Tag Archives: birds of cape ann

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)

 

Welcome Home Swans!

The swans are returning to Cape Ann ponds and marshes!

During periods of extremely cold weather Mute Swans depart our region to search for vegetation to forage for at unfrozen bodies of water. The deep freeze of this past winter was especially difficult for our feathered friends.

Swan Male Cob

Note the fleshy black knob at the base of the bill. For most of the year, the male and female’s knobs are about the same size. During mating season, which we are coming in to, it is much easier to do a side-by-side identification to determine if cob or pen because the male’s knob swells and becomes more prominent.

Synchronized Divers ©kim Smith 2015

Synchronized Diving

Swan foot ©kim Smith 2015Swans use their large feet as both rudder and paddle when diving for vegetation.

Swan Male Cob Cape Ann ©Kim Smith 2015

Mute Swans have 23 separate vertebrate in their necks, which is more than any other bird, including other swan species.

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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.

Divers or Dabblers and the Green-Winged Teal

Exciting News! (Edited)

GORGEOUS JUVENILE SNOW GOOSE IN GLOUCESTER!
Snow Goose Juvenile Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Many thanks to Michelle Barton for alerting us about the Snow Goose at Good Harbor Beach. Michelle and Chris Anderson’s son, Atticus, has a superb eye for identifying rare and unusual birds that are migrating through our region. It was the Barton-Anderson Family who first alerted us to the Snowy Owl in our neighborhood this past January.*Snow Goose Juvenile Gloucester Massachusetts Cnadian Geese ©Kim Smith 2015

Snow Goose Juvenile Canadina Geese Gloucester Massachusetts Essex County  ©Kim Smith 2015The juvenile Snow Goose and flock of Canadian Geese are foraging for grasses along the water’s edge. They yank and tug vigorously at the sea grass roots until dislodging.

Snow Goose Juvenile Gloucester Massachusetts -3 ©Kim Smith 2015Snow Goose Gloucester Massachusetts Essex County Teeth Tomia ©Kim Smith 2015 copySnow Geese mate for life, breeding during the summer months in the Arctic Tundra. Their annual journey  from summer breeding grounds to winter home is a roundtrip of more than 5,000 miles, and they are oftentimes traveling at speeds of up to 50mph! There are four migratory corridors, or flyways, in North America. From west to east, they are the Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic. Gloucester is a special place where we are centrally located in the Atlantic flyway.

Snow Goose Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Thanks so much again Michelle and Atticus for the Snow Goose alert!* See comment below from Chris Anderson

See More Snow Goose Photos Here Read more

Did You Know That ANYONE Can Become A Member of the Audubon Society?

In case you were unaware, The Audubon Society is not a restricted organization. It is comprised entirely of people like you and me. Massachusetts alone has over 100,000 member citizens that belong to the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Here is a link to get you started: Get Involved.

Particularly for Massachusetts residents, the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s website is especially helpful in identifying birds observed locally; see the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas Find a Bird Page. The Common Eider seen on Rogers Street, and guided to safety by Thomas Donahue, is on the Mass Audubon Find A Bird page and you can read more about this interesting bird here: Common Eider.The atlas isn’t always helpful, for example, GMG contributor Donna recently spotted a Horned Grebe. That particular species is not included on the page however, it was easily identified by looking at other sources, including books and websites such as Cornell’s All About Birds website.

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Reminder: Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend, a program sponsored by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Massachusetts Audubon Society was rescheduled for the weekend of February 27 through the 29th. Click here for details.

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Robert Chem Sanderlings painting currently on view at the Trident Gallery

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Robert Chem Northern Shrike 

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Additional information about Mass Audubon membership:

Members of the Massachusetts Audubon Society enjoy the following benefits:

Free Places to Explore, a full-color guide to Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries, nature centers, and museums.

Free one-year subscriptions to Connections, our member newsletter, and our new annual publication (first issue will be sent in February).

Member-only discounts on hundreds of exciting programs, camps, courses, and most special events.

Savings on purchases and access to member-only sales at our gift shops.

Member-only access to:

Savings on green auto insurance (10%) with the Environmental Insurance Agency (EIA).

Migrate to Explorer level or higher for even more benefits. Learn about our different membership levels.

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions or contact us.

Carolina Wren

For the past several years a pair of the sweetest Carolina Wrens have made our garden their home. The wrens are at the very edge of their northern range and because of that, they are much more at risk than many of the species of birds that we see at our feeders. Knowing this is one of the reasons why we are so vigilant in keeping the bird feeders well-stocked. The Carolina Wrens are easy to please; safflower seeds and suet are amongst their favorites. The following I wrote awhile back but because they are so vulnerable in this snowiest of winters, I think the information is worthwhile to repost.

Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianusCarolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Come-to-me, come-to-me, come-to-me, repeated from sun up to sundown. Mellow and sweet—though loud enough to attract my attention—what was this new-to-my-ears birdsong coming from the thicket of shrubs? Occasionally we would catch a quicksilver glimpse of a petite sparrow-sized songbird singing energetically atop the fence wall or rapidly pecking at the chinks of bark on our aged pear tree. But this was definitely not a sparrow. His is a rounded little body with tail held upward. He has pale orangey-buff underparts and rich russet plumage, with white and black barred accents on the wings, and long white eye-stripes. Because his coloring is so similar to, my husband took to calling it “that chipmunk bird.”

After much running to the window and out the back door at his first few notes I was able to identify our resident Carolina Wren. All summer long and through the fall we were treated to his beautiful and sundry melodies. Here it is late winter and he is again calling me to the window. We can have a longer look through bare trees and shrubs. Much to our joy there is not one wren, but a pair!

The Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is common throughout the southeast; so populous it is the state bird of South Carolina. When found on Cape Ann it is at its most northern edge of its territory. Gradually, as the climate has warmed over the past century, its range has expanded. They are sensitive to cold and will perish during severe weather. The Carolina Wren is a highly adaptable creature, dwelling in swamps, forests, farms, and tree-filled urban and suburban communities. They hop around leaf litter and dense brush, using their elongated bills to forage for food close to the ground. A pair may bond any time of the year and will stay together for life. It is the ardent male who sings the loud song and he is apt to anytime and anywhere. Carolina Wrens work together to construct their nests and feed their young. Their nesting sites are varied, built in both man-made and natural nooks and crannies; tree holes and stumps, and just as frequently, windowsills, mailboxes, tin cans, garage shelves, and holes found in porches, fence posts, and barns.

Everyday Backyard Birds of Essex County and What to Feed

During this snowiest of winters, I’ve been refilling the bird feeders several times a day. We usually only purchase safflower seeds because squirrels do not much care for the hard shelled seeds. Recently though I thought that with all the snow cover, our bird friends would benefit from some variety and decided to add black oil sunflower seeds to the mix. What a colossal error! This morning at the feeder a fight broke out over the sunflower seeds, with no less than five squirrels defending their new found cache. The sunflower seeds also drew two fat black rats to the feeders last night. We’re back to strictly safflower seeds!

The following are eight common birds that we see at feeders at this time of year and these eight species are content with the safflower seeds provided.

Male Cardinal ©Kim Smioth 2015Male Cardinal

Song Sparrow ©Kim Smith 2015Song Sparrow

House Sparrow ©kim Smith 2015House Sparrows

Mourning Dove ©Kim Smith 2015 copyMourning Dove

Caroloina Wren  bird bath ©Kim Smith 2015Carolina Wren

White-breasted Nuthatch ©Kim Smith 2015White-breasted Nuthatch

Black-capped Chicadee ©Kim Smith 2015Black-capped Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse ©Kim Smith 2015Tufted Titmouse

Safflowers seeds are available in bulk at the Essex Bird Shop.

What to Feed the Robins

American Robin in the Snow ©Kim Smith 2014The robins in our community have several different habits for surviving winter. There are year round resident robins that breed throughout Cape Ann during warmer months and also spend the winter here.  A second group only breeds in our region, then migrates further south during the winter months. A third group, the robins that we see flocking to our shores beginning round about January 28th, are migrating from parts further north. They are very hungrand are looking for berries, fruit, and small fish.

In early spring, robins begin to disperse from flocks. The ground thaws and worms, insects, and snails once again become part of the robin’s diet. Spring, too, is when we begin to hear the beautiful liquid notes of the male robin. He is singing to attract a mate. The robin’s song is one of the of most beloved and it is his music with which we associate the coming of spring.

With several edits and updates since I first wrote the following article, I think you’ll find the information helpful in knowing what to feed and to plant for the robins.

American Robin Sumac ©Kim Smith 2014Flock of American Robins Eating Sumac, Halibut Point Rockport

Food for the American Robin

During the winter months Cape Ann often becomes home to large flocks of robins, and we have had the joy of hosting numerous numbers in our garden. I can’t help but notice their arrival. Their shadows descend, crisscrossing the window light, followed by a wild rumpus in the ‘Dragon Lady’ hollies. This pair of hollies is planted on opposing sides of the garden path, alongside my home office. I have learned to stealthily sneak up to a window, as any sudden activity inside startles birds that are investigating our garden, and they quickly disperse. Dining not only on berries of the ‘Dragon Ladies’, but also the ‘Blue Princess’ Meserve holly and winterberry bushes, I find dozens of noisy, hungry robins.

These winter nomads flock to trees and shrubs that hold their fruit through January and February, feasting on red cedar, American holly, Meserve hollies, chokecherries, crabapples, sumac, and juniper. Robins traveling along the shores of Cape Ann also comb the shoreline for mollusks, and go belly-deep for fish fry. Depleting their food supply, they move onto the next location. Gardens rife with fruiting shrubs and trees make an ideal destination for our migrating friends.

Year round resident robins will call your garden home when provided with trays of chopped fruit and raisins, supplemented with meal worms.

What to Plant for Robins

The garden designed to attract nesting pairs of summer resident robins, as well as flocks of winter travelers, would be comprised of trees and shrubs for nest building, plants that bear fruit and berries that are edible during the summer and fall, and plants that bear fruits that persist through the winter months. Suburban gardens and agricultural areas provide the ideal habitat, with open fields and lawns for foraging insects as well as trees and hedgerows in which to build their nests.

The following plants, suggested with robins in mind, will also attract legions of songbirds and Lepidoptera. The list is comprised primarily of indigenous species with a few non-native, but not invasive, plants included.

Trees for nesting ~ American Holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida).

Summer and autumn fruit bearing trees, shrubs and vines for robins ~ Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Blackberry (Rubus spp.), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), Gray Dogwood (C. racemosa), Red-osier Dogwood (C. sericea), Silky Dogwood (C. amomum), Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Apple (Malus pumila), Virginia Rose (Rosa virginiana), Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), Wild Grape (Vitis spp.).

Trees and shrubs with fruits persisting through winter ~ Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana), Crabapple (Malus spp.)Sargent’s Crabapple (Malus sargentii), American Holly (Ilex opaca), Meserve Hollies (Ilex meserveae), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Common Juniper (Juniperus communis), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina).

American Robin winter crabapple turdus migratorius, americanus ©kim Smith 2015American Robin Eating Crabapples

I Love Sumac

Worms!

The American Robin and Bird Food

The MIGRATING ROBINS HAVE RETURNED!

American Robin winter crabapple turdus migratorius, americanus ©kim Smith 2015American Robin and Crabapples

Right on schedule, the robins have returned to our East Gloucester neighborhood! They were seen flocking to the holly berries, crabapples and sumac. This morning it was bleak and drizzly; I hope to see them back in our neighborhood on a sunnier day!

Dear Readers, If you spot robins in your garden or neighborhood, please comment in the comment section and let us know when and where. If you get a good capture of a robin, or any songbird for that matter, please send to kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com and I will be happy to share the photos here on GMG. Thank you so much!

For more information about robins see previous posts here:

American Robin Nestlings 

The American Robin and Bird Food

I Love Sumac

Mini Mini Short Clip: American Robin Nestlings

During this past summer while filming B-roll for the monarch film I shot some wonderful little scenes, the baby robins for example. Oftentimes I just happen upon some stunningly beautiful event unfolding and because too many beauty scenes got away from me in the past, I have gotten really smart about nearly always traveling with camera bag in tow.

The four baby robins were in a nest that had been constructed at slightly higher than waist height, in a tree that was for sale at Wolf Hill. My friends at both Wolf Hill and Goose Cove Gardens are always so kind to point out these exciting happenstances, whether robin nestlings or Black Swallowtail caterpillars and eggs, and they are always tremendously accommodating, never minding when I run back to the car to grab my cameras! I only needed approximately fifteen seconds of robin footage, and here you have it! Thank you so much Kate for steering me to the robins!

In my monarch film there is a sequence about the different types of migrations that happen through our region. American Robins are especially interesting as the species has evolved a multi-fold strategy for surviving winter; in the fall, some robins leave Cape Ann for regions further south, some stay throughout the winter, and some arrive in great flocks in January and February from parts further north; for the Canada to Gloucester winter robins, Cape Ann is like their Bermuda!

 

Exciting Immature Snowy Owl Sighting In East Gloucester Today!

Juvenile Snowy Owl  Gloucester Massachusetts. ©Kim Smith 2015

Immature Snowy Owl East Gloucester 

Esme, Meadow, Atticus, Pilar, ©Kim Smith 2015Budding Ornithologists Meadow, Atticus, Frieda, Esme, and Pilar

Snowy Owl East Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Thanks so much to my sweet friends Dawn and Michelle for thinking to call me to come see!

Snowy Owl East Gloucester Massachusetts. ©Kim Smith 2015See previous GMG Snowy Owl post: Birds of Cape Ann and the Magic of the Snowy Owl

Baby Turkey Mini Video and Happy Thanksgiving to All Our GMG FOBs!

What a beautiful (and entertaining) surprise I experienced this past summer when filming B-roll and the milkweed patch at Waring Field in Rockport. From a distance the elusive hen was observed and I was delighted to see, upon coming closer to film her, that she had four little babies in tow (turkey babies are called poults).

Happy Thanksgiving! 

“Turkey in the Straw” Recorded by Fiddle, Fiddle, Fiddle

See GMG post Baby Turkey Encounter here.

Pollinator Gardening Tip: Deadheading

Tufted titmouse Baeolophus bicolor ©Kim Smith 2014Tufted titmouse ~ Baeolophus bicolor

In my garden design practice, the topic of deadheading flowers comes up often, especially at this time of year. The habitat garden is designed for people and for pollinators and the objective is to find a balance between the two. Esthetically speaking, to some, a garden only looks its best when every plant is tidily trimmed and every spent flower blossom removed. But to a hungry bird on the wing, an expiring sunflower or cosmos is bird food. Some plants should be deadheaded and pruned however, the next time you get a jones to neaten a plant, take a moment to look at it from the perspective of a songbird.

Black-capped Chicakdee Poecile articapillus ©Kim Smith 2014

Black-capped Chicakdee ~  Poecile articapillus

I like a bit of unruliness in the garden and don’t even deadhead cosmos any longer. They will continue to flower whether deadheaded or not. A few weeks ago while working with several of our wonderful HarborWalk volunteers, I was explaining what plants to deadhead and what plants not to deadhead, and why, when at the very moment that I was speaking those very words, three brilliant cadmium yellow goldfinches flew on the scene and began devouring the seed heads of a nearby coneflower!

American Goldfinch male Cosmos bipinatus ©Kim Smith 2014

American Goldfinch Eating Cosmos Seeds

And too, a batch of Echinacea not only provides mid-winter sustenance to hungry birds, the seed heads sure look pretty silhouetted by new fallen snow.

Coneflowers in the snow ©Kim Smith 2012Gloucester HarborWalk

Endangered Pied-billed Grebe Encounter

In the dim light of daybreak at first glance I thought the diminutive duck was somehow related to the female mallard. Both were inconspicuous and camouflaged amongst the cattails. Mrs. Mallard was preening and standing on one leg, a thing birds do to regulate their body temperature, and Mystery Duck was actively diving all around her. As the light grew brighter with the rising sun it was easy to see that they weren’t at all akin; Mystery Duck’s bill was shorter and chunkier when compared to the Mallard’s bill, Mystery was half her size, and its perky cotton white tail feathers were unmissable. The Mallard flew off eventually and our Mystery then traveled away, deeply diving and then reemerging some distance further, staying close to the shoreline and always well hidden.

Pied-billed Grebe Massachusetts mallard ©kim Smith 2014

Side-by-side comparison: Pied-billed Grebe, left, female Mallard, right.

The Pied-billed Grebe is rarely seen breeding in Massachusetts any longer and is listed as endangered in nearly every New England state. Rhode Island considers the Pied-billed extirpated (locally extinct). The reason for their decline is low breeding numbers and wetland degradation. Their feathers are thick and soft and were used to make hats and earmuffs during the 19th century. Wantonly hunted to near extinction, Pied-billed Grebes never fully recovered in our region. As wetlands have given way to development, the Pied-billed Grebe’s numbers continue to decline dramatically. They are extremely sensitive to human disturbances, and, too, are less likely to be seen as it is a nocturnal bird, traveling mostly during the night.

Pied-billed Grebe Massachusetts -2 ©kim Smith 2014Fluffy Cottontail

A fun fact about the marsh-nesting Pie-billed is that both male and female contribute to building what at first appears to be a floating nest in vegetation, near open water. The nest is actually a platform anchored to plant stalks.

I wonder if this Pied-billed is a fall migrant or if on Niles Pond, Pied-billed Grebes were nesting this season. Has anyone else documented or seen a Pied-billed Grebe at Niles Pond during the past few months?

Niles Pond Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014

Niles Pond is Ideal Pied-billed Grebe Habitat

See previous GMG post for more information about why birds stand on one leg.

See more photos and audio links here ~
Read more

Birds of Cape Ann: How to Tell the Difference Between a Snowy Egret and a Great Egret

Great egret Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014Great Egret

For the Chief, and anyone who wants a quick and easy reference on how to tell the difference between the Snowy and Great Egrets, both white and both often times found feeding in the marsh and tide pools together. The Great Egret is greater in size and has a bright yellow bill, with black legs and black feet. The smaller Snowy Egret has the opposite markings, with unmistakeable cadmium yellow feet and a black bill.
Great Egret Snowwy Egret how to tell the difference ©Kim Smith 2014

Snowy Egret and Great Egret

In the above photo taken this morning, the egrets were too far away for my camera’s lens to get a really clear picture however, when cropped, you can see a side-by-side comparison. The Snowy Egret, with black bill and bright yellow feet, is flying in the background and the Great Egret, with black feet and yellow bill, is perched.

Great Egret lobster Cove Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014Great Egret Lobster Cove

More posts about Great Egret and Snowy Egrets:

BIRDS OF CAPE ANN: GREAT EGRET VS. GREAT EGRET

BEAUTIFUL GOOD HARBOR FOGGY MORNING SUNRISE, SNOWY EGRET, AND WHIMBRELS

Splish Splash

Bird Bath Gray Catbird ©Kim Smith 2014Click image to view larger

The day we planted blueberry bushes is the very same day the catbirds began to call our garden home. We now see Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) throughout the seasons, devouring the seeds and fruit of holly, crabapple, winterberry, magnolia, blueberry, and shad. Their cat-like cries, which lends the species their common name, are welcome and often heard. Gray Catbirds are in the Mimidae Family and, like their relatives the Mockingbirds, also mimic the songs of other birds.

Although I have read that catbirds are shy, they seem relatively sociable in our garden and aren’t threatened by the presence of people within close proximity. We keep the bird baths filled with fresh clean water and I especially love to watch the catbirds from our kitchen window as they are so exuberant in their bathing habits–diving and splashing and then drying their wings at the edge of the basin. Oh Joyous Spring!

Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis ©Kim Smith 2014

Sing Your Heart Out Fella!

Male Red-winged Blackbird Singing ©Kim Smith 2014Male Red-Winged Blackbird

Although Red-winged Blackbirds are spied around Niles Pond during the winter months, spring brings flocks, and the males are an especially welcome sight chortling atop the pussy willow branches along the water’s edge. Red-winged Blackbirds are one of North America’s most abundant birds. If you were a male of the kind, you might be singing your heart out, too. The species is highly polygynous and some males have been known to have as many as 15 mates during a single season!

Female_Red-winged_Blackbird manijith KainickaraFemale Red-winged Blackbird Image Courtesy Wiki Commons Media

The males are glossy black with distinctive red epaulettes and yellow wing bars, which they often puff out confidently when singing from their perches. The females have a streaky brown song sparrow-like wing patterning and stay close to the ground feeding and building their intricately woven nests at the base of cattails and reeds, along the marsh’s edge.

If you have a spare moment, send us a photo of your favorite signs welcoming spring and we’ll post them under a group ‘welcome spring’ post. Send photos to me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com (thanks Lenny).

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I am presenting 2 lectures this coming week, Monday on Butterfly Gardening in Shrewsbury and Wednesday evening on The Pollinator Garden at the Flint Library in North Reading. Please visit the events page of my website for more information.

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