Tag Archives: snowy owl film project

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2020: THE YEAR IN PICTURES, MOVIES, AND STORIES

Several years ago my husband suggested I write a “year end” wildlife review about all the creatures seen over the preceding year. That first review was a joyful endeavor though daunting enough. Over the next several years the reviews became more lengthy as I tried to cover every beautiful, wonderful creature that was encountered on woodland hikes, beaches, dunes, marshes, ponds, and our own backyards and neighborhoods. 2020 has been a very different year. There were just as many local wildlife stories as in previous years however, the pandemic and political climate have had far reaching consequences across geographic regions around the world, touching every living creature in the interconnected web of life we call our ecosystems.

This first year of the global pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on wildlife and their habitats. In urban areas in developed countries, perhaps the economic slowdown afforded wildlife a break, with less pollution, less air travel, and some wild animals even reclaiming territory. Though the true downside of Covid-19 is that the pandemic has had an extraordinarily harmful impact on wildlife in rural areas and in less developed countries People who are dependent upon tourism, along with people who have lost jobs in cities and are returning to rural areas, are placing increasing pressure on wildlife by poaching, illegal mining, and logging. As mining and logging destroy wildlife habitats, animals are forced into ever shrinking areas, causing them to become sick, stressed, and to starve to death. These same stressed wild animals come in contact with people and farm animals, creating an ever increasing potential to transmit horrifically deadly illness, diseases such as Covid-19.

There are many, many organizations working to protect wildlife and conserve their habitats. I am especially in awe of one particular grass roots non-profit organization located in Macheros, Mexico, previously featured here, Butterflies and Their People. Co-founded by Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno Rojas, the work they are doing to both protect the butterfly’s winter habit and provide employment for the forest’s guardians is outstanding.

All the butterfly sanctuaries (their winter resting places), are closed this year due to the pandemic. Dozens of people in the tiny town of Macheros are wholly dependent upon the income received by the work they do protecting the butterfly trees from illegal logging, as well as income from the tourist industry.  Ellen, Joel, and their team of arborists have come up with a wonderfully creative way to bring the butterflies to you. For a modest fee, you can sign up to “Adopt a Colony” to receive monthly newsletters and video tours of the Monarchs at Cerro Pelon. The newsletters are written by Ellen, who writes beautifully and clearly about the month-by-month current state of the butterflies in their winter habitat, as well as human interest stories drawn from the community. To subscribe to “Adopt a Colony” from Butterflies and Their People, go here.

We can be hopeful in 2021 that with a new administration, a much greater focus will be paid by our federal government to stop the spread of the virus in the US as well as around the globe. Not only is there hope in regard to the course correction needed to battle the pandemic, but the Biden/Harris administration has made climate change and environmental justice a cornerstone of their platform, including measures such as stopping the environmental madness taking place along our southern border and reversing many of the previous administration’s mandates that are so harmful to wildlife and their habitats.

Around the globe, especially in less developed countries, the pandemic has set back environmental initiatives by years, if not decades. We are so fortunate in Essex County  to have conservation organizations such as Greenbelt, MassWildlife, The Trustees, and Mass Audubon; organizations that protect the sanctity of wildlife and recognize the importance of protecting habitats not only for wildlife but equally as important, for the health and safety of human inhabitants.

The following are just some of the local images and stories that make us deeply appreciate the beauty of wildlife and their habitats found on Cape Ann and all around Essex County. Each picture is only a brief window into the elusive, complex life of a creature. Every day and every encounter brings so much more to observe, to learn, to enjoy, and to love.

To read more, each image and story from the past year is Google searchable. Type in the name of the creature and my name and the link to the story and pictures posted on my website should come right up.

Some Beautiful Raptors of 2020 – Red-tailed Hawk, Short-eared Owl, American Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, and Snowy Owls

 

Essex County Greenbelt’s Osprey pair, Annie and Squam, successfully fledged little River (nestling photo courtesy ECGA)

 

The Snowy Owl Film Project was completed in March, with the objective of providing pandemic- virtually schooled kids a window into the world of Snowy Owls in their winter habitat (see all five short films here).

 

Spunky Mute Swan Cygnets

Utterly captivated by the winsome Red Fox Family

A tiny sampling of the beautiful songbirds that graced our shores in 2020 – Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, American Robins, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Snow Buntings, American Pipits, Horned Larks, and Eastern Bluebirds

 

A new favorite place to film is at my friend Paul’s wonderfully fun sunflower field in Ipswich, School Street Sunflowers. Beautiful Bobolinks, Common Yellowthroat Warblers, and Bluejays were just some of the songbirds seen feasting on the expiring seedheads  of sunflowers and wildflowers growing amongst the rows of flowers.

Graceful White-tailed Deer herd of adult females and youngsters

Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and juvenile Little Blue Herons delight with their elegance, beauty, and stealth hunting skills. Included in the montage is a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron that spent the winter at Niles Pond

A fraction of the different species of Shorebirds and Gulls seen on Cape Ann this past year – Dowitchers, Killdeers, Black-bellied Plovers, Common Tern, Least Tern, Laughing Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Glaucus Gull, and rarely seen Dovekie, or”Little Auk.”

Cecropia Moth life cycle unfolding in our garden, from mating, to egg laying, to caterpillar, to adult.

 

Dozens and dozens of orb spider webs draped a small patch of wildflowers. The dream catchers were attracting Cedar Waxwings to feast on the insects caught in the webs. The following day I returned after a rainstorm. The webs had melted away in the downpour and the Waxwings had vanished into the treetops.

Harbor and Gray Seals hauled out on the rocks at Brace Cove, as many as 28 were counted on a winter’s day!

Piping Plovers and Marshmallow Montage

In 2020, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair fledged one chick, nicknamed Marshmallow. Despite the global pandemic, a group of super dedicated Piping Plover Ambassadors worked tirelessly from sunrise until sunset to help ensure the safety of the Piping Plover family and to help educate beachgoers about the beautiful life story of the Plovers unfolding on Gloucester’s most popular beach destination. We worked with Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, the Gloucester DPW, and Gloucester City Councilor Scot Memhard, with much appreciated advice from Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist Carolyn Mostello.

Read more about Marshmallow, the Ambassadors, and the Piping Plover Film Project here.

Piping Plover Marshmallow Montage, from egg to thirty-eight days old. Filmed at Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

MONARCHS!

It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, infinitely educational, and beautifully challenging journey creating my documentary, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterflies. The film was released in February 2020, but because of the pandemic, was not seen by the public until August, when it premiered (virtually) at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival. Beauty on the Wing has gone on to win honors and awards at both environmental and children’s film festivals, including the tremendous honor of Best Documentary at the Boston International Kids Film Festival. I’ve just received the very attractive award in the mail and have not had time to post a photo yet.

Beauty on the Wing portrays Cape Ann in the most beautiful light and I think when we are ever able to have a live premiere in this area, local friends will be delighted at the outcome. Joyfully so, Beauty is now being distributed to schools, libraries, institutions, and the travel industry through American Public Television Worldwide.

Beauty on the Wing continues to be accepted to film festivals and I will keep you posted as some are geo-bloced to this area, including the upcoming Providence Children’s Film Festival.

 

Last but not least, our wonderfully wildy Charlotte, little adventurer and nature-loving companion throughout the year

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROJECT SNOWSTORM HAS SOME NICE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT “A SNOWY OWL COMES TO CAPE ANN” FILM SERIES!

Thank you so very much to Scott Weidensaul from Project SNOWStorm for his thoughtful suggestions and kind assistance while writing the script for the film A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann. Not only that, but he has shared the project with the Project SNOWStorm  community and people are making very kind comments. Means much coming from knowledgeable owl-lovers <3

Scott writes,

Wherever you are during this pandemic lockdown, here’s a special treat to ease the passing of time.

Kim Smith, a naturalist and filmmaker on the North Shore of Massachusetts, spent the winter of 2018 shadowing a young female snowy owl on windy, stormy Cape Ann. The result was five short films about the owl, which Kim was kind enough to share with our team during production, and is generous enough to share with the whole Project SNOWstorm community now that they’re finished. They’re simply beautiful.

You can find all five of Kim’s films here — enjoy!

I started following Project SNOWStorm several years ago and love their posts.. You can sign up here: Subscribe by email, on the right side of the page, or on any of the blog post pages. I promise, you will enjoy reading the fascinating information provided and will look forward to their arrival in your inbox. You can also make a donation here, too, if so inclined 🙂

FINAL EPISODE- SNOWY OWL RETURNS TO THE ARCTIC

Hello Friends,

Thank you to everyone for your very kind comments for this series. It has been a joy creating for such an enthusiastic audience <3

Thank you to Jennifer Davis and her adorable daughters Ellie and Isla. They stopped by one morning to see if they could find Snowy Owl. The girls and Mom were being so good at watching her from a safe distance. I asked Jenny if she minded if I took a photo and some footage, too. Jenny very graciously said yes!

Some good news-

In the two years that have passed since our Snowy visited Cape Ann’s Back Shore, all of Boston’s North Shore has not seen the same tremendous numbers of that winter of 2018. I read though on ProjectSNOWstorm’s website of the possibility of an exciting upcoming winter of 2020-2021 because there has been a good population of lemmings in the eastern portions of the Snowies breeding grounds. Let’s hope for more visits by beautiful Snowies <3

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann was created for the kids in the Cape Ann community during this at-home school time. Please share with young people you know who may be interested.

Thank you again for watching!

To see all five episodes together, please go to the Snowy Owl Film Project page on my website.

Again, thank you to Scott Weidensaul from ProjectSNOWstorm for script advice.

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann
Part Five: Snowy Owl Returns to the Arctic

Friends of Snowy Owl wondered how long she would stay before heading north on her return migration to the Arctic. Typically, Snowies leave New England by March or April, but some have stayed as late as July.

Why do people find Snowy Owls so captivating?

Owls symbolize wisdom and intelligence, and the characters they are given in popular culture and literature strengthen our associations.

We are provided a wonderful window into the world of owls through Snowies because they are crepuscular creatures, which means they are most active at dawn and at dusk.

There are only about 30,000 Snowy Owls in the wild. No one knows if their numbers are stable or decreasing.

Snowies face many threats, especially when they come south to us, including vehicles, planes, and toxic chemicals.

Research analysis shows that most carry some degree of rat poison, pesticides, and/or mercury in their bodies.

We can all be conscientious stewards of Snowies by not using poisonous chemicals and by keeping a safe distance when observing.

In early March, Snowy Owl began to appear restless. Migration is the most dangerous period in an owl’s life, but hormonal changes triggered by longer days were urging her northward.

Snowy Owl survived the fierce winds and waves of powerful nor’easters along with constant heckling by gulls and crows.

She ate well during her winter stay on Cape Ann.

Snowy Owl was strong and healthy when she departed, increasing the likelihood of a safe journey and return to her breeding habitat of Arctic tundra and grasslands.

Safe travels beautiful Snowy!

WONDERFULLY RARE FOOTAGE – SNOWY OWL TAKES A BATH

Hello Friends on this rainy, windy day. People’s holiday weekend ran the gamut from joyful to tragic and I so hope yours was not too difficult and you were able to find some light. It was such a beautiful day weather-wise yesterday and if there is one thing about the coronavirus is how wonderful it is to see so many families enjoying each other’s company while out in the fresh air.

Part four, Snowy Owl Takes a Bath, was filmed early one morning. I stopped by to check on Snowy Owl (her nickname at the time was Hedwig) and noticed her face was stained red from breakfast. I only planned to take a few snapshots when she hopped over to a rocky tide pool and began to wash her face. I ran back to the car to get my movie camera and am so glad I did! For the next 40 – 45 minutes she bathed, preened, and fluffed.

I am calling this rare footage because I can’t find anything else like it. Unlike most owls, which are nocturnal (active at night) Snowy Owls are active during the day (diurnal), providing a rare glimpse into the world of owls in the wild.

To see all four episodes together, please go to the Snowy Owl Film Project page on my website. These shorts were created for the kids in the Cape Ann community during this at-home schooling time. The last segment, part five, Snowy Owl Returns to the Arctic, is almost completed and will be posted later this week.

Thank you for watching!

Again, thank you to Scott Weidensaul from ProjectSNOWstorm for script advice.

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann
Part Four: Snowy Owl Takes a Bath

After a snow squall and as the sun was beginning to appear, a Snowy Owl came out to take a bath. She found a watery icy pool tucked out of sight from dive bombing crows and gulls.

Snowy Owls, like most non-aquatic birds, take baths to clean their feathers.

First washing her face, she tip-dipped and then dunked. After bathing, Snowy fluff dried her feathers, pooped, and preened. During preening, oil from the preen gland, which is located at the base of the tail, is distributed through the feathers to help maintain waterproofing.

Washing, fluffing, and preening took about forty-five minutes from head to talon.

 

BE PREPARED TO BE GROSSED OUT- SNOWY OWL REGURGITATING A GINORMOUS PELLET – PART THREE: A SNOWY OWL COMES TO CAPE ANN

Casting a pellet is a totally normal thing that Snowy Owls, and all owls do. You may even have dissected a pellet in biology class. I  just had no idea until seeing Snowy do this that they could be so large!

You can view the first three episodes here: Snowy Owl Film Project. All five will eventually be found on this page. Almost finished with Part Four: Snowy Owl Takes a Bath 🙂

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann

Part Three: Snowy Owl Casts a Pellet

Once or twice a day an owl casts, or regurgitates, a pellet, which is a mass of undigested parts of the bird’s food. Pellets form after an owl has fed. The owl often casts a pellet, and goes poop, shortly before heading out to hunt.

Pellets contain sharp-edged bones and teeth that could damage the bird’s lower digestive tract. Its presence prevents the owl from swallowing fresh prey.

 

A SNOWY OWL COMES TO CAPE ANN PART TWO: SNOWY OWL MIGHTY HUNTER with graphic warning for very young children

Snowy Owl MightY Hunter is part two of the series A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann. The segment where Snowy is eating her prey may be too graphic for very young children, so parents please preview.

Please share with friends and your young naturalists. Thank you for watching and take care <3

 

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann
Part One

Dear Friends,

Not last winter but the winter before, an exquisite Snowy Owl arrived on Cape Ann. I think it was sometime in December we first began seeing her perched on Bass Rocks. Many of us followed her escapades daily and we took lots of photos. I was also filming her. Like many Snowies, she was tolerant of people, but I think she was especially unperturbed by humans. I also filmed other Snowies that irruptive winter, a stunning nearly all white male nicknamed Diablo at Salisbury Beach, a pretty female at Plum Island, and several males that were located at a beach just north of Logan Airport. And while filming one morning in the dunes at Crane Beach, two were having an epic battle. I was sitting super still and one of the combatants landed within several feet of where I was perched, startling us both!

About two months ago my computer crashed and I lost my film editing program and also became sick with what I thought was a cold. I had been mostly self-quarantining for a month prior to the mandated quarantine because I didn’t want any elderly friends to catch my cold. It turns out it is pneumonia. So between quarantining and learning my brand new film editing program I have made a series of short 3-5 minute films, mostly for the parents and kids in our neighborhood, and also for all our owl lovers. Hopefully, these shorts will help a bit to pass the time.

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann is part one in the first of five episodes. Next to come is Snowy Owl Mighty Hunter.

Please share with your neighbors and Moms and Dads home with the kids. I think you will love seeing the Snowy and how beautiful, too, Cape Ann looks in wintertime. And we’ll also learn some fun facts about Snowies!

Thank you for watching and please be well <3

NEW SHORT FILM: DO YOU REMEMBER CAPE ANN’S SNOWY OWL HEDWIG?

Dear Friends,

Not last winter but the winter before, an exquisite Snowy Owl arrived on Cape Ann. I think it was sometime in December we first began seeing her perched on Bass Rocks. Many of us followed her escapades daily and we took lots of photos. I was also filming her. Like many Snowies, she was tolerant of people, but I think she was especially unperturbed by humans. I also filmed other Snowies that irruptive winter, a stunning nearly all white male nicknamed Diablo at Salisbury Beach, a pretty female at Plum Island, and several males that were located at a beach just north of Logan Airport. And while filming one morning in the dunes at Crane Beach, two were having an epic battle. I was sitting super still and one of the combatants landed within several feet of where I was perched, startling us both!

About two months ago my computer crashed and I lost my film editing program and also became sick with what I thought was a cold. I had been mostly self-quarantining for a month prior to the mandated quarantine because I didn’t want any elderly friends to catch my cold. It turns out it is pneumonia. So between quarantining and learning my brand new film editing program I have made a series of short 3-5 minute films, mostly for the parents and kids in our neighborhood, and also for all our owl lovers. Hopefully, these shorts will help a bit to pass the time.

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann is part one in the first of five episodes. Next to come is Snowy Owl Hunting.

Please share with your neighbors and Moms and Dads home with the kids. I think you will love seeing the Snowy and how beautiful, too, Cape Ann looks in wintertime. And we’ll also learn some fun facts about Snowies!

Thank you for watching and please be well <3