While walking very early by Niles Pond one morning recently, the peace and serenity of the place was suddenly shattered by the persistent distressed crying of a duck at the far wooded end of the pond. I looked for her and the cause of her distress, but it took some time to locate her in the reeds. Then I saw the reason for her mournful cries. This coyote had apparently gotten her mate and possibly her babies as well. I couldn’t see what he was feeding on, but her cries made it obvious that it was something very dear to her, and since there was no mate at her side, I assumed he must have been watching the nest while she went out to feed and was caught unawares by the coyote.
When I started photographing, both he and the duck looked in my direction. He seemed to know I was too far away to be of any concern to him, so he yawned and went on about his business. The duck however kept looking in my direction and crying, as though pleading with me to do something. My heart went out to that poor devastated creature. I know coyotes need to eat, and it is better for him to feed on a duck than someone’s pet cat or dog, but it still made for a sad start to my day, and a much sadder start for her’s. The coyote however was satisfied.
Gloucester’s Niles Pond teems with wildlife and varied vegetation. In contrast with the energetic ocean, Niles Pond is tranquil and restful. Fifteen minutes with a versatile camera will bring home a treasure trove of vivid images.
It is wonderful to see the swans with their cygnets on Niles Pond again. I really hope these little ones make it, as last year none survived. I love to see swallows swooping, but these two made a pretty pair on the wire. The muskrat was just cruising as normal along the shoreline. You gotta love Niles Pond, there is always something to see.
It was moving so fast through the reeds and then dove under, so I couldn’t get a great shot of it. It could have been a beaver, or it could be the Niles Pond variety of the Loch Ness monster.
Hidden in this tangled weave of branches and brambles are turtles basking on the rocks at Niles Pond. Can you find them?
GMG FOB Sue Ann Pearson from Kettle Cove Studios in Magnolia submits her lovely painting, along with a sweet note to Joey ~
A big thank you to Kim Smith for all of her lovely nature photos. Here is a painting I did of one of her inspiring photos. I call it “Waiting for the Ice to Melt on Niles Pond.”
I am very touched Sue. Thank you for sharing!
Male 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org (thanks Lenny).
* * *
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.
Saw this over at Niles Pond on Sunday.
Can’t help but shoot whenever I am at Niles Pond. Such a pretty spot.
The 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 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.
Mute 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:
* * *
Niles Pond is beautiful in every season. Because of the leaves being gone from the trees, the first shot of the pond with Brace rock behind was a perspective I had never seen before and looked strange to me, like the rock had moved onto the beach and was nestled in the grasses.
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 December Sunset
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 ~
Female Mallard Duck Niles Pond
Red-roof Cottage ~ Foggy Morning Niles Pond
Asters and Brambles Niles Pond
Niles Pond Cat-tails