Category Archives: Birds

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE: A YEAR IN PICTURES 2017

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE: A YEAR IN PICTURES 2017

By Kim Smith

Cape Ann provides welcome habitat for a menagerie of creatures beautiful, from the tiniest winged wonder to our region’s top predator, the Eastern Coyote. Last year I posted a Cape Ann Wildlife Year in Pictures 2016 and I hope you will find the wildlife stories of 2017 equally as beautiful.

WINTER

The only partially frozen ponds at the start of winter allowed for dabblers and divers such as Mallards, Mergansers, and Buffleheads to forage at the freshwater. Mr. Swan had his usual entourage of quwackers and daily heads to the other side of the pond to get away for his morning stretches. Sightings of Red-tailed Hawks and other raptors abounded. Although photographed in Newburyport, the owl photos are included, well, just because I like them. An Eastern Screech Owl (red-morph) was seen daily perched above a playground and Barred Owl sightings too were reported throughout the winter. Raptors live on Cape Ann all year round but are much easier to see in winter when the trees are bare of foliage.

The beautiful aqua green eyes of the juvenile Double-crested Cormorants were seen wintering at both Niles Pond and Rockport Harbor. And during a warm February day on a snowless marsh a turkey bromance shindig commenced.

SPRING

In early spring, a male and female American Wigeon arrived on the scene making local pond’s their home for several weeks. In the right light the male’s electric green feathers at the top of his head shine brightly and both the male and female have baby blue bills.

Meadow and marsh, dune and treetop were graced with the heralding harbingers of spring with photos of a Red-winged Blackbird, a pair of Cedar Waxwings, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Kingbird, Tree Swallow, and Grackle included here.

The Great Swan Escape story made headlines in Boston as Mr. Swan eluded captors for hours. He had re-injured his foot and someone took it upon themselves to call the animal rescuers, which would have surely meant death for our beloved 27-year old swan if he had been wrangled into captivity.

M is clearly for Migration through Massachusetts and the month-long arrivals and departures did not abate. Short-billed Dowitchers, winsome Willets, Yellow Legs, and Ruddy Turnstones are just some of the migrating shorebirds spied on Cape Ann beaches and marshes. The best news in May was the return of the Piping Plovers. Of the five or six that camped at Good Harbor Beach to investigate potential nesting sites, one pair bonded and built their nest mere yards from the nesting pair of last year. Could it be the same pair? The nesting Piping Plover story took up much of the spring and by early summer four little Piping Plover chicks hatched over Fiesta weekend. Hundreds of photos and hours of film footage are in the process of being organized with a children’s book in progress and documentary in progress.

Piping Plover Courtship Dance

Piping Plover Nest

SUMMER

OctoPop

The survival of one Piping Plover chick was made possible by a wholesale community effort, with volunteers covering all hours of daylight, along with Mayor Sefatia and her team, Ken Whittaker from the conservation office, Chief McCarthy, and animal control officer Diane Corliss all lending a hand.

Sadly, several Northern Gannets came ashore to die on our Cape Ann beaches, struck by the same mysterious and deadly disease that is afflicting Northern Gannets in other coastal regions. During the summer season they are typically at their North American breeding grounds, which are six well-established colonies, three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Newfoundland.

An orphaned swan was introduced to Niles Pond, much to the dismay of Mr. Swan. Eastern Point residents Skip and Lyn kept watch over the two while they reluctantly became acquainted.

By mid-July many of us were seeing Monarchs in much greater numbers than recent years. Nearly every region within the continental United States experienced a fantastic Painted Lady irruption and butterflies of every stripe and polka dot were seen flitting about our meadows, fields, and gardens.

The tadpoles and froglets of American Bullfrogs and Green Frogs made for good eating for several families of resident otters, who are making their homes in abandoned beaver lodges. Little Blue Herons find frogs to be good eating, too.

Tree Swallows Massing

In early August we see the Tree Swallows begin to mass for their return migration. They find an abundance of fruits and insects in the dunes, headlands, and beaches. The Cedar Waxwings and Ruddy Trunstones were observed back again foraging on their southward journey, along with myriad species of songbirds, shorebirds, divers, and dabblers.

FALL

The Late Great Monarch migration continued into the fall as we were treated to a wonderfully warm autumn. Waves and waves of Monarchs came ashore and more butterflies arrived on the scene including new batches of Painted Ladies, Clouded Sulphurs and Common Buckeyes (nothing common about these beauties!).

A pair of Northern Pintails called Cape Ann ponds and coves home for nearly a month while we seem to be seeing more and more raptors such as Red-tailed Hawks, Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons. Juvenile herons of every species that breeds on Cape Ann lingered long into the fall—Black-crowned Night Herons, Yellow-crowned Herons, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, and Green Herons.

Just as Mr. Swan and the Young Swan appeared to be warming to each other, the Young Swan, who has yet to learn to fly, became trapped in the ice at Niles Pond. He was rescued by caretakers Lyn and Dan and is now spending the winter at a cozy sanctuary built by Lyn and friends.

FALL

Thank you to all our readers for your kind comments of appreciation throughout the year for the beautiful wild creatures with which we share this gorgeous peninsula called Cape Ann. If you’d like to read more about a particular animal, type the name of the animal in the search box and the original post should come up

With its expansive marshes and dunes, bodies of fresh, clear water, saltwater coves and inlets, and geographic location within the Atlantic Flyway, 2017 has been a banner year for Cape Ann’s wild and wonderful creatures. I can’t wait to see what awaits in 2018!

Snowy Owl “Hedwig” January 2018 Backshore Gloucester

BREAKING: MR. SWAN RESCUE UPDATE -By Kim Smith

Angel Swan Sleeping

Thanks to Lyn Fonzo, Dan Harris, Skip Munroe, Skip Hadden, Duncan, Stephanie, Lillian, a bunch more Eastern Point residents, Steve Monell and a pair of “angel” swans, our Mr. Swan has flown off the ice at Niles Pond. As Lyn shared earlier, two Mute Swans flew to Niles Pond, precisely to the same spot where Mr. Swan was resting. They must have been very tired because the mysterious swans immediately closed their eyes and took a nap while Mr. Swan watched over the pair. He eventually dozed off, too. After a long rest, all three departed the Pond, circling around and then heading over Brace Cove towards Rockport. Mr. Swan had some difficulty but perhaps encouraged by the presence of companions, he successfully took off.

Cape Ann residents please be on the look out for the three swans!

Without Dan and Lyn’s overnight vigilance against a coyote attack, our daybreak watch, and the angel swans I think it unlikely Mr. Swan would have survived this latest escapade. Our most heartfelt thanks to all who are keeping good watch over Mr. Swan and friends.

Notice the angel swans have black eyes. A friend asked if they could be Mr. Swan’s offspring. Possibly, but most likely not. Mr. Swan has blue eyes, which is not typically seen in these parts.

Mr. Swan is the tiny lump on the ice toward the left. We don’t want to see you at Niles Mr. Swan until the Pond thaws!

MR. SWAN RESCUE UPDATE AND A PAIR OF MYSTERIOUS SWANS ARRIVE AT NILES POND!! BY KIM SMITH

Yesterday at mid-morning Mr. Swan flew to Niles Pond. This is an unfortunate occurrence as Niles Pond is frozen.

When temperatures plummeted in December, Mr. Swan moved to one of his favorite winter territories, Rockport Harbor and the adjacent coastline, where the salt water rarely freezes. My theory is that the January thaw we experienced over the past several days drew him to freshwater Niles Pond and I imagine, he expected to find a thawed pond. This is only a theory, but in trying to think like a swan and understand why he would be so uncharacteristically foolish, it is my best assumption.

Maneuvering on ice can be extremely difficult. In order to take off for flight, swans run a short distance on top of the water. Trying to gain the traction needed on ice may be nearly impossible.

After spending a good part of the day in the center of the pond, I coaxed him over to the edge where there was a patch of open water. He ate a little bit of corn, although not nearly as much as usual. He appeared to enjoy the freshwater but then at dusk, he half flew-half ran back to the center of the pond.

Extremely concerned about coyotes, Mr. Swan’s caretakers Lyn and Dan checked on him throughout the night. I took the dawn shift and found him alert and preening. He made several attempts to walk, but then would plop down and tuck his head under his wing to sleep and to keep warm. Eastern Point residents Duncan and Stephanie, and ice boat sailor Steven, offered to help while Lyn, Skip Munroe, Lois, and I conferred on the phone. We decided the best plan of action would be to capture him and return him to Rockport Harbor. At 9am Skip and Dan determined that the ice was okay to walk upon. They fearlessly walked onto the pond and at one point Lyn followed with blankets. After first attempting to capture him, they then herded him over near Skip Hadden’s dock. Skip, Skip, and Dan again tried to capture him. He’s a very smart swan, wily and wild, and after several unsuccessful attempts, we decided to not tire him out and try to feed him, and help him as much as he would allow, from Lyn’s little beach.

Mr. Swan at sunrise and trying to negotiate the ice.

Shortly after, and unbelievably, A PAIR OF TRAVELING SWANS flew into Niles, near Lyn’s beach, next to Mr. Swan. At the moment, while writing this post, all three are sleeping peaceably together in a little group!

Newly Arrived Swans!

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE SNOWY OWLS

The winter of 2017-2018 has proven so far to be an irruptive year for Snowy Owls, as was predicted by scientists. In years when there is a lemming population boom, which is a staple of the Snowy’s diet, double, even triple, the amount of Snowy Owl hatchlings survive the summer breeding season. Arctic winter arrives and for whatever reason, either there is less food available or the first hatch year owls can’t hunt as well, a number of Snowies head south, both adults and juveniles, generally though, more juveniles than adults migrate.

Snowy Owls are white birds, with varying degrees of brown, black, and gray feather patterning. They are North America’s largest owl by weight. As with most bird of prey species, female Snowies are larger than the males, by about one pound. That is considerable, knowing that the average weight of a Snowy Owl is four pounds. A male may grow up to 25 inches, a female to 27 inches, and the wingspan of both is about equal. Because females are larger and more dominant, they usually don’t migrate as far south, staking out territory further north. Typically in our area we see first hatch year males, although currently there is thought to be an adult male at Salisbury Beach. The Snowy at Bass Rocks is presumably a female. When out in the field, the hardest to tell apart are the darkest males and the palest females.

In learning about Snowy Owls, I came across several very helpful photos of Snowy Owl specimens. And we have three examples, from Snowies found right here on the North Shore, from which to compare.

In the photo below, you are looking at eight Snowy Owl specimens from the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates. One through five on the left are males; six, seven, and eight are females. Notice how similar, yet different, are five and six (male #5, female #6).

  1. Snowy Owl males are generally whiter.
  2. Snowy Owl females tend to be larger.
  3. Snowy Owl male’s tails have up to three bars, the female’s have from three to six.
  4. Snowy Owl females have wider and darker marks and bars on the back, nape, and tail.
  5. Snowy Owl males have a larger white bib.

Closeup of the intermediary male (five) and female (six).

Underside of the Owls, in the same order.

Comparing the above photos I think we can logically conclude that the Snowy Owl that was at Captain Joe and Sons in 2015 was a young male, with light markings and a large white bib.

Young Male Snowy Owl

The Snowy Owl currently at Bass Rocks, I think it is safe to say, is a female, and most likely a juvenile. She doesn’t have much bib showing and her overall markings are wide and dark.

Female Snowy Owl

We have our own example of an intermediate–is the Snowy Owl recently photographed at Cranes Beach a juvenile male or a female?

Male or female?

WE LOVE YOU TOO SNOWY OWL!

For the past several days there has been a remarkably tolerant Snowy Owl feeding and perching on the rocks at Atlantic Road. Perhaps she (or he) is the same Snowy that has been noticed on the backshore over the course of the past month. I write tolerant because this Snowy was perched about fifteen feet from the sidewalk and neither traffic nor birdwatchers seemed to faze her much. As word has gotten out, her fan club has grown, so much so that there was a bit of a traffic jam today. Every several hours I stopped by to check on her whereabouts. At 2:00 today, she had only moved about a foot from where she was at daybreak. By sundown, she had flown up onto the rooftops of an Atlantic Road resident.


Many thanks to Kate for all her text alerts letting me know when the Snowy was on the backshore!

Early morning and the Snowies face and talons were bloodstained, which is a very positive sign that she is feeding well. Snowy Owls wintering over in our region eat rabbits, rodents (lots of rats), songbirds, and ducks. Being good stewards of the Snowies means not applying rat poison around your home or business. There are several methods equally as efficient in killing rats as rat poison. When a bird of prey such as a Peregrine Falcon, Snowy Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, or Bald Eagle ingests a rat that has eaten rat poison, the raptor becomes sick and will usually die.

The Snowy spent the better part of the day mostly dozing, preening, cleaning her talons, and puffing her feathers for warmth. At one point she pushed her face into a snow patch but I couldn’t tell if it was to drink or to wash.

 

For a moment the Snowy sat bolt upright from a loud bang in the distance, but generally, she was a satiated and sleepy owl.

Snowy Owl Fan Club Traffic Jam

DNA SEXING TEST FOR THE RESCUE SWAN RESULTS ARE IN

We’ve all been hoping so much that the Young Swan would be a female and that romance, or at the least friendship, would blossom between it and Mr. Swan. The results are in and our little she is actually a he. The news is somewhat dismaying because we do not know how Mr. Swan will react once he makes a determination. Will he allow the Young Swan to continue to live at Niles in the spring or will he drive him off? Perhaps Mr. Swan, who is at least 28 years old this year, will not be as territorial as would a much younger male Mute Swan and the two will live peaceably. For now, he is in the good care of Lyn and decisions won’t need to be made for a few months.

Notice how greatly the Young Swan’s plumage has changed over the past few months. In the photo on the left, he is four months old. In the next two photos, he is approximately eight months old.

Mr. Swan and the Young Swan

 

BACKSHORE BIRDERS

Diana Peck reports that today along the backshore, the birders were finding Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Eiders, Black Ducks & Mallards, and I overheard someone say when stopping to take a photo, Black Scoters.

Backshore Birders 🕊#gloucesterma #backshore

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

BALD EAGLE SOARING OVERHEAD

Year of the Bird

The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, passed in 1918. The treaty is a seminal piece of legislation that has saved, and continues to save, the life of billions upon billions of North American birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Geographic, Audubon, and BirdLife have created a timely alliance, joining forces this year to celebrate birds, while also raising awareness about the current dangers that they face.

I have been thinking a great deal about the Year of the Bird while out photographing and today on an early morning dune walk, a juvenile Bald Eagle flew overhead, soaring high, high up in the clouds. It was a first for me, to see a Bald Eagle, and it was simply thrilling. Bald Eagles have been helped tremendously by the stewardship allowed for under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald Eagle Protection Act, and the banning of DDT.

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are one of eight species in the genus Haliaeetus, or “sea” eagles. They are the largest birds of prey in Massachusetts, with a wing span of six to seven feet. Bald Eagles were extirpated (made non-existent) from Massachusetts during the early 1900s. From 1982 to 1988, forty-one young Bald Eagles from Michigan and Canada were relocated to Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. Eagle numbers have increased steadily since that time. In 2015 (most recent record), the highest number ever recorded, at least 51 pairs, of Bald Eagles maintained breeding territories in Massachusetts.

Why are birds so important? I can think of myriad reasons–practical, aesthetic, and personal. Practically speaking, birds are like the earth’s housekeepers. They annually eat trillions of insects and pick clean carcasses of millions of dead animals. Many species of birds are pollinators–think of hummingbirds sipping nectar from zinnias and Baltimore Orioles drinking nectar from flowering fruit trees along their northward migratory route. Birds, too, are the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The presence and abundance of birds (or lack thereof) speaks to the health of our environment.

BIRDS ARE BEAUTIFUL! They connect us to the natural world that surrounds, and everyone can enjoy their beauty. We don’t all have access to daily bear watching, elephant safaris, or whaling adventures, but everyone can look out their window or go for a hike and see a beautiful bird. Evolved from dinosaurs, but bellwethers for the future, protecting birds and their habitats ensures a healthy planet for future generations.

From AUDUBON

The History and Evolution of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The law has already saved billions of birds’ lives. Here’s how it’s accomplished so much in its 100-year history.

Passed a century ago, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the harming of just about all native birds, along with their nests and eggs. To this day it remains the primary tool for protecting non-endangered species. As threats to birds continue to evolve, so does the law itself.

Here’s a look back at some of the key moments in the law’s evolution to date.

1800s: With essentially zero regulations in place, market hunters decimate U.S. bird populations, in part so that well-to-do women can wear hats adorned with ornamental feathers. By the end of the century, Labrador Ducks and Great Auks are extinct, soon to be joined by Passenger Pigeons, Carolina Parakeets, and Heath Hens. Numerous other species stand on the brink. Outrage over these alarming trends leads to the formation of the first Audubon societies, as well as other conservation groups.

1900: Congress passes the Lacey Act, the first federal law to protect wildlife. It takes aim at market hunters by prohibiting them from selling poached game across state lines.

1913: Congress passes the Weeks-McLean Migratory Bird Act, which, in another broadside against market hunters, bans the spring shooting of migratory game and insectivorous birds and declares them to be under the “custody and protection” of the federal government. However, two district courts soon rule the act unconstitutional.

1916: The United States signs a treaty with Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada, then part of the British Empire), in which the two countries agree to stop all hunting of insectivorous birds and to establish specific hunting seasons for game birds. The stated goal is to preserve those species considered beneficial or harmless to man.

1918: To implement the new treaty, Congress passes the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which officially makes it a crime to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill,” or “sell” a migratory bird or any of its parts, including nests, eggs, and feathers. The newly passed act eliminates “the necessity of watching the legislation of every state and of combating the numberless attempts to legalize the destruction of birds for private gain,” according to famed ornithologist Frank M. Chapman (also the founder of Audubon magazine).

1920: The U.S. Supreme Court shoots down a challenge to the constitutionality of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, ruling that it does not violate states’ rights.

1936: Following up on its treaty with Great Britain, the United States signs a similar treaty with Mexico (it would go on to sign additional treaties with Japan and the Soviet Union in the 1970s). As a result, more birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and habitat conservation and pollution abatement is encouraged.

1940: Congress passes the Bald Eagle Protection Act, the first federal legislation to ban hunting or otherwise disturbing America’s national emblem (it would later be amended to include Golden Eagles). Modeled after the MBTA, it nonetheless fails to stem the Bald Eagle’s decline at the hands of DDT poisoning.

1970s: For the first time, U.S. prosecutors begin charging not just hunters who violate the MBTA, but also oil and gas, timber, mining, chemical, and electricity companies. Though not directly targeting wildlife, these industries incidentally cause millions of bird deaths each year that could have been avoided with simple infrastructure modifications, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In publicly available documents, the DOJ states that it will first notify companies of a violation and work with them to correct it. But if they “ignore, deny, or refuse to comply” with best management practices, then the “matter may be referred for prosecution.”

1972: An amendment to the MBTA protects an additional 32 families of birds, including eagles, hawks, owls, and corvids (crows, jays, and magpies). Even more species have been added since, bringing the total number to 1,026—almost every native species in the United States. With such additions, the word “‘migratory” in the act’s title becomes largely symbolic—many birds that do not embark on actual migrations are still protected.

2000: A federal appeals court holds that private citizens (such as conservation groups) may sue the government over alleged violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Nonetheless, they remain unable to sue out-of-compliance private companies, which differs in that regard from the Endangered Species Act and many other environmental laws.

2001: Just before leaving office, President Bill Clinton orders all relevant federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and the U.S. Forest Service, to take migratory bird conservation into account as part of their regular decision making.

2002: A federal district court rules that the U.S. Navy violated the MBTA during live-fire exercises in the northern Marianas Islands. Congress responds by exempting the incidental taking of birds during “military readiness activities.”

2013: In a first, the Department of Justice enforces the MBTA against a wind farm operator, imposing $1 million in penalties for the killing of Golden Eagles and other protected birds at two sites in Wyoming. It follows this up a year later with $2.5 million in penalties against a second Wyoming wind farm operator. Actual enforcement of the MBTA against these problems tends to be sporadic.

2015: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces that it will rethink the MBTA’s implemention to hold industries more accountable for the harm they do to birds. Specifically, the changes will address bird deaths due to open oil pits, power lines, gas flares, cell phone towers, and wind turbines—which combined kill millions of birds each year.

2017: The Trump Administration does away with the USFWS’s potential rulemaking updates. Also in 2017, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) introduced an amendment to the SECURE American Energy Act that would change liability under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to no longer cover incidental takes. This would prevent any enforcement of industrial impacts, end accountability from oil spills, and removed incentives to protect birds, all of which Audubon opposes.

“Rep. Cheney is giving oil and gas companies and other industries a free pass to kill birds with impunity,” said David Yarnold, Audubon’s President and CEO, in an official statement.

Dune sunrise this morning

WHAT TO FEED SWANS IN WINTER?

Mr. Swan heading to Rockport Harbor for the winter.

Cape Ann Swan Update: Our little rescue swan, which Lyn has been valiantly and lovingly taking care of in her new winter quarters fit for a princess swan, is doing beautifully. Mr. Swan’s winter headquarters when the freshwater ponds are in a deep freeze is mostly Rockport Harbor to Front Beach and Lois reports he is doing fabulously as well, too!

Mute Swans in our region need our help to survive the winter. There simply isn’t enough wild food available, especially in a brutally cold winter such as the one we are currently experiencing, with freshwater ponds frozen solid. The very best thing to feed swans is whole corn and cracked corn. You can try greens such as washed and undressed romaine lettuce, spinach, and kale, but they will mostly go for the carbohydrate rich corn. What is the worse and most deadly food to feed swans, causing long term health problems? You guessed it–junk food and white bread. Please don’t give our local birds and wildlife human junk food, it’s a killer! This includes but not limited to chips, cheetos, crackers, and stale bread.

Be safe when feeding swans and don’t get too close.

We purchase our corn in bulk from the Essex Bird and Pet Shop, located at 121 Essex Avenue. In a pinch, Stop and Shop also carries small bags of cracked corn.

Two tips from Mr. Swan’s caretakers: 1) When feeding swans, feed at the water’s edge. Swans like to swallow water while they are eating. 2) Mr. Swan usually has a bevy of quwackers in tow and they so vigorously try to eat the corn, and there are so many of them, there oftentimes isn’t enough food for Mr. Swan. Mr. Swan’s caretakers will throw a scoop of food in one direction to distract the ducks and at the same time toss some down directly in front of Mr. Swan. This distraction technique works for a bit of time before needing to be repeated.

Mr. Swan and the Young Swan were just beginning to warm to each other when the pond froze up.

These cold days make for some pretty photos

Driving on Rocky Neck the other day, these ducks caught my eye, finding the only space with water instead of ice.  Take a look at the name of the boat, The Endurance.  Very appropriate.

Very unusual formation of ice on Rocky Neck

RARE BIRD ALERT: SNOW GOOSE ON CAPE ANN!

Snow Goose in the Sea Smoke

Early this morning while out filming Cape Ann Lighthouses in the sea smoke, far off shore there was a Snow Goose bobbing about in the frigid waters.

Look for Snow Geese on the shore and in the water. Their feathers are white, tipped black at the outer edges, with a gray band above the black tips. Both their bills and feet are pink. There is also a dark morph, commonly referred to as the ‘Blue Goose.’

Thanks to Lyn Fonzo who last week sent a snapshot of a white goose feeding amongst the Canada Geese. She was wondering what bird. I thought it was a juvenile Snow Goose and the sighting today confirms that yes, we have (at least) one Snow Goose on our shores!

OUR HAPPY SWAN SWIMMING!

Lyn set up a tub in the Young Swan’s winter home. It’s quite nice, and she loves it. Her first order of business was to wash her neck, and then she jumped in!

If you would like to help with the expense of taking care of the Young Swan this winter, please send a check (tax deductible) to:

Cape Ann Wildlife

P.O Box 405

Essex, Massachusetts 01929

Or you can donate online at: http://www.caw2.org/

Be sure to include in the memo that your donation is for the Young Swan.

Thank you!

Lyn Fonzo Photo

PEREGRINE FALCON DEVOURING A BIRD

On the lookout for Snowy Owls, I instead encountered this scene of a Peregrine Falcon eating a freshly killed bird. At one point I caught a quick glimpse of what I think was a webbed duck foot, but could possibly also have been a cormorant. Despite all the gore, the Falcon was exquisite to observe. Especially beautiful were the hues of its slate blue wings in the early morning light.

Peregrine Falcons eat mostly birds. Over 450 species of bird prey have been documented in North America alone. From the tinniest Ruby-throated Hummingbird to the enormous Sand Hill Crane, few birds are safe from the talons of the Peregrine Falcon.

The Falcon methodically eviscerated its prey, all the while watching gulls, crows, me, and any other potential thief.

Robber crows stopped by to see what they could snatch and one brazen fellow made off with a gizzard dangling from its mouth.

A gull popped its head up from a lower rock outcropping to see what he could steal and after taking a quick look at the Peregrine Powerhouse, thought better of attempting robbery.

 

Nature’s Finest Flyer

Did you know that the Peregrine Falcon is the world’s fastest bird? A bird’s airspeed velocity is variable. During a hunting dive the Peregrine Falcon will average about 200 miles per hour; 242 miles per hour is the maximum speed recorded. The Golden Eagle is the second fastest bird, with an average diving speed of 150 miles per hour and a maximum speed of 200 mph.

Saved from the Brink of Extinction

Excerpted from The Nature Conservancy

Peregrines are fast, aggressive creatures and are on top of their food chain. While young Peregrines are preyed upon by Golden Eagle and Great Horned Owls there are few threats towards the adults other than man.

By the mid 1960’s, there were NO Peregrines in the eastern United States and the decline spread westwards so that by the mid-70’s western populations had declined by up to 90 percent. It was estimated that 3,875 nesting pairs were found in North America prior to the 40’s; by 1975, only 324 pair existed in the US. Loss of habitat, shootings, egg collecting and other human disturbances had weakened North American populations for decades but drastic declines didn’t occur until after the widespread use of a popular insecticide – DDT. Like the canary in the coalmine, the Peregrine Falcon provided humans a warning as how chemical pollution can disrupt the environment and the life around it.

The use of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT, began during World War II as an extremely effective pesticide. Its use continued after the war as a way to control agricultural pests and in killing malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Unfortunately it would be years later before it was understood that DDT would have adverse effects on a variety of ecologically important insects, birds, and the environment. Bats, Fireflies and Peregrine Falcons were just a few species that were greatly affected. Editor’s note: In the United States, DDT was manufactured by some 15 companies, including Monsanto, Ciba, Montrose Chemical Company, Pennwalt, and Velsicol Chemical Corporation.

For the Peregrine Falcon, DDT poisoning was due to its being on top of the food chain. After consuming other birds that fed on seeds, insects and fish contaminated with DDT, the poison eventually accumulated in its system. High concentrations of a DDT metabolite called DDE prevented normal calcium production causing thin, frail eggshells that would break under the weight of the parent during incubation. Because of the toxic contaminant, many eggs did not hatch and the populations precipitously dropped until a mere 12% of normal peregrine falcon populations remained in the United States.

In 1970, the American Peregrine Falcon was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 (and then again in 1973 when the Endangered Species Act passed). Encouraged by the EPA’s banning of DDT in 1972, recovery projects began to take shape. Beginning in 1974, The Peregrine Fund, along with various national and state agencies in both the United States and Canada, embarked on a reintroduction program for the peregrine falcon.

Thanks to the scientists and researchers at Cornell University, adult birds were successfully bred in captivity. After the eggs hatched, they were raised in the labs until three weeks old. They were then placed in hack sites (artificial nesting sites) where they were fed and cared for by unseen benefactors until flight and hunting skills were developed enough for them to become independent. More than 6,000 American Peregrine Falcons have been released in North America since 1974 due to the cooperative efforts among federal and state Fish & Wildlife Services, The Peregrine Fund, Midwestern Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project and the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group.

The success of these recovery programs allowed the declassification of the Peregrine Falcon as a federally endangered species in 1999. Although the bird of prey remains federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and will be monitored until 2015, the survival of the Peregrine Falcon marked the most dramatic success of the Endangered Species Act.

THE YOUNG SWAN GETS A SANCTUARY FIT FOR A PRINCESS (Or Prince?)

Joel and Skip Munroe arrived yesterday morning at Lyn’s home and the three spent the day continuing to modify the chicken coop-turned swan house-turned fantastic sanctuary (Joel is one of Mr. Swan’s caregivers and a carpenter). Lyn has generously added her dog’s run to extend the swan’s home, providing room enough for the Young Swan to stretch her wings and walk around within the enclosure.

Increasing the size of the enclosure. 

Today, the very awesome landscaper Patrick Low, owner of JPL Landscape Solutions spent the morning modifying and attaching the (former) dog run to the chicken coop and securing the entire structure from predators such as coyotes and racoons. Pat, Joel, and Skip have very generously donated their time and services to creating the winter swan sanctuary.

Pat Low, creatively solving potential predator issues.

A friend of Lyn’s is donating three bales of hay. To supplement the pellets and corn Lyn has been feeding the swan, yesterday she purchased collard greens (which the Young Swan loved), spinach, and kale (yet to try).

We still do not know whether the Young Swan is male or female. Jodi Swenson kindly paid for the swan’s checkup at Dr. Cahill’s (with funds provided from her recent fundraiser) and Lyn has volunteered to pay for the DNA test. We should have the results back from the DNA test in several weeks. The Young Swan has a temporary name, TOS, an acronym for The Other Swan, but perhaps when we determine whether male or female we can give her a gender specific name, and possibly tie in a naming contest with a mini-fundraiser, to help defray the unexpected cost of taking care of her for the winter.

Success! Photo courtesy Lyn Fonzo

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