Despite loss of chicks to storms, piping plover efforts deemed successful | News
Despite the loss of some tiny chicks to storms this summer, efforts to protect the threatened piping plover shorebirds at Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach by the Piping Plover Ambassadors and Mass Audubon were deemed a success this summer.
Three pairs of piping plovers nested at Good Harbor Beach, one more than usual.
Those watching over the piping plovers said they again spotted Super Mom, the one-legged piping plover who has been coming to the beach since 2016.
“It was fantastic in many ways,” said Gloucester resident Kim Smith, who heads up the efforts of about 20 Piping Plover Ambassadors. She believes climate change affected the piping plovers “in a funny way this year.”
“I think because of the extreme storms that we had,” she said. “We lost basically six chicks during extreme weather. That’s a lot.”
Despite the loss of those chicks, efforts to protect them and the survivors were successful, Smith said.
“We worked with Mass Audubon this year, we had many more eyes on the chicks, and if we hadn’t had those storms, we would’ve fledged 10,” she said. In all, four chicks were able to fly on their own.
During a visit to Good Harbor Beach on an overcast Wednesday at 10 a.m., no piping plovers could be spotted, though there were plenty of brown herring gull fledglings sitting on the beach.
“It was a great season for nesting piping plovers on Good Harbor Beach!” said Lyra D. Brennan, director of the Coastal Waterbird Program for Mass Audubon, in an email.
“Mass Audubon is very pleased with the outcome and the success of our new partnership with the city of Gloucester. The Gloucester community — including the Plover Ambassador volunteers — also played a big role in supporting piping plovers at this beach.”
‘Chicks on beach’
In April, the city entered into an agreement with Mass Audubon to provide monitoring and management of coastal nesting birds in Gloucester.
The new partnership built on the city’s efforts to protect the piping plovers that nest on Gloucester’s shoreline, according to a news release that noted the species was added to the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1986. Piping plovers are designated as “threatened” along their Atlantic Coast range.
For $5,000, according to the coastal waterbird management agreement, Gloucester contracted with Mass Audubon to oversee the presence of coastal birds, including piping plovers, and to minimize disturbing them.
The city’s Department of Public Works and the Conservation Commission worked with Mass Audubon to put up symbolic fencing and signs to keep beachgoers away from potential nesting sites.
Visitors to Good Harbor Beach this summer probably noticed the roped off dunes and the signage that states: “Chicks on Beach.”
The first nesting pair, Super Mom and Super Dad, who have been coming to Good Harbor Beach since 2016, and whose chick from last year was called Hip Hop because of a lame foot, nested early, Smith said. Super Mom laid four eggs, but in the cool weather only three hatched. In the end, two of the chicks fledged.
The Area 1 pair, a plover named Scrappy Dad and his mate, had a clutch of four eggs, but they started hatching amid a violent storm on the beach in July. Two hatched just before the storm, Smith said, but in the end, only one egg remained and the other chicks were gone.
“So we don’t really know what happened but it’s very often that we lose plovers during very bad storms,” she said.
The third nesting pair, Mini Mom and Scruffy Dad, had four eggs that all hatched. The fledglings were doing well, but two weeks ago, in a storm that saw lightning strike the beach several times, two chicks were lost. The remaining fledglings were last seen on the beach Sunday.
When the piping plover chicks are 40 days old, they no longer have to be watched so closely. Young plovers forage around the tidal flats and the wrack line along the beach marking the high tide eating small insects, sea worms and invertebrates. But this can also bring them into conflict with beachgoers heading down to the water, Smith said.
Mass Audubon was terrific to work with, she said. “We had great communication” when it came to providing coverage between the two groups.
Smith is also planning to release a trailer for her feature-length nature film, “The Piping Plovers of Moonlight Bay,” set in Gloucester following a family of plovers. She has decals coming that say “Plover Project Cape Ann Massachusetts” and created T-shirts at Seaside Graphics in Gloucester with a logo design by Beth Swan.
To see a trailer of Smith’s upcoming film, go to https://vimeo.com/818861213.
Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714,or at email@example.com.