Author Archives: Kim Smith

Beautiful Fish: Anchovy

 Anchovy, Whitebait

This is a whitish silvery, translucent little fish, its most characteristic marking being an ill-defined silvery band scarcely wider than the pupil of the eye, running from the gill opening back to the caudal fin. There are also many dark dots on body and fins.  Seldom more than 3½  inches long.

Occurrence in the Gulf of Maine –We mention the anchovy because it has been taken in Casco Bay and at Provincetown. It has no real place in the Gulf of Maine fauna, seldom straying past Cape Cod, though it is abundant about Woods Hole and thence westward and southward. Stragglers may be expected most often in the Gulf in midsummer for it appears from May to October in southern New England waters. Sandy beaches and the mouths of rivers are its chief resorts.

From Fishes of the Gulf of Maine by Bigelow and Schroeder (1953) online courtesy of MBL/WHOI http://www.gma.org/fogm/Anchoa_mitchilli.htm

 

Al Bezanson

CEDAR ROCK GARDENS OPENING FOR THE SEASON THIS COMING THURSDAY!!!

This beautiful lady in the pick-your-own peony patch.

Cedar Rock Gardens, the fabulous organic and homegrown nursery owned by Elise Jilson and Tucker Smith, is opening on Thursday April 19th. They will be open everyday. See below for hours of operation and the complete selection of flower, vegetable, and herb seedlings that will be available to purchase this spring. Cedar Rock Gardens is located at 290 Concord Street in West Gloucester, just minutes off of Route 133.

A small sampling of just some of the flowers and veggies you will find at Cedar Rock Gardens, and a reminder that spring truly will be here soon.

For more information, check out Cedar Rock Garden website here.

COMPLETE LIST OF PLANTS AND GARDEN RELATED PRODUCTS CEDAR ROCK GARDEN SPRING 2018

READ MORE HERE Read more

CHECK OUT GLOUCESTER’S DPW PHIL CUCURU SHOWING EXTENSIVE STORM EROSION: GOOD HARBOR BEACH RESTORATION UPDATE

Thank you to Phil Cucuru for the Good Harbor Beach information and news of restoration plans to begin soon, after the public school’s April vacation. During the week when the school children are off premises, the DPW turns its attention to the school buildings and grounds. As soon as vacation is over the DPW will be resume work at Good Harbor Beach and all the Gloucester Beaches.

We lost about three to four feet –in depth– from Good Harbor Beach (Wingaersheek, as well). As you can see in the above photo, Phil is pointing to where the sand came up to the #3 sign prior to the March storms. This is why the tide is coming in so high and so close to the bluffs, and why the big rock has become even more exposed.

Up until the March storms, the metal fence posts were nearly completely buried beneath sand that had built up, with only about 3 inches protruding above the sand. Now they are completely exposed, with a sheer bluff, rather than a gently sloping dune.

Plans have been in place since last year to restore the dune fencing this coming summer! I was so happy to hear this update about the dunes from Phil because the fencing helps to create areas of vegetation on the beach, at the base of the bluffs, and fencing helps to keep people and pets out of the dunes and from trampling the fragile habitat, especially the wildflowers and beach grass so necessary for a strong, healthy, and vital dune ecosystem.

All three boardwalk accesses to the beach were severely damaged. Believe it or not, the storm surge was so strong, it broke away huge sections of the boardwalks, and pushed them twenty and thirty feet back into the dunes. Boardwalk number two is nearly destroyed, which is especially frustrating because the DPW completely redid boardwalk #2, and made wider for handicap accessibility, last spring. The surging ocean water poured all kinds of debris into the dunes as well, and widened the walkways onto the beach. Phil said that in twenty years of working for the DPW he has never seen the likes of the March nor’easters and, with that, such extensive damage to Gloucester beaches.

Phil measuring for repairs.

Good Harbor Beach footbridge torn from its footings and in the marsh.

The day before the first nor’easter Phil and fellow crew members added steel braces to help shore up the bridge but unfortunately, nothing was safe from the power of the late winter storms. Plans too are being developed to repair the footbridge, with the goal of full restoration by Memorial Day weekend.

Thanks again to Phil Cucuru for the updates, so glad to hear the good news!

 

 

Beautiful Fish: Pipe Fish

Usually 4 to 8 inches long; occasionally up to 12 inches.  The chief home of this pipefish is among eelgrass or seaweeds, both in salt marshes, harbors, and river mouths, where it often goes up into brackish water, and on more open shores as well. In such locations it is caught as often today by boys dipping up mummichogs for bait as it was when Storer wrote of it, nearly a century ago.  Male pipefishes nurse the eggs in the brood pouch.  The embryos within the eggs are nourished by the epithelial lining layer of the pouch, so that the latter functions as a placenta.  The young are retained in the brood pouch until they are 8 or 9 mm. long, when the yolk sac has been absorbed.

From Fishes of the Gulf of Maine by Bigelow and Schroeder (1953) online courtesy of MBL/WHOI http://www.gma.org/fogm/Syngnathus_fuscus.htm

 

PIPING PLOVERS DRIVEN OFF THE BEACH

Despite the case that posted signs were in place for Saturday’s off leash day, it was a complete disaster for the Piping Plovers.

When I was there early in the morning there was a large group of dog owners by the Good Harbor Beach Inn area and the dogs were playing by the water’s edge, away from the nesting sites, and it was wonderful to see!

Piping Plover nesting signs on the beach.

At noon I stopped by for a quick check on the PiPl, in between a meeting and babysitting, and it was a complete and utter disaster. There were dozens of dogs and people frolicking WITHIN the nesting areas, as if the signs were completely invisible. The nesting areas were so full of people and dogs, one of the pairs of PiPl had been driven off the beach and into the parking lot. They were trying to make nest scrapes in the gravel. Heartbreaking to see.

My husband and I put up roping as soon as I was finished babysitting. We ran out of rope for both areas and came back today to finish cordoning off the nesting sites. Hopefully the rope will help.

Perhaps because of climate change, and for reasons not fully understood, for the third year in a row, we now have a beautiful species of shorebird nesting at Good Harbor Beach. This year they arrived on April 3rd. Piping Plovers are a federally threatened species and it is our responsibility to do all that is humanly possible to insure their safety.

We live in coastal Massachusetts, which means we also have a responsibility in the chain of migration along the Atlantic Flyway to do our part to help all wildlife, particularly endangered wildlife.

Wouldn’t it be tremendous if the dog friendly people and all citizens of Gloucester would work together to change the leash laws to restrict dogs from our barrier beaches, Good Harbor Beach (and Wingaersheek, too, if birds begin nesting there as well), beginning April 1st?

Much, much better signage is needed as well as a wholehearted information campaign. And better enforcement of the current laws would be of great help as well however, if the laws are written such that dogs are allowed on the beaches during the month of April, which is the beginning of nesting season, then we are not being good stewards of species at risk.

We need help enforcing rules about keeping people and pets out of the dunes. The dunes are our best protection against rising sea level and are weakened terribly by trampling through the beachgrass and wildflowers.

It may be helpful for people to understand that the earlier the PiPl are allowed to nest, the earlier the chicks will be born, and the greater their chance of survival. Yesterday morning one pair mated and the female helped the male dig a nest, which means we could very well see eggs very soon (if they return to the nesting sites after yesterday’s debacle).

Papa Plover bowing in the courtship dance.

And here he is puffed out and high-stepping in the mating dance.

If the PiPl begin laying eggs now, and it takes about another month for hatching from the time the first egg is laid, the chicks would be a month old by the time July 4th arrives, when GHB becomes packed with visitors.

If the eggs and nest are destroyed, the nesting cycle will begin all over again and we will have chicks born over Fiesta weekend, with days-old chicks running around the beach on July 4th, as happened last year.

One-day-old Piping Plover chick – a marshmallow-sized chick with toothpicks for legs is super challenging to watch over on a typical Good Harbor Beach summer day!

I believe that as a community we can work together to help the Piping Plovers, as was done last year. It took a tremendous effort by a fabulous group of volunteers. The hardest thing that the volunteers had to deal with were the seemingly endless encounters with scofflaw dog owners. Especially difficult were the sunrise and sunset shifts because folks think they can get away with ignoring the laws at those times of day. I cannot tell you how many times I have had terrible things said to me when I tried to speak to people about keeping their dogs away from the PiPl nesting sites. Some folks do not want to be told that their dog cannot play there.

Rather than expecting volunteers and citizens to call the dog officer, when it is usually too late by the time they arrive, the dog officers should be stationed at the beach at key times, on weekends, and after five pm, for example.

Now that we know the Piping Plovers are here this early in the season, better rules, signage, and more information need to be in place. Gloucester is not the only north shore coastal Massachusetts area this year experiencing Piping Plovers arriving earlier than usual. We can learn much historically from how other communities manage these tiniest and most vulnerable of shorebirds. For example, after April 1st, no dogs are allowed at Crane Beach. Throughout the year, no dogs are allowed at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and at Revere Beach (also home to nesting Piping Plovers), which was the first public beach established in the United States, no dogs are allowed from April 1st to mid-September.

The female Piping Plover lays one egg approximately every day to every few days, usually until a total of three to four eggs are laid. The male and female begin sitting on the eggs when all are laid. Until that time, the eggs are extremely vulnerable to being stepped upon.

Currently the two nesting areas identified on Good Harbor Beach are taking up more space than will be the case once the PiPl begin to lay eggs. As soon as the first egg is laid, an exclosure will be placed over the nest and the overall cordoned off area will shrink some.

Mama PiPl and one-day-old chick

LOCAL DRUMMER DAVID ROBINSON OF THE CARS ENTERS THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME!

Super huge shout out and congratulations to David Robinson, artist and owner of the Rockport gallery Windmere Art and Antiques, for entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, will fellow band members Ric Okasek, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, and Ben Orr (posthumously).

The ceremony airs on May 5th at 8pm on HBO, and in the meantime, here are some clips. Read more in the Boston Globe here.

 The Cars: David Robinson, Ric Okasek, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes

 

 

“WE LOVE YOU TOO SNOWY OWL” LIMITED EDITION PHOTO LAST CHANCE TO ORDER

I am taking orders for the limited edition “We Love YOu Too Snowy Owl” photo through Tuesday, April 16th. If you have not yet mailed your check, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you!

HELPING PIPING PLOVERS AND A HUGE SHOUT OUT TO GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER AND DAVE MCKINNON

Help arrived for the Piping Plovers yesterday afternoon when Greenbelt’s Dave McKinnon installed the symbolic posts and informative signage. Roping will come next week, but at the very least, cordoning off the nesting area informs the community to tread lightly and where to keep out. Two nesting areas have been identified. The signs are posted between boardwalk 3 and the footbridge, as well as between boardwalks 1 and 2.

So many thanks to Dave Rimmer and Dave McKinnon. I happened to meet up with them yesterday morning and initially Dave R. thought they would not be able to help until next week. What great relief when I read the email from Dave R. that Dave M. would be back later in the day to install the posts and signs!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

REMINDER: TOMORROW IS AN OFF LEASH SATURDAY, WHICH IS GOING TO BE VERY, VERY TOUGH ON THE PIPING PLOVERS. PLEASE DOG OWNERS, IF YOUR DOG IS NOT UNDER VOICE COMMAND, THEN THE RULE IS, THE DOG IS NOT ALLOWED ON THE BEACH. PLEASE TRY TO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS THREATENED SPECIES OF SHOREBIRDS NEEDS EVERYONE’S HELP. THANK YOU!

I wrote the above because yesterday I got a very disturbing call from a friend, a person who is usually mild mannered and not easily angered. He was calling to say that he had just observed a woman with her “birder” dog chasing the Plovers up and down the beach over and over again. When he spoke with her about the Plovers, she said she was aware of the threatened birds, but that she couldn’t control her dog because he “was having a bad day.” All I can write, is please, please, please do not allow your dog to chase the Piping Plovers. It may be fun and games for you and your dog, but allowing the PiPl to nest is a matter of survival for these beautiful and tiniest of shorebirds.

Two adorable sweet dogs, off leash today, on an on leash day.

Currently there are four PiPl at Good Harbor Beach. One very bonded pair (excellent possibility that it is our Mama and Papa Plover from the past two summers) and two unattached males. The above photo is of one of the two bachelors.

Beautiful Fish: Sea Bass -By Al Bezanson

Sea Bass, Black Sea Bass, Blackfish

Sea bass grow to a length of 2 feet or more and a few reach a weight of 7½ pounds; but northern specimens are seldom heavier than 5 pounds, and they average only about 1½  pounds. A fish a foot long weighs about one pound, one of 18 to 20 inches about 3 pounds.

The sea bass contrasts with the striped bass in being strictly confined to salt water. The sea bass enters our Gulf only as a rare stray from the south, Pemaquid Point and Matinicus Island being its nothernmost known outposts.  Too scarce to be of any importance in the Gulf, the sea bass is a very valuable food and game fish in more southern waters.

From Fishes of the Gulf of Maine by Bigelow and Schroeder (1953) online courtesy of MBL/WHOI http://www.gma.org/fogm/Centropristes_striatus.htm

 

My boat was berthed next to a commercial hook and line black sea bass fisherman in Little Creek (Norfolk), VA for a time.  He would anchor about 50 miles off Chesapeake Light and bring in about 3,000 pounds per trip, which he sold directly to a couple restaurants.  This is one of the sweetest fish I have tasted.  We filleted them, shook them up in a bag of breading from the Piggly Wiggly market, dumped them into a fry pot.  Everyone stood around the pot, no utensils but paper towels and washed them down with Bud Light.

Al Bezanson

Beautiful Fish: White Perch -By Al Bezanson

White Perch, Sea Perch

The white perch resembles its larger relative, the striped bass, in the number, outline, and arrangement of its fins, and in its deep caudal peduncle without longitudinal keels.  White perch are occasionally as much as 15 inches long, 5 inches or more deep, and 2 pounds or a little more in weight; but the average is 8 to 10 inches long and 1 pound in weight, or less.   The white perch is much more closely restricted in its seaward range than the bass, for while they are taken in undiluted sea water along southern New England, and at various other localities thence westward and southward, they are much more plentiful in ponds connected with the sea, in the brackish water of bays behind barrier beaches, in estuaries, and in river mouths. Run in salt and brackish reaches of the Parker River.  Also occur landlocked in fresh-water ponds in many places.   Swarms of young perch have been seen following the alewives around the shores of ponds on Marthas Vineyard, eating their spawn as it was deposited.

From Fishes of the Gulf of Maine by Bigelow and Schroeder (1953) online courtesy of MBL/WHOI http://www.gma.org/fogm/Morone_americana.htm

 

Al Bezanson

FENCING IS URGENTLY NEEDED FOR THE NESTING PIPING PLOVERS!! PLEASE SHARE THIS POST

The Piping Plovers are nesting between Good Harbor Beach entrance #3 and the footbridge area. They have been here for eight days, since last Tuesday, and courtship is fully underway.

Greenbelt has not yet put up the posts and roping that the PiPl so desperately need to keep safe. In the mean time, would it be possible for dog owners to spread the word and let fellow dog owners know that on off-leash days it would be so very helpful to the Plovers if folks allowed their dogs to play from #3 entrance to the Good Harbor Beach Inn? That encompasses most of the beach. This would create a safe nesting zone for the PiPl.

Please share if you would. Thank you so very much for your kind help.

Foggy Morning Plovers Courting

Papa creates a variety of nest scrapes by digging shallow miniature teacup-size craters in the sand.

He pipes his love call to Mama, inviting her to come inspect the potential nest site.  

And adds some dried bits of seaweed to the nest to make it extra appealing to her.

With a flourish of her wings she says NO.

Nest inspecting is very tiring and Mama takes a nap in between inspections (even though Papa is doing all the work!)

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES AT SALEM STATE UNIVERSITY! -BY KIM SMITH

Please join us on Thursday evening at Salem State University for Earth Days Week celebrations and awards ceremony. I am giving the keynote address.

This event is entirely free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

I have been pouring through photos from this year’s past late great Monarch migration to create the new “Beauty on the Wing” program that I am giving Thursday evening at Salem State.

My favorite thing to do photographing butterflies is to capture them mid-flight.  Working on landscape design projects and film projects back to back I only had time to upload and didn’t have a chance to look through the film footage and photos daily. I discovered a bunch of photos that are worthy of adding to the presentation–a photographer’s idea of finding buried treasure–and these are two of my favorites.

GREAT DININNG EXPERIENCE AT THE BROWN DOG IN IPSWICH!

Cape Ann has a wealth of restaurants from which to choose, and we love our favorites passionately. Occasionally though we enjoy trying new places off Cape. One of my husbands’s oldest and nicest friends, Bob Vallis, has opened a fabulous pub in downtown Ipswich. Located at the former Zabaglione address, The Brown Dog serves the best of wonderfully fresh and hearty American cuisine/comfort food within a casually inviting and cozy atmosphere.

Gloucester residents may recall that Bob formerly owned the Blackburn Tavern. Chef Doug Papaws, also from Gloucester, is working his magic in the kitchen. I had without a doubt the best fried oysters I have ever had in my life. They tasted on the inside as sweetly plump and succulent as freshly shucked oysters, but with a light touch of deeply golden fried crusty deliciousness on the outside. Tom tried the chili and baked chicken, also both stellar, and the key lime pie was the perfect touch of creamy citrusy fresh sweetness. We loved our waitress–I think her name is Eleanor, and her mom, also known as the local librarian, helps out on weekends with hostessing.

Thanks to Bob and Doug and our lovely waitress for a great night out!

Cell phone photos don’t do the fabulous fare justice–so just go and check it out for your self!

The Brown Dog is located at 14 Central Street in Ipswich. Phone 978-312-6362 and visit The Brown Dog website here.

here.

Beautiful Fish: Striped Bass -By Al Bezanson

Striped Bass, Striper, Rockfish, Rock, Linesides

The bass grows to a great size, the heaviest of which we have found definite record being several of about 125 pounds that were taken at Edenton, N. C., in April 1891.  Stripers are powerful fish; so strong in fact, that they appear to have no difficulty in handling themselves in the surf, where one is sometimes seen actually in the translucent crest of a comber just before the latter breaks.  The bass is very voracious, feeding on smaller fishes of whatever kind may be available, and on a wide variety of invertebrates. Lists of its stomach contents for one locality or another include alewife, anchovy, croakers, channel bass, eels, flounders, herring, menhaden, mummichogs, mullet, rock eels (Pholis gunnellus), launce, sculpins, shad, silver hake, silversides, smelt, tomcod, weakfish, white perch, lobsters, crabs of various kinds, shrimps, isopods, gammarid crustaceans, various worms, squid, soft clams (Myra) and small mussels. In our Gulf the larger bass prey chiefly on herring, smelt, sand launce, eels, and silver hake, on squid (on which they gorge when they have the opportunity), on crabs large and small, on lobsters, and on sea worms.  When bass are gorging on any one particular prey it is common knowledge among fishermen that they are likely to ignore food of other sorts for the time being. It seems also that when prey is plentiful, bass are likely to gorge, then cease feeding to digest, then to gorge again; also that all the members of a given school are likely to do this in unison, with consequent annoyance to the angler.

 

From Fishes of the Gulf of Maine by Bigelow and Schroeder (1953) online courtesy of MBL/WHOI http://www.gma.org/fogm/Roccus_saxatilis.htm

 

Al Bezanson

 

NOT THREE BUT FOUR PIPING PLOVERS ON GOOD HARBOR BEACH! (AND ONE DUNLIN)

April 7th

Saturday at 5:30pm and there are not three, but four PiPl!! The Dunlin is still here and doing everything Plover, it is so funny to see. I think we have three males and one female.

They were sleeping at the wrack line but as the sun was setting, more and more dogs. They don’t seem to mind people playing in close proximity, but then a bunch of dogs ran through where they were resting and so down to the water’s edge they flew.

Sixteen off leash between 5:30 – 7pm, and it’s an on leash day. I avoid GHB during the off season because of dog owners that allow their dogs to jump on you, but it is so disheartening to see them running wild through the dunes. So much habitat destruction taking place. How will the dog owners respond when they learn the Piping Plovers have returned and are nesting again at GHB I wonder.

April 8th

Total mayhem on the beach. Dogs are everywhere, on the shoreline, the wrack zone, and running completely wild through the dunes. One knocked me over. I love dogs but this is crazy. The PiPl don’t have a chance and it’s too distressing to watch them try and rest and forage and nest and constantly be chased off.

Precisely where they were sleeping at the wrack line, a couple threw their dog’s tennis ball right smack at the PiPl. So startled, I and the PiPl both jumped up half a foot, before they flew off. Of course the couple didn’t know the PIPl were sleeping but it’s just really, really frustrating.

I wish so much we could do what they do at Crane’s Beach, where during the off season, dogs are allowed on a section of the beach. And at Cranes dog owners do not allow their dogs to run rampant through the dunes.

Tom came back from a walk at noon and couldn’t find the PiPl anywhere, and he is really good at spotting. I’ll check back at sunset to see if the PiPl can be found. Praying and hoping they have found a safe place.

Heartbroken. No plovers at sunset, anywhere, walked from the creek to the hotel twice. Still chaotic with dogs. Will try tomorrow at dawn.

Pretty Mama Plover

The boys of spring.

April 9th

Hooray!! Daybreak and I found them, three Plovers sleeping all in a row! Hopefully will find the other PiPl and Dunlin later today. Emailed Ken Whittaker, Gloucester’s awesome conservation agent, and we are meeting this afternoon. The goal is to get a cordoned off area in place before the next weekend when dogs are off leash. Reminder to let people know to contact Ken if they would like to help this summer by being a Plover ambassador.

Three in a row sleeping this morning, with Mama in the middle

Large dead Black-backed Gull on the beach near the big rock and will move that this afternoon after I speak with Ken. We don’t want to attract varmints to the Plovers’ nesting area!

PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS NEEDED!

If you would like to become a Piping Plover ambassador and cover Plover monitoring shifts this season at Good Harbor Beach please contact Gloucester’s conservation agent Ken Whittaker to volunteer.

Thank you so much, and the PiPl thank you, too!!

Ken Whittaker contact information: kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov

Male Piping Plover sleeping and PiPl tracks in the sand.

« Older Entries Recent Entries »