Category Archives: Birds
Imagine the excitement when after filming Mr. Swan this morning, I spotted across the pond a very swan-like large white bird. The first thought that came to mind was a new Mrs. Swan had magically appeared on the scene. But no–not as wonderful–but equally as exciting, with its large orange pouched bill, the bird was unmistakably a pelican!
It was swimming toward the berm so I raced back to the other side of the pond and was able to get somewhat nearer, close enough so that the footage is passable. Without warning, the pelican suddenly took to the air with elegant, graceful wingbeats and I was lucky to have movie camera in hand. The light was murky this morning and all would have been more beautiful if the sun were out a bit more. Nonetheless, it’s great to have a record of this very unusual occurrence.
The American White Pelican is a rare sight in Massachusetts and I wonder if any of our readers have ever seen one on our shores. Please write if you have.
With wings spanning nine feet, the American White Pelican is one of our largest native birds, only the Trumpeter Swan and California Condor are larger, reportedly having up to ten-foot wingspans. Comparatively, the wings of a Mute Swan span approximately seven to eight feet. Please note that Mr. Swan is a Mute Swan, not a Trumpeter Swan, and is not indigenous.
The Niles Pond pelican was far off course. Pelicans east of the Rocky Mountains typically migrate through the Mississippi Valley, from breeding grounds in northernmost North America to the Gulf of Mexico Texas and Florida coasts. Unlike Brown Pelicans, which dive and plunge for food, white pelicans catch prey while swimming.
As with the Brown Pelican, during the mid-twentieth century, the American White Pelican was severely adversely affected by spraying DDT in fields and wetlands. Habitat destruction, shoreline erosion, and mass poisonings when pesticides are used near breeding grounds continue to threaten the American White Pelican.
Map provided by South Dakota Birds, via Peter Houlihan, who is Anna from Cape Ann Giclee’s brother. Peter teaches biology at UMass Amherst, has a PhD in biology/animal behavior, and is an ornithologist. Thank you Peter!
Daybreak from around Niles Pond, Brace Cove, and Henry’s Pond in Rockport.
Mr. Swan left Niles Pond yesterday morning and although he flew in his usual direction towards Henry’s Pond, he did NOT fly to Henry’s, which had become his habit. I did not see him at Henry’s, Niles, or the harbor this morning either. Perhaps he has flown to another region in search of a new Mrs. Swan. We can only hope!
See additional photos here of Mr. Swan, dead skunk, and more ~ Read more
I thought I’d share a couple of pics I got of a crow in my front yard in Rockport. A rare leucistic condition that occurs in many different species of animals. Just the head and tip of the left wing are affected.
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Mr. Swan is slowly coming back to life and has begun to move around to his other pond homes. He is very lonely still and cries his plaintive cry however, one of our dear readers writes that when he lost his first wife about six years ago, a cormorant came and sat with him everyday until “Little Girl Swan” showed up on the scene (his second wife). Hopefully history will repeat itself. Mr. Swan is thought to be about twenty years old, which is remarkable for a swan in the wild.
Mr. (right) and Mrs. (left) sharing pond vegetation with ducks, Niles Pond January 2014
Thank you to all who have written, sent photos, and reported sightings. We’re so blessed to be a part of this wonderfully caring community.
Mrs. Swan and Cygnet June 2015
Thank you to my friend Lyn for sharing this story. Lyn lives on Niles Pond and, as do several family’s around the pond, she keeps a watchful eye on the swans, ducks, and all the birds that make Nile Pond their home. Lyn thinks the last time the swans were seen together was Monday, Labor Day. Mr. Swan has taken to sitting in the middle of the pond, crying and wailing, lamenting the loss of his beautiful mate. Wednesday Lyn took me around the causeway to the spot where it looks as though the kill took place, with only her feathers remaining.
If anyone has additional information, please share. Thank you so much.
The water was very clear and I think in the above photo you are seeing not the gull’s reflection, but its open mouth plunge for tiny shrimp.
Bonaparte’s Gulls are exquisite creatures to observe. Appearing to delight in riding the waves, they twirl every which way before diving for krill.
In this flock you can see very clearly the changing feather patterns from breeding to non-breeding, with the signature charcoal gray smudge behind the ear on the gull on the left. Typically by mid-August they have gained their winter plumage. During breeding season the feathers of the hood become entirely black.
We see Bonaparte’s Gulls in Massachusetts in spring on their northward migration to the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada and again in the summer as they return to winter grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and southern Great Lakes region. I at first thought that these were Laughing Gulls but the pinkish-orange feet and legs and buzzy vocalizations tell us otherwise.
I ran into my friend and long-time Annisquam resident Hank Junker on Lighthouse Beach and he reports that every summer he sees at least one Bonaparte’s at Lighthouse Beach or the adjacent Cambridge Street Beach. Hank also mentioned that they are typically here earlier in the summer, around the first week of August.
Black wing-tips and pink-orange feet suggest Bonaparte’s Gulls
Ring-billed Gull in the background, Bonaparte’s in the fore.
The Bonaparte’s Gull is about half the size of the Ring-billed Gull. I have learned to observe closely groups of gulls because different species sometimes feed together and you never know what fascinating bird may be amongst the flock.
The gulls are finding a smorgasbord at dawn’s low tide, feeding on krill and other crustaceans. They get into tussles over feeding turf and, with a flourish of wings and a sharp, rasping “keh-keh,” they give each other the business, in no uncertain terms!
Two more photos here Read more
Allowing me to get a little closer, perhaps one of these days (before he/she’s all grown up), I’ll catch a side-by-side of Black-crowned Night Heron parent and juvenile. Here he is standing on one leg, just as do mom and dad!
A little ways off was a Great Blue Heron also hunting amongst the reeds. I captured him in fight with my movie camera as he flew to the other side of the pond. Thanks to E.J., who was on a morning walk and pointed out the general vicinity to where he had landed, I was able to get another clip of the heron flying.
I am searching for quiet places to record harbor and shore sounds, away from the roar of the surf, as well as where boat and machine engines don’t muffle or drown out every other sound. Its harder than you may imagine especially because there can be little to no wind. If you know of a quiet place where you especially love to listen to the music of Cape Ann, please answer in the comments section or email me at email@example.com. Thank you!
For the past several months on my filming forays around Niles Pond I have encountered a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons. With a loud quark, at least one flies up into the trees as soon as my presence is detected and I can never get a closeup photo with both in the same shot.
I was wondering if they were a nesting pair or even husband and wife; I mean they could be siblings. Today before daybreak I saw their fledgling, but only for the briefest second.
Black-crowned Night Heron standing on one leg, a characteristic many birds share, which they do primarily to conserve energy and body heat.
Today’s Niles Pond Sunrise
Have you ever wondered whether you are looking at a male or female swan? I had often until I learned that the male’s black protuberance at the base of the bill swells during the breeding season. Very recently, I learned that the fleshy black knob has a name. So now rather than calling it a knob, nobble, thingamabob, or that black protuberance above the bill, I can say blackberry, and you can too. That really is an often used term in Europe, their native home. The blackberry is also unique to Mute Swans; no other species of swans has this feature.
UPDATE: HOMIE LEARNED TO FLY!
Heather Dagle from 7 Seas Whale Watch reports that this sweet fledgling appeared several days ago after its nest, which was located at Fisherman’s Wharf, was destroyed in a recent storm. He/she has yet to learn how to fly however, its Mom stops by daily to feed it regurgitated food. After seeing how much the fledgling enjoyed splashing around in a bowl of water placed there by Heather and Kate, I dropped off a big galvanized tub. Heather promises to send a picture if he jumps in!
Did you know that 7 Seas Whale Watch was voted best Boston’s Best Whale Watching company by WGBH-Boston Reader’s Poll? Check out their website Here.
All images except fledgling gull courtesy Google image search.
On my way home from work several days ago. I stopped to take a photo of the fast and furious oncoming storm. To my utter delight I spotted a pair of whimbrels feeding alongside the mallards at the water’s edge however, to my dismay, I only had my still camera. They didn’t allow for close-up photography and flew off in the direction of Brace Rock as soon as this human was noticed. Returning with movie camera after the storm to see if they were still in the neighborhood, they were not, and have not been spotted since.
The only other time I have seen a pair of whimbrels, or any whimbrels for that matter, was at Good Harbor Beach several years ago, in mid-September. Whimbrels breed in the Arctic, departing in July for parts further south. It seems early in the season for them to have begun their southward migration, or perhaps they have been here all along. I wonder if any of our readers have spotted whimbrels?
The magnificent Great Egret was very nearly hunted to extinction during the “Plume Bloom” of the early 20th century. Startling, cumbersome, and hideous, hats were fashioned with every manner of beautiful bird feather. Europeans were partial to exotic birds that were hunted the world over and they included hummingbirds, toucans, birds of paradise, the condor, and emu. The American milinery trade favored herons for their natural abundance. The atrocities committed by the murderous millinery led to the formation of the first Audubon and conservation societies however, what truly led to saving the birds from extinction was the boyish bob and other short hairstyles introduced in about 1913. The short cuts could not support the hat extravaganzas, which led to the popularity of the cloche and the demise of the plume-hunters.