Category Archives: MassWildlife

SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS HAVE ARRIVED!

Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,

It took awhile to discover where Marshmallow was this morning. He was at the wrack line calling nearly continuously with his soft melodious piping call, (which is how I was able to locate him), before then flying off over the dunes. I found him on my return walk, preening and fluffing at the PiPls favorite piece of driftwood within the enclosure. Note that is the very same driftwood that our PiPl Mom and Dad had their very first nest scrape at, way back in April!

No sign of Dad this morning.

Semipalmated Plover

Heidi noticed the pair of Semipalmated Plovers as well; it’s one of the first sightings of Semipalmated Plovers at GHB this summer and is a sure sign that the summer/fall migration is underway. Last year we had an unusual occurrence, Mystery Chick – a Semipalmated Plover fledgling appear suddenly and foraged for a bit with our three PiPl chicks.

Good Harbor Beach, and all of Cape Ann’s shorelines, continue to provide an extraordinary window into the world of migrating creatures. Despite 2020 being such a challenging summer on so very many levels, a saving grace has been our Piping Plovers and having the joy of meeting and getting to know our Ambassadors, and all of Marshmallow’s friends.

Semipalmated Plover fledgling, “Mystery Chick”

Heather Atwood updated us that the Cape Ann Today PiPl episode is not going to air until Friday or Monday and as soon as I know, will let you know.

Have a great day and thank goodness for today’s cooler temperatures 🙂

xxKim37 day old Marshmallow

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BUTTERFLIES GONE?

In thinking about where have all the butterflies gone, I am reminded of the poignant song written by Pete Seeger “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” which although a song about the futility of war, sums up much about the environmental impact of habitat loss. Without wildflower habitat, there will be no pollinators of any sort.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago.

Buckeye and Seaside Goldenrod

Where have all the butterflies gone? Different species of butterfly populations fluctuate from year to year. For example, some years you may see far greater numbers of Buckeyes, the next year not so much. That same year you may hardly see any Tiger Swallowtails but will the following.

That being said,, everyone must realize that every year there are fewer butterflies than the year before. Butterflies thrive in meadows, the very same topography that is the easiest to build upon. Every time a new house or shopping mall is built on a meadow, we decrease not just butterfly habitat, but a whole community of wildlife habitat.

In the above photo you can see a Monarch with a Black Swallowtail flying overhead. This stunning patch of wildflowers and nectar plants was sited in Gloucester at a prime spot for Monarchs to rest and refuel after migrating across Massachusetts Bay. The new home owners ripped out most of the wildflowers and planted the site in a more formal style, with non-native perennials and shrubs. At this location, I would often see Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Painted and American Ladies, Sulphurs, and many other species. That is no longer true.

Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from Joe Pye-weed at the same wildflower patch, no longer in existence.

Butterfly and bee populations are declining overall, not only because of habitat loss, but because of the unbridled use of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture and home lawn care.

Butterflies are especially sensitive to fluctuations in weather, and also to overall climate change. This year we had a long, cold wet spring. The inclement weather is continuing, too, from a butterflies perspective, because although we are seeing some warmer temperatures the past few days, it has mostly been rainy, foggy, or overcast. Butterflies thrive during long stretches of sunny, hot weather. Their wings don’t work very well in the damp and cold. Because of global climate change, we have seen a seven percent increase in precipitation worldwide.

One of the best years I have ever seen for dozens and dozens of species of butterflies, including Monarchs, in the Northeast, was the summer and fall of 2012. That year, we had a warm winter followed by a warm spring, then a warm, dry summer, and a long, warm Indian summer. It was butterfly bonanza that summer and autumn!Adding to people’s concern is the fact that last year, there was an abundance of spring rain that in turn created an extraordinary wildflower bloom in Texas, which got all the butterflies off to a good start. In 2019, we were seeing Monarchs as early as early June, which was very unusual for Cape Ann. Folks are comparing this year to that of 2019, however, 2019 was not an average year.

Monarchs are a case unto themselves. Their spring and summer numbers depend upon a variety of additional conditions, including how successful was the previous year’s autumn migration, whether or not there were nectar providing wildflowers on their northward and southward  migrations, and wind and weather conditions from Canada to Mexico.

Note the bar graph in that the eastern population of the Monarchs plummeted by half, according to this year’s spring count by the World Wildlife Fund Mexico.

Particularly in the northeast, the wind patterns during the Monarchs spring northward migration matter tremendously. My friend Charmaine at Point Pelee, in southern Ontario, which is 49 degrees latitude (we are 43 degrees latitude) has been raising and releasing Monarchs for over a month now, while most of us on Cape Ann have only seen a smattering. The Monarchs moved this year in a straight northward trajectory. If the wind does not blow from west to east during some part of their northward migration, far fewer will end up along the eastern shores.Monarchs and Seaside Goldenrod

All is not lost. I am 90 percent certain we will soon be seeing some of our migratory and non-migratory local populations, we just need some good weather. They are later than usual, but not gone entirely.

For so many more reasons, I am hopeful for the future of wildlife and their habitats and see such tremendous, positive change. Despite the current administration’ s extremely harmful stance against the environment, many, many individuals and organizations are gaining a deeper appreciation about the importance of habitats and taking positive action. Many have made it their life’s work. These individuals and organizations are creating wildlife sanctuaries and conserving existing habitats. If the Monarch is declared an endangered species, that will surely bring an added awarenesses and increased federal spending for protecting and creating habitats.

How can you help the Monarchs, which in turn will help myriad species of other butterflies and pollinators? Plant wildflowers! Both Marsh and Common Milkweed for their northward migration, and lots of nectar-rich later summer blooming wildflowers for their southward migration, including New England Aster, Smooth Aster, Purple-stemmed Aster, Seaside Goldenrod, and Canada Goldenrod.Monarchs and New England Aster

A WEEK WITH THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH RED FOX FAMILY – PART ONE

On an early morning walk in May,  I came upon the sweetest scene of three Red Fox kits romping at the edge of a home with an expansive  granite foundation. They were having a wonderful time of it, playing hide and seek by slipping in between the cracks and crevices of the great granite blocks and boulders, running up the rocky hillside, and just being adorably puppy-like. I was perched in a well-hidden location and standing very quietly, when Mom soon arrived with a small mammal in her mouth.

Hide and seek while waiting for breakfast

I spent the next week or so checking on the family each morning, sometimes lucky enough to see, and sometimes they were nowhere to be found. I was hoping to simply capture a few minutes of footage to show how Red Fox share the same beach habitat as Piping Plovers, but saw so much more!

It’s a real challenge for vixen and dog to keep a family of healthy, active pups well fed. Both bring freshly caught prey to the kits continuously during the day and night. The Good Harbor Beach male was visibly more robust; the female was thin, with a slender concaving silhouette. From what I have read, she needs about a thousand extra calories a day to both nurse and hunt.  By the time the kits are weened, she will have lost 20 to 30 percent of her body weight.

The kits menu ranged from the tiniest shrew, to baby bunnies, adult bunnies, and even a very large Crow that was eaten less, and played with more. The youngsters took turns shaking the Crow in their mouths, much like how you may have seen a puppy shake a toy vigorously in its mouth. Red Fox are omnivorous and their diet also includes fruits, berries, grasses, crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, squirrels, mice and other small mammals.

Based on the kits’ eye color and coat, I would estimate the three were two and a half months to three months old when these photos were taken.

For the first eight weeks of its life, a Red Fox has blue eyes. At about two months of age, its eyes turn brown.  You can also estimate the age of the pup by noting the color of its coat. When the kits are in their den for the first month or so of its life, they are blue-gray. They become sandy colored for the next six to eight weeks and then develop their beautiful red color from three months on.

The week I spent photographing the Red Fox family, their coats were transitioning primarily from sandy to red, however one still had some blue.

The family has since moved from its cozy granite den and is now most likely still together as a family, but living in a more woodsy, brambly location. Coming next, Part Two.Note the brown eyes and developing red coat

OUR LITTLE CHICK IS TEN DAYS OLD!

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

Today marks another milestone, ten days old. After today, we begin to think of chicks as two weeks old, three weeks, old, etc. Thank you to Everyone for your watchful eyes and kind interest!

Yes, Duncan, if the tracks you saw were down by the water, it was our GHB Red Fox. I think it was the Dad (the Mom is much skinnier, from nursing and scavenging food for the kits). He was bringing a rabbit breakfast to the kits.

Sally – such a joy to see when they stretch and try to “flap” their tiny wing buds ❤

The cooler weather this weekend is a tremendous break for the PiPls. Last night I stopped by and people are partying much later on the beach on weeknights than in previous years, surely because of coronavirus and a lack of jobs. I picked up six empty full-sized whiskey bottles, three were in the roped off area, and fifty plus beer cans that had been buried in the sand. That smell of stale beer at 6 in the morning is so Gross!

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Good Harbor Beach

Thank you Deb for the Monarch sighting report. The milkweed is in full bloom in the dunes–perfect timing for the Monarchs to begin arriving. I have a friend who is so worried she hasn’t seen any in her garden. I’ve been telling her they usually arrive around July 4th, in a normal year. She will be thrilled when I share your sighting.

Thank you PiPl Ambassadors!
Happy July 3rd.
xxKim

Ten to eleven day old chick

BEAUTIFUL PIPING PLOVER SECOND HATCH DAY- AFTERNOON

SEE PART ONE HERE

SEE PART TWO HERE

Saturday afternoon I arrived back to the nest at about 5:30pm hoping to see if the fourth and last chick had hatched. Yes it had hatched! Judging by how sleepy and that he appeared to be still a bit wet and sticky, I think it had happened within the past hour.

Piping Plover chicks are precocial birds. That is a word biologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Precocial means that shortly after hatching, the bird is fully mobile. Plover chicks are not completely mature, they still need parents to help regulate their body temperature, but they have downy feathers and can run and feed themselves within an hour or so after emerging.

The opposite of precocial is altricial. Birds that hatch helpless, naked, usually blind, and are incapable of departing the nest, are altricial. Robins and Cardinals are examples of altricial birds.

Weighing about as much as a nickel at the time of hatching, Piping Plover chicks are able to feed themselves but are unable to regulate their body temperature. They need to tuck under Mom and Dad to warm up.

Please don’t eat my toe!

Tiny wing bud stretches

It makes it hard on the parents when hatching is stretched over a twenty four hour period. The day old chick was full of vim and vigor while the newborn could barely walk. To make matters even more challenging, and because the nest was sited in an extremely exposed location, the parents were trying to move the entire family, including the newborn hatchling, to a safer and less exposed site on the beach.

The adults piped softly to the newborn, coaxing him to leave the nest. He kept taking a few steps and then flopping back toward the nest.

In the meantime, the three older chicks were out exploring the beach in short forays and then snuggling together under Mom or Dad.

Mom takes a much needed break

After an hour or so of watching the youngest hatchling struggle, slowly making its way across the beach, the parents eventually succeeded in moving all four chicks to a safer location at the base of the dune where there were  divots, dried beach grass and seaweed, and new vegetation sprouting, providing much needed cover.

Mom returned several times to inspect the empty nest.

You can see the tiny one’s feathers are still sticky and not fully fluffed out.

By day’s end all four were tucking under Mom and Dad.

It was a gift to witness the beautiful Clam Fam hatch day, a day I won’t soon forget. So small and sparrow-sized, you could hold an adult Piping Plover in the cup of your hand, but so beautiful, fascinating, resilient, and intelligent a species of bird.

Educate, Not Enforce!

Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our GHB chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION

NEW YOUTUBE SHOW – BEAUTY BY THE SEA EPISODE #7

 

Timelapse Sunrise Twin Lighthouses at Thacher Island

To clarify about My Blog. Several friends have written with confused questions re my blog. I have been writing, filming, designing, photographing, and painting all my life. I started my own blog long before I began contributing to a local community blog. I both wrote and illustrated a book on garden design, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!, which was published by David R. Godine, and have written many articles for numerous publications including a weekly column on habitat gardening. Here is a link to my blog and to my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden.

If you would like to follow or subscribe to my blog, click the Follow button in the lower right hand corner. Thank you so much if you do! http://www.kimsmithdesigns.com.

Baltimore Orioles arrive when the pears and crabapples come into bloom in our garden. Great idea for an Oriole feeder from friend Robin!

Shadblow (Amelanchier canadensis) question from Morgan Faulds Pike

Caffe Sicilia reopening May 20, Wednesday. What are you going to order?

We Love the Franklin Cape Ann

Castaways Vintage Cafe

Gloucester Fisherman’ Wharf

Cedar Rock Gardens

Piping Plover Chronicles –

Piping Plover Smackdowns

Still no threatened/endangered species signage. Please write to your councilor.

How can you help raise the next generation of PiPls? It’s a great deal to ask of people during coronavirus to care for, and write letters about, tiny little shorebirds, but people do care. For over forty years, partners have been working to protect these threatened creatures and it is a shame to put them at risk like this needlessly.  We have been working with Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard and he has been beyond terrific in helping us sort through the problems this year; however, I think if we wrote emails or letters to all our City Councilors and asked them to help us get signs installed it would be super helpful. Please keep letters kind and friendly, or just simply copy paste the following:

Subject Line: Piping Plovers Need Our Help

Dear City Councilors,

Gloucester Plovers need our help. Please ask the Conservation Commission to install the threatened species signs at the symbolically cordoned off nesting areas and at the entrances at Good Harbor Beach.

Thank you for helping these birds raise their next generation.

Your Name

Link to all the City Councilors, but I believe that if you send one letter and also cc to Joanne Senos, a copy will be sent to all the City Councilors. Her address is: JSenos@gloucester-ma.gov

Piping Plover Smackdown

GOOD NEWS CAPE ANN – THINKING ABUT CHANGING THE NAME “TO BEAUTY BY THE SEA”- EPISODE 6

 

This is what snow in May looks like! 

1816:The Year Without a Summer

Happy Mom’s Day! Sending love to all our beautiful and hard working Mums, Aunts, Friends, Grandmothers, Great Grannies, Great Aunties, and all our loved ones

 Sea Salps at Good Harbor Beach

Cedar Rock Gardens Opening May 15th for Warm Weather Seedlings. See complete list here.

Gardening Tip – when to plant warm weather seedlings outdoors

The Franklin 

Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester

Castaways Vintage Café

Short and Main FRIED CHICKEN!

Cedar Waxwings Courting

Piping Plover Chronicles – new series – currently following three different PiPl families at three different locations. This is great for comparing and contrasting. Our PiPls are behind, by several weeks. Not because they arrived any later, but because of dog and human disturbance in the nesting area, which is due to a lack of signage. We are working to correct this oversight.

A behavior shared by all Plovers is called “foot-trembling.” Also called “foot-tapping” and “foot-pattering,” the vibration caused by the PiPl shaking its foot brings worms and other prey closer to the surface of the sand.

Please send in your wildlife stories, restaurants and businesses you think we ought to know more about and help support, fun recipes, and anything else you would like to share about.

Thank you for watching! Happy Mom’s Day

GOOD NEWS CAPE ANN! – EPISODE 5

Good News Cape Ann! – Episode #5

 Sounds of Cape Ann, fog horn, songbirds, boats

Red-winged Blackbird singing across the marsh and calling to his mate in the reeds below.

Musing over name of show-  Good News Cape Ann, Finding Hope, my friend Loren suggested Beauty of Cape Ann, and husband Tom suggests Coastal Currents – what do you think?

Loren Doucette beautiful pastels and paintings. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Castaways gift certificate

Fishermans Wharf Gloucester now also selling lobsters in addition to scallops, haddock, and flounder. Our son made a fabulous scallop ceviche this week, so easy and delicious.

Cedar Waxwings, Hummingbird, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Baltimore Orioles, and Palm Warbler

Mini tutorial on how to plant a hummingbird garden

TWO MONARCH CONTORVERSIES! Is it okay to raise Monarchs at home? What is the problem with Butterfly Bushes?

Jesse Cook new release “One World One Voice”

Beautiful Piping Plover courtship footage – Piping Plovers in the field, what are they doing right now?

Charlotte stops by.

Take care and be well ❤

Alex’s Scallop Ceviche Recipe

1 lb. sea scallops completely submerged in fresh lime juice

Dice 1/2 large white onion. Soak in a bowl with ice water to the reduce bitterness.

Dice 1 garden fresh tomato, 1 jalapeño, and cilantro to taste

Strain the onions.

Strain scallops but leave 1/4 of the lime juice.

Gently fold all ingredients. Add cubed avocado just prior to serving.