Category Archives: Birds

TRACKING WILD CREATURES ON OUR LOCAL BEACHES (WILL BEARS BE NEXT?)

Just some of the paw prints seen on our local beaches this spring are Eastern Coyote, Red Fox, Skunk, Racoon, White-tailed Deer, and of course, a plethora of crows and gulls.

If you would like to see what wildlife traverses and scavenges Cape Ann beaches when we humans are not there, the best time to look is early, early in the morning, before the tracks are disturbed. Oftentimes the best days to look are after a rain storm, especially after the sand has dried a bit. Forget about tracking tracks on a windy morning. If you are not sure what you are seeing, take a close-up photo of the track, and then take a long shot, too, to see the pattern of the tracks.  

The Mass Wildlife Pocket Guide is the best handy track identification tool because it shows clearly the tracks, as well as the pattern of the tracks, and only shows wildlife we see in Massachusetts.

My favorite tracks to find are (no mystery here) Piping Plover tracks, which are wonderfully shaped, like a diminutive fleur de lis.

Piping Plover tracks showing courtship activity

I am waiting to see Black Bear tracks. Just kidding, although, the range of the Black Bear is expanding from western Massachusetts eastward. I imagine that within ten years Black Bears will, at the very least be frequent visitors to Cape Ann, or will be living in our midst. Just the thing Joey will be thrilled to know 🙂

Learn more about Black Bears here.

The Black Bears expanding range in Massachusetts.

Black Bear Cubs

Photo courtesy wikicommons media

AMELIE SEVERANCE’S LOVELY DRAWING OF THE YOUNG SWAN

GMG FOB Jennifer Cullen shares this beautiful drawing of our Young Swan by Amélie Severance. Jenn writes the following, ” I told Amélie (9-years old) the story of Young Swan and Mr. Swan and showed her a few of Kim Smith’s pics from GMG…next thing you know, she drew this for me. Well done, Amélie!”  

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #1

Debunking Piping Plover Myth #1

“Because of those gosh darn *&%$@# Piping Plovers, Gloucester is going to lose tens of thousands of dollars in parking revenue.”

Not true.

Here is why. The Piping Plovers will be out of the parking lot, before the summer season begins and before school is out!

The one thing the parking lot PiPl have going for them is that they laid their eggs relatively early in the season. If the nest is left undisturbed, by the time the chicks hatch, we will be in the second week of June. It may take a day or two for them to make the epic journey to the beach, where they will much prefer to spend the summer. At the very latest, the chicks will be out of the parking lot by the third week of June.

So to be completely clear: the Good Harbor Beach parking lot is not closing and we will have ample parking during the summer months.

I hope this quells the rumors circulating. Look for more PiPl myths debunked this week in upcoming posts 🙂 Please share this post to help folks understand more about our Good Harbor Beach parking lot Plovers.

Fluffing and puffing – morning bath for Mama Plover.

ANOTHER SNOWY OWL SPOTTED IN GLOUCESTER!

Reader Beth Grahm writes the following, “Hi Kim.  Unbelievable!  There is a Snowy perched on the rocks outside our condo at Old Nugent Farm.  Right now.  Hedgwig?”

Hi Beth, Thank you for sharing your Snowy Owl sighting!! Your owl spotted is definitely a female although, I don’t think it’s Hedwig based on the shape of the feather patterning around her forehead. Anyway, it’s wonderful to see and share so many Snowy Owls this year, thank you!

Dear Readers, please write and let us know if you are still seeing Snowy Owls. Thank you!

UPDATE ON OUR YOUNG SWAN AND HUGE SHOUT OUT TO LYN FONZO, DR. CAHILL, AND SKIP HADDEN

Our Young Swan, or Schwan as Lyn calls him, is resting comfortably at Lyn’s home. Lyn and Skip (Lyn’s neighbor and longtime caregiver to Mr. Swan) brought Schwan to see Dr. Cahill at Seaport Veterinary Hospital this morning. Dr. Cahill’s diagnosis is that his foot most likely sustained only a soft tissue injury. He is on both antibiotics and pain medicine. After a week of rest, Dr. Cahill will decide if he needs an X-ray.

Many, many thanks to Dr. Cahill for generously donating his services.

After recovering, Schwan may be heading to North Carolina. Lyn has a friend with a farm and a pond. The pond even has a floating raft for ducks and geese!

Lyn Fonzo Photo

DR. RAY CAHILL

SEAPORT VETERINARY HOSPITAL

100 EASTERN AVENUE

GLOUCESTER, MA

978-283-8883

 

 

Our Young Swan Suffers a Second Attack

The Young Swan has survived a second attack by Mr. Swan, but only barely. He is injured and needs veterinary care.
The Young Swan is temporarily back at Lyn Fonzo’s swan sanctuary, until a forever home can be found. Photo courtesy Lyn Fonzo.
Katia Mason shares the following, “Tonight the Young Swan was being chased then attacked by the Senior Male Swan in the Harbor. The neighbors at Hawthorne Point ran into the harbor and broke up the attack and protected the young swan.  Thank goodness for Jodi Swenson at Cape Ann Wildlife who got their message and came to help complete the rescue before the tide came in and it got too dark.
Thanks to the Good Morning Gloucester Blog, neighbors had been following the story and knew what was happening. “
Katia Mason Photos

BREAKING: TONIGHT ON FOX 25 WITH LITSA PAPPAS SEE OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT PLOVERS!

Thank you to reporter Litsa Pappas and videographer Steve Wright from Fox 25 for taking the time to learn about Gloucester’s nesting Piping Plovers and for sharing their story 🙂

 

Steve Wright and Litsa Pappas

The story airs tonight at 6 on Fox 25!

COME LEND A VOICE TO HELP GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS AT TONIGHT’S ANIMAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING

Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee is meeting tonight to vote on whether or not to change the Good Harbor Beach dog rules. The meeting is at 6:30 at City Hall, 3rd floor. At present dogs are allowed at GHB through April 30th. Our hope is that the new ordinance would shorten the time, to end on March 31st. Nesting Piping Plovers, as well as the many species of shorebirds migrating through (and some also nesting at) Good Harbor Beach would benefit tremendously from this change to the ordinance. Thank you!

Piping Plover on the Half Shell

YOUNG SWAN UPDATE

The beautiful Young Swan that was recently taken from his home at Niles Pond and deposited in Gloucester Harbor is so far managing to survive.

As he cannot, or will not, fly we do not know how long he can live without drinking fresh water. Lyn is feeding him romaine lettuce daily and he appears to be eating some seaweed, but that is not enough food.

The Young Swan stays tucked in around the seawall by the old Bell House, swimming in circles of only a several hundred feet radius.

If we could only see him maintain a sustained flight!

THANK YOU GOOD HARBOR BEACH VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS!

Huge shout out and thank you to the Good Harbor Beach volleyball players! They set up their net away from the Piping Plover #3 nesting area, around the corner, closer to the creek. As far as I know, no one asked that they move their nets. Grateful for the consideration 🙂

Thunderstorm on the Horizon

We hope the Piping Plover eggs survive the storm. The parking lot hard pack does not drain that well. After they built their first nest scrape in the parking lot, I checked on it the next day following a rainstorm and the scrape was filled with water. Let’s hope for the best with this second parking lot nest.

Thunderstorm on the horizon #goodharborbeach

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Glossy Ibis in Clark Pond

There must have been good eats at Clark Pond on Monday.  These Glossy Ibis were enjoying themselves.  Some info on these interesting birds from Wikipedia.

The glossy ibis is a wading bird in the ibis family Threskiornithidae. The scientific name derives from Ancient Greek plegados and Latin, falcis, both meaning “sickle” and referring to the distinctive shape of the bill.

 

VANDALS HARMING THE PIPING PLOVERS

Early this morning I found the endangered species signs covered in seaweed as well as tire and dog tracks in the nesting areas. The vandalism happened sometime overnight, between 6 pm and 6am. 

The grossest thing were the poles bent over, with a wooden box holding down the roping, and on top of that, a huge pile of sand-covered DOG POOP. There was so much poop it had to have been collected.

I cleared off the signs, but rubber gloves and/or a shovel are needed to remove the dog poop on top of the wooden box.

People, and not just young people, were doing donuts in the parking lot on Sunday, right next to the PiPl cordoned off nesting area. When the PiPl monitor Heather asked if the donut-makers were aware of the PiPl, they said, “Yes, but we weren’t going to hit them.”

One pair of Plovers has already been forced into the parking lot by dog owners not properly managing their dogs. There is at least one more pair of PiPl, and The Bachelor, making use of the roped off nesting areas. It would be a heartbreaker to see a second pair forced off the beach and move their nest into the parking lot, too.

Please call 911 if you see anyone harassing or harming the Piping Plovers, or vandalizing the nesting areas on the beach or in the parking lot. Thank you so very much.

Tire tracks in the Piping Plover nesting area #3.

 

RAREST OF RARE VISIT FROM WILSON’S PLOVERS

Wilson’s Plover Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Earlier this week while checking on the PiPl, a small group of shorebirds caught my eye. They were foraging at the water’s edge. Although the fog was as thick as split pea soup and visibility not great, something seemed off with the birds–they looked like Piping Plovers–but seemed a tiny bit bigger, and the silhouette of their bills was larger and chunkier than that of our PiPl. When they scurried along, coming closer, I could see that their bills were solid black, too, and their legs and feet were a fleshy pink, not the bright PiPl orange.

The three foraged nearly identically to the way Piping Plovers forage, pecking and darting at the water’s edge, enough so that when Papa Plover caught sight, he chased them further down the beach and out of his territory.

Papa Piping Plover, with feathers puffed out to appear larger, chasing the Wilson’s Plover out of his #3 nesting area.

In the above two photos, compare the orange legs and feet of the PiPl, versus the Wilson’s fleshy pink legs and feet. The PiPl bill is black with differing degrees of orange; the Wilson’s bill is pure black and thicker.

The mystery plovers were fairly far down the beach and I only got few good photos, but did take some footage of Papa chasing the odd plovers with the pale pink legs.

Later at home I was able to identify the shorebirds and amazingly, they are Wilson’s Plovers!! I write amazingly because they are a southern species of plover, rarely seen as far north as New Jersey. I mentioned to Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer about the Wilson’s Plovers. I don’t think he believed me at first, but after taking a walk on the beach, he agreed, yes, they were Wilson’s Plovers!

Wilson’s Plovers live along beaches of the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They are named after the ornithologist Alexander Wilson who discovered them on Cape May in 1813. The species is (and was at that time, too) very rare for New Jersey, let alone northern Massachusetts!

Pretty pink legs of the Wilson’s Plover.

Wilson’s Plovers are listed as threatened or endangered in some states. As with Piping Plovers, disturbances to nesting areas and loss of habitat are the primary threats to this plover species.

I only spotted the Wilson’s Plovers early in the day. The fog engulfed the shoreline even more, making additional sightings nearly impossible. The following morning I stopped by GHB to check on the PiPl, and did not find the Wilson’s. Ornithologists call these visitors in places far outside the bird’s range “vagrants,” but I prefer to think of them as guests. Please write and let us know if you see a Wilson’s Plover, and please take a snapshot if possible. Thank you.

 

SWAN CRISIS

Our Young Swan was badly injured today.

As you may recall, the rescue cygnet was deposited at Niles Pond about ten months ago. Local residents Lyn Fonzo and Skip Hadden had been watching out for him and feeding him regularly, when he became frozen in the ice last fall. Lyn and Dan Harris rescued the Young Swan, and Lyn cared for him all winter long, feeding him and providing fresh bedding and water daily in a custom-made swan sanctuary.

Several weeks ago the Young Swan was released back to Niles Pond. Lyn has not yet seen him fly, not because of injury, but we think he simply does not know that he is a swan. Many species of birds imprint on the first thing they see upon hatching and when this little guy was found he was without parents.

The Young Swan has not been adapting well, and has been seen wandering around the Pond, by foot, and sitting quietly in the yards of neighboring homes.

Mr. Swan gave the Young Swan a tremendous thrashing today, as witnessed by several people, pounding his head against the ground and causing him to bleed. We can’t hold this behavior against Mr. Swan, he is just doing what swans do naturally, and that is to defend their territory, especially from other males.

Lyn volunteered to take the Swan back to her swan sanctuary while a new home is identified. Very unfortunately, it was determined that the Young Swan be placed in the OCEAN. The Young Swan has never swam in, or for that matter even seen, the ocean, and he cannot fly well. The excuse was that Mass Wildlife rules state that if an animal is not visibly injured it has to be returned to the wild. However, our understanding is that Mass Wildlife guidelines do not pertain to non-native species and to pets. The Swan’s caretakers were begging to keep the swan safe and not dump him on the beach, repeating that the swan would be cared for, yet, despite their pleas, he was taken to Niles Beach and released there. 

He is currently swimming around and around in circles off of Niles Beach, in the harbor. We hope at some point tomorrow he will come to shore, where he can be recaptured and placed in a safe environment.

Please write and let us know if you know of a swan rehabilitator or potential long term swan caretaker.Alone in the harbor with no ability to escape danger or to defend himself.

We hope he stays close to shore and out of the path of boats.

BREAKING: TWO EGGS IN THE NEST – HUGE SHOUT OUT TO GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER AND MIKE CARBONE FOR INSTALLING THE PIPING PLOVER WIRE EXCLOSURE

Piping Plover Eggs Good Harbor Beach Parking Lot

A second egg was laid yesterday by our Parking Lot Plover family. The second egg is an indication by the PiPl that they are committed to the nest, which means it is time to put up the wire exclosure. If the exclosure is installed earlier, the risk of the PiPl abandoning the first egg is far greater. We immediately called Essex County Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer to let him know about the second egg. 

Dave and his assistant Mike Carbone arrived early this morning to set up the exclosure. Roughly six feet in diameter and made of wire with four inch spacing, the exclosure’s four inch openings are the ideal size to let PiPl in and out, and to keep large predatory birds and small mammals from entering. With thanks and gratitude to Dave and Mike for coming so quickly to exclose the nest.

   

After installing the exclosure the fear is that the PiPl will abandon the nest site. Our Mama Plover returned to the nest a short time after the exclosure was installed!

And thanks again to dog officer Teagan Dolan, who stopped by to check on the Piping Plovers and has been regularly ticketing 🙂

How You Can Help the Piping Plovers

1) Under no circumstances is it acceptable for people or dogs to enter the Piping Plover nesting area.

2) Please drive slowly and cautiously when in the parking lot. Our Mama and Papa PiPl are now residing between the parking lot and nesting area #3.

3) Keep ALL dogs off the beach and out of the parking lot. The parking lot is considered part of the beach according to Gloucester Police Chief McCarthy. A Piping Plover’s brain does not differentiate between a dog on-leash versus a dog off-leash. When a dog, off-leash or on-leash, comes within twenty feet of a PiPl, they immediately stop what they are doing, whether foraging, courting, mating, nesting, or resting. Please call the following number to report any dog sightings or dog related incidences at Good Harbor Beach: 978-281-9746.

4) When observing, please bear in mind that Piping Plovers tolerate one or two quiet persons, from a distance, but crowds of three or more put them in panic mode. Large groups of people hovering near the PiPl also attracts crows and gulls, a nesting shorebird’s natural enemy because they eat both baby chicks and eggs.

5) Help spread the word about the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers.

6) Sign up to be a Piping Plover volunteer ambassador by emailing Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma.gov

Thank you, but most importantly, the Piping Plovers will thank you too when chicks hatch and chicks fledge!

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