Tag Archives: Massachusetts

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.

Happy Birthday Ann Margaret Ferrante!

DSCF2914DSCF2835DSCF2781A champion for all! 

We are so fortunate to have House Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante working on behalf of our region, and all of Massachusetts. Brilliant, hard working, compassionate, well respected by her colleagues, budget conscious, and just an overall kind and huge hearted person. A heartfelt thank you to Ann Margaret for all that she accomplishes for our community. Happiest of birthdays to Ann!DSCF2867

DSCF2704 DSCF2880

Our House Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante keeping jobs in Massachusetts by protecting the film tax credit!

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BABY HUEY OF FLEDGLINGS: THE COMMON TERN

Common Tern Fledgling feeding -6 copyright Kim SmithAfter spending the past eight weeks filming the sparrow-sized Piping Plovers, it was fun to unexpectedly encounter these tubby Common Tern fledglings. Although able to fly, they stood at the water’s edge, unrelentingly demanding to be fed. The adults willingly obliged.

Common Tern Fledgling feeding -1 copyright Kim SmithUnlike plovers, which can feed themselves within hours after hatching (the term is precocial), tern fledglings are semi-precocial, which means they are somewhat mobile at hatching but remain and are fed by their parents. Terns and gulls are semi-precocial.
Common Tern Fledgling feeding copyright Kim Smith

The fledglings appear larger than the adults and are very well fed. Both parents feed their young. The terns are building fat reserves for the long migration to the South American tropical coasts, some traveling as far as Peru and Argentina.Common Tern feeding copyright Kim Smith

Common Tern attacking gull copyright Kim Smith

Common Tern dive bombing gull

Although unperturbed by my presence, they sure did not like the seagulls. Any that ventured near the fledglings feeding were told in the most cheekiest of terms to buzz off–dive bombing, nipping, and nonstop loudly squawking–the intruder did not stick around for very long.

Common Tern populations are in decline, most probably because of pesticide poisoning and habitat loss.

Wingaersheek sunrise #gloucesterma ❤️

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New Film: Mark Allen ~ Sunday’s Greasy Pole Champion Walking for Loved Ones

Mark Allen Walking for Loved Ones

Congratulations to Mark Allen, the 2014 Sunday Greasy Pole Champion! This was Mark’s first win, after 16 previous years of walking! Allen was walking for for his cousin Peter “Black” Frontiero who has the second most wins of all time, with a total of nine.

Each year I look forward to filming and photographing the greasy pole events. The determination on the men’s faces, the camaraderie, the ecstasy and pride in winning, the anguish of defeat, the hilarious costumes, and the Felliniesque antics combine to create a fabulous fiesta of stories and images.

The film opens at the childhood home of the Giambanco Family, with Sefatia leading the Greasy Pole Walkers and guests in the rallying “Viva San Pietro,” the cheer that is heard throughout the city of Gloucester during Saint Peter’s Fiesta. Giambanco sisters Marianne, Grace, Rosaria, and Sefatia continue with their mother Rosalia’s, “Lia’s” custom of feeding the Greasy Pole Walkers dinner before the walk. The tradition began years ago when their brother, Anthony “Matza” Giambanco, began walking. Sefatia explains that Lia had always held a huge family feast with relatives from all around the country attending. The first year her brother walked he told his mom he couldn’t eat because he was meeting everyone. She said I don’t care; you have to eat, and told him to bring everyone back to their home. That was in 1978!

Next the Walkers head over to rally at the Gloucester House, where they greet Lenny shouting his name over and over, to a packed restaurant full of guests. Several more stops are made along the way before the next rally at the Saint Peter’s Club. The Walkers make one last stop to say a prayer to Saint Peter, and perhaps pin a gold charm or coin to the statue, before departing for the greased pole platform at Pavilion Beach

*    *    *

With special thanks and appreciation to Nicky Avelis and all the Greasy Pole Walkers for allowing me to ride on the boat. It went by way too fast! And thank you to the skipper for giving me a ride back to shore.

With thanks and appreciation to Rosaria, Sefatia, Marianne, and Grace for inviting me to come film the Walker’s rally at your welcoming Fiesta Sunday Feast!

The song “Love Runs Out,” is by OneRepublic for the reissue of their third album, Native.

The song “The Walker” is by Fitz and The Tantrums from the album More Than Just a Dream.

 

Saint Peter's Fiesta Greay Pole Mark Allen ©Kim Smith 2014

Follow Kim on Twitter @kimsmithdesigns and be her friend on Facebook.

New Film: Kyle Barry ~ Saturday’s Greasy Pole Champion!

Congratulations to Kyle Barry, the 2014 Saturday Greasy Pole Champion! This was Kyle’s second win. He was also the 2013 Friday Champion.

The first clip is especially Felliniesque but then again, whenever I am shooting the greasy pole events I feel as though I am in the midst of a Fellini film. Friday’s and Sunday’s films are coming in the next few days, with some Very Fun Footage.

I Loved this song when first I heard it and thought it perfect for Greasy Pole Walkers. Written and performed by Fitz and The Tantrums, “The Walker,” (that is really the title of the song!) is from their second album, More Than Just a Dream.

See previous Good Morning Gloucester post about Kyle Barry: Kyle Barry for the Win!

Additional music note ~ Fitz and The Tantrums will be performing at the House of Blues in Boston on November 15th.

Follow Kim on Twitter @kimsmithdesigns and be her friend on Facebook.

Greasy Pole Kyle Barry for the WIN! Saint Peter's Fiesta ©Kim Smith 2014 -2

 

Video: The Good Harbor Seal ~ What to do if you find a seal on the beach

The beautiful juvenile Harbor Seal was found on a foggy morning in midsummer. The seal was beached at the high tide line and its breathing was heavy and labored. It had no interest in returning to the water and needed only to remain at rest.

For the next six hours the seal struggled to survive the world of curious humans.

Learn what to do if you find a seal on the beach.

Written, produced, edited, cinematography, and narration by Kim Smith.

The Good Harbor Beach Seal PSA was created because of the lack of understanding on the part of my my fellow beachgoers on how to mangae a seal encounter. Please help get the word out and please forward the link to friends and neighbors in other communities, whether or not the community is located by the sea. It was the folks from out of town that did not understand that the seal needed simply to be left alone. Thank you!

Although the Good Harbor Seal was not injured, help was needed with the gathering crowd. I called our local police, who in turn sent Lieutenant Roger Thurlow from the Environmental Police. Has anyone had experience with a marine stranding, and if so, is the following the best number to call: Northeast Region Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding and Entanglement Hotline ~ 866-755-6622? I will post your hotline recommendations here.

Technical note–The video was filmed without a tripod because I was afraid the tripod would look like a gun and didn’t want to further stress the seal. After reading more about Harbor Seals, I learned that their big brown eyes are particularly adapted to sight in murky water (i.e. harbor waters), but that their eyesight is not that good on land. In retrospect, I don’t think that the seal would have associated the tripod with a weapon. Also, I filmed at a distance much further away than my camera’s capabilities, which caused much vignetting around the edges of many of the clips. I didn’t want to stand close to the seal and be the filmmaker-who-becomes-part-of-the-problem, and not the solution.

Breaking News: Good Harbor Beach Seal Survives

 

Creating Summer Magic

Common Milkweed ~ Asclepias syriaca

Recently a friend inquired that if I had to choose one native New England plant to grow to attract butterflies to the garden, which would it be, and why. It was a challenging question because butterflies are typically drawn to the garden planted with a rich and varied, yet very specific, combination of species. A successful Lepidoptera habitat is comprised of many elements all working in tandem. Sunny and protected areas in which to warm their wings, trees and shrubs that provide shelter, and a host of nectar plants for the adults, as well as specific caterpillar food plants, create the successful Lepidoptera garden.

Perhaps if I had to choose a favorite butterfly and therefore a favorite plant to grow to drawthis butterfly to my garden it would have to be common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which is both a larval host plant and nectar plant for the elegant Monarch butterfly. People often speak unkindly about common milkweed, rather I think it deserves applause for it is plant without rue and thrives wherever found—in the cracks of city sidewalks and along country roadsides, highly-trafficked soccer fields, and in the most neglected of neighborhoods. Whether in the garden, along the shoreline, or local meadow, it is on the foliage of common milkweed that we find the vast majority of Monarch eggs and caterpillars. Noteworthy also is that we observe many different species of butterflies and skippers nectaring at common milkweed—sulphurs, swallowtails, and fritillaries, to name but a few. In our garden we grow common milkweed alongside marsh milkweed (Asclepias incarnata); marsh milkweed blooms slightly earlier than common milkweed as it is sited in a sunnier locale. Both species attract a wide variety of winged pollinators. Male and female Monarchs nectar from the blossoms, while the males simultaneously patrol for females. The females utilize the foliage of both species to oviposit their eggs. Typically we observe females freely flitting alternatively between our common and marsh milkweed, depositing their eggs on the choicest leaves and buds, while pausing frequently to nectar.

Monarch Butterfly Egg on Common Milkweed Leaf

The milky sap that flows through milkweed veins lends the genus its common name. Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars have evolved to withstand the toxic milk, but not the predatory bird that attempts to eat one. The adult Monarch’s unique wing pattern and caterpillar’s striped suit warn of its dreadful taste and lethal toxins. A bird that is tempted becomes sick and may even die, and if it survives, remembers never again to try to eat a Monarch. “The larvae sequester cardiac glycosides from the milkweed leaves that they consume. Concentrations of these heart toxins in their bodies may be several times higher than those occurring in milkweed leaves. The glycosides consumed by the caterpillars are carried forward both into the chrysalis and adult stages, affording them protection as well.” (Caterpillars of North America David L. Wagner).

Common milkweed is highly adaptable and grows in nearly any soil. The size of the developing colonies and individual plants reflect the conditions in which it is grown.  Planted in a rich, moist soil, protected from the wind and where it receives some light shade, it will grow six to seven feet.  I use it extensively in my butterfly garden designs, planting in rich, average, and dry conditions, and find it especially appealing and useful for shoreline gardens. In sandy soil, sand dunes, and meadows, where it is exposed to wind and/or salt spray, common milkweed is equally as vigorous, but of a much shorter stature, typically obtaining the height of two to three feet.

A. syriaca thrives in full sun to light shade. In a moist, protected area, plant in the back of the border. In a more exposed site, plant in the mid-ground. Because of its ability to spread readily and rapidly, use in an informal, natural setting as opposed to planting in formal  beds.

Common milkweed is highly fragrant and is the most richly scented of the species of milkweeds found in Massachusetts (A. incarnata, A. syriaca, A. quadrifolia,  A. tuberosa, A. amplexicaulis, A. exaltata, A. pupurascens, and A. verticillata), with a complex wild flower honey fragrance. I have heard it described as similar to the scent of lilacs, but find lilacs have a much sweeter fragrance than common milkweed. Fragrance is highly mutable and subjective.

One- to two-year-old plants are easier to transplant than established plants. Common milkweed takes approximately three years to flower from seed. The method in which I have had the greatest success in propagating Asclepias syriaca, best attempted in early summer, is to dig up a rhizome, found at the base of a plant with newly emerging shoots. The rhizome would ideally be obtained from a friend’s garden. If collected in the wild, be sure to dig from an area where there are many shoots present. You need a fairly large chunk, at least a half-foot, with both roots and new shoots present. Replant the rhizome at the same depth. Water throughout the summer. Towards the end of the growing season you will be rewarded with newly emerging shoots. Common milkweed self-seeds readily, but spreads primarily (and rambunctiously) by its rhizomatic root structure.

Milkweed in general, and in particular, common milkweed, attracts a host of pollinators—bees, wasps, butterflies, and purportedly hummingbirds. I have yet to see the Ruby-throated hummingbird nectar from common milkweed, but it may also be the case that they are attracted to the plant for the multitude of tiny insect populations frequenting the flowers (over ninety percent of a Ruby-throated hummingbird’s diet is comprised of insects). We typically findMonarch eggs and caterpillars on milkweed plants during the months of July and August.

Buddleia davidii ’Nanho Blue,’ with blue-violet racemes, melds beautifully with the muted lavender rose florets of the softly drooping flower heads of common milkweed. The brilliant white of native Phlox davidii and vivid purple-pink of Liatris ligulistylus attractively offsets both. All are famously attractive to Monarchs (and myriad other species of Lepidoptera) and will provide a long season of nectar-rich blossoms and Monarch caterpillar food.

Monarch Butterflies Mating on Common Milkweed Leaves

A note about the video: Monarch butterflies deposit eggs on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and marsh milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in eastern Massachusetts. The chrysalis in this video was attached to a marsh milkweed stem. For a wealth of information on butterfly gardening, read Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!