Tag Archives: Atlantic Road

ROCK ON GLOUCESTER’S DPW MICHAEL SILVA AND JOHN HARRIS -By Kim Smith

Shout out to Gloucester DPW’s Michael Silva and John Harris. This morning they removed all the rocks that were blocking the drainage pipe on Atlantic Road, near the Grapevine Road intersection. The rocks had been pushed into the drain by the March nor’easters.

“We Love You Too Snowy Owl” Prints for Sale

“We Love You Too Snowy Owl” prints for sale.

For the next two weeks, I am offering a limited edition of the photo “We Love You Too Snowy Owl.” The 8 x 12 photo will be printed on fine art hot press paper and signed. At the end of two weeks, after orders are in and checks received, I will place the order with the printer. The $95.00 price includes shipping and tax. If you would like to purchase a photo of Hedwig, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com Thank you!

SNOWY OWL HEDWIG WEEKLY UPDATE AND THE REASON WHY CROWS ATTACK OWLS -By Kim Smith

Our beautiful Snowy Owl Hedwig was last seen on Monday night, March 12th. This was also the night before the third nor’easter. She was perched on the railing of the Ocean House Inn facing towards the sea. The wind was blowing fiercely. Well after dark, and after making several attempts, she successfully flew in a southerly direction out over the water.

It has been two weeks since that last sighting and perhaps we will see her again, but I imagine her to be safe and undertaking her return journey to the Arctic tundra, well-fed from her stay on Cape Ann. Whether she was well-rested is another story. The great majority of people who came to see this most approachable of owls were respectful and considerate of her quiet space. The crows however, were nothing short of brutal. After learning about why crows attack owls, and the degree of aggression possible, I am surprised she lasted as long as she did, and without great injury.

American Crow harassing a Peregrine Falcon, Atlantic Road

Crows and owls are natural enemies because a murder of crows may mob an owl to death (or any raptor by which it feels threatened) and owls occasionally eat crows. Crows are diurnal, which means they feed during the day. The majority of North American owl species that they encounter are nocturnal (night feeding). In the case of Snowy Owls, which feed both day and night, their paths may occasionally cross, as happened when Hedwig moved into the crow’s territory along Gloucester’s Atlantic Road.

American Crows harassing Snowy Owl Hedwig

A flock of American Crows can run circles around most owls, pecking, dive bombing, chasing, and in some instances killing. Snowy Owls are the exception; they are larger, stronger, and faster flyers than other North American owl species. And too, Snowy Owls are closely related to Great Horned Owls, a species known to eat crows when they are roosting overnight. So even though a crow in our area may never before have encountered a Snowy Owl, they instinctively know danger is present.

American Crow

With their incredible ability for recollection, crows are considered the brainiacs of the bird world. Daily, Hedwig outsmarted this smartest of bird species. She learned to stay well-hidden during the daylight hours, laying low atop the hotel roofs. Her salt and pepper coloring blended perfectly with the black, white, and gray colors of industrial roof venting equipment. She adapted to hunting strictly at night, after the crows had settled in for the evening, returning to her hideouts before the day began.

Where’s Hedwig?

From Hedwig’s perch atop the Atlantic Road hotels, she had a crystal clear view of the golf course and Bass Rocks, places prime for nightly hunting.

On one hand it would be fascinating if Hedwig had been outfitted with a tracking device. On the other, if she had been trapped for tagging, she may not return to this area. There is some evidence that Snowies occasionally return to an overwintering location. Next winter I’ll be taking more than a few peeks in the location of the Atlantis and Ocean House Inn Hotels to see if Hedwig has returned.

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“We Love You Too Snowy Owl” prints for sale

The sale of the “Super Blue Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse Over Gloucester Harbor” photo went very well. Thank you so very much to all who purchased a print! Many readers have asked about photos of Hedwig. For the next two weeks, I am offering a limited edition of the photo “We Love You Too Snowy Owl.” The 8 x 12 photo will be printed on fine art hot press paper and signed. At the end of two weeks, after orders are in and checks received, I will place the order with the printer. The $95.00 price includes shipping and tax. If you would like to purchase a photo of Hedwig, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com Thank you!

 

 

MARCH NOR’EASTER #GLOUCESTER MA ATLANTIC OCEAN EXPLODING WAVES, SPINDRIFTS, AND THE PRICE TO PAY


Eastern Point

Shoreline, home, and garden have been hard hit by the third nor’easter to take place this March. The waves and spindrifts were magnificent, taking a short drive around the back shore this morning, but it was difficult to observe the further damage to coastline habitats.

DAGGERS! SNOWY OWL HEDWIG WEEKLY UPDATE

Our beautiful Snowy Hedwig’s routine hasn’t much changed since she discovered the safety zone provided by hotel rooftops (safe from crows, that is). Hunting during the night, returning at dawn to the roof to various well-hidden niches, and then making her “entrance” at around sunset, she has adapted well to New England coastal living. After preening, pooping, and occassionally passing a pellet, she then scans the neighborhood. Hedwig bobs her head in an up and down motion a half dozen times, then flies east over the sea or west over the Arctic tundra-like golf course.

Snowy Owl Hedwig lifts her head in a bobbing motion to track prey.

Owls cannot move their eyes in the eye sockets. Instead, they employ several techniques to increase their range of sight. An owl can swivel its head a full 270 degrees. Additionally, owls bob their head up and down, a movement that aids in triangulating potential prey.

Dagger Sharp Talons.

Because the forceful impact of the Snowy Owl hitting its prey is so powerful, combined with the vise-like grip of its talons, the animal usually dies instantly.

Hedwig has so far survived three tremendously fierce storms during her stay in Gloucester. Last night, on the eve of the blizzard, she tried to take off several times towards the water. The wind current was strong, but she eventually flew successfully, heading in the direction of Thacher Island. Heres hoping she is waiting out the blizzard in one of her hideaways.

Folks are wondering how long will Hedwig stay. Most Snowies leave Massachusetts by April, although one was recorded at Logan Airport as late as July.

 

 

SNOWY OWL HEDWIG MESSY-FACED GIRL -By Kim Smith

Our winter resident Snowy Owl Hedwig finds plenty to eat along the backshore. Prior to taking off to hunt in the early evening we see her swivel her head and look out to sea, and then swivel around to scan the golf course. We wonder, is she thinking “Shall I have duck for dinner, or shall I have rabbit?” Here she is yesterday morning, face covered in schmutz, a happy sign to see.

ATLANTIC OCEAN WAVE WATCHING -EXPLODERS, BANGERS, ROLLERS, CRASHERS, AND SONIC BOOMERS – #GLOUCESTEMA #ROCKPORTMA MARCH NOR’ESTER STORM RILEY -By Kim Smith

Atlantic Road today 🌊 🌊 🌊 #gloucesterma #noreaster #riley #waves

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

The best wave watching Sunday afternoon was from Atlantic Road, especially when the light turned silver-gray-violet. The mist from the pounding waves filled the air, creating a beautiful diffused quality. It was mesmerizing to see the waves hurling against the rocky coastline. Often the force was so loud, it sounded like a sonic boom had exploded. Atlantic Road was closed to car traffic while pedestrians strolled the road as though a promenade. After watching the full force of the waves during high tide, I headed over to Straitsmouth Island in Rockport. Less in strength, but still spectacular to watch.

 

SNOWY OWL HEDWIG SURVIES MARCH NOR’EASTER RILEY! -By Kim Smith

Our beautiful Snowy Owl Hedwig survived, and looks none the worse for wear. She spent the afternoon of March 5th resting in a sunny, but wholly unphotogenic location (and extremely windy corridor, too, I might add). Perhaps a New England Nor’easter is nothing to her, when compared to an Arctic tundra storm. She’s clearly a genius 🙂 And has some mighty good survival skills.

Thank you to Betty G. Grizz for sharing her Hedwig sighting this afternoon ❤

RARELY SEEN ON LAND TINY AND BEAUTIFUL DOVEKIE FOUND ON LOCAL BEACH -By Kim Smith

A tiny pelagic seabird, the Dovekie, was discovered this morning laying dead in the sand. I think it must have died very recently as it was completely intact. Dovekies are the smallest of the auks (the puffin family) and when on the beach they are in serious trouble because they walk very poorly and have difficulty taking off. Most of us will only ever catch a glimpse of this tiny treasure far away and out to sea and although very dead, it was beautiful to see.

Dovekies (also known as the Little Auck) breed on islands in the high Arctic and move south to the the north Atlantic in the winter. Several weeks ago, one was spotted off the shoreline on Atlantic Road.

Photos of living Dovekies courtesy wikicommonsmedia.

SNOW STORM BACKSHORE ATLANTIC ROAD HIGH TIDE SURGE AND EXPLODING WAVES -By Kim Smith

Today during the snow storm at 8am at peak high tide, this is what the exploding surf along Atlantic Road looked like. Cold and windy, with big fat wet snowflakes, it was beautiful nonetheless.

Explosive #atlanticocean #gloucesterma #backshore #stormsurge

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

STAR POWER – NANCY MARCIANO IN THE HOOD!

My friend Nancy loves Snowies and especially Hedwig’s story. She drove over from Beverly this morning to see if she could see Hedwig and yes, there she was once again, perched on one of her favorite lookouts, the railing of the Ocean House Hotel at Bass Rocks.

Star to star–Nancy meets Hedwig and she is positively beaming 🙂

SNOWY OWL AERIAL FIGHT -By Kim Smith

Snowy Owl Aerial FightHedwig arrived at Bass Rocks with the rising sun. Her face was smudged with blood from what I imagine was a satisfying breakfast. Off and on throughout the day, in between naps, she preened and groomed. By the end of afternoon her facial feathers were smooth and white.

After a day of grooming and resting, notice how much cleaner her face is at day’s end.A horde of crows arrived to harass Hedwig but she held her ground.

Hedwig crouching down while the crows were dive bombing

She jumped from the upper rock down to the lower rock just prior to taking off.

Late in the day, about the time when she would ordinarily take off to hunt, a cell phone person crept out onto the rocks, getting way to close to her. Hedwig was visibly uncomfortable and took off over the water. Suddenly and seeming from out of nowhere, Bubo came flying towards her. An aerial skirmish ensued but with no real contact. The battle appeared to be about establishing territory. Although taking place out over the water in the distance nevertheless, you can see the owl’s facial expressions were incredible; click on the photos to see larger images.

Bubo took over the rocky area near to where had been Hedwig’s perch for the day, while she flew further down the rocks.  

She perched on the the rocky beach, when the same cell phone person again got way too close, and caused her to flush a second time.

Perhaps this was just an average day in a Snowy Owl’s life but I was reminded once again that nearly every moment of a wild creature’s life is a struggle to survive.

SNOWY OWL WATCHING TIPS: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls.

  1. Watch from a comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. Nothing makes the Owls more stressed than people getting too close.
  2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.
  3. Please don’t allow dogs to play near the Snowies.
  4. There have been reports of Snowies flying into cars. They often fly low when flushed and it is easy to understand why this may happen, especially as the Snowies are drawing so much traffic. Please be on the look out when you are in known Snowy Owl territory.
  5. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress the Snowies.

SNOWY OWL BUBO HAS A BOOBOO -By Kim Smith

Although Bubo appears to have an injury surrounding his left eye, it did not seem to affect his ability to see. I sent a photo yesterday to Erinn Whitmore and both she and Jodi Swenson confirmed that he’s probably okay at this point.

This afternoon he flew into Hedwig’s territoy, which had been hers all day, and after an aerial battle took place, he claimed her rock. I don’t know if it’s the light but Bubo’s eye does not look any better today. The crows and seagulls are vicious and unrelenting towards the Snowies, other raptors don’t want them in their territory, and they are battling each other–it’s easy to understand how an eye could become injured. Posting photos tomorrow of the Snowy battle.

Comparing right eye versus left eye.

SNOWY OWL FIGHT AND HEDWIG AND BUBO WEEKEND UPDATE -By Kim Smith

Hedwig preparing for take-off.

Reports by several photographers have come in that early Sunday morning Hedwig and Bubo had a tremendous fight. They were going at it talon to talon and the feathers were flying. This is normal behavior amongst Snowy Owls. They are not a mated pair; Hedwig arrived at Bass Rocks weeks earlier than Bubo, and Snowy Owls don’t migrate together. The two were most likely fighting over territory. As a matter of interest, we generally see more males in our region because the female Snowies are stronger and better fliers and they often stake out territory further north, closer to their Arctic home base.

Bubo after the fight.

The two Snowies retreated, spending the remainder of the day on the Atlantic side of Bass Rocks. Bubo was perched out in the open opposite the Inns, while Hedwig stayed tucked under the shelter of a rock outcropping.

At dusk they both flew to their favorite perches to begin a night of hunting. Hedwig was unfortunately being dive-bombed by a single crow and Bubo may have been chased from the area by a bunch of crows. Monday morning, as of this writing, only Hedwig was seen.

SNOWY OWL WATCHING TIPS: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls, reposted from yesterday.

  1. Watch from a comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. Nothing makes the Owls more stressed than people getting too close.
  2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.
  3. Please don’t allow dogs to play near the Snowies.
  4. There have been reports of Snowies flying into cars. They often fly low when flushed and it is easy to understand why this may happen, especially as the Snowies are drawing so much traffic. Please be on the look out when you are in known Snowy Owl territory.
  5. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress the Snowies.

Reader Amy Mcmahon shared the following blog post about observing signs of stress in owls Signs of Stress in Owls.

Many thanks to Amy for sharing!

Hedwig grooming her feet and talons.

Hedwig in flight

NOT ONE, BUT TWO SNOWY OWLS ON THE BACKSHORE, PERCHED WITHIN METERS OF ONE ANOTHER! -By Kim Smith

Golden Eyes of the Snowy in the Golden Light of Sunset

Snowy Owls once again this January drew crowds along the backshore Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Fans were treated to not one, but two Snowies, and for quite a good amount of time they were perched within meters of one another–the paler owl (most likely a male) sat atop the corner of the Ocean Inn and the owl with heavily barred feather patterning (most likely a female) perched at the top of a phone pole.

With the clear distinction between the owl’s feather patterns I think we could name the Snowies–the female, Hedwig (thank you Michele for the suggestion) and the male, Bubo. The scientific name for the Snowy Owl is Bubo scandiacus and the name Bubo may help us remember that fact.

The photos were taken Saturday and I’ll have time to post Sunday’s tomorrow.

Notice how perfectly Bubo blends amidst the surrounding rocks.

It’s no wonder why the Snowies are drawing such crowds. Most owl species are nocturnal; Snowy Owls are diurnal, which means they hunt during daylight hours. It is logical when you think about the continuous daylight of the Arctic, they must be able to hunt during the day. Snowy Owls wintering in our region hunt during both the day and night, depending on what type of prey they are after.

SNOWY OWL WATCHING ETIQUETTE: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls. You will get better photographs and you won’t stress out the Snowies.

  1. Watch from a comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. Nothing makes the Owls more stressed than people getting too close.
  2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.
  3. Please don’t allow dogs to play near the Snowies.
  4. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress the Snowies.

Hedwig and Bubo have an ability to tolerate some human activity nonetheless, we want to help them survive and protect their time here on our shores. When Snowies are perching, it’s not for our enjoyment (although beautiful) but because they are either resting or on the look out for their next meal.  After all, if they have a good hunting season and survive the winter, perhaps they will return next year!

 

Fellow photographer friend Dave shared the above photo. You can see the guy is waaaayyyyy too close to Bubo and has caused him to flush.

Snowy Owls have wonderfully expressive faces. Hedwig’s eyes lit up in the setting sun.

Female Hedwig perched in the distance on the far left, male Bubo perched on the corner of the Inn, to the right.

WE LOVE YOU TOO SNOWY OWL!

For the past several days there has been a remarkably tolerant Snowy Owl feeding and perching on the rocks at Atlantic Road. Perhaps she (or he) is the same Snowy that has been noticed on the backshore over the course of the past month. I write tolerant because this Snowy was perched about fifteen feet from the sidewalk and neither traffic nor birdwatchers seemed to faze her much. As word has gotten out, her fan club has grown, so much so that there was a bit of a traffic jam today. Every several hours I stopped by to check on her whereabouts. At 2:00 today, she had only moved about a foot from where she was at daybreak. By sundown, she had flown up onto the rooftops of an Atlantic Road resident.


Many thanks to Kate for all her text alerts letting me know when the Snowy was on the backshore!

Early morning and the Snowies face and talons were bloodstained, which is a very positive sign that she is feeding well. Snowy Owls wintering over in our region eat rabbits, rodents (lots of rats), songbirds, and ducks. Being good stewards of the Snowies means not applying rat poison around your home or business. There are several methods equally as efficient in killing rats as rat poison. When a bird of prey such as a Peregrine Falcon, Snowy Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, or Bald Eagle ingests a rat that has eaten rat poison, the raptor becomes sick and will usually die.

The Snowy spent the better part of the day mostly dozing, preening, cleaning her talons, and puffing her feathers for warmth. At one point she pushed her face into a snow patch but I couldn’t tell if it was to drink or to wash.

 

For a moment the Snowy sat bolt upright from a loud bang in the distance, but generally, she was a satiated and sleepy owl.

Snowy Owl Fan Club Traffic Jam

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