Category Archives: Essex County

WOW! WAY TO GO ROCKPORT!!!

TRIPLE WOW, actually! Hats off to the Rockport Department of Public Works and all who are involved with installing and decorating the spectacular tree in the center of town. I don’t recall ever seeing so many lights on the tree and it seems extra especially wondrous this year. 

Looking for her favorite ball on the tree, the red one with the “bumps,” has become a tradition for Charlotte and I. Happy girl finding it <3

Tonight is a perfect night to go and see the tree as it is Rockport’s Holiday Shopping Night. Lots of gift prizes and an after party at Fleur Cuisine. For more details visit Christmas in Rockport here.

DUCKWORTH’S FIRST LOOK!

We are overjoyed to have Ken and Nicole Duckworth back in the neighborhood creating their amazing brand of beautifully prepared entrees, desserts, soups, and salads. Their newest incarnation, Duckworth’s To-Take, we know, will be a favorite.  In addition to the prepared items, you will find freshly roasted coffee, reasonably priced wines, and even freshly tapped maple syrup.

My husband Tom and I stopped in this morning and picked up our first meal to-take at Duckworth’s, which actually turned into a huge batch of delciousness. We were the second customers of the morning but already the shop was bustling! We planned to have all for dinner (my eyes are bigger than my stomach) but simply could not wait and decided to have a whole day of Duckworth’s food heaven.

For a mid-morning snack, we had Nicole’s Flourless Chocolate Cake, also known in our family as Death-by-Chocolate. Nicole’s cake is so wonderfully chocolatey that for me the best time to eat it is in the morning so I don’t stay awake all night.

Ken’s beloved Mushroom Soup is the perfect antidote to a rainy December day <3

The cake is rich and filling; we didn’t eat lunch until 2 when we treated ourselves to Ken’s famous mushroom soup, quite possibly the best in the world! Velvety delicious, creamy thick, and garnished with a scattering of sauteed wild mushrooms, we loved every mouthful!

We couldn’t help ourselves and also ate the Chopped Salad that was also meant to go with dinner. The salad is a beautiful combination of assorted greens, radicchio, feta cheese, pumpkin seeds, sweet potato, cranberries, and Brussels sprouts and dressed with a creamy cider vinaigrette.

For dinner, Tom is having the Pork Schnitzel, one of his all time favorite dinners, which is served with a generous helping of potato salad, and I am having the Coq au Vin. I am positive it is going to be fantastic!!!

Niki Bogins lovely pop up shop, East Gloucester Provisions, is a wonderful complement to the bistrot and between the two, you’ll find a an array of food and houseware gifts.

Btw, Nicole shares that all the to-go containers are completely compostable and you can even heat the entrees in the bottom half of the container!!

For the month of December, Duckworth’s is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10am til 5pm. Look for their holiday menu coming soon. Duckworth’s is located at 197 East Main Street, Gloucester.

 

 

LOBSTER TRAP TREE LIGHTING AND ART HAVEN OPEN HOUSE SATURDAY FROM 4:00 -5:30!

The Lobster Trap Tree lighting is Saturday, December 10th, at 4:30!

Please join Art Haven for their holiday open house for the Lobster Trap Tree lighting on Saturday (12/10) from 4-5:30.Art Haven is filled to the brim with buoys and they can’t wait to hang them up!

THE DUCKWORTH’S MENU – OPEN TODAY AT 10AM!

Duckworth’s will be OPEN today, 10am-5pm!
And for the rest of December we will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 10-5 offering

Duckworth’s prepared foods, “Bistrot to Go” favorites.

Duckworth’s gift certificates will be accepted for food items. Stop in and see what we have cooked up!

Stay tuned for our “Home for the Holidays” menu, online ordering and future dine in events.

Check out Niki Bogin’s, EAST GLOUCESTER PROVISIONS pop up while you pick up some Duckworth’s deliciousness.

http://www.duckworthsgloucester.com
We look forward to seeing you!

Duckworth’s is located at 197 East Main Street, Gloucester

WONDROUS SUN PILLAR OVER CAPE ANN

Out filming wild creatures in the trees at dusk, and very focused, when I turned around and caught a brief glimpse of this beautiful red pillar in the sky.  Not a clue as to what it was called, I took a few snapshots as it progressively became fainter and am so glad I did. I am late in posting my photos and several folks have identified it as a sun pillar or solar pillar.

More about sun pillars from EarthSky –

“Sun pillars are beams of light that extend vertically upward (or downward) from a bright light source, such as the sun or another bright light low on the horizon. They can be 5 to 10 degrees tall and sometimes even higher. They might lengthen or brighten as you gaze at them.

They’re beautiful and wondrous. They’re also the source of some UFO reports!

Sun pillars or light pillars form when sunlight (or another bright light source) reflects off the surfaces of millions of falling ice crystals associated with thin, high-level clouds – for example, cirrostratus clouds. The ice crystals have roughly horizontal faces. They are falling through Earth’s atmosphere, rocking slightly from side to side.

When is the best time to see a sun pillar or light pillar? You’ll most often see sun pillars when the sun is low in the western sky before sunset, or low in the east just after the breaking of dawn. You might even see a sun pillar when the sun is below the horizon. Light pillars can be seen at any time of night.

They’re called sun pillars when the sun helps make them. But the moon or even streetlights can create this light phenomenon, too, in which case the name light pillar is more appropriate.

These pillars of light often prompt people to report sightings of UFOs. They can sometimes look strange! There are said to be a lot of UFO reports caused by light pillars over Niagara Falls, where the mist from the rush of descending water interacts with the city’s many upward facing spotlights. Light pillars do appear frequently over Niagara Falls, especially during the winter.

As always, the great website Atmospheric Optics is a wonderful place to go and learn more about sun pillars.”

HEAD ON OVER TO WOLF HILL FOR ONE STOP HOLIDAY MAGIC-MAKING!

Stepping into the decorating workshop at Wolf Hill is like entering a Christmas do-it-yourselfer’s dream. The shop and tree yard are overflowing with festive decor and Christmas delights to make your holiday-making extra especially merry!

Whether in need of a beautiful Fraser fir or pine Christmas tree, white pine roping, birch logs, wreaths of every dimension, lights, or holiday treasures for your tree, Wolf Hill has it all.

They have all the ingredients to do it yourself, but if pressed for time, proprietor Pam and her crew have filled the shop with ready made gorgeous wreaths, bows, and pots filled with greens and berries, pinecones, and bows.

Thank you to Makenzie, Jarred, and Piping Plover Friends Pat and Delores for allowing me to take your snapshot <3

I love shopping at Wolf Hill, not only because of the stellar quality of holiday and landscaping plants and supplies they sell throughout the year but mostly because the staff, to a person, is always helpful, kind, and wonderfully friendly. Many, many thanks to Pam and Crew for always making it a joy to do business with Wolf Hill, throughout the year!
One more note- check out these fun stocking stuffers for little ones that Makenzie pointed out. You look at the tree lights through the glasses and see shapes dancing around the lights. I tried on a pair and it works!

PRESENT! YOUR LAST STOP FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Amanda Cook and artisan friends have created another grand pop up shop, chock-a-block full of holiday delights. You’ll find lovely hand made gifts, art work, stocking stuffers, and lots of unique, yet practical, items for your home and family. Just some of the items featured in the photos include prints by Mary Rhinelander; Amanda’s Salty Yarn’s line of yarn, children’s gifts, and ornaments; and Hold Fast’s Dog Bar soap and wreaths made from recycled dock lines. There is a rich variety of gifts, far more than featured here –

You’ll find a super fun array of stocking stuffers at Present!

I stopped in Sunday on Present’s opening day and plan to go several times more during this upcoming stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas as they are constantly making new treasures and restocking the shelves.

Present  is located at 273 East Main Street, at the Last Stop cafe.

Hours:

Open everyday except Tuesdays, now through Christmas Eve.

Monday, Wednesday through Saturday 10am to 5 pm

Sunday 12pm to 5pm

Mary Rhinelander print for Present

WE DREAM IN COLOUR – EXUBERANT AND INSPIRED JEWELRY, GIFTS, AND HOME GOODS BRAND NEW SHOP IN ESSEX!

We Dream in Colour Shop is the newest venture by local designer Jade Gedeon. You may be familiar with Jade’s work through We Dream in Colour, the extraordinarily beautiful hand-made nature-inspired jewelry line that sells regionally and globally.  For the new shop that goes by the same name, Jade and her sister Mika have curated an exquisite collection of gifts for all ages, jewelry, books, and decor for your home.

Jade and Mika

Featuring We Dream in Colour’s complete line of jewelry, along with fanciful collections of home goods, and all exuberantly inspired by nature, the sun-drenched shop is overflowing with treasures.

We Dream in Colour is located at 166 Main Street Essex in the lovely white washed 1700s brick building at the intersection where RT. 133 meets Southern Avenue.

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-5. Sunday 12-4

978.594.1425

Instagram: @wedreamincolourshop

Parking is located behind the shop. Please enter via the driveway between 164 & 166 Main. 

For more about We Dream in Colour, the complete jewelry line, and Essex shop visit Jade’s website here: We Dream in Colour

CEDAR ROCK GARDENS IS ROCKIN’ THE THANKSGIVING PRODUCE – GET YOUR ORDERS IN!!

Gorgeous, organic, homegrown produce is available from Cedar Rock Gardens for your beautiful Thanksgiving feast. Colorful beets, crème brûlée shallots, leeks, Brussel sprouts on the stalk, luscious potatoes, greens of every sort, parsley, and much, much more. Plus, you can order a bunch of lavender and strawflowers which will make a lovely and lasting holiday arrangement. I am getting hungry just thinking about all this gorgeousness!

Produce Ordering!

Starting Today, November 14th, our website will be open for ordering farm fresh produce. Orders must be in by Friday at noon.

We’ll be assembling everyone’s order during the day Friday, then opening pick-ups on Saturday 11/19, between 9 AM and 12 PM

Order Here

We will be adding more produce and variety as it becomes available each week.

Cedar Rock Gardens if located at 299 Concord Street, West Gloucester

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

https://www.wcvb.com/article/new-england-residents-and-nonprofits-work-to-save-threatened-species/41915984

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.

KIM SMITH FILMS ON CHRONICLE, WCVB CHANNEL 5, “WILDLIFE WORRIES” NOVEMBER 9TH, TONIGHT!

Hello Friends,

Our beloved Piping Plovers and Monarchs are going to be featured on an episode of Chronicle this evening. “Wildlife Worries” is devoted entirely to indicator species including not only Monarchs and PiPls, but also Whimbrels, tiny terrapins, and more. The show airs tonight at 7:30pm on Chronicle, WCVB, channel 5.

Several months ago, I met with the outstanding Chronicle producer, Sangita Chandra, and the show’s stellar videographer, Jennifer Platt-Ure. Originally Sangita was looking for footage of Monarchs and PiPls, but then decided to include an interview from a filmmaker’s perspective. The interview was filmed at Winthrop Shores Reservation as it was a convenient location, and also the charming cafe, Piccolo Piatti. It was a joy working with Sangita as she has a keen interest in wildlife conservation. The show promises to be wonderfully educational. I can’t wait to watch the part about the whimsical Whimbrels and turtles, in addition to the PiPls and butterflies!

Chronicle writes, “New England wouldn’t be New England without the shore birds, butterflies, and turtles that spend part of the year here. These and other local creatures are considered ‘indicator species’ that also help us understand the impact of habitat loss and climate change. Tonight we get up close to giant sea turtles and tiny terrapins, whimbrels and piping plovers, and meet the people committed to protecting them.” 
.
Included in that group – a park ranger who raises butterflies, a documentary filmmaker, and high schoolers studying river herring. Many thanks to our videography team – Bob Oliver, Jennifer Platt-Ure, and Rich Ward and to editor Ellen Boyce. Hope you enjoy the program! 

Thank you so much for watching!

Warmest wishes, xxKim

 

MOON VIEWING PARTY AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH TONIGHT!

What fun to see so many folks out tonight enjoying the Full Beaver Moon rise between the Twin Lights. Happy Moon Viewing!

 

Earlier today – this morning’s Beaver Blood Luna Eclipse

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

Marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) and Painted Lady butterfly

 

INVASION OF THE GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS AND SNOWBIRDS!

Dark-eyed Junco (Snowbird)

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 Kinglet

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

Dark-eyed Junco 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.

American Bullfrog Niles Pond

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).

DANSE MACABRE – HALLOWEEN ORBWEAVER SPIDER CATCHING BEES

Danse of the Orbweaver – For my husband Tom, who loves Halloween and the Orbweavers.

The female Cross Orbweaver spider filmed here has been residing in our garden for several months. She catches a great many insects and also spends a great deal of time maintaining her web, re-spinning damaged sections. The day she caught not one, but two bees, she appeared visibly excited and kept running between the two, seemingly to ensure they were indeed sufficiently immobilized.

Mom Orbweaver has produced an egg sac that is well hidden amongst a loosely arranged nest of several leaves stuck together with her silk. The egg sac is almost as big as she is and may contain up to 800 eggs! She is still hanging around and will guard the eggs for the rest of her life. The first hard frost kills any remaining Orbweavers.

The collective name for spiders is clutster or clutter. The spiderlings will hatch in spring. The cluster stays together until their first molt and then scatter. Come late summer, a mature male may approach a female, cautiously, with lots of advance-and-retreat, and tentative touching. The females are bigger and hungrier. Males don’t survive long after mating, and she may very well eat him.

Saint-Saëns and his Danse Macabre for Halloween
by Cynthia Collins

Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre, Op. 40,” was composed in 1874 as an orchestral tone poem based on a French legend about Death appearing every Halloween at midnight. As he plays his fiddle, the skeletons rise from their graves and dance until dawn, returning to their graves when the rooster crows. Death’s appearance is heard as a solo violin playing tritones.

The idea of a Danse Macabre is more than a legend. Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, is an allegory that has been around since the 13th century to illustrate that regardless of one’s station in life, death is universal and inevitable. It has been depicted in paintings, frescoes, plays and musical settings. It gained prominence in Europe following major events in the 14th century such as famine, war, and the Black Death.

The use of tritones to represent death or the devil is also rooted in history. Musically, a tritone is three consecutive whole tones, making it an augmented fourth or diminished fifth. During the Middle Ages, it was called the diabolus in musica, or “the Devil in music.” The sound is dissonant, leaving the listener with a sense of it being unfinished, needing resolution.

Saint-Saëns’ first version of his “Danse Macabre” was composed in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano. The text by poet and doctor Henri Cazalis followed the legend. Saint-Saëns reworked the piece for orchestra, with solo violin replacing the vocal line. The music gets faster and faster as the skeletons dance at a frenzied pace but when dawn arrives, everything suddenly slows to a stop for another year.

When the orchestral version was first premiered in 1875, it did not receive good reviews. It was soon transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt, who was a friend of Saint-Saëns. From that, it steadily gained popularity. The work has been performed in concerts throughout the world in various ways from the full orchestral score to piano solos, choreographed for dance performances, and used in film and television programs.

Read More Here

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS EATING POISON IVY

All around Cape Ann, from West Gloucester to East, from Cape Hedge to Good Harbor to Cox Reservation, I have been checking out the Poison Ivy patches and sure enough, there are Yellow-rumped Warblers relishing the white waxy fruits at every locale. Who knew it was a thing 🙂 And now I have a new favorite species to add to the long list of beloved wild creatures.

According to Cornell, Yellow-rumped Warblers are the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in Wax Myrtle and Bayberries. This ability to digest waxy fruit allows the Yellow-rumped Warbler to winter as far north as Newfoundland.

Yellow -rumped warblers are versatile foragers. They eat insects in the spring, summer, and when available. You may see them picking at insects on washed up seaweed. During migration and the winter months, their habit is to eat Poison Ivy fruits, grapes, Wax Myrtle, Bayberries, Virginia Creeper berries, dogwood fruits, and Juniper berries. Yellow-rumped Warblers also eat goldenrod seeds and beach grass seed, and if you are fortunate to have them at your feeder, provide Sunflowers seeds, raisins, peanut butter, and suet.

The Yellow-rumped Warblers have been dining on PI fruits for over a month. As autumn has unfolded, I’ve added new clips to the short film below. Filmed from mid-September to mid-October I see no signs of the feast abating as there is still plenty of fruit around. More photos to come when I have time to sort though.

See a story form March of this year, Yellow-rumped Warblers in the Snow.

For more about Poison Ivy, and the myriad species of wildlife this native vine supports, go here:

Leaves of Three, Let it Be

Please join the Town Green and the Save Salt Island Group for what promises to be a fantastic virtual webinar and workshop on the ecosystem of. Good Harbor Beach.

Event: The first 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

When: Wednesday, October 26th from 6:30-8:30pm on Zoom (register here) (https://bit.ly/3RBEa3v)

What: An online workshop/webinar with several small group breakout sessions for participants to discuss the issues raised and reflect on the changes that have already happened

Speakers include:

  • Professor Charles Waldheim from the Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Jayne Knott, TownGreen board member and founder of HydroPredictions
  • Denton Crews from Friends of Good Harbor
  • Mary Ellen Lepionka, local historian

You will learn about:

  • The history of Good Harbor Beach
  • The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem and current climate threats
  • Incremental sea level rise, flooding, ecosystem adaptation, and vulnerable infrastructure
  • The Great Storm scenario based on research from Harvard Graduate School of Design

 The first workshop will be followed by a Good Harbor Beach field trip on October 27th to tour vulnerable areas identified in the workshop. The second and third workshop/webinars will address adaptation options and project planning for the Good Harbor Beach area. The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem workshop/webinar series is a pilot public education program that TownGreen will replicate to focus on climate impacts in Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport.

Jayne F. Knott, Ph.D.

JFK Environmental Services LLC

https://HydroPredictions.com

jfknott@hydropredictions.com

508-344-2831

LEAVES OF THREE, LET IT BE

In thinking about our community’s efforts to Save Salt Island from deforestation and development, I wanted to share evidence that the vines and shrubs on the island are an important source of food for a host of small mammals and birds.

One of the most reviled of plants, Poison Ivy, is an excellent food plant for wildlife and will not cause the itchy uncomfortable rash if you do not touch the leaves, stems, fruits, and roots. Poison Ivy can either look like a shrub or a vine. Regardless of the shape, the leaves are easily identifiable in that they are always arranged in three; two leaves opposite one another, and between them the third leaf is borne on a stem growing at a right angle from the two shorter leaves.

Common Bonnet Fungi and Poison Ivy

Out on Eastern Point there are large patches of Poison Ivy that grow smack on the edge of very well traveled pathways. They have grown that way for decades, yet no one bothers the Poison Ivy and the Poison Ivy bothers no one. The spring blooming greenish yellow clusters of flowers are beloved by bees and myriad pollinators, while the vitamin rich white waxy berries are relished by resident and migrating songbirds alike.

In autumn, the plant’s glossy green leaves turn a brilliant red, which acts as a “red flag” to hungry songbirds. The long list of birds that dine on Poison Ivy fruits include Yellow-rumped Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Mockingbirds, Song Sparrows, Gray Catbirds, Bobwhites, and many, many more.

Poison Ivy Tips – If you come in contact, rinse the area with cold water, not soap, as soon after contact as possible. Ocean water works well when near to the beach. If you have Jewelweed growing handily nearby, smear the juice of the stem on the exposed skin. Never burn Poison Ivy. With burning,  urushiol (the poisonous oil in Poison Ivy) becomes volatilized in the smoke and you can get it in your lungs, which is very dangerous and can even lead to death.

Yellow-rumped Warbler and Poison Ivy

RESPLENDENT MONARCH MIGRATION

 

Dear Monarch Friends,

This new short, titled Resplendent Monarch Migration, features Monarchs during the late summer southward migration. Also highlighted are some of the more commonly seen butterflies of late summer, including the American Lady, the spectacular Common Buckeye (2:53), Pearl Crescent, Yellow Sulphur, and American Copper. The flora seen includes New England Asters, Seaside Goldenrod, Tall Goldenrod, Smooth Aster (pale lavender), and Common Milkweed. When you plant for the butterflies, they will come!

At 3:30 you can see a small overnight roost beginning to form. As the sun sets, particularly on chilly or windy evenings, Monarchs head for the trees. One by one they fly in, some settling quickly, others restless and shifting to a more preferable spot. By nightfall, all are tucked into the sheltering boughs of the Black Cherry tree. (4:15).

With the warming rays of Sun’s first light, the Monarchs begin to awaken (4:20). If it’s cold and windy they”ll stay a bit longer but typically, the butterflies either float down to the wildflowers in the marsh below, or in the case of this particular roost at Eastern Point, the Monarchs wasted no time and quickly departed. They flew directly south towards Boston by first traveling along the length of the Dogbar Breakwater before heading out to sea (4:30).

It took patience (and a lot of luck) to capture the butterfly heading up into the clouds (5:44). I wanted to share the imagery of the scale of a tiny speck of a creature juxtaposed against the vastness of sea and sky. Imagine, a butterfly that weighs less than a paper clip, journeys 2500 miles to the trans Mexican volcanic mountaintops.

Safe travels oh resilient one!

I have received a number of requests for Monarch footage. I cannot lend the footage from my documentary, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, currently airing on PBS however, this past summer, I spent time shooting butterflies in my garden, butterflies in pollinator gardens that I have designed for clients, and at our local marshes and meadows. All the footage was shot in beautiful 4k, which is what organizations are requesting.

Several weeks ago I posted Monarchs and Friends in the Summer Garden and you can see that here. This short features butterflies you may typically see in mid-summer drinking nectar alongside Monarchs.

Cast, in order of appearance:

Monarch Butterfly

Hoverfly

Clouded Sulphur

Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly

American Copper

American Lady

Pearl Crescent

Common Buckeye

 

 

 

SEALS IN THE RISING HUNTER’S FULL MOON

Late day Sunday, Charlotte and I took a walk to Niles Pond hoping to see the Harbor Seals in the rising Hunter’s Moon. We were not disappointed! We also saw a mini flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Merlin on the hunt.

GOOD MORNING, YOU LIVING BEING NEARLY UNCHANGED FOR 90 MILLION YEARS!

Snapping Turtle(s) Encounter

Even though back-lit, the unmistakeable foot and a half long lump in the middle of the road demanded action. I pulled my car over, turned on the flashers, stood guard over the Snapper, and contemplated how to get the fellow across the road before he became squished Snapping Turtle breakfast for the Coyotes and Vultures. The last time there was a Snapper in the middle of Niles Pond Road I had retrieved the yoga mat in my car, rolled it up, and working from the tail end prodded the creature across the street. It’s unwise to think you can move a Snapping Turtle with your bare hands. Snappers look slow, act slow, and generally are slow, unless they are hungry or feel threatened.  When that happens, the Snapper will snarl and swiftly lunge, its powerful jaws wide open, ready to chomp down with its piercing beak.

After digging around in my trunk I found our winter windshield wiper ice scraping gadget, which conveniently has an extension. I first tried gently pushing him in the direction he was facing. He wouldn’t budge. Next I tried pushing him a little harder with the ice scraper, still nothing. On the third try, the irascible fellow turned with lightening speed and latched hard onto the scraper. After a mini tug of war, he released the ice scraper and turned around to head back to the side from where he came. Okay that’s fine with me, I thought. I’ll check in with him on my return from filming.

Walking back to my car, there was a second Snapper at the roadside edge, appearing as if he/ she was also planning to cross the road. This Snapper was a bit smaller and a bit more skittish. She changed her mind about crossing and headed back toward the pond. I followed the turtle as she lumbered over the woodland floor onto the muddy bank, where she paused briefly before entering the water.

I wondered, were these both females looking for a place to nest? A suitable place to hunker down for the winter? So many questions! According to several sites, Snapping Turtle nesting season runs from April through November although perhaps they are talking about Snappers in warmer regions in regard to nesting in November. And after insemination, a female Snapping Turtle remains fertile for up to three years!

From Audubon, “The snapping turtle family, Chelydridae, evolved in North America and has haunted our wetlands almost unchanged for nearly 90 million years. Ancestors spread to Eurasia about 40 million years ago and then disappeared from that continent in the late Pliocene, about two million years ago. Chelydrids have been sequestered in the Western Hemisphere ever since, which makes them among our truest and oldest turtles. They were present when dinosaurs lived and died, and had been laying round, white, leathery eggs in sandy loam and glacial till for millions of years when the first Amerindians wandered over the Bering Land Bridge. Snapping turtles have witnessed the drift of continents, the birth of islands, the drowning of coastlines, the rise and fall of mountain ranges, the spread of prairies and deserts, the comings and goings of glaciers.”

Turtle populations in Massachusetts are declining. How utterly tragic if we were to lose these 90 million year old relics. Turtles are the ultimate survivors, but they need several types of habitats to survive and to nest. To access their habitats, a turtle must often cross a road. Cars and trucks are among the top threats to turtles. Other threats include habitat loss and fragmentation, collection as pets, disease, and increased predation.

By no means am I suggesting you do this on a busy highway but if you are traveling along a country lane, find a safe place to pull over, and if you are able, escort the turtle to either side of the road.

 

 

PECTORAL SANDPIPER IN OUR MIDST

If you see a larger, chunkyish sandpiper foraging alongside Semipalmated Plovers and Sanderlings, look at its neck and chest feathers. The Pectoral Sandpiper is heavily streaked above with bright white below.

This long distant traveler breeds in wet coastal areas of the Arctic tundra, from easternmost Russia, across Alaska, and into Canada.  According to Cornell’s All About Birds, most winter over in southern South America, which means that some Pectoral Sandpipers migrate a whopping 19,000 miles every year!

CLIMATE CHANGE ON THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH ECOSYSTEM UPCOMING PRESENTATION

Dear Friends of Good Harbor Beach and Save Salt Island,

Jayne Knot shares the following –

“Given your interest in Salt Island, we are inviting you to attend an upcoming workshop/webinar that will focus on climate impacts to the Good Harbor Beach ecosystem. We think you will find this workshop/webinar engaging, informative, and specific to an area of Gloucester that we all love and want to preserve. 

We have been involved in the planning of this event and Jayne will be one of the speakers. We’ve attached a flier and the press release for more information, and are happy to answer any questions you may have.

We hope to see you on October 26th for this important event.  Please share this invitation with your networks, friends, and family. Thank you.

 Kind regards,

Jayne and Andy”

Here is more information:

Event: The first 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

When: Wednesday, October 26th from 6:30-8:30pm on Zoom (register here) (https://bit.ly/3RBEa3v)

What: An online workshop/webinar with several small group breakout sessions for participants to discuss the issues raised and reflect on the changes that have already happened

Speakers include:

  • Professor Charles Waldheim from the Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Jayne Knott, TownGreen board member and founder of HydroPredictions
  • Denton Crews from Friends of Good Harbor
  • Mary Ellen Lepionka, local historian

You will learn about:

  • The history of Good Harbor Beach
  • The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem and current climate threats
  • Incremental sea level rise, flooding, ecosystem adaptation, and vulnerable infrastructure
  • The Great Storm scenario based on research from Harvard Graduate School of Design

 The first workshop will be followed by a Good Harbor Beach field trip on October 27th to tour vulnerable areas identified in the workshop. The second and third workshop/webinars will address adaptation options and project planning for the Good Harbor Beach area. The Good Harbor Beach ecosystem workshop/webinar series is a pilot public education program that TownGreen will replicate to focus on climate impacts in Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport.

Jayne F. Knott, Ph.D.

JFK Environmental Services LLC

https://HydroPredictions.com

jfknott@hydropredictions.com

508-344-2831