Tag Archives: brace cove

October Nor’easter Storm Snapshots

Eastern Point Seagulls ©Kim Smith 2014Out on Eastern Point this morning great flocks of seagulls were riding the waves while the Niles Pond swans and ducks were tucked into their shoreline retreats. The cormorants were many and could be seen clustering on rocky perches all around the inner harbor.

Niles Pond Swans ©kim Smith 2014Gloucester’s DPW crews were out and about clearing the streets from downed limbs.Gloucester DPW ©Kim Smith 2014

I only stayed for a moment at the Brace Cove berm because the waves were so tremendous that it really didn’t feel safe. I am glad to report though that at 10:30 this morning the narrowest slip of land that prevents Niles Pond from becoming Brace Cove’s salt marsh appears to have weathered this October nor’easter.

Brace Cove seagulls ©Kim Smith 2014

storm damage Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014Downed Tree Mangles Portable Potty

Brace Cove Seals Sleeping at Daybreak

Brace Cove seals at sunrise ©Kim Smith 2014While filming B-roll for several projects I caught the sunrise at Brace Cove this October morning. The seals were awakening, as were the swan couple, the cormorants and gulls stretching wide their wings, and the songbirds breaking fast on the abundance of wild berries and seed heads found along the berm at Niles Pond. Click image to see full size.

Brace Cove seals at sunrise -2 ©Kim Smith 2014Brace Cove Seals

Brace Cove at sunrise ©Kim Smith 2014Fledgling juvenile male cardinal ©kim Smith 2014Juvenile Male Cardinal

Niles Pond daybreak ©Kim Smith 2014Niles Pond

Sparrow ©Kim Smith 2014Camouflaged!

Sing Your Heart Out Fella!

Male Red-winged Blackbird Singing ©Kim Smith 2014Male Red-Winged Blackbird

Although Red-winged Blackbirds are spied around Niles Pond during the winter months, spring brings flocks, and the males are an especially welcome sight chortling atop the pussy willow branches along the water’s edge. Red-winged Blackbirds are one of North America’s most abundant birds. If you were a male of the kind, you might be singing your heart out, too. The species is highly polygynous and some males have been known to have as many as 15 mates during a single season!

Female_Red-winged_Blackbird manijith KainickaraFemale Red-winged Blackbird Image Courtesy Wiki Commons Media

The males are glossy black with distinctive red epaulettes and yellow wing bars, which they often puff out confidently when singing from their perches. The females have a streaky brown song sparrow-like wing patterning and stay close to the ground feeding and building their intricately woven nests at the base of cattails and reeds, along the marsh’s edge.

If you have a spare moment, send us a photo of your favorite signs welcoming spring and we’ll post them under a group ‘welcome spring’ post. Send photos to me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com (thanks Lenny).

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I am presenting 2 lectures this coming week, Monday on Butterfly Gardening in Shrewsbury and Wednesday evening on The Pollinator Garden at the Flint Library in North Reading. Please visit the events page of my website for more information.

Wild and Woolly Waves at Brace Cove After Friday’s Storm

Brace Cove Brace rock ©Kim Smith 2014 Brace Rock on the left with ginormous waves crashing onto the path behind the retreat. I estimate the trees on the right to be about 20-25  feet in height. ~ Click  photos to view larger.

Brace Cove seagulls buffleheads ©Kim Smith 2014Seagulls and Buffleheads

Brace Cove surfers ©Kim Smith 2014Brace Cove Surfers ~ more than only seagulls and buffleheads being tossed around in the surf!

Brace Cove big wave -2 ©Kim Smith 2014View standing on the flooded path, looking towards the Atlantic
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Birds of Cape Ann: The Majestic Mute Swan

Mute Swan taking flight -2 ©Kim Smith 2014The extraordinarily powerful wings and torso of the Mute Swan ~ click to view larger

The above photo is a lucky capture as I was actually filming the Gadwalls behind the swan. When the swan began to lift out of the water I quickly turned my attention toward it. The first two photos are the same; the first is cropped, the second uncropped so that you can see the tremendous scale of the swan’s body and wings in relation to its environment. The Mute Swan is the second heaviest waterfowl, second only to the Trumpeter Swan. In observing swans, I marvel in nature that a creature this heavy can soar majestically through the clouds and swim so gracefully through water.

Mute Swan taking flight ©Kim Smith 2014

Mute swans feed primarily on submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation and a small percentage of their diet also includes frogs, small fish, and insects. Because swans feed in deep water they do not compete with smaller waterfowl such as ducks. It is thought that food is made more readily available to ducks because the swans do not eat all the food they pull up. This seems logical and factual from my own observations at our local ponds and marshes. I very often see a wide range of waterfowl congenially feeding with the Mute Swans.

Swan food winter ©Kim Smith 2014Mute Swan feeding on submerged vegetation at Niles Pond

Note ~ Mute swans, which are a nonnative species, do compete directly for food with North American native Trumpeter Swans, in regions where Trumpeter Swans are indigenous (Trumpeter Swans are not native to Cape Ann).

For more photos, information, and video see previous GMG posts about the Mute Swan:

Where Do Swans Go in Winter?

Vibrant Throbbing Wingbeats

Niles Pond or Brace Cove

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Birds of Cape Ann: Divers or Dabblers and the Green-winged Teal

Birds of Cape Ann: Buffleheads

ALERT: EXTREMELY HUNGRY AND DANGEROUS COYOTE AT NILES POND AND BRACE COVE

While filming along the berm between Niles Pond and Brace Cove at 11:30 today, my dog Rosie had a near death experience. I was crouched down on a lower rock and Rosie was sitting on the rock above me waiting while I was photographing. Suddenly all the birds took flight. I didn’t think too much of it because that happens seemingly at random sometimes. Rosie was engrossed in watching the birds, too. I stood up and charging toward her, not ten feet away, was a coyote. Upon seeing me as I stood up, the coyote hightailed it down the path towards the scrubby, wooded area between the pond and the sand.

Reflections at Brace Cove and Niles Pond

Brace Cove Haror Seal copy

Our plane was delayed 7 hours en route to Cincinnati for Christmas. Fortunately, we were able to stay in contact with the airline from home. My daughter Liv and I went for a walk along the berm dividing Brace Cove and Niles Pond while waiting to leave. As we were looking at the sun setting over Niles Pond, we by chance turned towards Brace Cove and were captivated by the vibrant colors reflected in the windows of the home on the point. Magically a Harbor Seal swam onto the scene and scootched up on the rock and he too, caught the last of the sun’s fleeting light!

Niles Pond sunsetNiles Pond December Sunset

Where Do Swans Go in Winter?

A reader emailed inquiring as to where do the Niles Pond swans go during the winter months. The Niles Pond swans are Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) and they are neither mute nor migratory. They do not fly south in the true sense of a great migratory distance traveled, but do move around between bodies of water, and may move to a slightly warmer region.

Mute Swans swans grunt, snort, and hiss and their wingbeats make a beautiful throbbing sound when flying. See previous GMG posts about the Niles Pond Mute Swans ~

Vibrant Throbbing Wingbeats

Niles Pond or Brace Cove

Pod of Harbor Seals at Brace Cove

Harbor Seals Brace Cove Gloucester MA ©Kim Smith 2013Click image to view larger

This morning at Brace Cove there was a pod of Harbor Seals sunning themselves; unfortunately a little too far out of range for my movie camera, but I tried filming nonetheless. They were wonderful fun to observe especially as the younger members of the pod seemed more interested in playing “King of the Rock,” rather than basking in the sun. It was challenging to figure out a total number because the younger seals were so playful, but I think there were ten in the herd. I only know this from one of the snapshots where you can see ten in all. Because the Harbor Seals were out of my camera’s ability to sharply focus, the footage may be too grainy, but I will try working with it.

In case you are wondering, as did I, a goup of seals is most commonly referred to as a pod or colony. The terms harem, herd, and rookery are also used, depending upon from where you originate.

I can only hope the young Harbor Seal hauled out at Good Harbor Beach earlier this summer has a pod to which it belongs!

Special Time with FOB Ann Kennedy

a morning with ann kennedy

I got to spend a very special morning with Ann Kennedy on Tuesday, toward the end of her and Bob’s month-long annual visit to their beloved Gloucester.  We met early for a delicious and hearty breakfast at Sailor Stan’s, then went for a nice long walk out Eastern Point, to the spot I now call Evelyn’s Point, beyond the Retreat House and Brace Cove.  We encountered many beautiful and fun things along our journey, including a mother duck with her ducklings (she had to be babysitting, as they couldn’t all have been her’s) and two turtles sunning on a rock in Niles Pond, plus a dreadful and vicious bullfrog that Ann attempted unsuccessfully to capture and bring to Joey.  This has become one of my favorite spots to walk to and it was nice to be able to share it with Ann, who had never been there.  The trails through the woods are soft and peaceful.  At one point we were forced to stop and turn back because of a large uprooted tree that made the path we were on unpassable.  It was a special time with a special FOB and friend, and I look forward to a repeat when they return next year.

Congratulations to Ann and Bob who just celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary.

E.J. Lefavour

Could we live in a more beautiful place?

Niles Pond Pussy Willows

Spring has barely sprung, but yesterday was a little taste of summer. I went for a walk in the late afternoon sunshine at Brace Cove and Niles Pond where I ran into my friends JoeAnn and MJ, who were also walking their dogs on this glorious afternoon. I was looking for muskrats and seals. I didn’t see the seals, but the muskrat swam alongside our route, keeping a wary eye on my every move.

Captain Joe Lobsters

After the luxuriously delightful beach walk, I came home and cooked up some Captain Joe and Sons lobsters and fresh corn for dinner. So looking forward to the warm weather!!!

Vibrant Throbbing Wingbeats

Several weeks ago in one of my posts about Niles Pond at Risk, I wrote about the beautiful Mute Swans at Niles. A reader wrote requesting a description of a phrase that I used, the “vibrant throbbing wingbeats” of the Mute Swan. I have shot hours of B-roll for both my Black Swallowtail and Monarch films at Niles Pond and at Brace Cove, so much so that I am making a mini film about Niles Pond. In organizing the Niles footage, I discovered some good audio of the swans throbbing wigbeats, filmed at sunrise.

The swans often take flight in unison, circling round and round the pond before returning. I patiently wait and wait and sometimes they don’t return, and as has happened more times than I care to say, while I am packing up my gear, they return and then I miss the shot for not being patient enough! Other times they will take flight and head over to feed at Brace Cove. A wedge of swans flying overhead is beautiful to observe, although a challenge to hold in my camera’s lens. Reviewing the footage I heard myself frequently cussing at the mosquitoes because their bite causes me to jag the camera sharply and then I lose sight of the swans. But one especially lucky dawn in September, I did manage to capture several flights.

Isn’t the music so swan-like? The composition is called “The Swan,” written by Camille Saint Saint-Saëns, and is the 13th Movement in a suite of 14 of the humorously themed Carnival of the Animals, Zoological Fantasy for 2 Pianos and Ensemble. See below for more about Carnival of the Animals from allmusic.

Watch on Vimeo if you prefer:

Read more:

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Niles Pond or Brace Cove

Niles Pond Brace Cove ©Kim Smith 2013

An embarrassment of riches ~ Whether dawn or dusk, when standing on the footpath between Niles Pond and Brace Cove, sometimes I can’t decide which direction to point my camera. When that happens I focus the video camera in one direction and turn and face the opposite direction with the still camera.

Niles Pond Brace Cove -2 ©Kim Smith 2013

This batch of photos was taken on a chilly afternoon in early January, looking first toward the pond, and then heading down to the beach at Brace Cove after a wedge of eight Mute Swans flew overhead and landed in the cove.

Niles Pond swans ©Kim Smith 2013

The bevy was comprised of six cygnets and parents. The bill of the adult Mute Swan is vivid red-orange whereas the cygnet’s  bill ranges in shades from dark gray through muted browns. A black knob at the base of the cob’s (male) bill bulges prominently during mating season; the rest of the year it is often difficult to distinguish pen from cob. Anyone who has ever encountered a hissing, snarling, gnarling, and whistling Mute Swan wonders why they are called mute. Mute Swans lack the vocal trumpeting when compared to other members of the genus. The most beautiful sound the Mute Swan makes is the vibrant throbbing of their wingbeats in flight. I believe this sound is unique to Mute Swans. Click photos to view larger.

Niles Pond Brace Cove Swans -4  ©Kim Smith 2013

Niles Pond Brace Cove swans -5 ©Kim Smith 2013

Eight Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) at Brace Cove, Gloucester

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