Tag Archives: Mass Audubon

TREMENDOUS COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

On Tuesday I attended the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, which took place at the Harwich Community Center on Cape Cod. The meeting is held annually to bring together people and organizations that are involved with population monitoring and conservation efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds. Threatened and endangered species such as Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Roseate Terns, and American Oystercatchers are given the greatest attention.

I was invited by Carolyn Mostello, event organizer, to create a short film, Gloucester Plovers Go Swimming, for the “Strange and Unusual” section about our three little chicks and the fact that for about a week they were SWIMMING in the tidal creek (see next post). I also provided a group of photos of the late hatching chicks for DCR. The film and the photos were well-received, which was gratifying to me, to be of help in documenting these wonderful stories.

Conservationists from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby states, including representatives from Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the organizations presenting at the meeting-Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Essex Greenbelt, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Mass Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.

In the morning, each region gave the 2019 population census report for nesting birds as well as providing information about problems and solutions. We all share similar challenges with predation from crows and gulls, uncontrolled dogs, enforcement, and habitat loss and it was very interesting to learn about how neighboring communities are managing problems and issues.

Trustees of Reservations Coastal Ecologist Jeff Denoncour presented on behalf of the north of Boston region, of which Gloucester is a part. Essex Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer and intern Fionna were in attendance as well. Both Crane Beach and Parker River are having a fantastic year and the numbers are up across Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. There are still many young chicks yet to fledge on Massachusetts beaches so the final count has not been determined.

The afternoon session was filled with outstanding lectures presented by conservation biologists and all the programs were tremendously informative.

I met Beth Howard from Mass Audubon, who has been involved with care taking the L Street Piping Plovers and Paige Hebert from Mass Wildlife who has been helping manage Roseate Terns. The DCR staff managing the shorebirds at Nahant, Salisbury, Winthrop, and Revere Beach were all there and they are just a stellar group of young people.

It was a great day! Many attendees expressed congratulations for Gloucester fledging three chicks. Last year after attending the meeting I wrote the following and it’s wonderful that our hope for Gloucester’s Plovers was realized this year: “After attending the cooperators meeting, I am more hopeful than ever that our community can come together and solve the problems that are preventing our PiPl from successfully nesting and fledging chicks. What we have going in our favor is the sheer number of amazing super volunteers along with strong community-wide support.” 

NOT ONE, NOT TWO, BUT THREE PIPING PLOVERS TODAY AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Throughout the day, a threesome has been actively feeding, battling for territory, and two of the three, displaying courtship behavior.

Often times I have read that Piping Plovers in Massachusetts do not begin to actively court until mid-April. That simply has not been the case with our Good Harbor Beach pair. As soon as they arrive to their northern breeding grounds, they don’t waste any time and get right down to the business of reproducing! Last year, the PiPls were courting within a week of arriving, and this year, on the first day.

I only had brief periods of time to visit the beach this morning, but within that window, FOUR separate times the male built a little scrape, called Mama over to come investigate, while adding bits of dried seaweed and sticks, and fanning his tail feathers.

Papa scraping a nest in the sand.

Fanning his tail and inviting Mama to come inspect the nest scrape.

Tossing sticks and beach debris into the scrape.

Papa high-stepping for Mama.

It was VERY cold and windy both times I stopped by GHB and the PiPls were equally as interested in snuggling down behind a clump of dried beach grass as they were in courting.

Mama and Papa finding shelter from the cold and wind in the wrack line.

Good Harbor Beach was blessedly quiet all day. Our awesome dog officer Teagan Dolan was at the beach bright and early and there wasn’t a single dog in sight, I think greatly due to his vigilance and presence educating beach goers this past week.

Heather Hall, Katharine Parsons, Alicia Pensarosa, Laurie Sawin

Saturday we had the pleasure of meeting Katharine Parsons, Director of the Mass Audubon Coastal Waterbird Program. She gave an outstanding program to a crowd of Piping Plover advocates and interested parties, which was held at the Sawyer Free Library. Katharine covered everything from life cycle, management strategies and tools, habitat conservation, and the fantastic role Massachusetts is playing in the recovery of Piping Plovers, Least Terns, Roseate Terns, and Oystercatchers. We are so appreciative of Alicia Pensarosa and Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee for sponsoring Katharine!

Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard and Katharine

City Council President Paul Lundberg, Katharine, and Alicia

Fun Fact we learned from Katharine’s presentation–a Piping Plover chick weighs six grams at birth. In comparison, and after consulting Google, a US nickel weighs a close 5.5 grams.

GLOUCESTER’S “PIPING PLOVER PLAN” REVIEWED BY KEN WHITTAKER AND MEET ADRIENNE LENNON, GLOUCESTER’S NEW CONSERVATION AGENT!

Tuesday evening at the City Council meeting, former Gloucester conservation agent Ken Whittaker reviewed the City’s 3PPlan (Piping Plover Plan) with the Councilors.

We Piping Plover volunteer monitors are grateful for the time and effort Ken has put forth in helping to protect our threatened Piping Plovers. We’re especially appreciative of the time he spent coordinating the volunteer monitors–not an easy task! We wish Ken all the best in his retirement.

Ken and PiPl Volunteer Monitors, Good Harbor Beach

Ken and Jim Destino introduced Adrienne Lennon, Gloucester’s new conservation agent. We had a few minutes after the introduction to speak with Adrienne. Her experience includes working for seven years at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, located in Ipswich on the Plum Island causeway, adjacent to the infamous Pink House. While there, Adrienne gained extensive knowledge in Piping Plover conservation. She is especially interested in preserving and protecting our beach dunes. Adrienne can be reached at alennon@gloucester-ma.gov.

Best of success to Adrienne in her new position as Gloucester’s Conservation Agent!

Photos of Ken and Adrienne at City Hall courtesy of City Council Vice President Steve LeBlanc

During Piping Plover nesting season, I have visited the public beach at the northern end of Plum Island, Newbury Beach. I believe the PiPl nesting areas at Newbury Beach are monitored by Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. Newbury Beach is similar in several ways to Good Harbor Beach in that it is a popular town beach in a residential area with many access points and nearby hotels. Last year the beach and dunes were extremely hard hit by late winter storms, just as was Good Harbor Beach.

About Joppa Flats Education Center: Overlooking the Merrimack River and near the entrance to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the Joppa Flats Education Center offers unique educational opportunities for people of all ages. Here, you can explore the region’s wildlife-rich habitats (salt marshes, mudflats, rivers, bays, and coastal waters) through guided tours, marine touch tanks, art exhibits, drop-in programs, and interpretive displays.

Scenes from behind the Joppa Flats Education Center and Plum Island causeway.

Councilors Steve LeBlanc and Melissa Cox wearing Piping Plover monitor hats provided by Ken Whittaker.

Coffins Beach and Wingaersheek Beach are going to be more closely monitored this year for Piping Plovers. The above photo is from 2016 when NINE chicks fledged at Coffins Beach!

Three-day-old Piping Plover Chick, Good Harbor Beach

RECENT SUNRISE AND BIRD SCENES FROM ALONG THE BACK SHORE AND MY UPCOMING BIRD TALK

Niles Pond winter sunrise -2www.kimsmithdesigns 2016.

Niles Pond at dawn, a great place for bird watching

Please join me Thursday night at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center where I will be presenting a brand new illustrated talk “Beautiful Birds of Cape Ann.” The program covers the gorgeous migrating and resident birds that we see in our neighborhoods, as seen through the seasons, and includes such beauties as the Snowy Owl, Brant Geese, Snow Goose, Redheads, a rarely-seen-in-our region White Pelican, egrets, herons, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, songbirds, and some life history of Cape Ann’s resident swan family. The program begins at 7pm and is part of the RNCC and Mass Audubon ongoing exhibit “For the Birds.” I hope to see you there!

Redhead Duck www. kim smith designsPair of Male Redheads, the Dynamic Duo

Common Eider Gloucester harbor www. kim smith designsCommon Eider Gloucester Harbor

Brace Cove winter sunrise www.kimsmithdesigns 2016Brace Cove and Gloucester Harbor are both excellent for viewing water birds

Mallard Ducks Gloucester www.kimsmithdesigns 2016JPGAlso too, if any of our readers live in the Rye, New Hampshire area, I am giving my illustrated talk on the Monarch Butterfly tomorrow morning, Tuesday the 16th, at 10am. Please email me if you would like more information.

Kim Smith Talk

Life on the Leaf Edge: Photographs of Native Caterpillars

cat-11At the Museum of American Bird Art from January 31-April 24, 2016

Sam Jaffe’s spectacular photographs of New England caterpillars reveal their astonishing beauty, reminding us that we don’t need to venture far from home to be captivated by nature’s wonders.

A New England based naturalist, photographer, and educator, Jaffe grew up in Eastern Massachusetts chasing birds, mucking through ponds, and turning over leaves.  For the last seven years he has been photographing caterpillars, exhibiting his photographs and organizing programs to promote these special creatures to the public.

His photographs have received widespread acclaim. They have been featured in the Wall Street JournalThe Guardian and on the widely read art and design blog, This is Colossal. Jaffe has exhibited at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, the Boston Children’s Museum, and the MIT Center for Theoretical Physics, among other venues.

Each year Jaffe raises thousands of caterpillars of hundreds of native species, capturing female butterflies and moths, collecting their eggs and releasing them. The founder of the non-profit The Caterpillar Lab, Jaffe’s goal is to share his passion for the caterpillars of New England through first-hand encounters at museums and nature centers as well as the stunning images in his photographs and videos.

Life on the Leaf Edge: Photographs of Native Caterpillars by Samuel Jaffe is open to the public January 31 through April 24, Tuesday–Sunday from 1 to 5 pm.

The Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon (MABA) is an art museum within New England’s largest conservation organization, connecting people and nature through art. The exhibitions feature art by internationally recognized artists inspired by nature. The Museum is located at 963 Washington Street in Canton and is sited within a 121 acre wildlife sanctuary.

CaterpillarSamuelJaffe2

Have Prius–Can Do!

I wrote this post several days ago. Westport was hit very hard by Sandy.

Let’s hope Westport is spared coastal flooding from Hurricane Sandy

The upcoming planting week for my newest project, The Mary Prentiss Inn, a beautiful inn in the heart of Cambridge (more about The Mary Prentiss Inn later) has been disrupted by Sandy. One of the nurseries I work with cancelled delivery and wanted to reschedule, but not until after the 5th of November. By that time I’ll be knee-deep planting Willowdale for the spring of 2013. I didn’t want to disappoint my clients and postpone work until later in November. What to do? Have Prius, will travel.

Much has been written about the super fuel efficiency of the Prius (saving me much, much $$$ over the eight years I have owned a Prius), but rarely do I see mention of it’s fantastic carrying capacity when the back seat is made flat. People look at me in disbelief when I tell them I have transported trees and (smallish) sofas in the back of my Prius so I thought you’d like to see.

125 Boxwood plants, with room to spare in the front passenger seat

Friends often tell me I need a truck or a van. Perhaps when an auto manufacturer designs a 22k truck or van that gets 45 miles to the gallon (when loaded to the max), I’ll consider. In the meantime-have Prius, can do!

Westport is one of the most exquisite New England towns you will ever see. The topography is such that the farmland runs to the ocean’s edge. Through community and conservation groups, Westport is earnestly endeavoring, and succeeding, in preserving its historic and agricultural heritage–as we know in Gloucester, it is very intelligent when communities work together to help protect and preserve their farmers and fishermen.

The Bayside Restaurant ~ Charming little spot to eat in Westport, across the road from Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. The Bayside offers a complete menu, including many delicious seafood entrees and Homemade Pies!

Super Fresh Rhode Island Calamari

You can see why Sylvan is one of my top five nurseries, not only for their exquisite plant stock, but because they are located about a hundred yards down the road from Allens Pond Wildlife Santuary.  In autumn, after the coastal Monarchs depart Cape Ann, they fly south and next congregate in the Westport area, in and around Allen’s Pond and Horseneck Beach.

Allens Pond ~ Hurry Monarchs and Get Going! October 26, 2012

From the Trustees of Reservations website, “In many towns throughout Massachusetts The Trustees of Reservations have worked in partnership with the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources to help preserve family farms. Nowhere has that work been more successful than in Westport, where the partnership includes the Westport Land Conservation Trust and the town. Together, the groups have protected 13 farms in Westport over the past five years, including two dairy farms, two Christmas tree farms, an organic fruit and vegetable farm, a beef cattle operation, and even a piggery. There are now a total of 28 preserved farms in Westport, encompassing over 2,100 acres.”

Westport, Massachusetts

Message from Chris Leahy about the Mass Audubon Bird-a-thon

Spring has finally returned to New England! It is arguably the most exciting birding season of the year, when it is possible to find over 100 species in a day with relative ease – many of them in stunning breeding plumage!  And each year I organize a small group here on Cape Ann to bird for conservation as part of Mass Audubon’s Bird-a-thon. It’s great fun, involves some friendly competition, and supports bird conservation.

Here’s how it works.

This year Bird-a-thon takes place May 11-12 and consists of having as much birding fun as we can stand in the 24 hours between 6:00 PM Friday until 6:00 PM Saturday. Back in 2004, I thought it would be fun to see how many species we could find without leaving Cape Ann (Gloucester, Rockport, Essex and Manchester). In addition to the geographical challenge, this reduces birding time lost to driving (one of our team birds by bicycle!) and of course shrinks the team’s carbon footprint. In the 7 years that Cape Ann has fielded a team, we have ticked 183 species total with an average of 132 species per year –dragged down by monsoon rains in two years! In our best single year we found 156 species.

The Cape Ann Bird-a-thon team is back this year with its (catchy?) nickname, “Twitchers with a Purpose” to emphasize the fact that all funds raised will go to specific bird conservation projects. The conservation dollars that can be raised can be significant. For example, last year, Drumlin Farm’s team won the prized Hathaway Cup for raising the most money ($34,820) and a dedicated individual on that team was the statewide top fundraiser with $15,309 raised. My team is trying to hit the $5,000 mark this year.

This, as you’ve probably guessed, is where you come in by pledging to my team as generously as you can. You can either pledge an amount per bird ($1/species @ 132 species = $132) or just pledge a set amount. Pledging is a snap. Just go to my webpage:http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/chrisleahy/bird-a-thon-2012 , click on the green DONATE button and just follow the simple pledging instructions. OR you can just send a check made out to Mass Audubon and designated for the Bertrand Chair (that’s me), attn: Ellen McBride, Mass Audubon, 208 South Great Rd., Lincoln, MA 01773. No gift is too small (or too large!) and all are eligible for a charitable deduction.

I hope you can help. Remember, your pledge will be dedicated to specific bird conservation efforts undertaken by my colleagues and me at Mass Audubon, such as the recently publish and authoritative State of the Birds report. I can assure you on the best existing evidence that our birds need all the help you can give them.

Thank you Chris for all you do to help the birds of Massachusetts!

Gray Catbird 

In looking through my photo library for an image for this post, I am reminded of when the Catbirds and Mockingbirds began to call our garden home–when our first batch of blackberries ripened! Catibirds dine on fruits and berries and are year-round frequent visitors to the feast we provide, including blueberry, Juneberry, winterberry, and holly berry.  As the fruits of our magnolias approach their ripening time, the Catbirds noisily guard the trees in anticipation of the ripened fruit.

For more information about the Gray Catbird:

Mass Audubon: Gray Catird (Dumetella carolinensis)

All About Birds: Gray Catbird

The Cornell website has excellent crisp, clear recordings of the Catbirds “mew” sound. Anyone who has heard the repetitious male catbird vocalizing at daybreak knows exactly why they are called Catbirds. From Cornell, “The Gray Catbird belongs to the genus Dumetella, which means “small thicket.” And that’s exactly where you should go look for this little skulker.”

Love the beautiful shade of blue of Catbird eggs!

Gray Catbird Eggs image courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology