Tag Archives: Chris Leahy

When a field trip is a field trip! Mass Audubon and O’Maley Middle School

Gloucester public schools have stellar community partners and locales

Mass Audubon Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary

 

Two+ centuries of naturalists in Gloucester is quite a legacy. Here’s a partial list from Robbins to Cramer and Smith to Smith–there have been notable champions most every decade.

  • Mason Walton (Hermit of Gloucester)
  • Alpheus Hyatt, principal founder of world famous Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole– from 1880-1886 the school was on Goose Cove and later off Lobster Cove
  • BH VanVleck  (wrote book with David Starr)- instructor at Annisquam seaside laboratory 
  • Samuel Sawyer land conservation
  • Alfred G. Mayor (Hyatt’s son in law) marine zoologist- his studies on marine life led to 1905 book Sea Shore Life
  • Prince Mahidol of Thailand “Sanitary Survey of the City of Gloucester, Massachusetts 1921 by M. Songkla” in city archives- Includes brief history of Gloucester and description of public health activities
  • Roger Babson land conservation and watershed
  • Dr. Ralph Dexter, began his studies on marine life in 1933 (later Kent State) and chimney swifts
  • Ivy LeMon banded monarch butterflies to trace their migration wintering in Mexico
  • Sara Fraser Robbins curator of education ( the title of her classic book The Sea is All About Us was a nod to Gloucester summer resident TS Eliot’ Four Quartets)
  • Betty Smith
  • Dan Greenbaum
  • Sara Evans
  • Philip Weld, Jr
  • Jane Benotti
  • Deborah Cramer
  • Chris Leahy
  • Harriet Webster
  • Martin Ray
  • Kim Smith
  • Ian Kerr

organizations such as Gloucester Civic and Garden Club, Essex County Greenbelt, Mass Audubon, Ocean Alliance, Martime Gloucester, UMASS Marine Station…

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Martin Ray’s new book! Cape Ann Narratives of Art in Life

Cape Ann Narratives of Art in Life, by Martin Ray

December 4, 2017 at Trident Gallery

“The book will be offered for sale at $30.00 during a SIGNING PARTY at Trident Gallery, 189 Main Street, Gloucester, 3:00-5:00 Sunday afternoon December 10. At 4:00 I will give remarks of acknowledgement to the profilees and to the team which coalesced to grace the printed book with elegance. I hope to see you there.” – Martin Ray

January 13, 2018 Cape Ann Museum reception and panel

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7PM tonight | Dogtown National Heritage project kicks off at Gloucester city hall

Reminder-  Dogtown could be eligible for the National Register. A team of archaeologists began surveying and reviewing Dogtown the week of November 13. Come to a special public presentation TONIGHT – November 29th in Kyrouz Auditorium, Gloucester City Hall, 9 Dale Avenue, at 7pm.

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 Artistic practice inspired by Dogtown takes on many forms across generations and centuries. I’ve shown examples of 20th century artists and writers connected to Dogtown. Here’s a 21st century one to note: Deborah Guertze, Babson Boulders # (Courage), original small and lovely hand colored etching, ed.50. This particular impression is currently for sale at Rockport Art Association.

Oct 28 GMG post announcing tonight’s public meeting: Before Dogtown was Dogtown: archaeological survey project to be presented at City Hall November 29! Maybe hello blueberries bye bye lyme disease

“Presenters at City Hall on Nov 29th will include Betsy Friedberg from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, who will explain how the National Register program works and what it does and does not do, and Kristen Heitert from the PAL, who will present an initial plan for defining the boundaries of Dogtown as a National Register District. People attending the meeting will be asked to respond to that plan and to express their views about what makes Dogtown special. What should be the boundaries of the proposed National Register District, and what cultural features should be included in it? What would be the benefits of National Register status, and are there any drawbacks?”

Before Dogtown was Dogtown: Archaeological Survey project to be presented at City Hall November 29! Maybe hello blueberries bye bye Lyme Disease

Old tree Rockport Road ca.1892

Dogtown is eligible for the National Register! Will Gloucester earn another major district designation?

Nov 29th, 7PM, Public Meeting

Come to a special public presentation November 29th in Kyrouz Auditorium in Gloucester City Hall, 9 Dale Avenue, at 7pm.

Read excerpts from the press release shared by Bill Remsen, local project coordinator, and Mary Ellen Lepionka, co-chair Gloucester Historical Commission, and some Dogtown maps and memorabilia 1633-1961:

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What if…a section of Dogtown brush was cleared away? If you missed Chris Leahy at Sawyer Free Library last week come to a summit by Essex County Greenbelt & Mass Audubon at Cape Ann Museum March 4

“This Saturday morning forum is offered in collaboration with Essex County Greenbelt, Friends of Dogtown, Lanesville Community Center and Mass Audubon and held at Cape Ann Museum. The forum will be moderated by Ed Becker, President of the Essex County Greenbelt Association.”

Register here

UPDATE: Cape Ann TV is scheduled to film the event!

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Edward Hopper Cape Ann Pasture watercolor drawing (ca.1928) was gifted to Yale University in 1930

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East Gloucester Atwood’s Gallery on the Moors as seen on the left in 1921–open vistas at that time

 

Chris Leahy gave a presentation at Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library on February 23, 2017: Dogtown- the Biography of a Landscape: 750 Million Years Ago to the Present
A photographic history through slides presented by the Gloucester Lyceum and the Friends of the Library. Mary Weissblum opened the program.

Chris broadly covered the history of the local landscape from an ecological bent with a bias to birds and blueberry picking, naturally. New England is a patchwork of forested landscapes. He stressed the evolution of bio diversity and succession phenomenon when the earth and climate change. “Nature takes a lot of courses.” He focused on Dogtown, “a very special place”, and possible merits of land stewardship geared at fostering greater biodiversity. Perhaps some of the core acres could be coaxed to grasslands as when parts of Gloucester were described as moors? Characteristic wildlife, butterflies, and birds no longer present may swing back.  There were many philosophical takeaways and tips: he recommends visiting the dioramas “Changes in New England Landscape” display at Harvard Forest HQ in Petersham.

“Isolation of islands is a main driver of evolution”

“Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester has the highest concentration* of native butterflies in all of Massachusetts because of secondary habitats.”  *of Mass Audubon’s c.40,000 acres of wildlife sanctuaries statewide. “The fact that Brook Meadow Brook is in greater Worcester, rather than a forested wilderness, underscores the value of secondary habitats.”

“1830– roughly the time of Thoreau (1817-1862)– was the maximum period of clearing thus the heyday for grasslands…As farmsteads were abandoned, stages of forests return.”

Below are photos from February 23, 2017. I added some images of art inspired by Dogtown. I also pulled out a photograph by Frank L Cox, David Cox’s father, of Gallery on the Moors  (then) compared with a photo of mine from 2011 to illustrate how the picturesque description wasn’t isolated to Dogtown.

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Edward Hopper, Cape Ann Granite, 1928, oil on canvas can we get this painting into the Cape Ann Museum collection?

dogtown-cape-ann-massachuestts-by-louise-upton-brumback-o-c-vose-galleryLouise Upton Brumback (1867-1929), Dogtown- Cape Ann, 1920 oil on canvas

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Ma Audubon’s Chris Leahy retirement party May 21

It’s not a surprise party, but it is limited in size. Invitations will go out in April. Mass Audubon is hosting a special retirement tribute for Chris Leahy in celebration of his remarkable career –45 years of “impact and success”. How nice to see a Gloucester naturalist treasure being recognized in the spring –(bird-a-thon season!)– at Joppa Flats Education Center, Parker River National Wildlife sanctuary.  Folks and fans can also swarm cards and MA Audubon gifts as a great way to acknowledge this milestone. Chris’s astonishing powers of observation and communication skills can make anyone care about birds, nature, and place. Within a mere twenty seconds of conversation he can capture history and immediacy in such an affable and effortless manner. What an ambassador.

“If I said, ‘Are there more birds around in the summer or the winter?’ most people would say the summer, and that’s right. But not by much,” said tour leader Christopher Leahy of Gloucester, who holds the Gerard A. Bertrand chair of natural history and field ornithology at Mass Audubon. “Actually almost 50 percent of the 300 bird species that occur in Massachusetts occur here during the winter.”– Chris Leahy  from Boston Globe article Thrills and Chills: Birders Brave the Cape Ann Cold and Find What They’re Looking For by Joel Brown, published February 5, 2009 

Congratulations, Chris

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piping plovers on Coffins Beach: intertidal mile and they’re holdin’ on.

20160715_143652Gloucester’s Coffins Beach is a long, long stretch of wide open sandy seashore framed by dunes, sea and sky. Growing up, we called it the private side of Wingaersheek. I could hear piping plovers and saw two ‘in the zone’– the intertidal bit that is still wet at low tide and well under water at high tide. I didn’t see birds in the safe retreats by the upper part of the beach, but heard the melodious chirps that inspired their nickname.

Listen to the piping plover

 

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Essex County Greenbelt protective measures in concert with  MA Wildlife

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dog prints by the rope fence

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saw 5 dogs on the beach

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Fitz Hugh Lane, Coffins Beach, MFA

 

Piping plovers have quite a story. In Massachusetts, the vast majority are south, Cape Cod and the islands. By the close of the 19th century, these birds were near extinction. They rebounded successfully by the 1950’s.

I spoke with Dave Rimmer of Essex County Greenbelt, Marion Larson with Ma Wildlife, Deborah Cramer and Chris Leahy. All of them have updates for GMG which I’ll add next. First,

Chris Leahy, MA Audubon, explained that a second age of precipitous piping plover decline occurred in the 1960’s and 70’s. What do you think it was?

Read on to find out.
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Author Deborah Cramer asks were there plentiful horseshoe crabs in Gloucester? Leads to Winslow Homer, John Bell, and Cher Ami

Deborah Cramer thanks Good Morning Gloucester for mentioning her book and asks for photographs and stories about horseshoe crabs, otherwise known as the nearly scene stealing co-stars from her inspiring book on red knots (sandpiper shorebirds), The Narrow Edge.

“I’m in the midst of a project right now trying to uncover the almost forgotten history of the whereabouts of horseshoe crabs in Gloucester.  I’ve heard some fantastic stories, like one from a man who used to go down to Lobster Cove after school and find horseshoe crabs so plentiful he could fill a dory. Do you think there’s a value to putting up a few pictures on GMG and asking people to send in their recollections of beaches, coves where they used to see them in abundance?”

We do. Please send in photos or stories if you have them about horseshoe crabs in Gloucester or the North Shore for Deborah Cramer’s project. Write in comments below and/or email cryan225@gmail.com

Here’s one data point. Look closely at this 1869 Winslow Homer painting. Can you spot the horseshoe crabs? Can you identify the rocks and beach?

Winslow Homer Rocky Coast and Gulls (manchester)

Winslow Homer, Rocky Coast and Gulls, 1869, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, installed in room #234 with so many other Homers (Fog Warning, All’s Well, Driftwood, …)

zoomed into horseshoe crabs (detail )

(zoomed into horseshoe crabs)

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While reading The Narrow Edge, and looking at Kim Smith’s Piping Plover photographs, I thought about Raid on a Sand Swallow Colony (How Many Eggs?) 1873 by Homer and how some things change while much remains the same.When my sons were little, they were thrilled with the first 1/3 or so of Swiss Family Robinson.  As taken as they were with the family’s ingenuity, adventure, and tree house–they recoiled as page after page described a gorgeous new bird, promptly shot. They wouldn’t go for disturbing eggs in a wild habitat. The title ascribed to this Homer, perhaps the eager query from the clambering youngest boy, feels timeless. Was the boys’ precarious gathering sport, study, or food? What was common practice with swallows’ eggs in the 1860s and 70s? Homer’s birds are diminutive and active, but imprecise. Homer sometimes combined place, figures, subject and themes. One thing is clear: the composition, line and shadow are primed and effective for an engraving.

 

Homer watercolor 1873

Harper’s Weekly published the image on June 13, 1875. Artists often drew directly on the edge grain of boxwood and a master engraver (Lagrade in this case) removed the wood from pencil and wash lines.

Winslow Homer

 

2016. Wingaersheek dunes and nests 140+ years later.

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Message from Chris Leahy about the Mass Audubon Bird-a-thon

Spring has finally returned to New England! It is arguably the most exciting birding season of the year, when it is possible to find over 100 species in a day with relative ease – many of them in stunning breeding plumage!  And each year I organize a small group here on Cape Ann to bird for conservation as part of Mass Audubon’s Bird-a-thon. It’s great fun, involves some friendly competition, and supports bird conservation.

Here’s how it works.

This year Bird-a-thon takes place May 11-12 and consists of having as much birding fun as we can stand in the 24 hours between 6:00 PM Friday until 6:00 PM Saturday. Back in 2004, I thought it would be fun to see how many species we could find without leaving Cape Ann (Gloucester, Rockport, Essex and Manchester). In addition to the geographical challenge, this reduces birding time lost to driving (one of our team birds by bicycle!) and of course shrinks the team’s carbon footprint. In the 7 years that Cape Ann has fielded a team, we have ticked 183 species total with an average of 132 species per year –dragged down by monsoon rains in two years! In our best single year we found 156 species.

The Cape Ann Bird-a-thon team is back this year with its (catchy?) nickname, “Twitchers with a Purpose” to emphasize the fact that all funds raised will go to specific bird conservation projects. The conservation dollars that can be raised can be significant. For example, last year, Drumlin Farm’s team won the prized Hathaway Cup for raising the most money ($34,820) and a dedicated individual on that team was the statewide top fundraiser with $15,309 raised. My team is trying to hit the $5,000 mark this year.

This, as you’ve probably guessed, is where you come in by pledging to my team as generously as you can. You can either pledge an amount per bird ($1/species @ 132 species = $132) or just pledge a set amount. Pledging is a snap. Just go to my webpage:http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/chrisleahy/bird-a-thon-2012 , click on the green DONATE button and just follow the simple pledging instructions. OR you can just send a check made out to Mass Audubon and designated for the Bertrand Chair (that’s me), attn: Ellen McBride, Mass Audubon, 208 South Great Rd., Lincoln, MA 01773. No gift is too small (or too large!) and all are eligible for a charitable deduction.

I hope you can help. Remember, your pledge will be dedicated to specific bird conservation efforts undertaken by my colleagues and me at Mass Audubon, such as the recently publish and authoritative State of the Birds report. I can assure you on the best existing evidence that our birds need all the help you can give them.

Thank you Chris for all you do to help the birds of Massachusetts!

Gray Catbird 

In looking through my photo library for an image for this post, I am reminded of when the Catbirds and Mockingbirds began to call our garden home–when our first batch of blackberries ripened! Catibirds dine on fruits and berries and are year-round frequent visitors for the feast we provide, including blueberry, Juneberry, winterberry, and holly berry. As the fruits of our magnolias approach their ripening time, the Catbirds noisily guard the trees in anticipation of the ripened fruit.

For more information about the Gray Catbird:

Mass Audubon: Gray Catird (Dumetella carolinensis)

All About Birds: Gray Catbird

The Cornell website has excellent crisp, clear recordings of the Catbirds “mew” sound. Anyone who has heard the repetitious male catbird vocalizing at daybreak knows exactly why they are called Catbirds. From Cornell, “The Gray Catbird belongs to the genus Dumetella, which means “small thicket.” And that’s exactly where you should go look for this little skulker.”

Love the beautiful shade of blue of Catbird eggs!

Gray Catbird Eggs image courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Solutions for Protecting Birds from Hitting Windows

Every year, in the United States alone, over 1,000,000,000—yes, that is one billon—birds are killed from flying into windows. Chris Leahy quoted this statistic at the talk he gave last week at the Sawyer Free Library. Coincidentally, earlier that day I had been speaking with my friend Kate who has this very problem of birds hitting her windows as her home is sited on a beautiful seaside meadow in Tiverton, Rhode Island. She wanted to share with my readers about spider web decals for glass windows.

I found a website that offers a range of innovative solutions to protect birds, for both the residential home and the commercial property, TONI Bird Control Solutions. Although based in Germany, the solutions are universal.

Spider webs reflect light in the UV spectrum and are a visible barrier to birds. When you think about it, we don’t often see birds entangled in a spider’s web. Taking cues from nature, the spider’s web is the basis for TONI’s ultraviolet bird pen, bird glass, and UV decals. TONI’s solution #2, the ultraviolet Bird Pen, is well suited for residential properties. Also, check with the Essex Bird Shop. I believe they carry ultraviolet decals, not visible to the human eye.

American Robin 

If so many birds are killed, why don’t we see the dead bodies? The answer is simply, scavengers. Migrant songbirds fly at night, hitting the glass in the dark and the very early morning hours. Scavengers like gulls, vultures, crows, magpies, rats, and cats know where to look for injured and dead birds. At city skyscrapers, building maintenance daily sweep up bags of, and sometimes during peak migration, barrels full of, dead birds every morning at dawn. The high death rate around skyscrapers is also due in part to the bright lights left burning all night.

Another solution is perhaps not wash your windows quite as frequently, or wait to wash until after the spring and fall migrations. Fortunately, we do not have the problem of birds hitting our windows because of our many weathered and wavy window panes dating back to 1851. We have a different problem. During warmer months, I like to take advantage of the harbor breezes and usually have the windows wide open, and without screens (until mosquito season begins). We’ve had finches and sparrows and hummingbirds flying around my home office, but then again, none fatally injured.

State of Massachusetts Birds

Chris Leahy spoke to a packed house at the Sawyer Free Library last night.

As is usually the case with Chris, his talk was brilliant and depth of knowledge inspiring. Aren’t we fortunate that he resides in Gloucester and always gives so generoulsy of his time and knowledge. Thanks, too, to the Sawyer Free for hosting this event. Chris gave out to our community twenty-five copies of the beautiful and densely illustrated 60 page seminal report on the avifauna of Massachusetts. If you did not receive a copy last night, it is available to read in convenient online magazine form here: State of the Birds: Documenting Changes in Massachusetts Birdlife. 

From the forward of State of the Birds, written by Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus in Entomology Harvard University. ”

Dear Friends,

It is with tremendous enthusiasm that I mark the release of Mass Audubon’s seminal report on Massachusetts avifauna, State of the Birds 2011. Though our Commonwealth is one of the smallest, most populous states in the union, it is blessed with spectacular landscapes filled with an astonishing biodiversity. The Berkshire Hills in their autumn splendor, Bald Eagles soaring over the Quabbin wilderness, the majesty of the sea at any season from Cape Ann to Cape Cod—these and many other treasures inspire our imagination and lift our spirits. These landscapes are home to birds—birds that can show us, when we watch and listen, how our environment is faring and how it is changing.

…Birds inhabit our myths, appear in our poetry, and inspire our music. Since ancient times, birds have been used in auguries to make critical decisions or predict the future. Now science rather than superstition is interpreting what the birds are telling us. We need to listen carefully.”

Sincerely,

Edward O. Wilson

Chris Leahy at the Sawyer Free Library

Chris Leahy is a fantastic speaker and I am looking forward to attending his lecture next Thursday night at the Sawyer Free. Chris holds the Gerard A. Bertrand Chair of Natural History and Field Ornithology at Mass Audubon. He has been a professional conservationist for more than thirty years and served as Director of Mass Audubon’s Center for Biological Conservation. His interests in natural history are comprehensive, and he is a recognized authority on birds and insects. His published works include Birdwatcher’s Companion to North American BirdlifeThe First Guide to InsectsIntroduction to New England BirdsAn Introduction to Massachusetts Insects, and The Nature of Massachusetts. He grew up in Marblehead and has lived in Gloucester with his family since the 1970s.  ~ Information found on Mass Audubon website.