Tag Archives: birds of Massachusetts

HELLO HEDWIG! WHAT ARE YOU EATING? SNOWY OWL WEEKEND UPDATE

Hedwig foggy morning.

Hedwig has been seen daily along the backshore, mostly laying low during the day. She has become quite expert in fooling the crows as to her whereabouts. Fog, snow, rain, or sunshine, she isn’t deterred much from her routine of sleeping, resting, and grooming during the day, in preparation for an evening of hunting.

Early this week I watched in amazement as Hedwig swooped down from her perch and flew hundreds of feet directly to the rocks and in between crevasses. She resurfaced with a small mammal in her mouth and ate it very quickly–from the time she flew off her perch until she gave a satisfied lick of her beak could not have taken more than three minutes. I felt very fortunate to have witnessed a glimpse of her hunting prowess, albeit all too brief.

Perhaps the tail is too long for a mouse or rat and too short for a vole, but perhaps not. Small mammal caretaker Erin Whitmore wrote with her suggestion. What do you think Hedwig is eating?

Hedwig eating a black and white sea duck.

Again, tonight she flew off her perch, this time heading out to sea. In mere minutes she returned with a sea duck of some sort and proceeded to eviscerate, much to the thrill of her Sunday evening fan club. The lighting was low and I was mostly filming, but did manage a few stills.The duck was black and white and as she mostly sat on her catch while eating, it was difficult to determine which species. Without a crow in sight (as they had surely settled for the night), Hedwig ate well into the early evening.

The feathers were flying! Hedwig with feathers on her face but it’s almost too dark to see.

She’s finding the eating here in Gloucester excellent, but with the warm weather predicted for the upcoming week, I wonder if Hedwig will stay or that will be a cue to depart for the Arctic.

Please don’t get electrocuted Hedwig, as happened recently to a Snowy in southern Massachusetts!

The Phoenix Rises

Mr. Swan is also know as Papa Swan and Buddy to his human friends, and The Boss-of-the-Pond to all avian creatures, from Rockport Harbor to Gloucester Harbor. He will be turning at the very least 28-years-old in 2018. We know this because a gentleman named Skip has been keeping watch over Mr. Swan, along with his first mate, second mate, and cygnets, beginning in the year 1992. A male Mute Swan cannot mate until he is a minimum of two years old and even that age would be considered unusually young.

When Mr. Swan lifts out of the water to stretch his wings as he is doing in the photo below, he reminds me of the story of the Phoenix in Greek mythology. Not only because he has lived a very long life of at least 28 years, which is extraordinary for a wild swan, but because he has an incredible ability to adapt to a constantly changing environment, and to rise from the depths of sorrow. He has survived near capture, physical injuries, boats in the harbors, coyotes, snapping turtles, and the loss of not one, but two mates. He was so deeply distraught after his second mate was killed by a coyote, many of us worried whether or not he would survive. But he has, and magnificently so.

The Phoenix Rises 

Minnow Hullabaloo

What is happening here? A hungry swim of cormorants have pushed a stream of bait fish towards the shallow shore waters. The minnows are met by equally as hungry Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets waiting on the rocks. I’ve watched many egrets eat prey and they often toss it about in the air for half a minute before swallowing whole, I think to line it up so the fish or frog goes straight down its gullet. At that very moment when the egrets are adjusting their catch, the gulls swoop in and try to snatch the minnows from the egrets.

This scene was filmed at Niles Beach. My friend Nancy shares that she has observed the egret and cormorant feeding relationship many mornings over by where she lives on the Annisquam River.

BRAVO LITTLE CHICK!

All by his lonesome, Little Chick survived his first super busy Sunday entirely on his own. Perhaps he needs a new grown up name such as Tuffers, something that recognizes his strong spirit–or instinct for survival–subject to how anthropomorphic your views. I’ve gotten used to calling him Little Chick, but am open to suggestions 🙂

Little Chick in a Bowl

Stretch two three, right two three, left two three.
Thirty-nine-day old Piping Plover

PIPING PLOVER CHICK DAY THIRTY-SEVEN AND THIRTY-EIGHT AND NO PAPA PLOVER

Saturday through Sunday and still no sign of Papa. He has not been seen since Friday night. We can only surmise that he has departed of his own accord or been killed by a predator. Either way, it’s terribly worrisome for the chick, just one of its kind, at the city’s most popular of beaches. Little Chick hasn’t as of yet shown great flying skills, and only Friday, Papa was piping warning commands when predators approached.

Bonapartes Gull

The summer migration is underway and within this past week we’ve seen Bonarparte’s Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Least Sandpipers, Sanderlings, and Semipalmated Plovers at Good Harbor Beach.

Flock of Semipalmated Plovers at Good Harbor Beach

Little Chick has been foraging in close proximity to the Semipalmated Plovers, which are similar in size to Piping Plovers, only much darker. The SemiP know to fly away when the beach rake is near; Little Chick still only hunkers down deeper into the sand. His plumage works as both an advantage and disadvantage. He’s well camouflaged from predators, and too much so from well meaning beach goers.Notice how much paler the Piping Plover (foreground) is in comparison to the Semipalmated Plover. Little Chick tried to rest at the high tide line during yesterday’s blustery afternoon. He didn’t like the strong winds one bit and quickly changed his mind, taking shelter beneath the vegetation in the roped off area.Thirty-seven-day old Piping Plover

LITTLE CHICK CELEBRATING FIFTH WEEK MILESTONE! AND CURRENT STATUS UPDATE

Little Chick is spending greater amounts of time in the deeper tide pools.

On Gloucester’s busiest of beaches, a tiny Piping Plover chick has survived five whole weeks. His survival is in large part due to the tremendous effort and kind caring of our community.  My most heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped this resilient little guy come so far. Thank you especially to all the PiPl monitors, the crews of the DPW, especially the gentlemen who clean the beach and who drive the beach rake, beach picker uppers such as Patti Amaral, Patti and Kerry Sullivan, Gloucester conservation agent Ken Whittaker, Police Chief McCarthy, Animal Control Officer Dianne Corliss, the Volleyball Players, Coach Latoff and the GHS sports teams, the GHS cheerleaders, and countless others who have made allowances for the Piping Plovers to successfully nest at Good Harbor Beach.

All who are monitoring Little Chick have seen him fly fairly low to the ground in approximately ten foot distances. Within days he will have fully fledged, but it will still be several weeks more I think before he can undertake his first migration to the lower Atlantic states, Bahamas, or West Indies. He and Papa have adapted well to Good Harbor Beach and they very possibly could stay several weeks into August, feeding to build reserves for the long migration south. Or, they could leave GHB and join the Piping Plovers starting to gather at other barrier beaches such as Cranes and Plum Island. Young birds travel with old birds, who show them the way.

Hourly monitoring may no longer be needed, but it doesn’t hurt either to check in with the little guy and Papa regularly. It’s super important for the roping to stay in place as the family continue to use the cordoned off area as a “safe zone.” I will continue to film and update as long as they are at Good Harbor Beach, because that is part of the documentary, too.

The most rewarding moments are meeting on the beach fans of our Little Superstar. They are full of delighted interest and concern for the chick. Just this morning, I met mom Amy and her daughter Emma. They live in Southborough and have been daily following along with the adventures of Little Chick on Good Morning Gloucester. Amy thanked us for sharing Little Chick’s story.

The beach was awash in seaweed, perhaps brought ashore by the storm of several nights ago. Extra wormy and mini-sea creature breakfast deliciousness today.

Well camouflaged in the sand and taking a brief rest before returning to the tide pools.

Warrior Three mastered, and don’t you love the beautiful patterning of the Piping Plover feathers.

Papa never to far away and always, always watching.

OUTSTANDING PIPING PLOVER GROWTH CHART

Friend Dawn Vesey shared the Piping Plover Growth Chart to my facebook timeline and I thought our plover lovers would appreciate seeing. The chart was made by Jim Verhagen and he has offered a high resolution version, gratis, to anyone who would like it for education/research purposes. Contact Jim via his website “Readings from the Northside.”