Tag Archives: Cape Ann

THE DANCE OF COLOR AND LIGHT – MONARCHS ON THE MOVE!

Monarchs were on the move over the weekend, not only on Cape Ann, but all over northern and northeastern regions of the country* very solid numbers of migrating Monarchs are being shared, from Ontario, to upstate New York, Michigan, and Maine.

Lets keep our hopes up for good weather for the Monarchs on the next leg of their journey southward!

*Ninety percent of the Monarch Butterfly migration takes place east of the Rocky Mountains.

If you would like to help support the Monarchs, think about creating a milkweed patch in your garden. The best and most highly productive milkweed for Monarch caterpillars is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the milkweed we see growing in our local marshes and dunes. The seed heads are ripe for plucking when they have split open and you can see the brown seeds and beautiful floss.

For several of my readers who have expressed difficulty in germinating milkweed seeds, the following is a foolproof method from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

HOW TO GERMINATE MILKWEEDS

MILKWEEDS (ASCLEPIAS SPP.) ARE NOTORIOUSLY DIFFICULT TO GERMINATE. But don’t despair. The Wildflower Center has developed and tested a protocol that results in good germination rates for a number of our native milkweed species. Follow this process and you’ll soon be on your way to supporting monarchs, bumblebees and tons of other insects that depend on milkweed plants. READ the complete article here.

GRAND STATUESQUE HERON OF THE FROG POND

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.

American Bullfrog hunting insects, Great Blue Heron hunting American Bullfrogs

A MAGICAL MIRAGE CALLED AN ‘OMEGA’ MOONRISE

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.

Omega Moonrise

A few minutes later

RECENT SIGHTINGS OF HECTOR, CAPE ANN’S VISITING BLACK VULTURE!

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

RARELY SEEN ON CAPE ANN – A BLACK VULTURE!

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 kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you so much!

Comparing Black Vulture to Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture Range Map

THREE VIEWS GLOUCESTER CITY HALL AND SKYLINE

A view that never disappoints

Choppy Harbor waters

Storm clouds departing

Later the same afternoon

SHORT BIT OF FOOTAGE OF THE ENDANGERED RUSTY BLACKBIRD FORAGING

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?

Vote with your mind and your heart.Non-breeding Male Rusty Blackbird