Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

QUESTION FOR OUR MARINE BIOLOGY EXPERTS

Perhaps I am just imagining, but the seals that were at Brace Cove several mornings ago appear to have a much different pattern of spots on their coats than the Harbor Seals we typically see hauled out on the rocks. I know that Harp Seals are also seen in our area at this time of year and read that the juveniles molt in interesting patterns. The two pinnipeds on the far right have very large irregular patches and the seal on the left seemed half the size of the other three with an almost pointed snout. Is it a different species or a young seal I wonder? Looking at several sources to id and I am still puzzled. Would love to hear from our readers. Thank you so much!

Seals brace Cove Gloucester www.kimsmithdesigns.com

Watch for Gray Seal Pups on the Shoreline

unnamed-6It’s Gray Seal Pupping Season

From December through February, gray seals give birth on islands and shoreline areas in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. It’s not uncommon to see a mother and pup or a lone pup on a beach. Gray seal pups are born with a white, fluffy coat, known as lanugo, and nurse from the mother for approximately 16 to 17 days.
“A mother seal may be off feeding when someone comes across a seal pup on the beach,” says Mendy Garron, marine mammal stranding program coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. “The best thing you can do is keep people and pets away from the seal pup, so the mother has a chance to return.”

Gray seal pups are very vocal, and can sound like a baby crying, but this is normal behavior and doesn’t necessarily mean that the pup is in distress. This vocalization helps the mother find the pup when she returns from foraging.
NOAA Fisheries reminds members of the public to respect wildlife by maintaining a safe distance of at least 150 feet from seals.
Seal pups are often higher up on the beach, near the high tide line or even in the dunes, for protection while the mother is away. Sometimes pups do wander far from the beach, ending up in unusual places. If you suspect an animal may be in trouble, please take the following actions:
  • Call your local Marine Mammal Stranding Network Member or the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional 24-hour hotline 866-755-NOAA (6622).
  • Always maintain a safe distance, at least 150 feet, from the animal to avoid injury to yourself or to the animal.
  • Do not touch the seal! They are wild animals. They will bite, and can transmit disease.
  • Keep your pets on leashes, and remove them from the area. Pets can further stress seals, provoking defensive behaviors. Seals can attack pets if they feel threatened, and they can transmit diseases to pets.
  • Never feed seals. This can make the animal sick or dependent on people for food.
  • Do not move or push the animal back into the water. Seals need time to rest and regulate their body temperatures, which is why they “haul out” on land.
  • If you see someone harassing a marine mammal, please contact our Office of Law Enforcement at 800-853-1964.
NOAA Fisheries is the federal agency responsible for monitoring marine mammal populations in the United States. In this region, NOAA Fisheries relies on a team of dedicated, trained personnel from Maine to Virginia to assist the agency in carrying out its mission.Marine Mammal Stranding Network has been in existence for several decades and is comprised of organizations from the wildlife rescue community, academic institutions, zoo/aquarium facilities, and federal state or local government agencies. The Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP) was officially formalized in 1992 under the Marine Protection Act of 1972 after numerous mass strandings and unusual mortality events occurred around the country.
Get more information on NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region’s Stranding Program (covering the coastlines of Maine to Virginia).
Find out about our gray seal research on Muskeget and Monomoy Islands.

REDHEADS!

Redhead Duck Gloucester Massachusetts www.kimsmithdesignsThe back shore was abuzz this weekend with bird sightings of several interesting species including Redheads, Black-headed Gull, Glaucous Gull, and Arctic Gull. With their round cinnamon-colored heads, this dynamic duo of male Redheads were particularly beautiful in the late afternoon light. Redheads are diving ducks and as you can see in the photos, they are feasting on the vegetation found along our currently unfrozen shores.Redhead Duck Male Gloucester Massachusetts www.kimsmithdesigns

Redhead Duck male Mergansers Gloucester Massachusetts www.kimsmithdesigns.JPGRed-breasted Mergansers with Redhead in the background

Gadwalls Gloucester www.kimsmithdesignsMale and Female Gadwalls

Aren’t we blessed this year with El Nino’s warmth. I wonder what travelers are yet to come our way this winter. Happy February-thaw!Niles Pond sunset www.kimsmithdesigns.com

Redhead
Redhead range

DO SWANS DRINK SALTWATER?

Male Mute swan Cygnus olor www.kimsmithdesigns.com copyright 2016In the above photo you can see our super smart Mr. Swan drinking freshwater from snow melting on the roof above its head, which was running down the gutters and into the harbor.

Mute Swans mostly drink freshwater (and a great deal of it) because most of the places that you find swans living at are on freshwater ponds, lakes, rivers, and inlets. However, just above the eyes and under the skin, swans have a gland that enables them to drink saltwater. This gland removes salt from their bloodstream and concentrates it into a solution that is excreted from their nostrils, which the swan can shake its head to clear.

There are a number of good folks in Rockport and Gloucester who keep a watchful eye on our local swans. Thursday I had the joy of meeting Lois and Serena, who have been feeding and observing the swans for over twenty years. They have photos of Mr. Swan (known as Buddy in Rockport) dating from 1998. He was already full grown by then, which makes him at least twenty years old. That is quite extraordinary as most Mute Swans in the wild live on average only to twelve years of age.

My deepest thanks and appreciation to Lois and Serena for the time they took sharing swan stories, the reading material lent, and for their kind and goodhearted nature, especially towards Buddy/Mr. Swan!

As you may or may not have read here on Good Morning Gloucester, I have been filming the swans over the past several years for a film project. If you have a Cape Ann swan story that you would like to share I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you so much!

Stranded Grey Seal Pup Rescue at Captain Hooks In #GloucesterMA

Jess Bean submits-

Hi Joey,
There was a gray seal pup rescue at Captain Hooks this morning. He was okay, just exhausted. He came off the river at high tide and then crossed the street to Captain Hooks. Fire Dept and Animal Control came and then the woman is Marine Biologist from NOAA that used to rescue seals who just happen to be driving by. So they wrapped him in a blanket. Put it in the woman’s Subaru and took it to the top of Hodgkins where the Animal stranded Coordinator lives near by and she’ll make sure that he goes back to river at high tide. The woman from NOAA said the seal was probably 45-50 days old.

Photos Jess Bean

EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING!

Mute swans Plum Island www.kimsmithdesigns.com 2016

Nine Swans a-Swimming

After checking in with my elbow doctor at Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport, I took a drive along the road to Plum Island. I only meant to stay for a few minutes as I was planning to hurry on back to work on current projects but within moments of being there, a gorgeous Red-tailed Hawk was spied circling around. It was too tempting and I desperately wanted to stay longer and photograph and film but turned right around and headed back over the causeway. Halfway across a bevy of some sort of large white avian creature caught my eye–could it be–yes, it was a large flock of swans! They were feeding on the seaweed and seagrass along the Merrimack River shoreline.

One year old Mute Swans Plum Island www.kimsmithdesigns.com 2016Quickly finding a place to park I got out my gear and with a wide swathe of marsh grass dividing me from the swans, I tried to get as close to the water’s edge as possible. There were NINE swans in all, two adults and seven almost year-old swans. So much for getting back quickly. And was I ever pleased with my rule never to leave the house without cameras.

A passing woman from the neighborhood out walking said that this was the first time she had seen the swans at the river’s edge in over two years. For my swan film, footage of one year old swans was needed, and here were seven! Every cloud has a silver lining as I never would have been on Plum Island today if not for elbow injury. 

 

RISING SEA LEVELS: HENRY’S POND AT RISK

Penzance Rd Henry's Pond Pebble Beach -4 ©www.kimsmithdesigns.comPenzance Road

Climate change is complicated but the damage done from rising sea levels is very apparent in our own community. With the inundation of seawater upon freshwater ponds, vernal pools, and wetlands, at risk especially are habitats for fish, shellfish, wildlife, and plants.

Penzance Rd Henry's Pond Pebble Beach -3 www.kimsmithdesigns.com

Penzance Road, the narrow strip of land that divides Pebble Beach, on the Atlantic side, and freshwater Henry’s Pond on the opposite side, is periodically closed because of storm damage. I don’t recall ever seeing this degree of destruction however, we have lived here for only twenty years. It would be very interesting and much appreciated to learn from any of our readers who have lived through some of the worst blizzards and hurricanes to hit Cape Ann to compare the levels of damage.

Penzance Rd Henry's Pond Pebble Beach -2 www.kimsmithdesigns.comThe waves surged clear across the road and into freshwater Henry’s Pond.

Penzance Rd Henry's Pond Pebble Beach www.kimsmithdesigns.com

 

Penzance Road is flooded with sand and rocks and is closed.

A photo posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

THANK YOU JAMES AND ANNA

I am so pleased with my prints from Cape Ann Giclee for the Rocky Neck Art Colony’s upcoming show “For the Birds.” Thank you James and Anna!

Learn the fundamentals of image processing using RAW, Photoshop, and Bridge. Sign up for James’s Saturday Photoshop Class (tomorrow from 10am to 1pm)!

“For the Birds” is opening January 26th. Please join us for the reception on January 31st, Sunday, from 2 to 4 at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center. We hope to see you there.

 

KIM SMITH BIRD TALK AT THE ROCKY NECK CULTURAL CENTER SAVE THE DATE!

I am very excited to be giving this new talk “Beautiful Birds of Cape Ann,” which was created to celebrate the Rocky Neck Art Colony’s upcoming exhibit “For the Birds,” opening on January 28th. Please join me for the exhibit’s opening and for the talk. I hope to see you there!

Kim Smith Bird talk Rocky neck (1)
Bird Exhibit Rocky Neck Art colony (1)

WHY THE EASTERN COYOTE IS NOT A COYWOLF AND CAPE ANN TV COYOTE MEETING COVERAGE

For additional reading, the following is a link to an interesting article that explains clearly why coyotes are thought to be the canid soup that they are, from Earth Sky: “Eastern Coyote is a Hybrid, But Coywolf is Not a Thing”

This map shows the movement of coyotes across North America and Mexico. It is now in Panama and will undoubtedly make its way south and across the canal. The animal is so adaptable I imagine it won’t be long before it colonizes Colombia as well.

figure_3_distribution-1

Link to Cape Ann TV coverage of the coyote meeting:

http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01896&video=261352

 

COYOTE PHOTOS FROM EAST GLOUCESTER AND COYOTE MEETING RECAP

FullSizeRender (13)Councilor Steven LeBlanc ©Kim Smith 2016

City Councilor Steven LeBlanc

On Monday night at City Hall a packed audience attended the “Living with Wildlife” coyote meeting. Recognizing the exploding population of coyotes on Cape Ann, City Councilor Steven LeBlanc had requested the forum. Approximately 250 people were in attendance, which is an unusually large number for a meeting of this nature and speaks to the general concern by Cape Ann residents to the growing number of coyotes now living amongst us.

pat Huckery ©Kim Smith 2016Pat Huckery 

The informational meeting was conducted by Pat Huckery, the northeast district manager for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and she is herself a wildlife biologist. Pat presented the life history of the coyote as well as a number of methods for lessening human encounters with coyotes, most notably to cut off their food supply. Humans providing food to the coyotes directly and indirectly is the number one culprit and at the top of the list states Pat is bird feeders. She recommends that if you do have a bird feeder, at the very least, clean up the daily mess underneath the feeders. Spilled bird food attracts rodents and small mammals, which in turn attracts coyotes. Unsecured garbage as well as pet food left outdoors are also strong coyote attractants.

The very specific and unique ecology of Cape Ann, in relation to the coyote, was not discussed. Cape Ann’s coyote population has mushroomed in part due to the wealth of food that can be scavenged along our shoreline, marshes, and wooded habitats. One East Gloucester resident attending the meeting reported that she lives with a pack of twenty in her backyard. Hunting as an approved option for reducing the coyote population was discussed and is also believed to help create a healthy fear of humans on the part of the coyote. Local licensed hunter Sam Holmes was in attendance and he can be reached at 978-491-8746. Communities such as Middleton, Rhode Island, have an expanded hunting season to manage the population of specifically coyotes that have lost their fear of humans. Pat also debunked the highly romanticized term coywolf, and disputes the concept that by hunting coyotes, the reverse occurs and the overall population increases.

IMG_0273These photos were taken by Pat Halverson and submitted by Peggy Matlow, our new Good Morning Gloucester FOB . Peggy and her family will soon be permanently relocating to Gloucester, from the Berkshires, and these photos were taken from their new home in East Gloucester.

IMG_0274

BREAKING NEWS: MR. SWAN HAS A GIRLFRIEND!!!

Swans Niles Pond Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2016Could this be the new Mrs. Swan?

Today at 9:30am while out doing errands, I stopped by Niles Pond to see if I could find my brand new glove, which was lost the morning previously. That Monday, the day after the weekend storm, the mergansers had moved overnight to Niles Pond to escape the wind and waves on the harbor and I had captured footage of Mr. Swan with the Red-breasted Mergansers. Last I saw him, he was alone and circling the pond, plaintively calling.

Just as I got to the spot where filming yesterday I looked up and flying overhead were not one, but two swans! They were flying towards Brace Cove. I hurried back to my car to get cameras, checking all the while to see if the pair would stay at Niles or continue up the coast. They circled back around Niles before landing on the far side of the pond. The large pure white male looks like Mr. Swan and his girlfriend appears to be much younger as she is comparatively smaller and still has some brownish-gray cygnet feathers.

I immediately called my friend Lyn to let her know about the swan pair swimming at her end of the pond. There was a large patch of ice that prevented the swans from coming closer to where she was calling them from shore but we did have a good long look and we both agree it could very well be Mr. Swan (Lyn calls him Poppa Swan and in Rockport he’s known as Buddy).

The pair of swans stayed, feeding on pond vegetation and moving slowly through the icy waters. Swans use their powerful breast muscles in a lifting and lurching movement to break up ice. It takes a great amount of effort to cut a path through the ice and Mr. Swan is much more adept at ice breaking than is his new girlfriend.

By a swan’s second summer (in other words two years of age) it will have lost all the characteristics of an immature. The brown feathers are gradually replaced with the white feathers. The last thing to visibly change is the color of the swan’s bill. A cygnet’s bill is blue/grey changing over the two year period to pinkish and then orange. Swans can breed as early as two years of age although most don’t begin until three years.

I can’t saw with 100 percent certainty that this is Mr. Swan because I didn’t get a close look at the distinguishing marks on his bill however, all signs point in this direction.

Swans Niles Pond Eastern Point Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2016

Note the young swan’s brownish feathers and greyish-pink bill (left). This tells us that she is not quite two years of age.

EAST GLOUCESTER COYOTE LAIR #2

Coyote lair ©Kim Smith 2016Evidence of a second coyote lair, found at Brace Cove. There were 5 piles of fresh coyote scat along with neat piles of bones scattered throughout the rocky clearing. Coyotes mostly sleep above ground in an open clearing, unless it is pup season.

Reminder also about Monday night’s informational meeting about living with wildlife, City Hall, at 7pm. More information here. 

Coyote scat ©Kim Smith 2016coyote den ©Kim Smith 2016Coyote lair -2 ©Kim Smith 2016JPG

East Gloucester Coyote Lair #1

COYOTE MEETING AT CITY HALL MONDAY JANUARY 11TH REMINDER

Coyote Massachusetts,canis latrans ©Kim Smith 2014Living with Wildlife in Suburban Areas

In light of the numerous coyote sightings in Gloucester, there will be an informational meeting on January 11, 7pm at Kyrouz Auditorium, City Hall, hosted by the Office of the Mayor, Gloucester Police Department, the Massachusetts Environmental Police and conducted by Div of Fisheries and Wildlife

Speakers: Mayor Sefatia Romeo-Theken and Chief of Police Leonard Campanello.
Guest Speakers: Patricia Huckery, Fisheries & Wildlife N.E. District Manager, Laura Connelley, Fishers & Wildlife Fur Bearing Biologist, and Environmental Police Officers.

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has put together this document named Living with Wildlife: Suburban Wildlife in Massachusetts for Massachusetts residents.

WolfCoyoteComparison

 

 

 

INVASION OF THE RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS!

Not really, although it is wonderful to see a flock of so many. Red-breasted Mergansers are a diving duck found readily on our shores. They are funny to watch as they seem to get into spats and chase each other around. I read that a group can sometimes appear to be cooperatively hunting. They will line up and drive schools of small fish into shallow water and scoop the fish up without having to dive, which seems precisely what they were doing when I took these photos.

Red-breasted Merganser -2 ©Kim Smith 2016

 

Red-breasted mergansers ©Kim Smith 2015Red-breasted Mergansers on a sunnier day

Feeding amongst the mergansers, a pair of Horned Grebes, a Common Loon, and a Common Goldeneye can all be seen, although both these “commoners” don’t seem at all common to me.

 

SEE PHOTOS OF COMMON GOLDENEYE, HORNED GREBE, AND COMMON LOON HERE

 

Read more

DISCOVERED: THE MONARCHS MEXICAN HAVEN

Forty one years ago today, January 9th is celebrated as the day the Monarchs winter habitat was “discovered.” The woman who led the discovery, Catalina Aguado, was  born in Michoacán, the Mexican state that is home to the butterflies wintering grounds. Catalina is the only living member of the original team featured in the following 1976 National Geographic article.

Excerpt from “Discovered: The Monarchs Mexican Haven”

Doctor Fred Urquhart, the Canadian zoologist who had been studying and tracking the butterflies since 1937 writes the following:

“In our search for the overwintering place, years passed, years of frustration. Norah, late in 1972, wrote to newspapers in Mexico about our project, asking for volunteers to report sightings and to help with tagging.

In response came a letter, dated February 26, 1973, from Kenneth C. Brugger in Mexico City. “I read with interest,” he wrote, “your article on the monarch. It occurred to me that I might be of some help. . . .”

Ken Brugger proved the key that finally unlocked the mystery.

Traveling in his motor home with his dog, Kola, he crisscrossed the Mexican countryside. He searched especially in areas where tagged monarchs had been recaptured, and places where other visitors had reported numerous butterflies. “Go out in the evening,” we instructed him. “That’s when you’ll see the monarchs moving about looking for a place to roost.”

In a letter written in April 1974, Ken reported seeing many monarch butterflies in the Sierra Madre flying at random as if dispersing from a congregating site.

“Your data and observations are exciting,” I replied. “We feel that you have zeroed in on the right area.”

Ken Brugger doubled his field capability by marrying a bright and delightful Mexican, Cathy. Late in 1974 he wrote of finding many dead and tattered butterflies along the roads in a certain area. “You must be getting really close,” we responded. These butterfly remains suggested that birds had been feeding on large flocks of monarchs.

Swiftly came the dramatic conclusion. On the evening of January 9, 1975, Ken telephoned us from Mexico. “We have located the colony!” he said, unable to control the excitement in his voice. “We have found them—millions of monarchs—in evergreens beside a mountain clearing.”

Mexican woodcutters, prodding laden donkeys, had seen swarming butterflies and had helped point the way.”

The complete article is available to read online here.

national-geographic

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