Photos from area ponds – I spent far more time observing the cygnets but all three families were super sweet and adorable. The Mute Swan cygnets are about a week old, the Mallard ducklings tiny, probably only a few days old, and I am not sure how old are the Canada Geese goslings.
The female Mute Swan is on the left. You can tell by the size of the black knob above the bill. Typically, the male’s knob, also called a blackberry, is slightly larger during the breeding season.
Mom Mute Swan repeatedly dives deeply to pull up pond vegetation for the cygnets meal. Growing swans have huge appetites. Both she and the male do this many time during the course of a day.
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 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!
Four exclamation points for four beautiful Mute Swans. They arrived yesterday afternoon. Thank you to my dear swan-loving friend Lyn Fonzo for the alert ❤
There don’t appear to be any brownish-gray adolescent feathers leading us to believe they are at least two years old. Young Mute Swans often join a flock, remaining until they are of breeding age, typically at about four years old.
I don’t think our visitors are familiar with people. A gentleman came to the water’s edge with a bucket of food for the ducks. The Swans showed no interest in the food and kept their distance.
All four Swans have black eyes. Mr. Swan, who is blue-eyed, has not been seen at all his usual haunts for many months. He was at least twenty-nine years old when last seen, which is a very, very, ripe old age for a Mute Swan not kept in captivity. Most wild Mute Swans only live ten to twelve years.
One of the Swans was super bossy, giving another of the Swans several nips.
While out doing errands, I always hope to have time to take the “scenic route,” which usually means driving by one or more of our local bodies of water, whether sea, pond, marsh, or river. The day before I left for Mexico I was wonderfully surprised to spy the Three Graces swimming in a marsh on the other side of Cape Ann. There was still snow on the ground, but they were right at home foraging in the salt water marsh for vegetation.
Swans don’t migrate long distances, but move around from body of water to body of water within a region. These three siblings were most likely kicked out of their family and nesting area by the dad, as he is preparing to mate and nest with the mom to produce the next brood of cygnets. The Three Graces won’t be mature enough to mate and lay eggs for at least two more years and during this time, I imaging they are learning the lay of the land, where food may be plentiful and where may be a good place to nest. Swans are at their most vulnerable in these first few years of life. Hopefully at least one will survive and decide to make Cape Ann his/her future home!
A beautiful trio of young Mute Swans spent the day at Niles Pond foraging on pond vegetation and enjoying fresh water. When the fresh water ponds thaw, we see our local swans take a break from their salty harbor refuges. The Three Graces spent the entire day eating nearly nonstop, which suggests they are very hungry.
I believe the three young swans are not quite one year old. Their bills are pale, and brown first-molt feathers mix with incoming white feathers. It’s their first winter so if you see the young swans, please be kind.
Mr. Swan, too, has been enjoying the fresh water at Henry’s Pond. He’s so territorial that I hope he stays over in Rockport for a bit so the Three Graces can fortify at Niles.
Over the weekend the Rockport Fire Department was called by a well-meaning person because they thought Mr. Swan was stuck in the ice. Believe me when I write that Mr. Swan has spent the last 29 years of his life (at least 29 years) on Cape Ann’s wintry waterways. If Mr. Swan finds himself partially frozen in the ice he uses his mighty breast to break up the ice by lifting his body out of the water and then coming down hard, pounding the ice with his chest. We have seen him do this powerful move dozens of times.
Notice Mr. Swan’s large and well-defined breast bones, which are ideal for breaking up ice.
There was a concern last year about him being unable to get off ice he had unwittingly flown onto, only because he had an injured foot. With his bad foot, he could not get a running start to take off flying. Mr. Swan’s foot has healed and he is doing beautifully.
It is of grave concern when the local authorities are called regarding Mr. Swan. We are afraid that the case will be referred to Mass Wildlife. Mute Swans are considered an invasive species and it is not part of their protocol to save non-native species of wildlife. As he is a “community” pet, some leeway may be permitted, but that is not guaranteed.
Please contact me at email@example.com. When you contact me about any issues regarding Mr. Swan, I in turn contact and discuss with his longtime caretakers and friends Lois and Serena, Lyn, Skip, Joel and Skip, Elaine, and Jodi and Erin at Cape Ann Wildlife. It was a terrible ordeal last time there was an attempt to capture Mr. Swan. We don’t want him to go through that kind of trauma ever again, especially at his age.
During the winter months, Mr. Swan’s territory expands tremendously and it includes the length of the Annisquam River and all inlets, all along the backshore from Rockport Harbor to Gloucester Harbor, and all the fresh bodies of water in between. Please let people know and share this post with everyone you know who may have contact with Mr. Swan.
Mr. Swan in the partially frozen water at Niles Pond
Friday afternoon, after the nor’easter, the sun came out just barely before the skies again darkened with a brief snow squall. I was driving along Atlantic Road during those fleeting in between moments when way off in the distance I spied a flock of birds, with the distinct shape of swans in flight. Swans fly with their long necks extended, unlike herons and egrets, which fly with their necks curved in. What on Earth is Mr. Swan doing out in this wildly windy weather I thought. But it wasn’t Mr. Swan, it was an entire family of Swans! There were two adults and four cygnets. Stunning to see and very uplifting. They flew over the Twin Lights and then further and further until I could not see them any longer.
The first and third swans are the adults, the second, fourth, fifth and sixth are the cygnets, or first-hatch year juveniles.The young swans will retain their grayish brown feathers until their second summer.
Please write and let me know if you saw the Mute Swan family on Friday afternoon. They were flying along the backshore at about 2:15. Or, if you live on the Northshore and know of any swan family with two adults and four youngsters, I would love to learn more about them. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for any leads!
Swans and wave crashing
A few more of the Mute Swan family flying toward and over Thacher Island
Mr. Swan busking, a thing swans do to look twice as large and threatening.
Cape Ann’s beautiful blue-eyed swan is doing quite well especially considering he is at least 28 YEARS OLD. It is highly unusual for a Mute Swan to live that long. Wild Mute Swans live on average eight to twelve years. In captivity, they can live up to 40 years, but our Mr. Swan hardly lives the cushy life of a Queen’s swan. .
He is only occasionally a little gimpy on his bad leg. Mr. Swan still manages to rule most of Cape Ann’s waterways, from the Annisquam River to Rockport Harbor, and everything in between.
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.
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!”
As you may recall, the rescue cygnet was deposited at Niles Pond about ten months ago. Local residents Lyn Fonzo and Skip Hadden had been watching out for him and feeding him regularly, when he became frozen in the ice last fall. Lyn and Dan Harris rescued the Young Swan, and Lyn cared for him all winter long, feeding him and providing fresh bedding and water daily in a custom-made swan sanctuary.
Several weeks ago the Young Swan was released back to Niles Pond. Lyn has not yet seen him fly, not because of injury, but we think he simply does not know that he is a swan. Many species of birds imprint on the first thing they see upon hatching and when this little guy was found he was without parents.
The Young Swan has not been adapting well, and has been seen wandering around the Pond, by foot, and sitting quietly in the yards of neighboring homes.
Mr. Swan gave the Young Swan a tremendous thrashing today, as witnessed by several people, pounding his head against the ground and causing him to bleed. We can’t hold this behavior against Mr. Swan, he is just doing what swans do naturally, and that is to defend their territory, especially from other males.
Lyn volunteered to take the Swan back to her swan sanctuary while a new home is identified. Very unfortunately, it was determined that the Young Swan be placed in the OCEAN. The Young Swan has never swam in, or for that matter even seen, the ocean, and he cannot fly well. The excuse was that Mass Wildlife rules state that if an animal is not visibly injured it has to be returned to the wild. However, our understanding is that Mass Wildlife guidelines do not pertain to non-native species and to pets. The Swan’s caretakers were begging to keep the swan safe and not dump him on the beach, repeating that the swan would be cared for, yet, despite their pleas, he was taken to Niles Beach and released there.
He is currently swimming around and around in circles off of Niles Beach, in the harbor. We hope at some point tomorrow he will come to shore, where he can be recaptured and placed in a safe environment.
Please write and let us know if you know of a swan rehabilitator or potential long term swan caretaker.
Alone in the harbor with no ability to escape danger or to defend himself.
We hope he stays close to shore and out of the path of boats.
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.
A number of friends have been texting and emailing that they are seeing a swan all along the Annisquam. I suspected that it was Mr. Swan as I have seem him on the Annisquam, near the bridge and Cape Ann Marina after he lost his second mate. It would be swan-logical that he would head over to the Annisquam in search of open, fresh water because both Henry’s and Niles ponds are still frozen.
Thanks to Craig Kimberley, who texted a swan sighting in real time, I was able to get a closeup of the swan, and YES, it is Mr. Swan that many of our readers are seeing. Mr. Swan’s bill is uniquely marked and he has beautiful blue eyes, which is unusual for most Mute Swans seen in these parts. In the closeup photo above it is difficult to tell his eyes are blue. It’s much easier to notice when his eyes reflect sunlight, but trust me, if it were a black-eyed swan, you would not be able to distinguish the iris at all.
Thanks so much to Craig, Brianne, and facebook friends for sharing your Mr. Swan sightings, so very much appreciated 🙂
Craig Kimberley iPhone photo from this morning.
The Annisquam River stretches from Annisquam Harbor on the north to Gloucester Harbor on south.
Cape Ann provides welcome habitat for a menagerie of creatures beautiful, from the tiniest winged wonder to our region’s top predator, the Eastern Coyote. Last year I posted a Cape Ann Wildlife Year in Pictures 2016 and I hope you will find the wildlife stories of 2017 equally as beautiful. Click on the image to find the name of each species.
Winter: Only partially frozen ponds allowed for dabblers and divers such as Mallards, Mergansers, and Buffleheads to forage at the freshwater. Mr. Swan had his usual entourage of quwackers and daily heads to the other side of the pond to get away for his morning stretches. Sightings of Red-tailed Hawks and other raptors abounded. Although photographed in Newburyport, the owl photos are included, well, just because I like them. An Eastern Screech Owl (red-morph) was seen daily perched above a playground and Barred Owl sightings too were reported throughout the winter. Raptors live on Cape Ann all year round but are much easier to see in winter when the trees are bare of foliage.
The beautiful green eyes of the juvenile Double-crested Cormorants were seen wintering at both Niles Pond and Rockport Harbor. And during a warm February day on a snowless marsh a turkey bromance shindig commenced.
In early spring, a male and female American Wigeon arrived on the scene making local ponds their home for several weeks. In the right light the male’s electric green feathers at the top of his head shine brightly and both the male and female have baby blue bills.
Meadow and marsh, dune and treetop were graced with the heralding harbingers of spring with photos of a Red-winged Blackbird, a pair of Cedar Waxwings, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Kingbird, Tree Swallow, and Grackle included here.
The Great Swan Escape story made the news in Boston as Mr. Swan eluded captors for hours. He had re-injured his foot and someone took it upon themselves to call the animal rescuers, which would have surely meant death for our beloved 27-year old swan if he had been wrangled into captivity.
M is clearly for Migration through Massachusetts and the month-long arrivals and departures did not abate. Short-billed Dowitchers, winsome Willets, Yellow Legs, and Ruddy Turnstones are just some of the migrating shorebirds spied on Cape Ann beaches and marshes. The best news in May was the return of the Piping Plovers. Of the five or six that camped at Good Harbor Beach to investigate potential nesting sites, one pair bonded and built their nest mere yards from the nesting pair of last year. Could it be the same pair? The nesting Piping Plover story took up much of the spring and by early summer four little Piping Plover chicks hatched over Fiesta weekend. Hundreds of photos and hours of film footage are in the process of being organized with a children’s book and documentary in progress.
Piping Plover Courtship Dance
Piping Plover Nest
The survival of one Piping Plover chick was made possible by a wholesale community effort, with volunteers covering all hours of daylight, along with Mayor Sefatia and her team, Ken Whittaker from the conservation office, Chief McCarthy, and animal control officer Diane Corliss all lending a hand.
Sadly, several Northern Gannets came ashore to die on our Cape Ann beaches, struck by the same mysterious and deadly disease that is afflicting Northern Gannets in other regions. During the summer season they are typically at their North American breeding grounds, which are six well-established colonies, three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Newfoundland.
An orphaned swan was introduced to Niles Pond, much to the dismay of Mr. Swan. Eastern Point residents Skip and Lyn kept watch over the two while they reluctantly became acquainted.
By mid-July many of us were seeing Monarchs in much greater numbers than recent years. Nearly every region within the continental United States experienced a fantastic Painted Lady irruption and butterflies of every stripe and polka dot were seen flitting about our meadows, fields, and gardens.
The tadpoles and froglets of American Bullfrogs and Green Frogs made for good eating for several families of resident otters, who are making their homes in abandoned beaver lodges. Little Blue Herons too, find plentiful frogs at our local ponds.
In early August we see the Tree Swallows begin to mass for their return migration. They find an abundance of fruits and insects in the dunes, headlands, and beaches. The Cedar Waxwings and Ruddy Trunstones were back again observed foraging on their southward journey, along with myriad species of songbird, shorebird, diver, and dabbler.