The Little Blue heron is common in the Southeast and only the second time I have spied this migrant on Cape Ann. I am curious to know if any of our readers have seen this pretty heron–how often, where, and at what time of year, if so. The Little Blue Heron in the photo was fishing in the shallow pond water with the Snowy Egrets. Whereas the Snowies have an energetic method of foraging, stirring up the bottom with their feet, dashing and diving, the Little Blue stood stock still observing the minnow’s movement in the water. The moment it caught a glimpse of me, off it flew, and did not return.
Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife
I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with this newly emerged Monarch after she at first fluttered onto my shoulder, flew to my hat, and then decided to stay for a bit on my neck.
Butterflies have sharp crochet-like hooks at the bottom of their tarsi (butterfly name for feet) and it feels a bit pokey when they land on your skin. The hooks enable the butterfly to grip securely to surfaces. During a strong wind, the hooked tarsi are all that is keeping the butterfly grounded.
Thank you Nicole Duckworth for the photo caption🙂
Thank you to Dawn and John Sarrouf for sharing their milkweed planting photos. They are visiting their friend Camilla at her family home in Small Point Maine, which sounds like, from Dawn’s description, a gorgeously beautiful location, and ideal Monarch habitat. There are fields of wildflowers, and Seaside Goldenrod grows just as easily in the rocky outcroppings there as it does on Eastern Point. After looking at maps, it appears as if you could draw a virtual straight line from Small Point to Eastern Point. Dawn and friends spotted about ten butterflies yesterday. Perhaps we’ll be the next stop (after the predicted rainfall).
DAWN SARROUF PHOTOS
Thank you Cheryl Allen, Wingaersheek Anonymous, Shaina, Pat, and Ellen for sharing your Monarch sightings. I am so appreciative of your time and comments.
Cheryl Allen writes: I am not sure you want this information because I live in Northern Virginia, but I am seeing at least a dozen if not more on my tropical milkweed plants this week – this is after the Monarch’s laying eggs back in July and those developed Monarch’s flying off. They are coming from the North I expect, but am gratified by seeing so many this year – more than I have ever seen in my garden over the last thirty years.
I want to thank you for alerting me to the Monarch crisis three years ago, I started planting Milkweed and spread the word to all my gardener friends, until I read your post regarding this crisis, I had no idea! I always enjoy your posts so much, I just missed seeing the baby Plovers by one week and was pretty crestfallen when I arrived a week after they were born, and no baby Plovers – Thanks for being such a friend to our wildlife and letting us know how we can help, it is much appreciated!
Thank you Cheryl for sharing your photos!
Shaina writes: So far we’ve only see two beautiful monarchs. One was over the wild flower field at Appleton farm in Hamilton this past weekend. The other was yesterday fluttering over the water at lighthouse beach in annisquam. Our 3 year old daughter is in awe of the Monarchs it is so exciting to watch her admire them. Will keep you posted on our monarch sightings!
Anonymous writes: I live at 8 Bungalow Road in Gloucester. It is at Wingaersheek Beach. My wife has a wonderful garden and I have seen three this year. I am not sure how many she has seen. My last sighting was about 2 weeks ago. None since.
Ellen writes: Hi Kim! Love the your beautiful photos. I spotted one lonely Monarch fluttering over the sand at Long Beach. In years past we used to watch a few of them on the beach, but this year only one so far.
Pat writes: Kim–I don’t know what happened to the comment I left earlier today reporting monarch sightings in the Binghamton NY area — a few–maybe once a day for the last week or 10 days. But I wondered how we know they aren’t the viceroy butterfly?
There have been few Monarch sightings this summer but I have been hoping for a strong fall migration. The migration is peaking in Kansas and we are always a little bit behind. Please let me know if you see a Monarch, and where. Thank you very kindly!
Monarchs are emerging daily in my garden, from eggs collected at my friend’s field in Salem. This too would be an indication that we may be seeing them soon.
This newly eclosed Monarch is clinging to its chrysalis case. Within moments of emerging, the two-part Monarch proboscis must zip together to form a siphoning tube. If the two parts do not join, the butterfly will not be able to drink nectar. In this photo, you can see the proboscis is not yet fully zipped. Note its wet, crumpled wings.
Snowy Egrets in the morning fog
“Dance of the Snowy Egret” sounds poetic but in actuality, they were arguing over the best spot to fish.
Especially that Black-belied Plover. Just look at his washed out and mud spattered feathered coat in drab shades of sand and dirt. He’ll never find a girlfriend attired in that old thing. He is so undistinguished, it is often difficult to discern the difference between him and his surrounds.
Really, hanging out in that smelly, bug and mollusk infested seaweed patch?
But wait, from where did you say he hails? I heard tell he summers in islands of Nunavet, Canada and winters in Brazil, stopping in Cuba or Honduras along the way. Known as the Grey Plover on the other side of the globe, his kin are world travelers, too, some leaving the Arctic circle breeding grounds and heading to fall stopovers in Great Britain and Norway, migrating all the way to South Africa, while other members of the family travel over Russia to winter in Japan, Australia, or perhaps even as far away as New Zealand. Black-bellies have been tracked flying 3,400 miles nonstop from Brazil to NorthCarolina in five days. Tedious, I know.
You mean that tired old coat molts to that dapper cutaway? Yes!
Despite his flashy tux, he’s genuinely shy, and will flush on a dime if danger is sensed (i.e. this filmmaker for instance). He knows all the tricks of the plover trade, feigning broken wing to distract the enemy from his territory, and scraping together a nest from nothing but mere sand and tiny bits of stone.
Perhaps the Black-bellied Plover isn’t so boring after all. We living within the continental flyways encounter these Plain Janes and James when at their plainest. Black-bellied Plovers are seen along Atlantic coast beaches at this time of year within mixed groups of Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, yellow legs, and sandpipers. Although similarly as drably feathered as the other ‘boring’ birds during the winter months, at 11 inches, Black-bellied Plovers are easy to spot in these feeding flocks because they are almost twice as large as the smallest shorebirds. Next time you see a flock of birds feeding along the shoreline take a closer look for the world traveling Black-bellied Plover.
Each and every wonderful species of bird that I have been documenting while working on film projects over the past several years has a fascinating life story. Living in the midst of the Atlantic Flyway, I can’t imagine a more interesting region, although when I was visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Santa Monica, the creatures flowing through the Pacific Flyway were pretty exciting too. I hope to in the future spend time in the Central and Mississippi Flyways as well. I love thinking about this constant longitudinal movement of life force flowing as it does, year in and year out, century in and century out, millennium in and millennium out. For the most part, we go about our daily lives relatively unaware of this extraordinary undercurrent. Whether migrating by land or by sea, we are surrounded by this great movement of life, forms always in search of plentiful food on which to rear the next generation.
All photos not attributed to Kim Smith are courtesy of Google image searches.
More muskrat love! Did you know Muskrats eat phragmites?!! They gnaw off the emerging and exposed shoots at the base and then eat the green stems. Very cool. Other fun facts: Muskrats can hold their breath underwater for up to fifteen minutes. They can also chew underwater. Unlike beavers, whose tails are flattened horizontally, a muskrats tail is laterally flattened (in other words vertically). The tail functions like a rudder to help the Muskrat maneuver through water. Muskrats can swim forward and backward.
The Niles Pond-Brace Cove causeway restoration is progressing admirably. You may recall our story about the extensive damage the causeway had suffered from several fierce back to back storms. In 2014, the Association of Eastern Point Residents restored the structural rocks supporting the causeway. This past week, preparations for restoring the plantings has begun.
Below are photos taken in 2013 of storm damage, prior to restoration.
Phase one of restoration work, 2014
Here’s how you can help choose the Massachusetts state butterfly –
The choice is between the Black Swallowtail, the Great Spangled Fritillary, and the Mourning Cloak butterflies. All three are beautiful species of Lepidoptera, but as you know from my work, I am partial to the Black Swallowtail. I cast my vote for the Black Swallowtail and here is why. Both the Great Spangled Fritillary and Mourning Cloak are less commonly seen. I’d like children who are developing an interest in butterflies to have the opportunity to get to know their state butterfly easily. Black Swallowtails are widespread and very well-known. In a good year, Black Swallowtails will have two broods. The caterpillars eat plants kids can easily identify and plant, such as carrots, dill, fennel, parsley, and the common wildflower Queen Anne’s Lace. Black Swallowtails are typically on the wing throughout the summer, beginning in early spring through late summer.
On the other hand, the Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillars eat strictly violet plants. This butterfly is usually only seen for about a month, during mid-summer, and has one brood of caterpillars. In our region of Massachusetts, the Mourning Cloak may have a second brood, if we have an early spring, but I only see them in spring, near pussywillows, and again in the fall when they are getting ready to hibernate.
Black Swallowtails are found in backyards, gardens, meadows, marshes, and along the shoreline. They love to drink nectar from wildflowers, including milkweed (as you can see in the short film below) and many, many common garden plants such as lilacs, coneflowers, zinnias, and butterfly bush.
Please vote here: VOTE MASSACHUSETTS STATE BUTTERFLY
Last night’s Harvest Moon rising was spectacular, especially the striations of clouds in the moonglow. Early this morning the moon was nearly as big and beautiful too, and as I was setting up my gear, Snowy Egrets flew into the setting moon.
Please join me tonight at 7pm at the Sea Spray Garden Club where I will be giving my “Habitat Garden” workshop and screening several short films. This event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!
I am looking forward to presenting the “Pollinator Garden” program for the Winter Garden Club of Marblehead on the morning of October 4th. On October 17th. I am the guest speaker for the Sharon Garden Club and will be presenting the lecture “Beauty on the Wing; Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.” For more information please visit the Events Page of my website.
I am currently booking programs for 2016-2017-2018 and would be delighted to present to your club, library, school, and private or public event. See the Programs Page of my website and feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any questions.
Read what Mim Frost, the Program Chair for the Ipswich Town and Country Garden Club, had to say about the Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film and program that I recently gave to her club:
How often does something you’ve looked forward to for a long time live up to your expectations? Not often. But last night at Ebsco your presentation, including your film, your comments and your Q&A were just about perfect in my book! I’ll smile as I remember the evening.
I liked having the trailer for the monarch film first. You gave the group something to look forward to. Jesse Cook’s music is an excellent choice, I think. I drum to his music often. I was pleased with the questions and with your answers. It’s obvious you’ve done a lot of research. The way you answered questions made the group comfortable. Very nice! And the film. What can I say. I’d seen clips, but seeing the whole thing was something I won’t forget. I especially liked your reference to other butterflies and your comparison of the swallowtail with the monarch. Liv’s voice was just right for the commentary!
I know from experience that the presenter is the harshest critic of the presentation. I hope you were feeling pleased with your work last night. I’d be happy to repeat the whole evening!
All the best to you,
Over the past few weeks there have been reports of seals on our local beaches. This short film was created because several summers ago a Harbor Seal came ashore at Good Harbor Beach. It is in people’s nature to want to help an animal that appears to be in distress, and the little Good Harbor Beach seal was no exception, quickly becoming the object of many people’s attention.
Finding seals on the beach is natural. They may be injured, but more often than not, simply need to rest. After making the film, I learned an additional reason as to why seals haul out and that is because sharks may be present. Forcing the seal back into the water by getting too close may be driving the seal toward the very creature it is trying to escape, and to its death. The distance recommended is 150 feet, at the very least.
Rick Roth writes,
We had a great time on Saturday at Maritime Gloucester. Our snakes were a big hit and we were pretty much mobbed all day. Thanks to our courageous volunteers: Kate, Diane and Jon Bevins, Nick Taormina, Marisa Neves, Colleen Anderson, Marion Healey, Keith Bertone, Wendy Antrim and Abby Cook. Snakes were relatively well-behaved except for Ludwik who pooped in Marisa’s shoe. Snakes today.
We got Charlie Farren and Satch Kerans to play at our benefit concert. We got sponsorships, we booked a great venue. We got a bunch of cool raffle/auction prizes. Colleen printed tickets. Cheryl made the event poster and we hung them up all over the place. We got a hold of the Gloucester Daily Times and we posted on Facebook. We are getting some airtime on 104.9 radio. But, we still need to fill the house to have a really successful fundraiser. Please get the word out however you can. Show up and bring your friends. We are most of the way there, but we need to bring this home.
Friday September 9, 2016 7-11:30pm
CAVPT Benefit Concert/Auction with Charlie Farren all acoustic show. He’s really a talented musician, fun and dynamic performer. Local musician, Satch Kerans will open the show. Rick Roth, from Littleton MA will be there with some of his cool critters. He’s the guy that was at our concert last year. And Gloucester Rick Roth (that’s me) will be there with some critters as well. There will be some auction/raffle action. This is going to be a great show.
Its also a benefit for CAVPT so we need all of you to come out and support us and bring your friends. I’m going to notice if you don’t show up, and I think you all know how I can torment people half to death for non-support of the Vernal Pond Team. Go to the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team facebook page and check out the event poster. Then share it with all your friends. I’ll be watching.
We will also need lots of volunteers for this: ticket booth, auctio/raffle, critter management and more. Lots to do.
And… presale tickets are only $10. So get them on line at http://www.tinyurl.com/cavpt-26 or at Toad Hall Bookstore on Main Street in Rockport or The Get Outside Center, 186 Main St., Gloucester. $15 at the door.
In other news, speckled kingsnakes started hatching here yesterday. Watch out… they may make their social debut at the concert.
Oh… and I still need redback salamanders.
Tropical storm Hermine’s rain has breathed new life into Cape Ann’s drought depleted freshwater ponds and brackish marshes. Perhaps it was her winds that delivered a surprise visit from the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, a rarity for Massachusetts as we are at the tippy northern end of their breeding range. Towering waves accompanied by a tumbling undertow tossed from the deep sea gifts of nutrient rich seaweeds, mollusks, and tiny crustaceans, providing a feast for our feathered friends. See all that she brought!
Yellow Crowned Night Heron, juvenile
Wind and weather worn Red Admiral Butterfly, drinking salty rain water from the sand and warming its wings in the sun.
The Wingaersheek Piping Plover family has not yet begun their southward migration. Here they are foraging in the bits of shells, tiny clams, and seaweed brought to the shoreline by Hermine and not usually found in this location.
Angela Marshall is going to be carrying ALPACA YARN FROM HER ALPACAS!!! As far as I know, this is the very first time ever that gorgeous Alpaca yarn from Alpacas raised right here on Cape Ann will be available for sale. Not only will she be carrying skeins of yarn, but also beautiful, warm (and very importantly, not itchy) Alpaca hats, mittens, scarves, socks, and hand warmers. I bought two pair of hand warmers on the spot! More information about when the yarn and goods will be ready to purchase, and a complete list of where to purchase, will be coming soon.
Last year I had the joy of visiting Island Alpaca on Martha’s Vineyard and think that the Marshall’s are running their growing Alpaca Farm with similar integrity. This could be a fantastic local industry and I think it will be great if we all support Angela and Pat in this exciting endeavor. They now have 23 Alpacas, including the four adorables born this summer. Harumby is the last of the summer babies and today she is one week old. Go see!
RED KNOTS OR WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS?, PIPING PLOVERS, BLACK BELLIED PLOVERS, YELLOW LEGS, MONARCHS, AND MORE: CAPE ANN WINGED CREATURE UPDATE
WONDERFUL creatures are currently migrating through our shores. How blessed are we who live along the Atlantic Flyway. Whether traveling by shore or by sea, there is this great and continual movement of life happening always in our midst.
Many thanks to my friend Jeff Denoncour, Trustees of Reservations Ecologist for the Northeast Region, for assistance with identifying the birds. I met Jeff earlier this summer when he kindly took me out to the tippy far end of Cranes to film the Piping Plovers nesting there.
Additionally we have seven tiny Monarch caterpillars in terrariums. It’s so late in the season for these teeny ones. Last year at this time we were releasing adult butterflies and I worry that they are not going to pupate in time to successfully migrate to Mexico. The caterpillars are too small to handle, but if any of the kids in our community would like to come see, please comment in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The last of the Cecropia Moth caterpillars has not yet pupated and he is fun to watch as well.
Here are some photos to help you identify our migrating feathered friends.
Compare the larger size of the Black-bellied Plover in the foreground with the Semipalmated Plover and Semiplamated Sandpiper in the background
The above group of four photos are of either a pair of Red Knots or White-rumped Sandpipers in non breeding plumage. The White-rumped Sandpiper is thought to migrate an even greater distance than the Red Knot, from Canada’s Arctic Islands to the Southern tip of South America, and some further still to islands near the Antarctic Peninsula. These shy birds did not allow for human interest and the photos were taken at some distance.
Juvenile Laughing Gull
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A pile of bones and animal parts were found by the East Gloucester neighborhood kids on Niles Beach Sunday. We are wondering if one of our readers could help us identify what we are looking at here. Thank you🙂
The first of our Cecropia Moth caterpillars, nicknamed Mothra, is in the process of spinning her winter home, a fine silken enclosure. With the gossamer threads, she has woven several branches together, forming a V-shaped structure to secure the cocoon.
Surrounding leaves, like a blanket, are arranged around the cocoon and also secured with silk threads. The house is quite large, about four inches long and an inch and a half in diameter. As you can see from the Instagram, she has room enough to easily move within the cocoon. When completed, she will pupate within the case. Come next spring, Mothra will emerge from her winter home ready to mate and deposit eggs of the next generation. The circle of life continues.