Tag Archives: Niles Pond


The arduous work of rebuilding the Niles Pond Brace Cove causeway continues, despite the mid-week blizzard. I walked the causeway Tuesday night and then again the past several mornings–the pace of the restoration is fantastic and will soon be completed. Many, many thanks to the generous residents of Eastern Point who are striving to keep Niles Pond from being engulfed by the sea.

R. B. Strong’s Larry expertly operates the John Deere excavator, deftly extracting and moving boulders around as if they were pebbles on the shore. The track-hoe not only scoops and lifts the massive rocks, the bucket is also used to tamp down the boulders once in place, as you can see in the video below.


With the third nor’easter to hit our shores during the month of March expected to arrive tonight, track-hoe excavator Larry shares that the work continued today to fortify the causeway, and to possibly get more water to flow through the clogged drain that is preventing excess water from leaving Niles Pond.

For our readers general information, the cost of the repairs, restoration, and continued ongoing maintenance of the causeway, and surrounding area, are paid for entirely by the generous residents of Eastern Point, not tax payer dollars.


Large track-hoes (excavators) are needed to repair the damage done by the March nor’easter storm known as Riley.

The narrowest slip of land between a body of fresh water and the sea.

Native pussy willow trees survive storm after storm after storm after storm. More pussy willows, as well as other deep-rooted natives, need to be planted to help with the unending erosion.

Niles Pond water overflowing the bank and littered with debris swept in by the sea.

Clear Evidence of the Destructive Force of Global Warming on the Massachusetts Coastline and How This Negatively Impacts Local Wildlife -By Kim Smith

Female Piping Plover Sitting on an Egg

The recent winter storms of 2018 have provided empirical evidence of how global climate change and the consequential rising sea level is impacting the Massachusetts coastline. Whether broken barriers between the ocean and small bodies of fresh water, the tremendous erosion along beaches, or the loss of plant life at the edge of the sea, these disturbances are profoundly impacting wildlife habitats.

The following photos were taken after the March nor’easter of 2018 along with photos of the same areas, before the storm, and identify several specific species of wildlife that are affected by the tremendous loss of habitat.

Barrier Beach Erosion

Nesting species of shorebirds such as Piping Plovers require flat or gently sloping areas above the wrack line for chick rearing. Notice how the March nor’easter created bluffs with steep sides, making safe areas for tiny chicks nonexistent.

You can see in the photos of Good Harbor Beach (top photo and photos 3 and 4 in the gallery) that the metal fence posts are completely exposed. In 2016, the posts were half buried and in 2017, the posts were nearly completely buried. After the recent storms, the posts are fully exposed and the dune has eroded half a dozen feet behind the posts.

In the photo of the male Piping Plover sitting on his nest from 2016 the metal posts are half buried.

Although scrubby growth shrubs and sea grass help prevent erosion, the plants have been ripped out by the roots and swept away due to the rise in sea level.

Plants draw tiny insects, which is food for tiny chicks, and also provide cover from predators, as well as shelter from weather conditions. If the Piping Plovers return, will they find suitable nesting areas, and will plant life recover in time for this year’s brood?Other species of shorebirds that nest on Massachusetts’s beaches include the Common Tern, Least Tern, Roseate Tern, American Oyster Catcher, Killdeer, and Black Skimmer.

Common Tern parent feeding fledgling



Where Have All the Wildflowers Gone?

Female Monarch Depositing Egg on Common Milkweed Leaf

Wildflowers are the main source of food for myriad species of beneficial insects such as native bees and butterflies.

Monarch Butterflies arriving on our shores not only depend upon milkweed for the survival of the species, but the fall migrants rely heavily on wildflowers that bloom in late summer and early fall. Eastern Point is a major point of entry, and stopover, for the southward migrating butterflies. We have already lost much of the wildflower habitat that formerly graced the Lighthouse landscape.

Masses of sea debris from the storm surge washed over the wildflower patches and are covering much of the pollinator habitat at the Lighthouse.

Broken Barriers

American Wigeon Migrating at Henry’s Pond

Barriers that divide small bodies of fresh water from the open sea have been especially hard hit. The fresh bodies of water adjacent to the sea provide habitat, food, and drinking water for hundreds of species of wildlife and tens of thousands of migrating song and shorebirds that travel through our region.

The newly rebuilt causeway between Niles Pond and Brace Cove was breached many times during the nor’easter. The causeway is littered in rocks and debris from the sea.

The causeway being rebuilt in 2014.

The road that runs along Pebble Beach, separating the sea from Henry’s Pond has been washed out.

The footsteps in the sand are where the road ran prior to the storm.

Mallards, North American Beavers, Muskrats, North American River Otters, and Painted Turtles are only a few examples of species that breed in Massachusetts fresh water ponds and wetlands. All the wildlife photos and videos were shot on Cape Ann.

Migrating Black-bellied Plover

Cape Ann is hardly alone in coping with the impact of our warming planet and of rising sea level. These photos are meant to show examples of what is happening locally. Regions like Plymouth County, which include Scituate and Hingham, have been equally as hard hit. Plum Island is famously heading for disaster and similar Massachusetts barrier beaches, like Cranes Beach, have all been dramatically altered by the cumulative effects of sea level rising, and recently accelerated by the devastating winter storms of 2018.

To be continued.

Impassable Road to Plum Island

Snowy Owl Cranes Beach


After filming the explosive waves on Atlantic Road yesterday afternoon for various documentary projects, I headed over to Henry’s Pond to check on Mr. Swan’s whereabouts. Expecting to see and film some damage to the road that divides Henry’s Pond and Pebble Beach, which often occurs after storms, especially nor’easters, I was completely overwhelmed by the destruction found at Pebble Beach. The road is gone; the worst I have ever seen, and I couldn’t make it to the Pond because it was simply too dangerous to climb over the slippery, jiggley rocks and seaweed.



The beautiful newly constructed causeway that separates Niles Pond and Brace Cove, which was rebuilt several years ago, is now a jumble of rocks and boulders. Niles Pond Road is narrowing from the sea water surging into the Pond. The water has nowhere to go. The road to the Retreat House is impassable.  The destructive force of climate change is rearing its ugly head in our own backyards and a fifth super high tide is expected again tonight. 


Angel Swan Sleeping

Thanks to Lyn Fonzo, Dan Harris, Skip Munroe, Skip Hadden, Duncan, Stephanie, Lillian, a bunch more Eastern Point residents, Steve Monell and a pair of “angel” swans, our Mr. Swan has flown off the ice at Niles Pond. As Lyn shared earlier, two Mute Swans flew to Niles Pond, precisely to the same spot where Mr. Swan was resting. They must have been very tired because the mysterious swans immediately closed their eyes and took a nap while Mr. Swan watched over the pair. He eventually dozed off, too. After a long rest, all three departed the Pond, circling around and then heading over Brace Cove towards Rockport. Mr. Swan had some difficulty but perhaps encouraged by the presence of companions, he successfully took off.

Cape Ann residents please be on the look out for the three swans!

Without Dan and Lyn’s overnight vigilance against a coyote attack, our daybreak watch, and the angel swans I think it unlikely Mr. Swan would have survived this latest escapade. Our most heartfelt thanks to all who are keeping good watch over Mr. Swan and friends.

Notice the angel swans have black eyes. A friend asked if they could be Mr. Swan’s offspring. Possibly, but most likely not. Mr. Swan has blue eyes, which is not typically seen in these parts.

Mr. Swan is the tiny lump on the ice toward the left. We don’t want to see you at Niles Mr. Swan until the Pond thaws!


Yesterday at mid-morning Mr. Swan flew to Niles Pond. This is an unfortunate occurrence as Niles Pond is frozen.

When temperatures plummeted in December, Mr. Swan moved to one of his favorite winter territories, Rockport Harbor and the adjacent coastline, where the salt water rarely freezes. My theory is that the January thaw we experienced over the past several days drew him to freshwater Niles Pond and I imagine, he expected to find a thawed pond. This is only a theory, but in trying to think like a swan and understand why he would be so uncharacteristically foolish, it is my best assumption.

Maneuvering on ice can be extremely difficult. In order to take off for flight, swans run a short distance on top of the water. Trying to gain the traction needed on ice may be nearly impossible.

After spending a good part of the day in the center of the pond, I coaxed him over to the edge where there was a patch of open water. He ate a little bit of corn, although not nearly as much as usual. He appeared to enjoy the freshwater but then at dusk, he half flew-half ran back to the center of the pond.

Extremely concerned about coyotes, Mr. Swan’s caretakers Lyn and Dan checked on him throughout the night. I took the dawn shift and found him alert and preening. He made several attempts to walk, but then would plop down and tuck his head under his wing to sleep and to keep warm. Eastern Point residents Duncan and Stephanie, and ice boat sailor Steven, offered to help while Lyn, Skip Munroe, Lois, and I conferred on the phone. We decided the best plan of action would be to capture him and return him to Rockport Harbor. At 9am Skip and Dan determined that the ice was okay to walk upon. They fearlessly walked onto the pond and at one point Lyn followed with blankets. After first attempting to capture him, they then herded him over near Skip Hadden’s dock. Skip, Skip, and Dan again tried to capture him. He’s a very smart swan, wily and wild, and after several unsuccessful attempts, we decided to not tire him out and try to feed him, and help him as much as he would allow, from Lyn’s little beach.

Mr. Swan at sunrise and trying to negotiate the ice.

Shortly after, and unbelievably, A PAIR OF TRAVELING SWANS flew into Niles, near Lyn’s beach, next to Mr. Swan. At the moment, while writing this post, all three are sleeping peaceably together in a little group!

Newly Arrived Swans!


We’ve all been hoping so much that the Young Swan would be a female and that romance, or at the least friendship, would blossom between it and Mr. Swan. The results are in and our little she is actually a he. The news is somewhat dismaying because we do not know how Mr. Swan will react once he makes a determination. Will he allow the Young Swan to continue to live at Niles in the spring or will he drive him off? Perhaps Mr. Swan, who is at least 28 years old this year, will not be as territorial as would a much younger male Mute Swan and the two will live peaceably. For now, he is in the good care of Lyn and decisions won’t need to be made for a few months.

Notice how greatly the Young Swan’s plumage has changed over the past few months. In the photo on the left, he is four months old. In the next two photos, he is approximately eight months old.

Mr. Swan and the Young Swan



Mr. Swan heading to Rockport Harbor for the winter.

Cape Ann Swan Update: Our little rescue swan, which Lyn has been valiantly and lovingly taking care of in her new winter quarters fit for a princess swan, is doing beautifully. Mr. Swan’s winter headquarters when the freshwater ponds are in a deep freeze is mostly Rockport Harbor to Front Beach and Lois reports he is doing fabulously as well, too!

Mute Swans in our region need our help to survive the winter. There simply isn’t enough wild food available, especially in a brutally cold winter such as the one we are currently experiencing, with freshwater ponds frozen solid. The very best thing to feed swans is whole corn and cracked corn. You can try greens such as washed and undressed romaine lettuce, spinach, and kale, but they will mostly go for the carbohydrate rich corn. What is the worse and most deadly food to feed swans, causing long term health problems? You guessed it–junk food and white bread. Please don’t give our local birds and wildlife human junk food, it’s a killer! This includes but not limited to chips, cheetos, crackers, and stale bread.

Be safe when feeding swans and don’t get too close.

We purchase our corn in bulk from the Essex Bird and Pet Shop, located at 121 Essex Avenue. In a pinch, Stop and Shop also carries small bags of cracked corn.

Two tips from Mr. Swan’s caretakers: 1) When feeding swans, feed at the water’s edge. Swans like to swallow water while they are eating. 2) Mr. Swan usually has a bevy of quwackers in tow and they so vigorously try to eat the corn, and there are so many of them, there oftentimes isn’t enough food for Mr. Swan. Mr. Swan’s caretakers will throw a scoop of food in one direction to distract the ducks and at the same time toss some down directly in front of Mr. Swan. This distraction technique works for a bit of time before needing to be repeated.

Mr. Swan and the Young Swan were just beginning to warm to each other when the pond froze up.


Not only collards, but kale, spinach and, Lyn reports, she is extra bananas for romaine lettuce, even trying to take them from Lyn’s hand! Lyn has added a fantastic improvement to the swan’s winter sanctuary and will update tomorrow when not so tied up with Christmas-making 🙂

Lyn Fonzo Photo



Joel and Skip Munroe arrived yesterday morning at Lyn’s home and the three spent the day continuing to modify the chicken coop-turned swan house-turned fantastic sanctuary (Joel is one of Mr. Swan’s caregivers and a carpenter). Lyn has generously added her dog’s run to extend the swan’s home, providing room enough for the Young Swan to stretch her wings and walk around within the enclosure.

Increasing the size of the enclosure. 

Today, the very awesome landscaper Patrick Low, owner of JPL Landscape Solutions spent the morning modifying and attaching the (former) dog run to the chicken coop and securing the entire structure from predators such as coyotes and racoons. Pat, Joel, and Skip have very generously donated their time and services to creating the winter swan sanctuary.

Pat Low, creatively solving potential predator issues.

A friend of Lyn’s is donating three bales of hay. To supplement the pellets and corn Lyn has been feeding the swan, yesterday she purchased collard greens (which the Young Swan loved), spinach, and kale (yet to try).

We still do not know whether the Young Swan is male or female. Jodi Swenson kindly paid for the swan’s checkup at Dr. Cahill’s (with funds provided from her recent fundraiser) and Lyn has volunteered to pay for the DNA test. We should have the results back from the DNA test in several weeks. The Young Swan has a temporary name, TOS, an acronym for The Other Swan, but perhaps when we determine whether male or female we can give her a gender specific name, and possibly tie in a naming contest with a mini-fundraiser, to help defray the unexpected cost of taking care of her for the winter.

Success! Photo courtesy Lyn Fonzo


The Niles Pond Young Swan, rescued by Lyn Fonzo and Dan Harris on Friday, was taken to SeaPort Veterinary Hospital Saturday morning for a wellness checkup and because it is thought she may have contracted round worm at the shelter from where she originated. Dr. Cahill gave her a complete physical, checking on wings, feet, degree of fat on her bones, took an xray, and drew blood for a blood work up. His assistant also plucked a few feathers to send off to a lab to determine the sex of the young Mute Swan. It will take several weeks for the results of the tests, but based on Dr. Cahill’s visual assessment, she appears to be in excellent health!!

Swans can become very defensive when they feel threatened however, the Young Swan has a relatively speaking mild temperament. Lyn and Dan handled her with lots of tender care and caution and no one was bit during during transport and during the exam.

While we were at the vets, Joel Murnroe, one of Mr. Swan’s loyal caregivers and a fine carpenter, was back at Lyn’s home modifying Lyn’s chicken coop, with a larger entryway door and swan-sized rebuilt ramp.

The Young Swan has had an eventful and productive first day in captivity. With much gratitude and thanks to Lyn for taking on the tremendous responsibility of caring for a wild swan for the winter. Our hope is that the Young Swan is a she, and that she will be re-released to Niles Pond this coming spring.

1) Lyn Fonzo and Dan Harris, 2) Joel Munroe, 3) Dan Harris and the Young Swan


Eastern Point residents Lyn Fonzo and Dan Harris discovered the Young Swan frozen in the ice at Niles Pond early this morning. Dan reached into the water and scooped her up. She seemed relatively tame and did not try to bite Dan as we had imagined would happen. Dan and Lyn carried her to Lyn’s home, where she is currently living in one of Lyn’s chicken coops. Plans are underway to modify the chicken house to make it a bit more swan friendly. Joel Munroe, one of several of Mr. Swan’s caregivers, is also a carpenter and she is planning to help Lyn.

Tremendous shout outs to Lyn Fonzo, Dan Harris, Skip and Joel Munroe, and to Michelle Smith. West Gloucester resident Michelle formerly raised swans and emus on the family farm and she is providing excellent advice on how to care for swans in our New England climate.

Photos and video courtesy of Lyn Fonzo.

New digs for the Young Swan




Doesn’t this scene look deadly brutal? It is a photo of Mr. Swan chasing the Young Swan.

The thing is, we think that this may be Mr. Swan’s way of encouraging the Young Swan to fly. If she is going to survive a New England winter in the wild, she has to move to saltwater coves and harbors. Niles Pond resident Skip Hadden has seen her fly but she seems to have no interest in leaving the Pond. Niles Pond is freezing over, and unless the Young Swan follows Mr. Swan’s lead, she will have to be relocated.

Let’s get air borne winged one! #muteswan #cygnusolor #capeann

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