Climate change is complicated but the damage done from rising sea levels is very apparent in our own community. With the inundation of seawater upon freshwater ponds, vernal pools, and wetlands, at risk especially are habitats for fish, shellfish, wildlife, and plants.
Penzance Road, the narrow strip of land that divides Pebble Beach, on the Atlantic side, and freshwater Henry’s Pond on the opposite side, is periodically closed because of storm damage. I don’t recall ever seeing this degree of destruction however, we have lived here for only twenty years. It would be very interesting and much appreciated to learn from any of our readers who have lived through some of the worst blizzards and hurricanes to hit Cape Ann to compare the levels of damage.
The waves surged clear across the road and into freshwater Henry’s Pond.
Side-by-side Comparison ~ Female Swan Back, Male Swan Front
Have you ever wondered whether you are looking at a male or female swan? I had often until I learned that the male’s black protuberance at the base of the bill swells during the breeding season. Very recently, I learned that the fleshy black knob has a name. So now rather than calling it a knob, nobble, thingamabob, or that black protuberance above the bill, I can say blackberry, and you can too. That really is an often used term in Europe, their native home. The blackberry is also unique to Mute Swans; no other species of swans has this feature.
I’ve posted this photo before however, it shows very well the different sizes of the male and female’s blackberries. Male, left; female, right.
Friday morning on my way into Cambridge I stopped to check on the baby shore birds that I have been filming at Henry’s Pond. Setting up on the pond’s edge, I met Zach Strommer, graduate student at UMass, and assistants Andy Fallon and Justin Shawler from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Zach is a geology student of Professor John Woodruff and he is writing his thesis on historic storms. The layers of sediment at Henry’s Pond make for an ideal location to gather data. Whenever there is a major storm, the surge pulls sand and salt water into the brackish pond. I wonder how far back in time they will travel. Zach shared his email and said his thesis will be done in about a year. I’ll put it on my calendar and will check back for the results of the study.
Henry’s Pond Swan Family, Rockport
Click on image to view the adorable cygnets larger.
Random snapshots not previously posted, taken during this past summer’s B-roll shoots for the Monarch Film and other film projects.
Where did summer go–she always flies by so swiftly–and this year seemed especially brief with the cooler than usual temperatures.
Cosmos and Coneflowers
Wildflower Field, Essex
GMG Reader Denise Penta writes in the comment section of a previous GMG post “Exterminate All Swans” by 2015:
June 2, 2014
“In Rockport, MA across from Pebble Beach I enjoyed a male and female mute swan along with their 4 pens. Two days later, I returned to take more photographs and they were gone. I have asked the regular walkers in that area if they have seen them and to my dismay, they disappeared. At the same time, the ducks has 5 babies and now there are only 4. I also noticed many round indentures in the sandy water near the shore and wonder if an animal frolicked about consuming some ducks. I miss the swans terribly. I also drove around the waters where they are found throughout the summer, but to no avail.
Then after reading several articles, including this one, I learned what is occurring more frequently is that of hunting and removal by state and federal wildlife officials. State and Federal wildlife officials are removing Mute Swans and killing them so that they can open new habitats to introduce the larger Trumpeter Swan species which will in the next few years be used as a Trophy Waterfowl for hunting purposes. Wildlife budgets are experiencing huge deficits and now wildlife officials are trying to enhance these budgets by enticing hunters through Trophy Waterfowl which will greatly increase hunting and the cost of hunting permits.
We have been fighting with other entities to stop this killing and have successfully worked with legislators in New York to introduce legislation to stop the killing of Mute Swans in New York until wildlife officials can present true research instead of the false basis for killing the swans that have been perpetuated upon the taxpayer. Yes, the taxpayer is funding this killing and reintroduction of the Trumpeter Swans so that a few of the population can enjoy them by killing them.
I would like to know who in God’s name gave these people permission to plan the killings and replacements? The government does not have an all-rights to nature and without votes from the public, there should be great protests to such an elimination. I would be the first one with a sign if I find the government removed our beloved swans.”
Addendum from Denise: “I apologize, I clicked send before placing quotations from the source that I got the information from, so here is the site link to where I got the information.” http://www.stanley-park-swans.com/cgi-bin/ask/index.pl?read=7412
What a treat to happen upon this pair of yellow-legged shorebirds feasting on tiny invertebrates in the mudflats at Henry’s Pond.
The yellowlegs were foraging companionably alongside the Mallards, American Black Ducks, plovers, and Kildeers. I returned the following dawn and they had already departed for parts warmer. Perhaps we’ll see them again during their spring migration as they journey north to breed in the boreal bog forests of Canada and Alaska.
Lesser Yellowlegs Preening
Here on Cape Ann, we are fortunate to catch fleeting glimpses of species such as yellowlegs during the the great annual fall migration. The map below shows the boreal forest biome (biome is another word for ecosystem), which lies to the south of the tundra and the north of deciduous forests and grasslands. The ground in the boreal forest is damp and boggy because of snowmelt and little evaporation due to cooler summer temperatures. The moist ground and long day length at northerly latitudes during the summer makes for explosive plant growth–Think Bird Food!–not only in the wealth of plants, but myriad insects attracted!
I believe the pair to be Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes). I am by no means a bird expert and imagine they could also possibly be Greater Yellowlegs. If any of our wonderful expert bird lovers would like to weigh in on this, I would be grateful. Songbirds and shorebirds that I have filmed on Cape Ann are featured in my Monarch film and I am in the process of writing the script. I want to insure that all the bird identifications are 100 percent accurate.
Addendum: Many, many thanks to Kate and Patricia (see comments) for identifying the pair as Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)!!
Map courtesy google image search.