Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

WHAT ARE THOSE CRAZY BIRDS RUNNING AROUND GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT?

Killdeer Chick

Lost of folks are asking, are the Piping Plovers nesting in the Good Harbor Beach parking lot? The answer is no, the Piping Plovers are nesting on the beach near boardwalk #3. The mama and papa, and now chicks, that are running all around the GHB parking lot are a shorebird named Killdeers. Comparatively quite a bit larger, and more commonly seen, Killdeers are related to Piping Plovers, but are a different species.

Killdeer Chicks and Parent, Good Harbor Beach 2016

That I am aware of, this is the second year in a row Killdeers have chosen to nest at the Good Harbor Beach parking lot. It is frightening to see the babies zoom in and out between the cars. The mom and dad give vocal cues to the chicks, but still they run willy nilly. Killdeers have a fondness for human modified habitats, such as the GHB parking lot, and a willingness to nest close to people.

Like Piping Plover chicks, Killdeer chicks are precocial. That is a word ornithologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Precocial means that shortly after hatching, the bird is fully mobile. Plover chicks are not completely mature, they still need parents to help regulate their body temperature, but they have downy feathers and can run and feed themselves within moments after emerging. The opposite of precocial is altricial. Birds that hatch helpless, naked, usually blind, and are incapable of departing the nest are altricial. Robins and Cardinals are examples of altricial birds. 

Adult Kildeer

If you encounter the Kildeer family and would like to take a photo, or simply observe these adorable babies on-the-go, my advice is to stand quietly and don’t chase after them. Running after the chicks will put the parents into panic mode and they may lose sight of the other siblings. As the chicks mature, they will spend less time in the parking lot, and more time in the marsh and at the tidal river edge. Kildeer adults, and even the chicks, are actually good swimmers. Last year the Kildeer family crossed the tidal river and spent the second half of the season on the opposite side of the marsh.Compare the Killdeer chick above, to the Piping Plover chick below.

Piping Plover Chick and Mom

Killdeer Family all grown up, September 2016

HOORAY!!! THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE OFFICIALLY NESTING!

Two Perfect Piping Plover Eggs!

 

After last week’s harrowingly warm weather, we lost all sight of the Piping Plover pair trying to establish a nest by the boardwalk #3 location. Thursday and Friday brought record temperatures of over 90 degrees, drawing unseasonably large crowds and literally, a ton of garbage, which was not only beyond disgusting, but in turn, attracted a plethora of seagulls and crows. Saturday, there was absolutely no sign of the Plovers, from one of end of Good Harbor to the other. Sunday, my husband Tom discovered a few tracks and Monday, I found a few as well, but nothing like we had seen earlier.

Thinking our Plover Pair were lost to us, lo and behold Tuesday morning I spied Papa Plover sitting in one location, for a very long time (half an hour is a long time for a plover to sit in one spot). Could there be an egg beneath Papa? Unfortunately, where Papa was sitting was on the edge of the roped off area, next to the party rock, with dog tracks only several inches away.

Dog tracks running through the roped off area and next to the Piping Plover nesting site.

I quickly called Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship for Essex County Greenbelt. He came by immediately and confirmed yes, we have a nest!!!

An exclosure has been installed and the plover parents are adapting well to the protective wire frame.

The roping has been rearranged with the nest now in the center.

CAR-TRUCK-TWO DEER ACCIDENT 128 NORTH

Car, Truck, and Two Deer Accident

Fortunately both drivers of the two vehicles are uninjured and fine, if not a little shook up. Two White-tailed Deer were struck as they ran across Rt. 128, coming from the Lobsta Land marsh, heading toward the river. Judging from a quick glance, both deer appeared young. The Verizon truck driver and car driver did not sustain injuries, although there is extensive damage to their vehicles. So sorry this happened to them, but very glad they are a-okay.

SONGBIRDS FROM DAN ALLEN’S BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

Friend and East Gloucester resident Dan Allen sent along these wonderful snapshots of recent visits by songbirds in his beautiful garden. Dan’s garden is abundant with wildflowers, food, and welcome shelter for birds, bees and butterflies. Thank you Dan!Nothing common about this gorgeous little warbler, a male Common Yellowthroat. Yellowthroats migrate north from winter homes in Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Yesterday I posted photos of a male Eastern Towhee. Dan’s photo is of the female! Wherever the male’s feathers are black, the female’s are milk chocolate brown.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is another nesting migrant to Cape Ann. They eat fruit, seeds, nuts, insects, and especially Love sunflower seeds. Only the males have this striking feather pattern; the female’s feathers are shaded in quiet tones of gray, tan, and brown. During the winter months, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks live in the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

 

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION TO BAN SINGLE USE PLASTIC BAGS AND POLYSTYRENE

Please join the Gloucester Clean City Commission, Councilors Melissa Cox and Sean Nolan, and Seaside Sustainability, Inc. in supporting a ban in Gloucester on all single use plastic bags and polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers like coffee cups and takeout food containers.

PLEASE SIGN HERE

We believe this initiative is important in maintaining the beauty of our city and the health of our ocean and land. Given the availability of biodegradable and reusable alternatives and the economic benefits of the proposed ban, we anticipate support from Gloucester’s residents and businesses.

This proposed ban is similar to those already passed in dozens of cities and towns in Massachusetts (and counting) including our neighbors Ipswich, Manchester, Marblehead, and Newburyport. Cities and towns (and entire states – Hawaii) along the coast line of our country have been particularly vigilant in creating this ban.  Just between 2015 and 2016, bills similar to ours were proposed in 23 states regarding the regulation of single use plastic bags and/or polystyrene.  In a recent investigation of Gloucester Harbor using an ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle), observers reported an abundant amount of plastic bags and Styrofoam cups on the ocean floor.

There are economic and feasible alternatives to these products that all businesses, large and small can stand behind and support!

This petition will be delivered to:

  • City of Gloucester, MA Mayor’s Office
    Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken
  • City of Gloucester, Office
    Councilor Sean Nolan
  • City of Gloucester, Councilwoman
    Councilor Melissa Cox

 

THE MAGICAL MONTH OF MAY FOR MIGRATION IN MASSACHUSETTS

Featuring Dowitchers, Ruddy Turnstone, Least Tern, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Towhee, Northern Flicker, Black-bellied Plovers, Brown Thrasher, Black-and-white Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Female Red-winged Blackbird, Tree Swallow, Willets, and Piping Plovers.

May is a magical month in Massachusetts for observing migrants traveling to our shores, wooded glens, meadows, and shrubby uplands. They come either to mate and to nest, or are passing through on their way to the Arctic tundra and forests of Canada and Alaska.

I am so excited to share about the many beautiful species of shorebirds, songbirds, and butterflies I have been recently filming and photographing for several projects. Mostly I shoot early in the morning, before setting off to work with my landscape design clients. I love, love my work, but sometimes it’s really hard to tear away from the beauty that surrounds here on Cape Ann. I feel so blessed that there is time to do both. If you, too, would like to see these beautiful creatures, the earliest hours of daylight are perhaps the best time of day to capture wildlife, I assume because they are very hungry first thing in the morning and less likely to be bothered by the presence of a human. Be very quiet and still, and observe from a distance far enough away so as not to disturb the animal’s activity.

Some species, like Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, Great Egrets, Brant Geese, and Osprey, as well as Greater and Lesser Yellow Legs, are not included here because this post is about May’s migration and these species were seen in April.

Please note that several photos are not super great by photo skill standards, but are included so you can at least see the bird in a Cape Ann setting. I am often shooting something faraway, at dawn, or dusk, or along a shady tree-lined lane. As so often happens, I’ll get a better capture in better light, and will switch that out, for the purpose of record keeping, at a later date.

Happy Magical May Migration!

The male Eastern Towhee perches atop branches at daybreak and sings the sweetest ta-weet, ta-weet, while the female rustles about building a nest in the undergrowth. Some live year round in the southern part of the US, and others migrate to Massachusetts and parts further north to nest.

If these are Short-billed Dowitchers, I’d love to see a Long-billed Dowitcher! They are heading to swampy pine forests of high northern latitudes.

Black-bellied Plovers, much larger relatives of Piping Plovers, look like Plain Janes when we see them in the fall (see above).

Now look at his handsome crisp black and white breeding plumage; its hard to believe we are looking at the same bird! He is headed to nest in the Arctic tundra in his fancy new suit.

This one is for Joey. Sorry its a crummy photo–they were far in the distance–but it’s a record nonetheless. The bird on the right is his favorite, the calico-colored Ruddy Turnstone. They also nest in the high Arctic.

The Eastern Kingbird is a small yet feisty songbird; he’ll chase after much larger raptors and herons that dare to pass through his territory. Kingbirds spend the winter in the South American forests and nest in North America.

With our record of the state with the greatest Piping Plover recovery rate, no post about the magical Massachusetts May migration would be complete without including these tiniest of shorebirds. Female Piping Plover, Good Harbor Beach.

 

 

THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER PAIR ARE STRUGGLING AND NEED OUR HELP

Good Morning Papa Plover!

Over the past several weeks, five Piping Plovers battling over nesting turf have been observed at Good Harbor Beach, from the creek end of the beach, all the way to the entrance by the Good Harbor Beach Inn. In the past three days, there hasn’t been activity in the roped off area nearer the GHB Inn. It appears only one pair has decided to call GHB their home for the summer and they seem to be zeroing in on the cordoned off area by boardwalk #3, same as last year.

Unfortunately, the “Party Rock,” the large exposed rock up by the wrack line, is this year not in the roped off area; the roping comes just short of enclosing the “Rock.” The past few evenings, even before the heat wave, folks have been setting up their hibachis, behind the rock, abutting the restricted area. This morning there were a group of six sleeping next to the rock. Needless to say, our Plover pair was super stressed. Early morning is when they typically mate and lay eggs, and neither are happening under duress.

Papa wants to mate with Mama, but she is too stressed.

Here are just a few things we can do to help the Plovers. Please write and let us know your ideas and suggestions, they are so very much appreciated. It would be terrific to put together all the suggestions to present to Mayor Sefatia and Chirs. Thank you!

  1. Post a No Dog sign at the footbridge. I think this is critically important.
  2. Post signs at entrances to the beach to help educate folks about the Piping Plovers, why respecting the restricted area is so important, and why removing trash is equally as vital to the survival of the plovers.
  3. Additionally, I would love to make a brochure about the Piping Plover life cycle that we could hand out to visitors at the parking entrance. Though when I suggested that idea to a friend, he thought the brochures may end up littering the beach. What do you think?
  4. Fix the fencing around the dunes. As it stands now, the rusty old fencing is nearly buried in the sand and actually dangerously invites tripping. If the fences were mended and signs posted about the fragility of the dunes, folks would stop cutting through the dunes to go to and from the parking lot. Right now, they are walking through the restricted area to access the dune trail. Visitors may also want to know that the grass and shrubby growth on that trail is teeming with ticks, another reason to keep off the dunes.
  5. If folks are setting up a cookout or planning a sleepover next to the nesting area (especially near the party rock), gently explain why it would be best to move further down the beach, away from the restricted area.

Mama Plover fishing for worms

I would be happy to meet anyone at Good Harbor Beach to show exactly what are the issues. Dave Rimmer from Essex Greenbelt mentioned that in other communities where Piping Plovers have nested on very busy beaches, a network of Piping Plover babysitters was established to help the chicks survive on the busiest of beach days. If we are so fortunate as to have chicks, I would love to get together a group of “Piping Plover Babysitters.”Good Harbor Beach sunrise

Rare western snowy plovers nesting in Los Angeles after 70-year absence

Thank you to my new friend Laura Stevens for sharing the following story. I have been to Malibu Lagoon State Beach when visiting Liv in Santa Monica and it is equally as well-loved and highly trafficked as is Good Harbor Beach.

Rare western snowy plovers nesting in Los Angeles after 70-year absence

Mother Nature Network/By Jaymi Heimbuch/May 14, 2017

Photo: Kristian Bell

On April 18, the nest of a western snowy plover was discovered on Santa Monica State Beach. More nests were discovered later in the month on Dockweiler State Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach. While finding the nests of shore birds on a beach doesn’t seem like a big deal, it’s an extraordinary moment when you consider the species. The last time a nest of this species was found on a Los Angeles County beach was in 1949! After 68 years, the tiny birds once again are trying to raise families on these busy southern California shores.

The western snowy plover is a tiny shorebird so perfectly camouflaged that it can disappear in plain sight on the sand. It lays its eggs in depressions in the sand, and these eggs can be next to impossible to see until you’re right on top of them. Snowy plover chicks — as pictured here — learn to get up and go within hours of hatching.

Unfortunately, the nesting preferences of these little birds make them vulnerable to disturbance from humans and predation by everything from crows to cats.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) news release, “The Pacific Coast population of western snowy plover was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1993, because of habitat loss, impacts from non-native predators and other factors. At the time of listing, the California population was estimated to be about 1,300 adults. In 2016, the population was estimated to have increased to a little more than 1,800 adults.”

The news that the birds are making a comeback in Los Angeles County is heartening, and it shows the conservation efforts to restore habitat and protect nesting areas are paying off.

“This is a sign that, against all odds, western snowy plovers are making a comeback, and we really need the cooperation of beachgoers to help give them the space they need to nest and raise their young,” said senior FWS biologist Chris Dellith. “I’m hopeful that we can find a balance between beach recreation and habitat restoration, which will allow humans and shorebirds like the western snowy plover to peacefully exist along our coastline.”

Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team Update

We will have a display at Motif No.1 Day in Rockport on Saturday, May 20.

  • It will be somewhere down there near T Wharf. Exact location to be determined when we get there.
  • The event is from 9 am – 5 pm.
  • We need to be set up by 8:30 am.
  • We’ll have a tent, display panels, tables, live animal exhibit…
  • We need lots of volunteers for this event.
  • Please get in touch if you can help out – cavpt@yahoo.com

We will be at the Crane Estate Sunday, May 21st at 2 pm with Snakes of New England and the World one hour live animal presentation.

  • Also a great volunteer opportunity in a lovely setting.
  • Set up at 1ish.
  • Again email cavpt@yahoo.com if you can help.

Don’t miss our Annual Yard Sale on Saturday, May 27, 9 am – 1 pm (Rain date Saturday, June 3)

  • In the lot behind St. Peter’s parking lot at Rogers and Main Street in Gloucester.
  • Please bring all your donations over there on the day of the sale by 7 am… so we have time to sort and price.
  • We will need lots of volunteers. Many of us will need to be there early, like by 5:30 am.
  • The finishing crew will need to stay until everything is picked up and cleaned up.
  • Maybe you can do a couple hours. All help is appreciated.

This is a big fundraiser for us, so gather your stuff and please help us out at the sale.

YOU DIDN’T THINK I’D ACTUALLY WANT TO LIVE IN THAT DUMP DID YOU?

YOU DIDN’T THINK I’D ACTUALLY WANT TO LIVE IN THAT DUMP DID YOU?
Dad Piping Plover spends considerable time showing Mom how good he is at nest-building.

Mom nonchalantly makes her way over to the nest scrape.

She thoroughly inspects the potential nest.

Dad again rearranges the sand. Mom pipes in, “Honey, I think I’d prefer that mound of dried seaweed over there, nearer the blades of seagrass. And can you please add a few seashells to the next one, rather than bits of old kelp.”

Rejected!
Here we go again!

Five Piping Plovers have been observed at Good Harbor Beach. They are battling over territory and beginning to pair up. The male builds perhaps a dozen nests scrapes in a single day–all in hopes of impressing the female. Hopefully, within the next week, they will establish a nest; the earlier in the season Plovers begin nesting, the greater the chance of survival for the chicks.

Dave Rimmer from Essex County Greenbelt reports that although many nest scrapes have been seen, no nests with an egg on any of Gloucester’s beaches have yet been discovered. He suggests that perhaps the cooler than usual spring temperatures are slowing progress.

An active Piping Plover nest scrape, with lots of PiPl tracks 🕊

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Not one, but two, potential nesting sites have been roped off for the Piping Plovers. The second site is near the Good Harbor Beach Inn.

Teacher Feature: Ms.L’s creature collection helps students learn biology

Biology teacher Jessica Lichtenwald with her pet snake.

THE GILNETTER
RACHEL VINCENT, Staff Writer
May 11, 2017
Filed under Features, Showcase

Are you an animal lover? Then head down to Gloucester High School’s very own zoo in Room 2411. There, you’ll find a variety of creatures – from the smallest cockroaches to to the longest snakes, and much in between.

Biology teacher Jessica Lichtenwald, also known as “Ms. L”, has accumulated these pets for years. Some she has bought on her own, while others were donated by students and friends. Her extensive collection contains a bull snake, corn snake, bearded dragon, tarantula, hedge hog, fish, and a colony of cockroaches.

“I like weird animals,” said Lichtenwald.  “I’m intrigued by the diversity, and the way they’re so adapted to their environments.”

When dealing with these different animals, Lichtenwald is able to get to know their different personalities.

Jasper, the corn snake, is very active in his cage but calms down when he is held. He’s not aggressive in anyway, in comparison to the bull snake, Snarky. “The bull snake, he’s more aggressive in general, especially about his food,” Lichtenwald said when asked about the contrasting natures of her snakes.

Mrs. L’s most recent addition was Libra, the hedgehog. This diminutive animal has come a long way from when she first arrived. When Libra was brought to her, she was very flea ridden and required special treatment to make the parasites go away. According to Lichtenwald, the animal is now much happier and slowly warming up to the people in her environment. However, because of the cool temperature in the classroom, Libra is being kept at Lichtenwald’s home until her return next school year.

READ MORE HERE

WINSOME WILLETS

A Plain Jane, resting on a tuft of grass at the marsh edge, backlit, I at first thought she was a stone. A slight turn of the head and upon closer look, not a stone but a very large shorebird, with feathers worn in a subdued arrangement of brown and white—still, nothing special. Then she began to unfold her long elegant wings. Boldly barred in chocolate brown, this Plain Jane was swiftly transformed to Beauty Queen.

Willets are one of the few shorebirds that nest not in the Arctic tundra, but prairie and salt marshes of America and Canada. For over one hundred years Willets were hunted to non-existence in Massachusetts. Biologists have a name for this tragic occurrence, when a species is not extinct, but is no longer present in an area, and the term is extirpated. Because of the Migratory Bird Act of 1918, the Willet population is increasing and the Massachusetts coastline has once again become a safe home for these beautiful members of the sandpiper family.

Belonging to the same genus as yellowlegs, they do look similar to Greater Yellowlegs, but are comparatively larger, their beaks are thicker, and their legs are not yellow but gray. Look for Willets on beaches, marshes, mudflats, and rocky coasts. They forage on crabs and other small crustaceans, worms, mollusks, fish, and grass. The call of the Willet is unmistakable, piercing and urgent and their name comes from the ringing “pill-will-willet.”

PLEASE DON’T PURCHASE POISONED MILKWEED PLANTS FROM BIG BOX STORES!

THE FOLLOWING NOTICE ABOUT MILKWEEDS TREATED WITH NEONICOTINOIDS WAS SHARED BY TWO FRIENDS, MEGAN FROM PRIDES CROSSING AND CHERYL MCKEOUGH

FROM: Sandy Robinson, President, National Garden Clubs, Inc.
SUBJECT: Milkweed

It has been brought to my attention that some “Big Stores” have been selling milkweed plants that have been treated with systemic Neonicotinoids. This will kill caterpillars! Please, be aware and be on the lookout for these tags placed in plants. Please pass this information along to your garden club members!

Garden Club member Mary Writes, I purchased a Milkweed plant from Home Depot near my home and it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the little information stick hidden behind the identification information that the plant had been treated with systemic Neonicotinoids. The container boasted how desirable the plant is for birds and butterflies. Yesterday I went to a different Home Depot and they had just put out an entire rolling cart of these plants, maybe about 100, all poisoned. I contacted the store manager and told him that it is the same as giving poison candy to kids on Halloween. This is THE host plant for the Monarch. My club, Shady Oaks and our junior club, Little Shadows have worked so hard to establish a Monarch Waystation and to educate people on the decline of the Monarch. I hate to think of the millions of poison Milkweed being distributed nationwide by Home Depot.

The container says distributed by Home Depot, 2455 Paces Ferry Rd N. W., Atlanta , Georgia.

I contacted the LSU Ag Agent for New Orleans, Dr Joe Willis. He said the Neonicotinoids will dilute as the plants grow but that only a very small amount will kill the larva of the Monarch. He is contacting the Master Gardeners of the area. I contacted the newsletters of garden clubs to ask that they send a notice to members. I contacted a local GOA club and the president said she would inform her members. I contacted our LGCF President and our Environmental School Chairman with the information.
We need a notice to Home Depot from a national source.

I contacted the Monarch Watch organization www.MonarchWatch.org/waystations at the University of Kansas (1200 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence, KS 66045) .
It needs to be sent soon as these plants are being sold now to well meaning people who are wanting to help the Monarch and not kill them. I hate to think of the billions of plants being sold nationwide and how that will cancel the efforts of so many to stop the demise of the Monarch. Could you please help?

GMG Readers, Wednesday I am planning to check to see if our local Home Depots are also selling milkweeds with pesticide. I don’t purchase plants from Home Depot as they are generally of a much poorer quality, however I have in a pinch. 

Milkweed can be purchased from these local sources:

Cedar Rock Gardens

Wolf Hill

Northeast Nursery

Male and Female Monarch Butterfly on Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

 

BUTTERFLY BLUE

One of the teeniest butterflies you’ll see at this time of year is the Spring Azure, with a wing to wing span of less than one inch. Found in meadows, fields, gardens, and along the forest edge, the celestial blue flakes pause to drink nectar from clover, Quaker Ladies, crabapples, dandelions, and whatever tiny floret strikes her fancy.

You can find the Azures flitting about Crabapple blossoms.

Native wildflowers Quaker Ladies, also called Bluets, are an early season source of nectar for Azures.

If you’d like to attract these spring beauties to your garden, plant native flowering dogwood * (Cornus florida), blueberries, and viburnums; all three are caterpillar food plants of the beautiful Spring Azure Butterfly.

The female butterfly curls her abdomen around in a C-shape and deposits eggs amongst the yellow florets of the flowering dogwood. Pink or white, both are equally attractive to the Spring Azure.

Cornus florida ‘rubra’

*Only our native flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is a caterpillar food plant for Azure butterflies. Don’t bother substituting the non-native Korean Dogwood, it won’t help the pollinators.

Native Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) at Willowdale Estate Butterfly Garden

SUPER EXCITING NEWS: PIPING PLOVERS COURTING ON GOOD HARBOR BEACH!!

The Piping Plovers have returned to nest on Good Harbor Beach. Last night I counted five plovers, and today four!

Above the wrack line, males are creating nest scrapes for females to approve (or disapprove, as is often the case). The gents use their back legs to vigorously dig a slight depression. They then sit in the scrape and beckon to the ladies with a continuous piping call to come inspect the potential nesting site.

Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt director of land stewardship, this morning installed fencing around a possible nesting area. We are all hoping that the Piping Plovers will quickly establish a nest and the chicks will have hatched before the July 4th crowds descend upon the beach. Dave’s message to everyone enjoying GHB is that if the Plovers are left undisturbed, the chicks will have a far better chance of survival the earlier in the season they hatch. If the nest site is continually disturbed and egg laying is delayed again and again, the Plovers will be here all that much longer.

It’s not easy being a Piping Plover. Rest time between foraging and courting.

The Plovers have traveled many thousands of miles to reach our shores and are both weary from traveling and eager to establish nesting sites.

What can you do to help the Piping Plovers? Here are four simple things we can all do to protect the Plovers.

1) 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.

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

3) Respect the fenced off areas that are created to protect the Plovers.

4) If pets are permitted, keep dogs leashed.

The last is the most difficult for folks to understand. Dogs threaten Piping Plovers in many ways and at every stage of their life cycle during breeding season, even the most adorable and well-behaved of pooches.

Dogs love to chase Piping Plovers (and other shorebirds) at the water’s edge. After traveling all those thousand of miles, the birds need sustenance. They are at the shoreline to feed to regain their strength.

Dogs love to chase piping Plovers at the wrack line. Here the birds are establishing where to nest. Plovers are skittish at this stage of breeding and will depart the area when disturbed.

Dogs love to chase Piping Plover chicks, which not only terrifies the adult Plovers and distracts them from minding the babies, but the chicks are easily squished by a dog on the run.

 

BREAKING: COYOTE ALERT

The coyote was trotting down Bass Ave in the direction of Good Harbor Beach. It paused briefly at the garden at the corner of Bass Ave and Brightside and then proceeded to jaunt up Brightside before ducking into a yard.

Coyote bopping along Bass and Brightside Avenues Friday 7:30am, school bus pick up time.

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M IS FOR MAY MIGRATION THROUGH MASSACHUSETTS

During the month of May, Massachusetts is graced daily with species arriving from their winter homes. Some need to fortify for the journey further north, to the boreal forests, bogs, and tundra of Canada and Alaska. Some will nest and breed in Massachusetts, finding suitable habitat along the coast, and in the marsh, scrub, shrub, forest, and grassland found throughout the state. For several projects on which I am currently working, I have been exploring wildlife sanctuaries along the Massachusetts coastal region. Here is just a sampling of some recently spotted migrants, and it’s only May 4th. Lots more to come!

Biggety Brant ~ This Brant Goose appeared to be the bossy boots of his gaggle, chiding, nipping, and vocally encouraging the group along. A large of flock of approximately 40 Brants was recently reported by readers Debbie and Dan, seen at Back Beach in Rockport. The Brants are heading to the wet, coastal tundra of the high Arctic. No other species of goose travels as far north or migrates as great a distance as do Brants.

W is for Wading Willet. A PAIR were well hidden in the marshy grass! Both the flesh and the eggs of Willets are considered tasty. They were nearly hunted to extinction, saved only by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Willets breeding in Massachusetts is nothing short of a miracle. Notice how closely they resemble Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs; all three belong to the Genus Tringa.

Y is for Yawping Yellowlegs. Both Greater and Lesser Yellow are seen in Massachusetts marshes at this time of year. Greater Yellowlegs have a loud, distinct call, which they utilize often. The Greater Yellowlegs are feeding on tiny crustaceans, killfish, and minnows to fortify for the journey to the boggy marshes of Canadian and Alaskan coniferous forests.

Piping Plover Piping ~ We should be proud that our state of Massachusetts has the greatest record of Piping Plover recovery. I recently saw a bar graph at a lecture presentation, given by Dave Rimmer at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, which illustrated that the recovery rate has flatlined in Canada and New Jersey, and diminished in the Great Lakes region.

T is for Tree Swallow Tango ~ Males arrive on the scene prior to the females. The courtship ritual involves the gents showing the ladies possible nesting sites.

Tree Swallow preparing for takeoff.

 

REMINDER: DEBORAH CRAMER TONIGHT AT THE SAWYER FREE LIBRARY!

Don’t miss Deborah Cramer tonight at the Sawyer Free at 7pm. Her book is beautiful, and beautifully written. Deborah’s photos accompanying the presentation create an added depth of understanding to the plight of this most vulnerable of species.

MONARCH BUTTERFLY PRESENTATION TONIGHT IN SALEM

Learn about the life history, decline of, current status, and how the use of GMO Roundup Ready crops are killing Monarchs and pollinators. Learn how you can help the Monarchs breed in Massachusetts during the summer months and on their annual migration to Mexico in the fall. Lecture and slide presentation at the Salem Garden Club. For more information, email kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

Female Monarch depositing egg on Milkweed foliage and buds.

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