Category Archives: Birds

MORE EAGLE SIGHTINGS – THIS ONE SHARED BY SCULPTOR MORGAN FIELDS PIKE

Morgan writes, “All I had was the iPhone but, here it is! There were 2. Over the Mill River behind the O’Maley school. I was primed to notice them, having seen the recent shots in GMG.”eagle-gloucester

The two eagles were spotted at 4pm yesterday, Monday. Thanks so much to Morgan for sharing!

In case any of our readers do not already know this, Morgan is the sculptor who created the “Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Memorial.” For more information about the monument, visit the Filed Guide to U.S. Public Monuments and Memorials here.gloucester-fishermens-wives-memorial-sculptor-morgan-fileds-pike

 

 

WHAT A HOOT! BARRED OWL TAKES SANTA’S ROUTE

owl-flew-down-chimney-1487519927GMG FOB Susan LaRosa shares this Barred Owl story from the Animal Rescue League of Boston –

An owl needed rescuing after flying down a chimney and getting stuck inside a Methuen home. The Animal Rescue League of Boston said the Barred Owl took Santa’s route into the home, then perched in the living room when it couldn’t find the way out again.

LIVE OWLS AT THE WENHAM MUSEUM!

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SEE REAL OWLS AT THE WENHAM MUSEUM!
February Vacation Fun-Tuesday, February 21, 2017
10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. $10. Visitors and $8. for Members.
Online at: wenhammuseum.org/owls
Come see live owls up close in this indoor presentation that will introduce you to different owls that live in our region. We’ll discuss the special features these birds have and we’ll talk about how they hunt, what they eat, and their amazing vision, hearing, and feathers.
Info: 978-468-2377 ext. 113, info@wenhammuseum.org
 

NEW SHORT FILM: THE UNCOMMON COMMON TERN

What fun to encounter a small flock of terns teaching its young to fish. Nearly as large as the adults, the tubby terns cheekily squawk and demand food (shrimp I think in this case). Watch as the fledglings try to master fishing skills while the adults tirelessly guide the young on how to feed themselves.

With thanks to Paul St. Germain, president of the Thacher Island Association, for information about the ongoing restoration of shorebirds on Thacher Island.

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Read more

FEBRUARY #BLIZZARD2017 STORM SNAPSHOTS

bass-rocks-ocean-inn-2-gloucester-february-2017-snowstorm-copyright-kim-smith-jpgVenturing out today around 1:00pm, I caught the tail end of the storm. The winds were still blizzarding and great gusts of snow made places like Brace Cove impossible to photograph. The tide was super high at Good Harbor Beach, but not as high as some recent storms. The waves were tremendous, although they weren’t the ginormous rollers of many nor’easters either.

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good-harbor-beach-gloucester-february-2017-snowstorm-copyright-kim-smithSeagulls and sanderlings were hunkering down in the coves and others, sailing the surf. 

Blizzard Spindrifts and Homie #scenesofnewengland #blizzard2017 #gloucesterma #seagulls

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

BARRED OWL TALONS

If I were a little creature, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of these bad boys.

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Interestingly, owls have a ratcheting mechanism in their foot, which keeps the toes locked around the prey or branch so the muscles don’t have to remain contracted.

Eyes on Owls is a terrific website for identifying owls commonly, and not so commonly, seen in New England. The owls are listed in descending order of how frequent their occurrence, from the most widespread to the rarest migrant. In our region, the Great Horned Owl is the most common, and the Barred Owl is a close second. Mass Audubon also provides a list of owls that breed in Massachusetts here.

RESPONDING TO READER’S QUESTIONS ABOUT TREE SWALLOWS

tree-swallows-gloucester-massachusetts-5-copyright-kim-smithTo answer several reader’s questions regarding Tree Swallows on Cape Ann –

The birds that we see flocking up and forming a murmation over Gloucester’s downtown skyline are typically European Starlings, a species that was introduced to the U.S. from Europe at the turn of the previous century. The birds that are in the film that I posted yesterday, Dance of the Swallows, are Tree Swallows. They prefer more remote areas such as sand dunes, where the swallows find a wealth of insects.tree-swallows-gloucester-massachusetts-4-copyright-kim-smith

Insects comprise the bulk of their diet. Tree Swallows perch on branches, telephone wires, and in our area, commonly on Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) and other dune shrubs. Most birds cannot digest the waxy coating on Bayberries, but Tree Swallows are one of the few species that can. Bayberry fruits do not ripen until September and I wonder if when migrating through Cape Ann in August, the Tree Swallows are eating the insects on and around the plants, not the unripened fruits.

NEW SHORT FILM: TREE SWALLOWS MASSING

This short film is dedicated a dear friend who recently lost a beloved family member. Along with the tender melody by Jules Massenet, especially the last bits of footage (before the credits) made me think of angels and of hope.

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Over the course of the summer while filming the Piping Plover Family at Wingaersheek Beach, Tree Swallows began flocking in ever increasing numbers. They became part of the Piping Plover story not only because a Tree Swallow will occasionally dive bomb a Piping Plover, for whatever reason I am not entirely sure, but also because they are beautiful to observe, and occasionally, seemingly playful, too.

Songbirds that they are, Tree Swallows make a cheery chirping chatter. They have long narrow forked tails, all the better for gliding and for their signature aerial acrobatics. The male’s upper parts are a brilliant iridescent blue-green, the female’s somewhat duller, and both female and male have white underparts. The migrating juveniles are almost entirely brown with either white or pale grayish underparts.tree-swallows-gloucester-massachusetts-11-copyright-kim-smith

Tree Swallows breed in the wetlands and fields of Cape Ann. Their name comes from the species habit of nesting in tree cavities. Tree Swallows have benefited tremendously from efforts to help save the Eastern Bluebird because they also nest in the nest boxes built specifically for the Bluebirds.

Acrobatic aerialists, they twist and turn mid-flight to capture a wide variety of insects including butterflies, dragonflies, greenheads, bees, beetles, and wasps.tree-swallows-gloucester-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

Tree Swallows eating insects on the beach and from the crevasses in the driftwood.

Utilizing both fresh and saltwater to bathe, Tree Swallows have a unique habit of quickly dipping and then shaking off the excess water while flying straight upwards.

Tree Swallows begin migrating southward in July and August. The flocks that we see gathering on Cape Ann migrate along the Atlantic Flyway. They overwinter in the southern states of the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Unlike migrating species of butterflies, several generations of Tree Swallows migrate together, the older birds showing the younger birds the way.

Music composed by Jules Massenet: “Méditation” from Thaïs

HELP FROM READER REGARDING BARRED OWL IN OAK TREE

Recently a reader wrote the following about her Barred Owl:

-There is one in my yard-Have heard him at dusk and my husband has seen him twice in the stand of oak trees near my front door around 6:30AM-Same place I have heard him-You are welcome to come try and get a picture-Patti

Please contact me Patti. Unfortunately your email address is coming up anonymous in the comment section. I can be reached at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. I would really love to come and record audio of your Barred Owl. So very much appreciate your kind offer. Thank you!barred-owl-sleeping-copyright-kim-smith-copy

 

PARKER RIVER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE PART ONE

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Part One

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Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk listening for prey

I am in the midst of doing research for the Piping Plover film project and have found the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to be a great resource. Recently I met a terrific warden there, Jean, and she gave me a copy of the historic brochure written in 1947 by Rachel Carson about the refuge. The brochure was reprinted and if you inquire, they may still have some copies in the back office. You can also download it at this link: Rachel Carson Parker River Wildlife Refuge brochure

The brochure provides an early history of the refuge and is a fascinating view of mid-century conservation. And, too, it is a tremendous example of Carson’s thoughtful and thought-provoking style of writing.

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Barred Owl hunting – The refuge provides over 300 species of migratory and resident birds with vital habitat.

Some interesting facts about the refuge —

Located along the northeastern coast of Massachusetts, the Parker River National Refuge includes lands that lie within the three towns of Rowley, Ipswich, and Newbury. We think of Plum Island as the heart of the refuge. The wildlife refuge also consists of a range of diverse habitats and geographic features; over 3,000 acres of salt marsh, freshwater marsh, shrub lands, a drumlin, cranberry bog, salt pannes, beach and sand dunes, and maritime forest. The land is not conserved to revert back to a wild state, but is intensely managed in order to preserve and maintain the diversity of wildlife habitats.parker-river-national-wildlife-refuge-wardens-headquarters-copyright-kim-smith

The original warden’s headquarters

Unlike our national parks, which preserves parklands and historic buildings, and are designed for people, a national wildlife refuge is established first and foremost for wildlife and their habitats, not for people. The preservation of wildlife is the number one priority of all our national wildlife refuges.plum-island-sunrise-copyright-kim-smith

sandy-point-parker-river-national-wildlife-refuge-copyright-kim-smithPlum Island is a barrier island and especially noteworthy for providing critical habitat for Piping Plovers.

The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1942 to help species of waterfowl that migrate along the Atlantic Flyway. There were three sharp declines in waterfowl populations in the early half of the 20th century, notably the American Black Duck, and national wildlife refuges all along the Atlantic coast were created in response to the precipitously low numbers.

parker-river-wildlife-refuge-impoundment-copyright-kim-smithSalt Island Impoundment

As we can see with our local Niles Pond, Henry’s Pond, and Langsford Pond shorebirds, waterfowl, and myriad species of wildlife thrive where they have easy access to both fresh water and salt water. The three bodies of fresh water that you see in the refuge look like ponds but they are actually manmade impoundments, created by dams and are highly controlled by a series of dykes and pumps.parker-river-wildlife-refuge-impoundment-pump-copyright-kim-smith

Salt Island Impoundment Pump

Parker River provides pristine habitats for a wide variety of mammals, insects, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Hunting birds such as owls, hawks, osprey, eagles, herons, and egrets find an abundance of food at the wildlife refuge. Whenever at Parker River I never not see a raptor!

Red-tailed Hawk Preening

red-tailed-hawk-copyright-kim-smithWhen the Hunter is Hunted

Transfixing Owl Eyes

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Because owls mostly hunt at night their eyes are very efficient at collecting and processing light. To protect their extraordinary eyes, owls are equipped with three eye lids; an upper and a lower lid, and a third lid that diagonally closes across the eye. This action cleans and protects the eye.

 

More about Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to come.

SHORT VIDEO CLIP: THE PIPING PLOVERS OF GOOD HARBOR BEACH

Work has begun in earnest sorting through all the Piping Plover footage and editing the documentary. In the mean time, I thought readers would enjoy this rare moment where we catch a glimpse of the new born chicks, with both mom and dad together.

Impossibly tiny—no larger than a marshmallow—moments after hatching a Piping Plover chick is on the move, running, tumbling, somersaulting, face-planting, and curious about every little thing in their brand new great big world. PuffPuff, FluffFluff, and TootsiePop are less than twenty-four hours old in this clip. Our East Gloucester neighborhood kids named the Plover family after spending an afternoon getting to know them, watching safely from outside the roped off area.

Dad Joe finds an impression in the sand and the chicks come running to warm under his protective wings. Piping Plover chicks can feed themselves at birth but can’t yet perfectly regulate their body temperature. They need Mom and Dad for protection and for the warmth they provide. After a few moments rest, Joe pops up and Joy zooms in to take his place. Watch how PuffPuff does a somersault and FluffFluff gives her a little bump out of their cozy nest. Mom runs off camera to create a new resting spot and the chicks are chided by piping calls to come join her.

In shades of bone and driftwood, note how beautifully the Plovers are camouflaged in the colors of the sand and dry beach grass. There isn’t a living thing that doesn’t pose a threat to these most vulnerable of creatures. For protection against predators they will soon learn how to stand perfectly still when Joe and Joy pipe commands, but for now, it’s willy-nilly around the beach, much to the parents great consternation.

Thanks to Esme, Lotus, Meadow, Frieda, and Ruby for naming the Piping Plover family!

piping-plover-chicks-babies-nestlings-male-female-copyright-kim-smithThe male Piping Plover is on the left, the female, on the right. The male’s little black forehead band makes it easier to distinguish between the two.

CALM AFTER THE STORM

mr-swan-sleeping-2-copyright-kim-smithMr. Swan was safely nestled in along the shore at Niles Pond yesterday morning during the nor’easter. I found him this morning sleeping amongst the reeds, none the worse for the storm.

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Niles Pond Causeway

The newly restored causeway weathered the storm beautifully. By day’s end the waves had settled but this morning at high tide they were still packing some fury. In the next photo, I am standing on the far side of the pond, looking towards Brace Cove. As you can see, the waves were crashing into the causeway.

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AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “RACHEL CARSON” PREMIERES TONIGHT ON PBS (AND DEBORAH CRAMER IS IN IT!)

I’ve been very much looking forward to the debut of Rachel Carson and posted it on facebook yesterday as it is premiering tonight. Cape Ann environmental author Deborah Cramer then shared that she is in the documentary!!!

From an American Experience, “Rachel Carson is an intimate portrait of the woman whose groundbreaking books revolutionized our relationship to the natural world. When Silent Spring was published in September 1962 it became an instant bestseller and would go on to spark dramatic changes in the way the government regulated pesticides.

Rachel Carson premieres January 24 at 8/7c on PBS.”

Visit Deborah’s website for more about her beautiful book The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, An Ancient Crab, and An Epic Journey, which was named Best Book by the National Academy of Sciences, and is the winner of both the Rachel Carson Book Award and the Reed Award in Environmental Writing.

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CROWS OF THE SEA

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These aquamarine-eyed beauties were very nearly made extinct from the use of the pesticide DDT and from hunting. DDT wreaked havoc on avian creatures nationwide and since its ban, the Double-crested Cormorant has made an extraordinary recovery, so much so, that some communities spend a great deal of time and expense planning how to kill, or cull, these remarkable birds. Read here for a very thoughtful article on the topic, “To Kill a Cormorant.”double-crested-cormorant-rockport-harbor-massachusetts-3-copyright-kim-smithdouble-crested-cormorant-rockport-harbor-massachusetts-2-copyright-kim-smithdouble-crested-cormorant-rockport-harbor-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

doublec-crested-cormorants-rockport-harborPair of Juvenile Double-crested Cormorants at Rockport Harbor

double-crested-cormorants-massing-essex-river-1-copyright-kim-smithDouble-crested Cormorants massing at the mouth of the Essex River in late summer

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800px-double-crested_cormorant_during_breeding_seasonThe Double-crested Cormorant get its common name from the double tufts of feathers seen on both male and females, showing only during breeding season. The crests can be white, black, or a combination of both. Photo courtesy wiki.

 

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