The weekend was spent learning a new film editing program. I thought using the early morning B-roll that I shot of the beautiful sea smoke event we are experiencing would make wonderful content to practice my new skills. Filmed along Cape Ann’s eastern most shore from Thacher Island to Loblolly Cove, Pebble Beach, Back Shore, Good Harbor Beach, scenes around Gloucester Harbor, and ending at Brace Cove.
PiPl Friends, I thought you may be interested in what looks to be an interesting celebratory event, tonight a 6pm. If you are interested and can’t attend, register anyway, and they will send a link to a recording of the event.
In 2019, on a small island in coastal South Carolina, biologists discovered a phenomenon that was difficult to believe.
Nearly 20,000 whimbrel were stopping at Deveaux Bank along their migration north — half the estimated eastern population of the declining shorebird.
Hear from the people who were there. Join us on June 22, 2021 for a free virtual screening and panel discussion featuring members of the dedicated team who made the discovery.
Join us on June 22 at 6 p.m. EST as we celebrate the newly announced discovery with a virtual screening, panel discussion and audience Q&A with the dedicated team who made it happen.
Registrants will receive an email with a link to the webinar on the evenings of June 21 and 22.
Maina Handmaker (Panelist), Whimbrel Researcher & Graduate Student, University of South Carolina
As a graduate student in the Senner Lab at the University of South Carolina, Maina studies the role nocturnal roost sites play in the stopover ecology and migratory performance of Atlantic flyway Whimbrel. Prior to joining the Senner Lab, Maina worked as the Communications Specialist for the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). Her current research uses GPS transmitters to track the daily movements of Whimbrel that roost on Deveaux Bank during their migratory stopovers on the coast of South Carolina, seeking to better understand how individuals select foraging and roosting sites and how those choices influence their entire annual cycle.
Andrew Johnson (Panelist), Conservation Media Center filmmaker, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Andy Johnson is a film producer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Center for Conservation Media. Andrew studied biology at Cornell University, where his research focused on tracking Whimbrel migrations. Now, with a career in natural history filmmaking, the work on Deveaux Bank has been a convergence of his longtime interests in shorebird migration, conservation, and visual storytelling.
Dr. J. Drew Lanham (Panelist), Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Master Teacher, and Certified Wildlife Biologist at at Clemson University
A native of Edgefield, South Carolina, Dr. J Lanham is an author, poet, ecologist, and an extraordinary birder. His focus is on the ecology of songbirds and the intersections of race, place, and conservation with wild birds as the conduit for understanding. Dr Lanham is the author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, which received the Reed Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Southern Book Prize, and was a finalist for the John Burroughs Medal. He is a birder, naturalist, and hunter-conservationist who has published essays and poetry in publications including Orion, Audubon, Flycatcher, and Wilderness, as well as anthologies including The Colors of Nature, State of the Heart, Bartram’s Living Legacy, and Carolina Writers at Home.
Just as did Robert McCloskey’s Beacon Hill Mr. and Mrs. Mallard Duck hatch eight ducklings, so too did our Niles Pond pair. Meet Luck, Chuck, Puck, Cluck, Stuck, Huck, Oouck, and Muck.
The family foraged for seaweed in the rough surf of the Cove before crossing the berm. The ducklings bathed, preened, and swam in fresh water Niles Pond. Mrs Mallard found a cozy patch of dried reeds to take a nap, which lasted all of two minutes before the little quackers were back in the water.
The strip of land that narrowly divides Niles Pond from Brace Cove suffered storm damage this past winter. Rough rocks and boulders were strewn willy nilly all about the berm. The path has been greatly smoothed and looks fantastic!
A heads up for all the many people who enjoy walking the loop around Niles Pond. The berm is no longer a compacted path but is awash with rocks, pebbles, popples, and even some of the large boulders have become dislodged and knocked about.
A few snapshots more from Brace Cove after the nor’easter
Three brownish songbird sorts flew on the scene. Feeding along the pond’s edge at this time of year the brown birds we mostly see are Song Sparrows, but they are more solitary and I don’t usually see them flying around together in a group. Hoping for a bunch of beauties, I approached the trio very quietly, one baby step at a time, and was delighted to see not one but three Horned Larks! I wish the sun had been shining so you can see how beautiful is the male’s lemony yellow throat.
As was the case for so many, New Year’s Day was joyful but bittersweet, too. I drove Liv to the airport at dawn for her return trip to LA. She can work remotely and was able to travel home in early December, before the second surge. When she arrived home she quarantined, taking a Covid test prior to, and again after arriving. Liv extended her visit an extra week so that she did not have to fly back last weekend. It’s nerve wracking dropping her off at the airport but she has had to fly occasionally for work during the pandemic and Delta is only allowing at most 50 percent capacity. She flies at odd times so the planes are mostly empty, and she is often allowed to upgrade to first class for free, as she was on this flight. All that being said, with the surge on top of the surge and the new strain running rampant, praying and hoping she will remain safe and Covid-free.
Having both adult children home, along with our darling Charlotte here with us full time, we are having more fun as a family – cooking together, playing card games, laughing, joking, and telling stories. This family time together has been the silver lining to the pandemic and the part I will choose to remember.
I stopped on the way home to watch the planes taking off and snap a photo of the first sunrise of 2021.
After returning from the airport, Charlotte and I took one of our mini nature walks around Eastern Point. The very first creature we encountered was a young Double-crested Cormorant. He was attempting to cross the berm. We almost walked right into him! For some reason we couldn’t quite understand, he didn’t care to fly from Brace Cove to Niles Pond, but was on foot.
After we stood very quietly for several minutes (no small feat for a three-year-old) he decided we weren’t a threat and crossed our path, not three feet away!
Continuing on our mini trek, we spotted the rare Black-headed Gull bobbing along in the cove (see yesterday’s post).
To top off our day, a young Cooper’s Hawk flew overhead and landed in a nearby tree.
No matter how your candidates fared, we can still all rejoice in the beauty found on Cape Ann –Halloween weekend brought a flower-melting snow storm, surfers in sea smoke at daybreak, wildy winds, Full Blue Halloween Moon, beautiful sunrise and sunsets
A bob of five Harbor Seals has spent the past few afternoons lollying about in a socially distant fashion on the rocks at Brace Cove. I write ‘naturally’ distancing not because of coronavirus, but because they prefer some measure of personal space when hauled out. We see both Harbor Seals and Gray Seals at Brace Cove throughout the year although there seem to be fewer during the spring and summer months. I wonder if that is because they are busy breeding and raising young. With the onset of cooler weather their numbers have been increasing once again. On a bright sunny day last winter we counted twenty-nine!
Life at the Edge of the Sea- Double-crested Cormorant Feeding Frenzy!
A note about the photos – for the past five years I have been photographing and filming the Cormorants massing. The photos are from 2016 – 2019, and most recently, from 2020. Some of the earliest ones were taken at Niles Beach in 2017. In 2018, my friend Nina wrote to say that the massing also takes place in her neighborhood on the Annisquam River. Several weeks ago, while hiking on the backside of Sandy Point, facing the Ipswich Yacht Club, the Cormorants were massing there, too. Please write if you have seen this spectacular event taking place in your neighborhood. Thank you so much!
Massing in great numbers as they gather at this time of year, Double Crested Cormorants, along with many species of gulls and herons, are benefitting from the tremendous numbers of minnows that are currently present all around the shores of Cape Ann.
Waiting for the Cormorants early morning
At inlets on the Annisquam and Essex Rivers, as well as the inner Harbor and Brace Cove, you can see great gulps of Cormorants. In unison, they push the minnows to shore, where gulls and herons are hungrily waiting. The fish try to swim back out toward open water but the equally as hungry Cormorants have formed a barrier. From an onlooker’s point of view, it looks like utter mayhem with dramatic splashing, diving, and devouring. In many of the photos, you can see that the birds are indeed catching fish.
The Double-crested Cormorants are driving the feeding frenzy. I have seen this symbiotic feeding with individual pairs of DCCormorants and Snowy Egrets at our waterways during the summer, but only see this extraordinary massing of gulls, herons, and cormorants at this time of year, in late summer and early autumn.
Cormorants catch fish by diving from the surface, chasing their prey under water and seizing it with the hooked bill.
Double-crested Cormorants are ubiquitous. When compared to Great Cormorants, DCCormorants are a true North American species and breed, winter over, and migrate along the shores of Cape Ann.
Nearly all the species of herons that breed in our region have been spotted in the frenzy including the Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Black-crowned Night Heron.
After feeding, the herons often find a quiet place to preen before heading back in the late afternoon to their overnight roosting grounds.
For the past several weeks I have been filming at day break at fields with autumn’s beautifully expiring wildflowers and grasses. I didn’t have time this morning for trekking around and all that, and as I lay in bed looking out at the overcast sky, I wondered, should I just loll around for a few extra minutes or go and see sunrise on the Back Shore? It was a beauty this morning and am so glad I did 🙂
Hurricane Teddy delivered wild waves and flooding along Gloucester’s shoreline edges.The GHB parking lot was completely flooded, the high water mark was up to the very base of the dunes, but the footbridge came through with flying colors (last I checked and thanks to Gloucester’s awesome DPW).
Photos from Good Harbor Beach, the Back Shore, Brace Cove, and Eastern Point.
“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” – Oscar Wilde