Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

A Day in the Life of Baby Swans

Meet the Swan family. They live on a pond in Eastern Massachusetts. On an island in the middle of the pond, Papa and Mama built a nest made of cattails, reeds, and sticks. For six weeks Mama and Papa Swan took turns sitting on the nest warming, or incubating, the eggs.

Within hours of hatching, the baby swans, called cygnets, are mobile. Precocial refers to animal species in which the young are relatively mature from the moment of hatching. Within a day or two, Mama and Papa take the cygnets to water for their first swim.

Unlike songbirds, which are born naked, blind, and helpless, cygnets are born with downy soft feathers and with their eyes open. Piping Plovers are another example of a bird species that is precocial. The cygnets will soon outgrow the soft down.

A family of cygnets is called a clutch or brood.

Two week old swans are sleeping on the bank of the pond. Although cygnets are precocial and relatively independent, they are unable to regulate their body temperature. They rely on warmth from Mom and Dad, and from snuggling each other during nap time.

Cygnets absorb the last of their yolk  into their tummies before hatching, which means they don’t have to eat for several days. Their first meal might be a nibble of an insect caught along the water’s edge.

The cygnets forage for insects and pond vegetation.

Precocial birds find their own food, occasionally with instructions from Mom and Dad.See the little tiny V-shaped wing bud, tucked over the bill. Notice how much proportionately larger are an adult swan’s wings (below). Cygnet’s wings grow rapidly. They usually learn to fly  by early fall, at about five months old.

Back to shore to preen and to warm up.

Time for another nap!

An adult swan’s bill has jagged, serrated edges that look like small teeth and are very sharp. Nesting swans can be very aggressive. They will hiss, puff out their feathers to appear larger, flap their wings, move very quickly when angered, and smash their body and wings at a perceived predator. Swans will bite and peck, too. Please keep a safe distance when observing swans, especially nesting swans.

Papa and Mama Swan need their rest, too.

MR. SWAN EMERGENCY

MR. SWAN EMERGENCY

Please share , thank you!
We Friends of Mr. Swan would like to know who posted the do not feed sign because there is a planned “rescue” of him, which is to take place tomorrow, Tuesday.

We are all aware of his injured leg, and expect that it will heal. If it does not heal, we will have a swan expert have a look at him and take him to Tufts, if needed.

To the well-intentioned person, Mr. Swan will be EUTHANIZED if he is rescued by the wrong group. Whoever is planning Tuesday’s rescue should be aware of the following information, passed on by Jodi Swenson, our region’s local bird rescue expert:

“Because he is non-native, Mr. Swan would have to go to New England Wildlife Center. But, if it is just a limp, or something like that, leave him alone because a hurt leg that won’t get better will make him non-releasable, and that means EUTHANASIA”

Please, please contact kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. THANK YOU.

Mr. Swan, filmed several days ago at Niles Pond. He is staying in the water, probably so as not to bear weight on his leg. He is eating fine and his feathers are well-groomed and in good shape, signs that he does not need to be rescued at this point. Also, in order to fly from Henry’s Pond to Niles Pond, he needs to run on his feet, otherwise he won’t become air born. Mr. Swan is well over twenty years old. If his leg is not curable, he deserves to live out his life in his own neighborhood with his friends.

He's a hungry boy today! Mr. Swan at Niles Pond. ❣️

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Alpaca Shearing Day at the Marshall’s Farm

Just like sheep, alpacas need to be shorn at least once a year. Their beautiful fleece is so thick by the time spring comes along, the animals would suffer tremendously in warmer weather if not shorn.

Family and friends lend a hand for alpaca shearing day.

Malcolm Cooper arrived Sunday morning with his assistant Krystian Hoszkiewicz.Expert shearing, with a firm but kind touch. 

Andrew Spinney from Paynter Saltwater Farm in Essex brought three of his alpacas for shearing, along with Maggie the sheep. Maggie likes getting shorn, so much so that she turned into an acquiescing blob of jello.

Angela administers a monthly shot to prevent parasites.

Here’s Nikki helping with the Paynter alpacas. Next is an after-shearing photo, with the Marshall’s daughter Jennifer. What a difference!

Alpaca lower teeth and upper dental pad.

Alpacas only have bottom teeth. On the top they have a hard dental pad. Alpacas eat by trapping grass between their teeth and the dental pad, and then nipping it off. Some alpacas are genetically pre-disposed to misaligned teeth and need to have their teeth trimmed. If the teeth were not trimmed, it could lead to eating disorders and starvation. A protective guard is placed in the mouth and the teeth are quickly ground with an electric grinder. It takes all of about 30 second for an alpaca’s dental treatment!

 

Pippi Longstocking’s first dental check up.

One-year-old alpacas Maisy, Rascal, and Pippi Longstocking had their first shearing. The yarn made from the first shearing is referred to as baby alpaca, and it is silky soft, luxurious, and super warm.

Maggie’s wool is more course and contains lanolin. After she was shorn, you could feel the sticky lanolin on her skin. Because alpaca fleece bears no lanolin, the yarn is hypoallergenic

Pippi Longstocking’s first buzz cut.

Phew, I was exhausted just filming the Marshall Family corral twenty plus alpacas and one tubby little Maggie. The Marshall’s alpacas are beloved family members, each named, and each with a unique personality to go with their name–Pokey, Magnolia, and Rascal, to mention just a few. Animal farming is super hard, non-stop work, especially when the animals are as well taken care of as are the Marshalls.

The public is welcome to come stop by and visit the alpacas. Yarn from the Marshall’s alpacas is available to purchase. At the present time, Angie’s Alpacas is open by appointment. Call 978-729-7180 or email Angela at Angiez65@hotmail.com. Marshall’s Farm is located just next to Marshall’s Farm Stand at 148 Concord Street in West Gloucester.

Sreamin’ Peacock

Today was alpaca shearing day at the Marshall’s farm. We have lots of photos to share and I’ll have time to post them this week. All the while alpaca shearing was taking place, Perry, the Marshall’s peacock, was struttin’ his stuff. There was no peahen in sight, but a certain chicken seemed to have caught Perry’s attention. The peacock mating call sounds more like a piercing scream, very startling the first time heard. Have a listen!

Fancy Meeting You Here

White-tailed Deer Doe

I had a lovely encounter early this morning with a pretty doe. Isn’t she beautiful?  It was around 5:30 am and still a bit dark under the trees. We checked each other out for at least five minutes, me filming away and she nibbling on greens, before she somewhat nonchalantly headed into the woods. The deer appeared on the young side, with her knobby knees and keen curiosity. Please, any deer experts reading this post, do you think she is an adult deer or a teenager? How can you tell? Thank you!

Help With the HarborWalk and Thank You Maggie Rosa!

Would you like to help us spruce up the pollinator gardens at the HarborWalk? The wonderful Maggie Rosa called last week expressing interest in helping care for the garden. We had a nice walk through the HarborWalk and talked about weed versus wildflower. Maggie has already made a tremendous improvement. If you would like to volunteer, I’ll be at the HarborWalk on Sunday morning from 7am to 8:30, before the podcast, and happy to show anyone interested how to identify the wildflowers. Please feel free to comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com if you have any questions. Thank you.

Mom, Why are the Plovers in Jail?

Mama Plover sitting on an egg

This question was asked by a young child visiting the plover nesting area at Good Harbor Beach. Another asked, why are the Piping Plovers in a cage? And today while on plover wellness check, I overheard an adult telling her daughter that the little tufts of dried seaweed within the roped off area are all Piping Plover nests, filled with Piping Plover eggs.

In actuality, there is only one nest in the roped off area, and that nest is in the middle of the net and wire exclosure. The prefix ex in the word exclosure gives us a clue as to the meaning of the word. The contraption is designed to exclude other creatures, not to confine the plovers.

Wildlife monitors will place an exclosure over a nest to prevent people and dogs from accidentally stepping on the eggs and to prevent foxes, other mammals, seagulls, crows, and owls from eating the eggs. The holes in the wire are large enough for a Piping Plover to run freely in an out of the exclosure, and small enough to keep predators out.

What is Foxy Loxy up to? It’s morning and the young fox is very hungry He is foraging in the sand for plover eggs!

You can clearly see the Mom and Dad plover taking turns on the nest. About every twenty minutes or so, they exchange places. When there visiting the plovers with your children bring binoculars or your camera and watch this wonderful story unfolding right here our beautiful Good Harbor Beach.

The very slight depression in the sand in the photo above shows a Piping Plover nest scrape. The diameter of the scrape is about the size of a tennis ball. Sometimes the Dad plover tosses tiny bits of shells or pebbles in the scrape, but just as often as not, the scrape is unlined.