Although not photographed at Good Harbor Beach but at one of the many locations where I am documenting Piping Plovers, the egg is noteworthy because the pair of Plovers that laid this egg arrived in Massachusetts the same week as did our Good Harbor Beach pair.Precious wildlife eggs symbolizing new life and fresh beginnings, glowing pearlescent and arrestingly beautiful in myriad sizes and colors. Piping Plover egg laid April 20, 2021
A larger-than-dinner-plate-sized Lion’s Mane Jellyfish was spotted at Niles Beach today by Charlotte and I. We alerted the lifeguards, who dug it up and placed it in a red biohazard bag. Although quite dead, the sting can sill be felt upon contact.
The following are a description and some fun facts from wiki –
The lion’s mane jellyfish, also known as the giant jellyfish or the hair jelly, is one of the largest known species of jellyfish. Its range is confined to cold, boreal waters of the Arctic, northern Atlantic, and northern Pacific Oceans. It is common in the English Channel, Irish Sea, North Sea, and in western Scandinavian waters south to Kattegat and Øresund. It may also drift into the southwestern part of the Baltic Sea (where it cannot breed due to the low salinity). Similar jellyfish – which may be the same species – are known to inhabit seas near Australia and New Zealand.
The largest recorded specimen was measured by Alexander Agassiz off the coast of Massachusetts in 1865 and had a bell with a diameter of 210 centimetres (7 feet) and tentacles around 36.6 m (120 ft) long. Lion’s mane jellyfish have been observed below 42°N latitude for some time in the larger bays of the east coast of the United States.
The lion’s mane jellyfish uses its stinging tentacles to capture, pull in, and eat prey such as fish, zooplankton, sea creatures, and smaller jellyfish.
As coldwater species, these jellyfish cannot cope with warmer waters. The jellyfish are pelagic for most of their lives but tend to settle in shallow, sheltered bays toward the end of their one-year lifespan. In the open ocean, lion’s mane jellyfish act as floating oases for certain species, such as shrimp, medusafish, butterfish, harvestfish, and juvenile prowfish, providing both a reliable source of food and protection from predators.
Predators of the lion’s mane jellyfish include seabirds, larger fish such as ocean sunfish, other jellyfish species, and sea turtles. The leatherback sea turtle feeds almost exclusively on them in large quantities during the summer season around Eastern CanadaThe jellyfish themselves feed mostly on zooplankton, small fish, ctenophores, and moon jellies.
Most encounters cause temporary pain and localized redness. In normal circumstances, and in healthy individuals, their stings are not known to be fatal. Vinegar can be used to deactivate the nematocysts, but due to the large number of tentacles, medical attention is recommended after exposure.
There may be a significant difference between touching a few tentacles with fingertips at a beach and accidentally swimming into one. The initial sensation is more strange than painful and feels like swimming into warmer and somewhat effervescent water. Some minor pains will soon follow. Normally there is no real danger to humans (with the exception of people suffering from special allergies). But in cases when someone has been stung over large parts of their body by not just the longest tentacles but the entire jellyfish (including the inner tentacles, of which there are around 1,200, medical attention is recommended as systemic effects can be present. Although rare, at deep water severe stings can also cause panic followed by drowning.
On a July day in 2010, around 150 beachgoers were stung by the remains of a lion’s mane jellyfish that had broken up into countless pieces in Wallis Sands State Beach, Rye, New Hampshire, in the United States. Considering the size of the species, it is possible that this incident was caused by a single specimen.
Friends, the Piping Plovers are on Good Harbor Beach!! They arrived on March 22nd and are definitely here to stay. The endangered/threatened species signs have Not Yet been installed, so most people are unaware that they are nesting at Good Harbor.
These are the signs that were installed last year on March 27, two days after the Piping Plovers arrived. Dave Rimmer and Essex County Greenbelt were working with us last summer and their ongoing support was one of the key reasons why we were able to successfully fledge three chicks.
Piping Plover nest scrape, March 2020
The little Dad is building tiny nest scrapes in the sand in nearly the exact same area they were nesting at last year. Please be on the look out and please give them some space until the proper roping and signs are installed. Thank you so much!!!
In case you don’t recall where they were last year (and the three years prior to that), they have made an area between Boardwalk No.3 and the corner of Saratoga Creek their home.
About a week ago, a very narrow corridor of symbolic roping was installed along the entire length of the beach; we presume for dune conservation, because it is far too narrow for the PiPls.
Currently, the PiPls are hanging out and nest scraping about ten to twelve feet outside the area where the symbolic fencing ends. We need to widen the area to create a similar footprint to last year’s to make a safe zone for the PiPls.
In the above photo taken a few days ago, you can see where the PiPls are trying to nest, outside the roped off area (Papa Plover is in the lower left quadrant, almost to the midline of the photo). The bird’s efforts are constantly thwarted by people and dogs, no fault of the peoples, because no one knows the PiPls are here without proper signage.
People are sitting in the area where the PiPls are repeatedly trying to nest. This nice group of young folks was not aware that the PiPls are here, because there are no signs posted.
The most important thing for everyone to remember is that the earlier the Piping Plovers are allowed to nest, the earlier they are off the beach. Allowing them to nest early is doubly important this year because as the pandemic breaks, our beaches are going to be flooded with people. It’s no use to say well they should just find another beach, because these lack of habitat issues are taking place at beaches on both coasts. Wildlife doesn’t stop being threatened or endangered because there is a pandemic, nor does our responsibility to help the birds survive.
If the city has the manpower to place fencing along the entire length of the beach, then we have the manpower to set aside one small area for the PiPls, and to install the endangered/threatened species signs.
If the City does not have the manpower or the funds for signage, then it is not too late to contact Essex Greenbelt for assistance.
I hope you are all doing well, or as well as can be expected during this heartbreaking pandemic event. The following kind words were spoken by Pope Francis today and I think they could not be truer.
“We are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed,” he said.
“All of us called to row together, each of us in need of each other.”
In the world of wildlife, spring migration is well underway and gratefully, nothing has changed for creatures small and large. That may change in the coming days as resources for threatened and endangered species may become scarce.
A friend posted on Facebook that “we are all going to become birders, whether we like it or not.” I love seeing so many people out walking in the fresh air and think it is really the best medicine for our souls.
Several times I was at Good Harbor Beach over the weekend and people were being awesome at practicing physical distancing. Both Salt Island Road and Nautilus Road were filled with cars, but none dangerously so, no more than we would see at a grocery store parking lot. I’m just getting over pneumonia and think I will get my old bike out, which sad to say hasn’t been ridden in several years. Cycling is a great thing to do with a friend while still practicing distancing and I am excited to get back on my bike.
An early spring wildlife scene update
The Niles Pond Black-crowned Night Heron made it through the winter!! He was seen this past week in his usual reedy location. Isn’t it amazing that he/she survived so much further north than what is typical winter range for BCHN.
Many of the winter resident ducks are departing. There are fewer and fewer Buffleheads, Scaups, and Ring-necked Ducks at our local ponds and waterways.
No sign lately of the American Pipits. For several days there were three! Snow Buntings at the Brace Cove berm.
As some of the beautiful creatures that have been residing on our shores depart, new arrivals are seen daily. Our morning walks are made sweeter with the songs of passerines courting and mating.
Song Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Robins, Cardinals, Chicadees, Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, and Carolina Wrens are just a few of the love songs filling backyard, fields, dunes, and woodland.
Newly arrived Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets have been spotted at local ponds and marshes.
Cape Ann’s Kildeers appeared about a week or so ago, and wonderful of wonderful news, a Piping Plover pair has been courting at Good Harbor Beach since they arrived on March 22, a full three days earlier than last year.
Why do I think it is our PiPls returned? Because Piping Plovers show great fidelity to nesting sites and this pair is no exception. They are building nest scrapes in almost exactly the same location as was last year’s nest.
We should be seeing Fox kits and Coyote pups any day now, along with baby Beavers, Otters, and Muskrats 🙂
It’s been an off year for Snowy Owls in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic with relatively many fewer owls than that wonderful irruptive winter of 2017-2018 when Hedwig was living on the back shore. 2019 was a poor summer for nesting however, reports of high numbers of Lemmings at their eastern winter breeding grounds are coming in, which could lead to many owlets surviving the nesting season of 2020, which could lead to many more Snowies migrating south this coming winter of 2020-2021.
Take care Friends and be well <3
The bright yellow and prominently positioned No Dog signs went up this afternoon. One is placed at each entrance–the footbridge, the parking lot, and Whitham Street. They are also positioned to hide the ultra confusing blue signs.
I think the signs will be of immeasurable help in getting people to understand the ordinance change. Thank you so much to Gloucester’s DPW Mike Hale and to the City for getting it right!
The Bachelor has returned and he was up to his old tricks this morning, trying to horn in on Mama. Neither Papa nor Mama were having any of it and all three took off down the beach with the mated pair pursuing the unmated male. A confrontation (PiPl style) then ensued where both males puffed out their chests and repeatedly ran towards each other, until the bachelor backed down and flew away.
The photos were taken far down the beach, but at least you can see all three, with the two males positioned for battle. Disputes between PiPls, over territory and mates, take place where ever the shorebirds nest.
REMINDER: The new Good Harbor Beach ordinance is in place prohibiting dogs during shorebird nesting season. No Dogs are allowed at Good Harbor Beach anytime of day or night from April 1st to October 1st.
Scott has been working with Laurinda and Patti from the Cape Ann Photography Club on the glass box signs. Scott posted the flyers and the Club has changed the date at the footbridge entrance. We’re looking forward to seeing the changes at the other glass box display cases. Thank you Scott for your tremendous follow through!
Folks are disbelieving of the fact that there were a plethora of dogs on Good Harbor Beach on Saturday , with nearly as many on Sunday. The images aren’t that great and I wasn’t planning on posting the photos but because people (who know better) are saying outlandish things, here are two batches from Saturday. The first batch are only some of the dogs because when you are standing at the Whitham Street entrance, it is impossible to document the dogs at the footbridge end, and vice versa. The second batch were taken at approximately 4:15 from the footbridge end.
Saturday morning – approximately 10:30am to 12:30pm on Saturday April 6, 2019
Saturday afternoon at approximately 4:15
Work has begun in earnest sorting through all the Piping Plover footage and editing the documentary. In the mean time, I thought readers would enjoy this rare moment where we catch a glimpse of the new born chicks, and both mom and dad together.
Impossibly tiny—no larger than a marshmallow—moments after hatching Piping Plover chicks are on the move, running, tumbling, somersaulting, face-planting, and curious about every little thing in their brand new great big world. PuffPuff, FluffFluff, and TootsiePop are less than twenty-four hours old in this clip. Our East Gloucester neighborhood kids named the Plover family after spending an afternoon getting to know them, watching safely from beyond the roped off area.
Dad Joe finds an impression in the sand and the chicks come running to warm under his protective wings. Piping Plover chicks can feed themselves at birth but can’t yet perfectly regulate their body temperature. They need Mom and Dad for protection and for the warmth they provide. After a few moments rest, Joe pops up and Joy zooms in to take his place. Watch how PuffPuff does a somersault and FluffFluff gives her a little bump out of their cozy nest. Mom runs off camera to create a new resting spot and the chicks are chided by piping calls to come join her.
In shades of bone and driftwood, note how beautifully the Plovers are camouflaged in the colors of the sand and dry beach grass. There isn’t a living thing that doesn’t pose a threat to these most vulnerable of creatures. For protection against predators they will soon learn how to stand perfectly still when Joe and Joy pipe commands, but for now, it’s willy-nilly around the beach, much to the parents great consternation.
Thanks to Esme, Lotus, Meadow, Frieda, and Ruby for naming the Piping Plover family!
Rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat resonating through the tree tops. The little wild wood encircling Beaver Pond was alive with a veritable rhythm band. I must have arrived on the ideal day, for there were seemingly dozens of woodpecker excavations taking place. Not one, not two, but three different species of woodpeckers were drumming the forest canopy!
It is no mystery as to why the pond shore is a sanctuary for woodpeckers, surrounded as it is with trees in a wonder of varying stages of decay. Woodpeckers excavate dead and dying trees and limbs not only to create nest cavities and to forage for insect prey, but to also enlarge cavities used for winter shelter. During the fall, a woodpecker will spend about a week excavating winter roosting holes.
Woodpeckers mostly eat insects, in all stages, from egg to larvae to pupae to adult. During the winter their diet is comprised of seeds, nuts, fruits, and berries. The woodpecker’s tongue is quite extraordinary, being long and extendable, and also coated with bristly hairs. Woodpeckers use their tongues to spear and extract wood-boring insects, as a sticky trap for catching ants, and as a brush for licking up sap.
Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers look similar. Hairy Woodpeckers are about the size of an American Robin. Downies are smaller and their bills are more delicate in appearance. The outer edge of their tail feathers are white, barred with black, lending a spotted appearance. The outer edge of the tail feathers of Hairy Woodpeckers is pure white (see top photo above to compare).
Winter roosts created by woodpeckers may later provide shelter or nest sites for many other species of animals including owls, flying squirrels, bluebirds, nuthatches, and chickadees.
I’ve returned to Beaver Pond several time since the day the bonanza of woodpeckers was photographed but haven’t been treated to the rhythm band since. A few woodpeckers have been sighted, their calls noted, and only an occasional distant drumming heard. Perhaps they are tending other tasks in preparation of winter, collecting and caching food in their newly excavated holes.
There are a few moments after sunset when the light is still bright enough to photograph and to film. The Beaver Family makes their appearance just about then but none have ventured to the side of the pond where I am stationed since that one evening when a solitary beaver swam within arm’s reach. But I am patient.
Abbie Lundberg, Tony’s wife, writes: “Tony brought home a bunch of sand fleas yesterday and the seahorse was excited – hunting and catching some, but he then spit them back out. The aquarium never called back, so Tony decided to release him today, back in the same area he found him. (Of course the aquarium called after that happened ) Hopefully he’ll find his way back to warmer waters.”
Thank you to Abbie and Tony for sharing their seahorse capture and release story. Readers may have noticed in the comment section of the previous update that lobsterman Gary also came home with a seahorse, which he found off Plum Cove Beach. I never would have imagined that we have seahorses, even occasional ones, living in the cold waters of Cape Ann, but it is truly exciting to know they are here.
Here’s a short video of a Lined Seahorse that I shot at the aquarium in Cincinnati while visiting relatives about five years ago. Although the same species as Gloucester’s little seahorse, note the two wildly different colors. Lined Seahorses change color to blend with their environment, which aids in capturing prey.
On Tuesday morning, October 4th, I’ll be at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead to give my lecture on “The Pollinator Garden,” at 9:30am. I hope to see you there!
No, That is Not a Monarch Caterpillar on Your Carrot Plant
By far the most popular post on my website is titled “No, That is Not a Monarch Caterpillar on Your Parsley Plant.” It has been the most trafficked post for several years, if you can believe it, and here is why.
Last fall, almost exactly to the day, through my office window I heard the sound of sweet voices on our front porch, well after dark, and wondered what our neighborhood dog walkers were doing out so late. It wasn’t dog walkers, but our neighbor Sharon and her son Treely, wondering what to do with what they thought was a Monarch caterpillar they had found in their garden. I sent them on their way with one of our terrariums and instructions on how to care for their little Black Swallowtail caterpillar.
Treely’s Black Swallowtail caterpillar turned into a chrysalis (in other words, pupated), spent the winter in the terrarium in a sheltered spot outdoors, and then emerged right on schedule this past spring. The Dowds returned the terrarium as it was needed later in the summer for our Cecropia Moth caterpillars.
Imagine how sweetly funny to get a call from my friend Michelle, wondering what to do with their newly discovered Monarch caterpillar. My first question to Michelle was did she find the caterpillar on her milkweed? No, she reported, it was found on carrot foliage. Michelle and her children, Meadow and Atticus, along with friend Sabine, stopped by this afternoon to learn about how to take care of their tiny little Black Swallowtail caterpillar and I sent them on their way with the ‘traveling terrarium.’
If you find a caterpillar in your garden, the first clue to identifying is to see on what food plant they are munching. Caterpillars that are actively feeding are usually only found on their larval host plant(s), the plant they have developed a distinctive coevolutionary relationship with over millennia. For example, female Monarch butterfly caterpillars deposit their eggs only on members of the milkweed family. Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat the foliage only from plants in the carrot family, which includes carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, parsnips, and Queen Anne’s lace. You may have noticed if ever weeding Queen Anne’s lace that the root looks identical in shape to a carrot, only it is white.
Chances are, you will never find a Black Swallowtail caterpillar on you milkweed plants and conversely, you will never find a Monarch caterpillar on your carrot plant (or parsley, dill, or fennel).
I am excited to hear from Michelle and the kids how their little caterpillar is developing over the next few weeks!
Here’s another sweet little migrating feathered friend observed recently on our shores. A bit bigger than the Sanderlings, and not quite as large as the Black-bellied Plovers with which it was feeding, the solitary Ruddy Turnstone’s bright orange short, stocky legs and big feet are what caught my attention. Although its behavior is anything but, the Ruddy Turnstone is anther one of the birds whose plumage appears almost boring compared to its beautiful harlequin patterned summer coat.
As are Black-bellied Plovers and Red Knots, the Ruddy Turnstone is highly migratory, breeding on the rocky coasts and tundra of the Arctic and spending winters in coastal areas throughout the world. And like members of the plover family, the male’s nest-like scrapes are part of the courtship ritual. I was excited to learn Ruddy Turnstones’s are a member of the plover family (Charadriidae) and thought it would be a great addition to our Piping Plover documentary however, as scientists are want to do, they have reclassified the RT and it is now considered a member of the sandpiper family (Scolopacidae). Oh well.
During the non-breeding season, look for the Ruddy Turnstone on rocky shorelines where it energetically feeds by probing and pecking, seeking aquatic invertebrates and insects at the surface of rocks. I believe Ruddy Turnstones are seen with regularity on the “other” Cape. I wonder how many of our readers see Ruddy Turnstones on Cape Ann, and if so so where, and what time of year? Please share, if you do, the information is wonderfully helpful. Thank you!
Angela Marshall is simply amazing. Since the last time I stopped by to say hello and visit her beautiful alpacas, which was only several weeks ago, she has set up a charming shop in a tiny little red shed that was recently added to the Marshall family compound of farm buildings. Freshly scrubbed, painted, and wares beautifully displayed, there is something for everyone in this petite shop.
The skeins of yarn are shorn and spun from her alpacas and come in a lovely array of soft, natural shades, from creamy white to rich chocolatey browns and blacks. Alpaca, which is as luxurious as cashmere, is not only one of the warmest fibers, it is not in the least itchy.
At Angie’s Alpacas you’ll find alpaca hats, mittens, hand warmers, scarves, socks, super comfortable felted alpaca insoles, and much more.
The alpaca named Magnolia came over to check out the above afghan-in-progress. Christy Marshall, now living in Georgia, is visiting the family farm and is crocheting the throw. The white in the afghan comes from Magnolia!
Presently, Angie’s Alpacas is open by appointment. Call 978-729-7180 or email Angela at Angiez65@hotmail.com. As the shop becomes established, so too will the hours. A website and Facebook page, created by Angela’s daughter Jenn, are underway. Angie’s Alpacas is located at Marshall’s Farm, 148 Concord Street, Gloucester.
You can see Angie’s Alpacas yarns and accessories tomorrow, Saturday, October 1st, at the Fall Festival at Mile Marker One. If the weather isn’t too inclement, the Marshall’s alpacas will be there as well. Admission to the festival is free.
Harumby is growing so quickly, both eating hay and nursing simultaneously.
That’s Angela in the background. She works from sunup till well past sundown. It’s a tremendous amount of work taking care of the alpacas, all the farm animals, and managing the office at Marshall’s Landscaping Supply.
Thank you Nicole Duckworth for the photo caption 🙂
There have been few Monarch sightings this summer but I have been hoping for a strong fall migration. The migration is peaking in Kansas and we are always a little bit behind. Please let me know if you see a Monarch, and where. Thank you very kindly!
Monarchs are emerging daily in our garden, from eggs collected at my friend’s field in Salem. This too would be an indication that we may be seeing them soon.
This newly eclosed Monarch is clinging to its chrysalis case. Within moments of emerging, the two-part Monarch proboscis must zip together to form a siphoning tube. If the two parts do not join, the butterfly will not be able to drink nectar. In this photo, you can see the proboscis is not yet fully zipped. Note its wet, crumpled wings.
Sea salps, those gentle gelatinous barrel-shaped and penny-sized free-floating tunicates, have returned to our shores. Salps are completely harmless although honestly, they can be a bit annoying to swim through. A few always manage to get stuck in the bra area of my swimsuit, which is a little yucky, but nothing more than a nuisance.
Salp reproduction is fascinating, amazing actually. The salps that we saw at Good Harbor Beach this week were in the oozoid phase. They were singular individuals. The solitary salp reproduces asexually by producing a chain of up to hundreds in the aggregate, or blastozooid, stage. In this short film you can see both the oozoid and blastozooid phases.
Noticeably growing larger day by day, the biggest caterpillar of our batch of Cecropia Moth caterpillars (nicknamed Mothra) still has a ways to go before he/she pupates and becomes a cocoon for the winter.
The colorful protuberances with black spikes are thought to mimic either a poisonous plant or animal and are a defense against predators. Like most caterpillars, the Cecropia moth caterpillar has five pairs of prolegs. The green prolegs are blue at the base with a row of microscopic hooks, or crochets, that enable walking and clinging.
Although the Cecropia Moth has the largest wingspan of any moth found in North America, its caterpillar is not the largest caterpillar. That honor goes to the caterpillar of the Royal Walnut Moth, also called Regal Moth, which in its caterpillar stage is called the Hickory Horned Devil.
Thank you again to friend Christine for the Cecropia Moth eggs. The eggs that she gave me are the offspring of the male Cecropia Moth that she is holding in the photo above.