Take in the wonderful fragrance of the flowering Black Locust trees adjacent to the footbridge entrance. The air is redolent with the scent of orange blossoms and honey, along with the Rosa rugosa blooming nearby.
The stand at Good Harbor Beach has been increasing in size and I don’t ever recall the scent quite as potent as it is this year. You can smell the flowers halfway down Nautilus Road!
Black Locust are native to the Appalachian Mountains. The leaves are a host to over 67 species of Lepidoptera, including Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, Giant Leopard Moth, and the Elm Sphinx Moth. A host plant is a caterpillar food plant. And they offer nectar to pollinators, including Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
This past week after enjoying a delicious lunch of clam chowder and fried clams at Woodman’s, Charlotte, my friend Claudia, and I stopped by Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation en route home. Claudia moved to CapeAnn a year ago and had never been. She was delighted to know about Cox Reservation for future beauty walks through meadow and marsh and of course Charlotte had a fantastic time as she always does when running about in nature. While there, we spied a Monarch depositing eggs on Common Milkweed shoots emerging in the grassland meadow.
I returned the following day to see if the female Monarch was still afield and to try also to capture an audio recording of the music where ‘seaside marsh meets grassland meadow.’
I found so much more. A photo tour for your Memorial Day weekend –
Bobolinks in the Chokecherry Tree (Prunus virginiana)
There are several fields at Cox Reservation that are maintained grassland habitat to help nesting birds such as Bobolinks; a beautiful songbird in steep decline.
We’re accustomed to hearing and seeing male Red-winged Blackbirds; it’s not often we see the females as they are usually on the nest. This pretty female flew into a tree, waved her wings, and stuck out her very showy cloaca. I wasn’t sure what she was up to and when a male came from nowhere and suddenly jumped on her back to mate, I was startled and unfortunately jerked the camera, but you get the idea.
Female Red-winged Blackbird
Male and Female Eastern Bluebirds feeding their brood
Osprey pair nesting in the far distant marsh
With deep appreciation and thanks to Essex County Greenbelt Association’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer for his continued help with Cape Ann’s Piping Plovers. Dave has been providing free of charge guidance, along with exclosing the Plover nests, since 2016.
Super fun news to share and please save the date – Essex National Heritage is hosting a week of events for National Pollinator Week, which takes place June 20th through June 26th. We have been invited to present a LIVE screening and Q and A of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly on June 22, from 7pm to 9pm at the Salem Visitor Center.
The Salem Armory Visitor Center is located at 2 New Liberty Street, Salem, MA.
And more happy news to share – Beauty on the Wing is nominated for an award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival!
Common Milkweed emerging in May, Good Harbor Beach
And lastly, we saw our first Monarchs this week, one at Good Harbor Beach flitting through the dunes and a second at Cox Reservation. There is plentiful Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) emerging at our local dunes and meadows! <3
Wonderful news for our handicapped Mom and Dad pair at #3. The eggs are safely ensconced in an exclosure, and the pair are brooding a nest of three!
Dad on the nest in the exclosure <3
Our deepest thanks and gratitude to Dave Rimmer, Director of Land Stewardship at Greenbelt for installing the exclosure and for his ongoing assistance with Cape Ann’s Plovers. If you feel so inclined, please think about making a donation to Greenbelt in Dave’s name to thank Greenbelt for their strictly volunteer assistance over the past seven years. Donate page of Greenbelt here.
Thank you to Everyone for your suggestions regarding Pollution, Urination, and the Underage Drinking Crisis at Good Harbor Beach. Thank you to Andrea Holbrook and Ethan Forman for “Gloucester Beaches Bustling Weekend Before Memorial Day” article in the Gloucester Daily Times for the coverage.
I have to say, we were collectively dismayed by the City’s sugar coated response to the issues at Good Harbor Beach as reported in the Times.
We have written to the Mayor’s office, all City Councilors, and Chief Conley. We have heard back from City Councilor Jeff Worthley. On Saturday, Jeff went from person to person at GHB to let them know that the Creek was contaminated and on Sunday had signs posted by the board of health. During the 1990s, Jeff worked at Good Harbor Beach for five summers and that first summer, when he was only 19 years old, made a list of 25 suggestions on how to improve GHB. Two of those suggestions included opening earlier in the year and dune restoration! We are very much looking forward to meeting with Jeff.
Our Cape Hedge “Plovers in the Popples” pair have a nest of four eggs! It’s extraordinarily beautiful in how well the eggs blend with the surrounding popples.
Tuesday morning the symbolically roped off area was installed by Mass Fish and Wildlife. For friends new to Plover protections, the roping is placed around the nesting area to keep people and pets away from the nest. Signs will be going up shortly. If you are on the beach, please do not stand right up next to, or hover around the roping. We would have liked to have made the area ten feet deeper, but because of the high tide line, it wasn’t possible. Please, please give the birds lots and lots of space. Thank you!
The fantastic thing about the roping installed by Mass Wildlife is that it is four heights of rope, from several inches off the ground to waist height, which really helps keep pets and little persons from slipping through.
Many, many thanks to Carolyn Mostello, the Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird Biologist for coordinating the installation, to Mass Wildlife technicians Joshua and Derek, and special thanks to Rockport resident and Cape Hedge neighbor Sue Catalogna for her great communication with the Cape Hedge plovers <3
A story of patience, fidelity, resilience, and hope
You may recall that last year our Piping Plover Mom’s foot became entangled in what appeared to be both dried seaweed and monofilament. Mom visibly struggled with her foot entanglement. Although initially she could still thermoregulate the chicks and stayed nearby, we began to see less and less of her. Much of the parenting of chicks was left to Dad as she was infrequently seen lying low in the tall beach grass. We wondered if she even made it through the summer.
Mom’s very painful looking injury caused her to behave as though she was trying to adapt to the awkwardness of carrying a ball and chain. Sometimes the chicks would get caught in the seaweed and monofilament entanglement and she was continuously pulling at it, trying to remove.
Fast forward to April of this year. For a month we have had a new pair of Plovers attempting to nest, first at area #3, the original pair of Plover’s original nesting site (beginning in 2016), and then I believe shifting further north up the beach, toward Salt Island. I checked on that pair on Wednesday morning, the fifth, just before leaving for Ohio and despite the unseasonably cool temperatures and rough winds, everything was as it should be in Ploverville.
Upon our return Monday morning all had turned upside down in the world of Plover nesting. It took me a day to understand what had taken place. Miraculously, our original Mom and Dad have returned to #3. We are overjoyed to see them both, Mom especially, but the bittersweet of it is that she has lost her foot.
Dad is clearly eager to mate but, for lack of a better word, is being extraordinarily patient with Mom. She spent the first few days after arriving quietly lying in the grass, so much so we were becoming concerned. But Mom has rallied and is showing interest in Dad and his nest scrapes. He is very attentive, staying nearby and defending her against real and imagined intruders. We all got a laugh when Assistant Library Director Beth Pocock’s commented, “Not very Darwinian of him.”
Dad in one of his nest scrapes
The pair are approximately five weeks later in arriving than the past several years. It’s not entirely unexpected that Mom’s foot has been amputated by the monofilament and seaweed wrapped so tightly that it was cutting off her circulation. Plovers historically have survived with one foot/leg. One of the most common reasons for loss of foot or leg is when debris becomes caught in a leg band on Plovers that have been banded. The thing is, it is taking double the amount of effort for Mom to do things that Plovers ordinarily do daily. Her gait step is twice as many steps as compared to Dad’s. She is spending a good amount of time lying down, rather than standing.
Piping Plovers show tremendous fidelity to each other and to their nesting site. Our Good Harbor Beach Original Plovers are fantastically resilient — recalling just one of their many trials and adventures — the year they nested in the parking lot, driven to this measure by the plethora of dogs allowed off leash by their owners; dogs running and prancing through the Plover’s roped off area disrupting their nesting.
Will Mom be able to breed and take care of chicks this summer? Only time will tell. But because she is now “handicapped,” it’s imperative that we eliminate all disturbances.
Mom is able to use her peg leg to scratch an itch
On Saturday, we had a serious problem with several very large groups of teens drinking, creating a mountain of trash, playing in the nesting area, and running through the area to use the dunes as their bathroom. Their complete disregard of the clearly marked off area destroyed the Plover’s nest scrapes, which are the potential possible sites for eggs. The police were called. The officers were very patient with the teens. One girl in particular was extremely rude to the officers, barely coherent and nearly falling down drunk. It took more patience than you can possibly imagine for the officers to de-escalate as they did. It wasn’t until the police appeared that the teens began attempting to clean up their trash, which without the officer’s insistence that they clean up, surely would have resulted in the more than one huge trash bag that I filled this morning.
These were not local kids but we have to do better than this as a community. There must be a way to have some authority figure patrol the beach on warm spring and summer afternoons. These teens were completely smashed and the amount of trash from alcoholic beverages was astounding. As soon as the officers appeared on the beach, the teens began to clean up their behavior, language, and garbage. But I don’t believe it should have gotten to this point.
We’ll keep an eye on the weather and we Ambassadors will mobilize on the next warm beach day but frankly, we have very little authority. None of us feel safe approaching a group of 30 or 40 unruly and intoxicated (and foul mouthed as was the case Saturday) teens. Truly, the ideal solution is to assign an officer or ranger to patrol the beach on warm afternoons and evenings.
If anyone sees people rough housing in, playing in, or repeatedly entering the roped off areas, please call the police and explain what you are seeing. If a nest with eggs or an adult or a chick is harmed in any way or killed by this kind of behavior, that is considered a “take” by both state and federal regulations. The City and the individuals responsible are liable for thousands of dollars in fines and potential closure of Good Harbor Beach. Our mission is to keep our beautiful GHB open for everyone and to keep our Plovers safe.From Saturday – how people treat our beautiful beach – trash on the beach brings crows and gulls, which eat Plover eggs and chicks
One of the earliest (and most eagerly anticipated) signs of spring in the Northeast is the arrival of the Red-winged Blackbird. The males begin their displays weeks before the females arrive. Their preferred breeding habitat is wetlands, of which Cape Ann and Massachusetts has no shortage.
The females are interested in what the male sounds like and look likes. The male’s brilliant red epaulettes and raucous calls are meant to both attract females and and defend against competitors. The species is polygynous: a male successfully defending a good territory may mate with up to fifteen females in a season. Red-winged Blackbirds usually nest in loose colonies and females often mate with males other than the territory holder. Clutches of unknown paternity are not uncommon.
Males defend against intruders of all sizes — not only competing males, but also Great Blue Herons, raptors, Crows, and reportedly, even people wandering too close to their nests.
Male giving chase this past weekend to an American Kestrel
Male (above) and female Red-winged Blackbird. Red-wings are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females have very different appearances.
Red-winged Blackbirds are omnivorous, feeding primarily on seeds and grain including grasses, rice, corn, and sunflowers; a wide variety of insects and spiders, especially during the breeding season; and also small berries such as blackberries.
The Red-winged Blackbird is the United States’ and Canada’s most widely distributed blackbird. Nonetheless these wide spread wanderers are concern for conservationists. Red-winged Blackbirds and other blackbirds are frequently targeted at their roosts in agricultural areas, where the birds may cause crop damage. (The Bobolink is persecuted on its South American wintering grounds for similar reasons.)Decades long control measures such as trapping, poisoning, and shooting, along with climate change and habitat loss, have resulted in a substantial decline in Red-winged Blackbird populations. Also under attack are important conservation laws such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA.)
Cedar Rock Gardens is carrying both Asclepias (milkweed) and Eupatorium (Joe-pye). Both of these wildflowers are two of the best plants for supporting native pollinators and creating a wildlife friendly garden.
Speaking on behalf of the Piping Plover Ambassadors, we would like to thank Mayor Verga, Mark Cole, Joe Lucido, and the Gloucester DPW Crew, and Animal Control Officers Jamie and Teagan for helping to protect our Cape Ann Plovers. We are grateful and so appreciate their very timely efforts.
The many recent actions we are grateful for –
All the roping is now in place at areas #1, #2, and #3. Hooray!! Why is this action so important? It gives the Plovers safe space to court and to nest. Plovers will rebuild their nest up to five times. If they have safe spaces from the get go, chances are they will nest earlier in the season and be on their way before the beach gets crazy busy with people enjoying the beach.
DPW Crew installing the symbolically roped off area on Wednesday, April 13th
We are grateful that Officers Teagan Dolan and Jamie Eastman are daily patrolling the beach at varying times. For the same reason the roping needs to go up early, the earlier in the season the dogs are off the beach, the safer it is for Plovers, along with the many shorebirds stopping over at Good Harbor Beach on their annual northward migration.
We are so appreciative of the signs now in place, both the endangered species signs on the cordoned off areas and the No Dogs signs at entrances to the beach and parking lots.
If you are heading to Good Harbor Beach, you can’t help but notice the blinking sign in the road near the intersection of Beach and Nautilus Roads. The sign will greatly help the AC Officers who often hear, “I didn’t know”, or “I didn’t’ see the (large screaming yellow) sign at the footbridge. The fine is $300.00 for each dog off leash and doubled if the dog charges through the clearly marked nesting area. Why the hefty fine? Because the City will be held accountable by state and federal agencies for any threatened or endangered bird that is killed or injured at Good Harbor Beach. A fine of $25,000.00 or more could be levied against the community if a bird listed as threatened or endangered is killed by a dog, person, or stray ball.
Again, we can’t thank enough Mayor Verga, Mark Cole, Joe Lucido, Gloucester’s ACOs, and entire DPW crew for their consideration and kind help protecting the Plovers!
Piping Plover love stories update –
The very pale female that was the first to arrive only stayed for a few days. She was followed by the Three Bachelors. A Bachelorette joined the scene over the weekend and paired up with Bachelor #3.
We now have one sweet couple attentively courting and nest scraping.
We’ve temporarily lost sight of Bachelors #1 and #2 but the precocious and Interfering Sanderling is still on the scene. The situation is fluid and we expect more PiPls will be arriving in the coming days.
If you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador, please contact me by either leaving a comment or emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s Pea Soup Fog
Beach House construction underway – don’t you think this dried grass will add greatly to the decor honey?
CEDAR ROCK GARDENS Opening for the season: April 13th, 2022!
Starting Wednesday, April 13th we will be open for you to come shop the nursery for all the early spring – cold weather seedlings.
We have posted all the Flower, Herb and Vegetable varieties we are growing this year on our website for you to check out and get excited for!
Welcome Spring 2022!
We are very excited to be welcoming you back to shop with us for our 9th season. We have added some great new varieties of tomatoes, peppers and flowers to our growing list this year (including some bush varieties specifically for containers on your patio or deck) and we have a rockstar crew making sure all plants are happy, healthy and watered! We have already sent some Neptunes Harvest organic fish fertilizer through our hoses to the seedlings so they have the best possible start. We will be starting with cold weather seedlings on opening day even though this spring has proven to be about 2 weeks ahead of its self in terms of soil temperature and average day time temp – you can never be to sure in New England what next week will bring. They are alll currently hardening off in our unheated high tunnel before bring them outside today to start acclimating to the wind and elements.
We hope you are enjoying these longer days and taking some time to plan your garden layout we are always here to help with planning questions and any direct seeding questions you may have as you start to get into your veggie gardens. Right now we are direct sowing our sugar snap peas into the ground along with spinach. We are also direct sowing our arugula, mesclun mix and broccoli rabe under row cover for a little added protection from cold nights. We have organic seeds for sale and are happy to demonstrate how to get those going.
We look forward to seeing you and happy growing!
All the best,
Elise, Tucker, Fae and the whole Cedar Rock Gardens Crew
Covid 19 protocols:
We will be opening this season for you to come shop the nursery in person. Please continue to wear a mask if you don’t feel well while shopping with us at this time.
If you can not shop in person due to health concerns please call or email and we will happily facilitate you. We will not be accepting pre orders, all orders must be for plants that are currently available.
-Thank you for understanding
Mark your Calendars:
Warm Weather seedlings will begin to be available May 18th!
This includes Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, basil, loads of flowers and so much more!
For everyone that wished us well in our endeavors as new parents, thank you! Fae is wonderful and loves being in the greenhouses with us so far.
Friday evening I had the joy of attending “The Story of Seabrook the Snowy Owl” held at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests Education Center at Creek Farm in Portsmouth. The event was cohosted by Jane Kelly, On the Wing wildlife rehabilitator, and photographer Johnathan Herrick. Johnathan presented a slideshow of beautiful images of Seabrook. He has been chronicling the Snowy’s adventures since first arriving in December. Topics covered at the meeting also included rodenticide poisoning, how to ethically view Snowy Owls when they are on our shores, and Floki, On the Wing’s resident owl ambassador.
Johnathan and son Maverick
You may recall from several previous posts that Johnathan rescued Seabrook as he lay slowly dying on the beach, unable to fly. Seabrook had consumed a rat or mouse that was dying from rat poison (the horrible black boxes filled with rodenticide that some folks are unfortunately so fond of using). He was suffering from secondary rat poison and hemorrhaging massively. When Johnathan arrived, Seabrook was trapped between a seawall and the incoming tide and was on his way to being washed out to sea.
Seabrook was so far gone when he was rescued, no one, including Jane and her staff, thought he would survive. After a six-week stint at On the Wing raptor rehab center, Seabrook made a full recovery. A wonderful release event attended by several hundred onlookers and fans was held in March. Seabrook flew magnificently over the crowd, toward the tree line, and then to the shore.
On my way to and from the program, I drove along the scenic route to New Hampshire, not expecting to see Seabrook, but there he was, spending the afternoon sleeping peacefully in the sun before heading out to hunt.
Seabrook is basically a very chill bird however, that doesn’t mean we should get close when photographing or observing. Please stay at a minimum of two hundred feet, please don’t try to get close with cell phone cameras, and folks with super zoom telephoto lens, have no reason to come close. When people bring their lawn chairs and park themselves all day next to a Snowy it is so stressful to the bird and totally uncool.
Some tips for Snowy watching:
Stand at a minimum of 200 feet away.
Stay low and hide behind a shrub or tree, if possible.
Move slowly, and if with a friend or a group, speak softly.
Don’t park yourself for hours near a Snowy. Take a few photos and please MOVE ON.
* * *
Jane brought along On the Wing’s ambassador Snowy Owl , Floki. Born in captivity, Floki’s behavior is nothing like a wild Snowy Owl nonetheless, it was wonderfully interesting to learn more about Snowies in general and about the captive owl and his quirky personality.
On the Wing is a citizen funded operation that saves over 400 raptors per year.
Donations can be submitted via: Venmo @OnTheWingNH
Snail mail: On The Wing 47 Prescott Rd. Epping, NH 03042 . Thank you!
On my way to Portsmouth, I stopped at HamptonBeach to check on the Plovers there. It was great to see that New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has cordoned off the Plover breeding habitat and has posted a number of signs.
I hope so much everyone is doing well. Another crazy winter for us all with Corona fortunately waning but then the terrible war in Ukraine began. We are so very blessed here on Cape Ann and I am grateful to you all and your outstanding teamwork in helping to protect one of our most vulnerable of creatures. The Plovers bring us joy (and frustration, too), but mostly joy and I am looking forward to working with you all again. I’d love to get an idea of what you are thinking regarding whether or not you want to keep your time slot, etc. but it’s a little early in the season so we can put that off a bit.
I did want to share that we had a great PiPl meeting with the City on Tuesday. Mark Cole, who is an assistant director at the DPW, is our new liaison with the City. We met with Mark, Joe Lucido, AC Officer Jamie Eastman, GPD Officer Quinn, Mike Hale, and Adrienne Lennon. Mark and Joe are already doing an outstanding job. The Piping Plover symbolic fencing was installed on Tuesday, the first time this has ever happened before the Plovers arrived. It’s perfect, too, just the right distance from the dunes to help the Plovers get established. Our deepest thanks and appreciation to Mark and Joe!
My husband Tom and I have been checking daily for the Plovers. There has been one unconfirmed sighting but I doubt it was a PiPl or if it was, not one of ours because once they are here, as we all know, they make their presence known. A number of Plovers have arrived at beaches south of us, so we can surely expect to see ours any day now.
Freshly arrived male and female Piping Plovers with eyes shut tightly against the March wind, Boston
If I am slow to respond to emails, I am so sorry and please forgive. I am in the midst of sorting through, converting, and building the rough cut for my next film project. Huge chunks of time are needed to tell the story of the Plovers in the true and beautiful light that I imagine. Aside from taking care of Charlotte and my family, I am in hermit mode. Usually I’ll respond within a day, but if not, please feel free to email again, no problem. Once we get on the other side of this rough, rough cut (another week or two), I’ll be much more available. Thank you for your understanding <3
If you no longer wish to receive Plover updates please write and let me know 🙂
One of the earliest warblers to migrate in spring, I don’t recall seeing a Yellow-rumped Warbler this early in the season. This little fellow was finding insects, seeds, and berries in the snow covered scrub line along the shore.
Yellow-rumped warblers have a highly varied diet, which allows them to winter further north than any other warbler, including as far north as Nova Scotia. Their diet consists of every imaginable insect, along with seeds, fruits, and berries including bayberry, myrtle, juniper, poison ivy, Virginia creeper, dogwood, grapes, poison ivy, grass and goldenrod seeds.
Until 1973, Yellow-rumped Warblers were listed as two different species, the western Audubon’s Warbler and the eastern Myrtle Warbler. Both names are much lovelier than the undignified ‘yellow-rumped,’ don’t you think? More research and DNA studies has revealed they are two distinct species. Let’s hope the names Audubon’s and Myrtle will be reinstated 🙂
Perhaps this young warbler has been here all winter. Please write and let me know fellow bird lovers, are you too seeing Yellow-rumped Warblers?
As Putin’s war rages and the Russian’s crimes against humanity continue to hold the Ukrainian people hostage, we look for hope everywhere and anywhere. Especially when taking care of a child, an ill family member, or an elderly person we have to keep our spirits up, for the sake of our loved ones at the very least.
Hope is nations coming together and helping nations and individuals helping individuals, in the form of the hand extended to two million (and counting) refugees given by European neighboring countries, to the crushing economic sanctions imposed, to supplies arriving to the Ukraine from NATO countries and from around the globe, along with everyone in the world (aside from Putin and his allies at home and abroad), trying their damndest to prevent World War Three.We’re finding hope, too, in the signs of spring and new life beginning.
Four year old Charlotte coming in breathless with delight at the crocus and daffodil shoots emerging in the garden. And one of the most welcome sounds of spring is the beautiful chorus of courtship love songs of Passerines. There is renewed energy with the neighborhood songbirds; their appetites have increased markedly and nest building has commenced.
Eastern Bluebird male, Black-capped Chickadee, and American Robin eating the last of the Sumac fruits.
Monarch Butterflies are departing Mexico in a great swirling exodus while our winter resident birds are shoring up for their mass migration northward. Some have already left our coastline and waterways. There have been no sightings of the Snow Buntings for a week and fewer Buffleheads appear to be about. Soon, most of the Snowies will have departed. Local owls and eagles are laying eggs, while many travelers have yet to arrive.
Snow Buntings on the wing
Grand flocks of Brant Geese are massing. A long distant migrant, they’ve earned the nickname ‘Little Sea Goose’ for their habit of wintering over in saltwater bays, marshes, and sounds.
Killdeers have arrived and are sorting out their territories and, If you can imagine, Piping Plovers will be returning in just a few short weeks. To follow are members of the Ardeidae Family – Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Black and Yellow Crowned Herons, and Little Blue and Green Herons.
Piping Plover nest with two eggs
Mother River Otter and kits
We’ll soon see Muskrats, River Otters, and Beavers skirting around thawing ponds and baby Red Fox kits will in no time at all be peaking from dens.
Red Fox Kits
Red-winged Blackbirds have been here for several weeks. The male’s courtship call is welcome music of the marsh. He poses a striking silhouette chortling from the tips of Cattails, dressed in jet plumage with red shoulder epaulettes underlined in yellow. A female has yet to be spotted in her plain jane nesting camouflage of brown and tan.
Despite the horrors unfolding before our very eyes there is much to look forward to in the arrival of spring. We can’t as individuals end the war but we can take heart in a thousand acts of kindness and find joy in the unfolding beauty that surrounds, of new life in spring.