The 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.
Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife
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 email@example.com. Thank you so much!
Jess Bean submits-
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
Many thanks to Plum Island’s Bob Pete for the Red-tailed Hawk information.
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.
Quickly 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.
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 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.
Let’s take a little hike, shall we? Nothing to worry about.
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.
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!
I am sorry to report that there have been no recent sightings of Mr. Swan’s girlfriend.
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.
Link to Cape Ann TV coverage of the coyote meeting:
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.
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.
These 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.
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.
Note the young swan’s brownish feathers and greyish-pink bill (left). This tells us that she is not quite two years of age.
Evidence 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.
East Gloucester Coyote Lair #1
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.
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.
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
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.”
Thank you to Terry Weber and Eoin Vincent for alerting us to this fantastic Snowy Owl shot!!
Spectacular images of a snowy owl in flight have been captured by Transport Quebec’s traffic camera along Montreal’s Highway 40.
The images were captured on Jan. 3 by a traffic camera at Highway 40 and Sources Boulevard.
Transport Minister Robert Poëti tweeted about the owl early Thursday morning, and the province later released video footage.