Outstanding Environmental News for Gloucester Part Two

niles-pond-causeway-restoration-2-copyright-kim-smithThe Niles Pond-Brace Cove causeway restoration is progressing admirably. You may recall our story about the extensive damage the causeway had suffered from several fierce back to back storms. In 2014, the Association of Eastern Point Residents restored the structural rocks supporting the causeway. This past week, preparations for restoring the plantings has begun.  niles-pond-causeway-restoration-3-copyright-kim-smithniles-pond-causeway-restoration-1-copyright-kim-smith-2016niles-pond-causeway-restoration-copyright-kim-smith

Below are  photos taken in 2013 of storm damage, prior to restorationniles-pond-brace-cove-storm-damage-1-c2a9kim-smith-2013-copy

Phase one of restoration work, 2014

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BORING BIRDS

Boring Birds

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithEspecially that Black-belied Plover. Just look at his washed out and mud spattered feathered coat in drab shades of sand and dirt. He’ll never find a girlfriend attired in that old thing. He is so undistinguished, it is often difficult to discern the difference between him and his surrounds.

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-2-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithReally, hanging out in that smelly, bug and mollusk infested seaweed patch?

Migration routes of black-bellied plovers tagged on breeding grounds and a stopover location along the St. Lawrence River.

Migration routes of black-bellied plovers tagged on breeding grounds and a stopover location along the St. Lawrence River.

But wait, from where did you say he hails? I heard tell he summers in islands of Nunavet, Canada and winters in Brazil, stopping in Cuba or Honduras along the way. Known as the Grey Plover on the other side of the globe, his kin are world travelers, too, some leaving the Arctic circle breeding grounds and heading to fall stopovers in Great Britain and Norway, migrating all the way to South Africa, while other members of the family travel over Russia to winter in Japan, Australia, or perhaps even as far away as New Zealand. Black-bellies have been tracked flying 3,400 miles nonstop from Brazil to NorthCarolina in five days. Tedious, I know.

While at his summer tundra home he sports a handsome black and white tuxedo, in reverse, sort of get up, like this –

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You mean that tired old coat molts to that dapper cutaway? Yes!

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-in-flight-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithDespite his flashy tux, he’s genuinely shy, and will flush on a dime if danger is sensed (i.e. this filmmaker for instance). He knows all the tricks of the plover trade, feigning broken wing to distract the enemy from his territory, and scraping together a nest from nothing but mere sand and tiny bits of stone.

And just look at the Black-bellied Plover’s spotted eggs painted in shapes and shades of lichen covered stones. A clever disguise if ever there was one.

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Perhaps the Black-bellied Plover isn’t so boring after all. We living within the continental flyways encounter these Plain Janes and James when at their plainest. Black-bellied Plovers are seen along Atlantic coast beaches at this time of year within mixed groups of Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, yellow legs, and sandpipers. Although similarly as drably feathered as the other ‘boring’ birds during the winter months, at 11 inches, Black-bellied Plovers are easy to spot in these feeding flocks because  they are almost twice as large as the smallest shorebirds. Next time you see a flock of birds feeding along the shoreline take a closer look for the world traveling Black-bellied Plover.

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Each and every wonderful species of bird that I have been filming while working on documentary projects over the past several years has a fascinating life story. Living in the midst of the Atlantic Flyway, I can’t imagine a more interesting region, although when I was visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Santa Monica, the creatures flowing through the Pacific Flyway were pretty exciting too. I hope to in the future spend time in the Central and Mississippi Flyways as well. I love thinking about this constant longitudinal movement of life force flowing as it does, year in and year out, century in and century out, millennium in and millennium out. For the most part, we go about our daily lives relatively unaware of this extraordinary undercurrent. Whether migrating by land or by sea, we are surrounded by this great movement of life, forms always in search of plentiful food on which to rear the next generation.

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-in-flight-2-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithIf having difficulty identifying, one of the clues to look for is the black feathers under the wings, visible when in flight as in the above photo.black-bellied-plover-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

All photos not attributed to Kim Smith are courtesy of Google image searches.

Vote Today to Choose the Massachusetts State Butterfly!

Here’s how you can help choose the Massachusetts state butterfly –

The choice is between the Black Swallowtail, the Great Spangled Fritillary, and the Mourning Cloak butterflies. All three are beautiful species of Lepidoptera, but as you know from my work, I am partial to the Black Swallowtail. I cast my vote for the Black Swallowtail and here is why. Both the Great Spangled Fritillary and Mourning Cloak are less commonly seen. I’d like children who are developing an interest in butterflies to have the opportunity to get to know their state butterfly easily. Black Swallowtails are widespread and very well-known. In a good year, Black Swallowtails will have two broods. The caterpillars eat plants kids can easily identify and plant, such as carrots, dill, fennel, parsley, and the common wildflower Queen Anne’s Lace. Black Swallowtails are typically on the wing throughout the summer, beginning in early spring through late summer.

On the other hand, the Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillars eat strictly violet plants. This butterfly is usually only seen for about a month, during mid-summer, and has one brood of caterpillars. In our region of Massachusetts, the Mourning Cloak may have a second brood, if we have an early spring, but I only see them in spring, near pussywillows, and again in the fall when they are getting ready to hibernate.

Black Swallowtails are found in backyards, gardens, meadows, marshes, and along the shoreline. They love to drink nectar from wildflowers, including milkweed (as you can see in the short film below) and many, many common garden plants such as lilacs, coneflowers, zinnias, and butterfly bush.

Please vote here: VOTE MASSACHUSETTS STATE BUTTERFLY

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Beautiful Harvest Moonrise-Moonset

harvest-moon-2016-copyright-kim-smithLast night’s Harvest Moon rising was spectacular, especially the striations of clouds in the moonglow. Early this morning the moon was nearly as big and beautiful too, and as I was setting up my gear, Snowy Egrets flew into the setting moon.harvest-moon-set-snowy-egret-copyright-kim-smith

Good Morning, Brought to You by Another Splendid Good Harbor Beach Sunrise

You may be wondering why I have been posting so many sunrise photos, more than usual, from GHB (sincerely hoping its not boring). I spent a good part of the summer there filming the Piping Plovers and other beautiful species of wildlife, but I am also there gathering B-roll for all film projects. While the movie camera is running, it’s fun to take stills as well.

Almost invariably, the light is at its prettiest well before the sun rises. I like the blues and violets in the first photo. The second photo was taken about five minutes later. Which one do you prefer? good-harbor-beach-september-sunrise-copyright-kim-smith

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Sea Salps are Back!

Sea salps, those gentle gelatinous barrel-shaped and penny-sized free-floating tunicates, have returned to our shores. Salps are completely harmless although honestly, they can be a bit annoying to swim through. A few always manage to get stuck in the bra area of my swimsuit, which is a little yucky, but nothing more than a nuisance.

Salp reproduction is fascinating, amazing actually. The salps that we saw at Good Harbor Beach this week were in the oozoid phase. They were singular individuals. The solitary salp reproduces asexually by producing a chain of up to hundreds in the aggregate, or blastozooid, stage. In this short film you can see both the oozoid and blastozooid phases.

Read more about salp life history on wiki here.

Read about how salps may be a weapon against global climate change in this NatGeo article here.

Schooner Adventure Docked at the Jodrey State Fish Pier

Recent snapshots of the Schooner Adventure docked at the Jodrey State Fish Pier

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