Happy Spring dear Friends!
Please forgive me if I am slow to respond to your notes, emails, and kind comments. I am so sorry about that but am spending every spare minute on the Piping Plover film project, creating the first rough cut while converting six plus years of footage. And uncovering wonderful clips of these extraordinary creatures, some I am just seeing for the first time since shooting! Not an easy task but I am so inspired and full of joy for this project, trying not to become overwhelmed, and taking it one chunk at a time, literally “bird by bird,” as Anne Lamott would say.
Gadwall and American Wigeon pairs abound. Both in the genus Mareca, they share similar foraging habits when here on our shores and can often be seen dabbling for sea vegetation together. The Orange-crowned Warbler was still with us as of mid-week last, as well as the trio of American Pipits. The very first of the Great Egrets have been spotted and Killdeers are coming in strong. The first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will be here any day now; at the time of this writing they have migrated as far north as North Carolina
Have you noticed the Weeping Willows branches are turning bright yellow? In the next phase they will become chartreuse. For me it it one of the earliest, earliest indicators that trees are starting to emerge from dormancy. And our magnolia buds are beginning to swell, too. Please write with your favorite early signs of spring and I’ll make a post of them.
Male and Female Gadwalls, American Wigeons, Black Ducks, and Buffleheads foraging for aquatic vegetation
More spring scenes
Orange-crowned Warbler preening
Ocean effect snow creates a magical scene at Hammond Castle.
Gloucester’s most magical of castles-by-the-sea
My daughter Liv and I love the Cloisters in Manhattan and it’s so interesting to learn that Rockefeller, Hammond’s friend and peer, was so intrigued by Hammond’s new castle, he was inspired to build the Cloisters!!
What a lift for all who saw the beautiful bevy of Mute Swans at Niles Pond Tuesday afternoon. Many thanks to Duncan B for the text letting me know. I am so appreciative to have seen these much missed magnificent creatures.
The flock is comprised of three adults and five youngsters. You can tell by the color of their beaks and feathers. Five of the eight still have some of their soft buttery brown and tan feathers and their bills have not yet turned bright orange.
The swans departed at night fall. Where will they go next? Mute Swans don’t migrate long distances, but move around from body of water to body of water within a region. Please keep your eyes peeled and please let us know if you see this bevy of eight beauties. The following are some of the locations to be on the lookout at: Niles Pond, Henry’s Pond, Pebble Beach, Back Beach, Front Beach, Rockport Harbor, Gloucester inner harbor, Mill Pond, Mill River, Annisquam River – pretty much anywhere on Cape Ann!
Although this may look like a pig pile from shore, Harbor Seals actually like to maintain a bit of social distancing while they are lolling.
Letting the younger seal know in no uncertain terms, in the above photo, you can see an older seal fwapping the smaller seal away with his flipper (he/she was also grunting at the youngster).Harbor Seal Pig Pile
Wishing you Happy Holidays, good health, peace and joy in the coming year. I am so thankful for you and grateful for your support of our Monarch documentary, Cape Ann’s Piping Plovers, and for the shared love of all our backyard and shorebird wild creatures.
I made this short film for you, mostly for the audio, but there is a funny moment when one of the Waxwings takes a large berry that is a challenge to swallow.
Several people have asked how do I “see” so many Waxwings. Cedar Waxwings are sociable birds that tend to flock together. They make a wonderfully ascending trilling sound, which once you learn their vocalizations, you will begin to hear everywhere. When Waxwings are at eye level dining on fruits and berries, they are readily detected. Often, though, Waxwings congregate in treetops. You can hear them, but can’t see unless you look to the tippy top of trees. Learn the Cedar Waxwing’s lovely trilling sounds and look up!
In the following short, shot several weeks ago in early December, the Cedar Waxwings were intermittently feeding alongside American Robins, flitting between several crabapple trees and a large clump of native Winterberry. You can also hear the Robin’s birdsongs in the video. The Waxwings are here in our midst, as long as there are plentiful fruits. Happy finding!
Laying low in the dunes, I unexpectedly came upon this beautiful Snowy Owl. He appeared to be superficially injured (see arrow in photo below).The Snowy is perhaps a male, and on the younger side. You can often tell the difference between male and female because the male has lighter barring in the wing patterning, although the darkest male can also look like a female with lighter wing barring.
Note the sharp difference in wing pattering: The Snowy Owl on the left (Cape Ann’s Hedwig) is most likely a female, while the Snowy from the dunes, on the right, is more likely than not, a male.
It”s not easy being a bright white Snowy against the golden yellow of dunes. The white wedge shapes are easily detected by all manner of harassing critters, most notably Crows and gulls. Flying overhead, too, was a territorial battle royale between a Peregrine Falcon and a Red-tailed Hawk.
In the video posted here, which is part one of a five part series from the Snowy Owl Film Project, you can see the beautiful Snowy that called Cape Ann’s back shore home for a winter is being harassed and dive-bombed by Crows, at 1:00 to 1:25.
More photos of the Snowy recently spotted in the dunes just after daybreak
Cape Ann Art Haven is accepting reservations for buoy painting for the 2021 Lobster Trap Tree!
This will occur on 4 Saturdays: November 13, 20, 27 and December 4 from 10:00.m. to 3:00 p.m at Art Haven. It is open to all children and adults. Please register for all that want to paint a buoy. The paint we use is permanent so please wear appropriate clothing.
TWIN LIGHTS TONIC
Cape Ann’s Timeless Soda Pop
Dive into history of one of the most popular soft drinks around the Cape Ann area Twin Lights Tonic. This carefully researched story of one of the last family bottlers still in operation. Paul St.Germain and Devlin Sherlock bring you through the history and development of carbonated soft drinks as they trace the narrative of the 115-year-old Twin Lights Bottling Company (originally Thomas Wilson Bottling Company). Woven throughout is the story of one Rockport, MA family of Portuguese immigrants who began producing the tonic in the back of a small town grocer store in 1907.
With over 70 photographs included, this lovingly assembled book is sure to delight.
For a limited time, you will also receive a commemorative postcard and magnet with your purchase!
Tip Top Tulips promises to be a show stopper this Mother’s Day weekend with fields blooming in prime glorious beauty! My friend Paul has created yet another enchanting and magical flower experience for the community (see School Street Sunflowers). Visiting Tip Top Tulips to celebrate Mother’s Day is a wonderful way to spend time with your Mom, wife, girlfriend, and family. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome, too. And on a recent visit, if you can imagine, I ran into half a dozen fairy princesses <3
Only a very few varieties of tulips have gone past and there are loads and loads of fresh flowers to pick (I can attest that Paul’s freshly picked tulips last a good ten days!). The array of colors is beyond exquisite, from brilliant jewel tones to softly-hued pastels, along with every imagined shape and pattern, from dippled and dappled, to striped and ruffled. Deanna Gallagher’s adorable and family friendly Shetland Sheep are visiting Tip Top Tulips as well, along with a beautiful young calf.
Paul and friend Liam
There are plenty of times available on Saturday, May 8th. Sunday, Mother’s Day, times are available between 9 and 10, and after 4:30ish. After this weekend, the fields will still be beautiful so I would check with Paul on how much longer Tip Top Tulips is planning to stay open.
Tip Top Tulips is located at 71 Town Farm Road in Ipswich.
Fo more information, visit Tip Top Tulips website here and follow on Instagram here.
Tip Top Tulips cutting field opens today! SEE MORE HERE
You may recall that I have written a number of times about my friend Paul Wegzyn and his stunning and enchanting School Street Sunflowers. Paul has created another magically enchanted flower experience for the community! This past autumn, Paul, and his Dad Paul, planted several hundred thousand tulips at two different fields.
The smaller field at 22 School Street, Ipswich, is opening on Sunday, April 18th. This field is planted for pick-your-own tulips. Charming wicker baskets are provided and the cost is $1.00 per stem.
The second field, named Tip Top Tulips (located at 71 Town Farm Road, Ipswich ), is going to be the show stopper. Rows and rows of beautiful multi-colored tulips, from early flowering varieties to late flowering cultivars will be blooming over the next two months. Tip Top Tulips is scheduled to tentatively open the following week, approximately April 24th, depending on the weather.
The theme this first year for Tip Top Tulips is Love, in honor of Paul’s Mom, and as with School Street Sunflowers, there will be beautiful photo vignettes positioned around the field.
Deanna Gallagher will have her adorable and friendly Shetland Sheep and cows at Tip Top field, providing even more fun and wonderful photo moments for the family. Charlotte had the best time with Deanna and her goats at School Street Sunflowers last summer and I cannot wait to take her to Tip Top Tulips this spring!
Fo more information, visit Tip Top Tulips website here and follow on Instagram here.
Bluebird courtship is as beautiful as is the bird! Last week my daughter Liv joined me on a film scouting mini adventure. She loves learning about wildlife and living in Southern California as she does, Liv is surrounded by beautiful wild creatures and wild lands. We had a fantastic morning of it. Brant Geese, Piping Plovers, Great Egrets, Tree Swallows, and Eastern Bluebirds were just some of the creatures we observed.
The Eastern Bluebirds were especially stunning in the crisp early morning sunshine. One particular gent had not yet secured his partner’s affections. From tree branches adjacent to nesting boxes, he sang softly and flashed his glorious blue wings to a female that had flown in on the scene.
At first we thought he was preening, but no, the bachelor was clearly enticing his lady friend with lapis lazuli flags, gesturing with quick up and down lifting movements. Called wing-waving, these gestures are part of Eastern Bluebird courtship.
The male first sings loudly from treetops. If a female shows interest, he further shows off his skill sets with wing-waving and soft warbles. He then entices her to join him at a nesting box or cavity, he entering first. After he flies out of the box and if all goes well, she enters the cavity, a sure sign the pair are hitting it off!
Male Eastern Bluebird Wing-waving
A beautiful mysterious Snowy Owl has spent the winter here on Cape Ann. She is very elusive, never dallying too long in one location. She has been spotted in the Good Harbor Beach dunes, Long Beach, Salt Island, Middle Street rooftops, woods, Back Shore, Bass Rocks, Rocky Neck, Smith’s Cove, and even at the bottom of our hill on Pirate’s Lane.
Thank you to many friends who have alerted me to her presence – Hilary, Catherine, Grace, Nicole, Gordon, Arley, Frankie, Susan, Roger – if I forgot to include you, I mean to thank you, too!
If you spotted a Snowy on Cape this winter, please write. I do not believe Cape Ann’s Snowy is still about however, if you do see a Snowy, please leave a comment or feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
I am almost certain she is not the same Snowy that stayed with us several winter’s ago. Unlike Piping Plovers, from tracking data, we know that Snowies don’t generally return to the same location every winter, and many only migrate during their youth. In case you missed it, here is a link to a series of fun educational short films that I made about Cape Ann’s 2018 resident Snowy Owl, including bathing, capturing a seabird, and passing a pellet. Snowy Owl Film Project
It’s been a banner year for Snowy Owls at Salisbury Beach, Sandy Point, and Parker River, so much so I have gone out of my way to avoid stopping to photograph owls at these locations for fear of disturbing the Snowies. There are a great deal more people out and about photographing than in previous years, due largely to the pandemic, and the owl disturbances are many.
Love is in the air!
Consistently when out in fields, I see Bluebird pairs that appear strongly committed to each other. I wondered, do Bluebirds mate forever? In our region, we see Eastern Bluebirds. Ornithologists found from a long term study of Western Bluebirds that the great majority stay together for life. No such studies exist for Eastern Bluebirds however, field observations suggest that about 95 percent mate for life when both are still alive.
Pairs softly warble to each other early in the morning, the male brings nesting material to a chosen site, and once she has entered his nesting cavity, she will begin to bring nesting material and he will bring food to her to “seal the deal.” In our north of Boston region, you can see the courtship behavior beginning as early as February and March.
Eastern Bluebirds re-mate with another partner if one dies.
In the photos below, it’s very easy to see the difference between a male and female Bluebird. The female’s blue is a more subdued grayish hue while the male’s blue feathers are brilliantly hued.