Hello winter friends! As the herons, egrets, and plovers have departed for parts warmer, Cape Ann welcomes mergansers, buffleheads, grebes, and so many more. Overcast morning walk along the shores of Niles Pond –
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Basking Harbor Seals dotting the rocks all around Brace Cove during sunrises this past week. The funny thing is watching them battle for top dog spot. When standing on the Niles Pond/Brace Cove causeway you are close enough to hear their quite audible grunting and snorting. Click photos to enlarge to get a closer look.
Lovely and peaceful Brace Cove sunrise this morning
The Niles Pond-Brace Cove causeway restoration is progressing admirably. You may recall our story about the extensive damage the causeway had suffered from several fierce back to back storms. In 2014, the Association of Eastern Point Residents restored the structural rocks supporting the causeway. This past week, preparations for restoring the plantings has begun.
Below are photos taken in 2013 of storm damage, prior to restoration.
Phase one of restoration work, 2014
Recently, I was contacted by the writer Claire Alemian as she was hoping to license one of my Brace Cove sunrise photos for the cover of her forthcoming novel. Claire grew up in Gloucester, her Dad worked at Cape Pond Ice, and her story is set in Gloucester.
Here is the cover!
I’ve never met Claire but she and her husband Bruce are taking me out for lunch this week. I am looking forward to meeting she and Bruce and wish Claire the greatest success with her novel. The following is the synopsis submitted by Claire ~
Claire (Tebo) Alemian, author of the novel “In the Shadow of Light, grew up in Gloucester during the sixties and knows well the many cultures that live there, including the waterfront where her father worked all of his life at the Cape Pond Ice Company. Before leaving at the age of eighteen, Claire worked in the fish factories one summer, an experience that gave her a first-hand view of the tough work and even tougher people that get up every day and make it happen.
Although her novel is a fictional story of survival and the search for truth, most of it occurs on Cape Ann and draws on her familiarity with it’s unique settings, colorful characters and diverse cultures that live side by side.
The story is told in the voice of Ramona Newton as she looks back on her earlier life. By the time she is fifteen, her mother has walked out, her father soon to follow, and she ends up at a place called the Far East, tending bar for Charlie Big and hustling pool in order to survive.
The story captures the turbulence of the 1960s and reveals the clash of generations and class divides, the turmoil created by the Vietnam War and racial injustice, and ultimately, a remarkable journey of finding oneself.
Anticipated release: June 27, 2016. Claire can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps I am just imagining, but the seals that were at Brace Cove several mornings ago appear to have a much different pattern of spots on their coats than the Harbor Seals we typically see hauled out on the rocks. I know that Harp Seals are also seen in our area at this time of year and read that the juveniles molt in interesting patterns. The two pinnipeds on the far right have very large irregular patches and the seal on the left seemed half the size of the other three with an almost pointed snout. Is it a different species or a young seal I wonder? Looking at several sources to id and I am still puzzled. Would love to hear from our readers. Thank you so much!
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
Providing excellent camouflage, Harbor Seals have evolved with coats that blend perfectly with the surrounding rocks and sandy shores on which they “haul out.” Each individual Harbor Seal’s pattern of spots is unique, with two basic variations, either a light coat with dark spots or a dark coat with light spots. Their bellies are generally lighter colored.
Harbor Seals are easily disturbed by human activity, which is the reason why they are all looking in my direction. I climbed way out on the rocks to get a closer look that they found disturbing enough, when a loud crash in the distance made them all jump simultaneously.
Fellow friends of Niles Pond and I have all noticed that the seal in the above photo is noticeably whiter. He has a big gash on his neck as you can see in the close-up photo, which I didn’t notice until looking through the pictures. I wonder if that is why he has been spending so much time on the rocks. Perhaps he is recovering.
Interesting fact: Although Harbor Seals have been seen as far south as the Carolinas, Massachusetts is the most southern region in which they breed.
Imagine the excitement when after filming Mr. Swan this morning, I spotted across the pond a very swan-like large white bird. The first thought that came to mind was a new Mrs. Swan had magically appeared on the scene. But no–not as wonderful–but equally as exciting, with its large orange pouched bill, the bird was unmistakably a pelican!
It was swimming toward the berm so I raced back to the other side of the pond and was able to get somewhat nearer, close enough so that the footage is passable. Without warning, the pelican suddenly took to the air with elegant, graceful wingbeats and I was lucky to have movie camera in hand. The light was murky this morning and all would have been more beautiful if the sun were out a bit more. Nonetheless, it’s great to have a record of this very unusual occurrence.
The American White Pelican is a rare sight in Massachusetts and I wonder if any of our readers have ever seen one on our shores. Please write if you have.
With wings spanning nine feet, the American White Pelican is one of our largest native birds, only the Trumpeter Swan and California Condor are larger, reportedly having up to ten-foot wingspans. Comparatively, the wings of a Mute Swan span approximately seven to eight feet. Please note that Mr. Swan is a Mute Swan, not a Trumpeter Swan, and is not indigenous.
The Niles Pond pelican was far off course. Pelicans east of the Rocky Mountains typically migrate through the Mississippi Valley, from breeding grounds in northernmost North America to the Gulf of Mexico Texas and Florida coasts. Unlike Brown Pelicans, which dive and plunge for food, white pelicans catch prey while swimming.
As with the Brown Pelican, during the mid-twentieth century, the American White Pelican was severely adversely affected by spraying DDT in fields and wetlands. Habitat destruction, shoreline erosion, and mass poisonings when pesticides are used near breeding grounds continue to threaten the American White Pelican.
Map provided by South Dakota Birds, via Peter Houlihan, who is Anna from Cape Ann Giclee’s brother. Peter teaches biology at UMass Amherst, has a PhD in biology/animal behavior, and is an ornithologist. Thank you Peter!
Daybreak from around Niles Pond, Brace Cove, and Henry’s Pond in Rockport.
Mr. Swan left Niles Pond yesterday morning and although he flew in his usual direction towards Henry’s Pond, he did NOT fly to Henry’s, which had become his habit. I did not see him at Henry’s, Niles, or the harbor this morning either. Perhaps he has flown to another region in search of a new Mrs. Swan. We can only hope!
See additional photos here of Mr. Swan, dead skunk, and more ~ Read more
Gulls departing Brace Cove after the storm
Great Blue Heron, seals, and gull
See More Photos Here
Brace Cove and Niles Pond in the lifting fog ~ When I first got to the causeway, Brace Rock was completely obscured. As the fog drifted away an army of cormorants began to appear, joining the gulls on the rocks and feeding from the surf.
More photos here Read more