Tag Archives: Herring Gulls

SNOWY OWL HEDWIG TAKES A BATH!

Filming and photographing Cape Ann wildlife I have experienced extraordinary beauty and fascinating behaviors at nearly every encounter but filming a Snowy Owl take a bath has to be one of my favorite captures. I think there are a number of reasons why we are so captivated by these beautiful creatures. Most owls are nocturnal, which doesn’t allow much viewing of their day to day life. On the other hand, the diurnal Snowy Owl gives us a wonderful window into their world. Culturally, owls symbolize wisdom and intelligence and the characters they are assigned in literature strengthen our associations. Mostly though we are drawn to these creatures because they do not appear to be afraid of us, unlike most wild animals. Snowies will become irritated and depart an area when startled, or are being pestered, but I don’t sense fear in these Arctic visitors. I wonder if most have ever even seen a human being prior to migrating south.Hedwig was a contented mess, her feet and talons blood stained reddish pink from a fresh kill. It was the morning after a rain storm, and the crevices atop Bass Rocks held pools of icy fresh water.

She at first gingerly hopped over to the largest pool, paused, and then jumped in. Repeatedly Hedwig dipped her face into the water to drink. After quenching her thirst, she plunged her entire face into the pool of water. She cleaned her face feathers by rubbing them against her breast feathers. Immersing, rubbing, immersing, rubbing, her face was clean in no time.

Then Hedwig went all in, dipping and soaking all her feathers, but not all at once did she completely submerge herself. I think that would have left her vulnerable to predators if she were unable to fly. She dipped and soaked, then fluffed her feathers, then repeated all several times more. The total length of time was about 40 minutes; she was still fluffing when I had to leave. Watching a Snowy Owl take a winter bath was beautiful and fascinating, unexpected and funny and am overjoyed to have captured with photos and film.

Happiness is a long winter bath.

A flock of Herring Gulls had the same idea. 

Right Whales Happening Right Here and Right Now!

Right Whales and Laughing Gulls

Go see the Right Whales! Hundreds are currently off the coast of Provincetown and you can easily view them from the beaches. I had an idea of where best to see the Right Whales after reading several bulletins and articles but very fortunately, we ran into Schooner Adventure Captain Stefan Edick on Provincetown’s main Commercial Street. He had seen them earlier that morning and suggested exactly where to go. After having a quick bite at a favorite lunch spot, Spiritus, we followed Stefan’s advice and headed straight to Herring Cove. There they were, feeding about 1500 feet or so from shore, dozens and dozens. We stayed for awhile and then checked out Race Point Beach. Here they were even a bit nearer the shore, by the Old Harbor Life Saving Station. Perhaps we saw Hundreds, and it was a beautiful sight!! Right Whales feed along the surface of the water, spout lots of snot, and tip their tails when diving. The whales were too far off shore for my camera’s range to get any spectacular shots but it was super fun nonetheless. Also feeding with the whales were Northern Gannets, Laughing Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Herring Gulls.

These two were swimming together for about half an hour; perhaps they are a mother and calf.

Five at once!

If home this week for school vacation, a day trip to Provincetown to see the Right Whales would make for a wonderful adventure. I don’t think the Center for Coastal Studies is open to visitors at this time of year, but many of the shops are open (including the always interesting Shell Shop). We had dinner at the bar at a very favorite restaurant, Fanizza’s, with lovely views of the beach (there isn’t a bad view from any seat at Fanizza’s). Our fresh seafood dinners were fabulous. Tom had the cod, I had whole belly clams, and they were the perfect end to a perfect day.

A pair of seals swam very close to the beach; they appeared puzzled by so many folks watching the whales and at that, seemed to decide not to come ashore.

Right Whales could still be seen after sundown.

Rare White Whale Calf Found Dead


North Atlantic Right Whale Migratory Route

New Short Film: The Uncommon Common Tern

What fun to encounter a small flock of terns teaching its young to fish. Nearly as large as the adults, the tubby terns cheekily squawk and demand food (shrimp I think in this case). Watch as the fledglings try to master fishing skills while the adults tirelessly guide the young on how to feed themselves.

With many thanks to Paul St. Germain, president of the Thacher Island Association, for information about the ongoing restoration of shorebirds on Thacher Island.common-tern-fledgling-feeding-copyright-kim-smith

There is nothing common about the uncommon Common Tern. They were named Common because hundreds of thousands formerly nested along the Atlantic Coast. As with many species of shorebirds, the rage for wearing fancy feathered hats during the 1800s nearly drove these exquisite “swallows of the sea” to extinction. After the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was ratified in 1918, terns began to recover.

A second major setback occurred when in the 1970s open landfills were closed, displacing thousands of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. The aggressive and highly adaptable gulls resettled to offshore nesting sites used by terns.

Common Terns are a Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts. Through a statewide long-term commitment of restoration, protection, and management of nesting colonies, the populations are very slowly and gradually increasing.

Former nesting sites include islands such as Cape Ann’s Thacher Island. During the mid 1950s, over 1,125 pairs of Arctic, Common, and Roseate Terns nested on Thacher Island. Today there are none.

The southern side of Thacher Island is owned by the Thacher Island Association. The northern end of Thacher Island is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the authority of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. These organizations are working together to restore terns and other species of birds to Thacher Island.