Category Archives: Niles Pond

TONIGHT! TRY BACKYARD BIRDING – FAMILY ZOOM EVENT – SOME OF THE BEAUTIFUL WINGED WONDERS SEEN IN OUR GLOUCESTER NEIGHBORHOOD DURING THE SPRING OF 2020 including Red-neck Grebe, Cedar Waxwings, Northern Flicker, Dowitchers, Eagles, Palm Warbler, Kingbird, Long-tailed Ducks, Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Mockingbird, Robin, Catbird, Cardinal, Finches, Orioles, Egrets, Grackles, and Swan, Kildeer, Eider, PiPl Chicks, and More!!

Try Backyard Birding – Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for a virtual zoom hour of fun talk about birding in your own backyard. We’ll be discussing a range of bird related topics and the event is oriented to be family friendly and hosted by Eric Hutchins.

I am a bit under the weather but nonetheless looking forward to sharing this wonderful event sponsored by Literary Cape Ann.

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

 

All the photos you see here were taken in my East Gloucester neighborhood this past spring, from March 17th to this morning. A few were taken at the Jodrey Fish Pier, but mostly around Eastern Point, Good Harbor Beach, and in our own backyard. The Tree Swallows photos were taken at Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation. Several of these photos I have posted previously this spring but most not.

I love sharing about the beautiful species we see in our neighborhood – just this morning I was photographing Mallard ducklings, an Eastern Cottontail that hopped right up to me and ate his breakfast of beach pea foliage only several feet away, a Killdeer family, a male Cedar Waxwing feeding a female, and a Black Crowned Night Heron perched on a rock. I was wonderfully startled when a second BCN flew in. The pair flew off and landed at a large boulder, well hidden along the marshy edge of the pond. They hung out together for a bit- maybe we’ll see some little Black Crowned Night Herons later this summer ❤

 

 

NILES POND PANORAMA AND EXQUISITE LIGHT LATE YESTERDAY

Late afternoon when the clouds cleared briefly – click the panorama to view full size.

 

SWAN ALERT!

A young Mute Swan arrived at Niles Pond this morning. He/she seems a bit travel weary and spent most of the day sleeping. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see him eat once. This is very unusual behavior for Mute Swans who spend their days alternating between foraging, preening, resting briefly, and then resuming eating.

He at first was closer to shore, but a Coyote was skittering around the edge of the pond this morning and perhaps that is why the young visitor moved to the center of the pond.

You can see that he is very young because he has so much brown in his feathers.

THE WINDING ROAD – WITH BEAUTIFUL SOLAR HALO PHENOMENON

This morning’s sunrise walk was made more beautiful by the phenomenon known as a Solar Halo or Sun Halo.

WHAT MAKES A HALO AROUND THE SUN OR MOON?

A large ring or circle of light around the sun or moon is called a 22-degree halo by scientists.
We get many messages throughout each year from people who’ve just spotted a large ring or circle of light around the sun or moon. Scientists call them 22-degree halos. Why? Because the ring has a radius of approximately 22 degrees around the sun or moon.

People always ask, what causes these gigantic rings?

There’s an old weather saying: ring around the moon means rain soon. There’s truth to this saying, because high cirrus clouds often come before a storm. Notice in these photos that the sky looks fairly clear. After all, you can see the sun or moon. And yet halos are a sign of high, thin cirrus clouds drifting 20,000 feet or more above our heads.

These clouds contain millions of tiny ice crystals. The halos you see are caused by bothrefraction, or splitting of light, and also by reflection, or glints of light from these ice crystals. The crystals have to be oriented and positioned just so with respect to your eye, in order for the halo to appear.

That’s why, like rainbows, halos around the sun – or moon – are personal. Everyone sees their own particular halo, made by their own particular ice crystals, which are different from the ice crystals making the halo of the person standing next to you.

That’s a good question that is not easy to answer accurately because no halo frequency statistics are collected except in one or two mid latitude European countries.

We need to distinguish between (a) halos formed by low level diamond dust during very cold weather and (b) halos formed by ice crystals in high cirrus cloud.

Obviously (a) halos only occur in Polar regions or countries with very cold winters (Canada for example is not high latitude).

(b) Halos can occur anywhere on the planet during winter or summer. Their frequency depends on the frequency of cirrus coverage and whether it has had a history such that it contains halo forming crystals. The latter is hard to predict. For example, there are major differences in halo frequencies and types of halos across even 200 miles [300 km] in the UK.

Bottom line: Halos around the sun or moon are caused by high, thin cirrus clouds drifting high above your head. Tiny ice crystals in Earth’s atmosphere create the halos. They do it by refracting and reflecting the light. Lunar halos are signs that storms are nearby.

READ MORE HERE

THE WONDERFULLY WHACKY FEET OF THE AMERICAN COOT!

Positively pre-historic looking, I was amazed when watching an American Coot lift its foot out of the water. What on earth!Have you ever seen such wildly wonderful feet?

The Coot’s whacky-looking feet only adds to the charm of this adorable waterbird, with its chicken-shaped silhouette, white pointed beak that ends in a sploge of maroon, and garnet, bead-like eyes. Oh, and when the light hits just right, you can see the Coot’s feet are colored in shades of blue, green, and yellow.

The American Coot’s foot is an all-purpose foot so to speak. The lobes serve the bird well for both walking on dry land and for swimming. Most ducks have webbed feet, which are great for propelling through water, but which don’t work very well on land. The Coot’s lobes fall back when lifting its foot, which aids in walking on a variety of surfaces including grass, ice, and mud.

The Coot’s oversized feet also help in becoming airborne; the bird must run across the surface of the water and flap its wings vigorously in order to take off. Its palmate toe helps it swim, and lastly, the Coot uses its strong feet for battling other Coots.

Before the current cold snap, there was a small flock of Coots at Niles Pond, foraging on pond vegetation alongside the flock of four Swans. They all departed shortly before the snowstorm.

The American Coot chicks are equally as whacky looking as are the adult birds. Image courtesy wikicommonsmedia.

BEAUTIFUL WILDLIFE CURRENTLY AT EASTERN POINT, BRACE COVE, AND NILES POND – GREAT BLUE HERON, HARBOR SEALS, AMERICAN COOTS, BONAPARTE’S GULLS, RUDDY DUCKS, RING-NECKED DUCKS, LARK SPARROW AND WILL THE RECENTLY DEPARTED SWANS RETURN?

The past week Eastern Point has seen a wonderful influx of wildlife, in addition to the beautiful creatures already wintering over and migrating through.

On Tuesday before Thanksgiving, a great raft of Ring-necked Ducks joined the flock of Buffleheads and Mallards at Niles Pond. Five chunky American Coots have been there for over a week, and two female Ruddy Ducks have been spotted.

American Coot

Fifteen Harbor Seals were sunning and basking on the rocks at Brace Cove on Wednesday, along with several Bonaparte’s Gulls that were diving and foraging in the waves. The increasingly less timid Lark Sparrow is still here, too.

Lark Sparrow

Great Blue Heron agitating the Ring-necked Ducks

The most enigmatic of Great Blue Herons criss crosses the pond a dozen times a day but, unlike last year’s fall migrating GBH, who allowed for a closer glimpse, this heron is super people shy. He has been here for about a week and was present again today.

This morning I watched the four beautiful Mute Swans depart over Brace Rock, in a southerly direction. Will they return? Mute Swans migrate from body of water to body of water within a region. Perhaps they will return, or they could possibly have flown to a nearby location–further exploring our Island.

The four had not returned to Niles Pond by day’s end. If any of our readers sees a group of four Mute Swans, please write and let us know. Thank you so much!

Leaving Niles Pond this morning and flying over Brace Cove.

THE RARELY SEEN IN MASSACHUSETTS LARK SPARROW IS STILL WITH US!

The sweet Lark Sparrow has been spotted daily at Eastern Point now for over two weeks. I’ve been able to take a longer look on a sunny day and think he is an immature Lark Sparrow because he lacks the rich chestnut color of an adult.

On one fine chilly, chilly morning, he even let me spend more than a few moments watching as he dozed in the sun while puffing his feathers for warmth.

The Lark Sparrow spends a good deal of time foraging on the ground for tiny seeds. When disturbed, he flies up into the trees and at that moment you can catch a glimpse of the white outlined feathers of the bird’s long rounded tail.

Lark Sparrow tail feathers

Unlike Song Sparrows that dart and zoom horizontally across the landscape, when heading to the next location, the Lark Sparrow flies upward in more of a whirring helicopter movement. I love this little bird and if he stays all winter I hope he will find plenty of seeds to eat.

Lark Sparrow foraging for seeds

Compare and contrast the Song Sparrow to the Lark Sparrow. Both species are currently at Eastern Point/Niles Pond area. Both species forage on the ground for tiny seeds. The breast of the Song Sparrow is streaky while the breast of the Lark Sparrow is solid white with a dot of black feathers centered at the upper chest.

Song Sparrow Eastern Point

Don’t you find it fascinating, these avian visitors that are so far off course that find themselves on our shores? Here’s an account from 1905 —

The Lark Sparrow in Massachusetts.– On August 12, 1905, at Ipswich, Massachusetts, I observed at close range a Lark Sparrow (Chondesres grammacus). This makes the sixth record of this species for the State, and the fourth for Essex County. Nearly a year before this, on August 21, 1904, I took at Ipswich an adult male Lark Sparrow (Birds [Auk 104 General Notes. I. Jan. of Essex County, p. 268). It has occurred to me that stragglers in the migrations along our Eastern Coast may not be so very rare, but that they are overlooked, being mistaken for Vesper Sparrows, owing to the ‘white outer tail feathers. In both of the above instances, however, the slightly fan-shaped tail, and the fact that the white was not confined to the two outer feathers, as in the Vesper Sparrow, attracted my eye. The characteristic marking on the side of the head in the Lark Sparrow, seen with a glass within thirty feet, made the diagnosis in the second ca. From the Supplement to the Birds of Essex County by Charles Wendell Townsend.

NOT ONE, BUT TWO, SUPER RARE BIRDS SPOTTED AT EASTERN POINT TODAY – A LARK SPARROW AND A WESTERN KINGBIRD —

A very rare-for-these parts Lark Sparrow was spotted by numerous birders today and yesterday at Niles Pond. The beautiful little songster kept either close to the ground foraging on tiny seeds or well camouflaged in the crisscrossing branches of trees and shrubs.

Lark Sparrow Niles Pond Gloucester Massachusetts

Song Sparrows Gloucester and Ipswich

We mostly see Song Sparrows around Niles at this time of year. Compare in the above photos how plain the breast of the Lark Sparrow is to that of the heavily streaked Song Sparrow’s underparts. I write rare-for-these-parts because the Lark Sparrow is entirely out of its range as you can see in the first attached map below.

A second rare bird has been spotted on Eastern Point, a Western Kingbird. It was a rough day for photographing, too overcast, so here is a photo from wikicommons media so that if you are around the Point, you will know what to look for. The Western Kingbird is also far outside its range.

GOOD MORNING MR. BUFFALO-HEAD!

Ponds and waterways are filling up with one of the smallest ducks found on our shores, the Buffleheads. A most striking of winter residents (and feisty, too), the male is sharply feathered in black and white, with iridescent purple and green head feathers. The Buffleheads will be here through the winter, with most departing in early spring.

The name Bufflehead is derived from the name Buffalo-head, and they are so named because of the male’s puffy-shaped head. Another common name for this diminutive diver is Butterball.

The male’s head feathers are shaded with a beautiful rainbow sheen, while the female is a much plainer sort.

Two male Bufflheads

THE SMALL FLOCK OF FOUR BEAUTIFUL SWANS IS SETTLING IN

The flock of Mute Swans that arrived just about two weeks ago at Niles Pond is settling in. They are finding plenty to eat and spend their days foraging at pond vegetation, preening, napping, and occasionally stretching their wings for a flight around the pond.

Mute Swans migrate from body of water to body of water within a region. Will they stay in our area or is Niles Pond only a temporary home? When Niles Pond, and all other freshwater ponds and waterways freeze this winter, they will have to move to saltwater coves and harbors.

The absence of Mr. Swan has allowed this small flock to live peaceably at Niles Pond. Mr. Swan and his previous mates spent the winters at Rockport and Gloucester Harbors. Perhaps our Niles Pond flock will do the same. We can tell by the lack of gray in their feathers that they are at least two years old, which means they have managed to survive at least one winter in our region. That is no small feat!

Romance is in the air with these two!

NILES POND SONGSTER

The melodious notes of the Song Sparrow are heard from sunup ’til sundown, spring, summer, and fall. Their beautiful song is most welcome, especially at this time of year when there are fewer songbirds on our shores and many that remain through the winter months don’t sing during the non-breeding season.

Song Sparrows have adapted to a wide variety of habitats. Despite the narrowness of the strip of land that separates freshwater Niles Pond from salty Brace Cove, Song Sparrows find plenty to forage on and excellent cover in the shrubby undergrowth found there.

Follow this link to hear the Song Sparrow’s song

SNOWY DAY IN GLOUCESTER with YOUNG SWANS, SAINT ANTHONYS-BY-THE-SEA, TEN POUND ISLAND, BRACE COVE, PAINT FACTORY, AND MORE

The prettiest kind of snowy day, not too cold, with swirly fluffy flakes.

#GLOUCESTERMA DEEP FREEZE SEA SMOKE GOOD HARBOR BEACH, TWIN LIGHTS, EASTERN POINT, BACKSHORE, TEN POUND ISLAND, NILES POND

My fingers froze and I had to call it quits yet despite the bitterly cold five degree temperature and biting wind, day break brought blue skies and beautiful sea smoke all along the backshore, from Gloucester’s Ten Pound Island Lighthouse to Rockport’s Twin Lighthouses.

Take heart friends -today is the last day of January- only 48 more days until the spring equinox!

Fresh wild animal tracks crossing Niles Pond

NILES POND EAST #GLOUCESTERMA KIDS ICE SAILING!

The beautiful wooden ice sail boats that Andy Lee is generously sharing with the neighborhood kids are his family’s boats. Andy grew up ice sailing on Chebacco Lake with his Dad.

Michelle Barton pointed out that there aren’t too many places in the area where the ice and wind are just right for ice sailing, and Niles Pond happens to be one of those unique places. Andy shares they were sailing at 40mph today!

Andy Lee (from Lee Tree) and Geoff are restoring the ice boats at Geoff’s woodworking studio and I think they are planning to build more!

ICE SAILING UNDER THE WOLF MOON

Ice Sailing at Niles Pond

I took Charlotte out Friday at dusk to look for the moon and we found it at Niles Pond, along with hockey players and ice sailors. We can thank her favorite storybook Goodnight Moon for her lunar passion.

NILES POND ICING UP


Testing my new Fuji 16-55mm lens–love that it is able to capture the soft hues of predawn.

November Frost Moon Rising Over Brace Cove and Niles Pond

November’s nearly full Frost Moon was rising over Brace Cove, while the sun was setting over the harbor. Violet sunset clouds swirled around the rising moon when moments later the moon shone brightly through the pine trees. November’s full moon is also called the Beaver Moon-both the early colonists and Algonquin tribes named it so because November was the designated time of year to set Beaver traps before ponds and swamps froze.

November Frost Moon rising over Niles Pond

Harbor Seals in the setting sun and rising moonlight–a seal-a-rock 🙂

HAPPY AUTUMN DAYS!

Spring Peeper out and about before hibernating for the winter.

Relishing the last of these golden days, we took advantage of Sunday’s delightfully beautiful weather with a hike around Eastern Point. Several female Yellow-rumped Warblers were spotted feeding on seed heads, a lone turtle was basking on a sun-warmed rock, the Harbor Seals were lolling about, and a tiny Spring Peeper was spied in the fallen leaves.

You can see why these sweet birds are called Yellow-rumped Warblers. Note the little flash of yellow on the rump of the warbler flying in the background.

Eastern Painted Turtle

Who me?

Harbor Seals warming in the sun.

GOOD MORNING! BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE NILES POND DUCKLING FAMILY

Without making a peep, from the dense patch of reeds on the north side of Niles Pond appeared Mama Mallard and four little ducklings. As long as I stood perfectly still and didn’t make any rustling noises, Mama didn’t mind my presence. She and the ducklings foraged all along the edge of the pond, until they spotted the males. They quickly skedaddled, making a beeline back to the reeds and just as quietly as they had emerged, back they slipped into the shelter of the cattails.

 

SO SORRY TO WRITE OUR LITTLE SWAN PASSED AWAY THIS MORNING

Sending heartfelt condolences to Lyn Fonzo, and to all of the Young Swan’s and friends and caretakers. The little Swan’s leg injury became deeply infected, all the way into the bone.

If you see Lyn Fonzo, please thank her for all that she has done over the past year in caring for our Young Swan and in trying to rehabilitate him to Niles Pond. Please thank and support Dr. Cahill, too, who generously donated his services.

AMELIE SEVERANCE’S LOVELY DRAWING OF THE YOUNG SWAN

Reader Jennifer Cullen shares this beautiful drawing of our Young Swan by Amélie Severance. Jenn writes the following, ” I told Amélie (9-years old) the story of Young Swan and Mr. Swan and showed her a few of Kim Smith’s pics from GMG…next thing you know, she drew this for me. Well done, Amélie!”  

GLOUCESTER CELEBRATES EARTH DAY! WITH GREAT NEWS: LYN AND DAN RELEASE THE YOUNG SWAN BACK TO THE WILD!

Throughout the community people took the time to participate in Earth Day cleanups and events.  I was only able to cover a small fraction of the events and locations. Let us know how you spent Earth Day weekend. We would love to post your stories on Good Morning Gloucester. Thank you so much!

THE GREAT GLOUCESTER CLEANUP TEAM CAPTAINS

Organized by Ainsley Smith and Nick Illiades from Gloucester’s Clean City Commission, The Great Gloucester Cleanup took place at six locations–St. Peter’s Square, Pavilion Beach, Washington Street, Cripple Cove, Good Harbor Beach, and Horton Street.

The volunteers filled over ONE HUNDRED BAGS OF TRASH!!!!!!!!

THANK YOU TO ALL THE VOLUNTEERS FOR HELPING TO KEEP GLOUCESTER BEAUTIFUL!

After the cleanup, a fabulous cookout was hosted by Jamie at her beautiful shop located right on the inner harbor, One Ocean One Love. Jamie provided the burgers and much of the food; Caffe Sicilia donated cookies; Pigeon Cove Ferments, the sauerkraut; and Ma and Pa’s, the pickles. Additionally Beauport Hotel, Clean Pro Gloucester, and Lone Gull provided breakfast. Please say thank you for supporting The Great Gloucester Cleanup to these local businesses by patronizing their establishments. 

Meanwhile, over at Good Harbor Beach, I was watching the Piping Plovers this morning from 8am to about 10:30. With many volunteers expected for the Good Harbor Beach clean up location I thought there would be lots of folks interested in learning more about the PiPl, and yes, there were!

While there, I also met Gloucester’s new animal control officer Teagan (rhymes with Reagan) Dolan. He’s very interested in helping the PiPl and the dog officer’s stepped-up presence at Good Harbor has had a noticeable impact on the number of dogs off-leash and in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach. Teagan is suggesting to dog walkers alternative locations such as Plum Cove Beach and Cressies Beach. I showed him where the roping that cordoned off the nesting area broke overnight and he got out his trusty pocket knife and fixed it on the spot!

Then onto Eastern Point, with the great wildlife news of the weekend is that my friends Lyn and Dan released the Young Swan back to Niles Pond! You may recall that the Young Swan became frozen in the ice in early winter. Lyn has been kindly taking care of the immature swan all winter, housing him in a chicken coop remodeled (by carpenter Joel Munroe) just for a swan, replete with a heated pool.

Releasing the Young Swan at Niles

Lyn and Dan gently and humanely covered the swan with a blanket while carrying him to the water’s edge. Upon release, he immediately headed into a reeded area and then down to Skip’s dock where he took the longest swan bath imaginable, dip-diving and splashing for twenty minutes. When last I saw him, he was perusing the pond’s edge, becoming refamiliarized with his home territory.

Stretching his wings!

Swan Rescuers Lyn and Dan

Lyn’s little Little Aruba rescue puppy and Dan

HAPPY EARTH DAY FRIENDS!

SHORING UP THE NILES POND-BRACE COVE CAUSEWAY BEFORE THE NEXT NOR’EASTER (ARRIVING TONIGHT)

With the third nor’easter to hit our shores during the month of March expected to arrive tonight, track-hoe excavator Larry shares that the work continued today to fortify the causeway, and to possibly get more water to flow through the clogged drain that is preventing excess water from leaving Niles Pond.

For our readers general information, the cost of the repairs, restoration, and continued ongoing maintenance of the causeway, and surrounding area, are paid for entirely by the generous residents of Eastern Point, not tax payer dollars.

NILES POND BRACE COVE RESTORATION UNDERWAY 2018 #GLOUCESTERMA NOR’EASTER STORM RILEY

Large track-hoes (excavators) are needed to repair the damage done by the March nor’easter storm known as Riley.

The narrowest slip of land between a body of fresh water and the sea.

Native pussy willow trees survive storm after storm after storm after storm. More pussy willows, as well as other deep-rooted natives, need to be planted to help with the unending erosion.

Niles Pond water overflowing the bank and littered with debris swept in by the sea.

A BOY, AN ICEBOAT, AND A DOG

Wonderful fun to see the ice boat racing on Niles Pond. The black lab has had no problem navigating the ice while trotting alongside his boy 🙂