Tag Archives: Gloucester Harbor

HILARY FRYE, EXTRAORDINARY DUCKLING RESCUER!

What a little mini adventure was had over the weekend, along with the joy of meeting Hilary Frye!

I was at one of the beaches where documenting the Piping Plovers and noticed a little chocolate brown duckling shape smack in the middle of a wide sandy beach, sitting all alone. I moved closer to the duckling and it ran towards me, peeping and piping all the while. The little thing would run pell mell through the flats and then plop down exhaustedly. It appeared to be a Common Eider duckling but, not having seen any that small, I wasn’t entirely sure. I looked for its Mom but could not find her.

To my utter surprise, a short time later and while I was still trying to figure out what to do, a second duckling appeared. It, too, was moving in the same direction, running and plopping. I scooped both ducklings up and put them together and they immediately began to cuddle and snuggle with each other. A sweet couple with a baby agreed to watch the pair while I went further down the beach looking for Mom.

I only found a dead female Common Eider and decided these babies were never going to make it on their own. A quick call to wildlife rehabilitator Jodi from Cape Ann Wildlife and she referred me to her friend Hilary, who she said would take the ducklings out on her boat to search for, and possibly join, another Common Eider family.

One thing you should know about Common Eiders is that Common Eider Moms, along with non-breeding “Aunties,” band together for protection. The individual broods come together to form a crèche, which may include as many as 150 ducklings!

Ducklings in a pail

The sweet couple and I packed sand at the bottom of one of Charlotte’s beach pails that were conveniently stored in the car’s trunk, placed the ducklings ever so carefully, and then gently covered with an unused  diaper.  I drove home with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand applying slight pressure to the diaper. I was just imagining what would be the outcome of the two rambunctious little fellows escaped in my car.

Stopping  for a minute at our home to grab a larger container because I was again imagining the little escape artists, this time running around on a boat. Husband Tom had packed a crate and Charlotte had a brief, but squealing-with-joy moment.

I arrived at Harbor Loop just before sunset and after quick introductions, Hilary escorted the ducklings and I to her skiff. Pulling out of her slip and passing the Schooner Ardelle two minutes hadn’t gone by when eagle-eyed Hilary spotted a crèche! She zoomed the boat over to the other side of the Harbor at Pirate’s Lane and sure enough there was a small flock of five ducklings and several adult female Common Eiders.

Slowly and expertly Hilary steered the boat towards the flock. I placed the ducklings in the water however, they all began to swim in opposite directions. It looked bad for a few minutes but Hilary turned the boat around and ever so gently corralled the birds until the flock was headed back toward the orphans. The two were peeping continuously and as the flock grew closer, the adults could hear their peeps. The Moms and Aunties began craning their necks and swimming towards the peeps. After only another brief moment, it appeared flock and babies were united. We didn’t hang back very long because the boat we thought may distress the birds.

I am happy to report that the following morning I walked down to the bottom of our hill and found the crèche of Eiders. Guess how many ducklings were swimming with the Moms and Aunties? Seven!

Hilary was simply amazing. She was ready at a moment’s notice to help. This was actually the third time she has reunited Common Eider ducklings.

Many in the community already know and love Hilary for her GHS sailing program, but for me, it was the first time meeting her and it was completely my joy. Thank you, thank you Hilary.You are the best!

Currently Jodi  has some little Wood Ducklings in her care. Please consider donating to Cape Ann Wildlife. Who would I have called if not for Jodi, and who else would know to ask Hilary for her kind assistance? Visit the Cape Ann Wildlife Facebook page here. Thank you!

Jodi’s Wood Ducklings

 

 

SUPER STUNNING SUPER MOON! #GLOUCESTERMA -SCHOONER ADVENTURE, GOOD HARBOR BEACH, GLOUCESTER HARBOR, BACKSHORE

Called the Worm Moon because the ground begins to soften and earthworms reappear, inviting Robins to our gardens. Among many names, March’s Full Moon is also called the Sleepy Moon, Sap Moon, Crust Moon, Lenten Moon, and Crow Moon.

Photos of the full Super Worm Moon rising and setting.

Gloucester Harbor

Between the twin masts of the Schooner Adventure

Good Harbor Beach

Backshore

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A DOVEKIE OR MURRE STRANDED ON THE BEACH

In recent weeks there have been more than a few reports of Dovekies and other seabirds found on our local beaches, both alive and dead. Friend Jeff Papows has found several dead birds and has returned one live Dovekie and one Common Murre.

Jeff knew just what to do with the stranded birds, which is to return them to the water. Jodi Swenson, from Cape Ann Wildlife, recommends this is best. She shares that seabirds do not do well in rehab. If on the other hand the bird appears sick or emaciated, then please call Tufts at (508) 839-7918.

Dovekies, like many seabirds, are clumsy on land, however they do nest on land, so we know they are able to walk. Then why are they stranding? It most commonly happens to young, inexperienced birds. But stranding can also happen in great numbers to exhausted adults after large storms. This influx is known as a wreck. One of the most tragic and dramatic wrecks occurred along the East Coast in 1932, when thousands of Dovekies literally “rained” from the sky.

Photos Jeff Papows

We’d like to get an understanding of how many seabirds are washing ashore. If you have seen a Dovekie, or other species of seabird, dead or alive on the beach this winter, please write and let us know when and where. Thank you so much.

Common Murres are more crow-sized whereas Dovekies are more similar in size to an American Robin

Dovekie front view

Dovekie side view

Common Murre, winter plumage. Photo courtesy wikicommons media

 

GIANT SEALS SCARED THE BEEJEEZUS OUT OF ME!

While filming the tiny Dovekie as he was blithely bopping along the inner Harbor, dip diving for breakfast and seeming to find plenty to eat, suddenly from directly beneath the Dovekie, two ginromous chocolate brown heads popped up. Almost sea serpent-like, and so completely unexpected! I leapt up and totally ruined the shot, and the little Dovekie was even more startled. He didn’t fly away but ran pell mell across the water about fifteen feet before giving a furtive look back, and then submerging himself.

So there we were face to face, only about twenty feet apart. We spent a good deal of time eyeing each other, several minutes at least, both trying to figure out the other’s next move. Their eyes are so large and expressively beautiful. Down they dove and search as I might, could not spot them again.

There have been plenty of Harbor Seals seen in Gloucester Harbor, but I have never been so close to a Grey Seal, and so delighted to see not one, but two!

The following are a number of ways to tell the difference between a Harbor Seal and a Grey Seal.

Harbor Seals are smaller (5 to 6 feet) than average Grey Seals (6 feet 9 inches long to 8 feet 10 inches long). Bull Grey Seals have been recorded measuring 10 feet 10 inches long!

Harbor Seals have a concave shaped forehead, with a dog-like snout. The head of a Grey Seal is elongated, with a flatter forehead and nose.

Harbor Seal head shape left, Grey Seal head right

Harbor Seals have a heart or V-shaped nostrils. The nostrils of Grey Seals do not meet at the bottom and create more of a W-shape.

Harbor Seal, heart or V-shaped, nostrils

Grey Seal W-shaped nostrils

Grey Seals are not necessarily gray. They are also black and brown. Their spots are more irregular than the spots of a Harbor Seal.

Grey Seals and Harbor Seals are true “earless seals,” which does not mean that they cannot hear but are without external ear flaps.

Dovekie Gloucester Harbor

BEAUTIFUL AND FUNNY RARE BIRD IN GLOUCESTER THE “LITTLE AUK” OR DOVEKIE

The tiny “Little Auk” has been on our shores for several days and this morning I was finally able to take a few good snapshots. It dips and bobs in a funny manner, weaving back and forth, up and down the channel, before using its wings to deeply dive for small fish and crustaceans.

The Dovekie is the smallest member of the auk (puffin) family. A bird of the open Atlantic Ocean that breeds on Islands in the high Arctic, Dovekies are only seen during winter months in New England.

THE BEAUTIFUL SCHOONER THOMAS LANNON WENDING THROUGH THE HARBOR UNDER FULL SAIL

In honor of Kay Ellis