Migrating Great Blue Herons have arrived to Cape Ann, where they join the small number of Great Blues that overwinter in New England. Look for them in marsh, pond, and along the shoreline.
February’s Super Snow Moon was magical in more ways than simply beautiful. The unusual mirage captured during the Moon’s rise was seen by other Cape Ann photographers as well as myself. Lisa Freed from Rockport photographed the omega shape, rising adjacent to Motif No.1.
The effect has several names including Omega Moonrise, Etruscan Vase Moonrise, and Inferior Mirage Moonrise. The omega shape is seen more often during a sunrise, so it is quite exciting that we were witness to an Omega Moonrise on Cape Ann!
From my reading, this is how I understand why it occurs:
During cold weather, when the seawater is warmer than the air, the lowermost air layer is warmed up by the water and produces a temperature difference.
This omega shape is a type of inferior mirage. The refracted (inverted) image is actually below the object’s true position. When the Moon protrudes above the horizon at Moonrise, its inferior mirage can sometimes be seen below it, where it joins the true Moon, creating an omega shape. For this mirage to occur, a layer of very warm air must lie just above the sea surface.
A few minutes later
Over the weekend, many new of sightings of Hector, Gloucester and Rockport’s visiting Black Vulture, were reported. He was seen at residences all along East Main Street, back at the Rockport dump, and even in Rockport Harbor! Many thanks to reader Lauren T for sharing her photo.Black Vulture “Hector” at Rockport Harbor
Over the winter, a Black Vulture has been calling Cape Ann home. My friend Lois first alerted me to this back in December where he has been seen quite often in Rockport. I have been trying to capture some footage of him/her but only ever saw him soaring high above. The Black Vulture in flight is stunning and you can recognize the bird by its distinctive white wing tips.
As luck would have it, East Gloucester resident Larry shared a photo recently and his friend Frank generously allowed me to stop by and take some photos and footage.White wing tips of the Black Vulture
Being found mostly in South America, Central America, and the southern US, the Black Vulture’s range does not historically include Cape Ann (nor anywhere in Massachusetts). The bird’s range has been expanding northward since the early decades of the previous century and it is safe to say there may even be a few pairs breeding in the furthest most western regions of Massachusetts!
Black Vultures feed primarily on carrion. They fly high above on thermal winds looking for dead creatures, and also follow Turkey Vultures, which reportedly have a better sense of smell and can more easily locate carcasses. Black Vultures also kill skunks, possums, Night Herons, turtle hatchlings, chickens, young livestock, and sickly small pets. And, too, they pick through dumps and dumpsters, and even wade into water for small fish and floating carrion. It’s no wonder their range is expanding!
The Black Vulture visiting Frank’s yard appeared to be communicating with Frank. Black Vultures lack a voice box; instead of singing, one of the sounds they make is a low ruff sort of bark. Frank can imitate the bark perfectly, and the bird barks back!
Black Vulture Historic Status in Massachusetts, from Mass Audubon:
The first Black Vulture identified in Massachusetts was shot in Swampscott in November of 1850. The second appeared in Gloucester on September 28, 1863, where it, too, was killed (Howe & Allen 1901). Throughout the next century, the bird was considered an accidental straggler in Massachusetts; and, by the middle of the nineteenth century, the species was on the move from its deep Southern roots, breeding in southern Maryland for the first time in 1922 (Court 1924) and in Pennsylvania by 1952 (Brauning 1992).
If you see Cape Ann’s Black Vulture hanging around your property, please let me know at email@example.com. Thank you so much!
As I was filming a Great Blue Heron, and standing as still as a tree, the beautiful Rusty Blackbird flew on the scene, not four feet away! My heart skipped a beat and I quickly turned my camera on the little blackbird. It’s foraging habit of flipping leaves to uncover insects and plant matter was fascinating and my only wish was that he stayed longer than a brief minute.
Scientists only relatively recently became aware of the dramatic decline of the Rusty Blackbird. Reports show that the population of the RB has plummeted between 80 and 99 percent.
As is the case with so many creatures the whole earth wide, two of the greatest threats facing the Rusty Blackbird are loss of habitat and climate change. The birds are elusive, nesting in remote areas of the great northern boreal forest and wintering over in the wet woodlands of the southeastern United States. Over 80 percent of their winter habitat in the southeast has been lost to development. Changes in the ecosystem of the boreal forests has affected nesting and foraging.
Without doubt, global climate change is the greatest challenge of our day. All living life as we know it is at risk. Millions of human lives have been directly impacted by the Earth’s warming temperature. We are at risk of losing thousands of species of flora and wild creatures.
In the current political climate, restrictions on drilling and mining are being dramatically loosened in ecologically sensitive areas, not only creating a greater carbon footprint, but irreparably harming wildlife.
Politicians are gutting the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Is your candidate, in more than only words, willing to take a strong stand to address the environmental crisis and wildlife conservation issues? Does your political party fully support renewable energy initiatives such as wind and solar? Or are they ramping up coal, gas, and oil production.
The Monarch Butterfly, Piping Plover, and the Rusty Blackbird are bellwether species that we can see in our own “backyards,” and they are sounding the clarion call loud and clear. Can you imagine Planet Earth without extraordinary and fascinating creatures such as this–and the world of beauty they provide?
I often think of May as the magical month of migration through Massachusetts, but am beginning to think of October in the same light. At this time of year I don’t have much spare time but when you go out for even the briefest walk, you will encounter beautiful creatures not usually seen. Several days ago it was a Rusty Blackbird! I was only able to capture a single photo, but did catch half a minute of footage. He was pecking vigorously at the water’s edge, lifting and flipping leaves as he darted about looking for insects and plant matter.
Not only do they eat plants and insects, but they have also been documented attacking and eating other birds including sparrows and Robins.
Rusty Blackbirds are migrating through Cape Ann. They breed in the boggy boreal forests of the far north. During winter Rusty Blackbirds can be found at pond edges, swamps, and wet woodlands.
Rusty Blackbirds are mysteriously in sharp decline and tragically, their population has plummeted an estimated 80-99 percent