NOT ONE, BUT TWO, SUPER RARE BIRDS SPOTTED AT EASTERN POINT TODAY – A LARK SPARROW AND A WESTERN KINGBIRD —

A very rare-for-these parts Lark Sparrow was spotted by numerous birders today and yesterday at Niles Pond. The beautiful little songster kept either close to the ground foraging on tiny seeds or well camouflaged in the crisscrossing branches of trees and shrubs.

Lark Sparrow Niles Pond Gloucester Massachusetts

Song Sparrows Gloucester and Ipswich

We mostly see Song Sparrows around Niles at this time of year. Compare in the above photos how plain the breast of the Lark Sparrow is to that of the heavily streaked Song Sparrow’s underparts. I write rare-for-these-parts because the Lark Sparrow is entirely out of its range as you can see in the first attached map below.

A second rare bird has been spotted on Eastern Point, a Western Kingbird. It was a rough day for photographing, too overcast, so here is a photo from wikicommons media so that if you are around the Point, you will know what to look for. The Western Kingbird is also far outside its range.

THE LOLLYGAGGERS HAVE RETURNED IN CONCERT – THIRTEEN SEALS HAULED OUT AT BRACE COVE SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Thirteen Harbor Seals warming on the rocks, plus a few bobbing heads spotted around the harbor. This charming duo was the most photogenic of the bunch 🙂

TOGETHER WE CAN SET THE TABLE FOR LOCAL FAMILIES

My friend Nicole Duckworth is part of the Open Door’s Turkey Team, a group of individuals collectively raising funds for the Open Door’s Thanksgiving drive. Nicole has raised $1,250.00 towards her $1,500.00 goal. Please help Nicole help local families. Thirty dollars buys a family a turkey dinner, complete with all the fixings. You can donate by clicking here. Thank you!

Nicole writes:

“Join me making a real difference.

Even a small donation will go a long way to helping me meet my fundraising goal for The Open Door — and we’ll be making the holidays so much brighter for our neighbors in need. Every $30 provides a basket, so whether you give $10 or $100, we’ll be helping local families set their holiday tables.

Thank you!”

There are more people than ever this year who need our community’s help with Thanksgiving. Working with all the Turkey Team members, the Open Door’s  goal is to raise $10,000.00.  Read more about how you can help here:

Help The Open Door Provide Holiday Meal Baskets

Start a fundraiser to provide families who struggle to make ends meet with all the fixings to prepare their own festive holiday meals

We’re asking a few of our key partners to rally their friends, family, and networks to help us provide Holiday Meal Baskets to families who struggle to make ends meet.

We invite you to help us collectively raise $10,000 for Holiday Meal Baskets this season. Set your own fundraising goal to help us get there. When you join The Open Door’s Turkey Team, you can help these families uphold their own family traditions by preparing their own home-cooked holiday dinners — and you’ll help your friends feel good about doing good!

Starting a meal-basket fundraiser is easy to do — and it’s fun. We’ll give you all the tools you’ll need. With your help, we’ll be able to make the holidays so much brighter for our neighbors in need.

THE SUPER GENERATION OF MONARCHS CONTINUE ON THEIR EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY

Ribbons of orange and black butterflies are stopping to roost overnight all along the Gulf Coast of Florida’s Panhandle. These Monarchs are primarily members of the Atlantic Coast population. Because these Monarchs live for about seven to eight months, they are often referred to as a super generation of Monarchs, and are also known as the Methuselah Monarchs. They will continue along the Gulf Coast, soon joining the steady stream of Monarchs migrating through the central part of the US to cross the great Central Mexican Plateau (Altiplanicie Mexicana).

The Plateau is bordered by the Sierra Madre Occidental to the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental to the East. The Plateau ends where the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Mountains begin, forming a natural barrier, which prohibits further migration. The butterflies roost in the beautiful pine-oak forests of the Eje Volcanico Transversal.

The Atlantic Coast Super Generation of Monarchs, otherwise known as Methuselah Monarchs, Gloucester 2019

Monarch Butterfly overnight roost Gloucester 2019

The Monarchs are arriving to Mexico in ever increasing numbers. Colonies have yet to form, but that is not unusual for this time of year. Below are reports from Mexico from two of the butterfly sanctuaries where I filmed “Beauty on the Wing.” Ellen Sharp, along with her husband Joel Moreno Rojas, founded the nonprofit organization Butterflies and Their People, located at Cerro Pelón, Macheros. Estela Romero is Journey North’s program coordinator for Mexico and writes from her home in Angangueo, Michoacán.

From Macheros, MEX:

Ellen submitted this report: “From 1:08–1:24 pm on October 31, 2019 we spotted at least 54 determined little specks pumping their way across the sky. Meanwhile up on the Carditos side of, the Butterflies & Their People guardians sighted many more. Starting at 12:16 pm, Leonel and Francisco counted an average of eight per minute for the next ten minutes. Ever since that day, the skies have been filled with monarchs flying overhead until the afternoon rains arrive. We have yet to hear any news of colony formation on Cerro Pelon.” (10/31/2019)

Ellen and Joel, co-founders of Butterflies and Their People, also co-own JM Monarch Butterfly B and B, located in Macheros.

Gravesite Macheros, Mexico

From Angangueo, MEX
Here They Come!
Estela Romero writes:
Our dear friends,

Regardless of bad weather with rain, fog and dark clouds covering the sky for almost three weeks, Monarchs found no obstacle and poured down from the sky to attend to their ancestral encounter with incredible accuracy on the October 31st and November 1st.

“There they come”, “down to the bottom to town those go”, “up they just lifted flight”, “over there many more”, students, Emilio, Fernanda, Kevin and Diana, shouted. The monarchs were migrating through the valley. Monarchs do their triumphal entrance and last flying performance before they make their choice and split to their final destination at the unique Oyamel tree spots in the Sierra Madre mountains of “El Rosario” and “Sierra Chincua”, in Central México, two of the three main Sanctuaries at the region.

Monitoring map kept by students shows how the numbers of monarchs suddenly rose to hundreds!

Our legendary Mathusalen Generation of Monarchs, the Daughters of the Sun, have been, since ancestral times, the symbol of the after-life world of our ancestors and recently dead close relatives — the Miktlan dimension. Our indigenous groups show deep understanding of the relationship between life and death. Monarchs are the connection of this mystic relationship between life and death.

At last their souls appear shaped as orange and black beautiful energetic butterflies coming to all of us families, after longing for their arrival all year long;  our memories will always prevail upon their absence; they will always be among us; not invoking their lives and our time together would be really letting them die and forgotten, no, never”, murmur parents and grandpas as they hod their children and grandchildren by their hands in the streets of the town.

We all gather around our Ofrendas at home and even in public open sites. Each ofrenda may have from 2 levels, which represent heaven and earth, up to 7 or even 9 levels, each one a different dimension that the soul of our dead ones (the Tonali) will go through before reaching the Miktlan dimension”, explained elementary school teacher, Margarita. The Ofrenda is a collection of objects placed on a ritual display during the annual and traditionally Mexican Día de Muertos celebration.

“Each Ofrenda shall contain all favorite meals, drinks, objects, garments, and tools or utensils symbolizing our ancestor’s lives, preferences, enjoyment and ordinary living”, Víctor, Pamela and Juan explained as they gave their finishing touches to their beautiful Ofrenda.

The colorful papel picado is exclusively sold at this time of the year for the decoration of our Ofrendas; the Zempatzúchitl flower’s (Marygold) fragance shall guide the spirits of our ancestors to reach home; candle lights meaning light, hope and faith, shall also help them come home and then go back to their Miktlan world; our moms and grandma’s assisted by the rest of the family shall cook our dead ones’ favorite dishes in advance for this day; salt and water are main components of an Ofrenda, meaning relieve to thirst and hunger to the visiting spirits;  all kinds of drinks, fruit and our delicious “Pan de Muerto“ shall be included too. Tortillas, tamales, atole, tequila, mezcal andcerveza are indispensable in any Ofrenda; finally, at the very top, the photo or photos of our dead relative(s) to whom honor the Ofrenda has been set”,explained Ceciia, a middle school student, wearing her beautiful Catrina costume.

The Alebrijes also symbolize the Day of the Dead. The Alebrijes are bright, colorful, fantasy cardboard cutouts of creatures which are mixtures two or more animal body. The Alebrijes is part of our Mexican culture which has hit the international screen in films like Coco. TheAlebrije’s role is to guide the spirits of our dead ones to earth and back to the Miktlan underworld once their two-day visit is over.

“Our ancestors spirits shall share with us a big, big fest while we sing their favorite songs, play their favorite music, tell unforgettable anecdotes and memories and fill our homes with colour, flavors and joy to know that they shall be always among us and never gone from home and from our families”, teacher, Nacho, explained as he described the Ofrenda to the dead miners in town. Nacho is featured in the photo and shows how our town, Angangueo, was historically a mining town with mining the main employment for most families many decades ago.

Walo, a teacher who dressed up as Catrín, and Catrina Magali showed two different Ofrendas to our Monarch butterflies, souls of our dead ones, as the main symbol of these unique festivities in our region and all over our country as the ever living spirits of our dead ones.

As the festivals and the celebratory meals are over and our cemetery is dressed up to greet the monarchs as our ancestors, lets turn down our voices  and let us be still and silent as we wait to see at least one single Mathusalen Monarch arrive; let us all children and families from our three host countries, Canada, United States and México stand hand-in-hand while sharing our wonderful responsibility and our ancestral, unbreakable link among our three nations, while watching great-great-grandchildren Monarch pouring down as if from the heavens to our majestic mountains where they will see the exact Oyamel tree where their great-great-grand parents overwintered the season before — and without having been to México before this week!

Estela Romero

Angangueo, Michoacán, México

Noviembre, 2019

Above three photos are by Estela Romero

Monarch colony Cerro Pelon, March 2019

 

GOOD MORNING MR. BUFFALO-HEAD!

Ponds and waterways are filling up with one of the smallest ducks found on our shores, the Buffleheads. A most striking of winter residents (and feisty, too), the male is sharply feathered in black and white, with iridescent purple and green head feathers. The Buffleheads will be here through the winter, with most departing in early spring.

The name Bufflehead is derived from the name Buffalo-head, and they are so named because of the male’s puffy-shaped head. Another common name for this diminutive diver is Butterball.

The male’s head feathers are shaded with a beautiful rainbow sheen, while the female is a much plainer sort.

Two male Bufflheads

WITH THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES OF WILDLIFE IN MIND, MY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GLOUCESTER CITY COUNCILOR AT LARGE

Dear Piping Plover Friends,

The Gloucester citywide election is just around the corner. I want to take this opportunity to give a shout out to the candidates who I believe, based on their actions and words, are in favor of helping and protecting the threatened and endangered wildlife species that make their home on Gloucester’s shore.

As many are aware, the ordinance to disallow dogs at Good Harbor Beach was changed this past spring. Rather than May 1st, which was the previous time frame for several years, dogs are no longer permitted after March 31st. Without a doubt, the change in date allowed the Piping Plovers to successfully fledge three chicks at Good Harbor Beach, and not in the parking lot. The recommendation to change the ordinance was put forth by Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee and helped through the City’s government process by several key members of the City Council including Councilors Melissa Cox, Scott Memhard, Steven Le Blanc, Jamie O’Hara, Paul Lundberg, and Sean Nolan.

My recommendation for candidates does not address the individual ward councilors, only the councilors running for at-large positions.

With threatened and endangered species in mind I hope you will consider voting for incumbent councilors Melissa Cox and Jamie O’Hara. In the case of Melissa Cox, she was on board to help the Plovers immediately, from day one.  Initially, Councilor Jamie O’Hara had many questions and suggestions. He was courteous and respectful at all times, a great listener, and came to be in favor of helping the PiPls and changing the ordinance.

Candidate John McCarthy, who was the acting Chief of Police during the summer of 2018 (when the Plovers had resorted to nesting in the parking lot), went to great lengths to help the PiPls. Daily he walked Good Harbor Beach at daybreak, before his workday began, to help monitor the PiPls during the early morning shift.

From speaking with Chris Sicuranza when he was an administrator in Mayor Sefatia’s office, I know that he is entirely in favor of the Piping Plovers and will work to keep in place the current protections.

I recently spoke with Peter Cannavo. Prior to running for elected office, he had in the past expressed interest in the PiPls. He assured me that he is in favor of continuing the Piping Plover protections and I know him to be a man of his word.

There you have it, five recommendations for the four at-large positions. With each of these five candidates we can be confident that they will work to continue to protect threatened and endangered Cape Ann wildlife.

Thank you for taking the time to read these recommendations.

Sincerely,

Kim Smith

THE SMALL FLOCK OF FOUR BEAUTIFUL SWANS IS SETTLING IN

The flock of Mute Swans that arrived just about two weeks ago at Niles Pond is settling in. They are finding plenty to eat and spend their days foraging at pond vegetation, preening, napping, and occasionally stretching their wings for a flight around the pond.

Mute Swans migrate from body of water to body of water within a region. Will they stay in our area or is Niles Pond only a temporary home? When Niles Pond, and all other freshwater ponds and waterways freeze this winter, they will have to move to saltwater coves and harbors.

The absence of Mr. Swan has allowed this small flock to live peaceably at Niles Pond. Mr. Swan and his previous mates spent the winters at Rockport and Gloucester Harbors. Perhaps our Niles Pond flock will do the same. We can tell by the lack of gray in their feathers that they are at least two years old, which means they have managed to survive at least one winter in our region. That is no small feat!

Romance is in the air with these two!