Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

TOP LILACS FOR FRAGRANCE

Fragrant lilacs copyright Kim Smith

Lilacs from our garden blooming in shades of pink, purple, blue, white and lavender

With our lilacs in full glorious bloom, and nearly knocking me out with their wonderfully delicious fragrance when walking down our garden path, I thought I’d post this excerpt from my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ~ Notes from a Gloucester GardenNot all lilacs are fragrant and some not at all. Based on my years of planting lilacs for client’s gardens, and my own garden, with any one of the lilac cultivars listed here, you will not be disappointed. For information on how to grow lilacs, the chapter devoted to lilacs in Oh Garden! goes into greater detail.

Lilacs

False blue
White
Purple
Colour of lilac
Heart-leaves of lilac all over
New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soil
of New England,
Lilacs in me because I am
New England,
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are in it,
Because my flowers are for it,
Because it is my country
And I speak to it of itself
And sing of it with my own voice.
Since certainly it is mine.

—from Lilacs by Amy Lowell (1874–1925)

Surely at the top of the list of shrubs to grow for creating the framework of an intimate garden or garden room are lilacs, in particular Syringa vulgaris and their French hybrids. Syringa vulgaris are grown for their exquisite beauty in both form and color of blossoms, although it is their fragrance flung far and throughout gardens and neighborhoods that make them so unforgettable.

Not all species of Syringa and cultivars of Syringa vulgaris are scented. The early French hybrids and hybrids of Leonid Kolesnikov have retained their fragrance. Syringa oblata has a similar fragrance, though is not nearly as potent. Several of the Chinese species have a spicy cinnamon scent, while many of the Asian species and their hybrids have very little, if any, fragrance. To find your personal preference, I suggest a visit to a local arboretum, or take your nose to the nursery during the extended period of time (six to eight weeks, or so) in which the different cultivars of S. vulgaris are in bloom.

Nearly everywhere lilacs are grown (and here I am only referring to S. vulgaris), they are called by some variety of the word lilac. Perhaps the word lilac stems from the Persian word Lilak or Lilaf meaning bluish. The French say Lilas, the Spanish say Lila, and the Portuguese Lilaz. In old English lilacs were called Laylock, Lilack, and Lilock.

Lilacs are native to and found growing among the limestone rocks on the hillsides and mountainsides throughout southeastern Europe, in the Balkans, Moldavia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia. Cultivated by local mountain herdsmen, they were taken from the peasant villages of central Europe to the garden courts of Istanbul. In 1563, the Flemish scholar and traveler Ogier Ghiselin, Count de Busbecq, Ambassador of Ferdinand I of Austria to the court of Suleiman the Magnificent, brought back to Vienna gifts from the sultan’s garden. Attracting much attention was the lilac. Seven years later, in 1570, Ogier Ghiselin, Count de Busbecq, and then Curator of the Imperial Court Library, accompanied the Archduchess Elizabeth from Vienna to Paris where she was betrothed to King Charles IX of France. Count de Busbecq journeyed to France with a shoot of Syringa vulgaris, where it soon began to fill the gardens of Paris.

Two color variants sprang up in European gardens beside the wild blue- flowered lilac, a nearly white flowered variant with lighter foliage and a taller- growing variant with deeper purple flowers. Hybridizers quickly set about to create different forms and color versions from these two variants.

Blue Lilac President Grevy copyright Kim Smith

Blue lilac – ‘President Grevy’

Victor Lemoine of the famed nursery Victor Lemoine et Fils at Nancy in Lorraine Province continued the work of hybridizing lilacs. From 1878 to 1950, Victor and his wife, their son Emile, and their grandson, Henri, created 214 lilac cultivars. The cornerstone of the Lemoine’s lilac hybridizing program was a nat- ural sport that bore two corollas, one inside the other, making it the first dou- ble. This double was subsequently named ‘Azurea Plena.’ Because of the Lemoine family’s success in turning ordinary lilacs into fancy double-flowered lilacs in nearly every hue imaginable, they became known as the “French lilacs.” Spreading throughout Europe, the French lilacs were brought to the Russian court by French travelers. Well suited to the soil and climate of Russia, they soon spread far and wide. Several decades later, the Russian hybridist Leonid Kolesnikov continued the successful work of the Lemoines with his own exquisite variants.

The French and Dutch colonists transported lilacs to North America. These cherished cuttings, wrapped in burlap and wet straw tucked into suitcases for the long journey across the Atlantic, traveled well and were soon growing throughout the colonies. By 1753 the Quaker botanist John Bartram of Philadelphia was complaining that lilacs were already too numerous. One of two of the oldest col- lections of lilacs in North America are at the Governor Wentworth home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, planted by the governor in 1750. The second collection, perhaps one hundred years older, is at Mackinac Island in Michigan, where French Jesuit missionaries living in the area are thought to have planted them as early as 1650.

Maiden's Blush Lilac copyright Kim Smith

Pink lilac – ‘Maiden’s Blush’

With their traveling fragrance, versatility in the landscape, and their ability to live tens, perhaps even hundreds of years, lilacs are garden heirlooms. When selecting lilacs to grow for creating the framework of the garden, take the time to choose wisely. Some lilacs grow readily into a tree shape (‘Beauty of Moscow’), while others are somewhat relatively lower growing cultivars; ‘Wedgwood Blue’ comes to mind, and still others, the common white lilac (Syringa vulgaris var. alba), sucker more freely. And bear in mind that different lilacs bloom over an extended period of time. If you wish to have a blue lilac blooming simultaneously with a white lilac, then it is worthwhile to determine whether a specific cultivar is an early, mid, or late season bloomer. The following is a selection of lilacs growing in our garden, arranged in their sequential progression of flowering, with considerable overlapping. They are all highly scented or we wouldn’t grow them. The last photo below shows the different colors in lilac blossoms of white, pink, blue, lavender, magenta.

Beauty of Moscow Lilac copyright Kim SmithSyringa x hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush’

S. x hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush’ (1966) Skinner ~ Single, pale rose pink; shows different colors of pink under different soil conditions. In a warmer climate and lighter soils it is a paler shade of pink, in heavier soils ‘Maiden’s Blush’ has more lavender undertones.

‘Krasavitsa Moskvy’ translated to ‘Beauty of Moscow.’ Leonid Alexseevitch Kolesnikov (1974) ~ Double, lavender-rose tinted buds opening to white-tinted pink. Grown throughout Russia. Vigorous upright habit, useful for growing into a tree-shape. Very extended blooming period.

Syringa vulgaris var. purpurea. Common purple lilac ~ Lavender, the wild species seen growing throughout its native land. The common purple is the most widely distributed form of lilac. The lilac of old gardens.

‘Wedgwood Blue’ John Fiala (1981) ~ Hanging panicles of beautiful true blue florets. Lilac-pink hued buds. Somewhat lower growing.

‘Madame Florent Stepman’ (1908) ~ Satiny ivory white florets from rose- washed buds. Pure white when fully opened. Tall and upright growing. One of the most extensively cultivated for the florist trade.

‘President Grevy’ Lemoine (1886) ~ Pure blue, immense panicles of sweet starry florets.

‘Marie Legraye’ (1840) ~ Single, diminutive florets, radiant white, lighter green foliage.

‘Monge’ Lemoine (1913) ~ Vivid, intense plum wine fading to deepest rose.

‘Andenken an Ludwig Spaeth’ Nursery of Ludwig Spaeth (1883) ~ Single, rich purple-violet with a smaller pointed-head panicle.

Fragrant Lilacs -2 copyright Kim Smith copyClockwise from upper right: Pale pink ‘Maiden’s Blush,’ common white, double-flowered ‘Beauty of Moscow,’ ‘Monge,’ common white, ‘President Grevy’ (blue), and common purple.

Above excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine, Publisher), written and illustrated by Kim Smith.

Link to David R. Godine website for more information Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden

Male Black Swallowtail Wedgwood Blue Lilac copyright Kim SmithNewly emerged male Black Swallowtail Butterfly and ‘Wedgwood’ blue lilac.

FIRST LOOK BEAUTIFUL GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS!

PIPING PLOVERS RUNNING 2 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHNot shy in the least, the four Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers spent the early part of the morning running and feeding along the shoreline, bathing in the tidal flats, and ferociously defending their territory against other avian intruders. A jogger ran past the one preening at the water’s edge–he was quite close–but that did not seem to alarm the Plover. They are diminutive little creatures, about six to seven inches in length, and show mostly white feathers when flying overhead.

PIPING PLOVERS -Eating 4 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITH

Breakfast – Piping Plovers eat insects and small invertebrates

One Piping Plover seemed to be testing different sites to nest, momentarily hunkering down, then leaving the spot, and then returning a few moments later to vigorously dig a deeper depression in the sand, before then flying away.

PIPING PLOVERS NESTING -5 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHTesting the depression

PIPING PLOVERS NESTING 2 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITH

Leaving the possible nesting site

PIPING PLOVERS -5 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITH

Returning to the depression

PIPING PLOVERS NESTING -3 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITH

PIPING PLOVERS NESTING -4 GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITH

Digging in!

PIPING PLOVERS NESTING GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITH

The roped off area appears to be a terrific solution in helping to protect the possible nesting sites. Visitors to Good Harbor Beach this morning were very mindful about respecting the boundary. And there was not a single dog in sight, off leash or otherwise. The Plovers flew in and out of the restricted area, as did Killdeers and several other species of shore birds.

KILLDEER GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHA Killdeer feeding near the Piping Plovers. The Killdeers, also members of the Charadadriidae, are slightly larger and a much darker brown than the Piping Plovers.

PIPING PLOVERS GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER -1 COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHPIPING PLOVERS PREENING GOOD HARBOR BEACH GLOUCESTER COPYRIGHT KIM SMITHPreening

Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach – Fenced Off Area

For Immediate Release from Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken

Public Works in conjunction with our local Conservation Commission, MA Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries and Mass Audubon have been following the activities of Piping Plovers on Good Harbor Beach for the past 4 weeks. The birds have shown signs of nesting activities in this area.

On a recommendation of the state we have fenced off an area approximately 200 feet by 200 feet – southwest of board walk number 3. This area starts at the base of the dunes and extends to the high tide rack or water line. This area is to be off llimits to all humans as well as any domestic pets. These birds are listed under the State and Federal Endangered Species Acts and are granted special protection.

We will continue to work with all agencies to provide the support they need to let nature take its course. We ask for the support of the general public to adhere to the regulations set forth. Any questions should be directed to the Department of Recreation and Conservation (DCR) and/or Mass Audubon.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

 

*   *   *

 

A little background information from Dave Rimmer, Director of Land Stewardship Greenbelt

There are clearly at least 2 pairs of Piping Plovers scoping out the upper beach for nesting. But no nests with eggs yet. Someone will get back to check the site Mon/Tue next week. If we find a nest that will trigger the following:
  • The nest site will be surrounded by a single strand fence with a few signs staying it is a RESTRICTED AREA. Usually on beaches like GHB, we try to keep this fencing to a minimum, but if it appears the birds are still being disturbed after the fence is in place, it may need to be expanded to provide an additional buffer.
  • Information will be provided to help beach staff understand Piping Plovers so they can communicate on some level why the area has restricted access.
Piping Plover Quick Facts:
  • they are a shorebird that is on the US Endangers Species List as a threatened species
  • they nest right on the sand, laying 4 light brown speckled eggs.
  • it takes them about 4 weeks to incubate and hatch the eggs.
  • Chicks are precocious and leave the nest immediately to begin foraging on the own for food. They may stay within fenced area for first day or so but eventually they will wander beyond the fence either along the high beach or down to the waters edge. They are extremely vulnerable during this time, so beach scraping may need to be curtailed. In addition, ATVs driving on the beach will need to be extremely careful.
  • chick fledge (fly) in about 25 days
  • So total time from egg laying to chicks fledging is about 8 weeks.
As I mentioned, the US Fish and Wildlife Service administers the US Endangered Species Act and enforce laws related to the “take” of listed species, inadvertent or deliberate. So during the chick phase, a high level of sensitivity it required.
It means you have a healthy well managed beach if you are attracting Piping Plovers. That’s the good news. Having Piping Plovers nesting on any beach requires some change, which I can be challenging. Drew and I (and Erik Amati from MADFW) stand at the ready to help in any way we can to make this work. If we find a nest next week we will let you know immediately. And from there, we just need to figure it out. Every beach is different.
Ken – Let’s coordinate your efforts. It will be a big help for you to go to the site from time to time to monitor Piping Plover activity.
Thanks all,
Dave
Dave Rimmer
Director of Land Stewardship
Greenbelt | Essex County’s Land Trust
82 Eastern Avenue
Essex, MA 01929
dwr@ecga.org
(978) 768-7241 x14

 

RARE AND ENDANGERED PIPING PLOVERS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH

Yet another bird that was nearly hunted to extinction for its beautiful feathers, as of 2012 when the most recent study was concluded, there were only 3,600 breeding Piping Plovers along the Atlantic Coast.

piping-plover-on-nestPiping Plover’s are a softy colored, mostly tan and white, pint-sized shorebird and like their nests and eggs, exquisitely camouflage with colors of sand and pebbles. This also makes them highly vulnerable to disturbances by humans; even if when people are trying to avoid their nesting sites, it is very easy to unwittingly crush eggs and chicks.

Piping Plovers have been observed on Good Harbor Beach this spring and could quite possibly nest here. The Gloucester DPW, working in conjunction with the Conservation Commission, MA Department of Wildlife, and Mass Audubon have cordoned off a roughly 200 feet by 200 feet area between the GHB bridge and boardwalk number three (the large rock that was exposed several storms ago lies within the area).

This area of the beach may be closed off for as long as eight weeks, possibly longer. If the nest is disturbed, the Piping Plovers will abandon the first and create a new nest, which will extend the time of beach closure.

It is to everyone’s benefit, plover and people alike, to heed the signs and to please keep dogs on leash at all times.

Are dogs allowed on the beach at this time of year?

prd_037300

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PIPL_nest_002

You can see from the photos of different Piping Plover nests from several regions of the country how perfectly the pebble-lined nests and babies meld with their surroundings–a good thing to keep them safe from predators, but not such a good plan for nests in well-trafficked areas.

The male selects the nesting site, defending it from other males. He scrapes a nest in the sand and both the male and female toss stones and bits of shell into the depression. Both the male and female incubate the eggs. It takes about 25 days to incubate the eggs and another three to four weeks for the chicks to fledge.

20130716_0151

Like the Killdeer, Piping Plovers cleverly display a broken wing, a trick designed to distract predators from their nests and babies. Both Killdeers and Piping Plovers are in the same family, Charadriidae. The Piping Plover’s scientific name, Charadrius melodus, and common name, comes from its lovely melodic piping bird song.

PIPL_Defense_001

DSCF3628

ALL IMAGES EXCEPT THE LAST TWO, COURTESY GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH

DEAD TURKEY IN A COYOTE LAIR

Turkey feathers wild copyright Kim SmithAll that remained of this turkey found in a coyote lair were its beautiful flight feathers. The kill was so fresh, clumps of flesh around the quills were still red with blood.

A bunch of these zebra striped turkey feathers in a vase I thought might be attractive. And too perhaps our neighborhood kids may like some to make quill pens with. Knowing that bird feathers are rife with parasites and lice, rather than picking them up with bare hands, I went home and got a large plastic bag and secured that tightly around the collected feathers. The feathers were kept in the freezer for over a week. Next step is to store the feathers at the ambient air temperature for another week to allow eggs of any remaining parasites and lice to hatch. After the week in fresh air, they will be placed back in the freezer for another week. Feathers that are dirty will be washed very gently in mild soapy water. The quill ends will need to be soaked in a light bleach and water solution to sterilize and remove residual clumps of turkey skin.

Interestingly, while looking up how to make quill pens, I learned that the word pen comes from the Latin word penna, which means feather.

MASS AUDUBON TEN POUND ISLAND STUDY REPORT

Ten Pound Island Gloucester -3kimsmithdesigns.comMASS AUDUBON

28 April 2016

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken

City of Gloucester

9 Dale Avenue Gloucester, MA 01930

Re: Ten Pound Island

Mayor Romeo Theken,

At your invitation, Mass Audubon staff members Jeff Collins, Chris Leahy, and I visited Ten Pound Island on April 8th with assistance from your harbormaster staff. Jeff is our Director of Ecological Management, Chris holds the Gerard Bertrand Chair of Ornithology and Natural History and is a Gloucester resident. I direct our Ecological Extension Service through which we offer technical assistance to conservation partners such as municipalities and land trusts.

We spent approximately one hour exploring the island, conducting a very brief plant and wildlife inventory, and discussing ways that we could assist the City in evaluating potential uses of the island including wildlife habitat enhancements and improvements to permit greater public access. Our immediate takeaways were as follows:

 The island appears to serve as nesting habitat for several bird species including Black-crowned Night Heron, Herring Gull, and Common Eider. Other heron species have also been observed investigating the island during the pre-breeding period. Ten Pound is part of a constellation of North Shore rocky islands that provide critical nesting habitat for a number of bird species that have evolved to use the historically predator-free setting.

 Norway Rats, a non-native invasive species, appear to be present on the island, based on presence of burrows. Rats are egg predators and can severely reduce reproductive success of a bird nesting colony.

 While non-native species are the dominant plants, the vegetation structure is representative of other rocky islands with a few trees of medium height, dense shrubby areas, and some open areas of low ground cover and grasses, all ringed by bare rock.

 There is currently no improved access to the island, in either the form of a protected landing or a distinct trail.

 Unmanaged human access and any dog presence during bird nesting season would have a very negative impact on breeding success of the nesting birds.

 Wildlife habitat could be dramatically improved with an effort to reduce invasive plant species and eradicate the rat population.

 We observed no endangered or threatened plant, animal or bird species during our visit.

 Any improved public a access to the island should be strictly managed to protect wildlife habitat.

 Under appropriate management and professional interpretation, the educational and passive recreational value of the island could conceivably be enhanced, while protecting the natural resources it contains.

Additional Detail: No active Common Eider nests were seen, but old nest bowls and one predated egg from a previous nesting year was observed. Three Black-crowned Night Herons were seen including one nest that appeared to be active. Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls were present, but no evidence of their nesting on the island was observed. Our visit was early in the breeding season, and birds may be setting up nests now or in coming weeks.

READ MORE HERE Read more

SHADBLOW, SHADBUSH, CHUCKLEBERRY TREE, SERVICEBERRY, JUNEBERRY…

Shadblow Red-winged Blackbird Atlantic Coastal Plain copyright Kim Smith

Shadblow blooming with Red-winged Blackbird coming in for a landingYellow Warbler Shadblow Amelanchier copyright Kim Smith

Male Yellow Warbler hopping through the Shadblow branches eating small insects

Shadbow, Shadbush, Chuckleberry Tree, Serviceberry, and Juneberry are just a few of the descriptive names given the beautiful Shadblow tree lighting up our marsh and woodland edges. With lacey white flowers, Shadblow (Amelanchier canadensis) is one of the first of the natives to bloom in spring, growing all along the Atlantic coastal plains.

A fantastic tree for the wild garden, over 26 species of songbirds and mammals, large and small, are documented dining on the fruits of Shadblow (including bears). The small blue fruits are delicious, though rarely consumed by people because wildlife are usually first at the table. The foliage of Shadblow is a caterpillar food plant for the Red Admiral Butterfly. Look for her eggs on the upper surface at the tip of the leaf.

Dew drops and Shadblow -2 c Kim Smith

Shadblow in bud  at the water’s edge with dewdrop necklace

Fruiting in June at the same time of year as the annual spawning migration of shad, is how the names Shadblow and Juneberry came about. The common name Serviceberry is derived from the flower clusters gathered for use in church services.

Shadblow reeds Atlantic coastal plain copyright Kim SmithShadblow in bloom Loblolly Cove

The Shadblow and reeds create a beautiful symbiotic habitat for the blackbirds, Grackles and Red-wings, especially. Reeds of cattails and phragmites make ideal nesting material and sites, and come June, above the nesting area, a songbird feast of Shadblow berries ripens.

Common Grackle males copyright Kim SmithCommon Grackle nesting copyright Kim SmithMale Common Grackles nest building in reeds

Female Red-winged Blackbird copyright Kim SmitrhFemale Red-winged Blackbird perched on cattail while collecting fluff for her nest and calling to her mate.

Shadblow moonlight copyright Kim SmithAmelanchier in the moonlight

PRETTIEST ROBIN’S NEST (and crabapple, too)!

Robin's Nest copyright Kim SmithThis beautiful Robin’s nest is located at the lovely home of the Del Vecchio family. Daughter Clara noticed that a sprig of lavender was used in nest building so they left out some colorful bits of yarn. The Robins built the nest atop a rolled up rug that was left standing beside their well-trafficked front door. Mama Robin doesn’t seem to mind a bit the constant comings and goings of the household. I’ve seen robins build nests in some crazy places, but this has to take the cake!

Thank you to Michele for allowing me to come and film what has to be the world’s most charming Robin’s nest!

Update on the Robin’s nest: Sadly, Michele reports that the nest was knocked over and the eggs have been scavenged. In our region, Robins typically have several broods and often use the same nest, so perhaps the nest can become reestablished.

pink flowering crabapple tree copyright Kim SmithDel Vecchio’s crabapple in full glorious bloom! 

Crabapple blossoms

TURKEY ON THE RUN!

What a delightful surprise to see this young turkey in our hood. I imagine they are ubiquitous, but it’s only the second time that I know of that they have been seen perusing Plum Street. My husband thinks she slept in our garden the previous night. Wild turkey Gloucester Massachusetts Meleagris gallopavo c Kim Smith

Hungry, fearful, and on the run, she didn’t stay very long.

Wild turkey Gloucester Massachusetts Meleagris gallopavo -2 c Kim Smith

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL GOOD HARBOR BEACH

Scenes from this morning’s Good Harbor Beach sunrise.

Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Sunrise Kim Smith

Pink and violet hues when I arrived at 5:15 quickly gave way to reds and yellow, and then the looming gray mass of clouds overtook the sky.

Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Sunrise -2 Kim SmithGood Harbor Beach Gloucester Sunrise -3 Kim SmithBeauty abounds–from the grandest skies to the smallest creatures–that’s life at the edge of the sea.

Sparrow Gloucester Massachusetts Kim SmithThis fearless little Song Sparrow ate breakfast at my feet

Red-winged Blackbird Gloucester Massachusetts Kim SmithMorning songster

Kildeer Gloucester Massachusetts Kim SmithKildeer trying her hardest to distract me from her nest

SKUNK-HEADED HOEDOWN!

Surf Scoter Cape Ann Massachusetts Kim Smith 2016Although described as common along both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, this raft of velvety black ducks was new and different to my eyes. The Surf Scoters were here for several days gathering along Cape Ann’s backshore and feeding heartily several hundred yards off the beach. Both in the evening and the following early morning that I found them, they were first to arrive on the scene, soon joined by a paddling of Buffleheads and then several Common Eiders, and all amicably diving together.

Surf Scoter male female Cape Ann Massachusetts Kim Smith 2016

Fairly far off shore at least we can catch a comparative glimpse of the difference between the male and female Surf Scoter (the female is far right).

The male Surf Scoter’s well-defined stark white patches against ebony feathers lends this seaduck its common name, “Skunk-headed Coot.” But it is the scoter’s bulbous-at-the-base orange, black and white patterned bill that I find interesting and almost comical. The female is a plainer dull blackish-brownish with light colored patches, one behind each eye and at the base of the bill.

I would love to know if any of our readers have seen Surf Scoters, when and where, if you have a moment to write. Thank you!

Surf Scoter Cape Ann Massachusetts male female Kim Smith 2016

While watching them feeding and courting in the surf, several times it appeared as though they were squaring off, as in the top photo, and preparing to promenade in a hoedown!

 

SEVEN SEAS REPORTS ANOTHER SPECTACULAR WHALE WATCH!

7 Seas Whale Watch Privateer IV Captain Paul Frontierro predicts a fantastic season for whale watching and so far his predictions are accurate!
13087242_1328477193835905_7176109721556554049_o

13130900_1328477360502555_883307742188511081_oMay 1, 2016

It was another incredible weekend of whale watching on Stellwagen Bank. On both Saturday and Sunday we saw dozens of Humpback Whales (and 1 Finback Whale on Saturday) on the northern of the Bank.

Feeding was no doubt the main theme of both trips, as we had near constant surface feeding from just about every whale we saw.

On Sunday afternoon in particular, the feeding was right at the surface and we spent a good amount of time with an amazing group of 6 Humpback Whales who were blowing enormous rings of bubbles at there surface and then rising up through bubble with mouths wide open.

Here are just a few of the many, many photos that we took this weekend. Some of the photos were taken by our good friend and wildlife photographer Oktay Kaya. Thank you as always for sharing your images, Oktay!

SEE MANY MORE PHOTOS AND TRIP INFO HERE ON THE 7 SEAS WHALE WATCH FACEBOOK PAGE

13086866_1328477183835906_8808261722667229404_o

13131242_1328477233835901_5863065903086751922_o13112961_1328477533835871_785655082991632621_oFlock of Bonaparte’s Gulls wheeling in unison around the feeding whales

7 SEAS WHALE WATCH REPORTS SPECTACULAR MULTIPLE WHALE SIGHTINGS

Fifty to sixty Humpbacks, two Finbacks, and hundreds of Atlantic White-sided Dolphins, 7 Seas Whale Watch had an extraordinary day at sea! 13119989_1325663077450650_629713697218533361_oApril 27, 2016

We just returned from what will do doubt be remembered as one of the best whale watches of the 2016 season. I hesitate to even give an estimate of the number whales we saw because I feel it will set unrealistic expectations, but here goes: We travelled 13 miles southeast of Gloucester (to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank) and saw an estimated 50-60 HUMPBACK WHALES (I identified 30 individual whales and I know I didn’t get to half of what was out there), plus 2 FINBACK WHALES and hundreds of ATLANTIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHINS!

13116226_1325663114117313_1235761831051625421_o13087194_1325663320783959_3556942711709654565_oAll of the whales were feeding. At one point we had a group of at least 12 Humpbacks feeding together. The whales were blowing huge rings of bubbles at the surface (these bubble rings trap and concentrate fish) and then rising up through the bubbles with their mouth wide open in one of the most impressive feeding displays we have seen in a long, long time.

While feeding was no doubt the main activity of the day, we were also treated to a spectacular display of breaching from a young Humpback Whale calf – “Venom’s” new calf! 13112985_1325663234117301_9145072562073087217_o

13072895_1325663324117292_4720881406728456174_oYou can see many more photos, read the full account, and book your spectacular whale watching excursion aboard the beautiful Privateer IV here: 7 Seas Whale Watch

 

COYOTE ON THE BEACH!

Eastern Coyote Canis latrans massachusetts Kim SmithFace to face

When out filming for projects, I’d often thought about what my reaction would be if ever again I came eye to eye with a coyote. Many have crossed my path, but too quickly and too unexpectedly to capture. I don’t bring my dog with me any longer because one brazen one had a go at her two winters ago and it’s just not a good idea to tempt fate. I hoped that calmness would prevail, allowing for a non-blurry photo, or two.

Well, I didn’t panic and got some great footage, and when the coyote was too far out of range for my movie camera, took a few snapshots.

Eastern Coyote massachusetts beach Canis latrans Kim Smith

This one appears smaller than what I have typically encountered, perhaps it is only a year or two old, or possibly coyotes are not as plump after the winter months. He/she was very intent upon scavenging in a bed of seaweed that had washed ashore and think it must have been quite hungry to allow me to get so close. He reluctantly left his meal as I moved toward him and then watched me for some time from under cover of beach grass. His shining eyes were easily seen in the fading low light. Mistakenly, I thought that was the end of our meeting and went back to filming B-roll.Eastern Coyote massachusetts Kim Smith

Beach grass provides excellent camouflage

I was losing the light and decided to call it a day. Packing up cameras and turning to go, there he was, a hundred yards away, staring at me. Deftly traveling through the tall reeds he had circled around. I don’t think he had me in mind for his next meal, but I was halfway between him and the scavanged dinner from which he had so rudely been interrupted. Plans on how to weaponize my tripod and camera bag quickly came to mind. He trotted leisurely towards me, changed his mind, and then trotted in the opposite direction. A car came down the road and he again turned toward my direction, making his way along the beach until slipping back into the grass.

If ever you have a close encounter with a coyote, be sure to remind yourself of this story and know that they may indeed still be very close by.

Well hello there!

Beauty Surprise at Twilight!

Female Mallard Nine ducklings Kim Smith

As much as I was surprised by this sweet glimpse of mama and her ducklings coming around a bend in the marsh, she was as equally surprised to see me, hidden behind a clump of tall grasses. One glance, and mom quickly departed with her nine (!!) newly emerged ducklings. Happy Earth Day!

HAPPY EARTH DAY/EARTH WEEKEND!

Red-winged Blackbird Kim SmithLast evening I was making audio recordings of marsh sounds for film projects and could not have picked a better night. Not only were the spring peepers loudly calling, the blackbirds were singing well past sundown. The resulting combination of bird songs and peepers created a veritable symphony.

Twilight music of the marsh – spring peepers and blackbirds❣

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

EDITED W/EMAIL CONTACT INFO Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team Spring Peeper Field Trip Tonight at 9pm

EDITOR’S NOTE: To correspond with CAVPT, please email at cavpt@yahoo.com
Rick Roth writes from Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team

DID I MENTION WE NEED VOILUNTEERS FOR THIS WEEKEND?!?

And… there will be a field trip tonight.  Almost all the salamanders have left the vernal pools and gone back to the woods.  We might see a few.  Peepers should be screaming.  Meet at Walgreen’s parking lot on Main Street at 9pm. Look for my van, White Lightning.

My cell phone is still out of order.  So… those of you that have been calling or texting that you are helping with these shows, please respond to this email.  If you have not been calling or texting respond to this email anyway.  We need you.

Okay… CAVPT basically has three components: protection of wetlands and wildlife habitat, education- this is where we teach people about the importance of wetlands and wildlife habitat, and fundraising, which is where we get the money to do this.  So… this weekend we have apportunities to accomplish two of these goals, education and fundraising.  But we can’t do it without volunteers.  So far I have a total of one volunteer besides me for two shows.  Please get in touch and tell me you want to volunteer this weekend.

TWO SHOWS AGAIN THIS WEEKEND, so… we will need lots of volunteers:
Saturday  April 23, 2016  somewhere around noon or 1pm.
Snakes of New England and the World- one hour live animal presentation.
Earth Fest at Lynn Woods,  Lynn MA- Pennybrook Rd. entrance.

Sunday  April 24, 2016
Gloucester Pride Stride, Stage Fort Park, Gloucester
Pride Stride starts at noon.  We will be there with some sort of live animal exhibit for the after walk party.
We need people to walk for CAVPT and people to help with the exhibit.

And… keep gathering those yard sale items for the Big Giant Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team/Kestrel Educatrional Adventures Yard Sale, Saturday  May 28, 2016  9am-1pm, St. Peter’s Square in Gloucester.  Rain date- Saturday June 4th.

Thanks,  Rick

we only have one earth, save it

« Older Entries