Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

BONNY BONAPARTE’S GULLS!

Bonaparte's Gulls Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015While recording audio for film projects this past week I was wonderfully surprised to come upon this small flock of the beautiful and graceful Bonaparte’s Gulls feeding at low tide!.Bonaparte's Gull winter plumage Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Bonaparte's Gull Massachusetts Diving ©Kim Smith 2015

The water was very clear and I think in the above photo you are seeing not the gull’s reflection, but its open mouth plunge for tiny shrimp.

Bonaparte's Gulls Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015

Non-breeding plumage.

Bonaparte’s Gulls are exquisite creatures to observe. Appearing to delight in riding the waves, they twirl every which way before diving for krill.

In this flock you can see very clearly the changing feather patterns from breeding to non-breeding, with the signature charcoal gray smudge behind the ear on the gull on the left. Typically by mid-August they have gained their winter plumage. During breeding season the feathers of the hood become entirely black.

We see Bonaparte’s Gulls in Massachusetts in spring on their northward migration to the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada and again in the summer as they return to winter grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and southern Great Lakes region. I at first thought that these were Laughing Gulls but the pinkish-orange feet and legs and buzzy vocalizations tell us otherwise.

I ran into my friend and long-time Annisquam resident Hank Junker on Lighthouse Beach and he reports that every summer he sees at least one Bonaparte’s at Lighthouse Beach or the adjacent Cambridge Street Beach. Hank also mentioned that they are typically here earlier in the summer, around the first week of August.

Bonaparte's Gull Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015

Black wing-tips and pink-orange feet suggest Bonaparte’s Gulls

Bonaparte's Gull -Ring-backed Gull Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015

Ring-billed Gull in the background, Bonaparte’s in the fore.

The Bonaparte’s Gull is about half the size of the Ring-billed Gull. I have learned to observe closely groups of gulls because different species sometimes feed together and you never know what fascinating bird may be amongst the flock.

Bonaparte's Gull Diving ©Kim Smith 2015

Bonaparte's Gull Diving -3 Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015The gulls are finding a smorgasbord at dawn’s low tide, feeding on krill and other crustaceans.   They get into tussles over feeding turf and, with a flourish of wings and a sharp, rasping “keh-keh,” they give each other the business, in no uncertain terms!

Two more photos here Read more

Quarky Pants Junior!

Juvenile Black Crowned Night heron ©Kim Smith 2015Allowing me to get a little closer, perhaps one of these days (before he/she’s all grown up), I’ll catch a side-by-side of Black-crowned Night Heron parent and juvenile. Here he is standing on one leg, just as do mom and dad!Great Blue Heron ©Kim Smith 2015

A little ways off was a Great Blue Heron also hunting amongst the reeds. I captured him in fight with my movie camera as he flew to the other side of the pond. Thanks to E.J., who was on a morning walk and pointed out the general vicinity to where he had landed, I was able to get another clip of the heron flying.

I am searching for quiet places to record harbor and shore sounds, away from the roar of the surf, as well as where boat and machine engines don’t muffle or drown out every other sound. Its harder than you may imagine especially because there can be little to no wind. If you know of a quiet place where you especially love to listen to the music of Cape Ann, please answer in the comments section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you! 

CRAZY ABOUT CATERPILLARS!

Atticus Monarch caterpillar ©Kim Smith 2015An integral part of the Monarch film is to show the connection between wildflowers and caterpillars. Emma, Pilar, Atticus, and Meadow were fantastic with the caterpillars and a huge help with the project. We are so blessed to know these bright and curious kids, and their incredible parents!Pilar Atticus Meadow Emma monarch caterpillar ©Kim Smith 2015

Pilar Atticus Meadow Emma monarch caterpillars ©Kim Smith 2015Thank you Pilar, Atticus, Meadow, and Emma for all your help filmmaking!

Meadow monarch caterpillar ©Kim Smith 2015 copy

MR. AND MRS. QUARKY PANTS HAD A BABY!

Black-crowned Night Heron Gloucester -1 ©Kim Smith 2015For the past several months on my filming forays around Niles Pond I have encountered a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons. With a loud quark, at least one flies up into the trees as soon as my presence is detected and I can never get a closeup photo with both in the same shot.Black-crowned Night Heron Gloucester -4 ©Kim Smith 2015

I was wondering if they were a nesting pair or even husband and wife; I mean they could be siblings. Today before daybreak I saw their fledgling, but only for the briefest second.

Black-crowned Night Heron fledgling Gloucester -5 ©Kim Smith 2015Hoping to take a better shot of the fledgling (above) before it gains its adult feathers.

Black-crowned Night Heron Gloucester -2 ©Kim Smith 2015It flew off, along with one of the parents, but one did stay while I was recording daybreak foley.

Black-crowned Night Heron Gloucester -3 ©Kim Smith 2015

Black-crowned Night Heron standing on one leg, a characteristic many birds share, which they do primarily to conserve energy and body heat.

Black-crowned Night Heron Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2015A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Sunrise Niles Pond ©Kim Smith 2015

Today’s Niles Pond Sunrise

CAPE ANN WILDFLOWERS BLOOMING TODAY!

Summersweet (Clethra alnifoloa( ©Kim Smith 2015

Summersweet

There is an exuberant abundance of wildflowers blooming in marsh and meadow all along the shores of Cape Ann and here are just a few snapshots. When out and about on a wooded walk, you may notice a wonderful sweet spicy fragrance. What you are smelling is more than likely our native summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), which also goes by the common name sweet pepperbush; perhaps a more apt description of its potent and zippy honey-spice scent.

Sweet pepperbush ©Kim Smith 2015Plant summersweet for pollinators–bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies love the nectar-rich florets.

Jewelweed ©Kim Smith 2015Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), also loved by hummingbirds

Cattail flowers ©Kim Smith 2015 copy

Catinninetails

Northern Crescent ©Kim Smith 2015

Male Northern Crescent Butterfly Basking
Pearl Cresent nectaring at Marsh Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2015Female Pearl Crescent Nectaring at Milkweed

MONARCH BUTTERFLY EGG BONANZA!

Milkweed Field ©Kim Smith J.PGNancy’s Milkweed Field

Ninety-nine thank yous to Nancy Lutts of Salem who responded to my plea for Monarch butterfly eggs. She follows both GMG and my blog and emailed immediately after reading the posts. Nancy has the most amazing farm and fields located along the Danvers River. She and her family have been farming the land for decades. Nancy invited me to come and collect eggs. She had been to one of my lectures, but you hardly get to know people at the programs so it was a delight to meet her and super fun to peruse her fields for eggs while chatting and sharing butterfly info. milkweed butterfly eggs ©Kim Smith 2015 Interestingly, Nancy’s plow wasn’t working as well as usual, so the mowing of her fields, which usually takes place in early summer, happened later than usual. Good thing! The two-inch tall emerging milkweed shoots were the females’ preference. This goes to a topic that is often brought up in the lectures that I give and one of the most frequently asked questions, “When is the best time of year to plow my fields?” I recommend plowing in early fall, well after the monarchs have emerged from their chrysalides and headed to Mexico. Although, the very, very best practice for the pollinators is to mow half a field annually, alternating from one side of the field to the other every other year. This allows for the pollinators to complete their life cycle within a two year time frame. The single greatest threat to Monarchs, as well as all bees and butterflies, is habitat destruction in the United States, whether it be from Monsanto’s Roundup or from mismanagement and loss of fields and meadows. Nancy Lutts Salem ©kim Smith 2015Nancy has a truly fabulous butterfly and hummingbird garden that I’ll be back to photograph on a sunnier day. Nancy Lutts garden ©kim Smith 2015

MONARCH BUTTERFLY HELP NEEDED!

Butterfly Days are Here!

Monarch Butterfly Female -2 ©Kim Smith 2015Female Monarch Butterfly Necating at Red Clover, Waring Field, Rockport

I am looking for Monarch eggs and will travel! Monarch eggs are found on the upper leaves of milkweed plants. The eggs are tiny and dome-shaped, only as large as a pinhead, and are a pale golden yellow color.

Monarch Butterfly Egg ©Kim Smith 2015

Monarch Butterfly Egg

Waring Field supports myriad species of pollinators and is simply a fantastic place to explore. Although I didn’t find any eggs on my search on the leaves at the Common Milkweed patch at Waring this morning, I did see four adult Monarchs, three male and one female, along with fritillaries, a Common Ringlet, a bevy of Pearly Cresentspots, Blue Azures, and Yellow Sulphurs. The Monarchs, Ringlet, and Sulphurs were nectaring at the great field of Red Clover and the Pearl Crescents at the milkweed.

Pearl Crescent  Butterfly Female Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2015

Female Pearl Crescent Nectaring at Marsh Milkweed

Common Ringlet Butterfly Waring Field Rockport ©Kim Smith 2015Common Ringlet

Monarch Butterfly Female -3 ©Kim Smith 2015Newly Emerged Female Monarch Butterfly

Please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or leave a comment in the comment section if you have Monarch eggs you’d like to share. Thank you!

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Emerging from the woods onto the sunny lower field, I startled a small herd of White-tailed Deer foraging. If you click on the photo to enlarge, you can see the male deer antlers are covered in velvet. Antlers are true bone structures and are an extension of the skull. The velvet provides blood flow that supplies nutrients and oxygen.

Waring Field Deer ©Kim Smith 2015

White-tailed Deer

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MALE AND FEMALE SWAN

Mute Swan male female çygnus olor ©Kim Smith 2015Side-by-side Comparison ~ Female Swan Back, Male Swan Front

Have you ever wondered whether you are looking at a male or female swan? I had often until I learned that the male’s black protuberance at the base of the bill swells during the breeding season. Very recently, I learned that the fleshy black knob has a name. So now rather than calling it a knob, nobble, thingamabob, or that black protuberance above the bill, I can say blackberry, and you can too. That really is an often used term in Europe, their native home. The blackberry is also unique to Mute Swans; no other species of swans has this feature.

Mute swan male female cygnet cygnus olor ©Kim Smith 2015I’ve posted this photo before however, it shows very well the different sizes of the male and female’s blackberries. Male, left; female, right.

FLEDGLING HOMIE RESCUE UNDERWAY AT SEVEN SEAS WHALE WATCH (EDITED)

UPDATE: HOMIE LEARNED TO FLY!

Seagull fledgling ©Kim Smith 2015Heather Dagle from 7 Seas Whale Watch reports that this sweet fledgling appeared several days ago after its nest, which was located at Fisherman’s Wharf, was destroyed in a recent storm. He/she has yet to learn how to fly however, its Mom stops by daily to feed it regurgitated food. After seeing how much the fledgling enjoyed splashing around in a bowl of water placed there by Heather and Kate, I dropped off a big galvanized tub. Heather promises to send a picture if he jumps in!

7-seas-whale-watch-51d2377354b9720f71005f0b

Did you know that 7 Seas Whale Watch was voted best Boston’s Best Whale Watching company by WGBH-Boston Reader’s Poll? Check out their website Here.

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gray-seal-3Gray Seal Eating a Striper

All images except fledgling gull courtesy Google image search.

What to Do if You Find a Seal on the Beach

Good Morning Gloucester reader Anita sent along a photo of a young seal perched on the Annisquam. It reminded me to post my Seal PSA, which I think is a good idea to do annually, especially at this time of year when many young seals beach themselves. They are usually not injured or ill and only need to rest, or occasionally, to escape danger (think shark). Never approach a hauled out seal; simply leave it to recuperate and make its way back to the water in its own time.

Thanks so much Anita for submitting your photo!

Gloucester Seal0001

 

THE FRIENDLY RED ADMIRAL


Red Admiral Butterfly Niles Pond ©Kim Smith 2015Red Admiral Basking at Niles Pond

So named Friendly because he’ll alight on your arm or head, attracted to the minerals in perspiration. This Red Admiral was found warming its wings in the early morning sun at Niles Pond. Butterflies wings do not work very well in cool, rainy temperatures. I hope the upcoming heat wave brings a batch of butterflies!

Niles Pond Sunrise ©Kim Smith 2015Niles Pond 

Eastern Point Before and After Thunderstorm Photos AND WHIMSICAL WHIMBRELS!

Gloucester storm 2015On my way home from work several days ago. I stopped to take a photo of the fast and furious oncoming storm. To my utter delight I spotted a pair of whimbrels feeding alongside the mallards at the water’s edge however, to my dismay, I only had my still camera. They didn’t allow for close-up photography and flew off in the direction of Brace Rock as soon as this human was noticed. Returning with movie camera after the storm to see if they were still in the neighborhood, they were not, and have not been spotted since.

Whimbrels East Gloucester Massachusetts july 25 ©Kim Smith 2015The only other time I have seen a pair of whimbrels, or any whimbrels for that matter, was at Good Harbor Beach several years ago, in mid-September. Whimbrels breed in the Arctic, departing in July for parts further south. It seems early in the season for them to have begun their southward migration, or perhaps they have been here all along. I wonder if any of our readers have spotted whimbrels?

Gloucester storm ©Kim Smith 2015

Kim Smith Lecture Tuesday Evening at the Chelmsford Public Library

Please join me Tuesday evening  at 7pm at the Chelmsford Public Library for my lecture The Pollinator Garden. The event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

11a. Pipevine EggsPipevine Swallowtail Butterfly Eggs, East Gloucester

GREAT EGRET: HUNTED TO NEAR EXTINCTION

Great Egret Gloucester airgrettes ©Kim Smith 2015During the breeding season, Great Egrets grow long feathers from their back called airgrettes.

Great Egret airgrettes ©Kim Smith 2015The airgrettes were the feathers sought by the 19th and early 20th century plume-hunters for the millinery trade.

The magnificent Great Egret was very nearly hunted to extinction during the “Plume Bloom” of the early 20th century. Startling, cumbersome, and hideous, hats were fashioned with every manner of beautiful bird feather. Europeans were partial to exotic birds that were hunted the world over and they included hummingbirds, toucans, birds of paradise, the condor, and emu. The American milinery trade favored herons for their natural abundance. The atrocities committed by the murderous millinery led to the formation of the first Audubon and conservation societies however, what truly led to saving the birds from extinction was the boyish bob and other short hairstyles introduced in about 1913. The short cuts could not support the hat extravaganzas, which led to the popularity of the cloche and the demise of the plume-hunters.

banned-egretsConfiscated dead egrets

humming-birds-rzsThousands of hummingbird pelts at 2 cents apiece

kate-middleton-2-435As absurdly ridiculous now as then

bird-hat-public-domain

 

Queen Anne’s Lace Series

Queen Annes's Lace -3 ©Kim smith 2015 Queen Annes's Lace ©Kim smith 2015 Although not a native North American wildflower, Queen Anne’s Lace has adapted to our climate well, reportedly growing in every state save for Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii. A member of the Umbelliferae, or Carrot Family, Queen Anne’s Lace also goes by the common names Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest, and Bishops’s Lace. The root of young plants, although white, tastes like a carrot, and when rubbed together between fingers, the foliage smells of parsley (also a member of the Umbel Family).Black Swallowtail osmeterium ©Kim Smith 2011 copy

Queen Anne’s Lace is a caterpillar food plant of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. Don’t despair butterfly lovers. Although the butterflies have been slow to awaken this year, I have high hopes that just as flowering plants are several weeks behind, so too will the butterflies emerge–only later than expected.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Zinnia Male ©Kim Smith 2013.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Nectaring at Zinnia elegans

Please join me Tuesday evening  at 7pm at the Chelmsford Public Library for my lecture The Pollinator Garden. The event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

Queen Annes's Lace -4 ©Kim smith 2015

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