Category Archives: Birds

FIESTA BABY PLOVERS!

Four of the sweetest little Piping Plover chicks hatched Thursday morning, June 22, at Good Harbor Beach. They are all beautiful and perfectly formed and healthy. Within hours of hatching, the mini-marshmallow-rockets were zooming and tumbling about the shore. Mom Joy and Dad Joe are in full on protective mode, doing their best to chase seagulls and people out of their territory.

Don’t mess with Mama Joy!

Last year the East Gloucester neighborhood kids named the parents, Joy and Joe; and chicks PuffPuff, FluffFluff, and Tootsie Pop. The parents are most likely the same pair as they have nested in nearly the exact same spot as last year. Comment in the comment section for name suggestions if you would like. Wouldn’t it be great if the four names were somehow Fiesta inspired đź™‚

Good Harbor Beach is going to be very crowded this weekend. If the chicks manage to survive the first ten days, their odds of surviving increase dramatically.

How we can all help the Piping Plover chicks survive:

1) Perhaps the most important point to understand is that within hours of hatching, Piping Plover chicks are on the move. They soon begin to explore outside the symbolically roped off area. Keep an eye out for the chicks. Educate friends and family that they may see these tiny vulnerable creatures on the beach. Do not approach the chicks or adults, but observe quietly from a distance. Mom and Dad Plover will let you know if you are too close.

2) Don’t leave behind or bury trash or food on the beach. All garbage attracts predators such as crows, seagulls, foxes, and coyotes, and all four of these creatures EAT plover eggs and chicks.

3) Do not linger near the Piping Plovers or their nests. Activity around the Plovers also attracts gulls and crows.

4) Keep dogs off the beach at all times of the day and evening.

 

Snuggling next to Mom for warmth.

 

Clip from last year’s year Piping Plover Family —

MR. SWAN IN THE BOSTON GLOBE!

Mr. Swan super stressed and panting while being chased around Henry’s Pond.

Mr. Swan Makes the Big Time in the Boston Globe!

In Rockport, Chasing Mr. Swan

Article by Boston Globe correspondent Emily Sweeney

Photos courtesy Kim Smith

A popular swan at Henry’s Pond in Rockport managed to stay one step ahead of rescuers who were trying to capture him Tuesday.

The elderly bird, known affectionately as “Mr. Swan,” has been a common sight at the pond for many years. During that time, he’s fathered many cygnets and outlived two of his mates, and led a peaceful existence on the water.

But things took a turn recently when Mr. Swan hurt his leg. Although he could still swim, some people began to notice that Mr. Swan was having difficulty walking. And they began to worry.

Soon enough, the Animal Rescue League was called in to help.

“The swan is considered a community pet, so the goal was to capture it, have it treated, and then returned to the pond,” said Michael DeFina, a spokesman for the Animal Rescue League.

While that mission sounds simple, carrying it out proved to be anything but. Catching Mr. Swan turned out to be an impossible task for the organization’s rescue team. Armed with large nets, the two rescuers — Bill Tanguay and Mark Vogel — used kayaks to pursue Mr. Swan on the water. At one point, Vogel almost caught Mr. Swan in his net, but the bird was able to break free.

Mr. Swan eventually sought refuge in the reeds, and the rescuers decided to call off the chase.

“The swan was stressed, and the soaring temperatures made him very tired,” said DeFina. “The fact he eluded capture and was able to swim without showing obvious signs of pain led to the conclusion that the injury may not be that severe.”

“After giving up the chase, ARL and the concerned parties agreed to continually monitor the swan’s condition, and if it worsens, ARL will be contacted to get the swan medical attention, and again, have him returned to the pond,” DeFina said.

Kim Smith, a Gloucester resident who counts herself among one of Mr. Swan’s many fans, described the rescue attempt as a “wild swan chase.”

“He was chased back and forth across the pond,” she said.

What made his escape even more impressive is Mr. Swan’s age. According to Smith, sightings of Mr. Swan date back to the early 1990s, which would make him at least 27 years old. (Smith knows Mr. Swan well: she’s spent the past six years filming him for a documentary film.)

“He’s an amazing creature,” she said.

DeFina said that the average lifespan for a swan in the wild can be about 10 to 15 years due to the hazards they can encounter (getting caught in fishing gear, getting hit by a boat, etc.), while a swan living in a protected environment can live 20 to 30 years.

“It’s clear that there are certainly people in Gloucester who care for this swan, if he’s in fact been around that long,” DeFina said.

Smith said that although the Animal Rescue League’s efforts were well-intentioned, she’s happy that Mr. Swan eluded capture.

“He’s lived this long, he deserves to spend his last days in his own neighborhood with his friends,” she said.

Long live Mr. Swan.

Mr. Swan is Not in need of rescuing. Drinking and eating just fine❣️#swan #birdsofinstagram

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Emily Sweeney can be reached atesweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@emilysweeney.

MR. SWAN CAPTURE UPDATE #2

After suffering the extraordinary trauma of yesterday’s attempted capture, Mr. Swan was seen late in the day by friends, peeking his head out between the reeds. I stopped by to see him this morning at about 6:30, thinking perhaps I would catch a glimpse, and to my utter surprise he was sitting on the edge of the road that divides Pebble Beach from Henry’s Pond. Very deliberately, Mr. Swan was heading to the open ocean. He was obviously extremely weary from the effort, and from the previous day’s event, taking only a few difficult steps at a time, before plopping down, then a few steps more. Slowly and determinedly he made his way. 

Crossing the road between Henry’s Pond and Pebble Beach

Friends Lois, Serena, and Skip Monroe stopped by to offer food and encouragement. After at least an hour of effort, he made it to the water’s edge and took off toward Niles Pond (it usually takes him about five minutes to cross the road).

Making his way through the super yucky red seaweed.

Shortly after we got a call from Lyn that Mr. Swan had arrived safely at Niles Pond. I stopped by Niles on my way to work to see him and he appeared so much happier and relaxed than earlier in the morning. A true survivor, he was gliding and preening and vocalizing. Long live Mr. Swan!

In regards to how old is Mr. Swan, I was reminded by another great Friend of Mr. Swan, Skip Hadden, that Mr. Swan is actually at least TWENTY SEVEN years old!! When Skip arrived at Niles Pond in 1992, Mr. Swan was an adult breeding male with a family (swans do not begin to breed until they are at the very least two years old).

Regarding Mr. Swan’s foot injury, Skip writes, “He has injured this foot in the past. He fell off our roof after crash landing there in turbulent winds circa 2000. Heartily agree in daily monitoring as he is one determined character. He has a strong chance of survival if left to his own devices and our small efforts to assist from a distance.”

Mr. Swan at Niles Pond this morning! I hope he chooses to stay here to recuperate.

Momma Bird feeding her babies

The photo is not very clear due the webcam. We have been watching her since she built this nest. Having the webcam, thank you Ricky, was able to watch without bothering the birds.

I named her Lucy, husband, Ricky, Fred, Ethel, Little Ricky are the babies name.

MR. SWAN CAPTURE UPDATE

Despite repeated attempts by Boston Animal Rescue League workers Bill Tanguay and Mark Vogel to capture Cape Ann’s beloved swan, Mr. Swan escaped.

The day began a little after 6:00am when the Friends of Mr. Swan convened at Henry’s Pond to strategize on how to manage and understand the mysterious notice posted at the pond, which read, “Please don’t feed swan. He is being rescued on Tuesday.” The Friends of Mr. Swan are a group of people who feed and monitor Mr. Swan on a daily basis throughout the year and they include Skip Hadden, Lois, Serena, Skip and Joel Monroe, Lyn Fonzo, Elaine Somers, and myself. The news had spread quickly amongst the group about the scheduled rescue. Mr. Swan’s left foot appears to be sprained or in some way injured at the ankle (possible snapping turtle bite) but we had taken the tactic of allowing the foot to hopefully heal on its own. Wildlife capture can lead to euthanasia and that is truly the last diagnosis any of us would want for Mr. Swan (also known as Buddy, Poppa Swan, Old Blue Eyes, and Papa Swan).

Lois and her Buddy

Mr. Swan is at least 27 years old, has outlived two mates, and fathered many cygnets. With his beautiful blue eyes and pure white cygnet offspring, Mr. Swan is a rare form of Mute Swan (Cygnus immutabilis), thought to originate from the Baltic Sea region. All these many years that he has called Cape Ann home Mr. Swan has brought joy and happiness to countless people, especially to young children. At this point, he is not showing outward signs of physical pain, he is feeding and drinking, and maintaining his feathers (preening). We hope with all our hearts that his foot will heal but believe that if it his time to go, he should be permitted to live out his remaining days in his own neighborhood with his community of friends.

Lyn and her Poppa

The Friends agreed to take turns watching for the ARL workers. Our objective was to speak with them to learn more about the specifics of the capture and how it would impact Mr. Swan’s overall health, what would be the various courses of action based upon veterinary examination, if we could determine the outcome with covering his medical bills, and to insure that Mr. Swan be returned to Cape Ann, if he did have to undergo rehabilitation.

ARL’s Bill and Mark arrived at around noon. We discussed the various options and were assured that as Mr. Swan is a community “pet,” with plenty of friends to look out for him, he would less likely be euthanized.

Coaxing Mr. Swan to the pond’s edge was easy when offered some favorite foods, but getting him to walk onshore was another story.  Out came the kayaks, where Mr. Swan led Bill and Mark on a wild swan chase back and forth from one end of the pond to the other. He skillfully led the workers through the thick reeds of phragmites, where he has a secret nest and many avenues of escape. At one point it appeared as though Mark had captured him with the swan-sized net, but he wriggled out and bolted free. We could see Mr. Swan panting and visibly tiring and at that point he slipped deep, deep into the reeds and was not seen again. We all came to the mutual decision that it was best not to continue as Mr. Swan was clearly super stressed and exhausted.

Nearly captured!

Super stressed and panting

Final slip into the reeds.

Bill, Mark, and the Friends decided that the logical course of action is to continue to monitor Mr. Swan on a daily basis. If his condition worsens we will at that time call the ARL. In the meantime, we are urging everyone to please follow these simple guidelines in helping Mr. Swan on his road to recovery.

  1. A healthy diet while healing is critically important. He should only be fed cracked or whole corn. Additionally, chopped lettuce or grass cuttings can be offered along with the corn. PLEASE NO JUNK FOOD, which includes bread, chips, and every other kind of processed food snack.
  2. Please do not bring your pooch to the shoreline where Mr. Swan is resting. Dogs, especially bird chasing dogs, create a great deal of stress for swans.
  3. If you see Mr. Swan in any kind of distress please contact any one of the Friends of Mr. Swan or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP!


You can’t miss the Red-winged Blackbirds at the pond and they love cracked and whole corn, too.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BABY SWANS

Meet the Swan family. They live on a pond in Eastern Massachusetts. On an island in the middle of the pond, Papa and Mama built a nest made of cattails, reeds, and sticks. For six weeks Mama and Papa Swan took turns sitting on the nest warming, or incubating, the eggs.

Within hours of hatching, the baby swans, called cygnets, are mobile. Precocial refers to animal species in which the young are relatively mature from the moment of hatching. Within a day or two, Mama and Papa take the cygnets to water for their first swim.

Unlike songbirds, which are born naked, blind, and helpless, cygnets are born with downy soft feathers and with their eyes open. Piping Plovers are another example of a bird species that is precocial. The cygnets will soon outgrow the soft down.

A family of cygnets is called a clutch or a brood.

Two week old swans are sleeping on the bank of the pond. Although cygnets are precocial and relatively independent, they are unable to regulate their body temperature. They rely on warmth from Mom and Dad, and from snuggling each other during nap time.

Cygnets absorb the last of their yolk  into their tummies before hatching, which means they don’t have to eat for several days. Their first meal might be a nibble of an insect caught along the water’s edge.

The cygnets forage for insects and pond vegetation.

Precocial birds find their own food, occasionally with instructions from Mom and Dad.

See the little tiny V-shaped wing bud, tucked over the bill. Notice how much proportionately larger are an adult swan’s wings (below). Cygnet’s wings grow rapidly. They usually learn to fly by early fall, at about five months old.

Back to shore to preen and to warm up.

Time for another nap!

An adult swan’s bill has jagged, serrated edges that look like small teeth and are very sharp. Nesting swans can be very aggressive. They will hiss, puff out their feathers to appear larger, flap their wings, move very quickly when angered, and smash their body and wings at a perceived predator. Swans will bite and peck, too. Please keep a safe distance when observing swans, especially nesting swans.

Papa and Mama Swan need their rest, too.

 

MR. SWAN EMERGENCY

We Friends of Mr. Swan would like to know who posted the do not feed sign because there is a planned “rescue” of him, which is to take place tomorrow, Tuesday.

We are all aware of his injured leg, and expect that it will heal. If it does not heal, we will have a swan expert have a look at him and take him to Tufts, if needed.

To the well-intentioned person, Mr. Swan will be EUTHANIZED if he is rescued by the wrong group. Whoever is planning Tuesday’s rescue should be aware of the following information, passed on by Jodi Swenson, our region’s local bird rescue expert:

“Because he is non-native, Mr. Swan would have to go to New England Wildlife Center. But, if it is just a limp, or something like that, leave him alone because a hurt leg that won’t get better will make him non-releasable, and that means EUTHANASIA”

Please, please contact kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. THANK YOU.

 

Mr. Swan, filmed several days ago at Niles Pond. He is staying in the water, probably so as not to bear weight on his leg. He is eating fine and his feathers are well-groomed and in good shape, signs that he does not need to be rescued at this point. Also, in order to fly from Henry’s Pond to Niles Pond, he needs to run on his feet, otherwise he won’t become air born. Mr. Swan is well over twenty years old. If his leg is not curable, he deserves to live out his life in his own neighborhood with his friends.

He's a hungry boy today! Mr. Swan at Niles Pond. ❣️

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WHY BIRDS ATTACK CARS AND WINDOWS

It’s a new routine. Wherever I park my car on a particular wooded lane, I return to find mama Cardinal attacking the car’s reflective surfaces, both side mirrors and the windshield. She perches in the branches above chortling a medley of warning songs and then swoops in to peck and gnash at herself. I have tried moving my car further down the lane and have covered the mirrors with bags, but still, she perceives my car as “the enemy” and finds a shiny surface at which to strike.

Northern Cardinals, American Robins, and Turkeys are the species we most often hear attack  cars and windows. Northern Mockingbirds and American Goldfinches fly at reflective surfaces as well. The behavior is a territorial display; the bird sees in the object its own reflection and imagines the image is competition, or a threat to its nestlings. Some birds, like Mourning Doves, don’t require a large territory whereas I have read that Black-capped Chickadees will chase off interlopers in as much as a 17 acre territory. The mama Cardinal may continue for the entire nesting season, which is of concern as I don’t want her to wear herself out. Next time when at the wooded lane I’ll try parking even further away.

SREAMIN’ PEACOCK

Today was alpaca shearing day at the Marshall’s farm. We have lots of photos to share and I’ll have time to post them tomorrow. All the while alpaca shearing was taking place, Perry, the Marshall’s peacock, was struttin’ his stuff. There was no peahen in sight, but a certain chicken seemed to have caught Perry’s attention. The peacock mating call sounds more like a piercing scream, very startling the first time heard. Have a listen!

Baby alpacas Pippi Longstocking, Maisy, and Rascal had their first shearing today.

JONES RIVER SUNRISE AND YO MAMA, WHAT’S FOR BREAKFAST?

I have been hoping to take a photo of a female Eastern Towhee, and here she is, with a mouthful of breakfast for the nestlings! She hopped from tree limb to tree limb with her treasure, ta-weeting all the while; no small accomplishment while tightly clamping down on that big bug.

Look at the beautiful white-tipped underside of her tail feathers

Pretty sunrise over Jones River Marsh

Snapshot of a male Eastern Towhee taken several weeks ago in the same location. I wonder if they are a pair? It’s unlikely we’ll get to see the nest. Female towhees build their nests on the ground and they are well-camouflaged, being made of bark, twigs, and dried leaves. There is a dense tangle of undergrowth where I am filming and it’s probably fraught with ticks, so on the path I stay.

A few more from this morning sunrise over the river

TREE SWALLOW TANGO

Tree Swallows here, there and everywhere! Nesting has begun and these graceful aerialists can be seen at every Cape Ann beach, dune, and meadow–twisting, turning, dip, diving, and dashing while catching insects mid-air.
Tree Swallows dip-dive bathing at Henry’s Pond

More About Tree Swallows:

M is For Migration Through Massachusetts
Responding to Reader’s Questions About Tree Swallows
New Short Film: Tree Swallows Massing

MOM, WHY ARE THE PIPING PLOVERS IN JAIL?

Mama Plover sitting on an egg

This question was asked by a young child visiting the plover nesting area at Good Harbor Beach. Another asked, why are the Piping Plovers in a cage? And today while on plover wellness check, I overheard an adult telling her daughter that the little tufts of dried seaweed within the roped off area are all Piping Plover nests, filled with Piping Plover eggs. 

In actuality, there is only one nest in the roped off area, and that nest is in the middle of the net and wire exclosure. The prefix ex in the word exclosure gives us a clue as to the meaning of the word. The contraption is designed to exclude other creatures, not to confine the plovers.

Wildlife monitors will place an exclosure over a nest to prevent people and dogs from accidentally stepping on the eggs and to prevent foxes, other mammals, seagulls, crows, and owls from eating the eggs. The holes in the wire are large enough for a Piping Plover to run freely in an out of the exclosure, and small enough to keep predators out.

What is Foxy Loxy up to? It’s morning and the young fox is very hungry He is foraging in the sand for plover eggs!

You can clearly see the Mom and Dad plover taking turns on the nest. About every twenty minutes or so, they exchange places. When there visiting the plovers with your children bring binoculars or your camera and watch this wonderful story unfolding right here our beautiful Good Harbor Beach. 

The very slight depression in the sand in the photo above shows a Piping Plover nest scrape. The diameter of the scrape is about the size of a tennis ball. Sometimes the Dad plover tosses tiny bits of shells or pebbles in the scrape, but just as often as not, the scrape is unlined.

WHAT ARE THOSE CRAZY BIRDS RUNNING AROUND GOOD HARBOR BEACH PARKING LOT?

Killdeer Chick

Lost of folks are asking, are the Piping Plovers nesting in the Good Harbor Beach parking lot? The answer is no, the Piping Plovers are nesting on the beach near boardwalk #3. The mama and papa, and now chicks, that are running all around the GHB parking lot are a shorebird named Killdeers. Comparatively quite a bit larger, and more commonly seen, Killdeers are related to Piping Plovers, but are a different species.

Killdeer Chicks and Parent, Good Harbor Beach 2016

That I am aware of, this is the second year in a row Killdeers have chosen to nest at the Good Harbor Beach parking lot. It is frightening to see the babies zoom in and out between the cars. The mom and dad give vocal cues to the chicks, but still they run willy nilly. Killdeers have a fondness for human modified habitats, such as the GHB parking lot, and a willingness to nest close to people.

Like Piping Plover chicks, Killdeer chicks are precocial. That is a word ornithologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Precocial means that shortly after hatching, the bird is fully mobile. Plover chicks are not completely mature, they still need parents to help regulate their body temperature, but they have downy feathers and can run and feed themselves within moments after emerging. The opposite of precocial is altricial. Birds that hatch helpless, naked, usually blind, and are incapable of departing the nest are altricial. Robins and Cardinals are examples of altricial birds. 

Adult Kildeer

If you encounter the Kildeer family and would like to take a photo, or simply observe these adorable babies on-the-go, my advice is to stand quietly and don’t chase after them. Running after the chicks will put the parents into panic mode and they may lose sight of the other siblings. As the chicks mature, they will spend less time in the parking lot, and more time in the marsh and at the tidal river edge. Kildeer adults, and even the chicks, are actually good swimmers. Last year the Kildeer family crossed the tidal river and spent the second half of the season on the opposite side of the marsh.Compare the Killdeer chick above, to the Piping Plover chick below.

Piping Plover Chick and Mom

Killdeer Family all grown up, September 2016

HOORAY!!! THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS ARE OFFICIALLY NESTING!

Two Perfect Piping Plover Eggs!

 

After last week’s harrowingly warm weather, we lost all sight of the Piping Plover pair trying to establish a nest by the boardwalk #3 location. Thursday and Friday brought record temperatures of over 90 degrees, drawing unseasonably large crowds and literally, a ton of garbage, which was not only beyond disgusting, but in turn, attracted a plethora of seagulls and crows. Saturday, there was absolutely no sign of the Plovers, from one of end of Good Harbor to the other. Sunday, my husband Tom discovered a few tracks and Monday, I found a few as well, but nothing like we had seen earlier.

Thinking our Plover Pair were lost to us, lo and behold Tuesday morning I spied Papa Plover sitting in one location, for a very long time (half an hour is a long time for a plover to sit in one spot). Could there be an egg beneath Papa? Unfortunately, where Papa was sitting was on the edge of the roped off area, next to the party rock, with dog tracks only several inches away.

Dog tracks running through the roped off area and next to the Piping Plover nesting site.

I quickly called Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship for Essex County Greenbelt. He came by immediately and confirmed yes, we have a nest!!!

An exclosure has been installed and the plover parents are adapting well to the protective wire frame.

The roping has been rearranged with the nest now in the center.

SONGBIRDS FROM DAN ALLEN’S BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

Friend and East Gloucester resident Dan Allen sent along these wonderful snapshots of recent visits by songbirds in his beautiful garden. Dan’s garden is abundant with wildflowers, food, and welcome shelter for birds, bees and butterflies. Thank you Dan!Nothing common about this gorgeous little warbler, a male Common Yellowthroat. Yellowthroats migrate north from winter homes in Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Yesterday I posted photos of a male Eastern Towhee. Dan’s photo is of the female! Wherever the male’s feathers are black, the female’s are milk chocolate brown.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is another nesting migrant to Cape Ann. They eat fruit, seeds, nuts, insects, and especially Love sunflower seeds. Only the males have this striking feather pattern; the female’s feathers are shaded in quiet tones of gray, tan, and brown. During the winter months, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks live in the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

 

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