Tag Archives: Snowy Owl

SNOWY OWLS ALERT!

Snowy Owls have returned to coastal Eastern Massachusetts. It’s exciting and wonderful and beautiful to see, but also I find it concerning with so many home, with time on their hands because of the pandemic, that we’ll see even greater crowds flushing the birds. That happened this weekend.Snowy Owl tracks in the sand

SNOWY OWL WATCHING ETIQUETTE: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls. You will get better photographs and you won’t stress out the Snowies.

1. Watch from a safe and comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. This is the number one rule. Young birds coming down from the Arctic are especially tolerant of people however crowds attract crows and raptors to their whereabouts and flushing a bird can cause them to fly into traffic.

2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.

3. Please do not allow dogs to play near Snowies.

4. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress Snowies.

5. Please do not try to take a selfie with the Snowy.

When Snowies are perching quietly, it’s not for our enjoyment (although beautiful) but because they are either resting or on the look out for their next meal.  After all, if they have a good hunting season and survive the winter, perhaps they will return the following year.

Below is an excerpt from a five part series about a beautiful Snowy Owl nicknamed Hedwig. The series was designed for kids especially and is free to educators to share with students. To see all five parts visit the Snowy Owl Film Project here

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann

 

 

 

VOTE FOR SNOWY OWLS!

Global climate change is not a HOAX as has been declared by the current administration. Recognizing that climate change exists and addressing the devastating effects on wildlife is imperative to insuring a richly diverse Planet Earth for our children and children’s children. Fifty-two percent of the world’s raptors are in decline and with the Arctic warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, the Snowy Owl faces a frosty future. The Snowy Owl population is especially at risk having declined by 64% since 1970.

The challenges we face because of climate change have been with us for decades. Administrations prior to the current administration have been working in the right direction and the Biden-Harris team plans to lead the world to address the climate emergency. Read more here:

THE BIDEN PLAN TO BUILD A MODERN, SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE AND AN EQUITABLE CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE  [https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/]

Vote the Blue Wave!

Snowy Owl Film Project

https://www.ecowatch.com/snowy-owls-climate-change-2623954976.html

https://www.owlresearchinstitute.org/climate-change-and-snowy-owls

https://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/snowy-owl-faces-frosty-future-classed-vulnerable-first-time

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 🙂

CHAMPION OF OWLS AWARD TO NORMAN SMITH OF MASSACHUSETTS

At the March International Festival of Owls, which is held annually in Minnesota, Massachusetts own Norman Smith, along with two other awardees, was presented with the Champion of Owls for his work protecting Snowy Owls. The International Owl Festival is a fundraiser for the International Owl Center.

Champion of Owls Award
Norman Smith, Massachusetts, USA

Snowy Owls have been a part of Norman Smith’s life for over 40 years. They are something he has shared with his own children from a very young age and now his grandchildren.
 
Smith is best known for his work trapping and relocating Snowy Owls from Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts (since birds and airplanes don’t go well together). To date he has relocated more than 850 owls, analyzed more than 5,000 pellets, and was the first researcher to attach a satellite transmitter to a Snowy Owl captured on the wintering grounds and then track it back to the breeding grounds in the arctic. At some airports snowy owls were being shot for the safety of the planes so in 2013 Smith and Jeff Turner, a wildlife biologist for the USDA, wrote and implemented protocols for trapping instead of shooting them that were adopted by the U.S Department of Agriculture at airports across the USA and Canada.
 
His work with owls started more than 50 years ago with banding and rehabilitation. Thirty-five years ago, he discovered that he could foster young owls into wild nests instead of hand rearing them with a higher rate of survival and since then has put over 1,000 orphaned young owls into foster nests. Through banding rehabilitated owls, he found that some one-eyed owls could survive in the wild, with one living 10 years after it was released. To date he has rehabilitated more than 2,000 owls.
 
As natural educator and passionate speaker, Smith has served as a keynote speaker at prominent birding events around the USA. He recently retired as the Director of Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum and the Norman Smith Environmental Education Center where millions of people were educated during his tenure.
 
Smith is also a collaborator. He was a founding member of the International Snowy Owl Working Group and hosted their first meeting in the USA in 2017. As a result of this group’s work at that meeting, the Snowy Owl was reclassified from Least Concern to Vulnerable. In the winter of 2013-14 he was also one of the co-founders of Project SNOWstorm, a network of researchers tracking Snowy Owls with satellite transmitters. He is a co-author of the authoritative Birds of North America account on Snowy Owls and also helped raise funds to purchase a snowmobile for a Snowy Owl researcher in Russia.
 
The media helped Smith educate even more people by promoting his work. He has been featured on the front page of the New York Times, NOVA, CBS News and World Report, Ranger Rick, National Geographic for Kids, Cornell’s Living Bird, and hundreds of other news articles.
 
His mission is to use the information gathered from his research to stimulate a passion in everyone he meets to help us better understand, appreciate and care for this world in which we live.

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!

GOOD NEWS CAPE ANN EPISODE #2

Good News Topics include Castaways Big Red Heart, Massachusetts DCR Protecting Piping Plovers, and Snowy Owl final episode.

 

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

 

 

A SOGGY SNOWY OWL FOR A SOGGY DAY

This sweet messy-faced girl was relaxing on the limb of a craggy tree after what had clearly been a successful morning hunt. She coughed up a pellet while enjoying a rare quiet moment perched in the branches.

LATE WINTER WILDLIFE UPDATE -AND LOVE IS IN THE AIR!

Beautiful bird songs fill the air as songbirds are pairing up.

Carolina Wren

Red-winged Blackbirds

American Robin

Winter resident ducks are seen in pairs, too.

Buffleheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and Scaups

Our young Black-crowned Night Heron has made it through the winter!

And a pair of American Pipits has been here all winter, too.

Many Short-eared Owls and Snowy Owls have not yet departed for their summer breeding grounds.

Red-tailed and Marsh Hawks are here year round and this is a wonderful time of year to observe their behaviors, before sparse vegetation turns lush with summer growth.

Fox and Coyotes have been busy mating; their kits and pups are born from mid-March-through May.

Bald Eagles in our area may begin laying eggs as early as February.

The Harbor Seal posse is seen nearly everyday. The highest count so far was 27!

A pair of sweet Snow Buntings has been here for several days, eating tiny seeds found on the ground.

Brant Geese are seen in small to large flocks before heading to the high Arctic tundra to breed.

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL DUXBURY!

Snapshots from beautiful Duxbury

A new twist on a dream home -living in a Lighthouse House. The private home is sited at the beginning of the wooden Powder Point Bridge.

Wonderful fun to drive across Powder Point Bridge, which was at one time the oldest and longest wooden bridge in the US. It lost that status when the bridge was damaged by fire and completely rebuilt in the late 1980s. The bridge is one of two ways for the public to access Duxbury Beach.

Duxbury Beach, like Crane Beach and Plum Island, is a barrier beach that is home to Piping Plovers in the summer and Snowy Owls during the winter months. Read more about Duxbury Beach here.

“Our mission is to restore and to preserve the beaches in so far as reasonably possible in their natural state as host to marine life, native and migratory birds and indigenous vegetation, as barrier beaches for the protection of Duxbury and Kingston and as a priceless environmental asset to the Commonwealth and the nation; and to operate for the benefit of the people of Duxbury and the general public a public recreational beach with all necessary and incidental facilities, while preserving the right to limit and regulate such use so as to be consistent with the corporation’s primary ecological objective.”

Duxbury cranberry bog

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL SNOWY OWLS

I haven’t seen any Snowies yet this winter on Cape Ann; there simply seem to be fewer that migrated to our region than there were several years ago when Hedwig was the star of the backshore.

These Snowy Owl photos were taken earlier in the month at Parker River. The dirt road, the one that begins after the Hellcat Trail, has reopened, although I wouldn’t recommend going there on the weekends, much better to go during the week. There are so many photographers and owl lovers on the weekends, especially in the afternoon, that it has become really disruptive to the owls, both the Snowies and Short-eared. Even though folks are very respectful and (most) stay on the road, the Short-eared Owls aren’t catching much food, as far as I can observe, when there are great crowds chasing them up and down the road.

RULER OF THE MARSH – FEATURING RABBIT, HAWK, OWLS, AND EAGLE

Life on the marsh –

The Marsh Hawk (Northern Harrier) sitting in the grass off in the distance, was holding captive a bunny.

The bunny was staying still and the hawk was, surprisingly, not attempting to capture the rabbit. Perhaps because avian predators, like hawks, hunt by swooping in, and in a short distance stand-off, the hawk would have to sort of hop over to the bunny. Rabbits can hop to escape a great deal quicker than can hawks-on-foot give chase.

The Short-eared Owl arrives and the Marsh Hawk takes cover.

The Snowy Owl appears on the scene…

and the Short-eared Owls are nowhere to be seen.

The Bald Eagle, Ruler of Marsh and Meadow, swoops in. The Snowy departs.American Bald Eagle Juvenile

MORE SNAPSHOTS OF THE BEAUTIFUL SHORT-EARED OWL, SNOWY OWL, TENDERCROP FARM, AND IPSWICH CLAMBAKE

Charlotte and I had a wonderful adventure morning checking on the owls at Plum Island. We observed several Harrier Hawks flying low over the marsh grass hunting for prey, a Short-eared Owl perched on a craggy tree, and a Snowy parked for the morning far out in the dunes. We played on the beach and she had a blast zooming up and down the boardwalk at lot no. 2.

Tiny white wedge in the distance

We next stopped at the refuge headquarters to play in the marsh boat that is part of the exhibit about the Great Salt Marsh. She brought along her own stuffed Snowy to join on the boat ride.

Next destination was a visit to see the farm friends at Tendercrop Farm. Currently in residence are a turkey, ginormous steer, pony, chickens, ducks, llama, and the sweetest miniature goat who is just wonderful with toddlers.

I purchased the best steaks we have ever had, Tendercrop’s own grass fed rib-eye, made even more magnificent cooked to perfection by Alex, with a beautiful red wine demi-glace.

Everything at Tendercrop Farm is always amazingly delicious. They have the freshest and best selection of fruits and vegetables during the winter months, bar none.

Great bunches of freshly cut pussy willows are for sale at Tendercrop

Last stop was lunch at the Ipswich Clambake. The owners and staff are just the most friendly. The clam chowder at the Clambake is perfection. Charlotte and I shared a mini super fresh fried clam appetizer and that, along with the chowder, made the best sort of lunch to top off our fun adventure morning.

Tendercrop Farm is located at 108 High Road, 1A, in Newbury.

Ipswich Clambake is located at 196 High Street, 1A, in Ipswich.

SHORT-EARED OWLS IN OUR MIDST!

Melded to the grass as he was, in monochromatic winter pasture shades of taupe, buff, and gray, it was nearly impossible to spot the impostor posing in the dry stalks and twigs. But there he was, a small mound resting along the thicket edge. You can barely see him in the photo below.

He sat up for a brief moment and even from a great distance his wide-eyed, and only seconds long, golden-eyed look was unmissable.

I’ve read the Short-eared Owl flight described as erratic, but I would call it anything but that. They swoop gracefully over fields in multi-directions, with great intention, listening for the sound of voles, moles, mice and other small mammals scurrying through the tall winter grass and phragmites. Flying low while hunting, their wingbeats are smooth and steady.

The Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)  is called as such because of the little tufts of display feathers atop its head, which aren’t really ears at all. The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) is a cousin of the Short-eared and it has longer feather tufts. Owls have a highly developed hearing system and their ears are actually located at the sides of their heads, behind the eyes, and are covered by the feathers of the facial disc.

Unlike many species of owls, which prefer forest and woodland, the Short-eared Owls is a bird of open country. They require fields, grasslands, marshes, bogs, heaths, and dunes. Shorties are crepuscular, which means they mostly feed at dawn and dusk.

Short-eared Owls are found the world over on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Sadly, in Massachusetts, breeding pairs have been driven to the brink of extirpation. There may still be one or two pairs that breed at Nantucket’s Tuckernuck Island but, because of loss of habitat, the Short-eared Owl was listed as endangered in Massachusetts in 1985.

Listen for the Short-eared Owls wing “clapping” in the video below, and some adorable chicks, too 🙂

From Cornell: “Hawaii’s only native owl, the Pueo (Asio flammeus sandwichensis), is a Short-eared Owl subspecies found on all the chain’s major islands. Pueos may have descended from Alaska forebears, taking hold in the islands after the first arriving Polynesians brought owl food in the form of the Pacific rat.”

Short-eared Owl Range Map

OWL FEVER!

This past weekend’s glorious and record breaking mid-January 70-degree-plus weather encouraged everyone to get out doors and it was wonderful to see. On both Saturday and Sunday there was a line to get into Parker River Wildlife Refuge. Many were enjoying the beaches and hiking the trails while quite a few were there to see the Snowy Owls and Short-eared Owls.

There are currently two Snowy Owls and several Short-eared Owls at Parker River. Folks are asking where the owls can be found specifically. I can only share where I have seen them and that covers almost the entire refuge, from parking lot no.1 (where the gates are) all the way down to parking lot no. 6. The photographers and birders out shooting at the refuge are super helpful and if you see a bunch, park  your car (intelligently please, so that you are not blocking traffic) and ask. Many of the birders will also share a look through their scopes.

 

SNOWY OWL ALERT! AND BALD EAGLES, TOO!

It was a beautiful morning at Parker River despite mostly overcast skies and a strong wind. This first day of our “January thaw” was made even more beautiful by the presence of the Snowy Owl.

I believe she’s a female, although the lightest females can look like the darkest males. She appeared largely unperturbed by the gaggle of photographers that came and went. The Snowy flew across the dune for a few moments, but then flew back to roughly the same spot; in both locations she was somewhat protected from the blustery wind.

I have it on good authority that there are currently SIX Bald Eagles at Parker River, two hatch-years, two that are roughly three years old, and two adults. I have only seen one youngster this week, in a battle with a crow, and I couldn’t tell who was chasing who 🙂

FIRST SNOWY OWL SIGHTING OF THE 2019-2020 WINTER

Far, far down the ridge sat a little white wedge-shaped dot. We were all wishing he would fly our way, but alas, he was content to stay in place while washing his face and preening his flying feathers, with the crowd standing comfortably behind the rope set up by the refuge.

There are two Snowy Owls currently at Parker River and one has been spotted at Salisbury Beach. Hopefully, more will call the North Shore home this winter. The photo below was taken with a 400mm lens and very closely cropped.

ENCHANTING ENCOUNTER WITH THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN BITTERN

Taking advantage of whatever sunshine can be had at this time of year, I took Charlotte to Plum Island for the day this past Thursday. We began at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and were immediately enchanted with an American Bittern stealth hunting in the marsh, a regal buck, Pintail Ducks, and hawks. Next we made sand castles at Sandy Point and then spent a great deal of time exploring a seemingly abandoned bulldozer in the parking lot there.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5J-kSDnwTM/

Lunch was a shared lobster roll from Bob’s Lobster Shack, which is located on the causeway heading out to Plum Island. We then stopped at the refuge headquarters to see the Snowy Owl, Piping Plover, and Monarch displays.

Charlotte’s day was made perfect when we learned that homemade cupcakes could be found at the Buttermilk Baking Company.

Last stop was one of my favorite shops for wonderfully unique and vintage home decor, The Barn at Todd Farm. The shop is decorated beautifully for the holidays and is bursting with Christmas gifts and treasures.

The American Bittern hunting in the marsh at Parker River was not at first easy to locate. Not only do the brown and buff colors of their feathers meld perfectly with the surrounding vegetation, but this heron has adapted an additional, highly effective method of camouflage. The Bittern stands motionless with its neck tilted upward, mirroring the tall reeds where the bird forages for fish, crustaceans, amphibians, insects, reptiles, and even small mammals.

The Bittern was beautiful to watch, perfectly poised in striking mode and waiting for the exact moment to attack. He wasted not an ounce of energy and did not miss a single strike.

American Bitterns breed in our region however, they generally migrate further south for the winter to regions where the water does not freeze. Managed wetlands such as those found within Parker River Wildlife Refuge play an important role in the survival of the American Bittern, especially during migration and the winter months.

 

Snowy Owl Besties on the Beach

When one Snowy Owl boy left his perch and flew within several feet of a second Snowy stationed further down the beach I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially after witnessing several territorial battles between Hedwig and Bubo last winter, as well as a Snowy dispute between a male and female at Crane Beach.

These two behaved as if they were expecting a visit from their best bud. After landing next to the stationary one, the active one immediately began to eat seaweed. This went on for several minutes.

Then he washed his big feet and fluffed his feathers. Both nodded and dozed off, like it was the most normal thing to hang with a Snowy bestie on the beach. They were spotted a few days later again, not too far apart 🙂

Superb Owl Sunday

Here’s my Superb Owl Sunday photo, which I forgot to post on Sunday. Since the photo was actually taken on Super Bowl Sunday, I thought better late than never.

FANTASTIC PRESENTATION BY CRANE BEACH ECOLOGIST JEFF DENONCOUR AT THE CAPE ANN MUSEUM

Jeff Denoncour, the Trustees of Reservations Eastern Region Ecologist, gave an outstanding and informative presentation to a packed audience Saturday afternoon. Subjects included the formation and history of Crane Beach, marsh, and dunes; the seven uniquely different ecological zones; the many species of flora and fauna that comprise the rich biodiversity at Castle Island; and the Trustees protective measures managing rare and endangered species.

Since 2010, Jeff has managed the Trustees Shorebird Protection Program at Crane Beach. Because of the very excellent shorebird management at Crane Beach, 2018 was a banner year, with 42 pairs of nesting Piping Plovers and approximately one hundred PiPl chicks fledged. Our community can learn a great deal from the success at Crane Beach in how to better manage shorebirds migrating and nesting at Cape Ann beaches.

We learned from Jeff that Crane Beach is part of a string of barrier beaches formed from sediment deposited by the outflow of the Merricmack River. Salisbury Beach is at the northern end, then Plum Island, then Crane, with Coffins and Wingaersheek at the southern end. The sand that was deposited at Salisbury Beach is the coarsest; the sand at Wingaersheek the lightest and finest as it would have more easily flowed furthest away from the mouth of the river.

Excerpt from a previous post OUTSTANDING COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING! talking about Jeff and the success of the Crane Beach Trustees Piping Plover

“Readers will be interested to know that our region’s Crane Beach continues to have one of their best year’s ever. Trustees of Reservations Jeff Denoncour shared information on the latest census data from 2018 and Crane Beach has a whopping 76 fledglings, with 25 more chicks still yet to fledge. Because of the huge success at Crane Beach, the northeast region, of which we are a part, has fledged a total 136 of chicks in 2018, compared to 108 in 2017, and as I said, with more fledglings still to come! The northeast region encompasses Salisbury Beach to the Boston Harbor Islands.

Jeff noted that this year they had less predation by Great Horned Owls. Because of owl predation, several years ago the Trustees gave up on the wire exclosures and now use electric fencing extensively. The Great Horned Owls learned that the Piping Plover adults were going in and out of the exclosures and began perching on the edge of the wire, picking off the adults as they were entering and exiting the exclosure.

Crane has an excellent crew of Trustees staff monitoring the Least Terns and Piping Plovers, as well as excellent enforcement by highly trained police officers. No dogs are allowed on Crane Beach during nesting season and dogs are prevented from entering at the guarded gate. As we saw from one of the graphics presented about nesting Double-crested Cormorants, when a dog runs through a nesting area, the adults leave the nest, temporarily leaving the eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation by crows, gulls, raptors, and owls.”

Jeff Denoncour and Courtney Richardson, Director of Education and Public Programs at the Cape Ann Museum

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2018: A YEAR IN PICTURES AND STORIES Part Two: Spring

Go Here For Part One

Mama (left) and Papa (right) return to Good Harbor Beach on a bitterly cold day, April 3, 2018.

Part Two: Spring

By Kim Smith

The return of Mama and Papa Piping Plover to Good Harbor Beach filled our hearts with hope and heartache. Although not tagged with a definitive id, we can be fairly certain they are the same because the pair attempt to build their nest each year within feet of the previous year’s nest. Not only did our returning pair try to nest on Good Harbor Beach, there were two additional pairs of Piping Plovers, and several free-wheeling bachelors.

The GHB Bachelors

Papa guarding all-things-Mama

Papa and Mama courting, building a nest scrape, and establishing their territory on the beach.

The PiPls are forced off the beach by dogs running through the nesting area. They begin building a second nest in the Good Harbor Beach parking lot.

Each spring the Good Harbor PiPl have returned earlier than the previous, which show us that the pair is gaining in maturity, and in familiarity with the area. Tragically, at the time of their arrival in April, dogs are permitted on the beach. Dog traffic running through the Piping Plover nesting area was unrelenting, despite signs and roping. The Plover family never caught a break, and were soon making overtures at nesting in the parking lot.

Even with desperate calls for help and repeated warnings from the Piping Plover volunteer monitors, owners continued to allow off leash and on leash dogs to run freely through the PiPl’s nesting area, daily forcing the PiPl off the beach. They were at first torn between maintaining the territory they had established on the beach or establishing a new territory on the white lines in the parking lot. After one particularly warm sunny Sunday in April, they gave up completely on their beach nest scrape.

We learned that during the month of April, dogs at Massachusetts barrier beaches, such as Good Harbor Beach, not only endangers the lives of  threatened Piping Plovers, but many species of migrating and nesting shorebirds.

On May 5th, the first egg was laid in the parking lot. Thanks to Gloucester’s amazing DPW crew, a barricade around the nest was installed within hours of the first egg laid. Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer soon followed to install a wire exclosure around the parking lot nest.

Four!

No shortage of vandals.

Garbage left on the beach brings predatory gulls and crows and they, too, became a serious threat to our Piping Plover family after the chicks hatched. The lack of a common sense ordinance to keep dogs off Good Harbor Beach during the month of April, the unaware dog owners, the garbage scavenging gulls and crows, and the vicious vandals are absolutely our responsibility to better manage and to control. For these reasons, and despite the kindness and care of dozens of PiPl volunteer monitors, as well as good people from around the community (and beyond), the Piping Plovers face terrible odds nesting at Good Harbor. 

Scroll down to the end of the post to find links to some of the dozens of stories that I have written about the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. Many communities throughout Massachusetts and coastal New England have in place common sense management rules and are successfully fledging chicks. I wrote about that extensively during the summer months and you will find a list of the posts regarding that topic in Part Three: Summer 

Most of the Snowies from the great Snowy Owl irruption of 2017-2018 had departed for their Arctic breeding grounds by the time the Piping Plovers arrived to Cape Ann beaches. This was a relief as I imagined that the Piping Plovers might make a tasty meal in the mind of a Snowy Owl. Thinking we’d seen the last of Hedwig and all Snowies, Bob Ryan called to let us know there was a Snowy Owl hanging around the distillery. I jumped in my car and raced right over. She appeared in good health and stayed for a day.

We did learn weeks later that during July and August there were still a few Snowies remaining on Massachusetts beaches and, from examining their pellets, it was clear they had been eating Piping Plover adults.

I was deeply, deeply honored to receive Salem State University’s Friend of the Earth Award.

and to give my conservation program about the Monarch Butterflies as their keynote speaker.

In May, three Wilson’s Plovers were spotted briefly on Good Harbor Beach. This was a very, very rare northern sighting, especially so as there were three.

The Young Swan of Niles Pond was released by Lyn and Dan, only to lose his life later in the spring.

Amelie Severance sent us a lovely and detailed drawing of the Young Swan

A fabulous Green Heron was photographed and filmed on an area pond–signs of a great summer season for all species of herons, yet to come.

For the past several years, at least, Killdeers, which is another species of plover (although not endangered) have been nesting in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach. This year we had, at a minimum, two successful nests!

All four chicks hatched and, at only one-day-old, made the epic journey to the beach. Miraculously, four teeny tiny mini marshmallow-sized baby birds, led by Papa and Mama, zigzagged across the parking lot, trekked through the dunes, and landed within feet of the parent’s original nest scrape.

Only one chic, the one PiPl volunteer monitor Heather names Little Pip, survives into summer.

Piping Plovers Return to Good Harbor Beach!

Kim Smith to Receive “Friend of the Earth Award” and Keynote Speaker Salem State earth Days Week

Piping Plovers Driven Off the Beach

Monarch Butterflies at Salem State University

Fencing is Urgently Needed for the Piping Plovers

Check Out Gloucester’s DPW Phil Cucuru Showing Extensive Storm Erosion

How You Can Help the Piping Plovers

Gloucester Celebrates Earth Day With Great News: Lyn and Dan Release the Young Swan Back to the Wild

Piping Plovers Forced off the Beach By Dogs for the Second Weekend in a Row

Piping Plovers and Thoughts About Signs, Dogs, and Why We are in This Predicament

We Need Volunteer Piping Plover Monitors Saturday at the PiPl Nesting Area #3

Heartbreaking to See the Piping Plovers Nesting in the Parking Lot

Snowy Owl at Ryan and Woods Distillery

Breaking: Plover Egg in the Parking Lot at Good Harbor Beach

Breaking: Two Eggs in the Nest: Shout Out to Greenbelt for Installing the PiPl Wire Enclosure

PiPl Egg #3

Swan Crisis

Rarest of Rare Visits from Wilson’s Plovers

Vandals Harming the Piping Plovers

Four!

Tonight on Fox See Our GHB Piping Plovers

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #1

Amelie Severance’s Lovely Drawing of the Young Swan

Debunking Piping Plover Myths #2 and #3

More Shorebirds Nesting at Good Harbor Beach!

Angie’s Alpacas

So Sorry to Write Our Young Swan Passed Away this Morning

Beautiful Shorebirds Passing Through

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #4, Winthrop Beach is Amazing, and Lots of Sex on the Beach

Our Good Harbor Beach Killdeer Chicks

Breaking News: Our Piping Plover Good Harbor Beach Chicks Have Hatched

Piping Plover Makes the Epic Journey to the Beach

Good Harbor Beach Two-Day Old PiPl Chicks

Good Morning! Brought to You By the Fiercely Patient Green Heron

We Lost Two Chicks Today

Shout Out to Gloucester’s Animal Control Officers Teagan and Jamie!

Our Third Piping Plover Chick was Killed This Morning

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #5: Piping Plover Volunteers Are NOT Calling for and Outright Ban of Dogs on the Beach

What Do Piping Plovers Eat?

Happy Father’s Day, Brought to You By Papa Plover