I could only locate two chicks at Cape Hedge Beach. Perhaps one is off foraging on his own. Hopefully he will be spotted later today. I am so sorry to say though that it is not unusual for chicks to become separated from their family during a storm (or fireworks!).
Cape Hedge chicks
Our two-day-old pair of chicks at Good Harbor are doing wonderfully and spent the early morning foraging and thermosnuggling. One still has his little egg tooth, which typically falls off after the first or second day. The parents are awesome and going after very gull and crow in their ever changing territory. I didn’t see little fledgling and Handsome down by #3, but spent most of the morning with the new teeny tinies.
Jane shares that she and Maggie spotted a deer at GHB this morning, how wonderful!!
Today we are celebrating Charlotte’s fourth birthday so I will be home but tied up with family.
Thank you so very much to everyone for your continued dedication and big hearts.
The one day old and two newest members of the Cape Ann PiPls club are doing beautifully. Mom, Dad, and the teeny tinies were foraging in the wrack. Dad and Mom both went after a Herring Gull that flew in a little too close for comfort. Despite the parent’s best efforts to incubate, the last egg will not hatch and that is not entirely unusual, especially for a nest this late in the season.
Our beautiful plumpling-almost-fledged-30-day-old chick, and Dad, were running along the length of the beach and too, finding lots to eat in the wrack.
Cape Hedge chicks were also enjoying the beautiful peace and quiet of a misty morning beach. Too wet to bring cameras today, but here is a sequence of one of the Cape Hedge chicks capturing a large insect several days ago.
Enjoy this perfect for shorebird chick rearing weather. Hopefully the worst of Elsa will stay off shore.
Lots to share – Heidi wrote that she watched our GHB chick take flight for several feet. Hooray! Many, many thanks to Susan for filling in for Heidi, who did a wonderful job and is a joy to talk with, and it’s so nice to have Heidi back. Heidi remarked what a difference a week makes in growth and development.
Proud Dad and 30 day old fledgling
The chicks are hatching at the Salt Island end of the beach!!! This is phenomenal, to have two successful nests at Good Harbor Beach.
It’s going to be a tough situation at this end of the beach and we have myriad questions, namely will the family try to make the super long trek to the Creek on hot, busy beach days to forage?
Mom and Dad are taking turns snuggling the two chicks that have hatched. The third egg has yet to hatch. We’ll check back at the end of the day.
I met several lovely couples and families at Cape Hedge this morning. Everyone is super interested in the Plovers, just as they are at GHB. All three chicks there are thriving, foraging in the tidal flats and between the popples, running for the shelter of the rocks when the occasional dog comes near, and staying relatively close to each other. A smart little one completely flattened in the sand as the Barn Swallows swooped low across the flats.
Two of the three Cape Hedge chicks navigating the popples
I was hoping the Ambassadors would have a little break between looking out for the Nautilus Road chicks and the Salt Island chicks. We are losing several Ambassadors during this flux. I have either a very rotten summer cold or the flu and am not able to take on extra shifts this week. Please email if you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador – email@example.com. You will meet the nicest, most kind hearted group of people.
Thank you to our Cape Ann community and Ambassadors. It’s going to take a village to fledge all these chicks!
Only one chick and Dad were feeding in the flats this morning. The take happened yesterday when Jill was watching the chicks and Dad up by the dune beach grass. A Great Black-backed, quickly joined by a flock, swooped in and appeared to be fighting over a bag of chips when the GBB Gull grabbed the chick. Dad tried once again valiantly to rescue his chick but was unsuccessful.
Our GHB chicks have been growing right on schedule and are finding good foraging at the Creek and in the flats. It is incredibly heartbreaking to lose chicks at any age, but especially these older stronger chicks, one at 22 days and now one at 27 days.
No ambassador should feel responsible in any way. Everyone of you is doing a fantastic job and your dedication of time and energy is so very much appreciated and worthwhile. Takes can happen on anyone’s shift and as I said before it is tremendous for the collective knowledge of PiPls to know how these takes happen and why their numbers are dwindling.
Would these two deaths have occurred if Mom had not been injured? It’s very hard to know because up until a few days ago, she appeared to be managing her injury, while both supervising and defending her chicks, and feeding herself.
What we do know is that American Crows and Great Black-backed Gulls are wreaking havoc on Piping Plover populations on the North Shore. For example, Crows have eaten every egg and chick on Revere Beach (with the exception of one nest still intact) and gulls are eating nearly fully fledged birds.
Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls are relatively new breeders to the Massachusetts coastline. Up until 1912, they were primarily winter visitors. The first Herring Gull nest ever recorded was in 1912 and the first Great Black-backed Gull nest in 1930. Because of easy access to food, they are thriving. Gulls are colonial breeders. They have pushed terns off islands (traditional tern nesting areas), forcing the terns to breed in less desirable locations. I think until we can somehow manage the gull population, the threatened and endangered Massachusetts shorebird species will continue to struggle greatly and recovery will be painstakingly slow..
This weekend I watched a couple dump all the remains of their picnic in front of a gull in the GHB parking lot. The two laughed as an enormous flock suddenly appeared, dining and squabbling over on the garbage. Humans feeding gulls and crows is exacerbating the problem tenfold and dogs running on the beach, which forces the PiPl parents to stop tending nests and chicks to chase after the dogs, leaves the babies vulnerable to gull and crow takes.
Area #3 Dad and one remaining chick, 28 days old
On a brighter note, the three Cape Hedge chicks are all present and accounted for on this beautiful July morning. I am estimating they are twenty days old, not based on their size, but because of the first sighting submitted. The family was joined by two Great Blue Herons, until a photographer frightened the herons off the beach, which may be just as well because GBH eat Plovers, too.
Sally witnessed a most beautiful PiPl parenting moment last night, and it is one of the reasons why we all continue to work so hard for these tender tiny creatures. She writes, ” I found Dad and one chick at the Creek. Dad showed off his flying skills to the baby and then encouraged his chick to cross the creek from the island to the mainland. It was a wonderful experience to watch the communications between the two of them and to see the little one paddle across the creek.”
Thank you PiPl Ambassadors for all you are doing to help grow Cape Ann’s Plover population.
Sally and I were remarking last night how the chicks seemed to have grown overnight. The plumplings are losing their baby faces and are turning into tweens. All three were feasting in the tide flats and wrack. The tide again was high, not as high as the previous two days, and the receding water is leaving a smorgasbord in its wake. The beach is so quiet on these foggy misty days. Perhaps the peaceful time foraging has allowed them to put on extra ounces.
I only saw Mom very briefly this morning. She was not putting any weight on her right foot and there appears to be a new piece of seaweed attached. I am going to stop by later today and try to get a better look.
Jonathan arrived this morning at GHB with the most fantastic and perfect Piping Plover badges. I think he is passing the bag along to Heidi, who will pass on to either Bette Jean or Jane Marie, and so on throughout the day. A thoughtful gift for us all and so very needed. A HUGE shoutout and thank you to Jonathan for organizing and purchasing, to Duncan T for his wonderful graphic skills, and to Duncan H for helping to organize.
Heidi saw a Dogfish Shark several days ago at the Creek! I think this is the second sighting in the past week. I’ll post her video later today.
Have a great day!
The chicks two days apart, at 14 days and 16 days old
Good morning PiPl Friends, or Team Plover, as my granddaughter calls us,
All three snuggled under Dad on this wet and windy morning. I didn’t see Mom, but wasn’t there for very long.
No need for Ambassadors to go in the rain. There wasn’t a soul on the beach this morning and despite the weather, I am sure they are relishing the peace and quiet.
I took this photo yesterday of a pair of 25 day old chicks that I have been filming. You may recall their Super Dad, the PiPl that tried to roll the stray egg into the depression where the chicks were hatching. That nest had been destroyed by the same king tide that took out our nest at #1.
Sharing these photos to show the amazing wing growth that is taking place. The first photo is our chick’s wing buds at one day old, the next two at ten days old, the next at 14 days old, and the last is one of the Plover twins, at 24 days old.
Thank you so much to everyone for all your tremendous cooperation, updates, good thoughts, positive spirits, helpful ideas, and dedication to seeing this beautiful bird family survive on Gloucester’s most popular and beloved beach.
When I returned home from filming this afternoon my husband remarked, “another perfect day in paradise.” So much to love about these fine, fine June days!The filament is still wrapped around Mom’s foot however it doesn’t prevent her from going after birds ten times her size. Here she is chasing a Grackle this morning
The tide again rose more than halfway through the roped off area. Both parents and chicks were feeding well this morning, spending almost the entire time in the roped off refuge. Jennie currently can’t locate the chicks as I write this, but I imagine they are sleeping during the heat of the day, with very full bellies.
Eating an insect from the tip of the grass
I arrived this am at 5:15 and all the way from the footbridge, I could hear Dad loudly and repeatedly sounding the alarm. There was a photographer with her gear inside the roping. She became Extremely Defensive when I asked her to step back ten to fifteen feet, trying to explain about Dad piping alarm calls when people are too close, and Mom just getting by with her injured foot. She would have none of it and became extremely argumentative. I walked further down the beach and away and she began to argue even more vigorously. I surprised myself when I blurted out ZIp It, which is what I say to three and half year old Charlotte when she is being super fresh.The Ambassador badges can’t come soon enough!
When going to and from the beach, take a moment to smell the Milkweed. The dunes are redolent with the sweet scent of honey and hay, the perfume of Common Milkweed. Common Milkweed is in full glorious bloom all around Cape Ann and it is the only milkweed that has that beautiful fragrance. I just wish the Monarchs were here, too. I am giving a presentation on the Monarch Butterfly and Climate Change, Tuesday evening, the 29th, for the Cape Ann Climate Coilition’s quarterly meeting at 7:00pm. Flyer and zoom links to follow. It is free and open to the public. I hope you can come!Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
The full Strawberry Moon rises tonight over Gloucester at 8:46. It is the last Supermoon of the year and the skies look promising.
Have a great rest of your day, and beautiful evening!
Gloriously chilly morning at GHB. Fifty two degrees! The chicks all three spent their two week birthday morning thermosnuggling with Dad and Mom.
Snuggles with Mom this morning
The tide came up nearly to the rock. The wrack lies entirely within the roped off area, providing lots of good foraging. With cool temperatures typically keeping beach goers away, hopefully today will be a peaceful one for the family.
High tide through the refuge
Mom is still limping, but moving quickly and flying at normal height.
Thank you to all for your daily reports! After yesterday’s downpours it was especially great to know the Family had congregated back in their refuge.
Thank you to Duncan T for volunteering to cover all empty shifts this weekend!
Thank you to all our PiPl Ambassadors and beach going friends for keeping wonderful watchful eyes on Super Mom and PiPl Family, and for all the great info sharing!All three chicks are beautiful and as sturdy as can be on this, their 13th day birthday. Mom is flying at a normal height level and managing to maneuver around the beach. The largest piece of seaweed has fallen off. The filament is still wrapped around her foot with a piece about two inches long trailing. Her foot does not appear to be as swollen and painful looking as yesterday morning. The light from the overcast sky was fairly low this morning and I could not get a really good image for us to look at. Will try again later this afternoon when I stop by to see how she is doing.
Yes to Barbara, I spoke to the boys on the beach that had run through the roped off area, showed him Dad as he ran by, and explained about why we care for our endangered/threatened species. They seemed sincerely apologetic and I suggested they may want to be PiPl Ambassadors next year 🙂 I am very glad they apologized to you too, Barbara!
Thank you to everyone who is helping with picking up the trash. Last year I thought the garbage left behind was horrendous but blamed it on Covid, this year no excuses. The objects are larger and number greater, and it seems to be getting worse every year. We need a national anti litter campaign but in the meantime we’ll just do the best we can. I have a super idea to share about a great solution (a revenue generator for the City, too) from a friend who lives and frequents beaches in North Carolina. People who leave trash behind are ticketed. Word gets out, everyone stops littering for a bit. Then folks become lax and the officers are sent back to the beach for a few days to ticket again. There are many creative ways in which we could address this problem. It is not a DPW problem for lack of cleaning, but a people problem. I filled one and a half large trash bags and barely, barely made a dent. This morning I focused on the area behind the dune roping and wrackline and found a large knife, sticking straight up in the seaweed.
In the future we will not be going into the roped off area to collect garbage until the chicks fledge (unless it is something dangerous to the chicks). Even though there were very few people on the beach and I was at the opposite end to where they were foraging, it was disruptive, especially to Mom. At other PiPl beaches, including the DCR beaches I am documenting shorebirds at, trash is not collected in the restricted areas. It’s unsightly, but the reasons not to go in far outweigh the aesthetic value of cleaning the restricted area.
Yesterday morning Bill, who has been daily walking GHB for decades, spotted a living Horseshoe Crab at the shoreline. In all his years walking Good Harbor he has never seen a live Horseshoe Crab. Neither have I, nor had a number of people we spoke to yesterday morning, seen a living Horseshoe Crab at GHB. We have all seen them at many of our surrounding beaches, but never GHB! If anyone has ever seen a Horseshoe Crab at GHB, please write and let us know. Thank you!
Thank you to all our Ambassadors, each and everyone doing a tremendous job keeping watch over our PiPl Family.
All three present, which is wonderful however, Mom has a dangling something twisted around her foot. I thought it was seaweed but one of our early morning beach walkers, Lynn, thinks it is a hair tie. There is a fine piece wrapped around the foot in addition to the large piece.
Please give her extra, extra space. The family was not functioning as well as usual. Although Mom is thremosnuggling all three chicks, she is spending a great deal more time defending against avian predators. She can fly low and hop. She flies off towards the Crows or gull and then hops around trying to remove the dangling whatever.
Again, we really need to give her space so she can get down to the water and when there, feed, undisturbed. I am calling Jodi from Cape Ann Wildlife shortly and will contact Carolyn.
Not to jump to conclusions but Mom’s foot is very swollen. Occasionally shorebirds lose a foot or leg and they do go on to live. We’ll know more after talking to Jodi and Carolyn.
Edited note – update from Carolyn Mostello, Mass Wildlife’s Coastal Biologist, and our state advisor.
“Looks like seaweed to me, too. Yes, plovers can do ok with one foot; that said, these injures aren’t beneficial and could be very harmful.
I wouldn’t recommend doing anything at this point. However, please keep us posted on the condition of this bird. If she really deteriorates, we might consider trapping her and taking her to a rehab.”
Thanks so very much to Carolyn for getting back to us!
The beach looked amazingly clean this morning! Sally shares that the group SurfRiders cleaned the beach yesterday. When I arrived there were at least half a dozen yellow bags waiting to be picked up and filled to capacity. And our awesome DPW was there at about 6am to not only pick up the bags but remove the wooden chair and other large items left on the beach. Thank you SurfRiders and Gloucester DPW!
Trash blows into the roped off area and behind the roping, up against the dunes. I can occasionally clean up back there, when the family is down at the water’s edge, and when there is absolutely no one else on the beach. I do not want everyday beachgoers to see anyone back there, even if it is to clean up trash because it doesn’t set an example we want others to see. Usually Monday mornings after sunrise there is a little lull in the beachgoers and I can get back there then.
Jennie, I think Cody is filling in several hours this afternoon but will double check, and I am going to try to get over there this afternoon.
Today’s update was going to be all about Super Dad Plovers but because of Mom’s injury, we’ll save that for another day. Just wishing all the dad’s, grandfathers, uncles, great grandpas, and Super Dads a very Happy Fathers Day and everyone, Happy First Day of Summer!
Super Mom thermoregulating her chicks, despite foot injury
Today marks the chicks’ ten day old birthday. Ten days is considered a milestone because at this point in time their chance of surviving improves vastly. From a nest of four eggs, on average, only 1.2 chicks survive. We’re aiming to fledge all three of our chicks!
Federal biologists count a chick as fledged at 35-36 days, whereas the State of Massachusetts considers a chick fledged at 28 days. We go with the 35-36 days because chicks develop at slightly different rates, depending on diet and accessibility to their food. We have observed that although they can fly some distance at 26 days, the chicks still rely on Mom and Dad to thermoregulate and for protection from predators. I have even seen a family of 42 day old chicks, that looked as large as their Dad, all crammed under his wings on chilly evening.
HexapodDad – our wee ones under Dad’s wings this morning
No dogs in sight and the family was happily foraging and warming under wings the length and depth of #3, and a bit beyond.
Sally had a tremendously great idea which was to take a screenshot of the dog regulations to share with scofflaw dog owners, especially the ones that insist that dogs are permitted on the beach after hours. We can grab the screenshot and put it on our phones.
$300 per violation. Fines for violations will be double in season for beaches and other off-leash areas as determined. (GCO Ch. 4, Sec. 4-16a)
The trash people leave behind on the beach (and oftentimes not trash but perfectly good items) is beyond belief. I forgot to bring garbage bags this morning, thankfully Heidi did!! THANK YOU HEIDI! Last year I tied a few bags onto the roping low down for the days when I forget to bring a bag and will try to remember to do that tomorrow. Anyone can help themselves to the bags if needed. Please don’t pick up tissue looking paper unless you are wearing gloves because people are using the dunes as their personal bathroom. Tissue paper degrades and it is too gross to handle.
Yesterday as I was leaving GHB via the footbridge, an entire family, Mom, Dad, and three kids, each had a bag and were picking up trash. I wish so much I had taken a photo but had to hurry back. Thank you kind Family!
Have a great Saturday and maybe I’ll see you at the Juneteenth Celebration at Stage Fort Park!
Another glorious June morning, with the family of five all present. The chicks spent almost the entire two hours that I was there feeding up by the dunes, in the Sea Rocket and dune grasses. As Heidi came onto her shift and we were catching up, the family appeared to be calling the troops to head over to the Creek.
The PiPls extra, extra wary behavior, and the fact they did not come to the water’s edge for several hours, was very unusual morning behavior and I wonder if it was because a dog owner had walked her dog along the length of the roping at #3. This was clear to see from the footbridge as I was coming onto the beach at 5:15. Although the dog was on a leash, she had him right at the edge of the roping. And, too, there was a pile of buried garbage and plastic attracting a pair of crows, also near the roping.
Dog owners that bring dogs to Good Harbor Beach and folks burying garbage pose real threats to the Plovers for the many reasons explained. Just a friendly reminder to all, please do not bring your dog to Good Harbor Beach, and please take home all of your picnic and party trash.
Recently there was a motorized bike at Good Harbor. Motorized bikes are a relatively new thing and to let everyone know – no vehicles are permitted at Good Harbor Beach. According to state guidelines, a motorized bike is definitely considered a vehicle and is currently not permitted at Good Harbor Beach while shorebirds are present. If a person is moving toward the vicinity of the Plovers on a motorized bike and doesn’t respond to sharing information about the PiPls, or change direction, please call the police.
Crow digging for chips
Happy Beautiful June Days!
Unlike today, yesterday the chicks spent the better part of the morning in the wrack line and at the shoreline.
All THREE present and accounted for! Although one did give a good scare, wandering on his own nearly as far as the last lifeguard chair by boardwalk entrance #1. Mom and Dad stayed close by the other two and both parents seemed particularly threatened by gulls this morning.
Mom successfully luring the young gull from her chicks
Badges are a great idea, Duncan. Are you thinking of a neck badge, something like this or did you have something else in mind.
When the chicks are primarily feeding at the wrackline and the beach is busy, please feel free to move a sign or two to the wrackline.
Thank you so very much to everyone that attended the film screening last night! I hope you will have a chance to see it again if that is the only way you have seen Beauty on the Wing. We were watching it through Catherine’s monitor, which is not the ideal way to view any film because of the poor visual quality, and perhaps because it was airing from Canada, the audio was not synced well to the text. All that being said, the conversation afterward was very interesting. Later this morning I am giving a screening to the British Mexican Society in London, all thanks to Zoom!
Have a wonderful day!
Lots of good eating at Good Harbor!
The tiny speck to the right of the adult is one of the chicks.
Today marks the one week old birthday of our three Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover chicks. The family spent the morning foraging at the wrack line. It sure is good eating there, with lots of mini mini invertebrates to be had, including mollusks, insects, and larvae.
The morning was breezy and sunny, with the regular early morning beach walkers, along with a nice crowd of surfers. Thank you to everyone visiting and for keeping eyes on the Plovers. We are so fortunate to have such a conservation-minded community!!
New definition of Zooming
Ten days old is the next milestone because when PiPl chicks reach that age, their chance of surviving improves exponentially.
Mom thermosnuggling chicks this morning
I am giving a round of applause to our very excellent Dad and Mom, who are stars in the world of Piping Plover parents. Perhaps it’s their age, or familiarity with Good Harbor Beach, but they are truly model parents, always tending their babes and always on high alert for potential threats. Bravo Mom and Dad!!!
Peaceful, serene morning at Good Harbor Beach with the PiPl chicks. All three were actively alternating between foraging, mostly at the wrack line, and thermosnuggling. Thank goodness for less than perfect beach days; the gray weather helps the PiPls grow stronger by allowing for less stressful foraging by the water’s edge.
The chicks are often difficult to see in the best of light. It’s even more challenging in fog and mist. Please travel cautiously, especially around the #3 area and especially, especially at the wrack line. Thank you!
One of the little Plovers has passed. He became very weak on the trek back from the Creek and passed sometime during the night.
Piping Plover Ambassadors Sally and Barbara observed the family on their return trip. The little one was not doing well, struggling to keep up with Mom and Dad and the three siblings. He was abandoned in the sand, barely moving and piping softly. Sally and Barbara did the right thing, watching from the edge of the roping and not interfering. When I arrived, it was clear the only chance he had of surviving, albeit very slim, was to get back with the family. We placed the chick near a hummock the family likes to snuggle at and Dad immediately began to thermosnuggle the chick. We left at dark and all four chicks were snuggling under Dad.
This morning the chick was found exactly where he was left last night. I don’t think he lasted too much longer after we departed and its good he was with the siblings and Dad when he passed.
It’s alway a question to help or not to help. The agent the City is working with wrote that she thinks we did the right thing. I think that even if we had found a wildlife rescuer in time, it would not have survived even the car ride.
Thanks so very much to PiPl Ambassadors Sally Golding and Barbara Boudreau. It’s very challenging being an Ambassador to these beautiful little marshmallows, especially in situations where you feel so helpless. Many, many, many thanks to Sally and Barbara. They handled the situation perfectly and we are grateful <3
Only three chicks were spotted by our last Ambassador of the day yesterday evening. When I arrived at 5:30 this morning I, too, was more than disappointed to see only three chicks and was trying not to think of what may have happened to the tiny baby.
Hooray for Heidi! At 8:30am she had located the fourth chick. Smaller and quieter than the other three, it was up by the dune grass, thermosnuggling beneath Dad.
Tiny chick, big beach
The family is not yet feeding at the Creek but at the main beach and it is harrowing watching them run between people. They are trying to get to the wrackline. The parents appear to have a fascinating herding technique of getting them all to the wrack to feed for short stints before corralling the clan back to the refuge.
The beachgoers were amazing! They observed while standing back, which allowed the family to feed without disturbance. People are so awesome! So many were interested in their story and wanted to help. I am so grateful and so proud of our community for their consideration and efforts protecting the PiPls! If you see a Piping Plover ambassador on the beach, thank them for the tremendous job they are doing. And thank you Everyone for giving the PiPls some space!
If you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment. Thank you!
Beautiful quiet morning at GHB with our two day old little family. All four mini-marshmallows present and accounted for!
Reminder when visiting the PiPls, please stay at least ten feet back from the ropes. These first ten days the chicks are at their most extremely vulnerable. Case in point – An interested person came up to the ropes, hoping to get a shot with their cell phone. Mom was frightened off her roost snuggling the chicks and then a Crow flew in! Fortunately, Dad was nearby and gave the crow the business, in no uncertain terms.
People hovering for periods of time around the nesting area attracts both Crows and gulls. Crows are one of the greatest threats to Piping Plovers everywhere. This year has been especially horrific at several other beaches where I am documenting the PiPls. At one beach in particular they have decimated all nests, including renests, as well as killed at least four chicks. Once they discover how tasty PiPl eggs and chicks taste, they can’t seem to get enough. Crows are smart. It’s not that this beach has a great many Crows, but that the adults teach the young Crows and for that reason, the problem is continuing to grow.
Please clean up all garbage after visiting our beautiful beaches and please do not bury your garbage. The Crows and gulls are not deceived and will find.
* * *
A note about the Cecropia Moth caterpillars for friends still interested in raising these beautiful, albeit declining and threatened, members of the Giant Silk Moth Family. Caterpillars have at long last hatched! I’ll post later this afternoon to plan a caterpillar pick up day.
Happy last days of spring! Our garden is redolent with the scent of roses and the fragrance is wafting through my windows as I write this.
Mom crouched in defensive mode, frightened off her roost this morning
Poor little Sharpie didn’t stand a chance of going unnoticed. The Eastern Point Crow Patrol was all over him, cawing vociferously and dive-bombing, alerting every creature within earshot of his presence. The juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk held his ground for a bit, before tiring of the sky guardians and heading for cover into a nearby tree.
Interrupting your election news coverage to bring you PlumStreet Wild Kingdom chronicles:
What a luxuriously warm early morning and late day for photographing wild creatures – GBHeron, Blue Jays, a herd of White-tailed Deer (8!), Snow Buntings – and right in our own backyard, just at the moment our little Red Fox slipped behind the fence, a Red-tailed Hawk flew into a neighboring tree.
I wonder if he was attracted to the cacophony created by the Crows harassing the Fox. I never would have seen the Hawk if not for the Red Fox. The Hawk perched in the tree and then flew to my neighbor MJ’s towering and stunning Larch Tree (the tallest tree in the neighborhood). He stayed there for sometime before tiring of the Crows and swooping off.
Our beautiful Snowy Owl Hedwig was last seen on Monday night, March 12th. This was also the night before the third nor’easter. She was perched on the railing of the Ocean House Inn facing towards the sea. The wind was blowing fiercely. Well after dark, and after making several attempts, she successfully flew in a southerly direction out over the water.
It has been two weeks since that last sighting and perhaps we will see her again, but I imagine her to be safe and undertaking her return journey to the Arctic tundra, well-fed from her stay on Cape Ann. Whether she was well-rested is another story. The great majority of people who came to see this most approachable of owls were respectful and considerate of her quiet space. The crows however, were nothing short of brutal. After learning about why crows attack owls, and the degree of aggression possible, I am surprised she lasted as long as she did, and without great injury.
American Crow harassing a Peregrine Falcon, Atlantic Road
Crows and owls are natural enemies because a murder of crows may mob an owl to death (or any raptor by which it feels threatened) and owls occasionally eat crows. Crows are diurnal, which means they feed during the day. The majority of North American owl species that they encounter are nocturnal (night feeding). In the case of Snowy Owls, which feed both day and night, their paths may occasionally cross, as happened when Hedwig moved into the crow’s territory along Gloucester’s Atlantic Road.
American Crows harassing Snowy Owl Hedwig
A flock of American Crows can run circles around most owls, pecking, dive bombing, chasing, and in some instances killing. Snowy Owls are the exception; they are larger, stronger, and faster flyers than other North American owl species. And too, Snowy Owls are closely related to Great Horned Owls, a species known to eat crows when they are roosting overnight. So even though a crow in our area may never before have encountered a Snowy Owl, they instinctively know danger is present.
With their incredible ability for recollection, crows are considered the brainiacs of the bird world. Daily, Hedwig outsmarted this smartest of bird species. She learned to stay well-hidden during the daylight hours, laying low atop the hotel roofs. Her salt and pepper coloring blended perfectly with the black, white, and gray colors of industrial roof venting equipment. She adapted to hunting strictly at night, after the crows had settled in for the evening, returning to her hideouts before the day began.
From Hedwig’s perch atop the Atlantic Road hotels, she had a crystal clear view of the golf course and Bass Rocks, places prime for nightly hunting.
On one hand it would be fascinating if Hedwig had been outfitted with a tracking device. On the other, if she had been trapped for tagging, she may not return to this area. There is some evidence that Snowies occasionally return to an overwintering location. Next winter I’ll be taking more than a few peeks in the location of the Atlantis and Ocean House Inn Hotels to see if Hedwig has returned.