Wildly blustery at the Point last evening on this the first day of March.
The Eastern Coyote breeding season runs from December through March although typically, the end of February is peak mating season. Pairs are generally monogamous and may maintain a bond for several years. In April or May, anywhere from four to eight pups are born and both the male and female will raise the litter.
The Coyote (scientific name Canis latrans or “barking dog”) is one of the world’s most adaptable mammals. It can now be found throughout North and Central America. Eastern Coyote DNA reveals that as it was expanding its territory northward and eastward, coyotes occasionally interbred with wolves encountered in southern Canada. Eastern Coyotes are typically larger than their western counterparts because of the wolf genes they picked up during their expansion. The wolf gene gives them the strength and ability to hunt deer. Because there are no wolves in our area they are not actively cross-breeding and are not “coywolves.” Many species in the Canid Family (dog family) often hybridize so our Eastern Coyote has a nearly equal percentage of both dog and wolf DNA, and an even higher percentage of dog DNA in southern states, Mexico, and Central America. Coyotes that I filmed in Mexico looked much more dog-like than our heavily bodied local Eastern Coyotes.
This young Red Fox was spotted early one recent morning, hungrily scraping the ground for food. Perhaps he was hunting a small rodent or digging for grubs. How have the Red Foxes that were born in our neighborhoods last spring adapted to survive winter’s harsh temperature and snowy scapes?
Red Fox have evolved with a number of strategies and physiological adaptations. Their fur coats grow thick and long, up to their footpads, which aid in heat insulation. Adult Fox begin to moult, or shed, their winter coat typically in April. Young Red Fox do not moult at all the first year but continue to grow fur until their second spring.
Red Fox have relatively small body parts including their legs, ears, and neck, which means less body surface is exposed to frigid temperatures allowing them to conserve body heat. During the winter, Red Fox are less active than during the summer months. Decreased activity also helps to conserve body heat.
The Red Fox’s diet varies according to seasonal abundance. In the summer their diet is supplemented with berries, apples, pears, cherries, grapes, grasses, and acorns. All year round they feed on grubs and insects as well as small mammals such as rabbits, rodents, and squirrels. Red Fox have extraordinarily sharp hearing largely because their ears face outward. They can detect a mouse a football field away, under cover of snow!
It’s that time of year again when we occasionally find stranded seabirds on our beaches. Seabirds, also known as marine birds and pelagic birds, are birds that spend most of their time on the ocean, away from land. Ninety-five percent of seabirds breed in colonies. During the nesting season is the only time you will see them on land. Common Murre, Thick-billed Murre, Dovekie, Puffin, and Northern Gannet are examples of marine birds.
Seabirds can become stranded for several reasons. Possibly they are sick, injured, or starving. Seabirds are also generally clumsy when on land. Sometimes they are stranded for no other reason than they can’t make their way back into the water.
If you find a stranded seabird first check to see if it is injured. If the birds appears uninjured and relatively healthy, approach from behind, gently pick up, and place in the water.
If the bird is injured, follow the guidelines provided by Tufts Wildlife Clinic:
Wear gloves. When dealing with waterfowl, a thick pair of work gloves can prevent personal injury. A net is very useful for capturing animals that will try to flee or fly. If a body of water is nearby, get between the water and the animal. If the bird is not flighted, you can try to herd it towards an area like a wall or bush where you can more easily catch it.
Prepare a container
A large crate or large box with air holes, lined with newspaper or a sheet/towel will work for most large birds.
Put the bird in the box
Cover the bird’s head with a towel, keep the wings tucked into the body, and always be careful of its bill and wings. Immediately close the box.
If you can’t transport it immediately
- Keep the bird in a warm, dark, quiet place.
- Do not give it food or water. Feeding an animal an incorrect diet can result in injury or death. Also, a captured animal will get food and water stuck in its fur/feathers potentially leading to discomfort and hypothermia.
- Do not handle it. Leave the animal alone. Remember human noise, touch and eye contact are very stressful to wild animals.
- Keep children and pets away from it.
Transport the Bird
Tufts Wildlife Clinic
50 Willard St.
North Grafton, MA 01536
During transport, keep the bird in the box or crate, keep the car quiet (radio off).
If you need help
If you need help capturing an injured or sick wild animal, the following are good resources for you to reach out to.
The rarely seen Black-headed Gull continues to make his home in Gloucester waters this winter. It’s super fun to watch his troublemaking antics, which include trying to snatch morsels of food from other gulls. Here he is getting into a smackdown with a Ring-billed Gull.
Black-headed Gull lost this round but after flying away briefly and dusting himself off, he jumped back into the fray.
The footage of the Eastern Point Lighthouse and Mother Ann was shot Wednesday afternoon as the storm was waning, about an hour and a half after high tide.
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!
I have returned several times more to see that rare and beautiful little Black-headed Gull. He wasn’t alone but was feeding in a mixed flock of gulls and ducks. All seemed perfectly peaceful at first. Before too long, he was squawking noisily, barking orders, and flying aggressively toward any other gull that crossed his path. Very comical actually, as he was smaller than all the others nonetheless, they took orders readily and moved aside.
Black-headed Gull vs. Ring-billed Gull Battle
Bonaparte’s Gull left, Black-headed Gull right
A friend wrote wondering if I was sure what we are seeing is a Black-headed Gull. He, as was I initially, wondering if it was a Bonaparte’s Gull. Bonaparte’s have black bills, whereas the Black-headed Gull has a black-tipped red bill, along with red feet and legs. I found this terrific image showing the progressive molting stages of a Black-headed Gull while looking up Black-headed Gulls.
By the way, the head feathers of the Black-headed Gull in breeding plumage are really not black, but chocolate brown. Then again, there is an actual Brown-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus). Whoever gave name to these gulls!!
Black-headed Gull in breeding plumage, photo courtesy Google image search
Pretty snowfall along with mixed rain off and on throughout the day.
A full day of beautiful skies allowed for wonderful moon views of the setting and rising full December Wolf Moon. Also called the Long Night Moon, Ice Moon, Cold Moon, and the Moon After Yule, December’s full moon marks the 13th full moon of 2020.
Several of the photos are from the night before and several from this morning. The two Eastern Point Lighthouse photos are double exposures. All were taken around our East Gloucester neighborhood, from Good Harbor Beach to the EPLighthouse.
A beautiful golden seal pup was seen at Long Beach Sunday morning. The little Harbor Seal appeared to be only about 25 pounds and was possibly a newborn. The pup was found at the high tide line and was perfectly intact; perhaps he had died within hours of finding him.
Baby Harbor seals spend much of their time out of water on beaches resting and warming while their moms are in the water looking for food. We don’t know how this seal became separated from its mom, but if you do find a dead baby seal on the beach contact NOAA to let them know. NOAA Hotline: 866-755-6622 (Maine through Virginia).
Edited Note – My friend Sandy shared the following phone number from New Hampshire’s Seacoast Science Center, writing that this number is a cell phone so you can easily send a text and photo: 603-997-9448. Ainsley Smith shares that SSC number is good as far south as Essex.
This is a good time of year to remind everyone what to do if you find a living seal pup, or a seal of any age, on the beach. Please keep a distance of at least 100 feet away, which is the law, and keep dogs far away. From the 100 feet distance, check to see if the seal is injured. If the seal appears to be in good condition, leave it alone and remind fellow beach goers to keep their distance. A mother seal may leave her pup on the beach for up to 48 hours!
If the seal is struggling or appears to be injured contact NOAA at 866-755-6622
The Lobster Trap Tree looks extra splendid in fresh fallen snow!
Please share your Lobster Trap Tree photos by tagging @lobstertraptree on Facebook. Our fun funky tree has a way of lifting people’s spirits and the community would love to see your snapshots. Thank you!
If you are not on Facebook, feel free to email your photos to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post them for you.
Despite a major power outage earlier in the afternoon, Sunday evening’s Lobster Trap Tree lighting went off without a hitch. Gloucester’s Fire Department arrived right on schedule. Using an aerial ladder, the firemen hoisted the star to the tippy top of the tree, where Shawn Henry was waiting to secure. Ten, nine, eight… Mayor Sefatia gave the virtual countdown and the vibrantly colored buoys and lights shone brightly.
The Lobster Trap Tree is a very special tradition for our community and we are especially grateful to David Brooks and Shawn Henry for their continued dedication in building, organizing, and sharing through Shawn’s films, particularly during the global pandemic
I love that the tree’s star is currently switched to alternating between colorful and white lights, simply wonderful!
Virtual Lobster Trap Tree Lighting – Sunday, December 13th at 4:30
Since we can’t gather and celebrate this wonderful tradition together, let’s jump on Facebook and be together virtually. Thanks to Good Morning Gloucester and the crew from Gloucestercast, they will be bringing to you live – Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Ken Riehl from the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and the Gloucester Fire Department as they light the Lobster Trap Tree. This tradition is made possible by the Lobster Trap Tree volunteers, Three Lanterns Marine and Fishing and Cape Ann Art Haven. Please do not come to this area of downtown as we do not want a gathering during this very critical time.
VIEW THE LIGHTING LIVE ON THE LOBSTER TRAP TREE FACEBOOK PAGE.
Check out this super fun time lapse video of the 2020 Gloucester Lobster Trap Tree Build from Shawn Henry!
Directed, edited and filmed by Shawn G. Henry
With thanks and deep appreciation to Three Lanterns
Tree Builders: David Brooks, Jason Burroughs, Gregg Cademartori, Dave DeAngelis, Shawn G. Henry, Andrew Nicastro, Josh Oliver, and George Schlichte
Hi Friends, If you take a photo of the Lobster Trap Tree and post on Facebook, we would love to share with the community. Please tag us with our new username @lobstertraptree. Thank you!
UPDATE FOR OUR LOBSTER TRAP TREE FRIENDS –
In response to lots of questions, David Brooks and Shawn Henry share that it appears as though there are enough lights in stock leftover from previous years! This is great news as most of us are on a tighter budget and lighting stocks are running low.
As soon as the lights and buoys are in place, the tree lighting will take place sometime this week, depending on the weather. Because of the global pandemic, the tree lighting will be a virtual tree lighting, hosted by Mayor Sefatia. Stay tuned for time and date!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.