October’s full Hunter Moon
Snapshot from a recent afternoon. Love these autumn skies!Ocean House Hotel
Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! For more information go here.
Beautiful doe and two fawns find a treasure trove of fallen apples –
SAVE SALT ISLAND MEETING TONIGHT AT 6PM.
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On Monday morning Good Harbor Beach daily walker, Bill, spotted a Horseshoe Crab at the shoreline. It was burrowing in the sand and heading out by the time I ran over to photograph. When I wrote about this briefly in a Piping Plover post, Tom Schaefer shared that he had recently seen a pair mating at Good Harbor Beach! And Martha Cooney wrote to say she and her brother had seen a Horseshoe Crab a Smiths Cove.
Horseshoe Crabs are seen at many of our local beaches and inlets but I think it is a fairly rare occurrence at GHB. If you have ever seen a Horseshoe Crab at Good Harbor Beach, please write and let us know. And we’d love to know also of any recent sightings around the north shore. Thank you!
From Mass Audubon –
Horseshoe Crab Massachusetts Conservation Efforts
Horseshoe crabs have been crawling ashore in Massachusetts for about 350 million years, and they look the same now as they did when living side-by-side with dinosaurs.
In fact, horseshoe crabs are commonly referred to as “living fossils” because they are one of the most ancient creatures still living today.
The species that currently calls Massachusetts home is the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus). Unfortunately, the Commonwealth’s population of these incredible marine animals is in decline and facing increasing threats to their survival.
Horseshoe crabs are one of the most fascinating creatures in our oceans!
They have excellent eyesight thanks to 5 pairs of eyes, and can see just as well at night as they can during the day. Horseshoe crabs also have a wide field of vision, which means they can see their surroundings in all directions—in front, behind, both sides, and above!
Photoreceptors on their tails are sensitive to circadian rhythms, enabling horseshoe crabs to “tell time” by tracking the hours of daylight. Large chemical receptors on their legs gather sensory input in much the same way as insect antennae.
Mating & Nesting
In spring, adult crabs make their way onto beaches during full moons to mate. Females usually only come ashore to nest for a single tide cycle each year. Males use their front clasping claws to physically attach themselves to their chosen mate, and they will stay attached for the entire tide cycle (or longer!). The female digs shallow nests about 5″-10″ deep in the sand, where she then lays 2-5 clusters that each consist of anywhere from 2,000-4,000 eggs.
Development takes 2-4 weeks, during which the eggs will molt four times before finally hatching. Once hatched, larvae remain in their clusters in the sand, not feeding, for several more weeks. They then molt into tiny, spiny juveniles and usually swim out to sea at the next moon cycle. Young crabs will spend anywhere from a few weeks to a full year near the beach where they hatched before heading out to new waters.
In Massachusetts, horseshoe crabs are harvested to be used as bait for the eel and conch fisheries. Additionally, their blood is the only source of a chemical that’s used to test medical devices and injectable drugs for toxins. When harvested for medical use, the crabs are caught, bled, and then returned to the water.
Increased harvesting of these fascinating animals threatens their population. The problem has been compounded by closures of horseshoe crab fisheries in New Jersey, New York, and other neighboring states. As a result, there is increased harvest pressure on the dwindling populations of horseshoe crabs in Massachusetts waters.
It’s crucial that state managers have a robust estimate of the number of crabs in Massachusetts before they can set appropriate harvest quotas to ensure a sustainable fishery. As a first response, Massachusetts has reduced the annual quota for horseshoe crabs and prohibited harvests around full moons from late April through June.
Research & Ways to Help
Mass Audubon has been conducting long-term surveys of spawning horseshoe crabs on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard since 2001 in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island, the National Park Service, the MA Division of Marine Fisheries, and several other organizations and institutions.
At our Felix Neck and Wellfleet Bay wildlife sanctuaries, conservation staff work with trained community science volunteers in the spring and early summer to count adult horseshoe crabs spawning at several sites on and around the new and full moons at high tide.
The data collected during these surveys is submitted to the MA Division of Marine Fisheries, which uses the information to determine the best conservation and management practices for Massachusetts horseshoe crabs and the horseshoe crab fishery.
We invite you to join our efforts to help preserve these very special marine animals! Volunteers are needed every year during April, May, and June to count horseshoe crabs as they come onto beaches to spawn at high tide during the new and full moons.
Heading out to sea
Just as did Robert McCloskey’s Beacon Hill Mr. and Mrs. Mallard Duck hatch eight ducklings, so too did our Niles Pond pair. Meet Luck, Chuck, Puck, Cluck, Stuck, Huck, Oouck, and Muck.
The family foraged for seaweed in the rough surf of the Cove before crossing the berm. The ducklings bathed, preened, and swam in fresh water Niles Pond. Mrs Mallard found a cozy patch of dried reeds to take a nap, which lasted all of two minutes before the little quackers were back in the water.
The past week I have been astounded with the array of warblers that we are seeing in our garden and on walks in the neighborhood. The big attraction in the garden is the native pink flowering dogwood tree (Cornus florida ‘Rubra’), my neighbor’s maple tree and the tiny insects feeding there, and our funky weathered old bird bath. There has been so much activity in the bird bath we are changing the water several times a day! Perhaps the travelers are dusty and dirty and appreciate the fresh bathing water.
One of the most fun to see was an American Redstart and the new-to-my-eyes Bay-breasted Warbler.
We also had a trio of black and white birds for an afternoon, the Black and White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and a female Yellow-rumped Warbler.
Black and White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Warbler
There’s much that could be written about each species. I’m posting these photos for ID purposes in case anyone else has noticed a recent influx of warblers in your backyard or neighborhood. Please write if you do. Thank you!
Common Yellowthroat taking a bath
Sharing this beautiful arrangement sent to us by our daughter Liv. The bouquet looks exquisite no matter which way you turn the vase, and is becoming more beautiful with each passing day. The fabulous combination of scents – of roses, peonies, and Oriental lilies – are wafting through our home. Created by Audrey’s Flower Shop.
The dead Minke Whale that washed ashore Friday at Folly Cove is still there, although his carcass has shifted further in shore. His body is torn and weather beaten and appears to have been tossed around quite a bit before washing ashore.
Wear boots with good treads if you plan to cross the slippery rocks to go see.
Several years ago, Al Bezanson shared the photo below of a Minke Whale stranded at Rocky Neck (the whale escaped).
Gloucester Daily Times
April 15, 2021
The public celebration of St. Peter’s Fiesta will be cancelled for 2021.
As headlines continue to spread the news of the COVID-19 surges in both the United States and overseas, the St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee had to make the call to cancel this year’s festivities because of the uncertainty and the potential health risk.
But the novena – the nine-day prayer service –will take place virtually again this year thanks to the efforts of the group of women who lead this effort each year. The St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee will make details known as the novena organizers’ effort evolves in the coming weeks.
“We want to keep everyone safe and we don’t want to add to the problem,” said St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee President Joe Novello. “It wasn’t an easy decision but we believe it was the only and right decision. We still have to be patient.”
READ the full story hereAlthough Fiesta is cancelled, the Novena will take place virtually
Cape Ann lobstermen and fishermen held a protest boat parade Wednesday afternoon. The parade was organized to show support for local lobstermen in light of the recent temporary closure of lobstering grounds and new requirements to purchase special gear. The grounds are closed until May 1st, possibly until May 15th, to prevent gear entanglements during the endangered Right Whale migration through Massachusetts waters.
Under overcast skies, the lobster boats gathered at Ten Pound Island and headed in the direction of the State Fish Pier. The parade circled the inner harbor several times to the cheering and honking of supporters lining the shore. After a good showing of lobster boats, fishing boats, and supporters, the parade ended under clearing skies.
Bluebird courtship is as beautiful as is the bird! Last week my daughter Liv joined me on a film scouting mini adventure. She loves learning about wildlife and living in Southern California as she does, Liv is surrounded by beautiful wild creatures and wild lands. We had a fantastic morning of it. Brant Geese, Piping Plovers, Great Egrets, Tree Swallows, and Eastern Bluebirds were just some of the creatures we observed.
The Eastern Bluebirds were especially stunning in the crisp early morning sunshine. One particular gent had not yet secured his partner’s affections. From tree branches adjacent to nesting boxes, he sang softly and flashed his glorious blue wings to a female that had flown in on the scene.
At first we thought he was preening, but no, the bachelor was clearly enticing his lady friend with lapis lazuli flags, gesturing with quick up and down lifting movements. Called wing-waving, these gestures are part of Eastern Bluebird courtship.
The male first sings loudly from treetops. If a female shows interest, he further shows off his skill sets with wing-waving and soft warbles. He then entices her to join him at a nesting box or cavity, he entering first. After he flies out of the box and if all goes well, she enters the cavity, a sure sign the pair are hitting it off!
Male Eastern Bluebird Wing-waving
For over a week, American Wigeons have been spotted along our shores. They spend most of the day foraging on sea lettuce and seaweed. One pair appear particularly fond of each other. They share meals, preen simultaneously, and occasionally come onto shore together. In the photo you can see the two lovebirds sharing their sea lettuce dinner.
Both male and females have beautiful baby blue bills. The females feathers are softly hued in shades of brown while the male has a brilliant white “bald” spot atop his head, earning him the not widely used common name “Baldpate.” The males also sport a brilliant eye patch that in certain light flashes emerald green or may appear coppery bronze.
Cape Ann is a stopping over point for the dabbling American Wigeons on their journey north. Pairs form at their wintering grounds and the two will stay together during incubation. The males practice a low bow and sings a soft whistle during courtship. Both times I tried to record it was too windy. You can find a recording of the males courtship calls here: American Wigeon sounds. The first two recordings are the sounds they are currently making.
Between the years 1966 and 2015, the American Wigeon population fell by approximately 2 percent per year, resulting in a cumulative decline of 65 percent over the 49-year period (Cornell). During 2012-2016, hunters took approximately 650,00 Wigeons per year. USFWS monitors duck hunting, limiting the number of ducks killed based on population. The population decline is also attributed to drought as well as loss and degradation of wetland habitat.Male courtship bow
American Wigeon range map
Love is in the air!
Consistently when out in fields, I see Bluebird pairs that appear strongly committed to each other. I wondered, do Bluebirds mate forever? In our region, we see Eastern Bluebirds. Ornithologists found from a long term study of Western Bluebirds that the great majority stay together for life. No such studies exist for Eastern Bluebirds however, field observations suggest that about 95 percent mate for life when both are still alive.
Pairs softly warble to each other early in the morning, the male brings nesting material to a chosen site, and once she has entered his nesting cavity, she will begin to bring nesting material and he will bring food to her to “seal the deal.” In our north of Boston region, you can see the courtship behavior beginning as early as February and March.
Eastern Bluebirds re-mate with another partner if one dies.
In the photos below, it’s very easy to see the difference between a male and female Bluebird. The female’s blue is a more subdued grayish hue while the male’s blue feathers are brilliantly hued.