Category Archives: Birds

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS LITTLE BLUE HERON ON CAPE ANN?

little-blue-heron-egretta-caerulea-cape-ann-copyright-kim-smithThe Little Blue heron is common in the Southeast and only the second time I have spied this migrant on Cape Ann. I am curious to know if any of our readers have seen this pretty heron–how often, where, and at what time of year, if so. The Little Blue Heron in the photo was fishing in the shallow pond water with the Snowy Egrets. Whereas the Snowies have an energetic method of foraging, stirring up the bottom with their feet, dashing and diving, the Little Blue stood stock still observing the minnow’s movement in the water. The moment it caught a glimpse of me, off it flew, and did not return.little-blue-heron-massachusetts-egretta-caerulea-copyright-kim-smithlittle_bliue_heron_map_bigLittle Blue Heron range map

BORING BIRDS

Boring Birdsblack-bellied-plover-grey-plover-2-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

Especially that Black-belied Plover. Just look at his washed out and mud spattered feathered coat in drab shades of sand and dirt. He’ll never find a girlfriend attired in that old thing. He is so undistinguished, it is often difficult to discern the difference between him and his surrounds.

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

Really, hanging out in that smelly, bug and mollusk infested seaweed patch?

Migration routes of black-bellied plovers tagged on breeding grounds and a stopover location along the St. Lawrence River.

Migration routes of black-bellied plovers tagged on breeding grounds and a stopover location along the St. Lawrence River.

But wait, from where did you say he hails? I heard tell he summers in islands of Nunavet, Canada and winters in Brazil, stopping in Cuba or Honduras along the way. Known as the Grey Plover on the other side of the globe, his kin are world travelers, too, some leaving the Arctic circle breeding grounds and heading to fall stopovers in Great Britain and Norway, migrating all the way to South Africa, while other members of the family travel over Russia to winter in Japan, Australia, or perhaps even as far away as New Zealand. Black-bellies have  been tracked flying 3,400 miles nonstop from Brazil to NorthCarolina in five days. Tedious, I know.

While at his summer tundra home he sports a handsome black and white tuxedo, in reverse, sort of get up, like this –black-bellied-plover-b57-13-038_v

You mean that tired old coat molts to that dapper cutaway? Yes!

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-in-flight-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithDespite his flashy tux, he’s genuinely shy, and will flush on a dime if danger is sensed (i.e. this filmmaker for instance). He knows all the tricks of the plover trade, feigning broken wing to distract the enemy from his territory, and scraping together a nest from nothing but mere sand and tiny bits of stone.

And just look at the Black-bellied Plover’s spotted eggs painted in shapes and shades of lichen covered stones. A clever disguise if ever there was one.bbp-chick-and-egg-meagan

Perhaps the Black-bellied Plover isn’t so boring after all. We living within the continental flyways encounter these Plain Janes and James when at their plainest. Black-bellied Plovers are seen along Atlantic coast beaches at this time of year within mixed groups of Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, yellow legs, and sandpipers. Although similarly as drably feathered as the other ‘boring’ birds during the winter months, at 11 inches, Black-bellied Plovers are easy to spot in these feeding flocks because they are almost twice as large as the smallest shorebirds. Next time you see a flock of birds feeding along the shoreline take a closer look for the world traveling Black-bellied Plover.black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-sanderlings-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

Each and every wonderful species of bird that I have been documenting while working on film projects over the past several years has a fascinating life story. Living in the midst of the Atlantic Flyway, I can’t imagine a more interesting region, although when I was visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Santa Monica, the creatures flowing through the Pacific Flyway were pretty exciting too. I hope to in the future spend time in the Central and Mississippi Flyways as well. I love thinking about this constant longitudinal movement of life force flowing as it does, year in and year out, century in and century out, millennium in and millennium out. For the most part, we go about our daily lives relatively unaware of this extraordinary undercurrent. Whether migrating by land or by sea, we are surrounded by this great movement of life, forms always in search of plentiful food on which to rear the next generation.

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-in-flight-2-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithIf having difficulty identifying, one of the clues to look for is the black feathers under the wings, visible when in flight as in the above photo.black-bellied-plover-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

All photos not attributed to Kim Smith are courtesy of Google image searches.

BEAUTIFUL HARVEST MOONRISE-MOONSET

harvest-moon-2016-copyright-kim-smithLast night’s Harvest Moon rising was spectacular, especially the striations of clouds in the moonglow. Early this morning the moon was nearly as big and beautiful too, and as I was setting up my gear, Snowy Egrets flew into the setting moon.

harvest-moon-set-snowy-egret-copyright-kim-smith

Just announced: Gloucester author Deborah Cramer wins major awards for The Narrow Edge! National Academies of Science Best Book Award and Society of Environmental Journalists Rachel Carson Book Award

Congratulations Deborah Cramer!

Remember her request to share horseshoe crab reports and memories

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National Academies of Science Best Book Award 2016 

National Academies of Sciences press release: “The winning entries represent science communication at its finest and exemplify the ability of science writers to engage, inform, and inspire the public.”

Society of Environmental Journalists Rachel Carson Book Award 2016

15th Annual awards for reporting on the environment press release excerpt:

Judges were impressed by the painful beauty and eloquence of Deborah Cramer’s writing; one saw “The Narrow Edge” as a story of loss and hopeful restoration while another said the book “represents everything about Rachel Carson’s legacy that the book award stands for.” In her book, Cramer follows the 19,000-mile migration of an endangered shorebird called the red knot, which depends on horseshoe crab eggs for survival. So do humans:

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HERMINE’S GIFTS!

Tropical storm Hermine’s rain has breathed new life into Cape Ann’s drought depleted freshwater ponds and brackish marshes. Perhaps it was her winds that delivered a surprise visit from the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, a rarity for Massachusetts as we are at the tippy northern end of their breeding range. Towering waves accompanied by a tumbling undertow tossed from the deep sea gifts of nutrient rich seaweeds, mollusks, and tiny crustaceans, providing a feast for our feathered friends. See all that she brought!

Yellow Crowned Night Heron, juvenile

muskrat-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithMuskrat! Eating tender shoots and going to and from his burrow, via refreshed canals along the wetland banks.

Wind and weather worn Red Admiral Butterfly, drinking salty rain water from the sand and warming its wings in the sun.

sanderling-eating-clam-copyright-kim-smithSanderling breakfast

great-blue-heron-immature-snowy-egret-great-egret-copyright-kim-smithImmature Great Blue Heron, Two Snowy Egrets, and Great Egret (far right)

snowy-egret-minnow-in-mouth-copyright-kim-smithA multidue of minnows for the herons and egrets

piping-plovers-hermine-eating-copyright-kim-smithThe Wingaersheek Piping Plover family has not yet begun their southward migration. Here they are foraging in the bits of shells, tiny clams, and seaweed brought to the shoreline by Hermine and not usually found in this location.

cormorant-injured-copyright-kim-smithinjured-gull-copyright-kim-smith3Injured Cormorant and Gull finding refuge and food at the pond bank.

pebble-beach-seaweed-foogy-morning-copyright-kim-smithSeaweed Swathed Pebble Beach in the lifting fog

RED KNOTS OR WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS?, PIPING PLOVERS, BLACK BELLIED PLOVERS, YELLOW LEGS, MONARCHS, AND MORE: CAPE ANN WINGED CREATURE UPDATE

Nine Piping Plovers napping Gloucester copyright Kim SmithNine Piping Plovers Napping 

WONDERFUL creatures are currently migrating through our shores. How blessed are we who live along the Atlantic Flyway. Whether traveling by shore or by sea, there is this great and continual movement of life happening always in our midst.

Many thanks to my friend Jeff Denoncour, Trustees of Reservations Ecologist for the Northeast Region, for assistance with identifying the birds. I met Jeff earlier this summer when he kindly took me out to the tippy far end of Cranes to film the Piping Plovers nesting there.

Additionally we have seven tiny Monarch caterpillars in terrariums. It’s so late in the season for these teeny ones. Last year at this time we were releasing adult butterflies and I worry that they are not going to pupate in time to successfully migrate to Mexico. The caterpillars are too small to handle, but if any of the kids in our community would like to come see, please comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. The last of the Cecropia Moth caterpillars has not yet pupated and he is fun to watch as well.

Here are some photos to help you identify our migrating feathered friends.

Black bellied Plover Semipalmated Plover Massachusetts copyright Kim Smith

Compare the larger size of the Black-bellied Plover in the foreground with the Semipalmated Plover and Semiplamated Sandpiper in the background

Yellow Legs

Red Knot non breeding plumage copyright Kim Smith

The above group of four photos are of either a pair of Red Knots or White-rumped Sandpipers in non breeding plumage. The White-rumped Sandpiper is thought to migrate an even greater distance than the Red Knot, from Canada’s Arctic Islands to the Southern tip of South America, and some further still to islands near the Antarctic Peninsula. These shy birds did not allow for human interest and the photos were taken at some distance.

Juvenile Laughing Gull copyright Kim Smith

Juvenile Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull copyright Kim SmithAdult Laughing Gull

READ MORE HERE

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GOOD MORNING GLOUCESTER BROUGHT TO YOU BY SUNRISE, SHOREBIRDS, BLOSSOMS, AND MYSTERY GULL

Today’s daybreak scenesGood Harbor Beach Sunrise August 28, 2016 copyright Kim Smith

Sanderling copyright Kim SmithSleepy Sanderling in the morning light

Brown Gull copyright Kim SmithMystery brown gull. Possibly a juvenile Herring Gull however, its legs legs, feet, and head are unusually dark if that is the case. If you have a clue, please comment. Thank you!

Semipalmated Plover copyright Kim SmithSemipalmated Plover

Wildflower patch copyright Kim SmithOur neighbor Richie Arnold’s wildflower patchGood Harbor Beach Sunrise August 28 copyright Kim Smith

 

TRACKING THE PIPING PLOVER

Piping Plover fledgling standing on one leg copyright Kim SmithPiping Plover Fledgling warming on a chilly morning. Birds stand on one leg to conserve energy.

Love everything about this bird–even its tracks in the sand are sweet. The PiPl are with us still, although getting increasingly difficult to discern as their breeding plumage fades to non breeding plumage. You often feel as though you are trying to locate sand upon sand but their fleur delis tracks and gentle melodious piping bird song will lead you to them.

Piping Plover tracks copyright Kim Smith

 

HOW DO YOU SAY PLOVER?

Piping Plover Fledglings copyright Kim Smith .Sweetly beautiful birds and full of personality, whether called ploh-ver or pluh-ver. This pair of fledgling siblings was photographed at Wingaersheek Beach.

How do you pronounce plover? Do you say ploh-ver, like clover, or do you say pluh-ver, like lover? I was convinced the clover pronunciation was correct until having dinner with friends recently who were equally as convinced that the lover pronunciation was accurate. The conversation reminded me of that old film, Shall We Dance and the potato song, or “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” A quick Google search offers both pronunciations!

GLOUCESTER’S LITTLEST OSPREY ON THE ANNISQUAM PERISHES

With regrets, I am sorry to report that the Osprey fledgling has died. Don, whose property the nest is located upon, shares that he observed the Osprey Dad toss the nestling out of the nest. Don went to investigate and found the baby’s lifeless body lying on the ground. He placed it in a box and brought it to Greenbelt. Judging by the condition of the body, it was determined that the young Osprey was most likely killed by an owl.

On a positive note, Don and Eleanor’s Osprey pair will more than likely return to the same nest site next year. They are also thought to be a young couple. Hopefully the pair will hone their parenting skills and, quite possibly, have more than one fledgling on their next attempt. The growing recovery of Osprey to our region means that many things are going right; the improving health of our coastal environment, for example. 

Many thanks again to Paul Morrison and sister Kathy, and to Don and Eleanor, for providing this brief window to see the Annisquam River Osprey family. I am looking forward to learning and sharing more next year. 

Osprey and fledgling Annisquam Essex County copyright Kim SmithRIP Little Osprey

 

 

 

SUNLIGHT THROUGH GULL’S WINGS

Catch sight if you can of the graceful Bonaparte’s Gulls, migrating along the Atlantic Flyway and through our region. A few will spend the winter here but most are taking pause to rest and refuel at the least disturbed of our beautiful shores.
Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia Cape Ann copyright Kim Smith

Bonaparte’s Gull taking flightbonapartes_gull_map_big

MORE ABOUT GLOUCESTER’S SPLENDID OSPREYS ON THE ANNISQUAM!

Male female Osprey copyright Kim SmithThis morning I had the joy to meet Don and Eleanor. Don built the fantastic Osprey platform that you see in the photos. Several years ago, Don noticed that an Osprey pair were trying to construct a nest on a post by the train tracks; the post that houses the all important train signals. Understandably, railroad workers had to destroy the nest as it was interfering with train operations. After watching the Osprey pair attempt to build a nest two years in a row, Don decided to build and install an Osprey platform in the marsh adjacent to his home. With some advice from Greenbelt, Don installed the platform early this spring. Wonder of wonders, his plan worked! The young pair built a perfect nest and one egg hatched.Male female Osprey -3 copyright Kim Smith

If the mated pair survives the winter migration, upon their return, they will repair and add to their existing nest. And if the young fledgling also survives it too will most likely return to the region. Thanks to citizen scientists like Don and Eleanor and the Essex County Greenbelt’s amazing Osprey program, the north of Boston region is rapidly being repopulated with Opsrey. Don is already building a second platform with hopes of installing it in the spring of 2017.Male Female Osprey -4 copyright Kim Smith

Don reports that since the Osprey have been on the scene, they are no longer bothered by pesky crows. He witnessed a pair of crows trying to rob the Osprey nest of its egg. The Osprey swooped in, snatched both crows, and beat them down into the marsh. The crows have yet to return!

Many thanks to Don and Eleanor for their warm hospitality and efforts to help the Osprey.Osprey and fledgling Annisquam Essex County -1 copyright Kim Smith

Osprey nesting platform built by Don

To take some truly terrific closeups, a longer zoom lens than my own 400mm is required, but we can at least get a glimpse of the Osprey family with these photos.

Male Osprey copyright Kim Smith

GLOUCESTER’S BABY OSPREY!

So many thanks to GMG’s Paul Morrison for the excursion out to photograph the Osprey nest on the Annisquam. And thank you to Paul’s sister Kathy for the suggestion. We were there for only a short time when we began to see movement beneath the adult perched on the nest’s edge. After a few moments, the nestling’s shape became visible, but only for seconds, before it settled back deeper into the nest.

Osprey and fledgling Annisquam Essex County copyright Kim Smith

Some interesting facts about Ospreys:

Their population has rebounded following the ban on the pesticide DDT.

This hawk is easy to identify when flying over head as it has a whiter belly than other raptors.

The male gathers the nesting material while the female builds the nest. Osprey return to the same nesting sight and nest, building and rebuilding the nest up over a period of many generations. The man made nesting platforms that we see in Essex County are relatively new nests. Osprey nests that are built up over decades can reach 10 to 13 feet deep and 3-6 feet in diameter, large enough for an adult to sit in.

The osprey’s diet consists almost exclusively of fish, nearly 80 different species of fish are eaten by osprey. Sounds like a Gloucester sort of raptor!

Follow this link for more information about the Essex County Greenbelt’s exciting and highly successful osprey program.

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Osprey nest made over multiple generations

osprOsprey are found on every continent except Antarctica

 

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