Author Archives: Kim Smith

About Kim Smith

Currently creating documentary films about the Monarch Butterfly, Black Swallowtail Butterfly, and Gloucester's Feast of St. Joseph. Landscape designer for the Gloucester Harbor Walk Gardens. Designer, lecturer, author, illustrator, photographer. Visit my blog for more information about my landscape and interior design firm- kimsmithdesigns.wordpress.com. Good Morning Gloucester daily contributor. Author/illustrator "Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden"

The Magical Month of May for Migrations in Massachusetts

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 breed in the Arctic tundra in his fancy new suit.

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

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’ve 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.”

You Didn’t Actually Think I’d 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 any 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 🕊

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

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.

 

 

 

 

Open House for the Beautiful C. B. Fisk Pipe Organs Opus 148 and Opus 150

Today’s grand open house for two new C. B. Fisk pipe organs was a joyful event, crowded with well-wishers, fans, friends, and musicians. Opus 148 will be installed at Christ Church, Cincinnati, and Opus 150 at Benjamin Franklin’s Christ Church in Philadelphia.

Listen to the music!

Morgan Faulds Pike and David Pike, C. B. Fisk Senior Vice President and Tonal Director

A wonderful treat to hear Opus 148 played by Nami and violinist Harold Byers.

Morgan Faulds Pike and David Pike, C. B. Fisk Senior Vice President and Tonal Director.

Nami Hamada, organist and organ builder, and Harold Byers, former violinist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Chair of the Music Committee at Christ Church.

Greg Bover speaking about Opus 148

Thibaut Lenfant and Rick Isaacs

Sarah Tuvim helped restore the exterior case of Opus 150

Morgan’s brother, Tom Faulds, and friend Carole Crowther

Scale model of Opus 148. Morgan Faulds Pike, sculptress of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Memorial, carved the oak angels and panels for Opus 148. See more here.

Angel detail for Opus 148

Opus 150 and scale model

 

GOOD HARBOR GOOD MORNING! Featuring Twin Lights, Two Lovers, a Photographer, and Sunrise

Gorgeous good morning, from GHB.

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