Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

Kim Smith Event for Essex County Greenbelt, Thursday March 5th: Planting An Essex County Pollinator Garden

Catbird eating Pagoda dogwwod fruits ©Kim Smith 2014. Catbird Eating Dogwood Fruits

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 alice@ecga.org.

I look forward to seeing you!

American Lady Butterfly New York Ironweed ©Kim Smith 2014

 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 alice@ecga.org.

monarch-butterfly-c2a9kim-smith-2012-1Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at New England Asters

Harbor Walk Butterfly Garden ©Kim Smith 2012Gloucester HarborWalk Butterfly Garden

A Half Milestone

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Today all systems were go: 33°F, daylight, dry pavement, and a craving to walk some distance without my cane. Janet took the cane at the front door and we walked at a medium pace to my favorite animal sculpture park. After stopping to take a few photos, we walked back home. Total distance: One half mile using no cane or other walking aid.

As the journey started thirteen months ago, I couldn’t roll onto my side in a hospital bed. I graduated to a wheelchair, then a walker, followed by a cane, and now two legs. I’m currently scouting around for a longer full–milestone trail. (Photo by Janet).

Exciting News! (Edited)

GORGEOUS JUVENILE SNOW GOOSE IN GLOUCESTER!
Snow Goose Juvenile Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Many 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 Goose Juvenile Gloucester Massachusetts Cnadian Geese ©Kim Smith 2015

Snow Goose Juvenile Canadina Geese Gloucester Massachusetts Essex County  ©Kim Smith 2015The juvenile Snow Goose and flock of Canadian Geese are foraging for grasses along the water’s edge. They yank and tug vigorously at the sea grass roots until dislodging.

Snow Goose Juvenile Gloucester Massachusetts -3 ©Kim Smith 2015Snow Goose Gloucester Massachusetts Essex County Teeth Tomia ©Kim Smith 2015 copySnow 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.

Snow Goose Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Thanks so much again Michelle and Atticus for the Snow Goose alert!* See comment below from Chris Anderson

See More Snow Goose Photos Here Read more

Breaking News!

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!

 

Read More about the Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend schedule of events, which is taking place this weekend, here.

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More Coyotes On Eastern Point Photos From Tom Janis #GloucesterMA

Joey,
Hi.  I appreciate Good Morning Gloucester! 
Here are 4 coyotes walking through my backyard (Brace Cove in the distance) just now.  I wonder how they’re surviving.
Best,
Tom Janisimage

I took this with my iPhone so not great quality, but here are 4 coyotes walking through my backyard just now (Brace Cove behind).
Enjoy Good Morning Gloucester!  Thanks.
Tom Janis

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Joey,
Hi!    Here they are again this morning.  All four were on the rock, in the sun, but it took too long for my phone to power on, but I was able to catch the last one crossing the rock.  I’m pretty sure I know where their den is now (and they really worry me because I have a dog).  I see them every day!
Best,
Tom Janis

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Did You Know That ANYONE Can Become A Member of the Audubon Society?

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.

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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.

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Robert Chem Sanderlings painting currently on view at the Trident Gallery

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Robert Chem Northern Shrike 

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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:

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.

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions or contact us.

Carolina Wren

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.

Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianusCarolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

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.

Monarch Butterflies in the News

Monarch Butterflies Goleta Santa Barbara California ©Kim Smith 2015

Monarch Butterflies Goleta Santa Barbara California

Thanks to the Dalpiaz Family and to Passages for forwarding several of the links!

U.S. Government Pledges 3.2 Million Dollars To Save Monarch

40 Years Ago the World ‘Discovered’ Mexico’s Monarch Habitat — Today Its Survival Is at Stake

More monarch butterflies in Mexico, but numbers still low

Journey North

PopulationEstimate_graphic

How Butterflies Self-Medicate

 

Short Film: Snowy Day Robin and Starling Flock

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!!!

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Original post from 2012: Round Robin Redbreast Snowy Day

Where Are All the Goldfinches?

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.

Hi Anita,

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. 

Goldfinch and Cosmos ©Kim Smith 2013Male Goldfinch in Breeding Plumage Eating Cosmos Seeds

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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.

Happy Birds!

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

 

Snowy Day Squirrel

Squirrel snowEastern Gray Squirrel

Snowy Gray Squirrel ©kim Smioth 2015

The diet of the gray squirrel is comprised principally of seeds and nuts, with acorns, beechnuts, butternuts, and hickory the mainstay during the winter months. In autumn, gray squirrels clip nuts from the tree canopy and bury them in the ground, relying on their sense of smell to retrieve during the winter–even digging through several feet of snow. I often observe them stashing the bird seed in the crevices of our old pear trees and find whole chestnuts buried in our garden. During periods of severe winter weather, gray squirrels may stay in their dens or nest for several days, eventually visiting their stores of nuts, as well as bird feeders, during the warmest hours of the day.

gray squirrel flattening ©Kim Smith 2015  copy When alarmed gray squirrels freeze, then flatten themselves to a trunk or limb and inch around to the other side to stay hidden.

Readers Doug and Jacqueline Share Photos

IMGP1057IMGP3426Thanks so much Doug for sending the photo of your 2 1/2 gallon capacity bird feeders! See yesterday’s post “Everyday Birds of Essex County.” I took several squirrel photos this week for a little post I am planning. And thank you Jacqueline for submitting your crow and sanderlings photos, too.squirrel friend
asthe crow fliessanderling parade

What to Feed the Robins

American Robin in the Snow ©Kim Smith 2014The robins in our community have several different habits for surviving winter. There are year round resident robins that breed throughout Cape Ann during warmer months and also spend the winter here.  A second group only breeds in our region, then migrates further south during the winter months. A third group, the robins that we see flocking to our shores beginning round about January 28th, are migrating from parts further north. They are very hungrand are looking for berries, fruit, and small fish.

In early spring, robins begin to disperse from flocks. The ground thaws and worms, insects, and snails once again become part of the robin’s diet. Spring, too, is when we begin to hear the beautiful liquid notes of the male robin. He is singing to attract a mate. The robin’s song is one of the of most beloved and it is his music with which we associate the coming of spring.

With several edits and updates since I first wrote the following article, I think you’ll find the information helpful in knowing what to feed and to plant for the robins.

American Robin Sumac ©Kim Smith 2014Flock of American Robins Eating Sumac, Halibut Point Rockport

Food for the American Robin

During the winter months Cape Ann often becomes home to large flocks of robins, and we have had the joy of hosting numerous numbers in our garden. I can’t help but notice their arrival. Their shadows descend, crisscrossing the window light, followed by a wild rumpus in the ‘Dragon Lady’ hollies. This pair of hollies is planted on opposing sides of the garden path, alongside my home office. I have learned to stealthily sneak up to a window, as any sudden activity inside startles birds that are investigating our garden, and they quickly disperse. Dining not only on berries of the ‘Dragon Ladies’, but also the ‘Blue Princess’ Meserve holly and winterberry bushes, I find dozens of noisy, hungry robins.

These winter nomads flock to trees and shrubs that hold their fruit through January and February, feasting on red cedar, American holly, Meserve hollies, chokecherries, crabapples, sumac, and juniper. Robins traveling along the shores of Cape Ann also comb the shoreline for mollusks, and go belly-deep for fish fry. Depleting their food supply, they move onto the next location. Gardens rife with fruiting shrubs and trees make an ideal destination for our migrating friends.

Year round resident robins will call your garden home when provided with trays of chopped fruit and raisins, supplemented with meal worms.

What to Plant for Robins

The garden designed to attract nesting pairs of summer resident robins, as well as flocks of winter travelers, would be comprised of trees and shrubs for nest building, plants that bear fruit and berries that are edible during the summer and fall, and plants that bear fruits that persist through the winter months. Suburban gardens and agricultural areas provide the ideal habitat, with open fields and lawns for foraging insects as well as trees and hedgerows in which to build their nests.

The following plants, suggested with robins in mind, will also attract legions of songbirds and Lepidoptera. The list is comprised primarily of indigenous species with a few non-native, but not invasive, plants included.

Trees for nesting ~ American Holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida).

Summer and autumn fruit bearing trees, shrubs and vines for robins ~ Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Blackberry (Rubus spp.), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), Gray Dogwood (C. racemosa), Red-osier Dogwood (C. sericea), Silky Dogwood (C. amomum), Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Apple (Malus pumila), Virginia Rose (Rosa virginiana), Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), Wild Grape (Vitis spp.).

Trees and shrubs with fruits persisting through winter ~ Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana), Crabapple (Malus spp.)Sargent’s Crabapple (Malus sargentii), American Holly (Ilex opaca), Meserve Hollies (Ilex meserveae), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Common Juniper (Juniperus communis), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina).

American Robin winter crabapple turdus migratorius, americanus ©kim Smith 2015American Robin Eating Crabapples

I Love Sumac

Worms!

The American Robin and Bird Food

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