Tag Archives: brace cove


The arduous work of rebuilding the Niles Pond Brace Cove causeway continues, despite the mid-week blizzard. I walked the causeway Tuesday night and then again the past several mornings–the pace of the restoration is fantastic and will soon be completed. Many, many thanks to the generous residents of Eastern Point who are striving to keep Niles Pond from being engulfed by the sea.

R. B. Strong’s Larry expertly operates the John Deere excavator, deftly extracting and moving boulders around as if they were pebbles on the shore. The track-hoe not only scoops and lifts the massive rocks, the bucket is also used to tamp down the boulders once in place, as you can see in the video below.


With the third nor’easter to hit our shores during the month of March expected to arrive tonight, track-hoe excavator Larry shares that the work continued today to fortify the causeway, and to possibly get more water to flow through the clogged drain that is preventing excess water from leaving Niles Pond.

For our readers general information, the cost of the repairs, restoration, and continued ongoing maintenance of the causeway, and surrounding area, are paid for entirely by the generous residents of Eastern Point, not tax payer dollars.


Large track-hoes (excavators) are needed to repair the damage done by the March nor’easter storm known as Riley.

The narrowest slip of land between a body of fresh water and the sea.

Native pussy willow trees survive storm after storm after storm after storm. More pussy willows, as well as other deep-rooted natives, need to be planted to help with the unending erosion.

Niles Pond water overflowing the bank and littered with debris swept in by the sea.

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


The beautiful newly constructed causeway that separates Niles Pond and Brace Cove, which was rebuilt several years ago, is now a jumble of rocks and boulders. Niles Pond Road is narrowing from the sea water surging into the Pond. The water has nowhere to go. The road to the Retreat House is impassable.  The destructive force of climate change is rearing its ugly head in our own backyards and a fifth super high tide is expected again tonight. 


Popples and debris are littering Atlantic Road, the footbridge sustained damage to the last half, fences and trees are down throughout the neighborhood, and the seas are gaining in ferocity, with the third of the super high tides expected at noon. Please be safe, the wind is mighty powerful this morning and their are potential projectiles everywhere.

Good Harbor Beach Footbridge damaged.

Extensive damage to the railings at the Ocean House Inn, our Snowy Owl Hedwig’s current favorite perch. No sign of her the past few days, but Hedwig is so resourceful, we are hoping for the best.


“Seal Rock” is without a doubt, the Harbor Seals favorite rock. There is usually a “king (or queen) for the morning,” and they determine who is allowed on the rock and who is not. Typically, the queen is the largest and she lets the visitor know, with lots of loud grunting and growling, if they are not welcome.

Harbor Seals are site faithful, meaning they will spend their lives along the same stretch of coastline where they were born, fish, and haul out.

Even though seals look like they are basking in the sun, they are actually hauled out to thermoregulate. Seals do not like to touch each other. Observe closely next time you see a raft on the rocks and you will notice that they go to great lengths not to physically come in contact with one another.

Brace Rock and “Seal Rock”

I am reposting the Harbor Seal psa because of a recent incident. What would be your initial reaction if you saw a seal hauled out on the beach? Most likely, to get up close to the seal to see if it was injured. That is human nature but it is actually the worst action you could take. The Harbor Seal in this video struggled to survive the world of curious humans. By approaching too closely, you could very well force the seal back into the water. Harbor Seals, especially juveniles, haul out for a variety of reasons, mostly to rest, less likely because of injury or illness, and oftentimes to escape a shark.


From rainbow to power outages, the wind and rain storm of October 30, 2017 had it all.

Rainbow light over Saint Ann’s steeple #gloucesterma

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Brace Cove Panorama


I see in the surf spray the face of an angry sea god. What do you see?

Roiling sea at high tide today #goodharborbeach #gloucesterma #hurricanejose

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Sustainable Seaside Goldenrod

Angry sea #backshore #gloucesterma #hurricanejose

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This morning around 8am


We can hope our Little Chick is taking his time migrating southward. Perhaps he has traveled only as far as Cape May, New Jersey, or maybe he has already migrated as far as Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Migrating shorebirds often travel shortly after a low pressure system and hurricanes are a part of the environment to which wildlife like Piping Plovers have adapted. However, no wildlife has in the recorded history of the world had to cope with a storm the magnitude of Hurricane Irma.

Piping Plover foraging, building fat reserves for the southward migration. The above PiPl was one of four of a small flock traveling in Gloucester, spotted on August 24, 2017.

Extraordinary weather events can push endangered species over the brink. High winds, storm surges, and wave action destroys coastal habitats and flooding decreases water salinity. Songbirds and shorebirds are blown far off course away from their home habitats, especially young birds. A great deal of energy is expended battling the winds and trying to return to course. Songbirds have it a little easier because their toes will automatically tighten around a perch but seabirds and shorebirds are the most exposed.

Shorebirds like Piping Plovers feet have evolved to run over sand easily and do not grip well with their toes.

Numerous Piping Plovers winter over in the low-lying Joulter Cays, a group of sandy islands in the Bahamas, and one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Irma. Perhaps migrating PiPl sensed the pending hurricane and held off before crossing the Atlantic to reach the Bahamas and other Caribbean Islands. The flock of nine PiPl in the above photo were seen last year at the end of August in Gloucester (August 29, 2016.)

One famous shorebird, a Whimbrel named Machi, who was wearing a tracking device, became caught up in the eye of a powerful storm but made it through to the other side of the storm. Tragically, he was subsequently shot dead in Guadeloupe. Many migrating birds like Whimbrels know to avoid places like Guadeloupe where unbridled shorebird hunting is allowed, but Machi had no power over where he made landfall. Sea turtles too are severely affected by the loss of barrier beaches. Staggering loss of life has been recorded after recent powerful hurricanes–fish, dolphins, whales, manatees, baby crab and lobster estuaries, insects, small mammals, all manner of birds–the list is nearly as long as there are species, and nothing is spared.

A pair of Whimbrels at Brace Cove in July 2015

If you see rare or an unusual bird after a storm or hurricane, please let us know and we can contact the appropriate wildlife official.


Evocative September light makes for striking foggy morning sunrises.

 Good Harbor Beach yesterday morning

Brace Cove today


Four coyotes on the causeway–thank goodness for the immediacy of cell phones, but oh how I wish my camera gear was not in the back seat!



We friends of Mr. Swan think he is practically a genius. You would have to be, to survive the oftentimes inhospitable shores of Cape Ann. And, too, he is well over twenty years old and has out lived two mates!

Mr. Swan at Brace Cove

Mr. Swan is a species of swan called a Mute Swan, which do not migrate great distances. Instead, they move around from body of water to body of water within a region. When Mr. and Mrs. Swan were raising their young, by mid summer, when food was becoming less plentiful and water levels receding at Henry’s Pond, the entire swan family–mom, dad, and all the cygnets–would travel for the remainder of the breeding season to Niles Pond, a larger pond with a more plentiful supply of aquatic vegetation. Several weeks ago, the brackish water of Henry’s Pond thawed. Mr. Swan returned to the Pond, but then with a stretch of cold weather, it quickly refroze. He headed over to Pebble Beach to forage for food in the saltwater cove. This week, sensing the coming nor’easter, Mr. Swan moved over to Rockport Harbor, which rarely freezes, is less rough than Pebble Beach, and where a supply of food is readily available. Whether a September hurricane or March blizzard, Mr. Swan rides out the storm tucked in along the edge of pond or harbor.

Don’t you find it very interesting that although not indigenous to this country, Mute Swans have adapted many strategies for surviving our changing seasons, and with the seasonal changes, the differing types of, and amounts of, food available.

Mr. Swan at Rockport Harbor

When the freshwater ponds freeze, Mr. Swan goes foraging for food in the saltwater coves.

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If you see Mr. Swan at any of our local bodies of water, please be very kind to him. Dogs, no matter how well meaning, will make any swan feel threatened. And please, if you must feed him, only feed him whole corn. No junk food ever. Swan junk food includes bread, crackers, chips, and Doritos. In all the years that I have been filming Mr. Swan, never once have I fed him. Mr. Swan has friends, wonderfully kind stewards, who regularly look after his well-being, supplementing his native diet of pond greens and seaweed with cracked corn, and that is quite sufficient for his good health.

Thank you everyone for looking out for Cape Ann’s one and only Mr. Swan!

Mr. Swan at Henry’s Pond

Mr. Swan at Rockport Harbor and Niles Pond, with His Ever-present Entourage of Quackers

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