Category Archives: By-the-Sea

DAD AND MARSHMALLOW!

Dad and Marshmallow spent the early morning alternating between foraging at the tide flats and within the protected area.

Several frights this morning – joggers jogging in the wrack line, exactly where Marshmallow was foraging, but Dad did his broken wing thing and it distracted perfectly. This was followed by the Red Fox traveling the beach, followed by the couple who walk their dog every morning, again, exactly where the chick is foraging. I have a call out to our excellent dog officers and it should be an easy $300.0 for the City because the couple and their large dog come at the same time everyday.

The greatest fright though occurred when a friend came far too close to the Dad and Marshmallow while they were quietly thermoregulating. This caused the pair to tear off into the protected area, and then Dad immediately began piping orders to head to the Creek. Unfortunately, and very unexpectedly, some heavy machinery, a backhoe loader I think, was rounding the bend just as the two were hightailing it down to the Creek. The machine frightened the bejesus out of them and they moved with lightening speed into the furthest most points of the Creek.

I am writing an email to the friend to gently ask her not to come so close to the family. The combination of a person coming much too close, coupled with the machinery at the worst  time, could have spelled disaster.  It sure is tough being a PiPl. Even when people are well meaning, coming too close is as frightening to the birds as is a fox, a dog, or heavy machinery.

Last evening, our granddaughter Charlotte and I took took the late shift, until she was just too soaked and too cold to stay another moment. 

Dad and Marshmallow thermoregulating after a good bit of foraging this morning

Marine worms that fight back! Marshmallow polished off the one in the above photos and here is a photo from last year, the same, or similar, species.

Piping Plover Chick, Marshmallow, 16 days old, and Dad

OUR PIPING PLOVER CHICK IS TWO WEEKS OLD TODAY!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors,

A major milestone for this most plucky of PiPl chicks! But it is the fathers who are the true super heroes in the life story of the Piping Plovers. Dad was zipping back and forth between snuggling the chick, feeding in  the flats, and defending the Little One from a number of hovering gulls, as well as in high gear alarm mode when both a Red Fox and dog trotted in the vicinity of the chick. The dads are often the first to arrive in spring to establish their nesting territory and the last to leave, but only after their babes are fully fledged.

We’ve lost chicks before in storms less fierce  than last night’s so I was greatly relieved to find the pair this morning. Several of our GHB PiPl well wishers were out walking this morning and also concerned about the Little One after that deluge. Thank you John, Susan, Pat, and Delores; it’s always a joy to see you.

This is Duncan’s last morning. He is returning to Lexington but will be back later this summer. It’s been great having Duncan and seeing him every morning promptly at 7, despite the fact that he is not a morning person 🙂 He wants to remain on the Ambassador email thread to stay in touch. Thank you so much to Duncan, it has been an especially big help to have eyes on the chick during morning beach raking

I am going to take Duncan’s shift for the time being. My son is off for another week with his broken ribs so I don’t have to hurry home and make breakfast at 6:45.

Too misty to bring my camera down to the beach lately so here is one of my favorite photos of our Little Chick doing morning wake up stretches. A friend commented that its wing buds look like bunny ears. I hadn’t thought of that, but so true 🙂

Have a super day and once again, so many, many thanks for your help,
xxKim

 

OUR LITTLE CHICK IS TEN DAYS OLD!

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

Today marks another milestone, ten days old. After today, we begin to think of chicks as two weeks old, three weeks, old, etc. Thank you to Everyone for your watchful eyes and kind interest!

Yes, Duncan, if the tracks you saw were down by the water, it was our GHB Red Fox. I think it was the Dad (the Mom is much skinnier, from nursing and scavenging food for the kits). He was bringing a rabbit breakfast to the kits.

Sally – such a joy to see when they stretch and try to “flap” their tiny wing buds ❤

The cooler weather this weekend is a tremendous break for the PiPls. Last night I stopped by and people are partying much later on the beach on weeknights than in previous years, surely because of coronavirus and a lack of jobs. I picked up six empty full-sized whiskey bottles, three were in the roped off area, and fifty plus beer cans that had been buried in the sand. That smell of stale beer at 6 in the morning is so Gross!

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Good Harbor Beach

Thank you Deb for the Monarch sighting report. The milkweed is in full bloom in the dunes–perfect timing for the Monarchs to begin arriving. I have a friend who is so worried she hasn’t seen any in her garden. I’ve been telling her they usually arrive around July 4th, in a normal year. She will be thrilled when I share your sighting.

Thank you PiPl Ambassadors!
Happy July 3rd.
xxKim

Ten to eleven day old chick

BEAUTY ON THE WING ACCEPTED TO THE NEW HAVEN DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL!

Overjoyed Beauty on the Wing is going to the New Haven Documentary Film Festival!

2019 Honors Filmmaker –

THREE CHICKS TODAY – I DON’T THINK THE LAST HATCHLING SURVIVED

I could only spot three beautiful chicks zooming around the beach this morning during my 2 plus hour shift. The siblings looked about the same age so it appears the last hatchling did not make it. This is not unusual and is happening at several beaches around the north shore because of the cold snap we had during the egg-laying period. Perhaps there was just too much time between eggs laid and that is why the last chick hatched more than a day after the first chick hatched.

There are many other possible reasons as to why the chick did not survive, but I also want to take this opportunity to let our Ambassadors know that if a chick is taken during your shift, please don’t take it personally or feel responsible. We are doing our best to keep the chicks safe from stray balls, other avian predators, dogs off leash, people not aware of the cotton puffballs presence, and the list goes on. Just do your best and that is all we can ask for.

Huge shout out to Gloucester’s DPW – Yesterday morning we found two signs intentionally knocked over. We called Joe, our DPW liaison, and they fixed the posts right away. We are so grateful to the DPW for all their help!

Three three-day-old Piping plover chicks

TONIGHT! TRY BACKYARD BIRDING – FAMILY ZOOM EVENT – SOME OF THE BEAUTIFUL WINGED WONDERS SEEN IN OUR GLOUCESTER NEIGHBORHOOD DURING THE SPRING OF 2020 including Red-neck Grebe, Cedar Waxwings, Northern Flicker, Dowitchers, Eagles, Palm Warbler, Kingbird, Long-tailed Ducks, Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Mockingbird, Robin, Catbird, Cardinal, Finches, Orioles, Egrets, Grackles, and Swan, Kildeer, Eider, PiPl Chicks, and More!!

Try Backyard Birding – Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for a virtual zoom hour of fun talk about birding in your own backyard. We’ll be discussing a range of bird related topics and the event is oriented to be family friendly and hosted by Eric Hutchins.

I am a bit under the weather but nonetheless looking forward to sharing this wonderful event sponsored by Literary Cape Ann.

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

 

All the photos you see here were taken in my East Gloucester neighborhood this past spring, from March 17th to this morning. A few were taken at the Jodrey Fish Pier, but mostly around Eastern Point, Good Harbor Beach, and in our own backyard. The Tree Swallows photos were taken at Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation. Several of these photos I have posted previously this spring but most not.

I love sharing about the beautiful species we see in our neighborhood – just this morning I was photographing Mallard ducklings, an Eastern Cottontail that hopped right up to me and ate his breakfast of beach pea foliage only several feet away, a Killdeer family, a male Cedar Waxwing feeding a female, and a Black Crowned Night Heron perched on a rock. I was wonderfully startled when a second BCN flew in. The pair flew off and landed at a large boulder, well hidden along the marshy edge of the pond. They hung out together for a bit- maybe we’ll see some little Black Crowned Night Herons later this summer ❤

 

 

OUR SALT ISLAND PIPING PLOVER FAM HAS A SECOND EGG IN THE NEST!

The most tenacious of Piping Plover pairs has a second egg in their nest!

For the next few days you may see them on and off the nest. The pair won’t start brooding full time until all the eggs are laid. The reason being is that the hatchlings are precocial, which means active from birth. The parents want the chicks to hatch as closely together as possible so the tiny rockets zooming around the beach are more easily managed. The difference in a PiPl day old hatchling and a PiPl week old chick in human years is like trying to look after a newborn and a precocious preteen simultaneously.

Salt Island Family Mom briefly on nest this morning.

SI Dad at the shoreline foraging at sunrise.

Piping Plovers take about a week to complete the nest and lay all their eggs (sometimes two eggs or three or five, but most often four eggs). If they started brooding one egg full time, that egg would hatch a week earlier than the last egg laid, which would spell disaster for a precocial chick. Observing PiPl chicks that had hatched twenty-four hours apart was hard enough on the parents, let alone a week apart!

If you stop by to see the PiPls on the beach, please bear in mind they are working hard at completing their nest and laying eggs. Please don’t hover around the roped off areas or when you see the birds on the shore. Trust me, hovering attracts gulls and crows. Both species are smart and I’ve seen over and over again how human interest in the PiPls  attracts these super predators to the nesting sites. Additionally, hovering around the adults off the nest stymies courtship and mating as well. Have a look with binoculars or take photo or two with a long lens and move on, especially when with more than one adult.

Thank you so much for your consideration!

Good Harbor Beach Salt Island Family Two Eggs June 16, 2020

Saratoga Creek Family Dad brooding this am

Sunrise and Crescent Moon rising today

 

SINGING THE PRAISES OF CAPE ANN’S WINGED AERIALISTS- Please join Kim Smith, John Nelson, and Martin Ray for a fun zoom hour of conversation!

Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for an hour of talk about the many birds and habitats found on Cape Ann. The event is hosted by Literary Cape Ann and will be moderated by Eric Hutchins, Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for NOAA.

From Literary Cape Ann’s newsletter-

TRY BIRDING IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD!

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in this coming Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link next Friday: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

Order books by our guest authors at The Bookstore of Gloucester. For those interested, bird books make great Father’s Day gifts. Further down in this newsletter, you’ll find lots of great information about books and birdwatching organizations.

Thank you, Kim Smith and Martin Ray, for providing us with some of your beautiful photography to help promote this event. And thank you, John Nelson, for the annotated lists of books and birding organizations.
Meet our panel!

Meet our panel!

Artist, author/blogger, and naturalist Martin Ray will talk about maintaining his fine blog, “Notes from Halibut Point,” and share stories discovered in that magical place.

Filmmaker, naturalist, and activist Kim Smith will share her own adventures chronicling Cape Ann’s vibrant bird life including the work she does advocating for the endangered piping plovers that nest at Good Harbor Beach.

Author-naturalist John Nelson will start things off with some birdwatching basics before getting into a few stories about local birds, their habits and habitats from his new book, “Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds.”

Our moderator, Eric Hutchins, is the Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the NOAA Restoration Center located in Gloucester. He  has worked as both a commercial fisherman and government biologist on domestic and foreign fishing vessels throughout the Northeast and Alaska.

Books by our speakers are available through The Bookstore of Gloucester:

Martin Ray
“Cape Ann Narratives of Art in Life” — A collection of interviews and images tracing the creative lives of 28 contemporary artists.
“Quarry Scrolls” (2018)— 24 photographs of Halibut Point natural life and scenes with accompanying Haiku poems

Kim Smith:
“Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!” — Written and illustrated by Kim Smith.

John Nelson:
“Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds”

More books, recommended by John Nelson:

  1. Sibley, David. The Sibley Guide to Birds
  2. Kroodsma, Donald. The Singing Life of Birds. 2005. On the science and art of listening to birds, by a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts and a foremost authority on bird vocalizations.
  3. Leahy, Christopher, John Hanson Mitchell, and Thomas Conuel. The Nature of Massachusetts. 1996. An excellent introduction to the natural history of Massachusetts by three prominent Mass Audubon Society naturalist-authors.
  4. Sibley, David. What It’s Like to Be a Bird. 2020. Just published, a study of what birds are doing and why, by a longtime Massachusetts resident and renowned author/illustrator of a series of bird and nature guides.
  5. Weidensaul, Scott. Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds. 2000. A Pulitzer Prize finalist study of bird migration by the naturalist and author of Return to Wild America, the subject of his memorable 2020 BBC lecture.
  6. Zickefoose, Julie. Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest. 2016. Where art meets natural history, by a talented author/artist, former student of biological anthropology at Harvard, and keynote speaker at the 2014 Massachusetts Birders Meeting.

If you’d like to learn more or get involved in the birding life, here are some recommendations from John Nelson:

An excellent overall resource is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, especially the “All About Birds” sections, which includes free access to the MaCauley Library (the country’s best collection of vocalizations of birds and other animals), the free Merlin bird identification app, live bird cams, and other resources for beginners and intermediates. Some programs, like their “Joy of Birdwatching” course, require an enrollment fee, but many of their resources are free to anyone.

For bird conservation, the most active national organizations are the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon. For state bird conservation, Mass Audubon (not affiliated with National Audubon) is most active and the best source of information, but many other organizations are involved in preservation of habitats, often with a local focus.

For birding field trips, Mass Audubon and the Brookline Bird Club both offer frequent trips at different seasons to Cape Ann, sometimes for just a morning, sometimes for a whole day. Both organizations welcome novices, and both have trip leaders who make an effort to be particularly helpful to beginners. Mass Audubon trips, generally sponsored by MAS Ipswich River or MAS Joppa Flats, require advance registration and some payment.

Brookline Bird Club trips are free, without any registration, but regular participants are encouraged to join the club with $15 as the annual dues. The name of the BBC is misleading; the club originated in Brookline in 1913 but is now one of the largest, most active clubs in the country and offers field trips across and beyond Massachusetts.

John Nelson is on the BBC Board of Directors and leads a few Cape Ann trips in both winter and spring. John reminds us that this is a strange time for beginners, since Mass Audubon has cancelled many field trips and the BBC has cancelled all trips through June, but eventually field trips will open up again, especially in places where social distancing is most possible.

The very active Facebook page, Birding Eastern Mass, has over 2,000 subscribers, from novice birders to experts. It’s a great site for sharing bird photos.

 

About Birding in Our Backyard

This Zoom event is for friends and families who are looking for safe, fun things to do close to home. Cape Ann’s abundance of natural wonders are here for us to enjoy and protect. Try chronicling your experiences in a new blog or a photo journal.

• • •

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
— John Muir, from “Our National Parks”

SUPER EXCITING NEWS – THERE ARE NOW TWO PAIRS OF PIPING PLOVERS NESTING AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our first family of Good Harbor Beach chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. Many of the morning times are filled, so we are especially looking for help mid-day, afternoon, and early evenings if you can lend a hand. Thank you! HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

This morning the awesome Dave Rimmer and his assistant Mike Galli installed an exclosure at the area we call #1 (because it is closer to boardwalk #1). I write “awesome” because Dave Rimmer is Director of Land Stewardship at Essex County Greenbelt Association and for the fifth year in a row, he has lent his experience and expertise at absolutely NO CHARGE $$ to the City of Gloucester. We all owe Dave and Greenbelt huge thanks of appreciation. Thank you once again Dave for your kind assistance.

The exclosure was quickly and efficiently assembled and sledge hammered into place. Would the young pair accept the wire exclosure? It looked dicey for about half an hour or so. I had Charlotte with me and had to leave but a short time later, Dave texted that they were back on the nest. In all his years of installing exclosures  (30 plus), only one pair has ever rejected an exclosure.

This nest with currently one egg is located in an extremely open site and not at all where expected. It is their fourth attempt at a serious nest. The first was up by the dune edge in a nicely camouflaged location but as it was not symbolically roped off, it was visibly disturbed by people and pets. Their next nest was located in the roped off area at #1 and that sweet nest had two eggs. Sadly, the eggs disappeared from the nest. The third active nest scrape was actually in the dunes but unfortunately again that was disturbed by people, this time by people going along their same path to go to the bathroom in the dunes. So this fourth nest is in a most open spot and not entirely safe from a stormy high tide.

New nest location, with no protective vegetation

Our Salt Island pair mating and nest scraping, with one egg.

June 15th is late in the year to begin a new nest but it happens often enough. Last year I filmed a PiPl family nesting in July, with three eggs. The nest gets hot as the summer progresses, but the adults were very smart about brooding. They would stand over the nest, not actually sitting on it, which provided shade from the melting sun, without their additional body heat. The adults were also panting to keep cool in the heat. One chick was lost in a storm, but two survived to fledge and the Dad stayed with them the entire time.

In the photos above you can see the PiPl heat wave brooding technique.

I think we should change the names of the nests to the Creek Family and the Salt Island Family. It sounds a lot more personable than #3 and #1. What do you think?

WATCH GREENBELT’S LIVE OSPREY CAM NOW – MOM AND DAD FEEDING NEW BORN CHICKS A FISH!

Tune into Greenbelt’s live Osprey cam to see a pair (possibly a third) chick being fed right now by the adults Annie and Squam. One parent (Squam I think) flew in with a fresh caught fish and Annie is tearing it into bits and feeding each gaping wide little mouth. Squam is perched at the edge of the nest, looking so proud!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE

Greenbelt’s OspreyCam is located in Gloucester, MA on Greenbelt salt marsh near LobstaLand Restaurant.

History:  In 2017 a pair of young Osprey took up residence on the LobstaLand platform in July/August and made a small nest. In 2018 they returned in April, stayed until August and built a large nest but never laid eggs. We call this a “house-keeping pair”- almost always a young pair learning the ropes.

In 2019, the pair returned in April to the nest and produced a clutch of 3 eggs, all under the watchful eye of the newly installed webcam. The adults were named Annie and Squam. They hatched one egg, and eventually fledged one chick – named River. River was banded before he fledged. He left the nest for good in late summer.

2020 – Annie and Squam returned to the nest in mid-April, and since then they have been tending to the nest, preparing to produce a clutch of eggs. They have been very patient as we have been back and forth to the nest site many times getting the new webcam set up.

Update April 29, 2020 – The webcam is now live. We’re awaiting what this season will bring! We hope you enjoy it with us.

Update May 11, 2020 – All good news. Annie has laid 3 eggs, completing her clutch yesterday. So that would suggest the first egg might hatch around June 15. Squam has been busily catching mostly river herring these days, feeding himself and Annie a steady diet of fresh fish.

Update May 28, 2020 – Not much new to report. The incubation phase for Annie and Squam continues. Squam is still bringing in numerous fresh fish daily, mostly river herring but the occassional small striped bass as well. Once we roll into June the count down is on for hatching.

Osprey Chicks

Image courtesy BBC

BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- AFTERNOON

SEE PART ONE HERE

SEE PART TWO HERE

Saturday afternoon I arrived back to the nest at about 5:30pm hoping to see if the fourth and last chick had hatched. Yes it had hatched! Judging by how sleepy and that he appeared to be still a bit wet and sticky, I think it had happened within the past hour.

Piping Plover chicks are precocial birds. That is a word biologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Precocial means that shortly after hatching, the bird is fully mobile. Plover chicks are not completely mature, they still need parents to help regulate their body temperature, but they have downy feathers and can run and feed themselves within an hour or so after emerging.

The opposite of precocial is altricial. Birds that hatch helpless, naked, usually blind, and are incapable of departing the nest, are altricial. Robins and Cardinals are examples of altricial birds.

Weighing about as much as a nickel at the time of hatching, Piping Plover chicks are able to feed themselves but are unable to regulate their body temperature. They need to tuck under Mom and Dad to warm up.

Please don’t eat my toe!

Tiny wing bud stretches

It makes it hard on the parents when hatching is stretched over a twenty four hour period. The day old chick was full of vim and vigor while the newborn could barely walk. To make matters even more challenging, and because the nest was sited in an extremely exposed location, the parents were trying to move the entire family, including the newborn hatchling, to a safer and less exposed site on the beach.

The adults piped softly to the newborn, coaxing him to leave the nest. He kept taking a few steps and then flopping back toward the nest.

In the meantime, the three older chicks were out exploring the beach in short forays and then snuggling together under Mom or Dad.

Mom takes a much needed break

After an hour or so of watching the youngest hatchling struggle, slowly making its way across the beach, the parents eventually succeeded in moving all four chicks to a safer location at the base of the dune where there were  divots, dried beach grass and seaweed, and new vegetation sprouting, providing much needed cover.

Mom returned several times to inspect the empty nest.

You can see the tiny one’s feathers are still sticky and not fully fluffed out.

By day’s end all four were tucking under Mom and Dad.

It was a gift to witness the beautiful Clam Fam hatch day, a day I won’t soon forget. So small and sparrow-sized, you could hold an adult Piping Plover in the cup of your hand, but so beautiful, fascinating, resilient, and intelligent a species of bird.

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our GHB chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- MORNING

SEE PART ONE HERE

I arrived at daybreak the following morning with myriad questions –would the first hatchling make it through the night, would they all have hatched over night, would the nest still be in the same location if all had hatched? The nest was sited in the most extraordinarily vulnerable location. And this beach in particular is plagued by a plethora of hungry avian predators that readily make a meal of both eggs and chicks.

Hooray!  First glimpse showed a fluffy puffball snuggling next to Mom and the next peek showed at least two eggs still remaining in the nest. I couldn’t tell initially if there was a new chick or three eggs.

Mom popped off the nest for a moment and there were two perfect little chicks! And one of the two remaining eggs was showing a mosaic of tiny cracks with the tiniest of external pips beginning to appear (egg on the right).

It’s Dad’s turn back on the nest. Both parents were active in helping the chicks hatch.

Early in the morning, the two hatchings stayed close to the nest and only made periodic and brief forays further out onto the beach. The one that was twelve hours old that had hatched the night before was clearly stronger, while the newly hatched wobbled along on unsteady legs, spending more time stumbling than standing. 

At about 7:15, I could see Dad beginning to help pull apart the eggshell with his beak.

He and Mom switched places and only twelve minutes later, nestling #3 was completely free of its eggshell.

Chick #1 was outside the nest observing all, while #2 was fast asleep as baby sibling was hatching in the nest next to him. Mom and Dad took turns removing the eggshells from the nest.

Two chicks, newborn hatchling, and one egg .

Newborn chick drying in the nest with one egg remaining.

The third chick to hatch was nearly dry and the last egg was still in the nest when I departed at noon, with plans to return later in the day.

From the moment of hatching, both parents give constant soft melodious piping calls and commands to the chicks and they learn within a few days time to listen and obey.

As the morning progressed, the most remarkable observation is that the family split in half. In roughly twenty minute intervals, Mom or Dad would watch the two older, stronger chicks as they began to run around on the beach learning to forage while either Mom or Dad would brood the remaining egg and the most recently hatched and still sleepy-eyed chick.

I can’t make it up this hill Bro!

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our GHB chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

 

NORTH AMERICA’S STUNNING AND LARGEST MOTH THE CECROPIA AND WHY THESE GIANT SILK MOTHS ARE THREATENED – PART ONE

Last summer my friend Christine gave me a handful of Cecropia Moth eggs. Nearly all hatched and grew, AND grew, AND GREW. The caterpillars were a whopping five inches in length and the width of a very large man’s thumb before they began to pupate (become a cocoon).

Cecropia Moth Eggs

First Instar

Second and Fourth Instar

Third Instar

Fifth and Final Stage

Cecropia Going Pooh (Frass)

The Cecropia caterpillar eats the leaves of many trees and shrubs, including alder, ash, birch, box elder, Chokecherry, elm, lilac, maple, poplar, Prunus and Ribes species, and willow. People are always a bit dismayed when I tell them that the adult is born without mouthparts and cannot eat during its brief lifespan. The adult’s only purpose in life is to mate and it lives for about a week or so.

We fed our Cecropia caterpillars Chokecherry (Prunus viginiana), because I knew of a good source where it was growing plentifully.

Cecropia Spinning a Cocoon -The caterpillar pulled some leaves loosely around, but mostly the cocoon is made from its own spun silk. Some spin their cocoons on tree branches and some on the sides of the buildings.

All winter the cocoons lived in glass terrariums on the side of our front porch, which is not enclosed, and which is also out of direct sunlight. The cocoons need to experience normal fluctuations in temperature so that adults will emerge at the correct time of year, when trees are leafed out.

Cecropia Moths are the largest moths found in North America. They are members of the Family Saturniidae. There are approximately 1,500 species of large moths in this family and they are found all over the world. The very largest are found in the tropics, but the wingspan of our Cecropia Moths can reach an amazing 7 inches across (compared to a Monarch, with a wing span of approximately 3.5 inches).

Part Two – emerging, reproduction, laying eggs of the next generation, and how we can help this increasingly rare species.

 

Cecropia Moths are found east of the Rocky Mountains, in Canada and the United States

 

 

 

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER FIRST HATCH DAY

Dear Friends,

So sorry to not be posting as much as usual and if I promised to stop by your store or business to take photos this week I am doubly sorry. Our nation is undergoing a sea change for social justice and how I wish I could join the peaceful protest but know that I am super high risk. February was pneumonia month; perhaps maybe what I really had was corona because breathing was so difficult and it took so long to recover, and now June has become Shingles month. I am learning how to manage the pain and since it was diagnosed early enough I am hoping it won’t linger. So again, I am so sorry if I haven’t made it to your shop or restaurant, but I will surely do so soon!

In the mean time, here is a beautiful scene I wanted to share with you. The Piping Plover family in the photos is one I have been following for several years. This pair is truly remarkable in so many ways I can’t even begin to explain here. You will see why when my PiPl film comes out, but trust me, these two have co-parenting down to an art form. I have learned so much from watching specific families of Plovers at specific sites, and especially my Clam Fam.

I call them the Clam Fam because the pair always make use of large Atlantic Surf Clams, which is pretty smart because from an avian predators overhead point of view, a nesting PiPl looks like a clam shell. I can’t wait to share it all!

Here they are in early April. The pair returned to their nesting site about a week and a half  later than our GHB nesting PiPl pair. These two famously always nest early in the season.

This year’s Clam Fam nest was sited right next to a pedestrian walkway and that is why we have such a clear view into the nest. 

Dad’s potential nest scrapes and Mom inspecting.

First two eggs in early May

The tiniest peep hole appeared and you could see movement beneath the surface. The peep hole is called an external pip.

Mom and Dad take turns guarding and sitting on the nest while the chick is hatching.

Once the eggshell has unzipped, the parents oftentimes help the chick hatch by pulling away the shell.

Eggshells are a concern to the PiPl parents because they can attract predators. Here you see Dad kicking the eggshell away. Mom quickly ran to the nest and carried off one half of the  shell. Shortly after that Dad did the same.

The newborn chick’s feathers are matted wet with fluid.

In an hour or so the chick is dry and fluffy and has already learned to push up under Dad or Mom’s wings to keep warm.

A sweet sleepy chick – it’s early evening and there are three more eggs to go. I’ll return tomorrow morning first thing

Read More and see the photos here of how a chicken chick hatches. As both PiPl and chickens are precocial birds, and from what I have observed, PiPl chicks are very similar in hatching.

Piping Plovers are listed as a US threatened species. Threatened species share the same protections as endangered species.

READ THE LATEST ON THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION’S PROPOSAL TO WEAKEN THE MIGRATORY BIRD SPECIES ACT

 

 

CHECK OUT THE BEAUTIFUL WORK OF MARY RHINELANDER AT HER NEW ONLINE SHOPPING WEBSITE!

Many locals are familiar with Mary Rhinelander and her beautiful artistry. For my out of town friends, as well as local readers who may not yet be aware, did you know Mary has an amazing website where, for super, super reasonable prices, you can purchase one of her prints?

Not only prints, but her wonderfully fun and whimsical greeting cards.

Visit Mary’s Website Here: Mermade Press

Mary also teaches block printing workshops at the Cape Ann Museum. It’s on my bucket list to take her class. Now more than ever, after the pandemic  has run its course, of course.

STUDIO VISITS BY APPT

34 Mt. Pleasant Ave

Gloucester, MA 01930

​OPERATING HOURS
Mon – Fri: 10am – 9pm
​​Saturday: 10am – 9pm
​Sunday: 10am – 9pm

From Mary’s About page on her newly revamped website –

 

 WHO IS MARY?  

Hmmm….
In the nursery rhyme, she has a reputation for being quite contrary. No doubt some would say in real life too.

Ever desperate for affirmation, this Mary won an art prize in first grade and that was the beginning of “making stuff.” Creating kept me semi-sane in high school and college.  A sculptor student suggested I design wallpaper and I was grievously insulted.  No doubt it would have been more lucrative! But he had a point. I love the strictures of graphic design and the precision of typography.  My first jobs were in the art departments of publishing companies. However the freedom and mess of ink and paint tempted me back to graduate school, where I earned an MFA in printmaking. Since then I have been a practicing artist and educator.

My mixed media work has graced the walls of television shows and movies (thank you set designers), and it is in many collections, both public and private (thank you art reps).  I have shown in Canada and Europe and the USA. One of the best things about printmaking and works on paper is probably also the worst: they tend to be very affordable!  When a young person buys their first piece of original art from me, I am proud.

I hope you enjoy looking around. Please feel free to reach out with any questions (see contact page).

THE BEST TASTING APPLE JUICE YOU WILL LOVE!

Charlotte and I vote Castaways Vintage Cafe the best apple juice you will ever taste, bar none! Bianca’s fresh pressed apple cider is refreshing and absolutely heavenly!

UPDATE ON OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH NESTING PAIR OF PIPING PLOVERS

Dad was sitting sleepily on the nest this morning. The pair has adapted comfortably to the wire exclosure installed by Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and Gloucester DPW’s Joe Lucido.

I didn’t see Mom, but wasn’t able to spend that much time. Last we checked there were three eggs, we’ll see if a fourth is laid 🙂

 

LENNY LINQUATA AT THE BLUE COLLAR LOBSTER CO. IS DOING AN EXTRAORDINARY JOB UNDER COVID PANDEMIC CIRCUMSTANCES – SEE NEW MENU!

Yesterday morning while filming on the waterfront, activity at the Blue Collar Lobster Co. caught my attention and I stopped by to see what was happening. Two words –

S-I-M-P-L-Y A-M-A-Z-I-N-G

The entire front of the house has been enclosed in glass, with a to-go window, which allows for safe food preparation and service. The restaurant is being kept super clean (the steam cleaning man was just finishing up when I stopped by) and everyone is wearing masks.

Don’t you love the “clean pens” and “dirty pens” idea?!

Lenny shares that for the next phase of restaurant openings, June 8th I believe, the outdoor bar and dining area is organized with six foot spacing for super safe dining.

Blue Collar Lobster Co. is now serving lobsters, fresh fried seafood, sandwiches, chowder, cornbread, shrimp, salads, fish tacos, and more . Additionally you can purchase fresh off the boat seafood at wholesale prices including lobsters, haddock, and STEAMERS FOR ONLYY FIVE DOLLARS PER POUND!

Our fabulous steamers from the Blue Collar Lobster Co. No broken or undersized clams– every clam was perfect and delicious! 

It is always so fun and picturesque at the Blue Collar Lobster Co. I plan to stop by on a sunnier afternoon or early evening when the cafe lights are on to take more photos.

Blue Collar Lobster Co. is open SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, 11:30am to 8:30pm

63 Rogers Street in Gloucester

978-283-1812

http://www.gloucesterhouse.com

BEAUTY BY THE SEA WITH PIPING PLOVERS MATING! AND WE HAVE TWO PIPING PLOVER EGGS!!! EPISODE 8

Happy Memorial Day!

The flags that you see lining the boulevard are organized each year by Pauline Bresnihan. She owns the gift shop Pauline’s Giftson Essex Avenue in Gloucester, with many lovely hand painted and whimsical items for your home and garden.

Good Harbor Beach open to half capacity.

Piping Plover endangered/threatened species signs installed at GHB.

Sending thanks and gratitude to everyone who wrote emails ❤

Piping Plovers are on the agenda for the City Council meeting on Tuesday night, which will be live streamed at 7pm.

Alexandra and Jon at Alexandra’s Bread

Castaways Vintage Café

Caffe Sicilia

Short and Main

Beauport Hotel

Incredible job at Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester

Tree Peony, Rock’s peony, divinely scented,five blossoms

Please report your Monarch sightings. .

Piping Plover Chronicles continue –excellent detailed footage of Piping Plovers mating.

Two Eggs!

BEAUTIFUL GOLDEN FEATHERS OF THE NORTHERN FLICKER

BLUETS AND NORTHERN FLICKER – A FAVORITE BIRD AND WILDFLOWER PHOTOGRAPHED TOGETHER!

A chance moment with the elusive male Northern Flicker and a patch of Bluets.

I stopped to take a photo of the Bluets and the Flicker flew onto the scene. My lucky day!

Northern Flickers are a large species of woodpecker. The Northern Flicker found in the eastern half of the country has shafts of yellow on their flight feathers. I would have set my shutter speed for a fast action capture if there had been time but it was only half a minute that he stayed scrounging at the base of the Bluets.

Even though the flying photos are out of focus, you can see the beautiful yellow shafts as the bird takes flight.

Bluets are a lovely native wildflower native to the eastern portion of North America.  The Bluet’s tiny florets range in color from almost white to a dreamy azure blue. Also called Quaker Ladies, the little bunches “quake” in the seasonal breeze! The sweet petite blossoms attract Little Carpenter Bees, Green Metallic Bees, small butterflies, and the Meadow Fritillary Butterfly (Boloria bellona). Both nectar and pollen are the pollinator’s floral reward!

Both the male and female eastern Northern Flicker have the v-shaped red feather patterning. The female lacks the black whisker, visible in the upper photos.

 

VIRTUAL FISH TALES FROM THE WRITERS CENTER!

Friend Henri Ferrini writes,

“I hope all of yours are safe and healthy during these hard times.

I’m writing to ask if you can help spread the word about our upcoming Virtual Fish Tales. As you know Fish Tales is Gloucester’s own story telling project. Redo is an 82 minute program with story told by Dr. Brian Orr, Mari Martin, Casey Breton, Ann McArdle, Erina McWilliams-Lopez, Peggy Lyman and Eric Baumeister. The show starts on Friday the 22nd and will be streamed until the 31st. Tickets are $9.00 and supports the GWC and the Gloucester Stage Company. Given the virtual nature of the event it gives both non-profits an opportunity to raise much needed funds while we are in quarantine.

Here is a hyper link to purchase ticket and poster.

Cheers, Henry”

NEW YOUTUBE SHOW – BEAUTY BY THE SEA EPISODE #7

 

Timelapse Sunrise Twin Lighthouses at Thacher Island

To clarify about My Blog. Several friends have written with confused questions re my blog. I have been writing, filming, designing, photographing, and painting all my life. I started my own blog long before I began contributing to a local community blog. I both wrote and illustrated a book on garden design, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!, which was published by David R. Godine, and have written many articles for numerous publications including a weekly column on habitat gardening. Here is a link to my blog and to my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden.

If you would like to follow or subscribe to my blog, click the Follow button in the lower right hand corner. Thank you so much if you do! http://www.kimsmithdesigns.com.

Baltimore Orioles arrive when the pears and crabapples come into bloom in our garden. Great idea for an Oriole feeder from friend Robin!

Shadblow (Amelanchier canadensis) question from Morgan Faulds Pike

Caffe Sicilia reopening May 20, Wednesday. What are you going to order?

We Love the Franklin Cape Ann

Castaways Vintage Cafe

Gloucester Fisherman’ Wharf

Cedar Rock Gardens

Piping Plover Chronicles –

Piping Plover Smackdowns

Still no threatened/endangered species signage. Please write to your councilor.

How can you help raise the next generation of PiPls? It’s a great deal to ask of people during coronavirus to care for, and write letters about, tiny little shorebirds, but people do care. For over forty years, partners have been working to protect these threatened creatures and it is a shame to put them at risk like this needlessly.  We have been working with Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard and he has been beyond terrific in helping us sort through the problems this year; however, I think if we wrote emails or letters to all our City Councilors and asked them to help us get signs installed it would be super helpful. Please keep letters kind and friendly, or just simply copy paste the following:

Subject Line: Piping Plovers Need Our Help

Dear City Councilors,

Gloucester Plovers need our help. Please ask the Conservation Commission to install the threatened species signs at the symbolically cordoned off nesting areas and at the entrances at Good Harbor Beach.

Thank you for helping these birds raise their next generation.

Your Name

Link to all the City Councilors, but I believe that if you send one letter and also cc to Joanne Senos, a copy will be sent to all the City Councilors. Her address is: JSenos@gloucester-ma.gov

Piping Plover Smackdown

SYMMETRICALLY ALIGNED TWIN LIGHTHOUSE SUNRISE

 

Sunrise between Twin Lights, Thacher Island

WE LOVE AND MISSED YOU FRANKLIN CAPE ANN!

Last night we tried Franklin Cape Ann’s online ordering and curbside pick up. Ordering was a breeze  no funky disconnect as we have experienced at other restaurants, and pick up was a snap.

Our fantastic dinner last night –

Tom had the baked haddock with green beans and garlicky mashed potatoes, which he raved about.

I had the Franklin’s fabulous grilled calamari (the best in town, truly), which is served with white beans and lightly dressed fresh greens.

We shared a delightfully delicious crispy eggplant, tomato, and mozzarella salad.

I inquired, and in a few weeks, they may bring back their world famous orange creme caramel. YUMM!! Everything was perfectly cooked and warm when it arrived home, too. Ten Stars!!

Please Note – If you would like to follow or subscribe to my blog, click the Follow button in the lower right hand corner. Thank you so much if you do!