We love Russell Orchards throughout the seasons, not only for their wonderful array of fresh fruit, including peaches, strawberries, raspberries, plums. pears, and an infinite variety of apples, but because they have the sweetest farm animals. Ruth and Rosie have to be the cutest pair of goats, but it it Thunder and Cloud, Russell Orchards resident pair of black and white sheep that have won Charlotte’s heart.
Little Lulu is also a top contender for cuteness (on the rare occasions we see her up and about).
Apple picking at Russell Orchards is at the top of our list of fun things to do in autumn.
Beautiful, beautiful School Street Sunflowers is in full glorious bloom and will continue blooming for several more weeks. There is even a whole section that has not yet flowered!
The 7.5 acre sunflower field is simply spectacular and there are lots of picture taking moment for families, with cows (including the calf that we saw at TipTop Tulips in the spring, now a little more grown) and adorable sheep. Not too many sunflower fields offer pumpkins in the photo moments. And at the entrance to the field is a life size pair of sphinxes.
This newer, even more splendid sunflower field is located at the very end of Lowes Lane. Lowes Lane is right behind the Dairy Queen on Rt. 133 in Ipswich. The field is open from 9am til sunset and DOGS are welcome!
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.
Today marked the last of the ribbon cutting ceremonies for the exciting new kiosks (nine total) that have been installed by the Essex National Heritage all along the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway. Mayor Sefatia and Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante did the honors. The kiosk is located at Stage Fort Park near the visitor’s center. Despite the biting wind and freezing temperatures the event was well-attended. To learn more about the Coastal Byway, visit www.CoastalByway.org