Last evening at the City Council meeting, former Gloucester conservation agent Ken Whittaker reviewed the City’s 3PPlan (Piping Plover Plan) with the Councilors.

We Piping Plover volunteer monitors are grateful for the time and effort Ken has put forth in helping to protect our threatened Piping Plovers. We’re especially appreciative of the time he spent coordinating the volunteer monitors–not an easy task! We wish Ken all the best in his retirement.

Ken and PiPl Volunteer Monitors, Good Harbor Beach

Ken and Jim Destino introduced Adrienne Lennon, Gloucester’s new conservation agent. We had a few minutes after the introduction to speak with Adrienne. Her experience includes working for seven years at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, located in Ipswich on the Plum Island causeway, adjacent to the infamous Pink House. While there, Adrienne gained extensive knowledge in Piping Plover conservation. She is especially interested in preserving and protecting our beach dunes. Adrienne can be reached at

Best of success to Adrienne in her new position as Gloucester’s Conservation Agent!

Photos of Ken and Adrienne at City Hall courtesy of City Council Vice President Steve LeBlanc

During Piping Plover nesting season, I have visited the public beach at the northern end of Plum Island, Newbury Beach. I believe the PiPl nesting areas at Newbury Beach are monitored by Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. Newbury Beach is similar in several ways to Good Harbor Beach in that it is a popular town beach in a residential area with many access points and nearby hotels. Last year the beach and dunes were extremely hard hit by late winter storms, just as was Good Harbor Beach.

About Joppa Flats Education Center: Overlooking the Merrimack River and near the entrance to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the Joppa Flats Education Center offers unique educational opportunities for people of all ages. Here, you can explore the region’s wildlife-rich habitats (salt marshes, mudflats, rivers, bays, and coastal waters) through guided tours, marine touch tanks, art exhibits, drop-in programs, and interpretive displays.

Scenes from behind the Joppa Flats Education Center and Plum Island causeway.

Councilors Steve LeBlanc and Melissa Cox wearing Piping Plover monitor hats provided by Ken Whittaker.

Coffins Beach and Wingaersheek Beach are going to be more closely monitored this year for Piping Plovers. The above photo is from 2016 when NINE chicks fledged at Coffins Beach!

Three-day-old Piping Plover Chick, Good Harbor Beach


Annisquam then and now | DPW and Greenbelt team up at Lobster Cove new land preserve to solve access at narrow and blind corner on Leonard Street

annisquam village circa 1901

In 2017, donations of $650,000 were secured to preserve four acres of Lobster Cove acquired by Essex County Greenbelt Ed Becker and Dave Rimmer working with the city staff (DPW Mike Hale, Ken Whittaker, Community Development) and many in the community. The property is co-owned by Mt. Adnah Cemetery.

Wilman Trail

Recently DPW teamed up with Greenbelt to scrub out trees, rocks, earth and stone to grade a pedestrian path along its Leonard Street stretch at the landing past Annisquam Church. Widening Leonard Street because of its variable and intermittent scale would be a very expensive and perhaps unwelcome project. This quick jaunt seems like a thoughtful solution to support safe access and property exploration in a tricky spot.


Essex County Greenbelt Annisquam Wilman Trail Lobster Cove Gloucester MA _20180702_©c ryan (5)

‘Squam rock has some practice boulders

No longer hidden by overgrowth, beautifully balanced granite outcroppings were exposed. If you look just so you might see the lines of a baby shorebird under wing or is that just me? Hmmm… Mother Ann, Squam Rock and baby Bird Rock.

Annisquam nestled bird rock_20180702_054907©c ryan


@Glostaplover sharing updates from the piping plover volunteers

Thanks to city staff like Ken Whittaker, Gloucesters conservation agent, and  experts  like Kim Smith, volunteers have been inspired  to have some fun helping wildlife in our own backyard.  You can join in and follow their reports on Twitter

The  2018 reports are also logged here

No sign in required for either format. There’s a link for the 2017 records, too. Last year’s monitors were all ages and a few commuted from over the bridge. One mother daughter duo from the tri-state area  scheduled a volunteer vacation in Gloucester because of Kim Smith and the city’s outreach!

As I write, folks have an eye  on the plover pair in the Good Harbor Beach parking lot (still) incubating 4 eggs (still). Sign up with Ken Whittaker for a shift Last year’s post about how to sign up. Everything ramps up for chicks.

(through the binoculars-  distraction dashing as crow went by )



A huge thank you once again to our city’s conservation agent Ken Whittaker and the amazing team of Piping Plover volunteers who, with their kind dedication, helped one little chick survive Gloucester’s busiest of beaches.

Ken met recently with some of the volunteers, to review ideas and suggestions for next year, and to give volunteers thanks, as well as the fun caps pictured above. Left to right; Chris,  Ken, Carol, and Hazel.

Little Piping Plover Chick Three Days Old

Naked eye test | Share your piping plover sightings #Glostaplover

Can you spot a piping plover? Train your eyes to scan for movement–it’s the easiest way to spy the piping plover summer 2017 brood. They scuttle along dry seaweed patches back and forth to the wet sand and within the enclosure. Yesterday the baby chicks were still apt to topple over inside sand scallop depressions.  Their future wings are visibly growing out. Now 1 week old, their sweet piping chirps are clearly audible. The parents are much easier to find. We’re lucky we can see the birds close up in Kim Smith’s gorgeous art.

Phone in hand? Share your Good Harbor Beach piping plover photos and observations! tag #Glostaplover and follow Gloucester Plover at

Volunteers are needed for shifts over the upcoming holiday weekend. Contact Ken



Day six, and all four Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers are thriving! Their survival is in large part due to the efforts of Ken Whittaker, Dave Rimmer, and a growing assemblage of wonderful volunteers. If you would like to volunteer to take a shift babysitting the PiPl, please email Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma-gov. Ken is meeting groups on the beach to explain the protocol. The shifts are brief and it’s great fun to be at GHB as an ambassador for the Plovers while monitoring and answering questions.

Catherine Ryan and her sons Charles and George King have the early morning shifts, from 6am to 7:30, and they are splitting it three ways, each taking a half hour. Piping Plover watchers are invited to take notes–here are one of the volunteers, Hazel’s, excellent notes:

“I was there from about 11.30 to 1 pm today June 26..

During that time I only saw one adult at a time, probably about once every 20 minutes, not doing much – preening, sitting on the sand, resting under a bush, moving around relatively slowly. I also saw one baby at a time moving about – except for the last 20 minutes when I saw 2, possibly 3, moving around at the same time (I had lent my binoculars to some interested bystanders so not sure of the number).

I spoke to 2 groups of young people playing with a ball and a frisbee – they were unaware of the plover nest and very agreeable to moving further away. One couple were seated very close to the rope, and also unaware of the plovers.  They said they would watch out for babies coming outside the enclosure, and later had been watching one of the babies moving around inside.

Two other groups were close to the enclosure and already aware. The second group arrived when two or three babies were moving around and excited to see them through binoculars.

I will be back tomorrow from 11 to 1 pm.


Loved reading the King brother’s notes. Great job Charles and George!!

Five Day-Old Piping Plover Chick Foraging for Insects

While walking through the dunes on boardwalk 3 at Good Harbor on the way to volunteer, or simply to visit the PiPl, notice the Common Milkweed that is in full glorious bloom. You may catch a whiff of its wonderful honey-hay scent. And quite possibly, a Monarch sighting, or two!

Male Monarch Nectaring from Common Mikweed, Good Harbor Beach Dune

Cool science at Good Harbor Beach | sign up for Piping plover watch


photo caption: Dave Rimmer, Director of Land Stewardship, Essex County Greenbelt (Left) with Ken Whittaker, City of Gloucester Conservation Agent (Right)

Contact: Ken Whittaker

Ken Whittaker, City of Gloucester Conservation agent, put the word out seeking volunteers to help monitor the piping plovers (Gloucester Daily Times). Today was the first organizational meeting and informational session with Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt. Ken is coordinating the schedule, and there are plenty of open slots available. “We will take this a day at a time until I have the opportunity to put together a formal schedule.”  More than one volunteer is welcome on any shift, so please email if you’re interested in helping. Ken, Dave and other officials monitor the birds. When Kim Smith is there, she’s working on critical filming.

For those of you who could not make it, Ken Whittaker is holding a second meeting tomorrow evening about 4:30; Ken will be at Good Harbor Beach from about 3:30 to 5.

Piping Plover volunteers can receive free parking!

Planning on a beach day and can devote an hour of your time for observation? Email Ken to sign up for a shift and to learn more.

Volunteers are asked to bring binoculars and feel free to jot down some observations about the parents and the 2017 brood of 4. It’s simple. The birds need to be left alone and given wide berth when they’re on the move.  Don’t follow after them. Look but don’t touch. Maybe intercept trash tumbleweeds. What gets tricky is when the birds are going back and forth from the water to the enclosed area.

Thanks to the enclosure, it’s obvious to stay away from inside the protected area. What’s less obvious is where to put your towel outside the fence.  If you know your beach visit wouldn’t be complete without a vigorous paddle ball, can jam or football game, lining up your towels right outside the fencing is a little dicey. It happened today and the group was happy to move when Ken explained the situation. However, if you’re not one for major games and are happy to sit in your chaise for a long read and full day, you might want to think about doubling up as a piping plover volunteer for one hour. You’re there anyway. They are super cute and you’ll feel good helping out! Midday is low on sign ups.

You could make it a first class retreat: Good Harbor Beach rents umbrellas and cushy recliners. See “Good Harbor Beach Day: How To Pack Light”

Ken writes:

“I have been in contact with the animal control officer who says she has been monitoring the situation but will kick it up a notch.  Dogs are not allowed on the beach and you can remind scofflaws of this.  If this becomes an issue I suggest people immediately call 978-281-9746 – Diana Corliss is the animal control officer and she can guide you from there. (Note, three essentials for monitoring include cell phone, binoculars …. and sun screen!)”


Essex County Greenbelt is responsible for the fencing of the protected area which is to the right of the boardwalk #3. They’ll tweak the fencing as needed. This year’s nest is within a close distance to last year’s nest.


The piping plovers nested on the beach by the dune’s edge to the right of boardwalk 3