Category Archives: Birds
These beautiful swans have been in the parking lot at Best Buy/Target in Danvers for a few days. Authorities state the swans cannot fly due to the cold and the water sources are frozen. For more information these swans please go to the following link. Also please remember to not feed them or get to close and just let them be. Authorities have been checking in to make sure they are ok.
For all of you folks that have never witnessed THE MOVIE for 2013, please take the time to do so. You will be entertained.
(for ease of playback on a video of this length, click the play button, then pause it for a few seconds, it speeds up the loading process)
And please come out and support this years event, it’a for the NEXT STEP, they change lives…you could, too!
Outside my office window is a pair of stately hollies, our “Dragon Ladies;” aptly named for their prickly foliage, and adjacent to the hollies is a sweet scented flowering crabapple. The autumn fruits of this particular crabapple are chunkier than most and, I simply assumed, must bear the worst tasting fruit imaginable because year in and year out, the fruit is never, ever eaten by the birds. When flocks of robins arrive in our garden in late January, the winterberry and hollies are stripped bare of their fruits in a day, or two, at the most, after which the robins head to our neighbor’s sumac and then further down Plum Street to our other neighbor’s smaller and much better tasting crabapples.
Not this year! A pair of robins is setting up house along the garden path and they vigorously defend the crabapples from other robins. In late winter, robins typically switch over to worms, but with the ground still frozen solid, they are continuing to look for tree fruits. Unfortunately, much of it has been consumed.
Repeatedly, I noticed that our robin couple was struggling to eat the crabapples. They would snip off a stem and then drop it onto the brick path below and peck and peck and peck. A robin’s bill did not evolve to crack open grains and as it seems in this case, nor for penetrating our unusually hard crabapples. A great deal of energy was being spent to get a morsel of food, which is never a good thing because it can leave a creature weakened and at risk of freezing to death.
I picked a few berries and made a crabapple mash, placed it under the tree and, within hours, all the fruits were devoured! Now when feeding the pets and filling the bird feeders each morning I pluck a small handful of crabapples, mash, and place in the pie tin below the tree. I’ve experimented with adding blueberries and raspberries to the dish, but the robins prefer the crabapples.
If we move very slowly when walking down the path, they now allow us to come quite close—and what a treat to observe from this distance—beautiful, beautiful robins!
Do you think we will be rewarded with a nearby nest? I hope so!
Snow Goose Beak and Tomia
If I had thought about the answer to that question when I was five, I would have said yes, most definitely. At that time, our family was living on a lake in north central Florida. A friend’s unruly pet goose chased me home, nipping my bottom all the way to our front stoop!
The jagged points in the serrated-edge jaw of the Snow Goose are not called teeth because teeth are defined as having an enamel coating. There is a special word for the points and they are called tomia. During the Mesozoic era birds had teeth. Over time, birds developed specialized beaks suited to their diets. Bird beaks do the job teeth and lips once did. The Snow Goose’s tomia are not as tough as teeth but are perfectly suited to slicing through slippery grass.
The super graphic below, found on wiki, illustrates types of beaks and how the different shapes relate to the bird’s diet and foraging habits.
The event is free.
RSVP to email@example.com.
For more information: Planting an Essex County Pollinator Garden
Kim Smith Event for Essex County Greenbelt, Thursday March 5th: Planting An Essex County Pollinator Garden
Please join me at the Essex County Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation headquarters on Thursday, March 5th, from 6:30 to 8:30. I will be presenting my pollinator garden program. The event is free.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to seeing you!
Painted Lady Butterfly and New York Ironweed, Gloucester HarborWalk Butterfly Garden
From the ECGA website:
Our second session to our pollinator film/lecture series will feature local designer, writer, filmmaker and gardening expert Kim Smith. Kim specializes in creating pollinator gardens, as well as filming the butterflies that her plants attract. She will present a 90-minute slide show and lecture about how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates. Kim will also discuss specific ways to be sure your gardening practices are not harming pollinators. There will be time for questions from the audience about particular problems and quandaries they may have with pollinators and their gardens.
To learn more about Kim Smith’s work, visit her website here. This lecture will take place at our headquarters on the Cox Reservation in Essex, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to email@example.com.
GORGEOUS JUVENILE SNOW GOOSE IN GLOUCESTER!
Many thanks to Michelle Barton for alerting us about the Snow Goose at Good Harbor Beach. Michelle and Chris Anderson’s son, Atticus, has a superb eye for identifying rare and unusual birds that are migrating through our region. It was the Barton-Anderson Family who first alerted us to the Snowy Owl in our neighborhood this past January.*
Snow Geese mate for life, breeding during the summer months in the Arctic Tundra. Their annual journey from summer breeding grounds to winter home is a roundtrip of more than 5,000 miles, and they are oftentimes traveling at speeds of up to 50mph! There are four migratory corridors, or flyways, in North America. From west to east, they are the Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic. Gloucester is a special place where we are centrally located in the Atlantic flyway.
See More Snow Goose Photos Here Read more
A male King Eider is currently on the backshore. Two gentlemen from Carlisle were kind enough to allow me to look through their scope and Michelle Barton reports that it was there on Friday, too. The eider can be seen while standing at the small cleared space on the side of the road, across from The Elks at Bass Rocks. The King Eider is a spectacularly colored bird and is too far offshore for the capabilities of my 200mm lens but here is a beautiful photo from Wiki Commons Media. King Eiders forage on seabeds up to 82 feet deep and I imagine that is what the diving eider spotted this morning was doing. Happy Birding!
In case you were unaware, The Audubon Society is not a restricted organization. It is comprised entirely of people like you and me. Massachusetts alone has over 100,000 member citizens that belong to the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Here is a link to get you started: Get Involved.
Particularly for Massachusetts residents, the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s website is especially helpful in identifying birds observed locally; see the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas Find a Bird Page. The Common Eider seen on Rogers Street, and guided to safety by Thomas Donahue, is on the Mass Audubon Find A Bird page and you can read more about this interesting bird here: Common Eider.The atlas isn’t always helpful, for example, GMG contributor Donna recently spotted a Horned Grebe. That particular species is not included on the page however, it was easily identified by looking at other sources, including books and websites such as Cornell’s All About Birds website.
* * *
Reminder: Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend, a program sponsored by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Massachusetts Audubon Society was rescheduled for the weekend of February 27 through the 29th. Click here for details.
* * *
Additional information about Mass Audubon membership:
Members of the Massachusetts Audubon Society enjoy the following benefits:
Free Places to Explore, a full-color guide to Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries, nature centers, and museums.
Free one-year subscriptions to Connections, our member newsletter, and our new annual publication (first issue will be sent in February).
Member-only discounts on hundreds of exciting programs, camps, courses, and most special events.
Savings on purchases and access to member-only sales at our gift shops.
Member-only access to:
- Moose Hill and Drumlin Farm CSA programs (delicious local produce)
- Cabin rentals at Ipswich River and Pierpont Meadow (leave the work week behind)
- Camping at Wellfleet Bay and Ipswich River (s’mores and more)
- Canoe and snowshoe rentals at many of our wildlife sanctuaries (come out and play)
Savings on green auto insurance (10%) with the Environmental Insurance Agency (EIA).
Migrate to Explorer level or higher for even more benefits. Learn about our different membership levels.
For the past several years a pair of the sweetest Carolina Wrens have made our garden their home. The wrens are at the very edge of their northern range and because of that, they are much more at risk than many of the species of birds that we see at our feeders. Knowing this is one of the reasons why we are so vigilant in keeping the bird feeders well-stocked. The Carolina Wrens are easy to please; safflower seeds and suet are amongst their favorites. The following I wrote awhile back but because they are so vulnerable in this snowiest of winters, I think the information is worthwhile to repost.
Come-to-me, come-to-me, come-to-me, repeated from sun up to sundown. Mellow and sweet—though loud enough to attract my attention—what was this new-to-my-ears birdsong coming from the thicket of shrubs? Occasionally we would catch a quicksilver glimpse of a petite sparrow-sized songbird singing energetically atop the fence wall or rapidly pecking at the chinks of bark on our aged pear tree. But this was definitely not a sparrow. His is a rounded little body with tail held upward. He has pale orangey-buff underparts and rich russet plumage, with white and black barred accents on the wings, and long white eye-stripes. Because his coloring is so similar to, my husband took to calling it “that chipmunk bird.”
After much running to the window and out the back door at his first few notes I was able to identify our resident Carolina Wren. All summer long and through the fall we were treated to his beautiful and sundry melodies. Here it is late winter and he is again calling me to the window. We can have a longer look through bare trees and shrubs. Much to our joy there is not one wren, but a pair!
The Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is common throughout the southeast; so populous it is the state bird of South Carolina. When found on Cape Ann it is at its most northern edge of its territory. Gradually, as the climate has warmed over the past century, its range has expanded. They are sensitive to cold and will perish during severe weather. The Carolina Wren is a highly adaptable creature, dwelling in swamps, forests, farms, and tree-filled urban and suburban communities. They hop around leaf litter and dense brush, using their elongated bills to forage for food close to the ground. A pair may bond any time of the year and will stay together for life. It is the ardent male who sings the loud song and he is apt to anytime and anywhere. Carolina Wrens work together to construct their nests and feed their young. Their nesting sites are varied, built in both man-made and natural nooks and crannies; tree holes and stumps, and just as frequently, windowsills, mailboxes, tin cans, garage shelves, and holes found in porches, fence posts, and barns.
Click image to view larger
If you are fortunate enough to have a flock of robins visiting your neighborhood, take a closer look and you may notice other species of birds mixed with the flock, most notably European Starlings. The starling’s winter plumage is shiny black, bespeckled with white dots and some iridescence to their feathers. During breeding season they gain an even greater degree of iridescence.
Native to Europe, the starling was introduced to the United States in the 1890s. They often join flocks with American Robins. Starlings eat many of the same fruits and berries (crabapples, sumac, holly, and winterberries) as do robins and they are very competitive. Starlings also compete with birds such as Eastern Bluebirds for nesting sites. In a recent mixed flock of robins and starlings I also noticed one gorgeous waxwing!
Several years back we posted this short video. I wish I still had the footage because I am a much better editor today however, at approximately 30 seconds, the starlings make their entrance.
Anne Malvaux inspired today’s post. This morning she very sweetly sent along photos of the flock of robins and starlings that were in her neighborhood on Rocky Neck. She writes,
“Hi Kim, thinking about you because I have at least 50 robin red breasts in my tree in front of my window. I hope all is well. – Anne Malvaux”
Thank you Anne!!!
Original post from 2012: Round Robin Redbreast Snowy Day
GMG reader Anita writes with a question about goldfinches ~
Hi Kim, I hope you can help me with this. I used to have lots of goldfinches. Lately I have not seen a one. I have the feeders but still no goldfinches.
Their lower numbers have been reported up and down the east coast. I’ve seen a few, but not nearly as many as in previous years. Goldfinches are migratory and nomadic, following food sources. And their population numbers vary widely from year to year. I’ve read the theory that they may be finding all the food they need in the wild, but that hardly seems plausible these past few weeks.
In 2011, an irruption of pine siskins arrived on Cape Ann. They, along with the goldfinches, were at the nyjer seed feeder from morning until nightfall. I would continue to keep your nyger seed feeders filled for finches, grosbeaks, and traveling siskins. Goldfinches (and squirrels) also love black oil sunflower seeds.
The male’s plumage shows in much quieter tones at this time of year. You may, as do I, have a few goldfinches feeding alongside your sparrows but they are less noticeable because their brown and beige color blends with the flock.
* * *
Filled bird feeders equals happy birds!
Watch the Instagram with the volume on–you’ll love hearing birdsongs in the snow and it will remind you of spring.
Brown Pelican Pesticide Ban Success Story and Why This is Relevant to Gloucester Lobstermen and Our Community
When I was a young girl my family lived in Southern California for several years. I recall seeing few, if any, brown pelicans at our local beaches. Due to the widespread use of DDT in agriculture, brown pelicans on both the east and west coasts, along with other species of birds, were made nearly extinct. Pelicans incubate their eggs with the skin of their feet, essentially standing on the eggs to keep them warm. DDT caused thinning of the eggshells and when the pelican parents stood on the eggshells, the shells fractured and broke.
Preening Pelicans ~ You can tell that these two are young pelicans because their eyes, usually brown, turn blue during courtship.
During the 1960s brown pelican colonies along the Southern California coast had shrunk by more than 90 percent. For decades, a chemical plant had been discharging thousands of pounds of DDT into Los Angeles sewers. The toxic chemical was ingested by anchovies and other fish consumed by pelicans. The chemical altered the pelican’s calcium metabolism, which caused them to lay eggs with thinner shells. DDT-caused shell thinning also exterminated peregrine falcons in the east, and took a terrible toll on bald eagles and ospreys.
Insulation: After deep diving for fish, pelicans perch on rocks and preen. Pelicans feather’s keep them warm and dry; they do not actually get wet thanks to the oil in their preening gland. The glands secrete oily waxes and fats that they work into their feathers making them wind- and weatherproof, as well as providing insulation from the cold.
As a direct result of Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, in 1972 DDT was banned nationwide. The brown pelican has recovered ground and was delisted from the federally endangered species in 2009. Unfortunately, after DDT was banned, two years later Monsanto brought to market their glyphosate herbicide Round Up.
Brown Pelican Habitat ~ El Matador State Beach
While visiting Liv and Matt, we spotted pelicans everywhere and it was absolutely wonderful to see. They are magnificent birds with an extraordinary life story. Here are several links to learn more about the California brown pelican:
Today the lobster industry faces several major threats. Not only are the lobsters stressed from warming ocean waters and a protozoan parasite, but several pesticides used in massive mosquito spraying, including methoprene, malathion, and remethrin are linked to contributing to the collapse of the lobster fishery in the waters off Connecticut and New York. Lobsters are arthropods, which places them in the same phylum classification as mosquitoes and may help explain why they are affected. Lobster landings on Long Island Sound are of particular concern as they have declined from 3.7 million pounds in 1999 to 142,000 pounds in 2011.
Bearing in mind that worse chemicals are often used after specific chemicals are banned, the Maine Lobsterman’s Association is somewhat reluctant at this point to endorse banning specific pesticides until more comprehensive testing is done.
Gloucester lobsterman follow strict conservation guidelines. It would be very interesting to learn what they consider are the reason(s) for the declining population of lobsters in fisheries further south.