Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team Update from Rick Roth

These last two warm days have melted a lot of pool ice… so the frogs and salamanders should be coming out very soon. Keep an eye on your emails for field trip updates.

Saturday  April 18, 2015  1-3pm
Agazzis Rock, Manchester-by-the-Sea
We will lead a field trip to a vernal pool and demonstrate how to certify (protect) for The Trustees of Reservations. Could use a couple volunteers.

Gloucester Pride Stide is on Sunday  April 26, 2015
We will have a display there (Stage Fort Park).  You can find pledge sheets at the Pride Stride website (just google Gloucester Pride Stride).  Please walk for Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team.

Big Giant Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team/ Kestrel Educational Adventures Yard Sale  Saturday  May 30, 2015  9am-1pm. Start setting stuff aside to donate and volunteer to help with the event.

Do you know of any vernal ponds that need to be certified, please get in touch soon.  We’ll be doing surveys later this month.

We need board members.  At least one director and a treasurer.  We are required by law to have a treasurer, so we need to get on this.

We are having a Big Giant CAVPT 25th Anniversary Benefit Concert on Friday September 18, 2015 at Mile Marker One in Gloucester from 8-11pm.  With The Fools.  Great band.  Save the date.  We’ll need some help pulling this off, so please volunteer to help out.
Later,  Rick

we only have one earth, save it

Logos.AI

Live! Bikini Speedo Dodge Ball

It’s the official check in and rule breakdown.
Joey speaks science!

Frankie backs up the rules.

Stay tuned for pure shannagins!

Welcome Home Swans!

The swans are returning to Cape Ann ponds and marshes!

During periods of extremely cold weather Mute Swans depart our region to search for vegetation to forage for at unfrozen bodies of water. The deep freeze of this past winter was especially difficult for our feathered friends.

Swan Male Cob

Note the fleshy black knob at the base of the bill. For most of the year, the male and female’s knobs are about the same size. During mating season, which we are coming in to, it is much easier to do a side-by-side identification to determine if cob or pen because the male’s knob swells and becomes more prominent.

Synchronized Divers ©kim Smith 2015

Synchronized Diving

Swan foot ©kim Smith 2015Swans use their large feet as both rudder and paddle when diving for vegetation.

Swan Male Cob Cape Ann ©Kim Smith 2015

Mute Swans have 23 separate vertebrate in their necks, which is more than any other bird, including other swan species.

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Cosmos ©Kim Smith 2014  --8

Friend me on Facebook and follow me on TwitterInstagram, and Vine. You can also subscribe to my design website at Kim Smith Designs, and film’s websites at Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project, and Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

Divers or Dabblers and the Green-Winged Teal

Chickity Check It! Essex County Greenbelt Osprey Cam Just went Live For 2015!

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Greenbelt’s OspreyCam is located at our 30 acre Allyn Cox Reservation in Essex, MA along the shores of the Essex River. This webcam was installed in 2013, the third year that the same osprey pair, Allyn and Ethel, nested on this platform. For 2014 updates, visit Greenbelt’s Osprey Blog shown to the right on this page or follow Greenbelt on Facebook.

Seals Basking…In the Fog?

Seals Brace Cove Brace's Rock ©Kim Smith 2015The seals appeared as delighted as we were for today’s return of warmer temperatures. Despite the lack of sunshine, I counted 22 socializing and lollygagging, five on one rock alone!Seals Brace Cove Brace's Rock Eastern point Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2015

Niles Pond driftwood ©Kim Smith 2015JPGThe giant twelve-foot log tossed by the sea, up and over onto the Niles Pond side of the causeway, is seemingly supported by nothing but frozen snow. And Niles Pond is still thawing, with only a small cluster of mallards huddled together in the center of the ice. I hope the swans return soon!

Niles Pond frozen ©Kim Smith 2015

Rabbit Invasion From Jeanne Blake

Hi Joey,

Rabbits are eating the bark off my trees — the trees in the picture are autumn olive trees. They’re also eating the bark off my crabapple trees – and others.

Last summer when rabbits ate many of my plants, a professional landscaper tried a ton of solutions. I sprinkled moth balls, coyote urine, etc. Nothing worked. Now, it appears that rabbits are living under my deck, which means I’ll have even more this spring.

This afternoon I sprinkled “Shake Away” Fox Urine Granules under the trees. I’m not optimistic…

I know that a lot of people are struggling with the rabbit invasion this winter. Perhaps one of your readers will have a suggestion.

Thanks.

Jeanne Blake

download

Editors note-

My advice- bring in some Coyotes Smile

Can’t resist linking to an episode of Rabbid Invasion

Essex Salt Marsh Panorama

Essex Salt Marsh ©Kim Smith 2015Still frozen, the Essex Salt Marsh panorama was taken yesterday.

Click to see full size.

As we were talking about salt marshes on a recent podcast, the following is information provided by the Massachusetts Bays Program:

The Essex Salt Marsh is part of the 17,000 acre Great Marsh that extends from Cape Ann into New Hampshire. Salt marshes are found in coastal areas. These unique ecosystems are formed within protective estuaries and support numerous plants and animals. Salt marshes are among the most productive lands on earth, outcompeting even the best-managed farms. Two-thirds of all marine fish and shellfish depend on salt marshes during some portion of their lives.

Salt marshes are divided into two general vegetation zones. The Low Marsh is flooded twice daily by the incoming tide and is dominated by Spartina alternifolia (low salt marsh grass). The High Marsh is flooded sporadically and is dominated by Spartina patens (high salt marsh grass). Salt marshes contain tidal creeks, pools, and islands of high ground, and serve as highly efficient pollution filters.

Nationwide, vast areas of salt marsh have been destroyed by filling, dredging, and developing upland areas. The Great Marsh has escaped much of this destruction, but it is impacted by pollution runoff and mosquito control ditches built in the 1930s, and by road and rail crossings, which restrict tidal flows to upstream marshes.

 

 

 

SEVEN FOOT LOBSTER ANCESTOR DISCOVERED!

Published in Live Science, March 11, 2015

By Laura Geggel, Staff Writer

A remarkably well-preserved fossil of a 480-million-year-old sea monster is helping researchers understand the evolution of arthropods. The creature, an anomalocaridid, has not one but two sets of legs on each of its body segments, showing that it’s an ancestor of modern-day arthropods, which include arachnids, insects and crustaceans.

Aegirocassis-benmoulae

Here’s an illustration of the anomalocaridid (Aegirocassis benmoulae), a giant filter feeder that ate plankton and lived in the Early Ordovician period about 480 million years ago. The animal measured about 7 feet (2 meters) long, and is one of the largest arthropods that ever lived.

Despite its size, A. benmoulae was a gentle giant, said John Paterson, an associate professor of paleontology at the University of New England in Australia, who was not involved in the study.

“Its feeding appendages werebuilt for filtering plankton, not grasping prey,” he said. “This is in contrast to olderanomalocaridid species, some of which are interpreted to be the apex predators of their time.”

Read the full story here.

 

Rain Forest Publications and Mourning Cloaks

Posting hurriedly today. My darling daughter is arriving Friday for a wedding dress fitting, and I am sooo behind in wedding dress making that I am sure I will be up half the next two nights!

Recently brochures from Rain Forest Publications arrived. Don’t you love pocket guides, for the very reason the name infers–so easy to tuck along when traveling and hiking. That’s my photo on the cover of “Mexico Butterflies.” The photo was taken not in Mexico, but in Gloucester!

Rain Forest Publications Butterfies of Mexico Guide Kim Smith cover photo ©Kim Smith 2015Be on the lookout for the first butterfly of spring, which will most likely be the Mourning Cloak Butterfly. Mourning Cloaks do not spend the winter in the cool volcanic mountains of Mexico as do the Monarchs, or as a chrysalis in our gardens, like the Black Swallowtail, or as a caterpillar rolled up in a tight little ball under a leaf, as does the Wooly Bear, but as an adult butterfly!

Pussy Willows, Salix discolor ©Kim Smith 2014Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)

During the winter months Mourning Cloaks live tucked away in cracks and crevices, between chinks of tree bark, for example. At the first warm breath of spring they begin to take flight, searching for a mate. You’ll often see them on the wing around Pussy Willows, one of the Mourning Cloak caterpillar’s food plants.

Mourning_Cloak_Butterfly_in_South_Central_AlaskaMourning Cloak image courtesy wiki commons media

 

 

The Coyote Controversy Continues

Coyote Massachusetts,canis latrans ©Kim Smith 2014

Joey forwarded the following information and links from an editorial that was recently posted on “North Shore Nature News.” We’ll post the first several paragraphs from the editorial, and the comment from Jim Schmidt that Joey found particularly interesting. In fairness to the author, the See More, directs the reader back to the original editorial.

“In Nancy Gurney’s classic children’s book, “The King, the Mice and the Cheese,” a king brings in cats to get rid of the mice eating his cheese. He then brings in dogs to get rid of the cats. Lions to get rid of the dogs. Elephants to get rid of the lions. And, finally, mice to get rid of the elephants.We find ourselves in similar straights with the eastern coyote.

Wolves once occupied the top of the area’s food chain. But we hunted them into near extinction. So, with no wolves in the area, coyotes began to enter the commonwealth in the 1950s as the food chain’s top dog. DNA evidence shows the coyotes mated with what was left of the wolves and with dogs. The cross breeding created the eastern coyote, a larger version of what wildlife experts now call the western coyote.
The coyote is bolder and more adaptable than the shier, more reclusive wolf. So, instead of confining itself to rural areas, as the wolf once did, the coyotes occupy rural, suburban and urban habitats. Add the fact that Massachusetts loses an estimated 40 acres a day of rural land to development and it’s inevitable the human and the coyote worlds will collide.” – See more at: Ipswich Wicked Local

 

Comment from Jim Schmidt:

“I have 54 years of first hand and face to face experience with coyotes. I retired as a fulltime USDA government coyote specialist recently. I have dealt with coyotes in New York, South Carolina, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Many remarks in this editorial are very incorrect. Coyote are dangerous wild predators. They are smart, problem solving, professional killers. They kill and eat everything too.

They DO NOT have to be rabid to be dangerous. Look up the “Biting Coyote of Green Valley, Arizona” as an example. This unprovoked coyote attacked and bit 8 adult people. The media and local medical professionals claimed it “must be Rabid” and it was not. How do I know? I was the one that removed him. Coyotes have a very low history of rabies too. I know first hand that coyotes will attack any size animal if it wishes. Three coyotes attacked and killed a large Rottweiler dog while the owner was walking it and another large dog. They killed and ate it-I was there again.

How do they kill a horse you ask? They will run it until it over heats and stops and often lies down and they take them. I have seen it again. They stand at the rear of a cow or horse giving birth and attack and kill the newborn when it hits the ground. Goats, sheep, chickens, cats, apples, water melons, garden hoses, and much more are at risk all the time…basically nothing is safe from the clever coyote. This dangerous animal will never be on welfare as it can take care of itself better than anything I know of or experienced.

I encourage you to learn the truth about coyotes not fantasies. They are a marvel of nature and they are in your state and community now. This is a professional dangerous killer for sure.” Jim Schmidt – See more at: Ipswich Wicked Local

 

Helping Our Fine Feathered Friends Make It Through These (Hopefully) Last Weeks of Bitter Cold

American Robin Crabaplle ©Kim Smith 2015

Outside my office window is a pair of stately hollies, our “Dragon Ladies;” aptly named for their prickly foliage, and adjacent to the hollies is a sweet scented flowering crabapple. The autumn fruits of this particular crabapple are chunkier than most and, I simply assumed, must bear the worst tasting fruit imaginable because year in and year out, the fruit is never, ever eaten by the birds. When flocks of robins arrive in our garden in late January, the winterberry and hollies are stripped bare of their fruits in a day, or two, at the most, after which the robins head to our neighbor’s sumac and then further down Plum Street to our other neighbor’s smaller and much better tasting crabapples.

American Robin eating in crabaplle tree Turdus americanus ©Kim Smith 2015Not this year! A pair of robins is setting up house along the garden path and they vigorously defend the crabapples from other robins. In late winter, robins typically switch over to worms, but with the ground still frozen solid, they are continuing to look for tree fruits. Unfortunately, much of it has been consumed.

American Robin eating crabaplle Turdus migratorius ©Kim Smith 2015

Repeatedly, I noticed that our robin couple was struggling to eat the crabapples. They would snip off a stem and then drop it onto the brick path below and peck and peck and peck. A robin’s bill did not evolve to crack open grains and as it seems in this case, nor for penetrating our unusually hard crabapples. A great deal of energy was being spent to get a morsel of food, which is never a good thing because it can leave a creature weakened and at risk of freezing to death.

Robin flying ©Kim Smith 2015Robin in flight

I picked a few berries and made a crabapple mash, placed it under the tree and, within hours, all the fruits were devoured! Now when feeding the pets and filling the bird feeders each morning I pluck a small handful of crabapples, mash, and place in the pie tin below the tree. I’ve experimented with adding blueberries and raspberries to the dish, but the robins prefer the crabapples.

If we move very slowly when walking down the path, they now allow us to come quite close—and what a treat to observe from this distance—beautiful, beautiful robins!

American Robin Turdus americanus ©Kim Smith 2015JPG

Do you think we will be rewarded with a nearby nest? I hope so!

Crabapple in snow ©Kim Smith 2015

Ann Kennedy Captures Thousands of Snow Geese in Flight! (Edited*)

GMG Super FOB Ann Kennedy lives on the Mississippi flyway. She is apologetic about the quality of the video, but we don’t mind at all. Bird movements often happen so quickly and it is always a challenge to capture. THANK YOU ANN FOR SHARING!!!

*In the comment section, GMG reader Tom Halsted shares his experiences with snow geese. Thanks so much Tom for this wonderful description!

“Joy and I used to own a cottage on Chincoteague Island in VA when we lived in Washington. We’d be there on a November night when the snow geese arrived for their winter quarters on Assateague Island, a mile or so away. We’d wake up in the mddle of the night to the sound of 40,000 – 50,000 flying overhead, all honking at once, sounding like an immense herd of barking dogs. On Assateague they would settle in on the many water impoundment areas (ponds, really) dammed up for their benefit. All winter long little groups of them would decide they weren’t in quite the right place, and you could hear them discussing where they’d rather be, then see a flock of a thousand or so all rise up at one, circle, and settle down 100 yards away, all honking at once about how much nicer the new site was. A few hours later they might change their minds, and the whole mass relocation would happen again. Beautiful birds. The Eastern flock has its breeding grounds inside the Arctic Circle, in Northern Greenland and the Canadian Arctic. So glad they are protected.”

Do Birds Have Teeth?

Snow Goose teeth tomia Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015

Snow Goose Beak and Tomia

If I had thought about the answer to that question when I was five, I would have said yes, most definitely. At that time, our family was living on a lake in north central Florida. A friend’s unruly pet goose chased me home, nipping my bottom all the way to our front stoop!

The jagged points in the serrated-edge jaw of the Snow Goose are not called teeth because teeth are defined as having an enamel coating. There is a special word for the points and they are called tomia. During the Mesozoic era birds had teeth. Over time, birds developed specialized beaks suited to their diets. Bird beaks do the job teeth and lips once did. The Snow Goose’s tomia are not as tough as teeth but are perfectly suited to slicing through slippery grass.

The super graphic below, found on wiki, illustrates types of beaks and how the different shapes relate to the bird’s diet and foraging habits.

Wiki Bird Beak Graphic copy

 

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