The West Coast wildfires continue to cast a strange and eerie haze over Eastern skies. The sun appears redder and later in the sky in the morning and disappears behind a thick gray haze earlier in the afternoon.Gloucester Harbor Cape Pond Ice Sunset
Life at the Edge of the Sea – Cedar Waxwing Baby Masked Bandits
For over a month I have been filming a flock of Cedar Waxwings. Exquisitely beautiful creatures, with their combination of soft buffy and brilliantly punctuated wing patterning, along with graceful agility, it’s been easy to fall in love with these birds and they have become a bit of an obsession.
I filmed some wonderful scenes and will share the photos and story as soon as there is time but in the meantime I wanted to share these photos of a juvenile Cedar Waxwing so you know what to look for. Waxwings are often found high up in the treetops. They are most easily seen on limbs bare of leaves. Their repetitious soft trilling song gives them away and if you learn the sound you will begin to see Cedar Waxwings everywhere. They have an extended breeding period in our region and because it is so late in the season, this juvenile may be one of a second brood.
While I was shooting for my short short story, the Waxwing flock was mostly on the ground in a wildflower patch devouring insects. Cedar Waxwings are more typically berry-eating frugivores. During the summer they add insects to their diet and I think it may have to do with keeping the hatchling’s bellies filled. It wasn’t until they moved back up into the treetops that this little guy began appearing amongst the flock. He has the same masked face, but the breast is softly streaked. You can see the yellow feathers tips beginning to grow in.
Beautiful foggy Friday afternoon into evening. I have a bunch to post from this foggy afternoon and will do so tomorrow when I have more time, but isn’t this one scene evocative? I filmed it as well, with the waves crashing into Mother Ann in the fog and will add it to my YouTube show, “Good News Cape Ann!’ airing Sunday night. See you then 🙂
Walking along the edge of the pond I heard a new-to-my-ears sound, an odd sort of mewing, repeated over and over again. What could that be? I snuck along as quiet as could be following the sound. To my amazement, it was a pair of Muskrats cavorting in the reeds, and they were courting and mating!!! You can just barely make out two together in the photo with the dense reeds, too dense to get a good photo, but not too dense to see what they were up to.
A female Muskrat is ready to breed at only one year of age. The breeding season lasts from March through August. A pair will mate while partially submerged, or on water-logged debris above the surface (where our little pair was mating). She may have 2-3 litters per year, with an average of 6 to 8 kits per litter.
Lest folks worry the pond will become overrun with Muskrats, they are a relatively short-lived mammal and have many, many predators including Snapping Turtles, large fish, Eastern Coyotes, Red and Gray Foxes, Weasels, River Otters, Bobcats, Great Horned Owls, and Northern Harriers. But their chief enemy are Minks and Raccoons.
For our reader’s general information, Muskrats are easy to distinguish from Beavers. They are about a tenth the size; Muskrats weigh 1 to 4 pounds whereas Beavers weighs 30 pounds or more. The muskrat’s tail is not large large and flat, but slender and elongated.
Throughout the winter of 2019-2020 we have been graced with a sweet pair of Pipits. As you can see from the map, we are fairly far north of their winter range. Sunday, March 15th, the two were seen again in their usual location at Brace Cove. They have found plenty to eat, between the wildflower seed heads and the tiny mollusks and insects available in the seaweed
That beautiful Cape Ann rosie pink light
After Thursday’s storm we tried going for a beach walk at Good Harbor, Brace Cove, and Niles before giving up and finding a less windy stroll along Niles Pond. The water was a gorgeous deep ultramarine and even the inner harbor was beautiful with whitecaps.
BY TAYLOR ANN BRADFORD
GLOUCESTER — When Brian Flynn found out that his sister Abbie was missing, he hopped on the next available flight to the East Coast.
Abbie Flynn, 59, of Gloucester went missing on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, around 4:30 p.m. after she had prepared to host a party at her Saint Louis Avenue home.
Ten days later, the search and investigation into the Gloucester resident’s disappearance is still inconclusive.
“I got the call on the Sunday night that Abbie went missing,” said Brian, who currently lives in Bermuda. “The Mass. State Police sent out a Facebook alert. I was with my son in California and he saw it and drove me right to the airport so I was at the house at 10 a.m.”
He said that Flynn’s family — Brian, his wife Leslie, her three children and husband Rich — were all there Monday morning.
“We just want to get Abbie back,” Brian said Friday. “That is all we care about.”
As the investigation continues, Brian feels that the family has been embraced by the entire city.
READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE: https://www.salemnews.com/news/local_news/we-just-want-abbie-back/article_13709d2e-14f5-585e-bf40-10755d65d71d.html
GLOUCESSTER DAILY TIMES
BY TAYLOR ANN BRADFORD
Since 59-year-old Abbie Flynn went missing on Super Bowl Sunday, people across Cape Ann and further away have been trying to figure out what happened.
People have hypothesized about coyotes, suspicious vehicles, and made connections to drownings and other missing person cases in social media posts and in phone calls to the Times.
The Gloucester Police Department wants to put the public at ease.
“There is no indication, zero at all, no, none that this is connected in any way to any other cases or that foul play was involved,” police Chief Ed Conley told the Times on Thursday.
Conley confirmed that this is based on evidence.
“I have been as clear and transparent as I possibly can,” he said. “If I thought there was some sort of danger to the public, I would err on the side of releasing that information rather than keep it. But there is none.”
READ THE FULL STYORY HERE:
This is the coat Abbie was most likely wearing the day she vanished. Reportedly she did not have her camera gear with her.
Today marks the ninth day that Abbie Flynn went missing. I spoke with Gloucester Police Detective Quinn this morning as he and state police officers were awaiting the arrival of the Harbormaster’s boat. The underwater sonar search is standard under these circumstances and is not being carried out because new information has been discovered or reported. Gloucester detectives waiting for the Harbormaster
How the sonar search works, as explained by GP detectives. The sonar can see the bottom of the seabed for about thirty to forty feet. The boat will criss cross Brace Cove until the floor of the Cove has been thoroughly scanned. Sometimes rocks or other anomalies get in the way and they return to an area. All the data is recorded on GPS coordinates so that if they have to return with a dive team to investigate, they know just where to go.
The search is coming to an end as of 1pm today. Nothing out of the ordinary has been discovered.
Harbormaster criss crossing Brace Cove with sonar
Our thoughts and prayers are with Abbie and her family and friends. This is an ongoing investigation. Please report any clues or information you may have seen or heard to the Gloucester Police at 978-283-1212.
Thank you to Detective Quinn and to a second Gloucester officer for information provided (so sorry I did not get his name). I want to let our readers know that the Gloucester Police are doing an outstanding job. Last week I met Detective Mizzoni to share information and can only say that in speaking with the detectives, they are leaving no stones unturned. Their compassion is more than apparent and desire to provide transparent information to the public is sincere. Solving the disappearance of Abbie is their utmost priority.
Today marks a full week from when Abbie Flynn was first reported missing by friends at approximately 6pm on Sunday, February 2nd. Friends arrived at her home to attend a Super Bowl get together only to find party preparations underway, but the home empty.
After several days of a massive search, which included a coordinated effort by land, sea, and air, with seemingly no trace nor clues left behind, Eastern Point has resumed its former quietude. Yesterday, Saturday, morning I took a walk around the Point. There were many others out walking in the howling wind. A lone coyote trotted along the berm, a flock of turkeys foraged in their usual locale, the ducks were diving and feeding on pond vegetation, the gulls resting on the half frozen water, and our winter resident juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron was still present. On the face of it all, everything appears back to normal but in reality, there is a terrible sense of eerie disquietude.
Friends and family are heartsick about Abbie’s disappearance. Please let’s not forget Abbie. If you have any clues or thoughts about her disappearance, please contact the Gloucester PD at 978-283-1212.
Many of us continue to be struck by how similar to Abbie’s disappearance is that of Theresa Cohen’s disappearance. Both seemed to vanish into thin air. According to the Charley Report, Theresa’s case was reported solved just this past week. After two years, that in itself is suspect. If Theresa did take her own life, we truly wish the Rockport Police would reveal how that is known. Our understanding is that only a few of her remains were found at a beach in Chatham, which certainly does not seem evidence enough of suicide. Out of respect for her family, we don’t want to know the details, just how it was determined. Providing transparent information would put a great many Rockport and Gloucester residents mind at ease and end the continuing suspicion and speculation.
Edited note – It has come to my attention that someone has commented that this post is a negative comment on the great work the police have done in investigating the disappearance of Abbie Flynn. Nothing could be further from the truth. I only have the utmost respect for the hard work, concern, and dedication the Gloucester officers and detectives have devoted to solving the mystery of Abbie’s disappearance. There simply remain many unanswered questions. It is my greatest hope that Abbie is found.
I was concerned and did not not think the young heron could possibly find enough food after Niles Pond froze solidly over. The pond was thick with a heavy layer of ice, so thick people had been skating.
Several days ago when out for a walk, I heard a krickly sound coming from the reeds along the pond’s edge. A beautiful Red Squirrel ran across my path. A few moments later, the same krickly krickly sound, only this time when I peered in, there was the juvenile BCNH, sleepy-eyed and shifting on the cold ice.
I walked out onto the ice adjacent to where he had been standing and there, very clearly, was a trail of his perfectly delineated tracks. Not only that, but there was a hole in the ice, surrounded by several sets of his tracks. Having observed BCNH during the summer months standing stock still in one place for hours on end, I can just imagine that he must have stood over that hole for hours waiting for his dinner to swim by. Simply amazed!
If you are having difficulty viewing the photos large, double click and you should be able to see full size.
My camera lens was too long to get a close up of the tracks. I was only able to take these cell phone pics, but you can still see very clearly the heron’s tracks in the snowy ice, and the ice hole.Cape Ann is located at the tippy northern end of their year round Atlantic coastal range.
Our shores abound with wonderful wild creatures we more often see in wintertime, and species we can view better because the trees are bare. The duo of male American Wigeons are still here, as are the pair of Pipits. I watched yesterday afternoon as the Pipits flew away from the beach in unison, and then returned together about twenty minutes later to continue to forage in the seaweed and sand.
The past week Eastern Point has seen a wonderful influx of wildlife, in addition to the beautiful creatures already wintering over and migrating through.
On Tuesday before Thanksgiving, a great raft of Ring-necked Ducks joined the flock of Buffleheads and Mallards at Niles Pond. Five chunky American Coots have been there for over a week, and two female Ruddy Ducks have been spotted.
Fifteen Harbor Seals were sunning and basking on the rocks at Brace Cove on Wednesday, along with several Bonaparte’s Gulls that were diving and foraging in the waves. The increasingly less timid Lark Sparrow is still here, too.
The most enigmatic of Great Blue Herons criss crosses the pond a dozen times a day but, unlike last year’s fall migrating GBH, who allowed for a closer glimpse, this heron is super people shy. He has been here for about a week and was present again today.
This morning I watched the four beautiful Mute Swans depart over Brace Rock, in a southerly direction. Will they return? Mute Swans migrate from body of water to body of water within a region. Perhaps they will return, or they could possibly have flown to a nearby location–further exploring our Island.
Leaving Niles Pond this morning and flying over Brace Cove.
The sweet Lark Sparrow has been spotted daily at Eastern Point now for over two weeks. I’ve been able to take a longer look on a sunny day and think he is an immature Lark Sparrow because he lacks the rich chestnut color of an adult.
On one fine chilly, chilly morning, he even let me spend more than a few moments watching as he dozed in the sun while puffing his feathers for warmth.
The Lark Sparrow spends a good deal of time foraging on the ground for tiny seeds. When disturbed, he flies up into the trees and at that moment you can catch a glimpse of the white outlined feathers of the bird’s long rounded tail.
Lark Sparrow tail feathers
Unlike Song Sparrows that dart and zoom horizontally across the landscape, when heading to the next location, the Lark Sparrow flies upward in more of a whirring helicopter movement. I love this little bird and if he stays all winter I hope he will find plenty of seeds to eat.
Compare and contrast the Song Sparrow to the Lark Sparrow. Both species are currently at Eastern Point/Niles Pond area. Both species forage on the ground for tiny seeds. The breast of the Song Sparrow is streaky while the breast of the Lark Sparrow is solid white with a dot of black feathers centered at the upper chest.
Song Sparrow Eastern Point
Don’t you find it fascinating, these avian visitors that are so far off course that find themselves on our shores? Here’s an account from 1905 —
The Lark Sparrow in Massachusetts.– On August 12, 1905, at Ipswich, Massachusetts, I observed at close range a Lark Sparrow (Chondesres grammacus). This makes the sixth record of this species for the State, and the fourth for Essex County. Nearly a year before this, on August 21, 1904, I took at Ipswich an adult male Lark Sparrow (Birds [Auk 104 General Notes. I. Jan. of Essex County, p. 268). It has occurred to me that stragglers in the migrations along our Eastern Coast may not be so very rare, but that they are overlooked, being mistaken for Vesper Sparrows, owing to the ‘white outer tail feathers. In both of the above instances, however, the slightly fan-shaped tail, and the fact that the white was not confined to the two outer feathers, as in the Vesper Sparrow, attracted my eye. The characteristic marking on the side of the head in the Lark Sparrow, seen with a glass within thirty feet, made the diagnosis in the second ca. From the Supplement to the Birds of Essex County by Charles Wendell Townsend.
A very rare-for-these parts Lark Sparrow was spotted by numerous birders today and yesterday at Niles Pond. The beautiful little songster kept either close to the ground foraging on tiny seeds or well camouflaged in the crisscrossing branches of trees and shrubs.
Lark Sparrow Niles Pond Gloucester Massachusetts
Song Sparrows Gloucester and Ipswich
We mostly see Song Sparrows around Niles at this time of year. Compare in the above photos how plain the breast of the Lark Sparrow is to that of the heavily streaked Song Sparrow’s underparts. I write rare-for-these-parts because the Lark Sparrow is entirely out of its range as you can see in the first attached map below.
A second rare bird has been spotted on Eastern Point, a Western Kingbird. It was a rough day for photographing, too overcast, so here is a photo from wikicommons media so that if you are around the Point, you will know what to look for. The Western Kingbird is also far outside its range.
The flock of Mute Swans that arrived just about two weeks ago at Niles Pond is settling in. They are finding plenty to eat and spend their days foraging at pond vegetation, preening, napping, and occasionally stretching their wings for a flight around the pond.
Mute Swans migrate from body of water to body of water within a region. Will they stay in our area or is Niles Pond only a temporary home? When Niles Pond, and all other freshwater ponds and waterways freeze this winter, they will have to move to saltwater coves and harbors.
The absence of Mr. Swan has allowed this small flock to live peaceably at Niles Pond. Mr. Swan and his previous mates spent the winters at Rockport and Gloucester Harbors. Perhaps our Niles Pond flock will do the same. We can tell by the lack of gray in their feathers that they are at least two years old, which means they have managed to survive at least one winter in our region. That is no small feat!
Romance is in the air with these two!