Tag Archives: Great Blue Heron

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE: A YEAR IN PICTURES 2017

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE: A YEAR IN PICTURES 2017

By Kim Smith

Cape Ann provides welcome habitat for a menagerie of creatures beautiful, from the tiniest winged wonder to our region’s top predator, the Eastern Coyote. Last year I posted a Cape Ann Wildlife Year in Pictures 2016 and I hope you will find the wildlife stories of 2017 equally as beautiful. Click on the image to find the name of each species.

WINTER

The only partially frozen ponds at the start of winter allowed for dabblers and divers such as Mallards, Mergansers, and Buffleheads to forage at the freshwater. Mr. Swan had his usual entourage of quwackers and daily heads to the other side of the pond to get away for his morning stretches. Sightings of Red-tailed Hawks and other raptors abounded. Although photographed in Newburyport, the owl photos are included because these species are found readily on Cape Ann. An Eastern Screech Owl (red-morph) was seen daily perched above a playground and Barred Owl sightings too were reported throughout the winter. Raptors live on Cape Ann all year round but are much easier to see in winter when the trees are bare of foliage.

The beautiful aqua green eyes of the juvenile Double-crested Cormorants were seen wintering at both Niles Pond and Rockport Harbor. And during a warm February day on a snowless marsh a turkey bromance shindig commenced.

SPRING

In early spring, a male and female American Wigeon arrived on the scene making local ponds their home for several weeks. In the right light the male’s electric green feathers at the top of his head shine brightly and both the male and female have baby blue bills.

Meadow and marsh, dune and treetop were graced with the heralding harbingers of spring with photos of a Red-winged Blackbird, a pair of Cedar Waxwings, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Kingbird, Tree Swallow, and Grackle included here.

The Great Swan Escape story made headlines in Boston as Mr. Swan eluded captors for hours. He had re-injured his foot and someone took it upon themselves to call the animal rescuers, which would have surely meant death for our beloved 27-year old swan if he had been wrangled into captivity.

M is clearly for Migration through Massachusetts and the month-long arrivals and departures did not abate. Short-billed Dowitchers, winsome Willets, Yellow Legs, Brandt Geese, and Ruddy Turnstones are just some of the migrating birds spied on Cape Ann beaches and marshes. The best news in May was the return of the Piping Plovers. Of the five or six that camped at Good Harbor Beach to investigate potential nesting sites, one pair bonded and built their nest mere yards from the nesting pair of last year. Could it be the same pair? The nesting Piping Plover story took up much of the spring and by early summer four little Piping Plover chicks hatched over Fiesta weekend. Hundreds of photos and hours of film footage are in the process of being organized with a children’s book and documentary in progress.

Piping Plover Courtship Dance

Piping Plover Nest

SUMMER

OctoPop

The survival of one Piping Plover chick was made possible by a wholesale community effort, with volunteers covering all hours of daylight, along with Mayor Sefatia and her team, Ken Whittaker from the conservation office, Chief McCarthy, and animal control officer Diane Corliss all lending a hand.

Sadly, several Northern Gannets came ashore to die on our Cape Ann beaches, struck by the same mysterious and deadly disease that is afflicting Northern Gannets in other coastal regions. During the summer season they are typically at their North American breeding grounds, which are six well-established colonies, three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Newfoundland.

An orphaned swan was introduced to Niles Pond, much to the dismay of Mr. Swan. Eastern Point residents Skip and Lyn kept watch over the two while they reluctantly became acquainted.

By mid-July many of us were seeing Monarchs in much greater numbers than recent years. Nearly every region within the continental United States experienced a fantastic Painted Lady irruption and butterflies of every stripe and polka dot were seen flitting about our meadows, fields, and gardens.

The tadpoles and froglets of American Bullfrogs and Green Frogs made for good eating for several families of resident otters, who are making their homes in abandoned beaver lodges. Little Blue Herons too, find plentiful frogs at our local ponds.

Tree Swallows Massing

In early August we see the Tree Swallows begin to mass for their return migration. They find an abundance of fruits and insects in the dunes, headlands, and beaches. The Cedar Waxwings and Ruddy Trunstones were observed back again foraging on their southward journey, along with myriad species of songbirds, shorebirds, divers, and dabblers.

FALL

The Late Great Monarch Migration continued into fall as we were treated to a wonderfully warm autumn. Waves and waves of Monarchs came ashore and more butterflies arrived on the scene including new batches of Painted Ladies, Clouded Sulphurs and Common Buckeyes (nothing common about these beauties!).

A pair of Northern Pintails called Cape Ann ponds and coves home for nearly a month while we seem to be seeing more and more raptors such as Red-tailed Hawks, Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons. Juvenile herons of every species that breeds on Cape Ann lingered long into the fall—Black-crowned Night Herons, Yellow-crowned Herons, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, and Green Herons.

Just as Mr. Swan and the Young Swan appeared to be warming to each other, the Young Swan, who has yet to learn to fly, became trapped in the ice at Niles Pond. He was rescued by caretakers Lyn and Dan and is now spending the winter at a cozy sanctuary built by Lyn and friends.

 

Heart Wings Monarch Butterfly

Thank you to all our readers for your kind comments of appreciation throughout the year for the beautiful wild creatures with which we share this gorgeous peninsula called Cape Ann. If you’d like to read more about a particular animal, type the name of the animal in the search box and the original post should come up

With its expansive marshes and dunes, bodies of fresh, clear water, saltwater coves and inlets, and geographic location within the Atlantic Flyway, 2017 has been a banner year for Cape Ann’s wild and wonderful creatures. I can’t wait to see what awaits in 2018!

Snowy Owl “Hedwig” January 2018 Backshore Gloucester

LITTLE CHICK LEARNING TO FLY AND OTHER SCARY HAPPENINGS

Day twenty-nine, or I suppose we could say four weeks and one day, and our Little Chick is growing gangbusters!

It’s always a relief to see our one surviving Piping Plover chick at first light.

Foraging in the seaweed at daybreak.

Little Chick seemed a little less independent today and spent a good amount of time with Papa Plover. I wonder if something frightened the Plovers?

Chief McCarthy, who now takes his morning run at Good Harbor Beach, has noticed tracks from folks that are still walking their dogs in and around (and through) the sanctuary. Not to disparage dog owners (I love dogs), a drunk guy also insisted on walking through the sanctuary. A super, super scary thing happened this morning where a small group had gathered around the enclosure. Two Great Blue Herons came flying low and slow over the roped off area, where both baby and Papa were resting. A conservationist told me awhile back to try to discourage folks from gathering round near the Plovers because it could alert predatory birds. I didn’t quite believe it, but after seeing the GBHerons flying so low, and seemingly fearless of the humans, I believe it now. Great Blue Herons are super predators and although their primary food is fish, they eat practically every small living creature, including birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, shrimp, crab, insects, and rodents.

Staying close to Papa Plover this morning.

Hmm, I think I’ll give flying another whirl.

Running to take off.

Hop Up?

Airborne for half a moment!

Landing, with a not-so-graceful skidding thud.


In the Pink

THEY’RE BACK – OSPREYS, HERONS, EGRETS, AND MORE – SPRING HAS SPRUNG ON THE MARSHES!

Great Egret Flying Over Perched Osprey

There is much to chortle about in this latest Cape Ann Winged Creature Update. Early April marked the arrival of both Snowy and Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and Great Blue Herons. Osprey pairs and evidence of Osprey nest building can be seen wherever Essex Greenbelt platforms have been installed. Northern Pintail and American Wigeon Ducks are stopping over at our local ponds on their northward migrations while scrub and shrub are alive with the vibrant song of love birds singing their mating calls. Oh Happy Spring!

Ospreys Nest Building

Northern Mockingbirds Singing 

Blackbird Tree

Female American Wigeon

Gadwall (center), Male Pintail, Mallards, Male and Female American Wigeons 

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE: A YEAR IN PICTURES

snowy-owl-gloucester-massachusetts-c2a9kim-smith-2015My husband Tom suggested that I write a year-end post about the wildlife that I had photographed around Cape Ann. Super idea I thought, that will be fun and easy. Many hours later (not realizing how daunting) the following is a collection of some favorite images from this past year, beginning with the male Snowy Owl photographed at Captain Joe’s last winter, to December’s Red-tailed Hawk huntress.

red-tailed-hawk-gloucester-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

Living along the great Atlantic Flyway, we have been graced with a bevy of birds. Perhaps the most exciting arrival of all occurred when early summer brought several pairs of nesting Piping Plovers to Gloucester’s most beloved (and most highly trafficked) of beaches, Good Harbor Beach. Their story is being documented on film.

piping-plovers-chicks-nestlings-babies-kim-smith

Work on Mr. Swan’s film will also resume this January—the winters are simply not long enough for all I have planned!

swan-outstretched-wings-niles-pond-coyright-kim-smith

While photographing and filming Red-winged Blackbirds this past spring, there was a face-to-face encounter with a hungry coyote, as well as several River Otter sightings.

female-red-winged-blackbird-copyright-kim-smitrhFemale Red-winged Blackbird

eastern-coyote-massachusetts-kim-smithThe summer’s drought brought Muskrats out from the reeds and into full view at a very dry Henry’s Pond, and a short film about a North American Beaver encounter at Langsford Pond. Numerous stories were heard from folks who have lived on Cape Ann far longer than I about the extraordinary number of egrets, both Snowy and Great, dwelling on our shores.three-muskrat-family-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

Three Muskrateersfemale-monarch-depositing-eggs-1-copyright-kim-smithnewly-emerged-monarch-butterfly-copyright-kim-smith-jpg

There were few Monarch sightings, but the ones seen thankfully deposited eggs in our garden. Thank you to my new friend Christine who shared her Cecropia Silkmoth eggs with me and thank you to the countless readers who have extended an invitation to come by and photograph an exciting creature in their yard.

cecropia-moth-caterpillar-copyright-kim-smithPristine beaches, bodies of fresh water, and great swathes of protected marsh and woodland make for ideal wildlife habitat, and Cape Ann has it all. With global climate change pushing species further away from the Equator, I imagine we’ll be seeing even more creatures along our shores. Butterfly and bee populations are overall in decline, not only because of climate change and the use of pesticides, but also because of loss of habitat. As Massachusetts has become less agrarian and more greatly forested, fields of wildflowers are becoming increasingly rare. And too fields often make the best house lots. Farmers and property owners developing an awareness of the insects’ life cycle and planting and maintaining fields and gardens accordingly will truly help the butterflies and bees.

female-mallard-nine-ducklings-kim-smithThank you to all our readers for your kind comments of appreciation throughout the year for the beautiful wild creatures with which we share this gorgeous peninsula called Cape Ann.

The images are not arranged in any particular order. If you would like to read more about a particular animal, type the name of the animal in the search box and the original post should come up.

I wonder what 2017 will bring?nine-piping-plovers-napping-gloucester-copyright-kim-smith

sandpipers-copyright-kim-smith

GOOD MORNING GLOUCESTER BROUGHT TO YOU BY LOBSTER COVE!

Glorious autumn color–everywhere you turn, Cape Ann foliage is beginning to peak! Snapshots from a walk along Lobster Cove this morning.

great-blue-heron-lobster-cove-copyright-kim-smithGreat Blue Heron feeding in the flatsfall-foliage-maple-leaves-2-copyright-kim-smith

Brilliantly colored maple leaves, although looking a bit dog-eared from Winter Moth damagefall-foliage-maple-leaves-copyright-kim-smith

fall-foliage-lobster-cove-copyright-kim-smithgreat-blue-heron-in-the-marsh-copyright-kim-smith

HIGH AMONG THE TREE TOPS

great-blue-heron-sunset-2-copyright-kim-smithWell before I could get close enough to take a crisp photo of the Great Blue heron feeding at the water’s edge, he flew up and away towards the opposite side of the river. I didn’t mind too much as it was so beautiful to see this magnificent bird soaring into the sunset.great-blue-heron-sunset-copyright-kim-smith

essex-river-sunset-copyright-kim-smithgreat-blue-heron-essex-river-copyright-kim-smith

BEAUTIFUL OCTOBER LIGHT

Scenes from around Niles Pond and Brace Cove OctoberCattails in the wind ©Kim Smith ©2015

Cattails in the windPainted Turtle Niles Pond ©Kim Smith 2015Painted Turtle

Brace Cove ©Kim Smith 2015

Gulls departing Brace Cove after the storm

Great Blue heron Gull Seals Brace cove ©Kim Smith 2015

Great Blue Heron, seals, and gull

 

See More Photos Here

 

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Quarky Pants Junior!

Juvenile Black Crowned Night heron ©Kim Smith 2015Allowing me to get a little closer, perhaps one of these days (before he/she’s all grown up), I’ll catch a side-by-side of Black-crowned Night Heron parent and juvenile. Here he is standing on one leg, just as do mom and dad!Great Blue Heron ©Kim Smith 2015

A little ways off was a Great Blue Heron also hunting amongst the reeds. I captured him in fight with my movie camera as he flew to the other side of the pond. Thanks to E.J., who was on a morning walk and pointed out the general vicinity to where he had landed, I was able to get another clip of the heron flying.

I am searching for quiet places to record harbor and shore sounds, away from the roar of the surf, as well as where boat and machine engines don’t muffle or drown out every other sound. Its harder than you may imagine especially because there can be little to no wind. If you know of a quiet place where you especially love to listen to the music of Cape Ann, please answer in the comments section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you! 

Sun on My Back!

Great Blue Heron Good Harbor Beach ©Kim Smith 2013Great Blue Heron photographed on a luxuriously warm late-October morning in the tide pool at Good Harbor Beach. Click image to view full size.

Oftentimes when I come upon a Great Blue Heron fishing in the marsh at dawn, they appear as though they have been there for some time, as though they are nearly finished feeding for the morning. That’s because they may very well be done. Great Blue Herons have specialized rod-type photoreceptors in their eyes which allows them to hunt both day and night!

Good Harbor Beach ©Kim Smith 2013

Love Letters to Gloucester

Love Letters to Gloucester features the Horribles Parade, friends, Greasy Pole “ladies,” Saint Peter’s ferris wheel, Schooner Festival, Nicky Avelis taking the flag, whimbrels, dragonfly migration, bees, llamas, butterflies, Thomas E. Lannon schooner, Eastern Point Lighthouse Monarch, and much more!

Originally posted on Good Morning Gloucester, October 18, 2013

New Film: Love Letters to Gloucester ~ Summertime 2013

New Video: Reflections Good Harbor Beach (and sunrise time lapse)

Outtakes from films in progress, too pretty to delete. In thinking about music for my forthcoming film I found this beautiful pan flute song “Mochica en la Noche” by Santiago y Sus Flautes de Pan. The evocative music and heron in the vivid rising sun just felt like a perfect pairing.

Birds of Cape Ann: Great Egret vs. Great Egret

Great Egret Gloucester - ©Kim Smith 2013Great Egret (Ardea alba)

On a gorgeous dawn this past season I filmed an epic battle between two, possibly three, Great Egrets at the Good Harbor Beach marsh. The battle lasted nearly ten minutes with the defending egret aggressively flying lower and beneath the intruder, preventing it from landing anywhere on the marsh.

Great Egret Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2013

Great Egrets have interesting breeding behavior in that the male selects the nesting site and builds a platform nest of sticks and twigs in a tree, shrub, or on the ground near a marsh,  prior to selecting a mate. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks, and both male and female vigorously defend the nesting territory. Perhaps that is what I had observed, a male and/or female defending their nesting site.

Great Egret Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2013

The Good Harbor Beach victor first surveyed the marsh from his perch on the adjacent cottage and, after determining his foe was defeated, swooped to the tide pool below to feed peaceably alonsgide the Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron Great Egret Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2013Great Blue Heron and Great Egret

Read More Here: Read more

New Film: Love Letters to Gloucester ~ Summertime 2013

Love Letters to Gloucester ~ Summer 2013 is a ten minute film compiled from butterfly films in progress and scenes from short films created for my community during the summer of 2013.

Special thanks to the Ciaramitaro Family and my Good Morning Gloucester friends and family.

Stay until after all credits roll to see a preview of films yet to come!

Cast In Order of Appearance:

Good Harbor Beach Surfers, Pat Ciaramitaro, Dante Holding, Amanda Mohan, Vanessa Linquata, Greasy Pole Walkers, Nicky Avelis, Sleepy Pallazolla Family, Crazy Hat Ladies Robyn & Amy Clayton, Alicia Cox, Chris DeWolfe, Joey Ciaramitaro, Bex Borden, Toby Pett, Ed Collard, Melissa Cox, Craig Kimberley, Brian M. O’Connor, Captain Heath Ellis, Captain Tom Ellis, Donna Ardizonni, Cathy Kelley, Lillian LoGrasso, Rick Doucette, Felicia Ciaramitaro Mohan, Barry Mohan, Hannah Kimberley, Ron Gilson, Joan Gilson, BJ Mohan, Eloise Ciaramitaro, Madeline Ciaramitaro, Kathy Ryan, Bob Ryan

Creatures in Order of Appearance:

Great Blue Heron
Good Harbor Beach Harbor Seal
Mama Kildeer Searching for Baby Kildeer
Pair of Whimbrels
Shivering Monarch Butterfly Found at Daybreak
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Llama
Donkeys Zack & Abe
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Luna Moth
Green Darner Dragonfly Migration
Eastern Point Light House Monarch

Links to Summer 2013 Film Projects:

Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly
Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Walking for Loved Ones ~ Sunday Greasy Pole Winner Nicky Avelis
Parade of Sails ~ Schooner Festival 2013
The Good Harbor Beach Seal PSA
Gifts of Gold Red Carpet Interviews
Good Harbor Beach Sunrise ft. the Great Blue Heron
Sunset Sail Aboard the Schooner Thomas E. Lannon
Happy Horribles
A Luna Moth Takes Flight

Video: Good Harbor Beach Sunrise

Good Harbor Beach, with Great Blue Heron and mini time-lapse sunrise towards the end.

Oftentimes I see herons, gulls, and crows fishing peaceably together at daybreak. Not this morning! The heron vigorously defends its territory, while the crow has a reputation for stealing what others catch, and both are very hungry. Look for the heron eating an eel at about @1 minute 40 seconds.

No borrowed music in this mini film; the sound of crickets, shorebirds, surf, and train whistle make a song of their own, and I really wanted the heron’s loud quarking heard. Creating these mini films helps to organize B-roll for my Monarch film and the next daybreak video is the foggy morning sunrise with the whimbrels.

Good Harbor and the Great Blue Heron

Notes on Good Harbor Beach November Sunrise

One morning in late November I followed the elusive Great Blue Heron up and down the length of the salt marsh creek while a stunning sunrise unfolded in the background. The dance of the lone heron feeding was as hauntingly beautiful as is the ebb and flow of Fauré’s “Pavane” through its series of musical climaxes, and seemed perfectly choreographed to the intensely focused movements of the heron.

Earlier in the month of November I had filmed three herons feeding simultaneously—the most I typically see at Good Harbor are two at a time. That footage is lost, and perhaps it is just as well because it may not have been the most interesting as the focal length was some distance in order to capture all three in the frame. I found it captivating to see this lone heron feeding alongside the seagulls and ducks, not an event I have often observed. Whenever a dog approached or some other imagined disturbance startled the birds, all would take flight; the seagulls and ducks dispersed and the heron invariably headed to the opposite end of the marsh. This went on for several hours, back and forth, up and down the salt marsh. The Great Blue Heron is majestic in flight, with deep powerful wing beats, and a wingspan of five and a half feet to six and a half feet. Oftentimes difficult to find in the cameras’ lens, the heron’s subdued blue-gray and brown plumage is perfect camouflage against the rocky shoreline, particularly in the pre-dawn light and early hours of sunrise.

I looked for the herons again after that late date of November 29th, but I think they had all departed for warmer shores further south.

If you stay until the end, look for a funny clip after the credits have rolled. I couldn’t figure out how to make this most ordinary of body functions fit with the heron’s beautiful dance.
“Pavane in F-sharp minor, Opus 50,” was composed by Gabriel Fauré in 1887. Fauré’s “Pavane” obtains it slow processional rhythm from the Spanish and Italian court dance of the same name. The earliest known pavane was published in Venice in 1508 by Ottaviano Putrucci and is a dignified partner dance. The original music seems to have been fast, but like many dances, became slower over time. For this film I looked for a recording approximately 8 minutes in length, although Fauré’s “Pavane” is more typically six minutes long. The origin of the term is unknown; possibilities include from the Spanish pavón meaning peacock.

Great Blue Heron Photo From Bill O’Connor

Hi Joe,

I wanted to share this photo of a Great Blue Heron that was feeding in Wonson Cove the other night.  He would walk very slowly and stand motionless while he looked for food, so he made a pretty good subject. I was fortunate that he allowed me to get close enough to take this shot.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for the prey though.  How terrified would you be if you were a crab that happened to look up and see this staring down at you! 

For more on the Great Blue Heron check this link from the Mass Audubon!

Enjoy!
~Bill O’Connor
North Shore Kid

Blue_Heron

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