Tag Archives: Gloucester

AN EAR-FULL OF CEDAR WAXWINGS! ALONG WITH MERLINS AND HAWKS ON THE HUNT

During the last weeks of summer, I was blessed with the great good fortune to come across a flock of Cedar Waxwings. Everyday I followed their morning antics as they socialized, foraged, preened, and was even “buzzed” several times when making too quick a movement or crunched on a twig too loudly for their liking. They were actually remarkably tolerant of my presence but as soon as another person or two appeared on the path, they quickly departed. I think that is often the case with wildlife; one human is tolerable, but two of us is two too many. 

The Cedar Waxwings were seen foraging on wildflower seeds and the insects attracted, making them harder to spot as compared to when seen foraging at berries on trees branches. A flock of Cedar Waxwings is called a “museum” or an “ear-full.” The nickname ear-full is apt as they were readily found each morning by their wonderfully soft social trilling.  When you learn to recognize their vocalizations, you will find they are much easier to locate.

These sweet songbirds are strikingly beautiful. Dressed in a black mask that wraps around the eyes, with blue, yellow, and Mourning Dove buffy gray-brown feathers, a cardinal-like crest atop the head, and brilliant red wing tips, Cedar Waxwings are equally as beautiful from the front and rear views.

Cedar Waxwings really do have wax wings; the red wing tips are a waxy secretion. At first biologist thought the red tips functioned to protect the wings from wear and tear, but there really is no evidence of that. Instead, the red secondary tips appear to be status signals that function in mate selection. The older the Waxwing, the greater the number of waxy tips. Birds with zero to five are immature birds, while those with more than nine are thought to be older.

Waxwings tend to associate with other waxwings within these two age groups. Pairs of older birds nest earlier and raise more fledglings than do pairs of younger birds. The characteristic plumage is important in choosing a mate within the social order of the flock.

By mid-September there were still seeds and insects aplenty in the wildflower patch that I was filming at when the beautiful Waxwings abruptly departed for the safety of neighboring treetops. Why do I write “safety?” I believe they skeedaddled because a dangerous new raptor appeared on the scene. More falcon-like than hawk, the mystifying bird sped like a torpedo through the wildflower patch and swooped into the adjacent birch tree where all the raptors like to perch. It was a Merlin! And the songbird’s mortal enemy. Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks, too, had been hunting the area, but the other hawks did not elicit the same terror as did the Merlin.

Merlin, Eastern Point

Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks

A small falcon, the Merlin’s short wings allow it to fly fast and hard. The Merlin is often referred to as the “thug” of the bird world for its ability to swoop in quickly and snatch a songbird out of the air. The day after the Merlin appeared, I never again found the Waxwings foraging in the wildlflowers, only in the tree tops.

Within the sociable ear-full, Waxwings take turns foraging. Some perch and preen, serving as sentries while flock-mates dine. Cedar Waxwings mostly eat berries and they love a wide variety. The first half of their name is derived from one of their favorite fruits, the waxy berries of cedar trees. During the breeding season, Waxwings add insects to their diets. Hatchlings are fed insects, gradually switching to berries.

Juvenile Cedar Waxwing with adult Waxwings

If you would like to attract Cedar Waxwings  to your garden here is a handy list that I compiled of some of their most favorite fruits and berries –

Dogwood, Juniper, Chokecherry, Cedar, Honeysuckle, Holy, Crabapple, Hawthorn, Serviceberry, Mulberry, Raspberry, Grapes, and Strawberry. Cedar Waxwings are becoming increasingly more prevalent in backyards because people are planting more ornamental flowering and fruiting trees.

Station break #4, brought to you by a handsome Red-tailed Hawk hanging in our trees!

Interrupting your election news coverage to bring you PlumStreet Wild Kingdom chronicles:

What a luxuriously warm early morning and late day for photographing wild creatures – GBHeron, Blue Jays, a herd of White-tailed Deer (8!), Snow Buntings – and right in our own backyard, just at the moment our little Red Fox slipped behind the fence, a Red-tailed Hawk flew into a neighboring tree.

I wonder if he was attracted to the cacophony created by the Crows harassing the Fox. I never would have seen the Hawk if not for the Red Fox. The Hawk perched in the tree and then flew to my neighbor MJ’s towering and stunning Larch Tree (the tallest tree in the neighborhood). He stayed there for sometime before tiring of the Crows and swooping off.

Lift-off #1

Second flight

Station break from election coverage, brought to you by this morning’s visiting Red Fox youngster!

Back again – we think he is sleeping in our backyard! I’m in love with this adorable face!Red Fox 

If see see this little guy around the neighborhood, please don’t be alarmed

Recently a young Red Fox has been spotted by our neighbors and by my family members in our East Gloucester neighborhood. Because a friend expressed fear, I just want to assure everyone that these young foxes are not rabid. They are perfectly healthy and simply exploring and looking for food to eat. At this time of year, many first year foxes are dispersing from their family unit. They are hungry and foraging for fruit and berries, hunting grubs and other insects, along with small mammals such as squirrels, rabbits, mice, and rabbits.

Young foxes have been seen in Rockport neighborhoods, Lanesville, Rocky Neck, Good Harbor Beach, and Bass Rocks. It is thought that because of pressure from the Eastern Coyotes, Red Fox are denning closer and closer to humans and taking advantage of human structures. Coyotes and Red Fox compete for habitat and wildlife biologist think the Red Fox sense that Coyotes are a greater threat to their young than are humans. The youngsters are seen more often during daylight hours and it’s our job to keep an eye out for these little guys. One was in our yard the other morning and he/she was as curious about us as we were about him. The following morning, he was scouting from atop a neighbor’s roof!

VOTE FOR RIVER OTTERS!

All living creatures need clean water, clean air, and safe habitat. The North American River Otter has made a remarkable comeback as a direct result of bipartisan clean water acts first written in 1948, and then rewritten in 1972. Stop the republicans from their continuous environmental rollbacks that will have a tremendously harmful impact on our water quality.

Vote the Blue Wave!

What is happening in this clip? Mom River Otter caught a frog. Rather than eating it herself, she set it on the log between her feet for her kit to find and eat.

Read More – The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

Under the CWA, EPA has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. EPA has also developed national water quality criteria recommendations for pollutants in surface waters.

The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained.

In June 2020, EPA director Andrew Wheeler eliminated states’ and tribes’ rights to halt projects that risk hurting their water quality by rolling back a section of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, counters:

Enforcing state and federal laws is essential to protecting critical lakes, streams, and wetlands from harmful pollutants and other threats. But the Trump administration’s rule guts states’ and tribes’ authority to safeguard their waters, allowing it to ram through pipelines and other projects that can decimate vital water resources.

This is a dangerous mistake. It makes a mockery of this EPA’s claimed respect for ‘cooperative federalism.’

This action undermines how our foundational environmental laws work. The federal government should be setting baseline standards, while states apply and enhance them to the benefit of their unique natural resources and residents.

VOTE FOR CHICKS ON THE HALF SHELL!

Nesting shorebirds need safe habitat. Please share and Vote the Blue Wave to continue protections afforded under the Endangered Species Act.

What’s happening in this short clip? Within hours after hatching, tiny marshmallow-sized Piping Plover chicks leave the nest and begin foraging on their own. They still need Mom and Dad for thermo-snuggling and for protection. In this clip you can hear Dad Plover piping loudly, commanding the chick to take cover, and the day-old chick’s barely audible peeps in response.

 

AMAZING 68 HOUR GREAT BLUE HERON NONSTOP FLIGHT FROM CHALEUR BAY, CANADA TO CUMBERLAND ISLAND, GEORGIA!!!

Great Blue Herons truly are the Jet Blue of the avian world! The following incredible story is shared with us by reader Chris Callahan and comes from the Heron Observation Network of  Maine.

Harper Wows Us Again!

Harper, an adult female great blue heron outfitted with a solar-powered GPS unit, has just flown nonstop for 68 hours on her southward migration! She spent the summer in New Brunswick, Canada, and the post-breeding season on Chaleur Bay on the border of QC and NB. At around 7pm on October 8th she left this rich feeding area and flew continuously crossing over Nova Scotia and then out over open ocean. She came within 165 miles of Bermuda but turned westward toward the US mainland. At 3:15pm on October 11th, she finally made landfall on the southern tip of Cumberland Island on the Georgia coast. She has since gradually made her way to the Everglades in Florida. Last year she impressed the world by flying nonstop over open ocean for 38 hours. She nearly doubled that duration this year! We will be watching to see if she returns to last year’s wintering area in Guajaca Uno, Cuba, and will post updates on our Facebook Page. For more information on the tracking project, including how to download the data to explore on your own, visit: https://www1.maine.gov/wordpress/ifwheron/tracking-project/.

Great Blue Heron Gloucester Harbor

Great Blue Heron range map

JET BLUE COMING IN FOR A LANDING

Chasing Monarchs, and finding other beauties on the wing

Great Blue Heron 

MORAINE

From Nat Geo –

“A moraine is material left behind by a moving glacier. This material is usually soil and rock. Just as rivers carry along all sorts of debris and silt that eventually builds up to form deltas, glaciers transport all sorts of dirt and boulders that build up to form moraines.

To get a better idea of what moraines are, picture yourself with a toy bulldozer on a lawn that has a bunch of dry leaves all over it. When you run the bulldozer through the leaves, some of them get pushed aside, some of them get pushed forward, and some of them leave interesting patterns on the grass. Now think of these patterns and piles of pushed-away leaves—moraines—stretching for kilometers on the Earth.

Moraines only show up in places that have, or used to have, glaciers. Glaciers are extremely large, moving rivers of ice. Glaciers shape the landscape in a process called glaciation. Glaciation can affect the land, rocks, and water in an area for thousands of years. That is why moraines are often very old.

Moraines are divided into four main categories: lateral moraines, medial moraines, supraglacial moraines, and terminal moraines.”

Read More Here

GOOD MORNING! NO NEED TO TRAVEL BEYOND OUR OWN NEIGHBORHOODS FOR LEAF PEEPING/BARN COMBOS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Autumn foliage and red barn along the Essex Scenic Byway

Thank you Film Friends!

Dear Friends of Beauty on the Wing,

Thank you all so very much for taking the time to respond to my ‘survey’ question about how you view films. Wow, what a variety of answers. I am working on a plan for Everyone to view!

Such a disappointingly light Monarch migration through Cape Ann this autumn but the shift in wind direction at the beginning of the week produced a tiny sprinkling of butterflies. Friends along the New Jersey coast are reporting good numbers the past few days. You can see on the map from Journey North how few overnight roosts have been recorded on the East Coast. Typically the map is much more densely colored: Monarch Butterfly Overnight Roosts 2020 Hopefully the migration will strengthen in the central part of the country

Stay well and take care,
Very best wishes,
Kim

Migrating Monarch in the garden fattening up on nectar at the pink New England Asters

BEAUTY ON THE WING RECEIVES OUTSTANDING EXCELLENCE AWARD AT THE WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

With gratitude to WRPN Women’s International Film Festival for this honor

Monarch passing through on Tuesday

SWEET WARBLER OF MARSH AND FIELD AND THICKET EDGE

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Common Yellowthroat

Foraging energetically amidst the expiring sunflower stalks and then darting to the thicketed woodland edge, a mixed flock of adult and juvenile Common Yellowthroats is finding plenty of fat bugs to eat in these early days of autumn.

Common Yellowthroat female juvenile

Yellowthroats breed in cattail patches at our local North Shore marshes and will soon be heading south to spend the winter in the Southeastern US, Mexico, and Central America.

The above male in breeding plumage was seen taking a bath in our garden several years ago.

OCTOBER’S HARVEST MOON OVER EASTERN POINT LIGHTHOUSE

The first of October’s full Moons was setting as the Sun was rising over Eastern Point. Black and white, or color, which do you prefer?

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GLORIOUS GLOUCESTER OCTOBER SUNRISE

For the past several weeks I have been filming at day break at fields with autumn’s beautifully expiring wildflowers and grasses. I didn’t have time this morning for trekking around and all that, and as I lay in bed looking out at the overcast sky, I wondered, should I just loll around for a few extra minutes or go and see sunrise on the Back Shore? It was a beauty this morning and am so glad I did 🙂

Good News to Share!

Dear Friends of Beauty on the Wing,

I hope you are all doing well and fortunate enough to have good health.

After a brief cold snap we are having a beautiful Indian Summer here on Cape Ann. I hope you have the opportunity to get outdoors today and enjoy nature. Bird and butterfly migrations are well underway. At Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, rangers shared that they have never seen a migration such as this year’s, with over 180 species sited at the refuge this past week. The birds appear to have benefitted from decreased human activity over the past seven months. On the other hand, the Atlantic Coast Monarch migration seems stalled or nonexistent. Perhaps we will have a late, great migration as we did several years ago. And there are some positive signs for the butterflies, especially through the Mississippi Flyway as Monarch Waystations further north, such as the one at Point Pelee have been reporting that the Monarch migration is doing well. I’ve seen Monarchs migrating through Cape Ann in good numbers as late as the second week of October, so we’ll be ever hopeful.

Good news to share -the page for Beauty on the Wing is up on American Public Television World Wide! Here is the link, including information with a link on how to license Beauty. The page looks great and the line-up of films, stellar. We are so honored to be included in this fine catalogue of Science, Health, and Nature Programming!

And more super good news to share – Beauty on the Wing has been accepted to the Boston International Kids Film Festival! This is an outstanding festival for kids, by kids, and about kids and is organized by a dynamic group of women: Laura Azevedo, Kathleen Shugrue, and Natalia Morgan. A complete list of films for the 2020 BIKFF will be posted in the upcoming days, along with information on how the festival will be organized for safe viewing during the pandemic.

I have been following (or become enchanted is a more accurate description) a small flock of Bobolinks. Click here to read a story posted on my website: Bobolinks Amongst the Sunflowers. While reading about Bobolinks, I came across a link to The Bobolink Project, a truly worthwhile organization. The Bobolink Project habitat conservation plan not only helps Bobolinks, but many species of declining grassland birds.

The sun is coming out and the temperature still summery. Stay well and enjoy the day!

Warmest wishes,
Kim

BEAUTY ON THE WING ON AMERICAN PUBLIC TELEVISION WORLD WIDE!

Hello Friends,

So proud and excited to share – here are several screenshots and a link to my listing for licensing on American Public Television World Wide. APTWW Program: Beauty on the Wing:Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

If you would like to license Beauty on the Wing or would like more information, please follow the  above link and click on the Contact Us box. Thank you!

For more information about the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly migration, visit the film’s website here: Beauty on the Wing

 

STRANGE WILDFIRE SUNSETS AND SUNRISES

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

Paint Factory “Great Auk” Sunset


Eastern Point Sunrise

WEST COAST WILDFIRE SMOKE CASTING AN EERIE HAZE OVER EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS SKIES

West Coast fire haze and belted Kingfisher

My Facebook friend Greg shared the graphic below and I think it shows very well the reason why the sun is appearing to look more lunar-like and the skies are so hazy and overcast.

GREAT EGRET MORNING FLOOFING

 Beautiful juvenile Great Egret morning feather floofingSoon Great Egrets will be heading south for the winter. I know we are all going to miss seeing these grand beauties that grace our local ponds, marshes, and shorelines. Great Egrets travel as far as the West Indies and southern Central America.

 

BABY CEDAR WAXWINGS IN THE HOOD!

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.

Juvenile Cedar Waxwing

Adult Cedar Waxwing

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Good Afternoon Little Green Heron!

A Little Green Heron crossed my path, flying in low and fast. Stealthily hunting along the water’s’s edge, he had an uncanny ability to make himself nearly flat before striking.

The light was at first overcast but when the sun poked through the clouds, everything turned all golden orange.

Green Herons eat a wide variety of fish and small creatures including minnows, sunfish, catfish, pickerel, carp, perch, gobies, shad, silverside, eels, goldfish, insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, amphibians, reptiles, and rodents. Although found throughout the US but, it is a species in decline in most regions, except California, where the bird appears to be increasing. Green Herons breed in Massachusetts coastal and inland wetlands.

My days are full, full to overflowing sometimes, with taking care of Charlotte and family, film, and design projects. Though there isn’t day a day that goes by that I don’t think of my life as a gift. Daily I try to fit in a walk, always with a camera slung over each shoulder. How blessed are we on Cape Ann, especially during the pandemic, to have such beauty for our eyes to see and our hearts to travel.  I can’t keep up with sharing footage and that will all go towards larger projects anyway, and I am behind with sharing photos. Perhaps I should make these walk photos a series – ‘life at the edge of the sea,’ or something along those lines.

 

SCHOONER FLASH MOB SAIL AROUND GLOUCESTER HARBOR!

Six schooners sailed about Gloucester Harbor Sunday morning. Oh how we all missed this year’s Schooner Festival! But it was glorious to see these sailing beauties out in the harbor together at the same time. I was at Niles Beach Sunday morning and raced home to get my camera. The parade was coming to an end by the time I returned, but how lucky to catch a glimpse of Cape Ann Schooners Redbird, Thomas E. Lannon, and Ardelle lined up.