Tag Archives: Good Harbor Beach

Post storm Hermine: see the sea of seaweed and mosses on Long Beach

During the last days of summer, the sands at Long Beach shift to form a ledge that we affectionately call the ‘August shelf’. The slant is a challenge walking or running and a ramp or jumping platform if the tide is right.  Children engage in all manner of parapet building and collapsing. The ocean remains warm and the waves can seem bigger. These marks –annual gifts from nature– gently nudge us to fall. This year, as a result of tropical storm Hermine, there is a bonus shelf of seaweed brought in by majestic tumultuous waves. Don’t miss a fantastic chance to inspect species common to Gloucester, Cape Ann and the East Coast. Seagulls and clothing pop against a uniform blanket of red.  From a distance, the deep color of the seaweed seems the natural inspiration  for the architectural details of Cape Ann Motor Inn.

Look closely as there are so many species intertwined and clumped together teeming with texture and color! Be inspired to create: the Cape Ann Museum includes volumes of pressed seaweeds and mosses. Learn more: Isabel Natti did the algae plant drawings for The Sea is All About Us, a pioneer book on local marine life and shores by Sara Fraser Robbins and Clarice Yentsch. Visit Maritime Gloucester to learn about life at the shore. Garden: a friend collects some seaweed for her beds. Eat: I haven’t tried making my own seaweed salad but I have eyed Irish moss pudding recipes. Pudding anyone?

Irish Moss pudding:  1 cup (dead, rinsed, cleaned, possibly soaked) moss with a quart of milk in a double boiler for 15 – 30 minutes, strain out the moss. Add sugar to taste, and optional flavoring (citrus, coffee, vanilla, green tea, whatever you like). Pour into mold and refrigerate or blend a health drink. The consistency is thicker relative to time.

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a few seaweed examples I teased out from the pile

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EXCUSE ME, BUT WHAT IS IT ABOUT HERMINE’S DANGEROUS RIPTIDE THAT IS DIFFICULT TO COMPREHEND?

Swimming this afternoon at Good Harbor Beach, after the beach was closed to swimming. You could actually see the rip current when standing above the beach from the roadside.

Good Harbor Beach swimming Tropical storm Hermine copyright Kim Smith Good Harbor Beach Spindrifts Tropical storm Hermine copyright Kim SmithSpindrifts Good Harbor BeachGood Harbor Beach -1Tropical storm Hermine copyright Kim Smith

GOOD MORNING GLOUCESTER BROUGHT TO YOU BY SUNRISE, SHOREBIRDS, BLOSSOMS, AND MYSTERY GULL

Today’s daybreak scenesGood Harbor Beach Sunrise August 28, 2016 copyright Kim Smith

Sanderling copyright Kim SmithSleepy Sanderling in the morning light

Brown Gull copyright Kim SmithMystery brown gull. Possibly a juvenile Herring Gull however, its legs legs, feet, and head are unusually dark if that is the case. If you have a clue, please comment. Thank you!

Semipalmated Plover copyright Kim SmithSemipalmated Plover

Wildflower patch copyright Kim SmithOur neighbor Richie Arnold’s wildflower patchGood Harbor Beach Sunrise August 28 copyright Kim Smith

 

GOOD HARBOR BEACH DAZZLING DAYBREAK

Good Harbor beach sunrise August 17, 2016 -1 copyright Kim SmithBedazzled by a single morning’s sunrise–every shade all at once–from hues of rose-violet-blue giving way to fiery bands of red-yellow-orange. I can’t decide which I like best, you choose 🙂

 

 

BONNIE BONAPARTE’S GULLS IN THE HOOD!

Bonaparte's Gulls Gloucester Massachusetts -2 copyright Kim SmithBonaparte’s Gulls

Recently, several Laughing Gulls were spotted all around Cape Ann. Laughing Gulls are easy to confuse with Bonaparte’s Gulls, which at this time of year, also have black heads. As the breeding season winds to an end, the Bonaparte’s black head feathers give way to white, where only a smudge of an earmuff will remain. Bonaparte’s Gulls breed in the Arctic; we see them on both their northward and southward journeys and some make Massachusetts their winter home. Small flocks of Bonaparte’s Gulls can be seen at area beaches including Good Harbor Beach, Lighthouse Beach, and Wingaersheek Beach.

Bonaparte's Gulls Gloucester Massachusetts -5 copyright Kim Smith

While foraging, Bonaparte’s Gulls vigorously churn the sandy bottom with their feet to stir up tiny marine creatures. Note the transitioning head feathers in the above gull.

They are feeding intently, fortifying for the migration, and often get into disagreements over feeding turf.

Bonaparte's Gulls Gloucester massachusetts copyright Kim SmithBonaparte’s in a territory tussle

Bonaparte's Gulls Gloucester Massachusetts -4 copyright Kim SmithBonaparte’s Gulls are smaller than Laughing, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls, about 11 to 15 inches in length

The easiest and quickest way to distinguish Laughing Gull from Bonaparte’s Gull is to look at the legs and feet. Bonaparte’s Gulls are a vivid orange, more pink later in the season. The Laughing Gull’s legs and feet are blackish-reddish.

Laughing Gull Gloucester Massachusetts cooyright Kim SmithLaughing Gull, with dark feet and legs.

Bonaparte's Gulls Gloucester Massachusetts -6 copyright Kim Smith

Bonaparte’s Gulls have bright orange legs and feet

bonapartes-gulls-gloucester-2-copyright kim-smith-2015Photograph from last September; Bonaparte’s with only a hint of black head feathers remaining.

THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM

Sanderling eating insect copyright kim Smith

My grandmother was fond of saying “the early bird catches the worm.” I assumed she said that because I adored getting up early to eat breakfast with my grandfather before he left for work. In a large family with siblings and cousins, I had him all to myself in those day break hours. Having developed a passion and love for wild creatures and wild places, I understand better what she meant. She and my grandfather built a summer home for their family in a beautiful, natural seashore setting and both she and my parents packed our home with books and magazines about nature. Now I see her design…

Wednesday morning at day break, beautiful scene, beautiful creatures by the sea’s edge

God Harbor Beach Sunrise August 3, 2016 -2 copyright Kim Smith

Song Sparrow copyright Kim SmithSong Sparrow breakfast

American Robin fledgling copyright Kim SmithAmerican Robin fledgling, note its speckled breast feathers

Mockingbird copyright Kim SmithMockingbird feeding its fledgling

Song Sparrow Virginia creeper copyright Kim SmithSong Sparrow and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) flowers and fruit

Sanderling copyright Kim SmithSanderling

Gull eating crab copyright kim Smith

God Harbor Beach Sunrise August 3, 2016 copyright Kim Smith

AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH – PLOVERS HERE THERE AND EVERYWHERE! – TIPS ON HOW TO ID PIPING PLOVERS, SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS, AND KILLDEERS

Female Piping Plover Good Harbor Beach Gloucester copyright Kim SmithFor the past ten weeks, each morning very early before work I have been filming the Good Harbor Beach shorebirds and their habitat, and when not too tired from work, would go back again at the end of the day. For the most part, it has been a tremendously educational and rewarding experience, and I love Good Harbor and its wild creatures even more than when I began the Piping Plover project. We are so fortunate to have this incredibly beautiful and beloved treasure of a beach in our midst, and so easily accessed. As much as I have enjoyed filming the wildlife, it has been equally as fun to observe the myriad wonderful ways in which people enjoy the beach recreationally and that too is part of the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover story.

Male Piping Plover Good Harbor Beach Gloucester copyright Kim Smith

Take a closer look at the shorebirds next time you are at Good Harbor Beach. Small and swift, they can look similar, but once you begin to study their behaviors, each species becomes easier to identify.

Female Piping Plover Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts -2 copyright Kim SmithNew female Piping Plover on the scene with very pale coloring

Good Harbor Beach is currently home to three different species of plovers. We all know about our beautiful Piping Plover family. The lone surviving chick and Dad were last seen heading deep, deep, deep into the salt marsh. Since that time, several new Piping Plovers have joined the scene, two females and a male. We can tell they are different from our original mated pair by their feather pattern and bill color.Killdeer Chicks Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts copyright Kim Smith

Earlier in the summer, four Killdeer chicks hatched at the edge of the GHB salt marsh. It was pretty scary filming the Killdeer family because all six were running willy nilly every which way throughout the beach parking lot on a very busy weekend morning. In the next photo, taken several days ago, you can see that the family has grown quickly.Killdeer Family Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts copyright Kim Smith

Killdeers are the largest of the the three species of plovers seen in Massachusetts, nearly twice as large as the pocket-sized Piping Plover. That fact didn’t stop the male Piping Plover from defending its nesting territory. Notice the two dark bands around the neck and chest of the Killdeer.

Piping Plove Chasing Killdeer Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts copyright Kim Smith

Half the size of his foe, our male Piping Plover is vigorously chasing the intruding Killdeer from his nesting territory

Killdeer Good Harbor Beach Gloucester copyright Kim Smith

The Killdeer has a dark band encircling its neck and a second band across its chest

The third species of plovers at GHB is the Semipalmated Plover. Although only slightly larger than the Piping Plover, the difference is easy to spot by the darker brown wings. Compare the single neck ring of the Semipalmated Plover to that of the Killdeer’s double set of rings. Unlike Piping Plovers and Killdeers, Semipalmated Plovers do not breed in Massachusetts but in northern Canada and Alaska. At this time of year we are observing their southward migration to the southern United States, Caribbean, and South America.Semipalmated Plover Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts -2 copyright Kim Smith

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plovers are often seen in mixed flocks with Semipalmated Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers. Semipalmated Sandpipers have black legs. Least Sandpipers have distinctly colored yellowish legs.
Semipalmated Plover Semipalmated Sandpiper Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts copyright Kim Smith

Semipalmated Plover and Semipalmated Sandpipers

Least Sandpiper Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts copyright Kim Smith

Least Sandpiper

Note that all of the shorebirds mentioned here are also currently at Wingaersheek Beach.

 

 

TEE-HEE TEE-HEE – LAUGHING GULL AT GOOD HAROBR BEACH!

Laughing Gull Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts copyright Kim SmithLook for this unmistakeable gull at Good Harbor Beach. It has been here for several days. You can’t miss his distinguished black head and deepest slate gray wings. If lucky, he may even laugh his funny laugh for you. This is a first for me, seeing a Laughing Gull at Good Harbor Beach. When I was a child we would see them often at my Grandparent’s beach on Cape Cod. If you have seen Laughing Gulls on Cape Ann please write and let us know.

Mass Audubon’s historic status on the Laughing Gull reports that this smallest of our breeding gulls has had a difficult time reproducing in Massachusetts. In the mid 1800s, Laughing Gulls reigned over Muskeget Island, off the Nantucket coast, but within a 25-year period, commercial eggers reduced their population to but only a few nesting pairs. “By 1923, however, protective actions taken by the keeper of the island’s lifesaving station helped the Laughing Gull population rebound to the thousands. Further bolstered by the protection afforded by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, Laughing Gulls expanded their colony at Muskeget Island to 20,000 pairs by the 1940s. Unfortunately, a preponderance of Herring Gulls also benefited from the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as well as from the increase in food available to them at open landfills at that time.” The rise of the Herring Gull has ultimately led to the severe decline of breeding Laughing Gulls in Massachusetts and today there are thought to be only about 500 pairs. Imagine, from 20,000 pairs to only 500!

One interesting fact is that not only do they nest in Dune Grass, but also have a penchant for dense patches of Poison Ivy. The Good Harbor Beach Laughing Gull has been foraging on crustaceans and invertebrates at the tide pools.

Are you up for the 13-2 Gloucester beaches challenge? 13 beaches. 2 jumps. 1 city. Go!

A mid-week vacation day is the easiest. Oh, and you’ll need your resident beach sticker. We prepped our car with a picnic blanket for the seat, extra towels, and ice waters. Start early and grab a big  “lobsterjack”  breakfast because you’ll need the fuel. End late.

Let’s establish some base rules here.

First off, you need to spend at least 15 minutes at each beach. (You can tweak this a little if you want.) Next, you need to dive under. We suggest a ritual for each beach, e.g. ‘The Five and Dive’. Finally, you have to stop for ice cream and candy. Remember, you can do these beaches (or others in Gloucester) and jumps in any order. Be flexible for unexpected delays like staying at one beach for hours, or a friend asking you to drop off a sub (*cough* Joey *cough*). Most importantly, you have to do at least 13 beaches and 2 jumps in one day. Mind the tides. Be grateful we have so many choices.

The Beaches- partial list

alphabetical order

Annisquam lighthouse.  Coffin’s beach.  Good Harbor beach.  Long beach. Magnolia beach. Niles beach. Pavilion beach (by Beach Court). Pavilion beach bonus (by the cut). Plum Cove beach. Rocky Neck Oakes Cove beach. Stage Fort Park (1) – Cressy’s beach ( our alt. title ‘sea serpent’ big beach). Stage Fort Park (2) – Half Moon beach. Wheeler’s Point. Wingaersheek beach.

The Jumps- partial list

Annisquam bridge. Magnolia Pier.

*We do this challenge at least once each summer. Yesterday we started off with breakfast at Willow’s Rest and continued from there. Our timing was random especially as we spent hours at Wingaersheek. The second meal to get us through the day came from the sandwich counter at Annie’s by Wingaersheek. Yes, they have a sandwich counter.

Gloucester Beaches sandwich directory

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Call ahead for the best subs of summer. Gloucester beaches sandwich directory.

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Hungry? Pack light. You’ll pass great sandwich shops, locally owned and operated, en route to Gloucester’s magnificent beaches. Jeff’s Variety can set you up for a good lunch to go wherever you’re headed including Good Harbor Beach, Long Beach, or the back shore. Jeff says that there are many repeat customers that come back each and every season–for years–on their way to Good Harbor Beach. IF you have a big group, you can order trays with finger sandwiches. Sandwich platters featuring Virgilio’s rolls need at least two days notice to prepare. They’re open Sundays. What else? “Yes!” the answer to my question if they have plenty of call ahead requests from cars caught in traffic. Passengers calling only, please!

Scroll down the post for a one-stop, sub-shopping Gloucester directory with phone numbers and links. I could add in our favorite choices from each place.

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GLOUCESTER BEACHES SANDWICH DIRECTORY

*the great 2013 Good Morning Gloucester Italian sub winners

on the way to Gloucester’s GOOD HARBOR BEACH

on the way to Gloucester/ Rockport LONG BEACH

on the way downtown headed in any direction to Gloucester beaches: Pavilion, Cressy, Half Moon, Niles, Good Harbor

  • Cafe Sicilia (978) 283-7345 sandwiches and pizza slices
  • Cave (978) 283-0896 for baguette/cheese French picnic style fare
  • Cupboard (978) 281-1908
  • *Destino’s Subs 
  • Cape Ann Farmer’s Market (Thursdays) fresh produce & baguette/cheese French picnic style fare
  • *Jeff’s Variety (978) 281-5800
  • Leonardo’s  (978) 281-7882
  • Last Stop (978) 281-2616
  • Mike’s  (978) 282-0777
  • Morning Glory (978) 281-1851
  • Poseidons (978) 290-4313
  • *Sclafanis (978) 283-6622
  • *Virgilios (978) 283-5295
  • Yellow Sub Shop (978) 281-2217

on the way to Gloucester’s NILES BEACH

  • Last Stop (978) 281-2616
  • Sailor Stan’s to go (978) 281-4470

on the way to Gloucester’s PLUM COVE BEACH / ANNISQUAM/ LANESVILLE 

  • Captain Hooks (978) 282-4665
  • Plum Cove Grind (978) 281-3377
  • Willow Rest  sub and/or the farmer’s market fresh produce, cheese, specialty prepared meals picnic option (978)283-2417

on the way to Gloucester’s WINGAERSHEEK BEACH

  • main concession stand at Gloucester’s Wingaersheek beach (978) 281-9785
  • Annie’s Variety  (978) 283-2887
  • Marshall’s Farm Stand (picnic route rather than sandwich counter)  (978) 283-2168 (pints of fruit, munchies, loaf artisan bread, mozzarella specialty cheeses)

I haven’t forgotten Magnolia–just missing Magnolia’s House of Pizza. ON Mondays there’s Cape Ann Farmer’s market for Magnolia. “M” for Mondays, “M” for Magnolia.

THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER UPDATE WITH TIPS ON OBSERVING THE BIRDS

Piping Plover male and chicks copyright Kim SmithWith sadness, but not entirely unexpected, I am sorry to report that only one baby Piping Plover chick remains at Good Harbor. The good news is that the one surviving chick is doing fantastically as of this writing. Don’t worry when I write too that the Mom has left the family. She has begun to migrate southward. This is somewhat normal and I don’t think she would have left had not the chick been doing so well. Dad is minding the baby full time and he is doing a tremendous job.

A week since the Plovers hatched and it sure has been a joy to film, and wonderfully educational. I am very inspired to work on this short film and hope to have it ready for our community this summer.

Piping Plover chick copyright Kim SmithNotice the growing wing buds!

Piping Plover tiny chick copyright Kim SmithThe tiniest

A heartfelt reminder to please, please, please let’s all work together to keep the dogs off the beach. I had a terrible encounter, really frustrating and the owner and his friends very cruel. Ninety nine point nine percent of dog owners are wonderful and respectful and are rooting for the Plovers as much as are non-dog owners. The Plovers are all over the sandy beach, at the water’s edge, and down the creek. Although growing beautifully, the chick is still about the size of a cotton ball, maybe a cotton ball and a half. Up until fourteen days old, they are at their most vulnerable.

As with before, please fee free to share the photos and information on social media. The more people know about the garbage and dog owner trouble (certain dog owners that is), the more likely the chick’s chance of survival. Thank you!

Piping Plover garbage and chick copyright Kim SmithGarbage left on the beach late in the day and overnight continues to be an issue. Bring a bag with you and we can help the DPW by cleaning up after the the folks who don’t know any better. Garbage strewn on the beach attracts gulls, and they, especially Great Black-backed Gulls, eat baby Plovers. 

Piping Plover male and chick copyright Kim Smith

Piping Plovers, like many shore birds, are precocial. That means that within hours after hatching, they are ready to leave the nest and can feed themselves. They cannot however immediately regulate their body temperature and rely on Mom and Dad to warm them under their wings. Although the chick is six days old in the above photo, it still looks to Dad for warmth and protection. Examples of other precocial birds are ducks, geese, and chickens.

If you spot the baby and want to observe, I recommend staying fifteen to twenty feet away at least. Any closer and Dad has to spend a great deal of energy trying to distract you. We don’t want him to get tired out and unable to care for the baby. Also, you’ll appear less threatening if you sit or kneel while observing the chick. No sudden movements and talk quietly and the baby may come right up to you!

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A sweet dog with a very unkind owner.

Around 6pm Saturday evening, this playful dog came bounding down the water’s edge, within inches of the baby. I stood between the owner, dog, and Plovers, with cameras in hand, and cell phone unfortunately back in my bag. After a good twenty minutes of arguing he and his equally unkind friends departed. In the mean time, the Plovers were able to get away from the dog and further down the shore line.

Piping Plover male and chick -2 copyright Kim SmithDad and chick this morning Monday, the 18th, exactly one week old!

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