Male Hooded Merganser sparking some love with the ladies.
Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife
CAPE ANN STOPOVER FOR QUARKY PANTS BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON!
What a joy to catch a brief glimpse of this beautiful Black-crowned Night Heron. At this time of year, BCNHs undergo a pre-nuptial molt and the plumage of he/she was stunningly pristine. Both male and female have the long-ribbon-like two feather plumes at the back of the crown. It’s pinkish legs (usually yellow or gray) also tell us he/she is ready for the upcoming breeding season. After taking a few sips of water and a dramatic floofing, the heron headed back over the water toward the open ocean. Safe travels, little migrant!
Day 8 of Covid and still feeling crummy. Short walks and drives are the highlights of the day. So thankful to my husband. There isn’t anyone I would rather be isolated for ten days with than he. Tom has zero symptoms but is extremely patient with mine, and also buying me lots of bubble water, Kleenex, and any other thing that this strange virus sends a need for. Thank you to all my dear friends for all your get well wishes and suggestions. I am so appreciative of your kind thoughts. xoxo
LINK FOR CLEAN THE CREEK HYBRID MEETING THURSDAY EVENING AT SURFARI AT 6:30
Rory McCarthy, who is spearheading the effort to Clean the Creek, writes –
Hope everyone is doing well. We have a hybrid meeting this Thursday, March 16th. The meeting will be at Surfari and on zoom at 6:30pm.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 756 9072 9110
1. Our mission and how we can work together to resolve the problem with the city
2. Governing and decision making structure
3. Committee involvement…ribbed mussels, citizen science, data, beach walk through, press etc.
4. Public Outreach
5. Health data collection…if you have gotten sick please, please, please fill out the form – it is super important
6. Goals for the next 3-6 months
7. Plans of action: emails, signs, grants/funding, etc
8. What are we missing? Please let us know if you think we need to address something
It is super important that we all work together, get the word out, and empower each other by sharing our ideas and experiences. We need to work with the city to better understand the problem in order to provide solutions.
Let’s work together to Clean The Creek!
Rory and Lyndsay
CLEAN THE CREEK HYBIRD MEETING AT SURFARI!
CLEAN THE CREEK
HYBRID MEETING AT SURFARI
THURSDAY, MARCH16TH at 6:30 pm
Bacteria levels (fecal matter) at the Good Harbor Beach Creek are unacceptably high, actually at astoundingly high levels. This is not just a summertime/warm weather issue any longer. Please come to the meeting to learn about how we can all help, short and long term plans to mitigate the issue, how development is impacting the bacteria levels, the wide ranging area from where the bacteria is being emitted (it’s not just “one broken pipe”), and plans to seed Mussels at the Creek.
Rory from Clean the Creek shares information on the upcoming meeting:
Hope everyone is doing well. Christian has kindly opened up Surfari for another hybrid meeting for Clean The Creek next Thursday, March 16, at 6:30pm. There will be a zoom link sent out next week for those that can not make it in person. Hope to see everyone soon!
We are moving ahead and gaining traction. With that said, here is a list of committees that are available to join, including an e-board. If you would like to start your own committee, please reach out and we will incorporate it!
Committee options: community outreach (going to local residents, restaurants, and places like the blue shutters), Graphic design that can create a flyer/yard sign, posting flyers around the city, working with the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Board (organizations that support Gloucester and its economy), citizen science – finding ways to test the water and maybe partner with a local university/organization, and a group to work on finding grants/working with our local congressmen to find funding.
Next week we will discuss our next steps, continuing public outreach, setting a date for a low tide creek walk through and beach cleanup, finding economic data related to GHB, citizen science opportunities, grants/federal fund updates, and any other information that you want to share. Your experience and opinion is important and we want to hear it!
For those that have gotten sick from swimming or surfing in and around the Creek, we need your help. It has been recommended to collect the details of everyone that has gotten sick in a more formal way. We would greatly appreciate it if you could fill out a form. We will compare the dates of your illness to water data. This form can be anonymous and you will be listed as “anonymous stakeholder”.
Looking forward to Clean The Creek!
Flight of the Purple Sandpipers
Look what the storm brought in, on the backshore’s wave washed rocks! I don’t often see Purple Sandpipers in such large numbers.
These pot bellied shorebirds mostly forage along rocky shores and especially love periwinkles
The storm also delivered a flock of Scaups (very weary), Killdeers, and Scoters. Spring migration is underway! And the five American Pipits are still here 🙂
PIPING PLOVER FAQS FROM THE PIPING PLOVER PROJECT
Thank you Friends for writing in some of your most frequently asked questions. I’ve added the questions to the new website, The Piping Plover Project.
Piping Plover Frequently Asked Question
We’re glad you stopped by to learn more about Piping Plovers! The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about nesting Plovers. If you don’t find an answer to your question here, please write in the comments and let us know. The question you have, others may have as well. Thank you!
Do Plovers really start walking as soon as they hatch?
Yes! Plovers are precocial birds. That is a term biologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Unlike songbirds, which generally hatch helpless, naked, and blind, Plovers hatch with downy soft feathers and are fully mobile. They can run, peck, and are learning to forage within a few hours after hatching. The one thing they can’t do is regulate their body temperature. Plover chicks feed in short intervals, then run to snuggle beneath Mom or Dad’s warm underwings.
Do they have predators? What is their greatest threat?
Plover chicks are vulnerable to a great number of predators including Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, American Crows, Peregrine Falcons, Eastern Coyotes, Red Foxes, and Gray Foxes. The greatest threat to Plovers is when dogs are allowed to run freely through the nesting area, which causes the adults to chase the dogs, which leaves the eggs and chicks vulnerable to avian predators. The second greatest threat to Plovers is the garbage left behind by beachgoers, which attracts crows and gulls, both of which eat chicks and eggs.
How many generally survive?
On average, only 1.3 chicks survive per nesting pair. Most chicks are lost within the first two days.
How long does it take a Plover chick to learn to fly?
By the time a Plover is about 25 days old, it can take very brief test flights. At about 35 days, or five weeks, a Plover is considered fully fledged.
Where do they migrate to when they leave their northern breeding grounds?
We know from Plover banding programs conducted at the University of Rhode Island that the majority of Massachusetts Piping Plovers fly non-stop to the outer banks of North Carolina. Here they will stage for about a month. After fattening up for the next leg of their journey, many Plovers from the north Atlantic region migrate to the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Turks and Caicos.
During this staging period, Plovers also undergo a molt, where they lose their old tired feathers and grow new fresh feathers.
Just as Piping Plovers are site faithful to their breeding grounds, so too are they are site faithful to their winter homes.
Do they come back to the same nest site every year?
Remarkably, many mated pairs do return to the very same nesting site. Piping Plovers show tremendous fidelity to each other and to their nesting site. Even though they may winter-over in different locations, Piping Plover pairs may return to their breeding grounds within days of each other, and sometimes on the very same day. The chicks will most likely not return to the precise location of their birth, but may return to the same region.
Why are the areas on the beach roped off .
Plovers need a safe haven from dogs and people when they are nesting, especially on busy beach days. Even after the nestlings have hatched and are running on the beach, the Plovers know that it is generally safe from disturbance within the symbolically protected area. The roped off areas also allows beach vegetation to regrow, which provides shelter and food for the chicks and adults. The new growth helps fortify the dunes against future storm damage and rising sea level.
Why don’t Plovers nest in the dunes.
Plovers generally do not nest in the dunes, but in the sand, precisely where beachgoers enjoy sitting. Plovers evolved to nest in sand. For one reason in particular, their eggs are very well camouflaged in sand, so well camouflaged in fact that is is easy for people and pets to accidentally step on them. Prior to the mid-1900s, beaches were not as widely used as the recreational areas they have become today. There was far less interaction with humans. Nesting in dunes poses an even less safe set of challenges, including predation of their eggs by mammals and rodents.
What’s the story with the local organization that is advocating to harm, eat, and/or kill Piping Plovers?
Piping Plovers are listed as a federal and state protected endangered and threatened bird species. Threatened species are afforded the same exact protections as are endangered species. It is illegal to eat, kill, harm, or harass Plovers in any way, and punishable by fines in the tens of thousands of dollars. If humans intentionally create an untenable situation for nesting birds, a beach may become closed for the season
Plovers are very small, only slightly larger than a sparrow, with unfortunately, a history of harassment that in some cases, has led to death. It’s amazing that such a tender tiny bird can elicit the worst behavior in some humans while also evoking the best in people who recognize their vulnerability.
Fortunately for the Plovers, conservation groups, volunteers, and an ever increasingly aware beach-going population of educated and kind hearted citizens are working toward helping folks better understand that by sharing the shore, we not only allow for our own enjoyment by keeping the beach open to the public, we are protecting and promoting the continuation of a species.
Can’t we just capture the Plovers and take them to a less trafficked beach, or build the birds a nest in a tree?
Plovers do not nest in trees. If the Plovers were removed from the beach, they would very likely return. Plovers will rebuild a nest up to five time during a single season. With continual disturbance to the birds, the end result would be no eggs and no chicks. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act and shorebird conservation programs is to rebuild the population to return the Plovers to safe numbers where we know the species will survive.
Do volunteers come every day?
Yes, PiPl Ambassadors are on the beach everyday, seven days a week, from sunrise until sunset. If you would like to be a Piping Plover volunteers, please contact Kim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment.
THE GREAT BABY GREY SEAL RESCUE BY SEACOAST SCIENCE CENTER!!
A very young Grey Seal pup was stranded for several days at Eastern Point Lighthouse. During his time at the beach, the weanling was closely monitored by Cape Ann resident Alexa Mulroy, who is a volunteer for the Seacoast Science Center, along with Gloucester’s ACOfficers Teagan Dolan and Jamie Eastman.
The little guy was only about 24 inches long and was quickly losing his stored baby fat (because he was not eating while stranded on the beach). For the most part, he remained quiet, although he was feisty enough– growling, barring his teeth, stretching, itching and occasionally moving his flippers. He had a number of small cuts on his flippers and his mouth was bleeding. We nicknamed him EP and everyone hoped he would swim off with the next high tide.
The protocol for seal strandings, if they are not obviously sick or seriously injured, is to wait a day or two before locating a place for them to recover. December through February is Grey Seal pupping season and it’s not uncommon to see these very young seal babies on the beach. SSC volunteer Alexa Mulroy placed symbolic roping and several signs around the seal to let people know of his presence. For the most part, people were respectful, and allowed EP to rest peacefully.
Seacoast Science Center, based out of Rye New Hampshire, is the region’s go-to organization for marine mammal rescue. Although they are not permitted to rescue animals on Cape Ann they can, with special permission from NOAA. EP’s rescue was coordinated by Ashley Stokes, SSC Director of Marine Mammal Rescue and assisted by Brian Yurasits, SSC Marine Mammal Rescue Community Outreach Manager and Rebecca Visnick, Gloucester’s Deputy Shellfish Constable.
With each high tide, EP moved away from the water, not towards, and it became clear that he was not yet ready to return to the sea. Constable Rebecca thought EP was a little over a month old and only recently weaned from his mom.
The challenge became to find a place to take EP. The New England Aquarium, National Marine Life Center (NLMC), or Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) had any openings. Ashley was persistent and fortunately for EP, there was “room at the inn” at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium.
Mid-morning on Friday, Ashley, Rebecca, and Brian arrived at the EPLighthouse beach with truck, a dog crate, and equipment needed to give EP a health assessment before transport. Ashley and Rebecca sort of “swaddled” him prior to administering much needed fluids, he was then placed into the carrier and loaded onto the truck. Brian was in charge of transporting EP to Mystic. We hope we’ll have a positive update in the near future!
Ashley, Rebecca, and Brian
Once again I am struck by how we are all connected by these beautiful wild creatures that travel our shores. Just as was Peregrine Falcon 07/CB that hatched in Newburyport, who was treated for injury at Wild Care in Eastham and at Tufts in Medford, and is now hunting along the shores of Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, Grey Seal pup EP was stranded in Massachusetts, rescued by New Hampshire’s Seacoast Science Center, and will undergo rehab at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.
Donations to Seacoast Science Center are very much appreciated. We residents of Cape Ann are so grateful and appreciate so much their kind assistance. If not for the SSC Marine Mammal Rescue program, Cape Ann would be largely without a resource for organized marine mammal rescues.
If you would like to donate to this very worthwhile science center and marine mammal rescue organization, please go here: DONATE
MARINE MAMMAL RESCUE HOTLINE: 603-997-9488
Not every seal you see on the beach is in need of rescue, in fact, most are not. Seals are semi-aquatic and most haul out to sleep, nurse, soak up the sun, or escape predators (sharks!).
Guidelines provided by SSC on what you should do if you spot a live or dead seal or other marine mammal on a beach.
- Watch quietly from at least 150 feet away
- Keep dogs away from the animal
- Do not pour water on the animal
- Do not offer the animal food or water
- Do not cover the animal with a towel or blanket
- Do not try to move the animal
- Call 603-997-9448 and report the animal’s location, size, coloring, and behavior.
Seacoast Science Center Mission – Our mission is to spark curiosity, enhance understanding, and inspire the conservation of our Blue Planet.
Ashley from SSCMarine Mammal Rescue program shares the following on March 5th –
Update on the Gloucester, MA gray seal
Since being transferred to our colleagues at Mystic Aquarium on February 17th, the gray seal pup from Eastern Point continues to make progress in rehabilitation. He has begun eating fish on his own, is starting to gain weight, and is getting more and more access to pool time to help regain strength and muscle tone. He continues to be monitored closely, as he continues to have an elevated white blood cell count, but is on antibiotics to battle any infection. We remain hopeful for this little gray seal to continue making strides in rehabilitation, with the goal of his release in the not too distant future! Follow SSCMarine mammal on facebook here
1033 PAIRS OF PLOVERS WITH 1,330 CHICKS FLEDGED!!!
We have received outstanding news from our Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird Biologist, Carolyn Mostello. She shared the “Summary of the 2022 Massachusetts Piping Plover Census.” The grand total for Massachusetts breeding pairs of Plovers is a whopping 1033, up 6.8 percent relative to 2021. A total of 1,330 chicks was reported fledged for an overall productivity of 1.31 fledglings per pair.
The summary is prepared each year by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, a division of Mass Wildlife. The Summary is in pdf form and I am happy to email anyone the report if you are interested. Please leave a comment in the comment section and your email will pop up on my end. Thank you for your interest!
The following are some highlights from the Summary –
This report summarizes data on abundance, distribution, and reproductive success of Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) in Massachusetts during the 2022 breeding season. Observers reported breeding pairs of Piping Plovers present at 209 sites; 150 additional sites were surveyed at least once, but no breeding pairs were detected at them. The population increased 6.8% relative to 2021. The Index Count (statewide census conducted 1-9 June) was 1,013 pairs, and the Adjusted Total Count (estimated total number of breeding pairs statewide for the entire 2022 breeding season) was 1,033 pairs. A total of 1,330 chicks was reported fledged in 2022, for an overall productivity of 1.31 fledglings per pair, based on data from 98.6% of pairs.
Piping Plovers are small, sand-colored shorebirds that nest on sandy beaches and dunes along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Newfoundland. The U.S. Atlantic Coast population of Piping Plovers has been federally listed as Threatened, pursuant to the U.S. Endangered Species Act, since 1986. The species is also listed as Threatened by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife pursuant to the Massachusetts’ Endangered Species Act.
Population monitoring is an integral part of recovery efforts for Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996, Hecht and Melvin 2009a, b). It allows wildlife managers to identify limiting factors, assess effects of management actions and regulatory protection, and track progress toward recovery. In this report, we summarize data on abundance, distribution, and reproductive success of Piping Plovers breeding in Massachusetts in 2022, as observed and reported by a coast-wide network of cooperators.
Monitoring and management of Piping Plovers and other coastal waterbirds in Massachusetts is carried out by wildlife biologists, seasonal shorebird monitors, beach managers, researchers, and volunteers affiliated with over 20 federal and state agencies, local municipalities, local and regional land trusts, private conservation organizations, and universities. Cooperators monitored 359 sites in Massachusetts in 2022 for the presence of breeding Piping Plovers.
* * *
Long term trends in breeding Piping Plover population size and productivity are shown in Figure 5. The five-year running average of productivity has declined overall since 1995; however, there is a noticeable increase since reaching a low point in 2013. Since 2018, the five-year average of productivity has been above the approximately 1.2 fledglings per pair thought to be necessary to maintain a stable population (Melvin & Gibbs 1996) 2, and the breeding population has increased dramatically over that period. In fact, since state-wide monitoring began, this is the first year where the estimated number of territorial pairs has exceeded 1,000 in the state of Massachusetts, far exceeding the goal of 625 pairs throughout New England identified in the Piping Plover Atlantic Coast Population Recovery Plan. Although the New England Piping Plover population has exceeded the population recovery goal, that is not the case for other regions along the Atlantic Coast.
CHECK OUT TODAY’S GLOUCESTER TIMES “TALK OF THE TIMES!” Ambassadors sought to watch over Plover chicks
GLOUCESTER DAILY TIMES
TALK OF THE TIMES/ All Hands
Saturday, February 18, 2022
A Gloucester group is seeking volunteers to help look after the piping plovers when they nest at Good Harbor Beach, and setting up a website, pipingploverproject.org, offering information on the birds.
“We have received a number of inquiries regarding the upcoming plover season,” said Gloucester resident and Piping Plover Ambassador Kim Smith of the website. “And we wanted to have a page ready where people could find sign up information.”
“I envision this site as a place where we can not only get information, updates, and stories about our Cape Ann plover families, but to also learn more about plovers in general, other shorebirds, habitat conservation, and how climate change is impacting all,” said Smith in an email.
NEW WEBSITE HOME FOR OUR PIPING PLOVER PROJECT!
Our new website, The Piping Plover Project, is under construction nonetheless, I wanted to get it up and running. We’ve received a number of inquiries regarding the upcoming Plover season (just around the corner if you can believe it!) and we wanted to have a page ready where people could find sign up information.
I envision this site as a place where we can not only get information, updates, and stories about our Cape Ann Plover families, but to also learn more about Plovers in general, other shorebirds, habitat conservation, and how climate change is impacting all. If you come across a story or article you would like to see posted here, please forward along. Or if you have a story of your own you would like to share, please, by all means we would love to read it. If you would like to follow this site, move your cursor in the lower right corner and a “follow” box should appear.
Link to website: The Piping Plover Project
Still to come is the FAQs page, which you can help me write if you would like. If an Ambassador is reading this, please let me know what questions you are frequently asked. If a PiPl Friend, please write if you have a question you would like answered. Thank you!
More about becoming a Piping Plover Ambassador
What are the responsibilities of a Plover Ambassador? Plover management is as much about people management as it is about caring for the Plovers. We believe we play an important role in not only representing the Plovers, but it is equally as important to represent Gloucester and Rockport in a positive light. We are there to answer questions, share information, point out the location of the Plovers to interested beachgoers, and direct foot traffic away from the chicks when they are on the beach foraging and resting. Many of our Ambassadors even share their binoculars to better help visitors enjoy watching the chicks.
We begin watching over the chicks on their first day, the day they hatch. The shifts are roughly an hour long, everyday, for about five weeks. We provide coverage from sunrise until sunset. Each person signs up for a specific time ie., 7 to 8, 8 to 9, etc. Several of our Ambassadors like to share their shift with a friend and switching your times around with a fellow Ambassador is okay, too.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about becoming a Piping Plover Ambassador, please contact Kim Smith at email@example.com or leave a comment in the comment section
We are also planning to link this site to a QR code to help folks on the beach who are curious and want to learn more about Cape Ann Plovers.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to being in touch during this upcoming season of Piping Plover chronicles.
Link to website: The Piping Plover Project
Hours-old Piping Plover chick, with egg tooth
NEW SHORT FILM – SNOW BUNTINGS IN THE SNOW!
A captivating flock of Snow Buntings foraging at the Eastern Point salt marsh, set to Debussy’s beautiful flute prelude. LOVE Snow Buntings and their mesmerizing flight pattern! Watch how beautifully they have evolved in their ability to find food in the snowy landscape.
See also a Horned Meadow Lark- I often see the larks foraging along with the Snow Buntings and there was one with the flock.
Royalty and copyright free music from the Internet Archives: Claude Debussy “Prélude À L’apres-midi D’un Faune.”
COYOTE MATING SEASON!
Are you seeing more Coyotes (Canis latrans) lately? The reason may be because Coyotes are breeding. Mating season peaks in mid-February and at this time of year we often observe pairs. If you are seeing Coyotes in your neighborhood, please write. Thank you!
Coyote on the Prowl – The beautiful robust Coyote seen in the above clips was successful hunting an Eastern Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus). After capturing and then, I think, double checking that it was fully incapacitated, he gleefully rolled around on the Meadow Vole many times over before resuming eating. Royalty free music by Antonio Vivaldi ” L’inv erno, Concerto No.4 In Fa Minore.”
I haven’t seen our neighborhood Coyotes recently, perhaps because several unfortunately had what appeared to be very advanced stages of mange.
Eastern Coyote pup image courtesy Wiki Commons media
The average gestation period for Coyotes Is about 63 days, which means the pups are usually born from mid-March to mid-May. The litter may be anywhere from four to seven pups. Coyotes usually sleep above ground. The only time they use a den is during pup season. A den my be a rocky outcrop, hollowed out tree stump, or an existing burrow made by a Racoon, Red Fox, or other mid-sized burrowing mammal. Sometimes the female digs a den from scratch.
The Eastern Coyote is a colossally successful species. The map below illustrates how dramatically the Eastern Coyote’s range has expanded in less than 120 years.
HANK HERON CATCHES A WHOPPER!
For many months, we lovers-of-Niles Pond have been treated to the presence of a regularly appearing Great Blue Heron. Great Blue Herons are nothing new to Niles Pond, it’s just that this one could be seen daily at one corner of the Pond. The elegant heron was assigned the nickname Hank by my friend Pat Morss. Hank hunted, preened, and rested for hours on end in this one particular spot. Occasionally we would see two Herons, Hank in his location, and the others around the perimeter of the Pond.
The fish in the film clip is the largest i have seen Hank catch. I think it’s a Common Yellow Perch, but if my fishermen friends know differently, please write.
Hank didn’t mind when the Pond briefly froze over as he was still able to find food. He departed after the ice skaters arrived. Of course the Pond is for all to enjoy, I just don’t think Hank felt comfortable sharing. Lately, a solitary GBH that looks alike like Hank has been foraging at the salt marsh at Good Harbor Beach. Hopefully, if it is Hank, he will get the 411 to head south 🙂
WINTER ROBINS IN THE HOOD AND BEST PHOTOBOMB!
The “winter” Robins are all about, some in flocks of only Robins; other flocks comprised of Starlings and Cedar Waxwings. Here in Essex County the flocks are traveling from neighborhood to neighborhood, devouring fruits and berries of the winterberry bushes, holly, crabapple, and cedar trees, before moving onto the next smorgasbord.
American Robins and Winterberry
Read more here – Robins in Winter
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE AND A JOYOUS NEW YEAR!
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with good health, captivating wild creatures, peace, love, and happiness. I am thankful for our shared love of wildlife great and small, but most especially for your love of Monarchs, Piping Plovers, and beautiful wild life habitats.
Hip Hop (left) and sibling, tucked under Dad’s warming wings
SECOND GOOD HARBOR BEACH WORKSHOP TONIGHT – Protecting and Preserving the Good Harbor Beach Ecosystem for Current and Future Generations
Jayne Knot from TownGreen conservation group writes,,
Town Green is hosting its second workshop/webinar in the series focusing on the Good Harbor Beach ecosystem: Protecting and Preserving the Good Harbor Beach Ecosystem for Current andFuture Generations. The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem includes Good Harbor Beach, Salt Island, the marsh, and the surrounding connected ecosystem.
The second workshop/webinar, to be held on Wednesday, November 30th from 6:30-8:30pm on Zoom (register here: https://towngreen2025.org/good-harbor-webinars/11-30-2022-webinar), will address climate adaptation approaches and solutions. A Press Release for the event is attached. For those of you who attended the first workshop/webinar, the format for this one will be a little different. We will have presentations on adaptation during the first hour and then a panel discussion with questions and comments from the attendees during the second hour. We hope you can make it.
Event: The second of a three-part workshop/webinar series focusing on the Good Harbor
Beach ecosystem: Protecting and Preserving the Good Harbor Beach Ecosystem for Current
and Future Generations; Adaptation: Is It Possible?
When: Wednesday, November 30th from 6:30-8:30pm on Zoom (register here)
What: A workshop/webinar focusing on adaptation solutions for the Good Harbor Beach
ecosystem with interactive audience participation.
Regarding Save Salt Island, please remember that the Salt Island RDA is on the schedule for the December 21, 2022 Gloucester Conservation Commission meeting. Please mark your calendars.
NEW SHORT FILM – THE HAIRY WOODPECKER
The wonderful Hairy Woodpecker featured in this short film was seen on a sunny afternoon along the banks of Niles Pond. He spent a great amount of time alternating between excavating a fallen log, foraging for wood boring beetles, and climbing up and down trunks of trees. I’ve been back several times and can usually find him by his funny high pitched squeak that sounds much like a pup’s squeaky chew toy.
Snagging a grub
On that very same day the Hairy Woodpecker was pummeling away at the log, a sweet little Downy Woodpecker and beautiful Red-bellied Woodpecker were also in the neighborhood. And too, there is an elusive golden-winged Northern Flicker flitting about, but he has been a challenge to capture. Hopefully, at some point in the future, we can add him to the short film.
Related Post –
Update from Beaver Pond: A Wonderful World of Woodpeckers!
WHITE-TAILED DOES OF THE WOODLAND EDGE
Sweet encounter with the local deer –
We see this pair of does frequently. Much of the time they dash away into the woody thicket at the hint of human activity. Not this time. I was quietly filming the larger of the two while speaking ever so gently, in what I hoped would sound to a deer like a soothing voice. I crept to a distance of about twelve feet away, right out in the open, and murmuring all the while. It worked! She gently folded her front leg knees and lay down. I stayed and filmed for some time more and then left her still laying down as it was too dark to capture any more footage.
How I wish I had an apple in my pocket! Next time 🙂
LINK TO WCVB CHRONICLE PIPING PLOVER AND MONARCH EPISODE! #ploverjoyed #sharetheshore #plantandtheywillcome
New England residents and nonprofits work to save threatened species
Climate concerns growing for the future of many migratory species.
We travel all over coastal Massachusetts to learn about a few local “indicator species,” which can help explain the impact of climate change. Award-winning documentarian Kim Smith tells us the story of piping plovers breeding in Massachusetts.
The City of Cambridge raises monarch butterflies for release.
Every year, hundreds of sea turtles are stranded on the Cape. The New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital comes to the rescue.
Meanwhile, terrapin turtles on the Cape are struggling to survive.
In Plymouth at Manomet, researchers monitor coastal health, tag songbirds, and study the presence of a mighty migratory shorebird – the whimbrel.
And scientists at Nature and students at Bristol Aggie examine the health of river herring in the Taunton River watershed.
WHERE EVER TRAVELS A FLOCK OF SONGBIRDS, SO FOLLOWS THE COOPER’S HAWK
Throughout the summer and autumn, juvenile Cooper’s Hawk(s) have been observed hunting on Eastern Point. We see them zooming low and stealthily down roadways and soaring high amongst the treetops. There is no way of knowing if they are one and the same although one bird in particular appears to have developed a keen interest in the flock of Dark-eyed Juncos currently foraging in the neighborhood. Nearly every evening at dusk he hungrily swoops in, but never seems to capture one.
Well-camouflaged Dark-eyed Juncos, also known as Snowbirds
The Snowbirds have a neat set of tricks. They all scatter to the surrounding trees and shrubs. The slate gray and brown Dark-eyed Juncos are well camouflaged but that is not their only secret to survival. Rather than singing their typical lovely bird song, from their hiding places, they all begin making an odd chirping-clicking sound. From every bush and shrub within the nearby vicinity, you can hear the clicks. I think the clicking is meant to confuse the Cooper’s Hawk!
He’ll first dive into a bush hunting a Junco, come up unsuccessfully, then swoop over to a nearby tree, perched and well hidden in the branches while on the lookout for dinner. The Snowbirds click non-stop until the Cooper’s departs. After the hunter flies away, they all come out of their hiding places, some from branches mere feet from where the Cooper’s was perched. After a short time, they resume their lovely varied birdsong. I recorded audio of the Junco’s clicking and hope to find out more about this fascinating behavior.
Although we hope the young Cooper’s is finding food, I am rather glad he’s not that good at catching Snowbirds.
Cooper’s Hawks are a conservation success story. You can read more about the reason why in a post form several years ago: SPLENDID COOPER’S HAWK – A CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORY GIVES HOPE. Note the difference in the plumage in the two stories. The Cooper’s Hawk in that post is an adult. The Cooper’s chasing the Snowbirds is a juvenile. Both are about crow-sized, with the typical flat topped head.
BEAUTY ON THE WING WINS BEST DOCUMENTARY!
Dear Monarch Friends,
I am delighted (and very surprised) to share that Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly has won Best Documentary at the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival. I write surprised as there were many beautiful films from around the world participating in the festival, and also because I wasn’t even aware we had been nominated for the award. My sincerest thanks and gratitude to SDIKFF!
Yesterday there were a number of Monarchs out on Eastern Point nectaring at wildflowers and in my garden. It was magical that we learned of the award on the same day as seeing these stragglers. We were celebrating Dia de Muertos here on Plum Street, and on this very same day, November 2nd, Monarchs were spotted arriving at Cerro Pelon and El Rosario Monarch Butterfly sanctuaries. Joel Moreno and his family at Cerro Pelon JM Butterfly BandB spotted the Monarchs traveling high in the sky in the upper thermals while my friend David Hernandez reports that at El Rosario, they are flying low on the mountain.
Will the stragglers that we see at this time of year be able to travel the roughly 3,000 mile journey all the way to Mexico? I don’t know the answer to that question but we can make a guess that if a butterfly looks weather worn, with torn and tattered wings, it is unlikely that it will be able to complete the journey. On the other hand, some of these late Monarchs that we are seeing look as though they just eclosed (hatched) hours earlier. Their wings are a vibrant orange and black and are completely unscathed. Some butterflies will be funneled between the Appalachian and Great Rockies while others are destined to follow the Atlantic coastline, traveling towards Florida and the Gulf of Mexico states.Safe travels Monarca, wherever you land!
I hope you are able to get out and enjoy this extraordinarily lovely stretch of balmy weather we are having.
CELEBRATING DAY OF THE DEAD
Inspired by my friend Nina’s beautiful altar that she and her family and friends create every year for the feast of St. Joseph, for the past seven years or so we have been celebrating Día de Muertos with an ofrenda that we set up on our front porch. Placing the ofrenda on the porch over Halloween makes for a wonderful hybrid bridge between American Halloween and the Mexican tradition of honoring the souls of lost loved ones. On Halloween night our porch has become a gathering place where we so very much look forward to seeing our neighborhood friends each year.
Cemetery Macheros, Mexico
The Mexican festivities of Día de Muertos typically begins the night of October 31st, with families sitting vigil at grave sites. Mexican tradition holds that on November 1st and 2nd, the dead awaken to reconnect and celebrate with their living family and friends; on the 1st to honor the souls of children and on the 2nd, to honor adults. The ofrenda, or “offering to the dead,” is a sacred Mexican tradition where those who have passed away are honored by the living.
In late October millions of Monarchs begin to arrive to the magnificent oyamel fir and pine tree forests of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, located in the heart of Mexico in the eastern regions of Michoacán and western edge of Estado de México. Their return coincides with the annual celebration of Día de Muertos. In Mexican folklore, butterflies represent the souls of departed loved ones, returning to Earth to be remembered by their ancestors. An even older tradition connects the Monarchs with the corn harvest, as their return signified that the corn was ripe. In the language of the native Purpécha Indians, the name for the Monarch is “harvester.”
Oyamel fir tree (Abies religiosa) with Monarchs Cerro Pelon, Mexico
The Day of the Dead finds its roots in the native people of central and southern Mexico. The Aztecs recognized many gods, including a goddess of death and the underworld named Mictecacihuatl.
Mictecacihuatl was linked to both death and resurrection. According to one myth, Mictecacihuatl and her husband collected bones so that they might be returned to the land of the living and restored by the gods. Just as did the ancient Egyptians, the Aztecs appeased the underworld gods by burying their dead with food and precious objects.
Día de Muertos is a celebration blending both indigenous people’s cultural beliefs and observances held by Spanish Catholics. The conquerors found it difficult to convince native peoples to give up their rituals honoring the goddess of death Mictecihuatl. The compromise was to move these indigenous festivities from late July to early November to correspond with the three-day Christian observance of All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
This year I have been thinking about Camille Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre, Op. 40, which is based on the French legend that Death packs a fiddle and comes to play at midnight on Halloween, causing the skeletons in the cemetery to crawl out of the ground for their annual graveyard dance party.
Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre comes from an even older concept, the medieval allegory of the all conquering and equalizing power of death, which was expressed in poetry, music, the visual arts, and drama in Western Europe in the late Middle Ages.
Marigold flowers (Tagetes erecta), known as cempazúchitl or flor de muerto are placed on graves and ofrendas. The cempazúchitl are believed to lure souls back from the dead with their vibrant colors and lovely citrus, musky fragrance
INVASION OF THE GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS AND SNOWBIRDS!
A beautiful multitudinous flock of choristers has been chattering from every vantage point. The mixed flock of Dark-eyed Juncos and Golden-crowned Kinglets arrived to Cape Ann’s eastern edge on the same day. I don’t know if they are traveling together but they can be seen foraging in close proximity, from leaf litter to treetops.
Golden-crowned Kinglets are one of the teeny-tiniest of songbirds; a bit larger than the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but not quite as large as the Black-capped Chickadee. They zoom in and out of the trees (mostly evergreens), hovering and hanging every which way when probing for insect prey.
The Dark-eyed Juncos (also know as Snowbirds) are mostly foraging close to the ground in grass and fallen leaves. They hop from place to place and flip up leaves looking for seeds. The Snowbirds fly up to the trees and shrubs when disturbed.
Note the array of shading in the individual Snowbird’s feathers, from slate gray to milk chocolate
Learn the birdsongs of these two beautiful species and you will easily be able to locate them. The Golden-crowned Kinglet sings a lovely ascending high pitched series of notes that end in a lower pitched warble. The Snowbird sings a series of kew, trills, whistles, and warbles that is also lovely and when the two are foraging in close proximity, it’s a joy to hear their mini symphony.
Golden-crowned Kinglet range map
WHY NILES POND IS VITALLY IMPORTANT TO CAPE ANN’S ECOSYSTEM AND WHAT IS BEING DONE TO PROTECT THE CAUSEWAY
Repair work to the Niles Pond/Brace Cove berm was completed last week. Severe storms over the past several years had breached the area of the Pond adjacent to the Retreat House. Sand, rocks, popples, and even boulders have been pushed by the pounding surf into the Pond.
Despite the excellent repairs, this corner of Niles Pond continues to remain vulnerable. The causeway needs not only to be repaired, but to also be rebuilt to withstand future storms and rising sea level.
Why not just let nature take its course and let the sea pour in you may ask? Won’t Niles Pond eventually become a saltwater marsh? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?
The answer is a resounding NO!
For readers not familiar, the very narrow strip of land that runs between freshwater Niles Pond and Brace Cove is interchangeably referred to as a berm or causeway. This narrowest bridge of land plays an outsized, yet invaluable, role in preventing the salty sea of the Atlantic from swallowing Niles Pond.
It is believed that long ago Niles Pond was a lagoon, which was sealed off by rising sand and rock. Over time, it became a freshwater pond, fed by springs and rainfall. The detail of the Mason map from 1831 clearly shows the division between the Pond and the Cove.
It can’t be overstated enough how uniquely invaluable is the ecosystem created by the causeway, this juncture where Niles Pond meets Brace Cove. Ponds are widely regarded as ecological “hotspots,” for the diversity of life they support. Nowhere is that more evident than at Niles Pond. The sheer number of species of wildlife supported by Niles Pond is simply breathtaking. To name but a few: Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles, Spring Peepers, American Bullfrogs, Leopard Frogs, Muskrats, Minks, Red Squirrels, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Screech Owls and Barred Owls, Cedar Waxwings and songbirds of every tune and color, Honeybees and native pollinators, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Coyotes, Red Fox, White-tailed Deer … the list goes on and on.
Common Buckeye drinking nectar from Seaside Goldenrod, Niles Pond causeway
The Niles Pond ecosystem not only supports myriad species of resident wildlife but also hundreds of species of migrating songbirds, waterbirds, raptors, and insects. Eastern Point is an important stopover and staging area for wildlife traveling the Atlantic flyway. Niles Pond provides essential freshwater while both the Pond and Brace Cove provide much needed sustenance. Berries, wildflower seeds, pond vegetation, and the zillions of invertebrates found at the Pond, in the seaweed, and at the shoreline support a wondrous array of travelers; a small sampling includes herons, Merlins, hawks, songbirds, Monarch butterflies, Bald Eagles, gulls and ducks and geese (rare and common), Snow Buntings, Plovers, Whimbrels, and many more.
Monarch Butterfly drinking nectar Smooth Asters Niles Pond
Juvenile Wood Stork
Why, even the wildly-rare-for-these-parts White Pelican and juvenile Wood Stork have stopped at Niles Pond to rest and to refuel!
To lose Niles Pond to some misguided notion that it needs to become a saltwater marsh would be tragic beyond measure. Our nation as a whole is losing its freshwater ponds at an alarming rate. Ponds are absolutely critical to the survival of local and migrating wildlife, especially large scale, healthy natural ponds that are located within the four US Flyway zones. Niles Pond has been a great pond for millennia. The accessibility of the fresh water ecosystem found at Niles Pond is part of the instinctual DNA of both resident and migrating wild creatures.
The Association of Eastern Point Residents has assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the causeway. In the future, the Association needs permission to bring riprap in to distribute at the weakest points of the causeway. Every time the topography of the causeway is redistributed to rebuild the corner where the greatest number of breaches are occurring, the vegetation from another part of the berm is disturbed. This is wholly counterproductive because it is in part preventing a natural succession of vegetation to permanently take hold.
Migrating yellow-rumped Warbler Niles Pond
Niles Pond is enjoyed by dog lovers, ice skaters, ice boat sailors, birders, painters, photographers, joggers, walkers, and more. We can all give thanks to the Association of Eastern Point Residents for the stellar job they are doing in maintaining the causeway. Their time and expense is a gift of the greatest kind to the entire community.
This narrowest of causeways plays the critical role in preventing a freshwater dedicated Massachusetts great pond from becoming a salty marsh or lagoon. Cherished greatly by residents and guests alike for the beautiful, peaceful walk it affords along the banks of the Pond, the preservation of Niles Pond benefits all of Cape Ann, her citizens and wildlife.
With thanks to Karen Gorczyca, John McNiff, and Mike S. for sharing information about preserving the Niles Pond causeway.
Cattails Niles Pond
RARE LARK SPARROW RETURNS TO #gloucesterma!
The Lark Sparrow returns! It’s been a delight to observe her foraging at Eastern Point. She has been here for over a week, finding plenty to eat in the seed heads of wildflowers. The Lark Sparrow is also eating caterpillars she uncovers at the base of plants and snatching insects tucked in the tree branches.
You can see from the Lark Sparrow’s range map that she is far off course, although this is the second time I have seen a visiting Lark Sparrow at Eastern Point. In November of 2019, we were graced with an extended visit from a Lark Sparrow. You can read more about that here:
THE RARELY SEEN IN MASSACHUSETTS LARK SPARROW IS STILL WITH US!
While working on the Piping Plover film project, I am also creating a half hour long documentary on the ecology of New England pond life. Some of the beloved creatures that we regularly see at our local ponds that are featured in the film include Beavers, Muskrats, Otters, herons, frogs (of course), raptors, butterflies, bees, spiders, turtles, snakes, songbirds, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Being able to include rarely seen wild creatures such the Lark Sparrow, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and the Orange-crowned Warbler adds to the joy and fun of the film and i am so excited to be working on this project. I just hope I can edit everyone in within a half hour time frame!
Lark Sparrow Eastern Point 2022
When out in the field and only a quick glance is afforded, the easiest way to tell the difference between the the Lark Sparrow and the Song Sparrow, (the sparrow most commonly seen in these part) is to compare breast feathers. The Lark Sparrows breast is white with only faint streaking and a prominent black spot in the center of the upper chest. Compare that to the more heavily streaked Song Sparrow’s chest feathers (see below).