Tag Archives: Eastern Point

MAGNIFICENT MAGNOLIAS!

When Saucer Magnolias are in full bloom —This pair on Eastern Point has to be one of Cape Ann’s prettiest!

The Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) was first created in 1820 by French amateur plantsman Étienne Soulange-Bodin,  a retired officer in Napoleon’s army. He crossed Magnolia denudata with M. liliiflora.

I wish I knew more about the history of this grand old home and if the trees were planted when the house was first built. If anyone knows more about, please write. Thank you 🙂

 

 

 

HAPPY EARTH DAY ON THIS MOST BEAUTIFUL OF EARTH DAYS!!

“There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” –Rachel Carson

Dear Friends,

It’s glorious outdoors today and I hope you have a chance to get outside.  See below for photos from my morning Earth Day walk, although I can’t bear to sit at my computer all day when it’s so gorgeous out and will head back out this afternoon to see what we see.

For Earth Day this past week I gave several screenings of Beauty on the Wing (thank you once again most generous community for all your help funding BotWing!) along with presenting “The Hummingbird Habitat Garden” to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. For over twenty years I have been giving programs on how to create pollinator habitats. People are hungry for real information on how to connect to wildlife and wild habitats and each year the interest grows and grows. It’s truly a joy to witness!

Last night it was especially rewarding to bring Beauty on the Wing to Connecticut’s Sherman Conservation Commission attendees. We had a lively Q and A following the screening with many thoughtful questions and comments. My gratitude and thanks to Michelle MacKinnon for creating the event. She saw the film on PBS and wanted to bring it to her conservation organization. Please let me know if you are interested in hosting a Beauty on the Wing screening

Monarchs are on the move! The leading edge in the central part of the country is at 39 degrees latitude in Illinois and Kansas: the leading edge along the Atlantic Coast is also at 39 degrees latitude; Monarchs have been spotted in both Maryland and New Jersey. Cape Ann is located at 43 degrees — it won’t be long!

Monarchs are heading north! Female Monarch depositing egg on Common Milkweed

Hummingbirds have been seen in Mashpee this past week (41 degrees latitude). Don’t forget to  put out your hummingbird feeders. Dust them off and give a good cleaning with vinegar and water. Fill with sugar water and clean regularly once installed. The sugar water recipe is one part sugar to four parts water; never replace the sugar with honey, and never use red food coloring.

Happy Glorious Earth Day!

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Super surprised to see this mystery duck asleep on a rock. I was so curious and kept hoping he would wake up so as to identify. He at last lifted his head for all of ten seconds and then promptly tucked back in and went back to sleep. I’ve only ever seen Surf Scoters bobbing around far off shore in the distance. Skunk bird- what a cutie!

American Kestrel, male, too far away to get a good photo but a joy to see!

Beautiful, beautiful Great Egret preening its luxurious spray of feathers. An egret’s spray of feathers is also referred to as aigrette.

No Earth Day post would be complete without our dear PiPls – Mom and Dad foraging at the wrack line this am, finding lots of insects for breakfast.

A seal’s life

 

EGADS, GADWALL LOVEBIRDS!

The male and female pair of dabbling Gadwalls pictured here have been enjoying the aquatic vegetation, salt water invertebrates, and relative quietude of Cape Ann’s cove beaches. They’ll soon be heading north and west to breed.

Gadwalls are “seasonally monogamous,” and almost always pair up during the fall migration. Seasonally monogamous– a new term to my ears–and one I find rather funny.

Black butt feathers

With understated, yet beautifully intricate feather patterning, look for the males black rear end feathers.

Exquisite feather pattern

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER IN THE SNOW!

One of the earliest warblers to migrate in spring, I don’t recall seeing a Yellow-rumped Warbler this early in the season. This little fellow was finding insects, seeds, and berries in the snow covered scrub line along the shore.

Yellow-rumped warblers have a highly varied diet, which allows them to winter further north than any other warbler, including as far north as Nova Scotia. Their diet consists of every imaginable insect, along with seeds, fruits, and berries including bayberry, myrtle, juniper,  poison ivy, Virginia creeper, dogwood, grapes, poison ivy, grass and goldenrod seeds.

Until 1973, Yellow-rumped Warblers were listed as two different species, the western Audubon’s Warbler and the eastern Myrtle Warbler. Both names are much lovelier than the undignified ‘yellow-rumped,’  don’t you think? More research and DNA studies has revealed they are two distinct species. Let’s hope the names Audubon’s and Myrtle will be reinstated 🙂

Perhaps this young warbler has been here all winter. Please write and let me know fellow bird lovers, are you too seeing Yellow-rumped Warblers?

 

EASTERN POINT BEACON PAINT BOX SUNSET

Eastern Point Dogbar and Lighthouse Beacon

GOLDENEYE EYES

Good Morning Mr. Goldeneye!

How fortunate to see this beautiful male Goldeneye resting in the tide pools. Typically, I see them out at sea and rarely catch a glimpse of their bright orange legs and feet.

Golden Eyes (Bucephala clangulaare cousins of Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola). The genus name Bucephala is derived from the  Ancient Greek boukephalos (“bullheaded”, from bous, “bull ” and kephale, “head”), a reference to the bird’s bulbous head shape. Males of both species deploy ‘look-how-handsome-I-am-with-my-head-puffed-behavior’ during the courtship dance, a feature the females appear to find irresistible. Along the Goldeneye’s coastal wintering grounds they feed mostly on crustaceans, small fish, mollusks, and sea vegetation.

A fun fact about Goldeneyes – the eyes are brownish gray at hatching, then turn purple-blue, then blue, then green-blue as they grow. By five months of age they have become clear pale green-yellow. The eyes eventually become golden yellow in adult males and pale yellow to white in females.

 

IS THE AMERICAN PIPIT’S RANGE EXPANDING TO ENCOMPASS MASSACHUSETTS??

Beginning three winters ago, American Pipits have been spotted consistently all around Eastern Point. The first year, the winter of 2019-2020, there was a pair that could be located daily without fail.  Last year, three were present, again throughout the colder months. And this year there has been a mini flock of up to seven seen at any one time.

Lately, I have been running into birders from out of state and out of town who are here to see the Pipits and are very excited by their presence. When I tell them they have been on Eastern Point steadily for several years, they look at me askantly.

What to look for – The Pipit’s shape reminds me of a slimmer version of the American Robin,  with winter plumage in shades of gray and brown. American Pipits have a very cute way of continuously waggling their long tail feathers when bobbing around the seaweed and rocks.

Pipits like to forage amongst rocks, at the wrack line, and along the sandy part of the beach where there are seed heads of wildflowers and grasses.. As you can see from the map, Massachusetts is north of the Pipit’s winter range. If you see a Pipit at any of our area beaches, please write and let us know and even better, please try to take a photo and we will share it here. The more documentation, the better!

The following is a collection of photos from the past three winters, including this winter.

Winter 2022 – two clearly different shades of breast feathers on theses two individualsAmerican Pipit beach camo

JET-PUFFED TURKEYS IN THE SNOW!

Turkeys floofing and poufing for warmth in the last rays lingering light.

AUTUMN HARVEST – SONGBIRDS FEASTING ON FRUITS, BERRIES, AND SEEDS

A very berry morning to you!

During early morning walks it has been a joy to observe the many beautiful songbirds breakfasting  on the array of autumn foods readily available, truly a smorgasbord of seeds, berries, and fruits.

My wild creature habitat radar has been especially drawn to a wonderful spot, so nicknamed ‘Four Berries Corners.’ Always alive at this time of year with chattering songbirds, there is a lovely crabapple tree, bittersweet, a small tree with black berries, privet I think, and two scraggly, but highly productive, Eastern Red Cedar trees.

In thinking about the about the most successful habitats for songbirds, a combination of seed-producing wildflowers, grasses, and garden flowers are planted along with primarily native flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs. The shrubs and trees also play the important role of providing nesting habitat and protective cover. The photo collection is a small sampling, and meant for design inspiration.

Native Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and Male House Finches

A male and female House Finch feeding each other in the Crabapples!

 

Grass seeds, much beloved by many including Song Sparrows, Bobolinks, and even Snow Buntings

Poison Ivy berries – by no means am I suggesting to plant, just mentioning that over 60 species of birds have been documented eating Poison Ivy drupes.

Cattail seed heads for male Red-winged Blackbirds

 

Sunflower Seeds fo all!

Along with songbirds, come their predators. Look for Merlins, Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks

Blue Jay preening after a morning of berry eating

The berries of Spindle Tree are the most beautiful part of the tree, but the tree is not recommended as it reseeds freely and is notorious for pushing out species of native trees and shrubs.

Seed heads make great perches for dragonflies and damselflies

Coyotes getting in on the action– much of their scat at this time of year has plainly visible partially digested fruits and berries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#ploverjoyed FOR A BIT OF PLOVER FLOUFERY!

Over the weekend a mini flock of a half dozen Semipalmated Plovers arrived on Eastern Point, basking in the warm sun and partaking of an abundance of sea worms. I had to take a second look because at this time of year, Semipalmated Plovers look very similar to Piping Plovers. The SemiPs fade from rich chocolate brown and black plumage to hues of weathered driftwood and sandy shores, very closely resembling their cousins.

SemiPs bathe just as do PiPls. They cautiously approach the water, making sure there are no predators before plunging. Repeatedly dipping and diving, then springing from the water with  outstretched wings in a hopping flourish, they then take some quiet moments to flouf and to pouf.

Thank you to our PiPl friend Todd Pover for sharing the hashtag #ploverjoyed!

 

Semipalmated Plover in summer breeding plumage

TWILIGHT FROM EASTERN POINT AND THEY ARE BACK!

Harbor Seals

Recent twilight scenes from Eastern Point. And the Harbor Seals have returned! In actuality, they are here all year round. We just see many more of them in the fall through spring.

Niles Beach Panorama

SPLENDID COOPER’S HAWK – A CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORY GIVES HOPE

Cooper’s Hawk at Twilight

A crow-sized bird, we often see Cooper’s Hawks at the edge of woodlands where mature trees grow. They have a blue-gray back and rusty orange streaking on white breast, similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks. The easiest way  to differentiate the two species is by their head shape and size. Sharp-shinned Hawks have smaller, rounder heads, while the Cooper’s head is larger and flatter on top.

The explosion of Cooper’s Hawks in Massachusetts is a result of several factors. Partly because fewer dairy farms has led to plant succession and maturing forests. Cooper’s nest toward the top of tall trees.

As with so many species of birds, the banning of DDT has also played a role in the bird’s resurgence.

Cooper’s Hawks prey on chickens. They were at one time considered a pest and hunted mercilessly. Because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to hunt and kill birds of prey, and punishable by a fine of up to 15,000.00 and six months in jail.

Cooper’s Hawks also prey on squirrels, pigeons, starlings, and sparrows, all of which are abundant in suburban and urban environments. With their ability to adapt to human behaviors and habitats, Cooper’s Hawks, Barred Owls, and Red-tailed Hawks are rapidly expanding their breeding range in Massachusetts. In thinking about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and in banning dangerous chemicals that harm wildlife, it gives hope to think about how changes in our laws and behavior have had a profoundly positive impact on these three beautiful species.

Most Cooper’s Hawks migrate south for the winter but increasingly more and more are choosing to overwinter in Massachusetts.

Cooper’s Hawk range map

THE DIFFERENTIAL GRASSHOPPER

I am not entirely certain, but I think the species name of this grasshopper is the Differential Grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis). Whatever the species, he’s pretty charming, and so well-camouflaged!!

 

While poking around looking for information about grasshoppers, I came across this fascinating article about how a chemical in the grasshopper’s brain changes the creature from harmless to a swarming locust : https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/a-brain-chemical-changes-locusts-from-harmless-grasshoppers-to-swarming-pests

EASTERN POINT BRACE COVE-NILES POND BERM RESTORATION UNDERWAY

The strip of land that narrowly divides Niles Pond from Brace Cove suffered storm damage this past winter. Rough rocks and boulders were strewn willy nilly all about the berm. The path has been greatly smoothed and looks fantastic!

BEAUTIFUL SNOWSHOEING AND SLEDDING SNOW BUNTING SNOWFLAKES

I have so loved filming and photographing Snow Buntings this winter, finding small and medium sized flocks from Sandy Point to Cape Ann, and further south, all along the coast of Massachusetts. The flocks I have been filming are becoming smaller; male Snow Buntings have already begun their long migration north. Don’t you find all migrating species of wildlife fascinating? Especially a tiny creature such as the Snow Bunting, which breeds the furthest north of any known land-based bird. From the shores of Massachusetts Snow Buntings migrate to the high Arctic where they nest in rocky crevices.

The range shown in orange is where Snow Buntings nest

What has been especially fun to observe is when the Snow Bunting uses its feet as snowshoes and belly like a sled when traversing snow covered beaches. Oftentimes that’s how you can find them, with their unique step-step-slide-tracks. Snow Buntings seem to forage nearly non-stop, perching while shredding grassy seed heads and leaves, and pecking on the ground for seeds caught between sand, stones, and snow.  To get from one clump of vegetation to the next, they hop lightly over the surface, snowshoeing along, and then slide along on their bellies. Snow Buntings must gain 30 percent of their body weight before beginning their journey.

Snowshoeing and Sledding

Lively disagreements over food ensue, usually nothing more than a mild spat.

Males typically depart the northeast for their nesting grounds earlier than do the females, arriving three to six weeks ahead of the females. Snow Buntings migrate entirely at night, following the geomagnetic field of the Earth, independent of any type of visual clue!

Notice in several of the photos you can see their “feathered pantaloons,” providing extra protection against freezing temperatures.

Snow Bunting eggs and nest in rocky crevice, images courtesy Google image search

Nicknamed Snowflakes because of their ability to nest in snow!

BEAUTIFUL PASTEL-HUED BRACE COVE SUNRISE AND SEA SMOKE

Today’s winter sunrise, with the added beauty of sea smoke

BEAUTIFUL FV JEAN ELIZABETH LOBSTER BOAT AT THE DOGBAR BREAKWATER

Friday morning found the Jean Elizabeth at the Dogbar Breakwater. The lobster boat was close enough inshore for Charlotte to watch and understand what was happening and she was fascinated. Despite the  numbing cold and wind, the men were hard at work. Thanks to our local Cape Ann lobstermen, we are blessed to have fresh caught lobsters throughout the year!

Reader Ned Talbot writes that the captain of the boat is Jay Gustaferro. Thank you Ned for commenting!

HORNED LARK THREESOME!

Three brownish songbird sorts flew on the scene. Feeding along the pond’s edge at this time of year the brown birds we mostly see are Song Sparrows, but they are more solitary and I don’t usually see them flying around together in a group. Hoping for a bunch of beauties, I approached the trio very quietly, one baby step at a time, and was delighted to see not one but three Horned Larks! I wish the sun had been shining so you can see how beautiful is the male’s lemony yellow throat.

Several weeks ago there was one, possibly two, feeding with American Pipits and a Snow Bunting. What a treat to see three!

Two appeared to be male and one female. The easiest way to tell the male from the female is by looking at the facial markings. The female lacks the black eye patch.