Tag Archives: Niles Pond

SUPER MOON, HOWLING COYOTES, FLYING SWAN, SONGBIRDS GOING CRAZY, AND BEAUTIFUL BRACE COVE DAYBREAK

rocky-neck-smith-cove-daybreak-copyright-kim-smithLast Tuesday was a photographer’s magical dream morning. After photographing and filming December’s “Long Night’s Moon” descending over the Gloucester city skyline, I turned toward the east to see a peaceful daybreak scene over Rocky Neck. Perhaps the sun hadn’t fully risen I thought and hurried to Brace Cove. The sun had rose behind Brace Rock with just enough clouds that it was still pretty, not blasted out by too much light.

I then walked along the edge of Niles Pond, meeting up with Mr. Swan who was occupied with his morning swim, which often indicates he is readying to take flight. He did, and with movie camera in hand, he circled the Pond before landing at Brace Cove, near the breakwater.

Eerily, the coyotes were howling in the distance, actually howling, like wolves, and for quite a long while. I often hear their meet-and-greet yipping and socializing barks that they make shortly after sunset, and too the terrible sound they make when killing a creature, but I have never heard them howling in the morning. I wonder if it had something to do with the full moon? Do our readers hear coyotes howling regularly?

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Tufted Titmouse

Further along the Pond walk there was a large flock of American Robins and they, along with a lively group of Blue Jays, Tufted Titmice, Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and Cardinals were hungrily eating every berry in sight, so much so that when I returned to the same spot a few days later, there wasn’t a berry or fruit to be seen. A magical morning at a magical place we’re fortunate to call home.

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December Long Night’s Moon

GOOD MORNING GLOUCESTER, BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE SENSATIONAL MR. SWAN!

mute-swan-mr-swan-niles-pond-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithGlorious swan’s wings! In these photos you can see Mr. Swan’s magnificent new set of feathers.

Mr. Swan has resumed his habit of traveling from body of water to body of water within his territory. Why does he not travel during the summer months, primarily dwelling at Niles Pond? Swans molt each summer and during the molting period, they cannot fly.

Mute Swans molt when their cygnets cannot fly. The female (pen) begins to molt almost immediately after the young hatch. The male, or cob, waits until the female’s flight feathers have grown back completely. The reason for this staggered molting period is because swans use their wings in battle and to defend their young. The swan family will never be left defenseless with at least one of the pair’s set of wings fully functional. The molting period lasts anywhere from four to seven weeks.

mute-swan-stretching-wings-niles-pond-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithGood morning Gloucester! Mr. Swan’s big morning stretch before he sets off to patrol his territory

SHOUT OUT TO JAMES AND ANNA EVES AT CAPE ANN GICLEE

Don’t you love the look of a white mat and white frame? James and Anna over at Cape Ann Giclée are now offering matting and framing. Their workmanship is pristine, exquisite really.

For the past several years I have been trudging to frame shops looking for white frames, cutting the mats myself, and generally not happy about the inordinate amount of time spent doing these tasks. Now you can go to Cape Ann Giclée and they not only have a beautiful selection of papers and options for printing, but all can be matted and framed, in either a plain white or plain black frame, and all for a very reasonable fee. Thanks James and Anna for a terrific (and greatly simplified) experience. I am shipping “Lily Pads in the Moonlight” tomorrow to my client in Aspen and I just know she is going to love it!

dscf1485Simple white frame, mat, and reveal–just perfect! 

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Lily Pads in the Moonlight, Niles Pond

WELL HELLO THERE BIG FOOT! RED-NECKED GREBE SPOTTED AT NILES POND

red-necked-grebe-niles-pond-gloucester-ma-1-copyright-kim-smithForaging around the perimeter of Niles Pond this morning was a charming Red-necked Grebe. I write charming because his feet are exquisitely enormous! As it dove for food, they were put to good use as a sort of paddling propellor. The bird spent much of the morning with its head half submerged and feet furiously working, vigorously hunting small fish and vegetation.red-necked-grebe-niles-pond-gloucester-ma-4-copyright-kim-smith

Check out the size of the Red-necked Grebe’s foot 🙂red-necked-grebe-niles-pond-gloucester-ma-3-copyright-kim-smith

Elusive

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Niles Pond is a special place that provides habitat for myriad species of wildlife, birds especially. Its close proximity to the ocean, abundance of food, and clear fresh, gentle water draws beautiful creatures to our shores all year round.

red-necked-grebe-niles-pond-gloucester-ma-6-copyright-kim-smithAlthough considered a large member of the grebe family, the Red-necked Grebe is comparatively quite a bit smaller than the Mallards. The Red-necked Grebe is on the far right.

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rgrebe_leeRed-necked Grebe in Breeding Plumage, photo courtesy Cornell All About Birds

THEY’RE BACK! BEAUTIFUL CAPE ANN WINTER SHOREBIRDS

Hello winter friends! As the herons, egrets, and plovers have departed for parts warmer, Cape Ann welcomes mergansers, buffleheads, grebes, and so many more. Overcast morning walk along the shores of Niles Pond –

male-female-red-breasted-mergansers-copyright-kim-smithMale and Female Red-breasted Mergansers

pied-billed-grebe-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithJuvenile Pied-billed Grebe

male-bufflehead-female-red-breasted-merganser-copyright-kim-smithMale Buffleheads and Female Red-breasted Merganser

brace-cove-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithBrace Rock

SCENES FROM AN EARLY MORNING WALK ALONG THE BRACE COVE NILES POND CAUSEWAY

Sleepy Mr. Swan waking up on this coldest and most blustery morning of the season #scenesofnewengland

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Mixed flock of gulls and ducks feeding in the surf Brace Cove #scenesofnewengland #gloucesterma

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brace-cove-daybreak-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithBrace Cove daybreak

OUTSTANDING ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS FOR GLOUCESTER PART TWO!

niles-pond-causeway-restoration-2-copyright-kim-smithThe Niles Pond-Brace Cove causeway restoration is progressing admirably. You may recall our story about the extensive damage the causeway had suffered from several fierce back to back storms. In 2014, the Association of Eastern Point Residents restored the structural rocks supporting the causeway. This past week, preparations for restoring the plantings has begun.  

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Below are  photos taken in 2013 of storm damage, prior to restoration.

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Phase one of restoration work, 2014

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HOW TO QUICKLY TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SNOWY EGRET AND A GREAT EGRET

Often asked this question, I thought it would be helpful to post the answer again, especially as at this time of year when we see numerous numbers foraging in our marshes and along the shore. Both species of birds breed on Cape Ann and the coast of Massachusetts.

Snowy Egret Egretta thula -2 copyright Kim SmithThe first clue is size. Snowy Egrets are small, about the size of the Mallard Duck. Remember the letter S for small and snowy. Great Egrets are much larger, nearly identical in size to that of the Great Blue Heron.

Great Egret Ardea alba copyright Kim SmithGreat Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egrets have  black feet and yellow bills. Snowy Egrets have reverse coloring, yellow feet and black bills.

Great Egrets stand very still while fishing. Snowy Egrets are wonderfully animated when foraging; they run quickly, walk determinedly, fly, and swish their feet around to stir up fish.Snowy Egret Egretta thula copyright Kim Smith

SWAN FLIGHT IN THE MIST OVER NILES POND

Swan pair flight Cygnus olor copyright Kim SmithTruly, one of the most beautiful sounds heard the world over is the sound that the wings of Mute Swans make when airborne. I call it vibrant throbbing wing beats. The highly audible sound of the wind through the wings is mesmerizing and it is the reason, or one of several reasons, why I became so interested in swans and why I decided to make a film about the swans of Cape Ann. No other species of swan’s wings make this sound, only Mute Swans.

As I am usually trying to capture the swans flying on film, I didn’t have any photographs of them in flight. Sunday afternoon I arrived at Niles just as Mr. Swan was chasing the new couple off his turf. I did not have time to get out my movie camera but did manage some snapshots. In the photo below you can see Mr. Swan is “busking;” his feathers are fluffed to their fullest to make himself look as large and threatening as possible to what he considers intruders upon his territory. This photo was taken moments after he chased the new couple to the harbor, returning to Niles to do a victory lap around the pond.  Swan Busking Cygnus immutabilis copyright Kim Smith

BREAKING: PAIR OF SWANS AT NILES AND HENRY’S PONDS!!

Pair Cape Ann Swans third year swans copyright Kim SmithA pair of swans was spotted at Niles Pond this morning by my friend Lyn. I stopped by the Pond at 8:15 to have a look. They were on the far side of Niles, getting ready to take off and was only able to take a few quick photos. The pair flew overhead in the direction of Henry’s Pond. After doing the podcast with Joey and the wonderful Gloucester Stage Company cast, I raced over to Henry’s. In the meantime, the two had returned to Niles, but were chased away by our Mr. Swan. As I arrived at Henry’s they flew in!

Cape Ann Swans copyright Kim SmithThe pair appear to be in their third year. This is evident by the patches of brown feathers and dullish pink bills, although the bill of the larger of the two is gaining a more coral-orange hue. Third year swan copyright Kim Smith copyNote both have black eyes, unlike our rare and beautiful blue-eyed swan. I am hopeful that Mr. Swan will find a new mate and if we are fortunate, this newly arrived on the scene pair will decide to make Cape Ann their home too!Pair Cape Ann Swans copyright Kim SmithIf you catch sight of swans at any of our area ponds or in the harbor, please write in and let me know. Thank you so much!

A Modern Day Gloucester Sea Monster Encounter

A true story, the following is a modern day fanciful beast encounter. I have been reluctant to write about this adventure for fear it would draw sight-seers to regions of Cape Ann off the beaten path, as happened with the white pelican sighting. Now that the mystery of its identity may perhaps be solved, I think it safe.

One morning at daybreak as I was unloading my gear at Brace Cove, I paused to scan the edges and then the whole of Niles Pond. I do this often when out filming and photographing at our local ponds and marshes, looking for swans and other wild birds that may be seeking shelter along these idyllic shores. In the middle of the pond was a float of ice with a great many seagulls just beginning to awaken with the rising sun. Nothing unusual about that. What caught my attention was a very large brown shape there on the ice amongst the gulls. Harumph! I said to no one but myself, what a view spoiler and how utterly trashy that a large brown paper lawn and leaf bag should blow out to the middle of the pond and become stuck there. And then the brown shape slithered into the pond. I not only saw it, but heard the very distinct sound of a creature sliding expertly into water. I tried in vain to catch another glimpse and spent the remainder of the morning half spooked and half kicking myself for not more hurriedly making the effort to film and photograph the “garbage bag.” If only I’d known it was alive!

Shortly after the creature encounter, I read about the Ten Pound Island sea monster sightings and concluded, that yes, a mysterious sea creature could easily swim around Eastern Point Lighthouse, haul up at Brace Cove, cross the causeway, and have himself a swim at Niles Pond, if he were so inclined.

I thought about this beast encounter for weeks and at one point, somewhat embarrassedly, asked my husband to come with me to photograph a moonlit evening at Niles Pond as I wasn’t sure I wanted to come face to face with such a great creature at night. By myself. Being the good sport that he is, he came, if just to prove that it was perfectly safe to photograph in the moonlight.

As mentioned, I’ve been hesitant to write this until very recently when at Henry’s Pond, on a rainy and chilly early spring morning I spied for only a few moments what appeared to be a very mini version of the Niles Pond creature. It was swimming at top speed with a long sinuous streamlined shape beneath the surface of the water and only a bit of its head visible above the water. I took a blurry snapshot and raced home to search books and internet for any clues. The creature was too big to be a muskrat and its tail too slender to be a beaver. I am almost certain that what I saw at Henry’s was a North American River Otter. Two weeks passed when while filming Mr. Swan, again on an overcast morning at Henry’s, the little creature energetically appeared near the marshy shore on the opposite side of the pond, looked all around, dove, re-emerged, again looked all about, and then disappeared. This time I was able to capture a few seconds of video of this inquisitive little otter.

What I have learned about North American River Otters is that they can grow very large, up to five and half feet and weigh thirty pounds. There is the Great River Otter of South America, which can grow over six feet, but the creature I saw at Niles was about four and half to five feet long.

Well there you go, a modern day fanciful beast encounter. After seeing my beast, I think it quite easy to understand how sea monster stories from days gone by could so easily capture people’s imaginations.

Please write if you think you have seen a River Otter in your neighborhood. Thank you!

Look toward the marsh in the first clip, with Mr. Swan in the foreground. You can see the bobbing head of the otter in the background. I was hoping to see the otter again and try to capture better footage but it has been several weeks and no further sightings.

NEW SHORT FILM: BUFFLEHEAD KERFUFFLE

Male female bufflehead courtship kimsmithdesigns.com 2016Bufflehead Kerfuffle

The smallest, and I think most would agree, among the cutest North American sea ducks, every autumn Buffleheads arrive on the shores of Cape Ann after having journeyed many thousands of miles from their summer breeding grounds in the Canadian boreal forests. They are seen in twos or in small groups and unlike most ducks, are monogamous. Some males begin courting very early in the season as demonstrated in the flock currently residing on Cape Ann however, the birds will not pair until spring.

When out for a walk along shore and pond, you may notice a great deal of bufflehead kerfuffling taking place. The male’s courtship displays are wonderfully exuberant, with much head pumping, chest thrusting, and aggressive flying. The male goes so far as to exaggerate the size of his head by puffing out his bushy crest. Occasionally, the males chase females, but most of the chasing is directed towards other males in territorial displays, which are accomplished by both flying and skidding across the water as well as via underwater chasing. The female encourages her suitor vocally and with a less animated head pumping motion.

Male female bufflehead Massachusetts kimsmithdesigns.com 2016

Female Bufflehead, left and male Bufflehead, right

Buffleheads are diving ducks, finding nourishment on Cape Ann on small sea creatures and pond grasses, as well as seed heads at the shoreline’s edge.

By the early twentieth century Buffleheads were nearing extinction due to over hunting. Their numbers have increased although now their greatest threat is loss of habitat stemming from deforestation in the boreal forests and aspen parklands of Canada.

The word bufflehead is a corruption of buffalo-head, called as such because of their disproportionately large and bulbous head. Buffleheads are a joy to watch and are seen all around Cape Ann throughout the fall, winter, and early spring. Their old-fashioned name, “Butterball,” aptly describes these handsome and welcome winter migrants!

Listen for the Buffleheads mating vocalizations. The Bufflehead courtship scenes were filmed on Niles Pond. The end clip is of a flock of Buffleheads in flight and was shot at Pebble Beach, Rockport.

 

 

ON GOLDEN POND

Swan Niles Pond www.kimsmithdesigns.comIs it immodest to say that I like this picture? I don’t have a great deal of spare time to mat my photos and run around looking for frames, but think I’ll make the effort with this one.

I hope to see you at my talk at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck tonight!

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