Our Great Salt Marsh is beginning to spring back to life. Red-winged Blackbirds can be seen, and heard, chortling from every outpost, Morning Doves are nest building, and the Mallards, Black Ducks, and Canada Geese are pairing up. Only 19 more days until the official start of spring!
Tag Archives: Red-winged Blackbird
My 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.
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.
Work on Mr. Swan’s film will also resume this January—the winters are simply not long enough for all I have planned!
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.
The 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.
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.
Pristine 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.
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.
Male Yellow Warbler hopping through the Shadblow branches eating small insects
Shadbow, Shadbush, Chuckleberry Tree, Serviceberry, and Juneberry are just a few of the descriptive names given the beautiful Shadblow tree lighting up our marsh and woodland edges. With lacey white flowers, Shadblow (Amelanchier canadensis) is one of the first of the natives to bloom in spring, growing all along the Atlantic coastal plains.
A fantastic tree for the wild garden, over 26 species of songbirds and mammals, large and small, are documented dining on the fruits of Shadblow (including bears). The small blue fruits are delicious, though rarely consumed by people because wildlife are usually first at the table. The foliage of Shadblow is a caterpillar food plant for the Red Admiral Butterfly. Look for her eggs on the upper surface at the tip of the leaf.
Shadblow in bud at the water’s edge with dewdrop necklace
Fruiting in June at the same time of year as the annual spawning migration of shad, is how the names Shadblow and Juneberry came about. The common name Serviceberry is derived from the flower clusters gathered for use in church services.
The Shadblow and reeds create a beautiful symbiotic habitat for the blackbirds, Grackles and Red-wings, especially. Reeds of cattails and phragmites make ideal nesting material and sites, and come June, above the nesting area, a songbird feast of Shadblow berries ripens.
Cape Ann marshes are coming to life, in spite of the snowy days and unseasonably cold temperatures. Choristers make themselves readily known with their mating songs and with still bare tree limbs, they are fairly easy to spot.
Sing, sing, sing!
Turn up your volume and listen for the male Red-winged Blackbird song in the instagram below, just audible enough through the noisy Mallards quacking.
Although Red-winged Blackbirds are spied around Niles Pond during the winter months, spring brings flocks, and the males are an especially welcome sight chortling atop the pussy willow branches along the water’s edge. Red-winged Blackbirds are one of North America’s most abundant birds. If you were a male of the kind, you might be singing your heart out, too. The species is highly polygynous and some males have been known to have as many as 15 mates during a single season!
The males are glossy black with distinctive red epaulettes and yellow wing bars, which they often puff out confidently when singing from their perches. The females have a streaky brown song sparrow-like wing patterning and stay close to the ground feeding and building their intricately woven nests at the base of cattails and reeds, along the marsh’s edge.
If you have a spare moment, send us a photo of your favorite signs welcoming spring and we’ll post them under a group ‘welcome spring’ post. Send photos to me at email@example.com (thanks Lenny).
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I am presenting 2 lectures this coming week, Monday on Butterfly Gardening in Shrewsbury and Wednesday evening on The Pollinator Garden at the Flint Library in North Reading. Please visit the events page of my website for more information.