Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

Baby Bunny Nest ~ An Enchanting Discovery!

Look what we uncovered while working at a client’s garden ~ 

A baby, baby bunny nest!!!

A photo posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Baby rabbits are called kits or kittens and these look like they are Eastern Cottontails, the most common and widespread species of rabbits in North America.

Discovered a bunny nest at a client's garden this morning. Sooooooo adorable!

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

In the future if I accidentally come upon a similar looking nest, I think I would leave it undisturbed. We were very startled by the sight of the baby wild rabbits after pulling away leaves and the downy soft “lid,” or protective covering, and they very nearly were almost raked!

Guess what this is?!? @livviiiiii @mabdeluxe @djsarrouf @laurelanneb

A photo posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

 

Look What Andrea Holbrook Captured ~ A GLOSSY IBIS IN GLOUCESTER!

 

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Andrea writes, “OK , because of where I work — Gloucester — and amazing bird photos posted by friends — that would be you Kimberley Caruso and Kim Smith — I find myself stopping to shoot shorebirds with a camera. Spotted Thursday morning at Grant Circle, a glossy ibis and two snowy egrets. Not great photos but I had never seen a glossy ibis before!”

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Thank you so much Andrea for sharing your photos of the stunning Glossy Ibis. It’s breeding range in the Western Hemisphere is quite narrow and I would love, love to capture this species on film. Keeping my eyes peeled thanks to you!

From the Mass Audubon website, “In Ancient Egypt, ibises were venerated as sacred birds. They were believed to have a connection to the deity Thoth, the wise scribe and lorekeeper of the Egyptian pantheon. While Glossy Ibises are not literate, they are marvelous travelers. The Western Hemisphere population of this species represents a fairly recent arrival to the New World, believed to be descendants of birds who flew from Africa to South America in the early nineteenth century (Davis & Kricher 2000). Read More Here

 

NO GEESE ALLOWED!

Don’t mess with Mama Swan!

Mute Swan attacking ©Kim Smith 2015

Mute Swans are extraordinarily powerful birds and I have seen them turn on a dime, especially at this time of year when the cygnets are beginning to hatch. The above Canadian Goose tried to make a landing but was immediately rebuffed, in no uncertain terms. Several times since, I have observed geese circling overhead, but as soon as the swan is seen, they immediately change course.

Make Way for Ducklings

Mallard Duckilngs ©Kim Smith 2015JPG I was standing so still while filming yesterday morning that I don’t think the female mallard was at first aware of my presence. What a wonderful treat to see she and the ducklings emerge from the reeds growing along the water’s edge. They are amazingly fast and adeptly darted through the water and across the beach, as though they had been born months earlier. I was getting a tremendous cramp and had to stand quickly, which was mama mallard’s cue to chide the ducklings back into the tall grass.

Mallard female Duckling ©Kim Smith 2015Female Mallard and Duckilng -1 ©Kim Smith 2015

BASKING SHARKS ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION

790px-Basking_SharkWhat makes Martin Del Vecchio’s drone footage particularly poignant is that Basking Sharks are reportedly on the edge of extinction. I wonder how often we’ll have witness to the world’s second largest fish feeding along the shores of Cape Ann. Truly an incredibly awesome capture.

The following is an interesting article written by David Suzuki about why these gentle giants have been driven to near extinction:

“The basking shark is huge—often bigger than a bus. As fish go, it’s second in size only to the whale shark. It has been roaming the world’s oceans for at least 30 million years. Mariners throughout history have mistaken it for a mythical sea serpent or the legendary cadborosaurus. Despite its massive size, it feeds mostly on tiny zooplankton.

These are some of the things we know about this gentle giant. But our understanding is limited; we don’t really know much more about them than we did in the early 1800s. One thing we do know is that they used to be plentiful in the waters off the coast of B.C., in Queen Charlotte Sound, Clayoquot Sound, Barkley Sound, and even the Strait of Georgia. Only half a century ago, people taking a ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island may have spotted half a dozen lazily swimming by. But now, reported sightings are down to less than one a year off the B.C. coast. All indications are that this magnificent animal is on the edge of extinction. It makes my blood boil!

Over the past two centuries, people have been killing them for sport, for food, for the oil from their half-tonne livers, and to get them out of the way of commercial fishing operations. Many were also killed accidentally by fishing gear.

In their 2006 book Basking Sharks: The Slaughter of B.C.’s Gentle Giants, marine biologist (and David Suzuki Foundation sustainable fisheries analyst) Scott Wallace and maritime historian Brian Gisborne note that the “pest control” methods used in the 1950s and ’60s were particularly gruesome. Basking sharks are so named because they appear to bask as they feed on plankton on the water’s surface. And even though they don’t eat salmon and other fish, they sometimes get tangled in gillnets, hindering commercial fishing operations. So fisheries patrol boats with large knives attached to their bows would slice the animals in half as they “basked” on the surface.”

Read the full article here: Exit Stage Right

See the NBC piece on Martin and watch his basking shark drone video here.

GREEN HERON!

Green Heron Massachusetts Cape Ann ©Kim Smith 2015Male Green Heron

What mystery bird, new to my eyes, was I seeing as it cautiously appeared from the knot of tall reeds? Its neck extended like a heron’s, but was smaller in size than even the Black-crowned Night Heron. I caught a glimpse and then waited for movement, and then waited, and then waited some more when the furtive bird at last flew into a tangle of trees where its shape was unfortunately barely distinguishable. I took a few photos knowing they would be far too grainy to post, thinking nonetheless that a photo would be at least useful for a bird id. Suddenly the mystery bird took flight to the far end of the pond, landing at the water’s edge. I stealthily made my way over and for a few moments had a clear view through the emerging grass and cattails and was able to both film and photograph.

The neck of the male Green Heron is a striking chestnut color and the wing backs are a gorgeous velvety deep greenish-blue gray. As usual, the female’s plumage is more subduedly colored. Green Herons begin to arrive in Massachusetts in May, where they will stay through the summer, dispersing southward in September. The heron’s population is concentrated around inland wetlands and coastal marshes.

From reading several species accounts, the Green Heron’s claim to fame is that it is one of the few animals that utilizes tools to capture prey. It will float a stick or bread crust on the water’s surface to lure small fish, tadpoles, and crayfish. Wouldn’t that be amazing to film! Green Heron’s also eat small snakes, earthworms, and insects.

Green Heron Cape Ann Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015

 

The Uncommonly Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat Warbler ©Gloucester MA -2 ©Kim Smith 2015

Male Common Yellowthroat fluffing and drying feathers after his many baths.

Splashing, and then dashing to a nearby tree, splashing and dashing again, and then returning for yet a third bath, this little male Common Yellowthroat seemed to relish in the fresh water at our birdbath. His more subduedly colored mate stayed well hidden and close to the ground and I was thrilled to see them both. This sweet pair of warblers have been in our garden for several days now and perhaps they’ll build their nest here!

Common Yellowthroat Warbler ©Gloucester MA -1 ©Kim Smith 2015Common Yellowthroats were at one time common however, their numbers have been steadily decreasing since the 1960s. Throughout the yellowthroat’s range they are suffering from habitat degradation and loss. Because they live in wetlands and eat primarily insects they, like countless wild creatures, are adversely affected by pesticides and poor water quality.Common Yellowthroat Warbler ©Gloucester MA ©Kim Smith 2015

Mass Audubon Recommends: Don’t Feed Ducks and Geese

Female Mallard Duck Niles Pond ©Kim Smith 2013

Female Mallard Duck

From the Mass Audubon website:

Don’t Feed the Ducks

Giving food to ducks and geese (waterfowl) can create many problems for birds and the environment, and both Mass Audubon and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MDFW) discourage it. The notion that waterfowl cannot survive without human intervention is false. Ducks and geese have survived for thousands of years without handouts and will continue to do so if left alone.

In 1973, H.W. Heusmann, a waterfowl biologist with the MDFW, conducted a study at six parks in Massachusetts between mid-August and mid-September. The data gathered during the 28-day period showed that 38,500 people fed 7,800 pounds of food to ducks, which roughly translates to 6,550 loaves of bread. Besides bread, the birds consumed crackers, donuts, pastry, popcorn, potato chips, pretzels, cookies, cereal, peanuts, and lettuce—a diet most people wouldn’t allow their children or pets to eat on a daily basis!

Why Shouldn’t You Feed Them?

  • Feeding attracts large concentrations of waterfowl to areas that can’t naturally support such numbers. Left on their own, ducks and geese will occupy areas that provide sufficient natural food. As they deplete food in one location, they fly to new feeding areas, often miles away. Mallards in Boston and the surrounding suburbs will readily relocate as far as Cape Cod to find open water and food.
  • Artificial feeding encourages unnaturally large flocks to gather in one place where the competition for food can cause unnecessary stress.  This may weaken the birds and make them more susceptible to disease.  Also, birds crowded into these areas are defecating in the same location where they’re feeding.
  • Alternatively, artificial feeding may allow frail birds to survive, reproduce, and diminish the species as a whole. (Mortality is normally high in bird populations; it’s a natural mechanism, important in maintaining populations that the environment can support.)
  • Feeding may encourage species of waterfowl not normally found in the area to concentrate. This can lead to an increased incidence of hybridization, which can eventually weaken the gene pool in certain species. This is a rising problem in Mallard and black duck populations in Massachusetts.
  • Deposits of fecal matter can affect water quality and compromise human health. Children can also come into contact with droppings left on the surrounding landscape. Also, birds crowded into these areas are often defecating in the same location where they’re feeding.

Winter Survivors

Ducks and geese are well suited to survive New England winters. Their feathers provide air pockets that stabilize body temperature and control heat loss. When birds fluff their feathers, they are merely increasing the air space and insulation. Waterfowl sitting with puffed feathers on a frozen pond are perfectly fine and do not need our help.

Birds and the Law

All birds are protected by federal laws under the “Migratory Bird Act of 1918,” as well as by Massachusetts state laws. Learn more about birds and the law.

Please, Please, Please Don’t Feed Our Beautiful Wild Creatures Crappy Junk Food

Mute Swan Cygnus olor ©Kim Smith 2015

Mute Swan

Early Sunday morning was spent filming along the water’s edge. It was a gorgeous scene and I observed dozens of different species of wildlife foraging for seaweed, seagrass, seed heads, and sundry other native plants and grasses.

I left for a moment to go back to my car to change a camera lens and when I returned, there was an old woman throwing crackers at the ducks and the shoreline was littered with the unmistakeable bright orange of CHEETOS. Seriously??? First denying she had dumped the Cheetos, she stared mutely when I suggested that it is really not a good idea to feed our beautiful water birds junk food. Wildlife face challenges enough adapting to climate change and habitat destruction; it’s just plain common sense not to feed them garbage. She had her dog with her and I wanted to ask if she fed her dog junk food, too.

Cheetos ©Kim Smith 20153

A bounty of food for wildlife, at this time of year especially, grows naturally along the shores, marshes, and meadows of Cape Ann. If you are interested in feeding a particular avian species, find out what is safe and healthy. For example, the best food for ducks such as mallards are those that provide nutrients, minerals, and vitamins and they include cracked corn, wheat or similar whole grains, chopped lettuce, spinach, and mealworms. The absolute worst and most unhealthy are bread, chips, crackers, popcorn, and it should go without saying, Cheetos.

 

 

How to Tell the Difference Between Geese and Ducks

During a recent podcast we were talking about the wonderful influx of Brant Geese that have been seen all around the coves of Cape Ann. Joey asked a great question, “how to tell the difference between ducks and geese?” Ducks, geese, and swans all belong to the Anatidae family and I could only answer that size is the predominate difference between duck and goose. If you are out on the water or onshore and trying to id whether duck or goose I think the surest way to tell is that geese are larger, with longer necks and bodies. I was curious to learn more and google led to interesting differences, some obvious and correlate to what we observe in our region, and some not so obvious.

Geese are generally white, gray, or monochromatic and both males and females are the same color. Ducks are multicolored and there are obvious pattern differences between the males and females.

Geese migrate further distances. We have seen that this past year with our Snow Goose visitor, a bird that breeds in colonies on the Canadian tundra, as do the Brants.

Another quick way to determine whether goose or duck is by what they are eating; geese generally eat grasses and grains; ducks eat fish and insects. The Snow Goose that visited Good Harbor Beach this past winter foraged for sea grass alongside the Canadian Geese.

Snow Goose Juvenile Canadian Geese Gloucester Massachusetts Essex County  ©Kim Smith 2015Snow Goose and Canadian Geese Foraging for Sea Grass

Photographer and fisherman Brian O’Connor reported that a fisherman mentioned to him that Brants are observed in an area when there is a heavy crop of sea “vegetables” and that is precisely what is occurring in our region–the “green” waves. Sea lettuce is a staple of the Brant’s diet and it is sometimes referred to as “Brant lettuce!”

Brants Cape Ann Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Brants in Sea Vegetable Heaven

Please let us know if you see any Brants, where and at what time. Thank you to Zefra for writing last week about Brants at Lighthouse Beach. And thank you to Bill Hubbard who wrote to say that during the 40s and 50s hundreds were often seen, less so beginning in the late 50s.

Snow Goose Juvenile Gloucester Massachusetts -4 ©Kim Smith 2015

Juvenile Snow Goose Good Harbor Beach Gloucester
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.

The Rare To Our Area- Yellow Crowned Night Heron That Sista Felicia Took Photos Of Last Week Is Still In #GloucesterMA @MassAudubon

On my way to the dock this morning at 4:30AM it was in my mom’s back yard in East Gloucester.

Here are some lousy pictures but for the sake of documenting it, here you go-

Here’s a link to Sista Felicia’s post with much better photos from last week-

Beautiful Bird Having Breakfast In Sista’s Herb Garden

EASY FIVE-STEP ORGANIC LAWN CARE GUIDE FOR RESIDENCES AND BUSINESSES

I created the following five-step easy fact sheet for a friend after receiving her timely request about organic lawn care information. Not surprisingly, as it is that time of year when the so-called “green” lawn care specialists are busy plying their trade. Kate’s note also came on the heels of a recent unfortunate incident that I experienced while walking along Niles Beach. I noticed a peculiar smell for quite someways along the walk, emanating from a man spraying chemicals to an expansive lawn. After walking all the way around Niles Pond, to the Retreat House and back, upon my return, he was still spraying! And the odd odor was stronger than ever. Where does the homeowner think all the toxins applied to the lawn will wind up–mostly across the road into the ocean!

Our Reader’s question:

Dear Kim

I have a neighbor who is on the water front and is new to the area. He just built a house. He asked me about lawn fertilizer and weed keeper applications and someone who could do them. Naturally I gave him my opinion but I wonder is there a brief, homeowner friendly document that addresses why we should not be using any of these products on our lawns. And the impact on habitat and wildlife and us!

You know that Chris and I have never used them.

Thanks so much I really appreciate it.

XO

The following fact sheet is based on my many years of working with homeowners and businesses. Although the gardens I design are pollinator friendly, they are primarily designed for people. Poisonous pesticides have no place in people, pet, pollinator, and planet friendly gardens!

I also highly recommend another option and that is turning your lawn into a wildflower meadow and the reasons for that are manifold however, this fact sheet only addresses organic lawn care.

If you would like a pdf of the fact sheet, please comment in the comment section and I will be happy to send it along.

 

Organic Lawn Care Guide for Massachusetts and Rhode Island

 Lawn Care Fact Sheet for a Toxic Free New England

 

You don’t need a lawn service or an arsenal of poisonous pesticides to grow a beautiful lush green lawn. Follow this basic five-step formula to build a healthy organic lawn. Spring and fall provide the best opportunity to convert a poisoned lawn to a lawn that is safe for children, pets, and the environment.

 

Mow High, Often, and with Sharp Blades.

Long grass has more leaf surface, which enables it to grow thicker and develop a deeper root system. Longer grass makes it more difficult for weeds to germinate and also shades the soil surface, keeping it cooler. Sharp blades prevent tearing and injury to the grass. Leave short grass clippings on the grass where they recycle nitrogen.

 

Aerate.

Aerating soil reduces compaction, which is a prime cause of weeds. Leave the corings behind after aerating, and then apply compost so that it can reach the root zone.

 

Feed and Fertilize Gently.

Just after aeration is the best time to apply compost. For a small lawn, use a wheelbarrow and drop piles in intervals around the lawn; rake to approximately a quarter inch thick. For larger lawns, a spreader is recommended. Always apply compost and any organic fertilizer sparingly. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous run into waterways and into the ocean when it rains. Overuse of fertilizer creates thatch build-up.

 

Water Deeply But Not Too Often.

Water only when the lawn really needs watering, and then water deeply. Water early in the morning to prevent fungal disease and reduce evaporation.

 

Choose the Right Seed and Overseed. 

Spreading grass seed over an existing lawn is the tried and true way to get a lush green lawn that is free of weeds. Thick, healthy grass provides no opportunity for weeds to germinate. Choose a seed combining Kentucky blue grass, fine fescue, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and white clover mixed specifically for sun or partial shade.

 

Kim Smith Contact Information:

kimsmithdesigns.com

kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

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Please join me on Wednesday evening, April 29th, at 7pm at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library where I will be giving my Pollinator Garden program and screening several short films. This event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

Comsos 12 ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

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.

LOOK WHAT’S IN OWL PELLETS!

Michelle Anderson sent along the following wonderful series of photos of her troupe of young naturalists. IMG_3753

Elijah, Atticus, and Lucas

Atticus ‘Eagle Eye’ Anderson discovered a pile of owl pellets under a large hemlock tree in Rockport.

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IMG_3747IMG_3751Dissecting the pellets are Sabina and Lucas Sappia, Esme and Elijah Sarrouff, and Atticus and Meadow Anderson. So interesting and so cool! THANK YOU MICHELLE FOR SHARING!!!

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Puzzle piece for scale

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Close-up

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Earlier that same day, the naturalists were checking for alewife at the Gloucester fish ladder. They saw seven alewife in total, three actually going up the ladder!

Story and photos by Michelle Anderson.

BRANT GEESE INVASION!

Brant Geese Plum Cove Beach Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015

Brant Geese Plum Cove Beach Gloucester

Just kidding, however, they have recently been spotted all around Cape Ann! Several weeks ago I noticed three on Niles Beach, yesterday another 20 or so bobbing and diving in the waves off a little beach in Rockport, and this morning Michelle Anderson emailed that her son Atticus, with his eagle eyes, had spotted a blizzard at Plum Cove Beach. I was working on a design project in Andover and wasn’t able to get there until afternoon. The Brants were still there! Perhaps there were 50 or so feeding at the shoreline and another several hundred further off shore.

Brant Goose Plum Cove Beach Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015The geese are shy. At one point while photographing, I lay flat down in the beach grass trying to blend in with the landscape while inching forward, but they were not deceived. Too far away for my camera to get a good close up, and heavily overcast today, nonetheless you can see that they are quite beautiful creatures.

Brant Geese Plum Cove Beach Rockport Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015

Brant Geese Rockport

Smaller than Canadian geese, the Brant Goose, also called Brent, Black Brant, and American Brant, is a coastal bird that breeds in the Arctic tundra. It migrates along both the Atlantic and Pacific flyways. With white or buff belly, black head and neck, and contrasting white bars at the neck, Brants are easy to identify. They feed on green plants including sea lettuce and eel grass. Brants have a highly developed salt gland, which allows them to consume salt water.

PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU SEE ANY BRANTS, AT WHAT LOCATION AND WHEN. We would love to hear from you!

Brant Geese Plum Cove Beach Rockport Massachusetts -2 ©Kim Smith 2015*   *   *
Comsos 12 ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

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.

EASTERN POINT SUNRISE SCENES

Harbor Seals Brace Cove Sunrise ©Kim Smith 2015Photos from around Eastern Point early morning walks. Happy Earth Day!

Male Red-breasted Mergansers ©kim Smith 2015Two Male Red-Breasted Mergansers Sunning on a Rock

Black-crowned Night Heron -2 ©Kim Smith 2015Black-crowned Night Heron ~ One of a nesting pair possibly?

Male Red-winged Blackbird love song. Niles Pond daybreak. #gloucestermaspring!

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Male Red-winged Blackbird Love Song (turn up your volume)

SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE

Black-crowned Night Heron ©Kim Smith 2015The other half of night herons often spotted near each other

Needle in a Haysack Heron ©Kim Smith 2015JPGNeedle in a Haystack! ~ Looking for Black-crowned Night Herons

Brown-headed Cowbirds ©Kim Smith 2015Brown-headed Cowbirds

Northern Rough-winged Swallows ©kim Smith 2015Northern Rough-winged Swallows (I think)

 

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