Tag Archives: Gloucester Massachusetts

GRAND SUPER SNOW MOONRISE AND MOONSET OVER GLOUCESTER

Last night’s moonrise over the Back Shore was spectacular. Click on the sequence above to see full size. I don’t know why the Moon has a “neck” in the middle photo, or what that reflective appearance is termed, but it was so interesting to see.

February’s Snow Moon was also a Super Moon. It was the the second of a trio of Super Moons taking place in 2019. The Super Snow Moon was also the largest of the three (closest to Earth). The third and final Super Moon of the year is taking place on March 21st.

Our Charlotte loves looking at the Moon, so when she popped up in bed at 5:30 in the morning and exclaimed Moon!, I bundled her up and off we went to see the Moon setting over the Harbor. I wrote last month that she loves looking up in the sky for the Moon, largely from reading her the story book Good Night, Moon, and now we are reading Buenos Noches, Luna, practicing for an upcoming trip to Mexico.

THE SPUNKY AND PUNKY AMERICAN WIGEON

For the past week or so, a duo of male American Wigeons has been spotted foraging along the coastline. They dip and dabble, close to the shore, and are eating sea lettuce and seaweed.

Male American Wigeon eating sea lettuce

Smaller than a Mallard but larger than a Bufflehead, the punky male flashes a brilliant green swath across the eye and has a beautiful baby blue bill. The males were are also colloquially called “Baldplate” because the white patch atop his head resembles a bald man’s head.

Oiling their feathers (called preening) and constantly aligning the feathers keeps the ducks both afloat and aloft.

Notice how the water forms beads on the duck’s breast, a sure sign the feathers are well-oiled. Ducks have a gland at the base of their tail called the uropygial gland (you can also say preen gland or oil gland). The preen oil creates a protective barrier that prevents the feathers from becoming waterlogged.

I like to think of the American Wigeon as both spunky and punky. Spunky because of the way they bounce back after diving in rough surf. Punky because of their occasionally holligan-like behavior.

Last year when first encountering American Wigeons I didn’t understand why the Mallards were so aggressive towards the Wigeons, snapping and nipping at the pair whenever they got too close to the Mallard’s meal. Now I see why. American Wigeons often feed alongside other ducks, especially diving ducks such as Coots. The Wigeons opportunistically snatch away the aquatic vegetation the divers pull up although, our two travelers were quite amicable and while feeding together, not in the least hoodlumish toward each other.

Watching the ducks tumbling around in the rough surf while casting about for food is a site I won’t soon forget. It was beautiful to see the Wigeon’s surf dance but also a window into their daily struggle for survival. I marveled at the ducks’ resilience. Roughly a third of migrating birds that winter each year in the mainland of the United States do not survive the journey.

The pair has not been since that morning foraging in the choppy waves. Perhaps they took a cue, of winter weather yet to come.

For many weeks during the late winter and early spring of 2017, a male and female American Wigeon made Rockport their home, and now we have had these two feisty boys. I wonder if the Wigeon’s winter range is expanding northward or if we are merely a stopover on their southward migration. Most of the migration occurs further west and south so I think we are pretty fortunate to have this dynamic duo visiting our shores.

Invasion of the Little Black Scoters

The best kind of invasion–an usual bird invasion! The flock of male and female Black Scoters was fairly far offshore at daybreak. Later in the day I checked back on the scoters and they were continuing their southerly directed swim along the shoreline, but a little closer to the rocky coastline. Oh how I wish we could see them really close-up!

Male Black Scoters sport a distinctive orange-knobbed bill

I call them little because they are the smallest of the three scoters we would see in our area, the other two being Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters. Even from far off shore I could hear their soft whistling calls.

The little Black Scoter breeds in the northern tundra, wintering along both the East and West coasts, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. This beautiful little duck is a species thought to be in decline, namely because of its susceptibility to oil spills and pollution.

BEAUTIFUL BRANTS, SCAUPS, AND RING-NECKED DUCKS MIGRATING RIGHT NOW ON OUR SHORES!

The northward avian migration is heating up! The following are just three of the fascinating species of wild birds readily seen at this time of year, found all around Cape Ann. Look for Brants, Scaups, and Ring-necked Ducks at coves, bays, ponds, quarries, and marshes.

Currently migrating along Cape Ann’s shoreline is a beautiful brigade of Brant Geese. They usually turn up at about this time of year, late winter through early spring, and I have been looking for them in all the usual places. Brants thrive in Cape Ann coves, devouring sea lettuce while riding the incoming and outgoing waves. I see them eating and pecking for food atop barnacle-crusted rocks and am not sure if they are eating seaweed caught on the rocks or tiny crustaceans.

Brants eating bright green sea lettuce.

In the 1930s a terrible disease devastated eel grass and the Brant population plummeted. Surviving Brants adapted to sea lettuce and as the eel grass recovered, so too is the population of Brants recovering.

Brants are wonderfully vocal, making a funny “cronk” sound. I was walking past a flock of geese off in the distance and wasn’t paying much attention. Thinking they were Canada Geese, I ignored them until hearing their vigorous cronking.

They fight with each too, over rocks and food. Tomorrow if I can find the time I will try to post photos that I took of a Brant scuffle.

Brants feeding on the rocks are knocked off by the incoming tide, but then quickly get right back up again.

Brants migrate the furthest north of any species of goose, as far north as Hedwig territory.

Two Males and a Female Greater Scaup

The Greater Scaup breeds as far north as Snowy Owls and Brant Geese, and Ring-necked Ducks are also passing through, not traveling quite as far, but on their way to the Alaskan and Canadian boreal forests. Greater Scaups travel in flocks, sometimes forming rafts of thousands. You can see why in the photos Greater Scaups are colloquially called Bluebills.

Three male Greater Scaups and a Red-breasted Merganser

The most significant threat to Greater Scaups is habitat loss, oil, and sewage pollution. Nearly eighty percent winter over in the Atlantic Flyway where they are subjected to heavy metals in foods and habitat.

So many suitors! Lone female Ring-necked Duck with potential mates.

The two species are closely related (Aythya collaris and Atythya marila); both are small diving ducks and both are vulnerable to becoming poisoned by lead from diving for food and incidentally eating the lead shot and lures that continues to cause problems in our wetlands.

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Save the Date for My Upcoming Pollinator Garden Program at the Sawyer Free Library!

Dear Friends,

Please join me April 6th at 7pm at the Sawyer Free Library where I will be giving my Pollinator Garden program and screening several short films. This event is free and open to the public. I am looking forward to presenting this program at our wonderful Sawyer Free and hope to see you there!!

Female Ruby-throated hummingbird and zinnia – ornithophily is the pollination of flowering plants by birds. They carry off the pollen on their heads and neck to the next flower they visit.

This newly eclosed Monarch is clinging to its chrysalis case. Within moments of emerging, the two-part Monarch proboscis must zip together to form a siphoning tube. If the two parts do not join, the butterfly will not be able to drink nectar. In this photo, you can see the proboscis is not yet fully zipped.

“Following the rhythm of the seasons, celebrated landscape designer Kim Smith presents a stunning slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates.”

NEW FILM: A FLIGHT OF MONARCHS

When watching, know that the first two minutes of the film were shot in Gloucester. I think you will be dazzled by the sheer numbers of Monarchs that travel through Cape Ann’s backyards and meadows during the peak of migration.

I began photographing the Monarchs in 2006, which was a year when we had an extraordinary number of Monarchs visiting our shores. At that time, I became determined that if ever again this phenomenon were to occur on Cape Ann, I was going to have the ability to document on film, rather than only through still images, this beautiful event for my community. It’s hard to imagine without observing and here you can see what I have wanted to share.

A Flight of Monarchs begins on a September day as first one and then passels of Monarchs begin to arrive to the fields and meadows of Cape Ann, carried across Massachusetts Bay on a tailwind. By the early evening light they begin to pour into the surrounding trees, clustering to stay warm in the branches furthest away from the prevailing breezes. The following morning as the sun begins to touch their wings, they alight from the trees, seeking the freshest wildflowers from which to drink nectar to help build their lipid reserves for the several thousand mile journey south. They drink and drink until the last of the sun’s rays dip below the tree line. As they arrived on a tailwind, they again depart, and are carried to the next gathering area. For coastal Monarchs, Allens Pond, which is located in Westport, Massachusetts is often the next stop.

In the next scene, the butterflies have arrived to the sacred oyamel fir forests of Angangueo, Michoacán, deep in the heart of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. It’s early morning and the butterflies are suspended in great primordial branched clusters that may become so heavy from the weight of so many butterflies the boughs of the trees bend to the breaking point. Later in the day, as the sun begins to warm their wings, the butterflies begin to stir. During the winter, it is imperative that the Monarch’s body temperature remains relatively low. They leave the sunniest branches in search of shade and a drink of water from nearby mountain streams. Occasionally in late February, as the air temperatures begin to warm with the coming springtime, for a short period during the day, the butterflies leave the trees all at once. This phenomenon is called a butterfly “explosion,” and is a truly magnificent event to observe.

A Flight of Monarchs is set to the evocative and tender “Fields of Blue,” written and performed by composer and guitarist Jesse Cook and his band, to which permission was granted by the artist for the purpose of this short film. Here is a link to Cook’s website. I highly, highly recommend attending a live performance of Jesse Cook and Company. As was I, you will be completely taken by their gorgeous music, exquisite artistry, and with Cook’s songwriting, will travel in beautiful melodies inspired from around the world.

I am currently editing my feature length documentary, Beauty on the Wing, which after months and months of organizing and editing three years of footage, is currently running at approximately twelve hours in length. At eleven hours too long, I have a great deal of editing to accomplish in the coming winter months!

A Flight of Monarchs presented here is the shorter version of the film that I created for the Berkshire Museum’s “Butterflies” exhibit. The first version is six minutes long and played on a continuous loop in the main gallery of the exhibit hall. The longer version will soon be posted on Vimeo.

New Film: Buona Fiesta!

Our beautiful Gloucester community is the inspiration for Buona Fiesta! Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who appears in the film. I love it when you see me and smile and wave—it just adds another layer of fun to the film! 

Buona Fiesta! begins with the opening of the Friday night ceremony at Saint Peter’s Square. The statue of Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, is processed around the American Legion Building (Gloucester’s first City Hall), with the parade ending in a fanfare of confetti and cheers at Saint Peter’s Square. Joe Novello is the host for the formal opening ceremony of the 2014 Saint Peter’s Fiesta.

Highlights from the Friday and Saturday Greasy Pole events are followed by the Sunday morning Mass and the procession through the city streets to Our Lady of Good Voyage Church, and then back to Saint Peter’s Square. Tradition has the rallying Sunday Greasy Pole Walkers joining the feast well underway at the Giambanco childhood home, before heading over to the Gloucester House Restaurant and Saint Peter’s Club for liquid encouragement. Highlights from Sunday’s Greasy Pole are followed by the midnight closing ceremony. Saint Peter and followers process around the Fort and are greeted with more confetti and a beautiful fireworks display over the water. As Saint Peter is safely tucked back into the window at the Saint Peter’s Club, all wish him good night with cheers of Viva San Pedro…until next year’s Buona Fiesta!

You’ll see all three Greasy Pole winners take their flags, Mark Allen, Kyle Barry, and Jack Russ; the Giambanco sisters, Sefatia, Rosaria, Marianne, and Grace, who provide a Saint Peter’s Feast for the entire community; House Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante, State Senator Bruce Tarr, Mayor Kirk, Melissa Cox; Oar’Dacious teammates and sisters, Janelle Sleepy Pallazola Puopolo, Leanne Pallazola, and Jamie Pallazola; Salvi Benson’s final Greasy Pole Walk; Nicky Avelis; Steven Le Blanc almost capture the flag; Crazy Hat Ladies, sisters Robyn and Amy Clayton; and many, many more.

A request for feedback: Is the film’s content relatively self-explanatory, or are more subtitles and commentary needed? Please, if you have a minute, let me know what you think in the comment section. Thank you for watching!

Next year I am going to just have to figure out how to film the Seine Boat Races, too, which happen further down the beach. I need two camera set-ups!!

Thank you to all who work so hard to make Saint Peter’s Fiesta a wonderful and positive event to be shared by all in the community. With thanks and gratitude to the Giambanco sisters Rosaria, Marianne, Sefatia, and Grace for inviting me to film the feast and rally at their home. With thanks and gratitude to Nicky Avelis and the Greasy Pole Walkers for permitting me to film on the boat ride to the Greasy Pole. With thanks and appreciation to Nina and Frank Groppo for the invitation to join them on the beautiful midnight procession and fireworks through the Fort.

Buona Fiesta! is dedicated to Carlo Sleepy Pallazola, John Wagner, Dominic Nicastro, Salvi Benson, and Peter Black Frontiero.

Music:

“The Walker” by Fitz and The Tantrums
“Love Runs Out” by OneRepublic
“Best Day of My Life” by American Authors
“A Sky Full of Stars” by Cold Play