There is much to chortle about in this latest Cape Ann Winged Creature Update. Early April marked the arrival of both Snowy and Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and Great Blue Herons. Osprey pairs and evidence of Osprey nest building can be seen wherever Essex Greenbelt platforms have been installed. Northern Pintail and American Wigeon Ducks are stopping over at our local ponds on their northward migrations while scrub and shrub are alive with the vibrant song of love birds singing their mating calls. Oh Happy Spring!
Ospreys Nest Building
Northern Mockingbirds Singing
Female American Wigeon
Gadwall (center), Male Pintail, Mallards, Male and Female American Wigeons
Aside from Spring Peepers, is there a sound of the New England meadow that announces the arrival of spring more eloquently than that of the Red-winged Blackbird calling to his lady love? I think not. Happy Spring!
Don’t you love the sound of the word loblolly? I am curious as to why Loblolly Cove is called as such. There is the Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) but that is a species that grows in the the southern United States. Nautically speaking, loblolly refers to a thick gruel served on ships. Geographically, in some southern US dialects, a loblolly is a mire or mudhole. Loblolly Cove is neither of these. Perhaps the namer of Loblolly Cove just liked the name. To me, it sounds like the perfect setting for a mystery novel, the kind you read when a kid on summer vacation – “Mystery at Loblolly Cove.”
Scenes from around Loblolly Cove
Sing Your Heart Out Fella!
You may have noticed odd-looking Common Eiders on our shores lately. They are juvenile males. It takes several years for the adult male to develop his distinctive and crisp black and white wing pattern.
Adult Male and Female Common Eiders with Male Bufflehead in Flight
Heard at nearly every New England marsh, one can’t help but notice the beautiful and seemingly never ending song of the male Red-winged Blackbird. From sunrise to sunset he’s calling to his girl. Early this spring I set out to record the sounds of the marsh for my Monarch film. The male Red-winged Blackbirds are the stars of the marsh and while capturing their vocalizations over the past several months, I also was also able to capture footage of their fascinating behaviors.
Male Red-winged Blackbirds Perching on Cattails (and Eating the Seed Heads, Too)
You’ll see many more males because they perch on higher ground, at the top of the cattails, phragmites, scrubby shrubs, phone lines, and treetops. They are defending their territory through song and a showy display of red and yellow wing bars. The males too, often swoop to the edge of the pond’s shoreline and peck at the sand.
Plain Jane Female ~ What’s All the Fuss About!
The female Red-winged Blackbird, with her more subdued feathers of brown and beige, typically stays closer to the ground, building her nest and eating insects.
Female Red-winged Blackbird in the foreground with male in the background. As you can see in the photo, the female looks like a large dark sparrow.
Just kidding, however, they have recently been spotted all around Cape Ann! Several weeks ago I noticed three on Niles Beach, yesterday another 20 or so bobbing and diving in the waves off a little beach in Rockport, and this morning Michelle Anderson emailed that her son Atticus, with his eagle eyes, had spotted a blizzard at Plum Cove Beach. I was working on a design project in Andover and wasn’t able to get there until afternoon. The Brants were still there! Perhaps there were 50 or so feeding at the shoreline and another several hundred further off shore.
The geese are shy. At one point while photographing, I lay flat down in the beach grass trying to blend in with the landscape while inching forward, but they were not deceived. Too far away for my camera to get a good close up, and heavily overcast today, nonetheless you can see that they are quite beautiful creatures.
Brant Geese Rockport
Smaller than Canadian geese, the Brant Goose, also called Brent, Black Brant, and American Brant, is a coastal bird that breeds in the Arctic tundra. It migrates along both the Atlantic and Pacific flyways. With white or buff belly, black head and neck, and contrasting white bars at the neck, Brants are easy to identify. They feed on green plants including sea lettuce and eel grass. Brants have a highly developed salt gland, which allows them to consume salt water.
PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU SEE ANY BRANTS, AT WHAT LOCATION AND WHEN. We would love to hear from you!