucester’s conservation agent, at kwittaker@gloucester-ma.gov.

Mass Wildlife intern Jasmine Weber and her aunt Terry Weber 

 

GOODNIGHT SWEET PARKING LOT PLOVER FAMILY

Chicks Tucked Under Papa Plover

Thanks to today’s dozen or so volunteers, Gloucester’s DPW crew, and John and Jasmine from Mass Wildlife, our parking lot PiPl family made it through day one with flying colors (meaning all four chicks survived). It appears as if they are slowly advancing towards the beach. Plovers are active at night–perhaps they’ll make the migration tonight after the lot is closed–let’s hope.

We need more volunteers, at least two per shift would be fantastic. More eyes equals better coverage. Please contact Ken Whittaker at if you would like to be a PiPl volunteer monitor kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov.

BREAKING NEWS: OUR PIPING PLOVER GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT CHICKS HAVE HATCHED!!!

Our Piping Plover chicks began hatching yesterday afternoon. The fourth chick hatched today at 7:50am. We have all been on pins and needles and are overjoyed that all four babies appear to be healthy and vigorous.

Hopping over the yet-to-hatch egg and testing out tiny wing buds.

Piping Plovers lend true meaning to the expression “take under a protective wing.”

With thanks and gratitude to Joe Lucido and our amazing DPW, Gloucester’ s conservation agent Ken Whittaker, Mayor Sefatia, Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt, Jonathan and Jasmine from Mass Wildlife, and to all our volunteers (especially Heather Hall who has been at the GHB parking lot every single day for several hours) for helping us get this far. Now the truly challenging phase begins, which is helping the chicks grow to the next stage of life. Piping Plover Chicks fledge on average at about 35 days, which is almost to the day when last year’s Little Chick departed our shores.

We were hoping to keep the hatching on the down low for a few days, but the PiPl is out of the bag, so to speak. Volunteer Piping Plovers are most definitely needed. Please contact Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov

The first to venture out of the exclosure (at 7am this morning). Piping Plovers are precocial birds, which means that within hours after hatching they are mobile and relatively mature. Piping Plover chicks begin to feed themselves within the first 24 hours after hatching.

Kenny Ryan, Cindy Frost, Cliff King, and Joe Lucido

DPW Crew laying out the temporarily restricted parking area. The cordoned off zone will be in place this weekend and until the PiPl migrate to the beach.

Cliff King and Jasmine Weber – Jasmine joined the team yesterday. She is an intern at Mass Wildlife and will be with us all weekend.

Early this morning the Bachelor appeared on the scene, again, causing yet another kerfuffle. Papa leapt off the nest and chased him away, with a good bit of ruffled feathers.

A few more snapshots–see how adorable they are–wouldn’t you like to be a Piping Plover monitor this upcoming month

SHOUT OUT AND THANK YOU TO GLOUCESTER DPW’S TOMMY NOLAN!

Tommy Nolan helps keep both Wingaersheek and Good Harbor Beaches looking sparkling clean. He mans the beach rake, and last year did an incredible job of keeping an eye out for Piping Plover chicks. Tommy also has an interest in birds and enjoys watching the wildlife in his own backyard. He collected seaweed this week from Good Harbor and placed it around the nesting area. Thanks so much to Tommy and to the entire Good Harbor Beach team for looking out for our nesting PiPls 🙂

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH KILLDEER PLOVER CHICKS!


You may recall that several weeks back we posted a photo of a Killdeer nest with four eggs. I only discovered the nest because each and every time anyone walked past, a Killdeer would call shrilly and drag its wings through the dunes in a dramatic display of “broken wing” trickery. I would often play along and see how far away the Killdeer would take me until one morning I decided to see what it was they were hiding.

Killdeer Broken Wing Distraction Display

Off to the side of the path that leads to the beach, not more than six feet away, was a loose scrape of dirt and sticks, with four perfect Killdeer eggs!

I had no idea when they had been laid, so there was no way of knowing when the chicks would hatch. Each morning on my way to check on the Piping Plovers I’d take a peak, until one day there weren’t any. How sad I thought, and wondered if a predator had eaten the eggs. But the nest had not been disturbed and there were no broken egg shells. A mystery.

The following morning I checked on the Piping Plover nest in the parking lot. It was drizzly but there were two Killdeers near to where the PiPl exclosure is located. I sat in my car watching the adult Killdeers when to my delight and amazement, out tumbled four teeny chicks from under Mama Killdeer. A car makes the perfect blind and for quite some time I photographed and filmed the Killdeer family.

Off and on during that rainy day I stopped by to check on the Killdeers. Because of the weather, the parking lot was virtually empty. Tiny tufted black, brown, and white feather balls atop overly long spindly legs, the baby birds spent all their time zooming here and there, foraging on itsy bitty insects in the grass and gravel.

When not foraging, they would run under Mom or Dad to warm up on that damp drizzly day. Just like Piping Plover chicks, Killdeer chicks are precocial birds and can feed themselves within hours after hatching however, because they are so tiny, they lose body heat relatively quickly. The chicks need the warmth provided by snuggling under Mom and Dad.The next morning it was still drizzling, and the Killdeer family was still in the same location! I watched them for a bit, when a man showed up with his dog. The Killdeer parents went into high alert and did their best distraction displays. The dog chased the adult Killdeers around the parking lot while I spoke with the man. It is the same man who brings his dog to Good Harbor Beach via the footbridge end at the close of the day, after the lifeguards and dog officers have left. This was a tremendous problem last year after the Piping Plovers hatched. Last summer I was too busy preventing his dog from squashing a PiPl chick to get his license plate number, but not this time. The man and his dog left the parking lot.

Moving to the marsh

Shortly after the dog encounter, both Killdeer parents led the chicks into the marsh. To see the chicks navigate over the incline at the edge of the marsh was amazing; it must have seemed like fording a mountain to them. I’ve looked but have not seen the family since. I am hoping that they are thriving and growing in the marshland.

We don’t hear as much about Killdeer Plovers because they are not an endangered species. Killdeers are found in every state of the continental US, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America. They are the least shorebird-like of shorebirds because they breed and dwell in many types of habitats including grasslands, fields, urban areas, gravel pits, airports, parking lots, athletic fields, and golf courses. Despite their super ability to adapt to human habitats, it is a species in decline.

Killdeers begin courting in our area in March. Although I imagine they have been nesting at Good Harbor Beach for a longer period of time, I only have a record of Killdeers nesting at GHB going back three years and it is yet another important reason as to why humans and pets should not be traipsing through the dunes.

It is difficult to tell the difference between a male and female Killdeer unless they are side-by-side, and even then, still challenging. The male is a bit larger.

SHOUT OUT AND THANKS TO GLOUCESTER’S DPW JOE LUCIDO, CONSERVATION AGENT KEN WHITTAKER, AND GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER

Rainy day nesting.

Early this morning seaweed was collected from the beach and spread in a small area next to Piping Plover’s roped off area. The purpose of the seaweed is to help the PiPl find nourishment once the chicks hatch. There are lots of teeny weeny insects that live in the gravel and grassy areas of the parking lot, and the seaweed will attract even more.  

 

UPCOMING CITY MEETINGS RELEVANT TO THE ISSUE OF DOGS ON BEACHES DURING SHOREBIRD NESTING SEASON

Mama Piping Plover leaving the nest for a few moments to change places with Papa Plover

Thursday, June 7th, the Animal Advisory Committee is meeting at City Hall, 3rd floor, at 6:30pm.

On the Agenda:

  1. Open discussion for public comments.
  2. Approval of meeting minutes 5/17.
  3. Committee elections.
  4. Piping Plover protections
    1. Review new facts/research.
    2. Dog leash ordinance – to vote.
    3. Education/awareness.
  5. Upcoming event planning.
    1. CAAA Rescue Reunion.
    2. Crab beach plunge.
    3. Pet food drive.
    4. Massachusetts laws in legislative review.

Animal Advisory Committee update from the Piping Plover meeting held May 17, 2018:
We will have a continuation of the plover discussion during our June 7th meeting; in the meantime, fact-finding and ongoing discussion with experts will be conducted as well as creation of a volunteer group or team for beaches. We will likely make final recommendation on dog & wildlife ordinances by July 2018.

 

Also, tonight, June 4th, is an Ordinance and Administration Committee meeting at City Hall, 1st floor, from 6pm to 8pm. I have never been to an O and A meeting, but plan to attend to learn more about how the process works.

 

Parking Lot Piping Plovers, driven off the beach in April by the unrelenting interruption from dogs during courtship and nesting building in the roped off areas at Good Harbor Beach.

Parking Lot Papa waiting to change places with Mama

Giving the eggs a little turn with her feet and then settling back down on the nest.

Piping Plovers would much prefer to nest on the beach. The Good Harbor Beach parking lot is the location of “last resort.”

Link to post about GHB PiPl nesting in the parking lot.

PIPING PLOVER MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND UPDATE

Despite the throngs of beach goers and a full parking lot by noon time on Friday, the nesting Piping Plovers appear to be doing a-okay. Both Mama and Papa Plover were seen at the nest this morning (Saturday) at daybreak. They traded places on the nest without event.

Piping Plover volunteer monitors will be checking on the PiPl throughout the day. The parking lot attendants are keeping an eye out our feathered friends as well. With a hope and prayer, and lots of cooperation from the community, our little pair will survive the holiday weekend 🙂

At daybreak this morning, Mama left the nest to stretch her wings, forage, and take a bath, but only after Papa flew on the scene to relieve her; Papa on the nest Friday evening.

MORE SHOREBIRDS NESTING AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!!

Pictured above are the beautiful mottled eggs of a different species of plover, the Killdeer. Notice how the Killdeer eggs look similar to the PiPl eggs, but are a deeper gray. Killdeers make their nest scrapes on the ground, just as do PiPl, but in gravel and soil, and the darker colored eggs are perfectly camouflaged amidst the sticks and stones. Piping Plover eggs are beautifully camouflaged when laid in sandy nest scrapes.

Stay tuned for wonderful news about our Good Harbor Beach Killdeer Family.

Piping Plover eggsKilldeer, Good Harbor Beach Gloucester