HEARTBREAKING TO SEE PIPING PLOVERS NESTING IN THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT

THE PIPING PLOVERS HAVE GIVEN UP ON THE BEACH AND ARE NESTING IN THE PARKING LOT.

During some part of each of the past four off leash beach days, the Piping Plovers have been found in the parking lot, forced off the beach by a barrage of dogs in the nesting area, and dogs chasing them up and down the beach. For the first three of those four off leash days that they were driven off the beach, the PiPl spent a good part of the time going from white painted line to white painted line, using the color white as camouflage against predators such as hawks, crows, and falcons. They are miniature “sitting ducks” when in the parking lot, not only to natural predators, but because they are so well camouflaged, and so tiny, they are in tremendous danger from car and truck drivers who would not see them until it is too late.

Nesting and courting in the parking lot.

New little nest scrape.

Yesterday morning at 7am, an off leash day, the PiPl were chased off the beach by a dog and its owner. They flew to the parking lot. For the next twelve and a half hours, Mama and Papa did not leave the parking lot. They did not eat or drink, but spent the entire time courting, mating, and building a nest scrape in the gravel, traveling from white line to white line. It was sadly beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. Beautiful in the way that no matter what obstacles they face, the little pair’s desire to reproduce is so powerful that they will continue to try, even in a habitat that is so wholly unsuitable for raising chicks. Sad and heartbreaking because this scenario was unquestionably and completely unnecessary.

Yesterday the dogs were in the nesting area, poohing, peeing, romping, and digging. It happened throughout the day, from 6:30am to 8pm, but was especially challenging during high tide, when so little beach remains. The following batch of photos was taken in the short period of time that I was on the beach and not in the parking lot, as the tide was receding.

When dog owners were asked by volunteer Preston if they were aware of the PiPl–most said yes–as they allowed their dog to wander into the nesting area.

Dog runs into nesting area, dog goes poop, owner enters nesting area to clean up poop, can’t find poop, has to muck around in nesting area to find, finally finds poop, cleans up, dog meets a new friend in the nesting area.

Last night Mama and Papa flew back to the beach after the coast was clear, at sunset. As you can imagine, they were ravenous, and ate with great gusto at the water’s edge.

The Bachelor returned to the nesting area at sundown, too.

Early this morning I found all three eating and bathing in the tide pools, before they were chased off again later in the morning. As I write this, the Mama and Papa are taking turns sitting on their nest scrape, in the rain, in the parking lot.

The Piping Plovers can’t catch a break – off leash dogs this morning on an on leash day.

It is difficult for the animal control officers to give out tickets as the ordinance is written, when it is an off leash day, especially when the dogs are running willy nilly and far away from their owners. And it is impossible for them to be there 24/7.

Early this morning, which is an on leash day, Officer Dolan was handing out tickets.

Call your councilors and Mayor Sefatia’s office and let them know your thoughts on protecting the Piping Plovers. Tomorrow is the last day of the spring summer season 2018 that dogs are allowed on the beach. But they are not allowed under ANY circumstances in the nesting area. If you see a dog on the beach at any time of day or night after April 30th please call the dog officer at 978-281-9746. Thank you.

I have an idea to make a brochure to not only hand out to people at the parking lot entrance to the beach, but to circulate door to door around the neighborhood. We need to help folks understand why it is so important that we help the PiPing Plovers.

Thank you to all the volunteers who helped yesterday. If you came and I unfortunately did not see you it is because most of the day was spent in the parking lot. Thank you to Lillian and Craig, Leontine, Deborah,  Heather, and Preston for your good work!!

Mama sleeping on the white lines in the parking lot

23 comments

  • This is so sad. Even though I realize Gloucester and the volunteers are doing what they can to protect these tiny creatures, I’m sorely tempted to call for outside assistance. I’m pretty praying they don’t lay their eggs in the parking lot. Thank you for chronicling these nerve-racking events, Kim. Keep the faith!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Some people are clueless. Let me know if I can help.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Kim you dedication is heroic but the fact is you cannot be there 24/7 handing our brochures cuz truthfully people have shown you no one cares about the information. What has to be done is a meeting with Sefatia that reinstates regulations that pulls back the date to get the dogs off the beach since no one respects the notices and that is the end of that. Information is not going to bring change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suggested at the Animal Advisory Committee meeting that we change the dogs on the beach dates, which are currently May 1st to to September 30. A time period that would benefit all shorebirds, not just Piping Plovers nesting, is dogs off Good Harbor Beach from April 1st to September 15th, only lessening the period dogs would not be allowed on the beach by two weeks.

      Like

  • Any dogs on the beach at anytime during nesting season will result in a failure to produce chicks. It’s just that simple.

    Liked by 1 person

  • This is so sad.
    It’s really time to ban dogs during nesting season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree….As a dog owner myself….I think it is time to ban all dogs from the beach at the end of MARCH…people do not heed warning signs and feel it is their right to bring them there. I always follow regulations as far as having my dogs on leashes and cleaning up after them. It is a privilege for dogs to be on the beach during off season from tourists….most folks unfortunately, take it for granted and don’t think about Piping Plover’s nesting at all…I am deeply disturbed by most dog owners who don’t heed warning signs and regulations…and of course applaud those that do. New regulations must be put in place.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Mary for writing, grateful for your support, especially as you are a dog owner.

      Like

  • Sad story but lovely pictures especially of plovers at water’s edge. Thank you for your dedication.

    Liked by 1 person

  • There are roughly 3,000 dogs in the City of Gloucester. There are exactly two nesting piping plovers on Good Harbor Beach. It takes only one aggressive dog to drive the piping plovers off the beach and onto the even more hazardous parking lot. I think Kim and the piping plover volunteers, as well as the city, should be applauded for trying to “level the playing field” as well as enforce federal law, which the city is obligated to do. The amount of space cordoned off for the piping plovers is relatively tiny, and it’s hard to accept the reasoning that dog owners – which our family has been – are being unfairly inconvenienced. If a few irresponsible dog owners are determined to ruin the Good Harbor Beach experience for the many responsible dog owners, then the only workable solution is to ban all dogs from Good Harbor Beach beginning April 1. It’s sad that an uncaring, tiny minority of dog owners, including many from out of town, may force the city to restrict all dogs, including the well-behaved ones.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Kim, what needs to be done is to attend an O&A meeting and ask for the dog ordinance to be amended to ban dogs from beaches after March 1st. What we have here is not a canine problem; it is a problem with some canine owners. Our Animal Advisory Committee is populated with advocates for unrestricted privileges for dogs. They are blind to the impact their pets have on other people and the environment. Why? Because they are selfish. We don’t need to work with them. We need to work around them and defeat their harmful agenda.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Bill for writing. I am slow in responding to comments because this is my super busiest time of year in my landscape design work.

      I went to the meeting. The “Debunking PiPl Myth” series is a result of the meeting, in hopes of helping people better understand what it means to protect an endangered bird. I have never been to an O and A meeting but there is one scheduled for June 4th from 6 to 8pm at City Hall, 1st floor.

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  • It is hard to believe that people can be so obnoxious. I agree with those above who suggested closing the beach to dogs earlier in the nesting season.

    Liked by 1 person

  • 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.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t usually approve comments from Anonymous persons but you have brought up several interesting points. I am planning to visit Winthrop and looking forward to learning more about the conservation program established there.

      The first pair of Piping Plovers nested at Winthrop Beach in 2008. Unlike the success of previous years, I believe the reason none fledged on Winthrop Beach last year was because an American Kestrel ate all nine chicks, which was a highly unusual scenario for Winthrop.

      The full report from 2017 Winthrop Shores DCR Habitat Conservation plan is available to read here: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/02/14/APP_B_Winthrop%20Shores%20Final%20Report.pdf

      The Good Harbor Beach parking lot was full by noon yesterday as it was a very hot holiday weekend day. This is typical of any summer day. The only revenue lost was from the relatively small area cordoned off for the PiPl nest. Our Piping Plovers are nesting in the parking lot because they were driven off the beach by a constant disruption from dogs in the nesting area.

      I would like to read more about Plymouth paying a security guard to monitor the PiPl and how that came to be be. Do you have a source for that information Anonymous?

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  • It is good to hear how things are playing out in another coastal community. Thank you.

    Like

    • Field Notes: The Adopted Piping Plover of Winthrop Beach
      Sean Riley

      “If you’re a Piping Plover, Winthrop Beach can be a scary place. At any given moment a disgruntled human could lob a beer can at you or a Peregrine Falcon might attempt to eat you. Luckily this is not that type of story, for this is a tale of redemption.

      The 2015 Piping Plover season started out rough this year. Stretches of inclement weather in May washed out a number of nests, and killed many of the first broods of chicks. The Rossetti’s Piping Plover pair, named for their consistent nesting location in front of Café Rossetti’s on Winthrop Beach, have been successful parents for years. Like clockwork, the Rossetti male is the first to arrive in March and claim his traditional spot. By April 21 of the pair was already on eggs, and by April 28 they had a full clutch, right on track. On May 25 the entire nestful of eggs hatched overnight, and when I arrived the next morning for my plover-watching shift, I saw three small chicks running around under the watchful eye of the best plover parents around.”

      Read more here:
      https://www.birdobserver.org/Issues/2015/October-2015/ArticleId/84/field-notes-the-adopted-piping-plover-of-winthrop-beach

      Like

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