Tag Archives: birds of new england

SWEET WARBLER OF MARSH AND FIELD AND THICKET EDGE

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Common Yellowthroat

Foraging energetically amidst the expiring sunflower stalks and then darting to the thicketed woodland edge, a mixed flock of adult and juvenile Common Yellowthroats is finding plenty of fat bugs to eat in these early days of autumn.

Common Yellowthroat female juvenile

Yellowthroats breed in cattail patches at our local North Shore marshes and will soon be heading south to spend the winter in the Southeastern US, Mexico, and Central America.

The above male in breeding plumage was seen taking a bath in our garden several years ago.

THANK YOU MIKE MACK AND THE NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY!

Many thanks to Mike Mack and the North Shore Horticultural Society for the invitation to present “The Hummingbird Garden.” We had a great talk and I really want to thank everyone who volunteered what Ruby-throated Hummingbirds like to forage on in their gardens. Hummingbirds are opportunistic feeders and it was so interesting to learn the plants that support RTHummingbirds in other’s gardens. Although Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the most widely distributed Hummingbird in North America many aspects of its migration, breeding, and ecology remain poorly understood. In addition to what was presented, local gardeners added Cuphea, Penstemon ‘Husker Red,’ Rose of Sharon (all shades), Agastache, and a flowering quince in a rich shade of fuchsia.

Special thanks to the lady who brought a hummingbird nest and shared it with the attendees.

A reader inquired about a photo that I had posted with the announcement of the lecture. The photo is of a Rivoli’s Hummingbird and was taken in Macheros, Estado de México. We were staying in a tiny cottage on the banks of a forested mountain stream. The banks were abundant with blooming Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) and both the gently flowing stream and flowering sage were Mecca for all the hummingbirds in the neighborhood. Every morning we awoke to the chattering of dozens of hummingbirds, mostly Rivoli’s and White-eared Hummingbirds, bathing in the stream and drinking nectar from the sage.

A note about Rivoli’s Hummingbirds. They were originally called Rivoli’s, then the name was changed to Magnificent Hummingbird, but it’s name has since reverted back to Rivoli’s Hummingbird.

Rivoli’s Hummingbird and Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

KIM SMITH PRESENTS “THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN” FOR THE NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY THURSDAY OCTOBER 24TH

THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN

OCTOBER 24TH AT 7:30PM

SACRED HEART CHURCH PARISH HALL

62 SCHOOL STREET

MANCHESTER, MA

Hummingbird and Salvia elegans

Please join me Thursday evening at the Sacred Heart Church in Manchester where I will be giving my presentation “The Hummingbird Garden” for The North Shore Horticultural Society. It’s been a phenomenal year for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on Cape Ann and I am looking forward to sharing information on how you, too, can create a hummingbird haven. I hope to see you there!

“The Hummingbird Garden” is free for members and five dollars for guests.

THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird that nests in Massachusetts. Learn what to plant to help sustain this elusive beauty while it is breeding in our region and during its annual spring and fall migrations. Through photographs and discussion we’ll learn about the life cycle of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the best plants to attract this tiniest of breeding birds to your garden.

A SUMMER SIEGE

A congregation of egrets has many collective names including skewer, siege, sedge, wedge, and congregation. I like the names siege and congregation and the above photo shows a siege of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets preening after a day of fishing at the Jones River Salt Marsh.

New Short Film: The Uncommon Common Tern

What fun to encounter a small flock of terns teaching its young to fish. Nearly as large as the adults, the tubby terns cheekily squawk and demand food (shrimp I think in this case). Watch as the fledglings try to master fishing skills while the adults tirelessly guide the young on how to feed themselves.

With many thanks to Paul St. Germain, president of the Thacher Island Association, for information about the ongoing restoration of shorebirds on Thacher Island.common-tern-fledgling-feeding-copyright-kim-smith

There is nothing common about the uncommon Common Tern. They were named Common because hundreds of thousands formerly nested along the Atlantic Coast. As with many species of shorebirds, the rage for wearing fancy feathered hats during the 1800s nearly drove these exquisite “swallows of the sea” to extinction. After the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was ratified in 1918, terns began to recover.

A second major setback occurred when in the 1970s open landfills were closed, displacing thousands of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. The aggressive and highly adaptable gulls resettled to offshore nesting sites used by terns.

Common Terns are a Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts. Through a statewide long-term commitment of restoration, protection, and management of nesting colonies, the populations are very slowly and gradually increasing.

Former nesting sites include islands such as Cape Ann’s Thacher Island. During the mid 1950s, over 1,125 pairs of Arctic, Common, and Roseate Terns nested on Thacher Island. Today there are none.

The southern side of Thacher Island is owned by the Thacher Island Association. The northern end of Thacher Island is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the authority of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. These organizations are working together to restore terns and other species of birds to Thacher Island.

Good Morning! Brought to You by the Sensational Mr. Swan

mute-swan-mr-swan-niles-pond-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithGlorious swan’s wings! In these photos you can see Mr. Swan’s magnificent new set of feathers.

Mr. Swan has resumed his habit of traveling from body of water to body of water within his territory. Why does he not travel during the summer months, primarily dwelling at Niles Pond? Swans molt each summer and during the molting period, they cannot fly.

Mute Swans molt when their cygnets cannot fly. The female (pen) begins to molt almost immediately after the young hatch. The male, or cob, waits until the female’s flight feathers have grown back completely. The reason for this staggered molting period is because swans use their wings in battle and to defend their young. The swan family will never be left defenseless with at least one of the pair’s set of wings fully functional. The molting period lasts anywhere from four to seven weeks.

mute-swan-stretching-wings-niles-pond-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithGood morning! Mr. Swan’s big morning stretch before he sets off to patrol his territory

Ruddy Turnstone on Cape Ann

ruddy-turnstone-rockport-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithHere’s another sweet little migrating feathered friend observed recently on our shores. A bit bigger than the Sanderlings, and not quite as large as the Black-bellied Plovers with which it was feeding, the solitary Ruddy Turnstone’s bright orange short, stocky legs and big feet are what caught my attention. Although its behavior is anything but, the Ruddy Turnstone is anther one of the birds whose plumage appears almost boring compared to its beautiful harlequin patterned summer coat.

ruddy-turnstone-black-bellied-plover-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithRuddy Turnstone, left, Black-bellied Plover, right

As are Black-bellied Plovers and Red Knots, the Ruddy Turnstone is highly migratory, breeding on the rocky coasts and tundra of the Arctic and spending winters in coastal areas throughout the world. And like members of the plover family, the male’s nest-like scrapes are part of the courtship ritual. I was excited to learn Ruddy Turnstones’s are a member of the plover family (Charadriidae) and thought it would be a great addition to our Piping Plover documentary however, as scientists are want to do, they have reclassified the RT and it is now considered a member of the sandpiper family (Scolopacidae). Oh well.

ruddyturnstoneDuring the non-breeding season, look for the Ruddy Turnstone on rocky shorelines where it energetically feeds by probing and pecking, seeking aquatic invertebrates and insects at the surface of rocks. I believe Ruddy Turnstones are seen with regularity on the “other” Cape. I wonder how many of our readers see Ruddy Turnstones on Cape Ann, and if so so where, and what time of year? Please share, if you do, the information is wonderfully helpful. Thank you!ruddy_turnstone_map_big

Great Egret Epic Battle Royale

Don’t mess with these bad boys!

great-egret-battle-ardea-alba-5-copyright-kim-smith-copygreat-egret-battle-ardea-alba-6-copyright-kim-smith-copyThe Interloper arrives

great-egret-battle-ardea-alba-copyright-kim-smith-copyFace-off

great-egret-battle-ardea-alba-1-copyright-kim-smith-copyBeat it

In no uncertain terms

great-egret-battle-ardea-alba-4-copyright-kim-smith-copyThe Victor

Tussles over turf pop up regularly between the egrets and herons feeding in the marsh. They often conglomerate in one small area to fish for minnows, occasionally steeling a catch from one another, and there is always one who seems to be the big kahuna of the marsh.

 

BABY HUEY OF FLEDGLINGS: THE COMMON TERN

Common Tern Fledgling feeding -6 copyright Kim SmithAfter spending the past eight weeks filming the sparrow-sized Piping Plovers, it was fun to unexpectedly encounter these tubby Common Tern fledglings. Although able to fly, they stood at the water’s edge, unrelentingly demanding to be fed. The adults willingly obliged.

Common Tern Fledgling feeding -1 copyright Kim SmithUnlike plovers, which can feed themselves within hours after hatching (the term is precocial), tern fledglings are semi-precocial, which means they are somewhat mobile at hatching but remain and are fed by their parents. Terns and gulls are semi-precocial.
Common Tern Fledgling feeding copyright Kim Smith

The fledglings appear larger than the adults and are very well fed. Both parents feed their young. The terns are building fat reserves for the long migration to the South American tropical coasts, some traveling as far as Peru and Argentina.Common Tern feeding copyright Kim Smith

Common Tern attacking gull copyright Kim Smith

Common Tern dive bombing gull

Although unperturbed by my presence, they sure did not like the seagulls. Any that ventured near the fledglings feeding were told in the most cheekiest of terms to buzz off–dive bombing, nipping, and nonstop loudly squawking–the intruder did not stick around for very long.

Common Tern populations are in decline, most probably because of pesticide poisoning and habitat loss.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BICx5djD0G4/

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers Update With Tips on Observing the Birds

Piping Plover male and chicks copyright Kim SmithWith sadness, but not entirely unexpected, I am sorry to report that only one baby Piping Plover chick remains at Good Harbor. The good news is that the one surviving chick is doing fantastically as of this writing. Don’t worry when I write too that the Mom has left the family. She has begun to migrate southward. This is somewhat normal and I don’t think she would have left had not the chick been doing so well. Dad is minding the baby full time and he is doing a tremendous job.

A week since the Plovers hatched and it sure has been a joy to film, and wonderfully educational. I am very inspired to work on this short film and hope to have it ready for our community this summer.

Piping Plover chick copyright Kim SmithNotice the growing wing buds!

Piping Plover tiny chick copyright Kim SmithThe tiniest

A heartfelt reminder to please, please, please let’s all work together to keep the dogs off the beach. I had a terrible encounter, really frustrating and the owner and his friends very cruel. Ninety nine point nine percent of dog owners are wonderful and respectful and are rooting for the Plovers as much as are non-dog owners. The Plovers are all over the sandy beach, at the water’s edge, and down the creek. Although growing beautifully, the chick is still about the size of a cotton ball, maybe a cotton ball and a half. Up until fourteen days old, they are at their most vulnerable.

As with before, please fee free to share the photos and information on social media. The more people know about the garbage and dog owner trouble (certain dog owners that is), the more likely the chick’s chance of survival. Thank you!

Piping Plover garbage and chick copyright Kim SmithGarbage left on the beach late in the day and overnight continues to be an issue. Bring a bag with you and we can help the DPW by cleaning up after the the folks who don’t know any better. Garbage strewn on the beach attracts gulls, and they, especially Great Black-backed Gulls, eat baby Plovers. 

Piping Plovers, like many shore birds, are precocial. That means that within hours after hatching, they are ready to leave the nest and can feed themselves. They cannot however immediately regulate their body temperature and rely on Mom and Dad to warm them under their wings. Although the chick is six days old in the above photo, it still looks to Dad for warmth and protection. Examples of other precocial birds are ducks, geese, and chickens.

If you spot the baby and want to observe, I recommend staying fifteen to twenty feet away at least. Any closer and Dad has to spend a great deal of energy trying to distract you. We don’t want him to get tired out and unable to care for the baby. Also, you’ll appear less threatening if you sit or kneel while observing the chick. No sudden movements and talk quietly and the baby may come right up to you!

DSCF3675A sweet dog with a very unkind owner.

Around 6pm Saturday evening, this playful dog came bounding down the water’s edge, within inches of the baby. I stood between the owner, dog, and Plovers, with cameras in hand, and cell phone unfortunately back in my bag. After a good twenty minutes of arguing he and his equally unkind friends departed. In the mean time, the Plovers were able to get away from the dog and further down the shore line.

Piping Plover male and chick -2 copyright Kim SmithDad and chick Monday morning, the July 18th, exactly one week old!

Three Actions We All Can Take to Help the Piping Plover Chicks Survive

Piping Plover chicks nestlings -2 copyright Kim Smith 6-13-16

ACTION NO. 1) HELP NEGATE THE LITTER PROBLEM

The number one threat to the Plover’s survival is the trash left on the beach. If you see someone littering, please remind them to clean up after themselves. Explain that we have a threatened species nesting on the beach and that the trash left behind attracts gulls and crows, which will undoubtedly eat the baby Plovers. Additionally, if you are so inclined and can lend a hand, please bring a trash bag and fill it on your way out. I know tons of friends already do this and it is a huge help. If more of us did it, and folks saw us doing it, they might be inspired not to leave theirs behind. If you see me on the beach filming, I now carry trash bags in my gear bag and would be happy to give you one. Getting rid of the trash on the beach doesn’t just help the Plovers, but all marine and wildlife.

ACTION NO. 2) HELP NEGATE THE THOUGHTLESS DOG OWNER PROBLEM

Inform the dog owner about the law. Explain to them that their dog, leashed or unleashed, can easily squish cotton-ball sized chicks. The babies are all over the beach now, not just in the roped off area. If the dog owner still disregards and if you can, take down their license plate number. I did it today for the first time and Diane, who is the animal control officer, just happened to be at the beach shortly after it happened. She asked for the information and studied the photo that I took to determine what type of dog.

ACTION NO. 3) HELP INFORM BEACH GOERS ABOUT THE CHICKS

The baby Plovers are at their most vulnerable in the first 10 to 14 days. As of this writing, all three chicks have survived the first three days, and that is nothing short of a miracle. The Plovers chicks are now running to the water’s edge. Please walk carefully on the beach and along the shoreline as they are not yet quick enough to get out of the way. Upload a photo of a Piping Plover chick to your phone and show it to folks on the beach. Explain that they aren’t much larger than a cotton ball. Additionally, David Rimmer, Director of Land Stewardship at Essex County Greenbelt, who was checking on the Plovers this morning, is concerned that a child may see a Plover chick and try to catch it. This has happened! In case of any kind of emergency situation such as this, David urges that the the Plover be place in the cordoned off area.

Thank you for you help, and the Piping Plovers thank you, too!

Piping Plover chicks nestlings copyright Kim Smith 6-14-16In the above photo you can see how tiny the Plover chick is in relation to the sunbather.

DSCF2770This woman claims she brings her dog every evening after five and states she has for fifteen years.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BH2Fxq5jTdq/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BH2KACSD4T6/

How to Quickly Tell the Difference Between a Snowy Egret and a Great Egret

Often asked this question, I thought it would be helpful to post the answer again, especially at this time of year when we see numerous numbers foraging in our marshes and along the shore. Both species of birds breed on Cape Ann and the coast of Massachusetts.

Snowy Egret Egretta thula -2 copyright Kim Smith

The first clue is size. Snowy Egrets are small, about the size of the Mallard Duck. Remember the letter S for small and snowy. Great Egrets are much larger, nearly identical in size to that of the Great Blue Heron.

Great Egret Ardea alba copyright Kim Smith

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egrets have  black feet and yellow bills. Snowy Egrets have reverse coloring, yellow feet and black bills.

 

Snowy Egret Egretta thula copyright Kim Smith

Great Egrets stand very still while fishing. Snowy Egrets are wonderfully animated when foraging; they run quickly, walk determinedly, fly, and swish their feet around to stir up fish.

Dog Owner Trouble at Good Harbor Beach and Why It is Not a Good Idea To Ignore Federal laws

Piping Plover overexposed copyright Kim SmithFor the sake of the Piping Plovers folks really and truly need to keep their dogs off Good Harbor Beach. It is a matter of life and death for these beautiful creatures and their soon-to-be-arriving offspring. Additionally, the following article was brought to our attention by friend Pauline Bresnahan. The town of Scarborough, Maine, was threatened with a $12,000.00 fine for not enforcing their leash laws. A dog off leash killed a Piping Plover. If one of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers are killed by a dog, we taxpayers could very well be held responsible for the maximum fine. Read the story here.Good Harbor Beach No Dogs cooyright Kim Smith

Good harbor Beach Scofflaw

This morning I arrived at GHB a little later than usual, around 6:30am. Within the first three minutes, there were three dogs on the beach, and all off leash. The man in the above photo had two dogs, and one of the dogs made a beeline for the Piping Plover nesting site. The guy did absolutely nothing to prevent his dog from running into the restricted area. I called out to him to let him know. He made a rude remark and called his dog back, but only after it was halfway in. The dog owner then walked the length of the beach with his dogs still off leash. When he returned his dogs chased the gulls as well as the Plover feeding at the shoreline. Now if it was a fledgling Plover, the baby bird wouldn’t have stood a chance in heck in the face of the exuberant dog. So after the dog ran into the restricted area, chased one Plover at the water’s edge, he then put his dogs on leash as he was leaving the beach. He was joined by another fellow at the footbridge, whose dog was off leash.

Good harbor Beach no dogs copyright Kim SmithIt is in some dog’s nature to chase birds. Why oh why would a dog owner bring a dog like that to the beach with a known endangered bird species? The rule is no dogs during the summer months. We have a sweet Scottish Terrier and I sure would love to bring her with me when I am filming and photographing early in the morning. But even she, with her calm, gentle disposition, I know would terrify the Plovers and could easily accidentally squish a nestling.

Good Harbor Beach Dog copyright Kim SmithThe Culprit. Is this a bad dog? No, of course not. I think it looks quite cute. Are there any bad dogs, or just thoughtless owners?

Piping Plover retruning to nest copyright Kim SmithPlover returning to its nest this morning

With merely only a few thousand pairs of nesting Piping Plovers remaining nationwide, it’s super important that we all work together as a community to insure the successful nesting of the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. There are so many unavoidable, natural mishaps for the birds and their nestlings; let’s prevent the avoidable disasters. Please, let all your friends and family know to keep dogs off the beach. If you see a dog, please ask the owner to remove the dog.

Piping Plover comparative photo with seagull copyright Kim SmithIn the above photo, you can compare the size of the adult Plover to the size of the immature gull and get an idea of just how tiny they are. And the nestlings are teeny tiny!

It’s no excuse for the behavior of today’s scofflaws, but I think we need bold signs at both ends of Good Harbor Beach, clearly explaining what a federally endangered species is, what a Piping Plover is, and why it is so important to keep all dogs off the beach. Also, perhaps if an officer were stationed at the footbridge end beginning at 5:30am, handing out tickets, folks would take the law more seriously. Or, if the officer were positioned in the middle of the beach, he would catch offenders in the act. I imagine it wouldn’t take more than a few days of ticketing for word to get out that the laws were being enforced. In just the short period of time that I was there this morning, the City could have earned well over a thousand dollars in dog fines alone!

      *   *   *

Male and Female Piping Plover’s take turns on the nest. Every morning they each spend time at the water’s edge feeding and bathing in the tide pools. Today this little fellow gave himself an extra vigorous washing! 

Piping plover bath copyright Kim Smith.Piping plover bath -2 copyright Kim Smith.Dunking from side to side

Piping plover drying wings copyright Kim Smith.Drying WingsPiping plover drying wings-2 copyright Kim Smith.

Good Harbor Beach Sunrise and Piping Plover Nest

Good Harbor Beach Sunrise -2 Gloucester MA copyright Kim SmithPiping Plovers nesting -4 Gloucester MA copyright Kim SmithAn approximately six foot in diameter protective barrier has been installed around the plover’s nest. This is a huge relief as many of us have noticed dog tracks in the cordoned off area. The plover’s don’t seem to mind the wire construct and go about their morning routine, running through the spaces between the wire grid as if the barrier had always been in place. In the above photo, you can see a plover sitting on its nest between the two clumps of grass within the enclosure.

Piping Plovers nesting Gloucester MA copyright Kim SmithEvery morning the plover’s switch places several times, with both parents taking turns sitting on the nest, while the other leaves the restricted area to feed at the shoreline and bath in the tide pools. The above photo was taken on the 13th of June, before the barrier was put in place. There are minimal tacks around the nest site, so it would be logical to assume the nest was very recently established. The photo below, taken on the 15th, show many more tracks and it looks like there are three eggs.

Piping Plovers Three eggs Gloucester MA copyright Kim SmithPiping Plovers Two eggs Gloucester MA copyright Kim SmithNest on the 16th, I only see two eggs however I think the plovers move the eggs around in the nest. And too, my camera lens is zoomed all the way, and the image is cropped.

Piping Plovers nesting -3 Gloucester MA copyright Kim SmithThis morning the plovers were easily slipping through the wires.

Twin Light GHB Sunrise copyright Kim SmithSnowy Egret Good Harbor Beach copyright Kim SmithSnowy Egret Good Harbor Beach -2 copyright Kim SmithSnowy Egrets fishing at the GHB tidal river this morning.

BEAUTIFUL GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS!

Piping Plover Notes, May 23, 2016

PIPING PLOVERS RUNNING 2 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHNot shy in the least, the four Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers spent the early part of the morning running and feeding along the shoreline, bathing in the tidal flats, and ferociously defending their territory against other avian intruders. A jogger ran past the one preening at the water’s edge–he was quite close–but that did not seem to alarm the Plover. They are diminutive little creatures, about six to seven inches in length, and show mostly white feathers when flying overhead.

PIPING PLOVERS -Eating 4 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHBreakfast – Piping Plovers eat insects and small invertebrates

One Piping Plover seemed to be testing different sites to nest, momentarily hunkering down, then leaving the spot, and then returning a few moments later to vigorously dig a deeper depression in the sand, before then flying away.

PIPING PLOVERS NESTING -5 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHTesting the depression

PIPING PLOVERS NESTING 2 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHLeaving the possible nesting site

PIPING PLOVERS -5 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHReturning to the depression

PIPING PLOVERS NESTING -3 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHDigging InPIPING PLOVERS NESTING -4 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHTPIPING PLOVERS NESTING GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHhe roped off area appears to be a terrific solution in helping to protect the possible nesting sites. Visitors to Good Harbor Beach this morning were very mindful about respecting the boundary. And there was not a single dog in sight, off leash or otherwise. The Plovers flew in and out of the restricted area, as did Killdeers and several other species of shore birds.

KILLDEER GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHA Killdeer feeding near the Piping Plovers. The Killdeers, also members of the Charadadriidae, are slightly larger and a much darker brown than the Piping Plovers.

PIPING PLOVERS GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER -1 COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHPIPING PLOVERS PREENING GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHPreening

 

Struttin’ His Stuff

A face only a Mother could love ~

Wild Turkey male close up wattle, caruncle, snood Kim Smith 2016Male turkey’s faces are brilliantly colored red, white, and blue and change color depending on what mood. A solid white head indicates the most excited.

Wild Turkey male Courtship display Kim Smith 2016There were three males courting in this group, with one being the dominant Tom. To attract the females, the males were spreading their tail feathers (called strutting) and spitting. Group courtship like this usually takes place after the winter months in March and April, when they are still flocked together.

Wild Turkey male female Tom pea Courtship display Kim Smith 2016Wild Turkey male female Tom pea Courtship display -2 Kim Smith 2016Tom and Hen Eastern Wild Turkey

Anatomy_of_turkey_headAnatomy of a Turkey Head

1) Caruncles

2) Snood

3) Wattle (dewlap)

4) Major caruncle

5) Beard

Notice the small light tan colored holes to the right of the eye in both the above photo and the top photo. That is the Tom’s ears with which he can hear quite well.

The photo below is not tack sharp so I almost didn’t post however, it demonstrates that this turkey is comparatively more excited as his face is more white and blue than the turkey in the first photo. And you can see the ear quite clearly in this photo, too.

Wild Turkey male close up wattle, ear, snood, caruncle Kim Smith 2016Domestic turkey photo courtesy wiki.

SCENES FROM AROUND CAPE ANN’S BEAUTIFUL MARSHES

Cape Ann marshes are coming to life, in spite of the snowy days and unseasonably cold temperatures. Choristers make themselves readily known with their mating songs and with still bare tree limbs, they are fairly easy to spot.

Red-winged Blackbird male Rockport MA Kim Smith 2016Sing, sing, sing!

Cardinal Female Kim Smith 2016Mama Cardinal

Mouring Dove pair Kim Smith 2016Camouflaged! No eggs yet at the Mouring Dove nest.

Swan male rockport MA Kim SmithMr. Swan looking good.

cattails Kim SmithDissipating cattail seed heads make for terrific songbird nesting material.

Turn up your volume and listen for the male Red-winged Blackbird song in the instagram below, just audible enough through the noisy Mallards quacking.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BD1jo7pjypZ/

 

Mystery at Loblolly Cove

https://www.instagram.com/p/BDfgvX0jyls/

Don’t you love the sound of the word loblolly? I am curious as to why Loblolly Cove is called as such. There is the Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) but that is a species that grows in the the southern United States. Nautically speaking, loblolly refers to a thick gruel served on ships. Geographically, in some southern US dialects, a loblolly is a mire or mudhole. Loblolly Cove is neither of these. Perhaps the namer of Loblolly Cove just liked the name. To me, it sounds like the perfect setting for a mystery novel, the kind you read when a kid on summer vacation – “Mystery at Loblolly Cove.”

Scenes from around Loblolly Cove

Cardinal Loblolly Cove rockport Kim SmithSing Your Heart Out Fella!

Common Eider juveniles Kim SmithYou may have noticed odd-looking Common Eiders on our shores lately. They are juvenile males. It takes several years for the adult male to develop his distinctive and crisp black and white wing pattern.

Common Eiders Bufflehead Kim SmithAdult Male and Female Common Eiders with Male Bufflehead in Flight

https://www.instagram.com/p/BDivKlQjynB/

LOVE BIRDS!

I’ve been keeping my eye on this pair of Mourning Doves and early this morning I found their nest! They saw me filming and photographing them and flew away. I hope they don’t abandon the nest as it would be wonderful to film the babies (squabs).

Mourning Dove Pair Cape Ann Kim Smith Designs.comThe male approaches the female with bobbing head and puffed chest, inviting her to a nesting site.

Mourning Dove Female Cape Ann Kim Smith Designs.comFemale Mourning Doves build the nest.

Mourning Dove Building nest -2 Cape Ann kim smith designs.comThe male dove carries the nest building material to the female.

Mourning Dove Female Building nest Cape Ann Kim Smith Designs.com A loose collection of twigs, pine cone needles, and grass, the nest is usually sited in a tree.

DSCF2662I hope I can find the nest again! Keeping my fingers crossed the pair will still be there when the rain lets up.

Mourning Dove Cape Ann Kim Smith Designs.comMourning Dove morning song

WELCOME SWEET HARBINGERS OF SPRING

A sure sign spring is on the way with these three singing their way onto the scene! 

While the trees have yet to leaf out, late winter is a terrific time of year to see songbirds. As the air temperature warms, singing their love songs and courting, establishing and defending territories, and nest building endeavors are more easily observed in the leafless trees.

American Robin kimsmithdesigns.comAmerican Robin cocking his head while looking for worms.

Mourning Dove kismithdesigns.comMourning Dove with air-puffed feathers to keep warm.

Red-winged Blackbird Male kimsmithdesigns.comMale Red-winged Blackbird perched on a cattail. Red-winged Blackbirds use the fluff of cattails as nesting material.

https://instagram.com/p/1p4QoDjyg-/

Male Red-winged Blackbird Love Song (turn up your volume)

EXQUISITE COOPER’S HAWK

Cooper's Hawk Rockport MA www.kimsmithdesigns.com 2016 -3Cooper’s Hawk, at least I think it is an immature Cooper’s Hawk. Raptor experts reading this please weigh in!

Several nights ago while filming at T Wharf in truly gorgeous fading light a very cool hawk flew on the scene, hungrily hunting amidst the flock of pigeons that were circling around Motif #1. The kerfuffle was captured on film, and then he perched about fifteen feet away from where I was standing! I very slowly and quietly turned cameras toward him. The hawk stayed for a few moments longer before heading back out to chase the pigeons.

I believe this is an immature Cooper’s Hawk because of the beautiful teardrop-shaped patterning of the feathers on its breast, the distinguishing three bars on its long tail, and the yellow eyes. What do you think?

Cooper's Hawk Rockport MA www.kimsmithdesigns.com 2016 -2Cooper's Hawk Rockport MA www.kimsmithdesigns.com 2016

The light was so dim and the hawk photos were shot at only a shutter speed of 40 and high ISO of 5400. Nonetheless, I’m impressed with the clarity of the images from my new lens when shooting in very low light conditions.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BB7Q9s-Dyiv

Motif #1 (Not fuji, iPhone 6sPlus photo)

HUGE THANK YOU TO THE ROCKY NECK ART COLONY!

So many thanks to everyone who came out for my talk at the Cultural Center last night. Thank you to old friends who were there and thank you to my new friends; it was a pleasure to meet you!

We had a wonderful turnout. The Cultural Center at Rocky Neck and the Rocky Neck Art Colony did a tremendous job hosting. With special thanks and gratitude to Martha Swanson, Suzanne Gilbert Lee, Jane Keddy, Karen Ristuben, Tom Nihan, and Mary Lou. The Beautiful Birds of Cape Ann thank you to!

MUTE SWAN ROCKY NECK GLOUCESTER KIMSMITHDESIGNS.COM 2016

Mr.Swan and Mallards Rocky Neck Gloucester

First morning out with new camera lens

HERRING GULL. Larus aregentatus www.kimsmithdesigns.comHerring Gull Henry’s Pond

MR. SWAN HAS A GIRLFRIEND!!

Could this be the new Mrs. Swan?

Swans Niles Pond Eastern Point Gloucester  ©Kim Smith 2016

Note the young swan’s brownish feathers and greyish-pink bill (left). This tells us that she is not quite two years of age.

Today at 9:30am while out doing errands, I stopped by Niles Pond to see if I could find my brand new glove, which was lost the morning previously. That Monday, the day after the weekend storm, the mergansers had moved overnight to Niles Pond to escape the wind and waves on the harbor and I had captured footage of Mr. Swan with the Red-breasted Mergansers. Last I saw him, he was alone and circling the pond, plaintively calling.

Just as I got to the spot where filming yesterday I looked up and flying overhead were not one, but two swans! They were flying towards Brace Cove. I hurried back to my car to get cameras, checking all the while to see if the pair would stay at Niles or continue up the coast. They circled back around Niles before landing on the far side of the pond. The large pure white male looks like Mr. Swan and his girlfriend appears to be much younger as she is comparatively smaller and still has some brownish-gray cygnet feathers.

I immediately called my friend Lyn to let her know about the swan pair swimming at her end of the pond. There was a large patch of ice that prevented the swans from coming closer to where she was calling them from shore but we did have a good long look and we both agree it could very well be Mr. Swan (Lyn calls him Poppa Swan and in Rockport he’s known as Buddy).

The pair of swans stayed, feeding on pond vegetation and moving slowly through the icy waters. Swans use their powerful breast muscles in a lifting and lurching movement to break up ice. It takes a great amount of effort to cut a path through the ice and Mr. Swan is much more adept at ice breaking than is his new girlfriend.

By a swan’s second summer (in other words two years of age) it will have lost all the characteristics of an immature. The brown feathers are gradually replaced with the white feathers. The last thing to visibly change is the color of the swan’s bill. A cygnet’s bill is blue/grey changing over the two year period to pinkish and then orange. Swans can breed as early as two years of age although most don’t begin until three years.

I can’t saw with 100 percent certainty that this is Mr. Swan because I didn’t get a close look at the distinguishing marks on his bill however, all signs point in this direction.

Swans Niles Pond Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2016

NEW VIDEO: SNOWY OWL AT CAPTAIN JOES!

Snowy Owl Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015So many thanks to my friends Joey and Tom Ring for the wonderful tip. The Snowy is gorgeous!!! My right arm is a little unsteady with robo-cast but still managed to get a few moments. Notice how the Snowy Owl rotates its head, giving him nearly a 360 degree viewing vantage. The crows and a Peregrine Falcon were noisily dive-bombing the Snowy, but he held his ground. I hope we see him again soon

Snowy Owl Captain Joe and Sons ©Kim Smith 2015