Category Archives: Birds

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.

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

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!

MONARCHS AND PAINTED LADIES STILL ON THE WING AND WHY I ENCOURAGE YOU TO BE LAZY AND NOT TIDY UP YOUR GARDEN!

Monarchs, Painted Ladies, American Ladies, and Yellow Sulphurs are still migrating through Cape Ann–Massachusetts, New England, the mid-Atlantic states, and all along the East Coast for that matter. There isn’t much in the way of nectar plants available at this time of year. If you have anything at all blooming in your garden, even a Dandelion, it will help butterflies and bees on the wing.

This newly emerged Painted Lady was scrounging around at all the dandelions in and around Eastern Point. You can see why if the deadly herbicide Roundup had been applied to this lawn, there would be nothing for the butterflies.

The above Monarch butterfly was drinking nectar from what appeared to be a dried out stalk of Seaside Goldenrod. Although it may seem of no use to you and I, the Monarch was probing deeply into the florets and finding sustenance.

If you have to tidy up your garden, wait until after Thanksgiving, and go cautiously. Bees burrow into dried flower stalks, songbirds find nutrition in the seed heads, and the caterpillars of many species of butterflies, such as those of the Great Spangled Fritillary, winter over in leaf litter at the base of plants.It is not beneficial to pollinators to invite them to your garden, and then decimate the over wintering species with zealous tidying-up. Take a break, be lazy for the sake of the pollinators 🙂

Monarch dispute over a Dandelion

THANK YOU MIKE MACK AND THE NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY!

Many thanks to Mike Mack and the North Shore Horticultural Society for the invitation to present “The Hummingbird Garden.” We had a great talk and I really want to thank everyone who volunteered what Ruby-throated Hummingbirds like to forage on in their gardens. Hummingbirds are opportunistic feeders and it was so interesting to learn the plants that support RTHummingbirds in other’s gardens. Although Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the most widely distributed Hummingbird in North America many aspects of its migration, breeding, and ecology remain poorly understood. In addition to what was presented, local gardeners added Cuphea, Penstemon ‘Husker Red,’ Rose of Sharon (all shades), Agastache, and a flowering quince in a rich shade of fuchsia.

Special thanks to the lady who brought a hummingbird nest and shared it with the attendees.

A reader inquired about a photo that I had posted with the announcement of the lecture. The photo is of a Rivoli’s Hummingbird and was taken in Macheros, Estado de México. We were staying in a tiny cottage on the banks of a forested mountain stream. The banks were abundant with blooming Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) and both the gently flowing stream and flowering sage were Mecca for all the hummingbirds in the neighborhood. Every morning we awoke to the chattering of dozens of hummingbirds, mostly Rivoli’s and White-eared Hummingbirds, bathing in the stream and drinking nectar from the sage.

A note about Rivoli’s Hummingbirds. They were originally called Rivoli’s, then the name was changed to Magnificent Hummingbird, but it’s name has since reverted back to Rivoli’s Hummingbird.

Rivoli’s Hummingbird and Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

NILES POND SONGSTER

The melodious notes of the Song Sparrow are heard from sunup ’til sundown, spring, summer, and fall. Their beautiful song is most welcome, especially at this time of year when there are fewer songbirds on our shores and many that remain through the winter months don’t sing during the non-breeding season.

Song Sparrows have adapted to a wide variety of habitats. Despite the narrowness of the strip of land that separates freshwater Niles Pond from salty Brace Cove, Song Sparrows find plenty to forage on and excellent cover in the shrubby undergrowth found there.

Follow this link to hear the Song Sparrow’s song

SWANS!!!!

Four exclamation points for four beautiful Mute Swans. They arrived yesterday afternoon. Thank you to my dear swan-loving friend Lyn Fonzo for the alert ❤

There don’t appear to be any brownish-gray adolescent feathers leading us to believe they are at least two years old. Young Mute Swans often join a flock, remaining until they are of breeding age, typically at about four years old.

I don’t think our visitors are familiar with people. A gentleman came to the water’s edge with a bucket of food for the ducks. The Swans showed no interest in the food and kept their distance.

All four Swans have black eyes. Mr. Swan, who is blue-eyed, has not been seen at all his usual haunts for many months. He was at least twenty-nine years old when last seen, which is a very, very, ripe old age for a Mute Swan not kept in captivity. Most wild Mute Swans only live ten to twelve years.

One of the Swans was super bossy, giving another of the Swans several nips.

Two appeared rather enamored of each other