The Generous Gardeners working hard..and “What a difference a day makes makes!”
Pretty Good Harbor on Saturday.
So proud to live in Massachusetts, a state where the lives of threatened and endangered shorebirds that nest along our coastline, birds such as Least Terns, Piping Plovers, and American Oyster Catchers, are considered worth protecting.
Despite all that the state government is trying to manage with the pandemic at its very peak, a huge shout out to Governor Baker and his administration for continuing the fight to help protect Piping Plovers. The Governor’s list of essential workers includes natural resource workers and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has placed symbolic roping and threatened species signs on DCR beaches. For over forty years, people have been working to rebuild the Piping Plover population and it will only add to the coronavirus tragedy if we cease protecting threatened and endangered wildlife.
The PiPls are having a tough time of it this spring, largely because so much of their overwintering habitat was ravished during last year’s Hurricane Dorian. Let’s all work together to share the shore with wildlife and to protect our own Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover family!
Male PiPl building a nest scrape and tossing bits of shells and sand into the scrape
Scenes from around the eastern end of Gloucester – churning seas, leaden clouds, and great puffs of wind – the waves weren’t super, super huge at 4pm but there was still great crashing action over the Dogbar.
New beach parking restrictions are being implemented by the Mayor’s office. These restrictions include Witham Street, Nautilus Road, Eastern Point Road (the road that runs along Niles Beach) and the neighborhood roads around Wingaersheek Beach.
Barricades were placed today in several locations and we imagine more will be forthcoming.
Prior to dawn Monday morning, two Eastern Coyotes were spotted perusing Saratoga Creek and Good Harbor Beach. They appeared to be a pair; the huskier of the two was definitely the ‘alpha’ Coyote, with the smaller trotting after the larger. Before crossing the Creek, they both stopped to go pooh and pee in a pile of seaweed.
The larger (am assuming a male, but not entirely sure) has a more mottled snout with a black tail tip, while the smaller of the two has a very black snout and no black on its tail tip.
Saturday morning’s sublime sunrise at GHB
Surfers at daybreak
As you may recall from Sunday’s post, our sweet Piping Plover pair arrived on March 22nd. This is three days earlier than last year. The two are concentrating their courtship in exactly the same area they have been courting, nesting, and raising their chicks for the previous four years (with the exception of the parking lot nest). Today PapaPl made a serious nest scrape about five feet away from last year’s nest.
Each year, as they become better at migrating and better parents, they are arriving earlier, and earlier, and are wasting no time in getting down to the business of reproducing. Piping Plovers famously show great fidelity to their nesting sites and our PiPls are no exception.
You can see in the photos, the male is in the nest scraping, and the sand is flying in the middle photo as he digs out the nest.
We are very much hoping the symbolic Piping Plover fencing can be installed as quickly as possible. Yesterday, protective dune fencing was installed the length of Good Harbor Beach. What was installed yesterday only needs to be widened in a relatively small area to accommodate the Piping Plover’s nest scrape.
With all the terrible consequences of Covid-19 taking place all around us, some people may think it not important during the pandemic to help the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. I don’t think I am in the minority when I write nothing could be further from the truth. It’s critical to post the threatened/endangered signs and symbolic fencing and let the community know the birds are here. Helping endangered and threatened species is a meaningful way for us all to better understand our natural environment. The fact that the PiPls successfully fledged three chicks last summer gives us hope for a brighter future for all living creatures on our Planet.
Pops Plover getting down to business this morning!
Looks like dune protection measures have been installed along the entire length of Good Harbor Beach!
Thank you Gloucester’s awesome DPW!
Daily I have been checking and this afternoon we were overjoyed to see two foraging at low tide at Good Harbor Beach. They were super hungry, looking for food non-stop at the sand bar and in the water.
The Piping Plovers annual return is an event that I and many others have come to look forward to. Especially this year, not only because they are a sign of hope and renewal during the extremely challenging times we are experiencing but because of the hurricane that destroyed much of their Bahamian habitat last autumn.
Thanks to our amazing crew of volunteers, Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, Gloucester’s DPW, Gloucester City Council, and to all our Piping Plover friends, three chicks successfully fledged at Good Harbor Beach last summer. Let’s stay positive for another fantastic year with our PiPl family!
Beautiful day at Good Harbor Beach with a pretty kite flying.
Ricky is so good to me, very early birthday present, a Tamron lens, 18 to 400 mm. Very excited. Also getting some fresh air.
Photos of the full Super Worm Moon rising and setting.
Called the Worm Moon because the ground begins to soften and earthworms reappear, inviting Robins to our gardens. Among many names, March’s Full Moon is also called the Sleepy Moon, Sap Moon, Crust Moon, Lenten Moon, and Crow Moon.
Good Harbor Beach
Even though it was 30 degrees, we all need to go to the beach.
Hello dear Piping Plover Friends and Partners,
As are you, I am looking forward to the return of our Gloucester Plovers. With the relatively mild winter we are experiencing, and the fact they have been arriving earlier and earlier each spring, we could be seeing our tiny shorebird friends in little over a month.
About this time of year I imagine well wishers and monitors are becoming anxious, wondering if our PiPls survived all the challenges winter brings to migrating birds.
Last August at the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, I met Professor Paton. He is involved with a program that bands and nanotags birds at Southern New England beaches, mostly Rhode Island beaches. He provided some terrific maps based on the data collected from the banding program.
After departing Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the majority of the program’s tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.
As you can see in the map above, it’s easy to understand why the majority of Southern New England PiPls stage in North Carolina.
Why wouldn’t we want to tag out GHB family? Not often publicized is the down side of tagging. Some species of birds adapt well to tagging and some, like Piping Plovers, develop life threatening problems like leg movement disorder. But most troubling of all is that small sticks and other debris can become lodged between the skin and the tag, which causes the area to become infected, which has lead to loss of leg. Tiny shorebirds like Piping Plovers use their legs to propel them all over the beach, to both forage and escape danger. Left crippled by the loss of a leg, the birds will barely survive another year. At one point several years back there was even a moratorium placed on banding plovers.
Perhaps if we had dozens of pairs of Piping Plovers nesting all over around Cape Ann it would be worth the risk of banding a bird or two. But with only one nesting pair, coupled with the typical survival rate of Piping Plovers at less than five years, why not let our one pair nest in peace? Plovers at popular city beaches need all the help they can get from their human stewards. I for one am happy to simply imagine where our GHB PiPls spend the winter.
If you have ever been to a New Jersey beach, you might be sickened as was I to see birds with no less than eight tags, four on each leg. It doesn’t make sense to me in this day and age why one band wouldn’t suffice. Each time the bird was spotted the one set of data provided by one tag could be recorded in a national database.
According to coastal ecologist with The Trustees of Reservations, Jeff Denoncour, this past year (2019), 49 pairs of plovers raised 96 chicks at Crane Beach. They do not band birds at Crane Beach, nor are birds banded at other beaches where the PiPl has been successfully increasing in population, including Winthrop Shore Reservations and Revere Beach.
The species existence is precarious. In 2000 at Crane Beach just 12 fledglings survived 49 pairs and that was because of a major storm. Considering all that a Piping Plover pair has to face at the city’s most popular beach, we don’t need to decrease their chances of survival.
It’s wonderful and reassuring to see updated reports of banded birds we have observed at Good Harbor Beach however, because of data collected in the past, we can fairly accurately imagine where our little family resides during the winter. Banding a single pair will only serve to satisfy our own curiosity, and will do nothing to increase the bird’s chance of survival.
Seven too many bands on this bird!!! Bands are placed both above and below the tibiotarsal joint on plovers (terns are given bands below the tibiotarsal joint only). There are eight possible band locations on a bird’s leg according to banding schemes: The Upper Left Upper, Upper Left Lower (left leg, above the tibiotarsal joint), Lower Left Upper, Lower Left Lower (left leg, below the tibiotarsal joint), Upper Right Upper, Upper Right Lower (right leg, above the tibiotarsal joint), Lower Right Upper, and Lower Right Lower (right leg below the tibiotarsal joint).