BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON IN JANUARY??

It’s been a remarkable month for beautiful winter wild creatures in our midst. A juvenile Black-crowned Night heron was here until about mid-January, departing only when the freshwater ponds froze over last week. He mostly stayed well-hidden in the dense thickets at pond’s edge. Is the juvenile staying local this winter and will he return if we have a thaw I wonder. Time will tell 🙂

Black-crowned Night Herons, adults, Gloucester, in early spring and summer

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, January 2020

GIANT SEALS SCARED THE BEEJEEZUS OUT OF ME!

While filming the tiny Dovekie as he was blithely bopping along in the inner Harbor, dip diving for breakfast and seeming to find plenty to eat, suddenly from directly beneath the Dovekie, two ginromous chocolate brown heads popped up. Almost sea serpent-like and so completely unexpected! I leapt up and totally ruined the shot, and the little Dovekie was even more startled. He didn’t fly away but ran pell mell across the water about fifteen feet before giving a furtive look back, and then submerging himself.

So there we were face to face, only about twenty feet apart. We spent a good deal of time eyeing each other, several minutes at least, both trying to figure out the other’s next move. Their eyes are so large and expressively beautiful. Down they dove and search as I might, could not spot them again.

There have been plenty of Harbor Seals seen in Gloucester Harbor, but I have never been so close to a Grey Seal, and so delighted to see not one, but two!

The following are a number of ways to tell the difference between a Harbor Seal and a Grey Seal.

Harbor Seals are smaller (5 to 6 feet) than average Grey Seals (6 feet 9 inches long to 8 feet 10 inches long). Bull Grey Seals have been recorded measuring 10 feet 10 inches long!

Harbor Seals have a concave shaped forehead, with a dog-like snout. The head of a Grey Seal is elongated, with a flatter forehead and nose.

Harbor Seal head shape left, Grey Seal head right

Harbor Seals have a heart or V-shaped nostrils. The nostrils of Grey Seals do not meet at the bottom and create more of a W-shape.

Harbor Seal heart, or V-shaped, nostrils

Grey Seal W-shaped nostrils

Grey Seals are not necessarily gray. They are also black and brown. Their spots are more irregular than the spots of a Harbor Seal.

Grey Seals and Harbor Seals are true “earless seals,” which does not mean that they cannot hear but are without external ear flaps.

Dovekie Gloucester Harbor

BEAUTIFUL AND FUNNY RARE BIRD IN GLOUCESTER THE “LITTLE AUK” OR DOVEKIE

The tiny “Little Auk” has been on our shores for several days and this morning I was finally able to take a few good snapshots. It dips and bobs in a funny manner, weaving back and forth, up and down the channel, before using its wings to deeply dive for small fish and crustaceans.

The Dovekie is the smallest member of the auk (puffin) family. A bird of the open Atlantic Ocean that breeds on Islands in the high Arctic, Dovekies are only seen during winter months in New England.

RULER OF THE MARSH – FEATURING RABBIT, HAWK, OWLS, AND EAGLE

Life on the marsh –

The Marsh Hawk (Northern Harrier) sitting in the grass off in the distance, was holding captive a bunny.

The bunny was staying still and the hawk was, surprisingly, not attempting to capture the rabbit. Perhaps because avian predators, like hawks, hunt by swooping in, and in a short distance stand-off, the hawk would have to sort of hop over to the bunny. Rabbits can hop to escape a great deal quicker than can hawks-on-foot give chase.

The Short-eared Owl arrives and the Marsh Hawk takes cover.

The Snowy Owl appears on the scene…

and the Short-eared Owls are nowhere to be seen.

The Bald Eagle, Ruler of Marsh and Meadow, swoops in. The Snowy departs.

 

 

IF YOU LIKE APEROL SPRITZ THEN YOU WILL LOVE CAPPELLETTI SPRITZ

Last night at Short and Main we had the best dinner of oven roasted Cape Cod Sea Scallops, warm farm fresh winter veggies, and the always superb Louis Prima pizza. Bethany, our friendly and knowledgeable bartender, asked if I would like to try Cappelletti instead of Aperol. I did try and absolutely LOVED it!!!

I found Cappelletti to be dryer and more richly flavorful than Aperol. Aperitivo Capelletti and Aperol are both red bitter liqueurs (aperitivos). Some red bitter liqueurs are spirit based and some are wine based. Cappelletti is categorized as gentian root infused aromatized wine. It’s difficult to find a list of ingredients because the recipes are closely guarded family secrets. Essentailly Cappelletti is made of wine, bitter gentian root, carmine (cochineal), alpine herbs, and spices. Carmine is obtained from grinding beetle shells into a fine powder and is what gives Cappelletti its distinct ruby red color. Carmine has been used for centuries to color food, clothing, cosmetics, and paint pigment.

Cappelletti may be the oldest classic red bitter liqueur in production. “The producer, which goes by the full name Antica Erboristeria Cappelletti, was first established in 1909. For most of their first century they were located in the historic Piazza Fiera in the center of Trento. Today they are located 20 km south of Trento in Aldeno, surrounded by vineyards and apple orchards. As the name would suggest, the firm was and is still today focused on products from traditional herbs, roots and flowers. They achieved fame in the region for their productions of amari and aperitivi, including the classic red bitter Aperitivo Cappelletti. All production is done in house by the fourth generation of the family, Luigi and Maddalena.”

Next time you are at Short and Main, say hi to Bethany and try a Cappelletti Spritz. You won’t be disappointed ❤

Short and Main is located at the corner of Short Street and Main Street at 36 Main Street, Gloucester. During the winter months, they are open from Wednesday through Sunday.

HOW TO GROW BUTTERFLY AMARYLLIS

The blossoms of the Butterfly Amaryllis are considerably more delicate and petite when compared to the blossoms of most Amaryllis cultivars so this year I grouped three bulbs to a pot for extra beauty. I think my plan was successful 🙂

The Butterfly Amaryllis (Hippeastrum papilio), has to be one of the most stunning of all bulbs to force indoors. Not only that, but unlike other species of Hippeastrum, which need to go dormant, you can grow papilio all year round. The plants will grow larger and produce more blossoms with each passing year!

Hippeastrum papilio is a member of Amaryllidaceae and is native to the tropical forest of the Atlantic Coast of southern Brazil. It is endangered in its natural range but is increasingly propagated among gardeners.

The following is excerpted from a book that I both wrote and illustrated titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden, which was published by David Godine.

How to Grow Amaryllis ~ Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! 

Living in New England the year round, with our tiresomely long winter stretching miles before us, followed by a typically late and fugitive spring, we can become easily wrapped in those winter-blues. Fortunately for garden-makers, our thoughts give way to winter scapes of bare limbs and berries, Gold Finches and Cardinals, and plant catalogues to peruse. If you love to paint, and photograph, and write about flowers as do I, winter is a splendid time of year for both as there is hardly any time devoted to the garden during colder months.

Coaxing winter blooms is yet another way to circumvent those late winter doldrums. Most of us are familiar with the ease in which amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs will bloom indoors. Placed in a pot with enough soil to come to the halfway point of the bulb, and set on a warm radiator, in several week’s time one will be cheered by the sight of a spring-green, pointed-tipped flower stalk poking through the inner layers of the plump brown bulbs. The emerging stalks provide a welcome promise with their warm-hued blossoms, a striking contrast against the cool light of winter.

Perhaps the popularity of the amaryllis is due both to their ease in cultivation and also for their ability to dazzle with colors of sizzling orange, clear reds and apple blossom pink. My aunt has a friend whose family has successfully cultivated the same bulb for decades. For continued success with an amaryllis, place the pot in the garden as soon as the weather is steadily warm. Allow the plant to grow through the summer, watering and fertilizing regularly. In the late summer or early fall and before the first frost, separate the bulb from the soil and store the bulb, on its side, in a cool dry spot—an unheated basement for example. The bulb should feel firm and fat again, not at all mushy. After a six-week rest, the amaryllis bulb is ready to re-pot and begin its blooming cycle again. Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Coaxing Winter Blooms

Click here to read more about Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities.

MORE SNAPSHOTS OF THE BEAUTIFUL SHORT-EARED OWL, SNOWY OWL, TENDERCROP FARM, AND IPSWICH CLAMBAKE

Charlotte and I had a wonderful adventure morning checking on the owls at Plum Island. We observed several Harrier Hawks flying low over the marsh grass hunting for prey, a Short-eared Owl perched on a craggy tree, and a Snowy parked for the morning far out in the dunes. We played on the beach and she had a blast zooming up and down the boardwalk at lot no.2.

Tiny white wedge in the distance

We next stopped at the refuge headquarters to play in the marsh boat that is part of the exhibit about the Great Salt Marsh. She brought along her own stuffed Snowy to join on the boat ride.

Next destination was a visit to see the farm friends at Tendercrop Farm. Currently in residence are a turkey, ginormous steer, pony, chickens, ducks, llama, and the sweetest miniature goat who is just wonderful with toddlers.

I purchased the best steaks we have ever had, Tendercrop’s own grass fed rib-eye, made even more magnificent cooked to perfection by Alex, with a beautiful red wine demi-glace.

Everything at Tendercrop Farm is always amazingly delicious. They have the freshest and best selection of fruits and vegetables during the winter months, bar none.

Great bunches of freshly cut pussy willows are for sale at Tendercrop

Last stop was lunch at the Ipswich Clambake. The owners and staff are just the most friendly. The clam chowder at the Clambake is perfection. Charlotte and I shared a mini super fresh fried clam appetizer and that, along with the chowder, made the best sort of lunch to top off our fun adventure morning.

Tendercrop Farm is located at 108 High Road, 1A, in Newbury.

Ipswich Clambake is located at 196 High Street, 1A, in Ipswich.

 

DON’T MISS THE LOBSTER TRAP TREE AND CAPE ANN ART HAVEN FAMILY FUN BIG BUOY PARTY!

The Big Buoy Party night is Art Haven’s biggest fundraising event. Come on down to Cruiseport for delicious refreshments, arts and crafts activities, live music, and more!

WHEN: JANUARY 24TH FROM 5PM TO 8PM

WHERE: CRUISEPORT, GLOUCESTER

Only 20.00 PER FAMILY, and that includes refreshments, crafts, and your child’s buoy!

BEAUTIFUL SHORT-EARED OWLS IN OUR MIDST!

Melded to the grass as he was, in monochromatic winter pasture shades of taupe, buff, and gray, it was nearly impossible to spot the impostor posing in the dry stalks and twigs. But there he was, a small mound resting along the thicket edge. You can just barely see him in the photo below.

He sat up for a brief moment and even from a great distance his wide-eyed, and only seconds long, golden-eyed look was unmissable.

I’ve read the Short-eared Owl flight described as erratic, but I would call it anything but that. They swoop gracefully over fields in multi-directions, with great intention, listening for the sound of voles, moles, mice and other small mammals scurrying through the tall winter grass and phragmites. Flying low while hunting, their wingbeats are smooth and steady.

The Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)  is called as such because of the little tufts of display feathers atop its head, which aren’t really ears at all. The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) is a cousin of the Short-eared and it has longer feather tufts. Owls have a highly developed hearing system and their ears are actually located at the sides of their heads, behind the eyes, and are covered by the feathers of the facial disc.

Unlike many species of owls, which prefer forest and woodland, the Short-eared Owls is a bird of open country. They require fields, grasslands, marshes, bogs, heaths, and dunes. Shorties are crepuscular, which means they mostly feed at dawn and dusk.

Short-eared Owls are found the world over on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Sadly, in Massachusetts, breeding pairs have been driven to the brink of extirpation. There may still be one or two pairs that breed at Nantucket’s Tuckernuck Island but, because of loss of habitat, the Short-eared Owl was listed as endangered in Massachusetts in 1985.

Listen for the Short-eared Owls wing “clapping” in the video below, and some adorable chicks, too 🙂

From Cornell: “Hawaii’s only native owl, the Pueo (Asio flammeus sandwichensis), is a Short-eared Owl subspecies found on all the chain’s major islands. Pueos may have descended from Alaska forebears, taking hold in the islands after the first arriving Polynesians brought owl food in the form of the Pacific rat.”
Short-eared Owl Range Map

OWL FEVER!

This past weekend’s glorious and record breaking mid-January 70-degree-plus weather encouraged everyone to get out doors and it was wonderful to see. On both Saturday and Sunday there was a line to get into Parker River Wildlife Refuge. Many were enjoying the beaches and hiking the trails while quite a few were there to see the Snowy Owls and Short-eared Owls.

There are currently two Snowy Owls and several Short-eared Owls at Parker River. Folks are asking where the owls can be found specifically. I can only share where I have seen them and that covers almost the entire refuge, from parking lot no.1 (where the gates are) all the way down to parking lot no. 6. The photographers and birders out shooting at the refuge are super helpful and if you see a bunch, park  your car (intelligently please, so that you are not blocking traffic) and ask. Many of the birders will also share a look through their scopes.

Cape Ann Symphony Continues Second Season of Popular Musicians Unleashed Concert Series

Cape Ann Symphony Continues Second Season ofPopular Musicians Unleashed Concert Series

A Series of Concerts in Intimate Settings

SUNDAY, JANUARY 19  HIDDEN TREASURES

at ST. PAUL LUTHERAN CHURCH, GLOUCESTER

Cape Ann Symphony continues the Musicians Unleashed Concert Series at 2:00 pm on January 19, 2020 with a fascinating musical tour of Hidden Treasures at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1123 Washington Street, Gloucester, MA. After anoverwhelmingly enthusiastic audience response to the 2019 debut of  MusiciansUnleashed, a series of musical events featuring Cape Ann Symphony musicians in a variety of intimate settings, CAS is continuing the series in 2020. The nextMusicians Unleashed Concert features an opportunity to hear hidden musicaltreasures performed by a small group of CAS musicians including the orchestra’snew Concertmaster David Rubin, violin; Johnny Mok, cello; Tianhong Yang, piano; and  Earl Powers and Ryan Fossier, horns. Complimentary freshly baked nisu bread and hot coffee will be available for all attendees at a post-concert reception.

According to CAS President Fran White. “We are thrilled to continue the MusiciansUnleashed Concerts after last season’s highly successful launch of the series! This is something very different for the CAS and we found that  audiences just loved the variety of interesting venues, many of which do not host music events on a regular basis, and the opportunity to see CAS musicians play in small groups.”

The Hidden Treasures concert program includes:

BEETHOVEN Piano Trio in E-flat Major, op. 1 with Concertmaster David Rubin, violin, Johnny Mok, cello and Tianhong Yang, piano

TELEMANN Concert in D for 2 Horns, with Earl Powers and Ryan Fossier, horns

PIAZZOLLA Le Grand Tango, for cello & piano, with Johnny Mok, cello and Tianhong Yang, piano

Ticket prices for each concert in the Musicians Unleashed Series:  $35 for adults and $15 for Youth.

 Call CAS at 978-281-0543 or go to www.capeannsymphony.org for tickets.

The next Musicians Unleashed Concert is: FLOWERS IN THE RAIN
Sunday, April 26, 2020, 2:00 PM at Gloucester’s  Unitarian Universalist Church –

 

Cape Ann Symphony Holds Annual Meeting

Cape Ann Symphony Orchestra, Inc.

Notice of Annual Meeting

Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at 8:00 pm.

Gloucester House Restaurant

63 Rogers Street, Gloucester, MA

CAPE ANN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, INC HOLDS ANNUAL MEETING ON JANUARY 22 At GLOUCESTER HOUSE RESTAURANT.

 

The Annual Meeting of the Cape Ann Symphony Orchestra, Inc. will be held at the Gloucester House Restaurant, 63 Rogers Street, Gloucester, MA, on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, at 8:00pm. The purpose of this meeting is to hear reports of the past year’s activity by the Music Director, President, Treasurer, Manager and Board Officers. The meeting is also convened to elect Directors and Officers for the period from January 24, 2020 through January 22, 2021. The meeting will be preceded by a cocktail reception at 6:30pm (cash bar) and buffet dinner ($45/per person) at 7:00 pm. It is not necessary to attend the reception in order to attend the Annual Meeting. For tickets or further information please contact Cape Ann Symphony via phone: 978-281-0543 or website:www.capeannsymphony.org.