Katharine Newhouse and her friend Val today celebrated Katharine’s birthday by taking a plunge at Niles Beach. Not only that, but the two did not simply run in and out; Charlotte and I watched as they both stayed in the water splashing around for some time.
Today’s air temperature at Niles Beach was 27 degrees, water temperature, 45 degrees.
Life at the Edge of the Sea- Double-crested Cormorant Feeding Frenzy!
A note about the photos – for the past five years I have been photographing and filming the Cormorants massing. The photos are from 2016 – 2019, and most recently, from 2020. Some of the earliest ones were taken at Niles Beach in 2017. In 2018, my friend Nina wrote to say that the massing also takes place in her neighborhood on the Annisquam River. Several weeks ago, while hiking on the backside of Sandy Point, facing the Ipswich Yacht Club, the Cormorants were massing there, too. Please write if you have seen this spectacular event taking place in your neighborhood. Thank you so much!
Massing in great numbers as they gather at this time of year, Double Crested Cormorants, along with many species of gulls and herons, are benefitting from the tremendous numbers of minnows that are currently present all around the shores of Cape Ann.
Waiting for the Cormorants early morning
At inlets on the Annisquam and Essex Rivers, as well as the inner Harbor and Brace Cove, you can see great gulps of Cormorants. In unison, they push the minnows to shore, where gulls and herons are hungrily waiting. The fish try to swim back out toward open water but the equally as hungry Cormorants have formed a barrier. From an onlooker’s point of view, it looks like utter mayhem with dramatic splashing, diving, and devouring. In many of the photos, you can see that the birds are indeed catching fish.
The Double-crested Cormorants are driving the feeding frenzy. I have seen this symbiotic feeding with individual pairs of DCCormorants and Snowy Egrets at our waterways during the summer, but only see this extraordinary massing of gulls, herons, and cormorants at this time of year, in late summer and early autumn.
Cormorants catch fish by diving from the surface, chasing their prey under water and seizing it with the hooked bill.
Double-crested Cormorants are ubiquitous. When compared to Great Cormorants, DCCormorants are a true North American species and breed, winter over, and migrate along the shores of Cape Ann.
Nearly all the species of herons that breed in our region have been spotted in the frenzy including the Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Black-crowned Night Heron.
After feeding, the herons often find a quiet place to preen before heading back in the late afternoon to their overnight roosting grounds.
New beach parking restrictions are being implemented by the Mayor’s office. These restrictions include Witham Street, Nautilus Road, Eastern Point Road (the road that runs along Niles Beach) and the neighborhood roads around Wingaersheek Beach.
Barricades were placed today in several locations and we imagine more will be forthcoming.
Niles Beach Eastern Point Road is clearly barricaded and marked
No barriers yet on Nautilus Road (we expect they are coming)
No barriers yet on Witham Street
New barriers at the corner of Witham and 127A
Walk-ons allowed and bike stand still in place at Good Harbor Beach
Good Harbor Beach this afternoon, in and out of storms
Snapshots from a brief tour around the back shore while out doing errands. With temperatures hovering at 5 degrees, Cape Ann was blanketed with a thick layer of impenetrable ice, snow squalls, and sea smoke.
Happy to see the temperatures are heading towards the forties after Tuesday!
What is happening here? A hungry swim of cormorants have pushed a stream of bait fish towards the shallow shore waters. The minnows are met by equally as hungry Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets waiting on the rocks. I’ve watched many egrets eat prey and they often toss it about in the air for half a minute before swallowing whole, I think to line it up so the fish or frog goes straight down its gullet. At that very moment when the egrets are adjusting their catch, the gulls swoop in and try to snatch the minnows from the egrets.
This scene was filmed at Niles Beach. My friend Nancy shares that she has observed the egret and cormorant feeding relationship many mornings over by where she lives on the Annisquam River.
I stopped this morning to take a snapshot of the lifting fog when the beach combing mom and her little boy came on the scene. For all the moms making wonderful memories for their children, Happiest of Mother’s Days to You!
First day of summer and first swim of the season! Last night we packed a picnic and went for a swim–the perfect antidote to a heat wave. Tonight–more of the same!! We’re so fortunate to live in Gloucester, moments away from any number of beautiful beaches.
Snowy Egret Niles Beach
“Heat Wave” ~ Irving Berlin, from the musical “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
I beleive this is a juvenile Atlantic White-sided Dolphin, found washed ashore on Niles beach at 8:00 this morning. I am not sure who to call. If any of my readers know please email and in the meantime I will try to get ahold of someone at the New England Aquarium and check in with Good Morning Gloucester blog; perhaps they know.