A view that never disappoints
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
My friend Patti Papows shares that she heard a promo on PBS for the Autumnwatch Cape Ann Monarch migration episode, which we believe airs Friday night at 8pm. The BBC team is still editing the segment so if anything changes, we will let you know.
The Monarch migration interview was filmed at Patti’s beautiful garden in Gloucester, at Good Harbor Beach, and the episode includes footage from my forthcoming film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.
Patti is a fantastic hostess and the producer Sophie, cameraman Bobby, and his wife Gina were thrilled with her warm hospitality and the refreshments she provided. It was cold and damp and drizzly, yet despite that, half a dozen Monarchs emerged from the chrysalises I had brought to the interview. Everyone was excited to see this and I think it was all meant to be.
The three night series airs Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8pm (October 17th-19th).
Photos from an October passel of Monarchs migrating along our shores and nectaring at the late blooming asters.
If you regularly listen to our GMG podcasts, we often talk about wildlife. As we have seen the great coyote migration, from west of the Rocky Mountains to every region of the American East and South so too are Black Bears migrating eastward and they have become relatively common in some parts of New England. We talked about this on a recent podcast and I predicted that they would be seen on Cape Ann within five years. After reading the story in the Globe about the Black Bear mama and cub in Amesbury, perhaps we will see them sooner.
Unlike coyotes, which are not native to the Eastern U.S., Black Bears are native to Massachusetts. Legend has it that Rockport’s Bearskin Neck is named for the bear skins drying on the shores of the small peninsula. Prior to 1952, Black Bears were nearly extirpated from Massachusetts because anyone could kill a Black Bear at anytime. Regulations passed in 1952 allowed killing only during hunting season. Because of these conservation efforts, the Bears are making a comeback at an estimated rate of 8 percent annually.
Don’t you think it doubly exciting that a female and her cub were tranquilized in Amesbury? This may tell us that males have established territories much further eastward. A male can cover up to 120 miles annually while a sow with cubs stays within a 12 mile range.
I imagine areas within Dogtown would make ideal Black Bear habitat, with plentiful food, rocky crevices and fallen trees for den-making, fresh water, and a wooded canopy with thick understory. I am looking forward to hearing of the first Cape Ann Black Bear sightings!
Black bears tranquilized after sitting in Amesbury tree for hours
A mother bear and her cub were tranquilized in Amesbury after they spent much of Tuesday morning up a tree, much to the delight of locals who gathered to watch them.
“There were a few scary moments for the crowd,” said Michele Velleman, a Georgetown resident who happened to be in Amesbury. “Everybody was concerned about it.”
“With the assistance of Amesbury firefighters and police, Environmental Police and MassWildlife first immobilized the sow and relocated her to a wooded location, then immobilized the cub and relocated it to the same location,” said Katie Gronendyke, a spokeswoman for the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Some press for the show that I have been working on with the BBC! The shows air October 17-19th, at 8pm. I don’t know yet which night the Cape Ann Monarchs episode will play, but will let you know.
PBS announced, as part of its co-production partnership with the BBC, that a new three-part live event, AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND, will air Wednesday-Friday, October 17-19, 2018, at 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings).
Travel journalist Samantha Brown, BBC presenter Chris Packham and wildlife cinematographer Bob Poole will host the multi-platform television experience from alongside Squam Lake, New Hampshire. Similar in format to PBS’ previous summer spectacles BIG BLUE LIVE and WILD ALASKA LIVE, the new series will include a mix of live feeds and pre-taped footage from across New England.
Unique to AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND, the live event will focus on cultural traditions and historical sites in addition to local wildlife and the colorful gold and red landscapes in the region that’s best known for them.
To accomplish this, local experts in food, wildlife, music, literature, and history will join the trio of hosts each night to showcase characteristics special to New England.
“In AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND, audiences will experience exquisite outdoor adventures while surrounded by nature’s most picturesque imagery,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President, Programming & Development, PBS. “We look forward to partnering with the BBC once again to present this ambitious live production and share this American experience with PBS and BBC viewers.”
AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND cameras will be there to capture time-lapse changes of fall foliage; a quest for majestic moose in Maine; the Monarch butterfly migration through Cape Ann, key wildlife species like squirrels, chipmunks and turkey gangs as they invade backyards in preparation for the winter months; and the critters like owls, bats and bears that make the most of nighttime.
Audiences can expect to see segments that highlight Native American history and traditions, Halloween traditions, regional fairs and the many farms that provide the region with its rich varieties of apples, pumpkins, cranberries and maple syrups.
“I’m thrilled that AUTUMNWATCH is moving to New England for this very special week of live programming,” Tom McDonald, BBC Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual, said. “The teams are heading to one of the most iconic locations in the USA to experience the great American ‘fall’ for what promises to be an unforgettable chapter in the Watches’ history.”
Female (left) and male (right) Monarch Butterfly. These two beauties (warming their wings on native wildflower New England Aster) eclosed (emerged) during the BBC filming of the Monarch migration through Cape Ann.
Mother Otters burrow near to, and within, North American Beaver lodges, to give birth and to raise their young. The den will often have many entrances and exits. The mother raises her young alone. At about five weeks old the newborns will begin playing. At two months, the kits (also called pups) coat has grown in and she introduces them to water. At nine weeks they begin to eat solid food and are weaned by twelve weeks.
The family bond is beautiful to watch and the young River Otters are utterly adorable in their playfulness. Just some of the familial behaviors that have been so wonderful to observe–otters grooming each other, snuggling under Mom (and playfully biting her tail), siblings wrestling each other, and all taking a morning nap together.
One of the most interesting moments was observing what happened one morning after the mother caught a frog. At first look it appeared as though the kit was stealing the frog from her, but after examining the footage, she caught the frog and deliberately incapacitated it, although she did not eat. She was holding the frog for her young otter to come and catch it from her.
An Otter’s whiskers are extra sensitive; the long whiskers have evolved to aid in hunting underwater. NA River otters are near-sighted, possibly as a result of underwater hunting.
Cape Ann’s growing Otter population is a clear sign that our waterways are in good health. North American River Otters are very sensitive to dirty water. Clean water, along with the expanded range of the North American Beavers, has helped create a welcoming habitat for River Otters to dwell and to breed.