Listen to the music, where seaside marsh meets grassland meadow, while Mom and Dad Eastern Bluebirds feed their nestlings.
Filmed at Cox Reservation, Great Marsh, Essex County.
Filmed at Cox Reservation, Great Marsh, Essex County.
This past week after enjoying a delicious lunch of clam chowder and fried clams at Woodman’s, Charlotte, my friend Claudia, and I stopped by Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation en route home. Claudia moved to CapeAnn a year ago and had never been. She was delighted to know about Cox Reservation for future beauty walks through meadow and marsh and of course Charlotte had a fantastic time as she always does when running about in nature. While there, we spied a Monarch depositing eggs on Common Milkweed shoots emerging in the grassland meadow.
I returned the following day to see if the female Monarch was still afield and to try also to capture an audio recording of the music where ‘seaside marsh meets grassland meadow.’
I found so much more. A photo tour for your Memorial Day weekend –
Bobolinks in the Chokecherry Tree (Prunus virginiana)
We’re accustomed to hearing and seeing male Red-winged Blackbirds; it’s not often we see the females as they are usually on the nest. This pretty female flew into a tree, waved her wings, and stuck out her very showy cloaca. I wasn’t sure what she was up to and when a male came from nowhere and suddenly jumped on her back to mate, I was startled and unfortunately jerked the camera, but you get the idea.
Female Red-winged Blackbird
Male and Female Eastern Bluebirds feeding their brood
Osprey pair nesting in the far distant marsh
Please share your Monarch sightings. We would love to hear from you <3
This Mama Monarch photographed yesterday was zeroing in and depositing eggs on the freshly emerging shoots of Common Milkweed sprouting in the grassland meadows at Cox Reservation.
On May 21st the first Monarch was spotted; this is the earliest many of us have seen Monarchs in our gardens, dunes, and meadows. MJ observed one on the 21st in Lanesville, Patti in East Gloucester on the 23rd (she has tons of milkweed), Duncan spotted one at Brier Neck, they are in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach in the Common Milkweed patches, in my garden (also lots of milkweed), and have been seen at several Greenbelt sanctuaries, both Castle Neck River Reservation and Cox Reservation.
The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch – share with kids!
The Essex County Greenbelt Association has been selected as the Winner for the 2021 Best of Essex Awards in the category of Non-Profit Organization. Notice to other winners in Essex is happening over the next few weeks. The entire list of winners will be posted after all recipients have been contacted.
Oh Happy Day! Our amazing Mom and Dad Plover have done it once again. Despite raging wave and wind storms that brought super high tides all the way to the base of the dunes, along with cold wet weather, we have a nest with two beautiful eggs!!!
The pair nesting at area #3 are our original Mom and Dad; the two have nested in nearly exactly the same spot for six years. They are super experienced parents and because it is not too late in the season and if all goes well, the chicks will be approximately 2 to 3 weeks old by July 4th, which will increase their odds of surviving exponentially.
Over the course of the next several days, we hope the pair will lay two more eggs. They will continue to mate during the egg laying period. Please do not hover by the edges of the roped off area; this only serves to disrupt the Plovers reproductive behavior and attracts gulls and crows. Thank you!This morning Dave Rimmer, Essex County Greenbelt’s director of land stewardship, along with his assistant Adam Phippen, placed the wire exclosure around the nest. Encircling the nest with an exclosure is a simple, yet extremely effective way to help protect eggs from predators, including gulls, crows, and small mammals such as skunks and foxes. The spacing between the wires of the exclosure is just large enough for PiPl parents to run in and out, but too small for most other creatures.
I was so proud of our Papa Plover during the installation. After six years of nesting at GHB, he’s familiar with the routine, but installing the exclosure is still a dramatic event for a Plover parent. Papa piped vigorously and valiantly did his broken wing display, trying with all his tiny self to distract. At one point he fearlessly stood right next to Dave!
We owe tremendous thanks to Dave and to Greenbelt. This is the sixth year in a row he and his Greenbelt crew have installed the exclosures and provided expert advice and assistance to the City of Gloucester and Piping Plover Ambassadors. Greenbelt gives this assistance absolutely free of charge!
Would you like to volunteer to be a Piping Plover Ambassador? The shifts are one hour long, seven days a week, for approximately five weeks, from the day the chicks hatch til they fledge completely. We have a great team of Ambassadors and would love to have you join. Please email me at email@example.com if you would like to volunteer. We are looking for people to commit to cover the 1 to 2pm, 2 to 3pm, and 3 to 4pm shifts. Thank you 🙂
Happy Earth Day dear friends!
I hope you are doing well on this blustery morning, with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees and wind chill at 19. I imagined these temperatures were behind us and am worried about that one little PiPl egg. Will it be viable after this cold snap??
This morning in my inbox there was yet another awesome email from Greenbelt, this time featuring Greenbelt’s commitment to conserving farmland, with a short video of the Grant Family Farm at Brown Spring.
Chris Grant was able to purchase the farm at Brown Springs because of Greenbelt’s Land Trust program and great use of West Newbury’s Community Preservation Act funds (CPA). The land can never be developed and will stay a working farm forever through Chris and Greenbelt’s diligent work to put it under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction.
I can’t mention Greenbelt without giving thanks to Gloucester’s Piping Plover advisor-in-chief Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship at Greenbelt. Greenbelt does not, nor has ever, requested a fee from the City for their Piping Plover assistance. As you may recall, Dave is also Greenbelt’s Osprey program director – so there you have it, a multitude of reasons for supporting Greenbelt!!
EBSCO and the Law Office of Donald M. Greenough have generously offered to match, dollar for dollar, the first $5,000 raised in celebration of Earth Day.
Please send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Update Early April 2021 – Annie and Squam (at least we thought at first it was him) returned to the nest earlier this year – probably around April 5-7. The webcam went live on April 13 and new nesting materials had been brought to the nest. However, we have observed a banded Opsrey at the nest on April 13 and 14, which would not be Annie or Squam. So we will have to watch and wait to see what unfolds here.
Update April 15, 2021 – Watching the Osprey pair on the webcam now for the past few days, we have noticed that the male Osprey has a US Fish and Wildlife Service aluminum band on his right leg. I have banded over 200 Osprey chicks in the past 5-6 years and all on the right leg. Squam was not banded and it is highly unlikely he would have been banded during migration. Plus, this banded male is a large Osprey who appears almost equal in size to the female, who looks very much like and we believe is Annie. Squam was noticably smaller than Annie. About noontime today, the banded male attempted to copulate with Annie. Since then there has been a third Osprey around the nest and much commotion, including a lot of chasing and calling.
It will take more time to determine what is going on here. Are two males competing to be Annie’s mate. Did something happen to Squam or did this larger male just outcompete him? These are all possible scenarios that will unfold in the coming days. Stay tuned!
Don’t miss this TWIST OF EVENTS – READ THE MOST RECENT UPDATES HERE
2020 OSPREY PRGRAM YEAR IN REVIEW
Dear Friends of Cape Ann’s Plovers,
Again this past week, our dynamic duo has been busily bonding, nest scraping, and mating up and down the full length of the beach. However, the extremely high tide that rose to the base of the dunes washed out the pair’s nest scrapes and temporarily put the kibosh on all things romantic. The two disappeared for a full day after the storm departed, with no spottings anywhere, not even tell tale PiPl tracks.
My heart always skips a beat after a day or two of no “eyes on the PiPls,” but I am happy to report Mom and Dad are back to the business of beginning a new family, seemingly unfazed. The storm and super high tide left in its wake lots of great bits of dried seaweed and sea grass which will in turn attract tons of insects, one of the PiPls dietary mainstays. There is a silver lining to every storm cloud 🙂
Just a friendly reminder if you would please, if you see the PiPls at the edge of the symbolic rope line or foraging in the tide pools, please do not hover. Hovering will distract the Plovers and delay courtship. And hovering attracts gulls and crows to the scene. Step back at least 50 to 60 feet and give them some space. Bring binoculars or a strong lens if you would like to observe the PiPls from a comfortable distance, comfortable to them that is. Thank you much!
Take care and Happy Spring!
High stepping Dad, courting Mom
Thank you so very much to Gloucester Times Editor Andrea Holbrook and staff writer Michael Cronin for sharing about the fence post installation and the great information provided for the public. We are so appreciative of the ongoing support given by the community and the Gloucester Times.
By Michael Cronin
Photo by Paul Bilodeau
March 29, 2021
Part of Good Harbor Beach is fenced off to protect some tiny seasonal visitors.
A crew of Public Works personnel began fencing out an area of the beach on Monday to protect migrating piping plovers. The first pair of the threatened shorebirds reportedly landed this weekend.
“They put up the posts today,” said Kim Smith, a local documentarian and advocate for the piping plovers. “The roping will come next and then they’ll put up the signage telling people what’s going on. This is super that they’re doing it early this season. The earlier it goes up, the earlier the chicks hatch which gives them a better chance of survival as the beaches aren’t so busy yet.”
According to Smith, the piping plovers that visit Good Harbor typically nest in the same spot each year.
“One year they nested out in the parking lot because they were pushed out by the dogs on the beach,” she recalled. “But once the ordinance was put in place they were able to return to their usual spot.”
Dog are banned from Good Harbor Beach between April and September. Wingaersheek will remain open to canines on odd numbered days until April 30.
Smith said she’s waiting for the birds to lay their eggs. Once they do, members of the Essex County Greenbelt Association will encapsulate the nest with wire netting.
“Dave Rimmer of Essex County Greenbelt has been guiding us since 2016,” said Smith. “He’s the first one I call when the first egg is laid. The holes in the cage are big enough for the birds to enter and leave, but small enough to keep predators out.”
Love is in the air!
Consistently when out in fields, I see Bluebird pairs that appear strongly committed to each other. I wondered, do Bluebirds mate forever? In our region, we see Eastern Bluebirds. Ornithologists found from a long term study of Western Bluebirds that the great majority stay together for life. No such studies exist for Eastern Bluebirds however, field observations suggest that about 95 percent mate for life when both are still alive.
Pairs softly warble to each other early in the morning, the male brings nesting material to a chosen site, and once she has entered his nesting cavity, she will begin to bring nesting material and he will bring food to her to “seal the deal.” In our north of Boston region, you can see the courtship behavior beginning as early as February and March.
Eastern Bluebirds re-mate with another partner if one dies.
In the photos below, it’s very easy to see the difference between a male and female Bluebird. The female’s blue is a more subdued grayish hue while the male’s blue feathers are brilliantly hued.
Check out this fantastic video created by Dave Rimmer, Essex Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship and Osprey Program. The footage was taken last summer from Greenbelt’s OspreyCam. Watch highlights of the 2020 Osprey season captured from Annie and Squam’s nest in Gloucester. Annie and Squam fledged three chicks, Vivi, Rusty, and Liz, and you can watch their development from egg to fledging.
Fillmmaker Will Bermudez and his ‘bubble’ crew from Pratt were at Seine Field in Gloucester today working on Will’s short film Beneath the Grass. Local girls (our) Charlotte and Meadow Anderson were cast as sisters. It’s a full circle moment for my family- Will’s Mom, and my dear friend Claudia, featured our daughter Liv in a children’s film twenty-five years ago, when Liv was about Charlotte’s age.
Several years ago my husband suggested I write a “year end” wildlife review about all the creatures seen over the preceding year. That first review was a joyful endeavor though daunting enough. Over the next several years the reviews became more lengthy as I tried to cover every beautiful, wonderful creature that was encountered on woodland hikes, beaches, dunes, marshes, ponds, and our own backyards and neighborhoods. 2020 has been a very different year. There were just as many local wildlife stories as in previous years however, the pandemic and political climate have had far reaching consequences across geographic regions around the world, touching every living creature in the interconnected web of life we call our ecosystems.
This first year of the global pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on wildlife and their habitats. In urban areas in developed countries, perhaps the economic slowdown afforded wildlife a break, with less pollution, less air travel, and some wild animals even reclaiming territory. Though the true downside of Covid-19 is that the pandemic has had an extraordinarily harmful impact on wildlife in rural areas and in less developed countries People who are dependent upon tourism, along with people who have lost jobs in cities and are returning to rural areas, are placing increasing pressure on wildlife by poaching, illegal mining, and logging. As mining and logging destroy wildlife habitats, animals are forced into ever shrinking areas, causing them to become sick, stressed, and to starve to death. These same stressed wild animals come in contact with people and farm animals, creating an ever increasing potential to transmit horrifically deadly illness, diseases such as Covid-19.
There are many, many organizations working to protect wildlife and conserve their habitats. I am especially in awe of one particular grass roots non-profit organization located in Macheros, Mexico, previously featured here, Butterflies and Their People. Co-founded by Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno Rojas, the work they are doing to both protect the butterfly’s winter habit and provide employment for the forest’s guardians is outstanding.
All the butterfly sanctuaries (their winter resting places), are closed this year due to the pandemic. Dozens of people in the tiny town of Macheros are wholly dependent upon the income received by the work they do protecting the butterfly trees from illegal logging, as well as income from the tourist industry. Ellen, Joel, and their team of arborists have come up with a wonderfully creative way to bring the butterflies to you. For a modest fee, you can sign up to “Adopt a Colony” to receive monthly newsletters and video tours of the Monarchs at Cerro Pelon. The newsletters are written by Ellen, who writes beautifully and clearly about the month-by-month current state of the butterflies in their winter habitat, as well as human interest stories drawn from the community. To subscribe to “Adopt a Colony” from Butterflies and Their People, go here.
We can be hopeful in 2021 that with a new administration, a much greater focus will be paid by our federal government to stop the spread of the virus in the US as well as around the globe. Not only is there hope in regard to the course correction needed to battle the pandemic, but the Biden/Harris administration has made climate change and environmental justice a cornerstone of their platform, including measures such as stopping the environmental madness taking place along our southern border and reversing many of the previous administration’s mandates that are so harmful to wildlife and their habitats.
Around the globe, especially in less developed countries, the pandemic has set back environmental initiatives by years, if not decades. We are so fortunate in Essex County to have conservation organizations such as Greenbelt, MassWildlife, The Trustees, and Mass Audubon; organizations that protect the sanctity of wildlife and recognize the importance of protecting habitats not only for wildlife but equally as important, for the health and safety of human inhabitants.
The following are just some of the local images and stories that make us deeply appreciate the beauty of wildlife and their habitats found on Cape Ann and all around Essex County. Each picture is only a brief window into the elusive, complex life of a creature. Every day and every encounter brings so much more to observe, to learn, to enjoy, and to love.
To read more, each image and story from the past year is Google searchable. Type in the name of the creature and my name and the link to the story and pictures posted on my website should come right up.
Some Beautiful Raptors of 2020 – Red-tailed Hawk, Short-eared Owl, American Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, and Snowy Owls
Essex County Greenbelt’s Osprey pair, Annie and Squam, successfully fledged three chicks, Vivi, Rusty, and Liz (nestling photo courtesy ECGA)
Dave Rimmer video from the Osprey cam at Lobstaland
The Snowy Owl Film Project was completed in March, with the objective of providing pandemic- virtually schooled kids a window into the world of Snowy Owls in their winter habitat (see all five short films here).
Spunky Mute Swan Cygnets
Utterly captivated by the winsome Red Fox Family
A tiny sampling of the beautiful songbirds that graced our shores in 2020 – Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, American Robins, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Snow Buntings, American Pipits, Horned Larks, and Eastern Bluebirds
A new favorite place to film is at my friend Paul’s wonderfully fun sunflower field in Ipswich, School Street Sunflowers. Beautiful Bobolinks, Common Yellowthroat Warblers, and Bluejays were just some of the songbirds seen feasting on the expiring seedheads of sunflowers and wildflowers growing amongst the rows of flowers.
Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and juvenile Little Blue Herons delight with their elegance, beauty, and stealth hunting skills. Included in the montage is a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron that spent the winter at Niles Pond
A fraction of the different species of Shorebirds and Gulls seen on Cape Ann this past year – Dowitchers, Killdeers, Black-bellied Plovers, Common Tern, Least Tern, Laughing Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Glaucus Gull, and rarely seen Dovekie, or”Little Auk.”
Cecropia Moth life cycle unfolding in our garden, from mating, to egg laying, to caterpillar, to adult.
Dozens and dozens of orb spider webs draped a small patch of wildflowers. The dream catchers were attracting Cedar Waxwings to feast on the insects caught in the webs. The following day I returned after a rainstorm. The webs had melted away in the downpour and the Waxwings had vanished into the treetops.
Harbor and Gray Seals hauled out on the rocks at Brace Cove, as many as 28 were counted on a winter’s day!
Piping Plovers and Marshmallow Montage
In 2020, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair fledged one chick, nicknamed Marshmallow. Despite the global pandemic, a group of super dedicated Piping Plover Ambassadors worked tirelessly from sunrise until sunset to help ensure the safety of the Piping Plover family and to help educate beachgoers about the beautiful life story of the Plovers unfolding on Gloucester’s most popular beach destination. We worked with Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, the Gloucester DPW, and Gloucester City Councilor Scot Memhard, with much appreciated advice from Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist Carolyn Mostello.
Read more about Marshmallow, the Ambassadors, and the Piping Plover Film Project here.
Piping Plover Marshmallow Montage, from egg to thirty-eight days old. Filmed at Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts.
It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, infinitely educational, and beautifully challenging journey creating my documentary, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterflies. The film was released in February 2020, but because of the pandemic, was not seen by the public until August, when it premiered (virtually) at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival. Beauty on the Wing has gone on to win honors and awards at both environmental and children’s film festivals, including the tremendous honor of Best Documentary at the Boston International Kids Film Festival. I’ve just received the very attractive award in the mail and have not had time to post a photo yet.
Beauty on the Wing portrays Cape Ann in the most beautiful light and I think when we are ever able to have a live premiere in this area, local friends will be delighted at the outcome. Joyfully so, Beauty is now being distributed to schools, libraries, institutions, and the travel industry through American Public Television Worldwide.
Beauty on the Wing continues to be accepted to film festivals and I will keep you posted as some are geo-bloced to this area, including the upcoming Providence Children’s Film Festival.