Category Archives: Rockport

Motif No.1 Day Fest THIS Saturday rain or shine!

Lots of good stuff is happening in Rockport this weekend as Rockporters and visitors celebrate the ol’ fishing shack known as Motif No.1 at the annual Motif No.1 Day Fest.

Arts activities, roving poetry, dance, live music, theater, local food, aerialists, acrobats, and much more are on the schedule. It all kicks off with the Motif No.1 Day 5K & Fun Run at 9am, with proceeds going to benefit the Rockport Public Schools’ WELL initiative. We’ll have tents to keep you dry in case of rain, lots of great food, balloons, face-painting, print-making with Rusty and Ingrid, a Pet Parade to benefit Cape Ann Animal Aid – the list goes on…

The Schedule of Events:

So who organizes the Motif No.1 Day Fest? I can hear you asking. Is it the Chamber of Commerce? The Town of Rockport? Magic fairies? No, the organizers of Motif 1 Day volunteer for a local nonprofit called Rockport Exchange. Rockport Exchange works with commercial, cultural, and civic groups to help create a strong sense of community through events and initiatives that promote local food, culture, and industry. Rockport Exchange works hard to be self-funded, but could use your support in sustaining the free community programming the organization provides.

One fun way you can help fund Motif No. 1 Day is by entering the “Win Free Coffee for a Year” raffle at Brothers’ Brew. A $20 ticket gives you a chance for a free cup of coffee every day at Rockport’s favorite doughnut (and more) shop. And the staff at BB throws in specialty coffee as part of the deal for the winner, which makes this prize practically priceless. Last year Rockport’s Harbormaster, Rosemary Lesch, won. And since Rosemary holds court in the corner table nearly every day at Brothers’ Brew, she got her money’s worth with that winning raffle ticket over this past year. Think she can win again? Rosemary is hopeful and has already bought her raffle ticket. You have a few days left to stop by Brothers’ Brew and buy your ticket! Thanks for your support and we’ll see you at the Fest! For more details, go to







The photos were taken after the storm on Tuesday morning, at dead low tide, standing almost to Salt Island and looking toward Thacher Island. I don’t recall ever seeing such enormous waves at low tide and will stay tuned in the future. Look for the surfer’s head in the waves 🙂


Super huge shout out and congratulations to David Robinson, artist and owner of the Rockport gallery Windmere Art and Antiques, for entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, will fellow band members Ric Okasek, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, and Ben Orr (posthumously).

The ceremony airs on May 5th at 8pm on HBO, and in the meantime, here are some clips. Read more in the Boston Globe here.

 The Cars: David Robinson, Ric Okasek, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes




A huge shout out to Thacher Island Association and president Paul St. Germain for winning an Essex National Heritage Area partnership grant to restore the elevated pedestrian lighthouse walkway on Straitsmouth Island.

Paul St. Germain writes, “We will restore the original C 1850, 220-foot granite and wooden timber walkway to provide safe and easy access for the public to visit the lighthouse from the keeper house. This walkway has been there since 1854 and was destroyed sometime in the 1930’s. Besides its usefulness it has also been an iconic signature of the island’s profile for over 80 years.”

This unique 1906 photo shows the 315-foot walkway, the oil house, and keeper house, as well as Thacher Island’s Twin Lights in the distance.

Facts about Straitsmouth Island Light Station

  • First lighthouse was established in 1835 to mark the entrance to Rockport Harbor.
  • The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1851 and again in 1896.
  • A 6th order Fresnel lens was installed in the lantern in 1857.
  • The current Victorian styled keeper house was built in 1878 similar to the one on Thacher Island.
  • In 1932 the light was converted from white to green.
  • Coast Guard moved the station to shore at Gap Head and sold the island to private parties in 1934.
  • Coast Guard continues to maintain the light as an official aid to navigation today. In 1967 the island (except for the lighthouse) was donated to Massachusetts Audubon Society who maintains it as a wildlife sanctuary.
  • Straitsmouth Island was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
  • In 2010 the lighthouse and 1.8 acres of land was given to the Town of Rockport by the coast guard.
  • In 2014 the Town of Rockport signed a long term 30 year lease with Mass Audubon for the use of the keeper and oil houses.


Straitsmouth Island pounding waves after March nor’easter


Lowell’s Boat Shop 

Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury, will be carrying out urgent and emergency projects including the structural repair, stabilization, and shoring of facility footings and foundation piers, which are being eroded and causing the building to sag. Funding from the Essex Heritage grant program will enable Lowell’s Boat Shop to construct a proper footing that would mitigate erosion and allow them to slowly return the structure back to level and set it on a foundation pier that will be permanently stable.

Andover Historical Society

Based on a successful 2017 pilot program intended to augment a lack of local history in the school curriculum until 3rd grade or even high school, Andover Historical Society will be offering “Discovering my Neighborhood,” in which students will examine objects, photographs, and maps that tell the story of their neighborhood and the town. Students will be able to consider how Andover has changed, how it stayed the same, and how it might change in the future. The program will be tailored to each neighborhood, the historical development of Andover being reflected in its five school districts.

Bread and Roses Heritage Committee, Inc.

Taking place September 3rd in the historic Campagnone Common, Partnership Grant funding will be used to make possible The Bread and Roses Labor Day Heritage Festival, a unique event commemorating the Great Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912, now known world-wide as the Bread and Roses Strike. The free, family-oriented event that hosts the city’s many community organizations, educational workshops, and discussions on historical and contemporary issues aims to bridge the relationship between the immigrants of the past and present by revealing common struggle through music, theater, dance, food, art, historical tours, presentations, and family activities. Historical interpretation occurs through  guided trolley tours, walking tours, at talks and discussions at the Lawrence History Live! tent, and by exhibitors in our History and Labor area.

Marblehead Museum

With the goal of maintaining and protecting the 1768 Jeremiah Lee Mansion, the Marblehead Museum will be working to continue re-stabilizing the 20 front windows of the building using a durable putty to seal the glass to the frames and secure all framing members, effectively protecting the mansion and sealing out the elements. The two-to-four week long project will be carried out this summer, proactively preventing the glass from coming loose from the frames, and moisture being allowed to continue damaging the internal plaster and floors.

Middleton Stream Team

The Middleton Stream Team with utilize their Essex Heritage grant in order to construct an unpaved walking path in the Henry Tragert Town Common, along which they will place unobtrusive interpretive signage displaying short narratives on the natural and historical significance of the area.

Historical Society of Old Newbury

The Historical Society of Old Newbury will use their partnership grant to update their current museum, which was last updated in 1995 and was victim to unfortunate water damage. Partnering with five local schools to offer new programming, the museum will be turning its focus to its collections and exhibits relating to the American Revolution and Civil War to provide deeper interpretation of these two major conflicts that figure prominently in local history. The update will also ensure that these events are well-represented by the museum’s collections, and align with the curricular interests of local school groups by paying special attention to the events effects on a local level.

Theater in the Open

Theater in the Open will utilize an Essex Heritage grant to engage a qualified contractor to repair the roof and help to replace the exterior shingles of the Maudslay Gatekeeper’s House garage and garden, designed by William Gibbons Rantoul and built in 1903. The garage and garden are both highly visible from the road, making a big impact on the appearance of the Gatekeeper’s House to all visitors to Maudslay State Park. This spring, visitors will also see a completely restored entrance porch to the main house and significant improvement to the grounds.

Peabody Historical Society and Museum

Partnering with the City of Peabody and the Peabody Historical Commission in their efforts to improve Crystal Lake Park, the Peabody Historical Society will be implementing the “Witch Trials Legacy Trail of Peabody” by developing and providing three new interpretive displays clarifying witch trial history as it relates to Peabody as well as removing and re-placing two signs already at Crystal Lake Park to compliment the new design. In addition to the improved signage, the Peabody Historical Society will be developing an interactive audio tour, information for which will be displayed on the new signage.

Thacher Island Association

Thacher Island Association will replace the original c. 1850, 220-foot granite and wooden timber walkway to provide safe and easy access for the public to visit the lighthouse. This walkway has been there since 1854 but was destroyed sometime in the 1930’s. Besides its usefulness it has also been an iconic signature of the island’s profile for over 80 years. The walkway provided access from the keepers house to the lighthouse, and the rebuilt walkway will serve the same function for visitors to the lighthouse once the island is reopened to the public next year.

Hamilton Hall

Arriving in Salem from Curacao in 1798, John Redmond took up living quarters in an apartment at Hamilton Hall, serving as its caretaker upon its completion in 1805. Working as a barber, caterer, and restauranteur, Redmond became the preferred caterer and provisioner for all social events at the Hall, and over time he came to be known as “principal restauranteur” in Salem, and his family went on to be active in the early abolitionist movement. Hamilton Hall will use their partnership grant to develop inclusive narrative content about John Redmond’s life and the role that he played in Salem and Hamilton Hall’s early history, complemented by visual interpretive aids to broaden their reach to better reflect the culture and population of Salem.

Topsfield Historical Society

Originally built in 1683 and largely unaltered, the wood frame edifice of the Parson Joseph Capen House is a well-known icon arguably ranking among the most architecturally significant structures in the Essex National Heritage Area and is considered by many authorities to be one the finest extant examples of Colonial Era architecture anywhere. The Topsfield Historical Society will use their Essex Heritage grant to replace deteriorating clapboarding of various materials – including oak, pine and cedar – and prevent damage to and decay of the structure caused by allowing moisture to penetrate the frame.

Wenham Historical Association and Museum

As the Topsfield Fair marks its 200th anniversary, the Town of Wenham also celebrates its 375th anniversary and the Wenham Museum its 95th anniversary. To highlight an important and often overlooked facet of local history, the museum seeks to install this exhibition on Col. Timothy Pickering, whose legacy is common to all of these entities, this year. Using their partnership grant from Essex Heritage, the Wenham Museum will create an interactive exhibit devoted to Col. Timothy Pickering’s life in Wenham, his impact on agriculture, and his role in founding the Essex Agricultural Society, as well as improving the museum’s Pickering Library.In the exhibit, visitors will see historic Pickering Family textiles, such as a crest and wedding coat. Correspondence, reproductions of portraits, a family tree, visual interpretations of agricultural “best practices,” and text relating to the founding of the Essex Agricultural Society will also be included.

Congratulations to our 12 recipients, who will be working to implement a diverse range of educational, interpretive, and preservation projects throughout Boston’s North Shore and the Merrimack Valley over the next year!


Are these two seals even the same species? 

The answer is yes, both are Atlantic Harbor Seals! By far the most commonly seen seals found along the Cape Ann coastline are Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina), also called Common Seals, and with multiple sightings, they have certainly been making their presence known this past week. The coloring and spotted patterning of the Harbor Seal’s coat is highly variable, as you can see in the above photo, ranging from chocolate brown-black to palest silvery gray.

In recent years, Gray Seals have made an incredible comeback and are seen with much greater regularity in Cape Ann waters. And with their increasing numbers, the Great White Shark is also increasing in number, as Gray Seals are their preferred food. I don’t have a photo of Gray Seals, but found several on wiki commons media for the sake of comparing.

Gray Seals

Notice the Harbor Seals small and concave shaped head.

Harbor Seal vs. Gray Seal

  • Harbor Seals have a head that looks a bit too small for its body, with a concave shape, whereas the Gary Seal’s head is more proportionate, with a long straight snout–no distinguishable brow.
  • Harbor Seals nose nostrils are V-shaped; Gray Seals are shaped like a W.
  • Gray Seals are much larger at maturity: A full grown male Gray Seal weighs about 770 pounds, a full grown male Harbor Seal about 350 pounds, less than half the size of the Gray Seal.
  • When hauled-out Harbor Seals adopt a funny banana shape- ‘head up, tail up’ posture.


Notice the Gray Seals elongated snout and W-shaped nostrils

Harbor Seals V-shaped nostrils

Harbor Seal banana-shape

READ MORE HERE about the different species of seals found in Massachusetts from the Center of Coastal Studies.


Harbor Seals are relatively small (1.5 meters, or 5 feet long), with a coat that varies somewhat with age, wetness and between individuals. Some pups are born with a light colored, lanugo coat (fetal fur that most mammals shed before birth). The lanugo coat is shed within a few weeks of birth. Most seals, though, are born with an adult coat that darkens with age.

Females in this area usually give birth in late spring and early summer. It is thought that females from Massachusetts migrate to quiet islands in New Hampshire and southern Maine to pup. Historically, harbor seals pupped in Massachusetts, and there are increasing sightings of very small pups here in May and June. Pups are able to swim within minutes after birth and can travel with the female while she hunts. On Stellwagen, small pups are often found treading water while waiting for mom to return from a dive.

Adults of both sexes are similar in appearance, with lighter undersides, brown to gray topsides and differing amounts of irregular spots throughout. Harbor seals’ front flippers have relatively small claws, and the claws of their hind flippers are tiny. At sea, they can be hard to spot. Only their heads are visible as they come up for air, their snouts are small and pointed, and they have a small but definite brow. If you have binoculars, you can spot ear openings just behind the eyes.


Profiles of male and female gray seals.
NMFS Permit No. 775-1600-10

Gray Seals, Halichoerus gypus, are the largest seal found in the area, with males growing to 8 feet and weighing over 900 pounds (2.3 m. and 300-350 kg.). Females are somewhat smaller, measuring 7 feet and weighing less than 600 pounds (2 m. and 150-200 kg.). Besides size, the sexes differ in a number of ways: males tend to be darker with few light spots, while females tend to be light with dark, irregular blotches. Young can be easily confused with harbor seals. With a head-on view, gray seals have wide-set nostrils that form a W, while harbor seals have close-set nostrils that form a small V. Sometimes called horseheads, gray seals of both sexes have broad, long snouts that become more pronounced, especially in males.

Gray seals are endemic to the North Atlantic, ranging from the Baltic,western Europe to Canada and Northeastern United States. In recent years, the number of gray seals in New England seems to have grown. It is not yet clear if the Canadian population is simply growing and moving south, or if there are other, environmental factors at work.

Highly gregarious, gray seals are often found in large groups hauled out on quiet sand or rock beaches for rest and breeding. Females in this area, such as Monomoy Island in Nantucket Sound, give birth to one, white-coated pup from late December to mid February. The pup is nursed intensively for about 15 to 20 days on an increasingly fatty milk. Females come into estrus about 2 weeks after weaning their pups. Males are highly competitive over access to groups of females on shore. After fertilization, the embryo stops development and “rests” for 3 to 4 months before development resumes (delayed implantation).

Harbor Seals Brace Cove Gloucester


The search for Theresa Coen, who was last seen on Saturday, is now a recovery operation. “Information obtained throughout the course of investigation has lead Rockport police to determine that it’s unlikely the individual will be found alive,” Rockport police spokesman John Guilfoil said Wednesday night.

Please contact the Rockport Police Department at 978-546-1212 if you have any information about Theresa.

Read more here in the Gloucester Times.

Read more here in The Boston Globe.



Police, fire, and rescue vehicles are stationed around the Pebble Beach-Cape Hedge-Penzance Road area, with rescuers combing the beach.

Reader Rick shares the following from the Gloucester Daily Times online edition this morning; “Theresa A. Coen, 52, of Penzance Road in Rockport and also of Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, was last heard from on Saturday evening” Is there a connection here?”

Thank you Rick for letting us know, her name is Theresa Coen.

Clear Evidence of the Destructive Force of Global Warming on the Massachusetts Coastline and How This Negatively Impacts Local Wildlife -By Kim Smith

Female Piping Plover Sitting on an Egg

The recent winter storms of 2018 have provided empirical evidence of how global climate change and the consequential rising sea level is impacting the Massachusetts coastline. Whether broken barriers between the ocean and small bodies of fresh water, the tremendous erosion along beaches, or the loss of plant life at the edge of the sea, these disturbances are profoundly impacting wildlife habitats.

The following photos were taken after the March nor’easter of 2018 along with photos of the same areas, before the storm, and identify several specific species of wildlife that are affected by the tremendous loss of habitat.

Barrier Beach Erosion

Nesting species of shorebirds such as Piping Plovers require flat or gently sloping areas above the wrack line for chick rearing. Notice how the March nor’easter created bluffs with steep sides, making safe areas for tiny chicks nonexistent.

You can see in the photos of Good Harbor Beach (top photo and photos 3 and 4 in the gallery) that the metal fence posts are completely exposed. In 2016, the posts were half buried and in 2017, the posts were nearly completely buried. After the recent storms, the posts are fully exposed and the dune has eroded half a dozen feet behind the posts.

In the photo of the male Piping Plover sitting on his nest from 2016 the metal posts are half buried.

Although scrubby growth shrubs and sea grass help prevent erosion, the plants have been ripped out by the roots and swept away due to the rise in sea level.

Plants draw tiny insects, which is food for tiny chicks, and also provide cover from predators, as well as shelter from weather conditions. If the Piping Plovers return, will they find suitable nesting areas, and will plant life recover in time for this year’s brood?Other species of shorebirds that nest on Massachusetts’s beaches include the Common Tern, Least Tern, Roseate Tern, American Oyster Catcher, Killdeer, and Black Skimmer.

Common Tern parent feeding fledgling



Where Have All the Wildflowers Gone?

Female Monarch Depositing Egg on Common Milkweed Leaf

Wildflowers are the main source of food for myriad species of beneficial insects such as native bees and butterflies.

Monarch Butterflies arriving on our shores not only depend upon milkweed for the survival of the species, but the fall migrants rely heavily on wildflowers that bloom in late summer and early fall. Eastern Point is a major point of entry, and stopover, for the southward migrating butterflies. We have already lost much of the wildflower habitat that formerly graced the Lighthouse landscape.

Masses of sea debris from the storm surge washed over the wildflower patches and are covering much of the pollinator habitat at the Lighthouse.

Broken Barriers

American Wigeon Migrating at Henry’s Pond

Barriers that divide small bodies of fresh water from the open sea have been especially hard hit. The fresh bodies of water adjacent to the sea provide habitat, food, and drinking water for hundreds of species of wildlife and tens of thousands of migrating song and shorebirds that travel through our region.

The newly rebuilt causeway between Niles Pond and Brace Cove was breached many times during the nor’easter. The causeway is littered in rocks and debris from the sea.

The causeway being rebuilt in 2014.

The road that runs along Pebble Beach, separating the sea from Henry’s Pond has been washed out.

The footsteps in the sand are where the road ran prior to the storm.

Mallards, North American Beavers, Muskrats, North American River Otters, and Painted Turtles are only a few examples of species that breed in Massachusetts fresh water ponds and wetlands. All the wildlife photos and videos were shot on Cape Ann.

Migrating Black-bellied Plover

Cape Ann is hardly alone in coping with the impact of our warming planet and of rising sea level. These photos are meant to show examples of what is happening locally. Regions like Plymouth County, which include Scituate and Hingham, have been equally as hard hit. Plum Island is famously heading for disaster and similar Massachusetts barrier beaches, like Cranes Beach, have all been dramatically altered by the cumulative effects of sea level rising, and recently accelerated by the devastating winter storms of 2018.

To be continued.

Impassable Road to Plum Island

Snowy Owl Cranes Beach

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