Author Archives: Kim Smith


Juvenile Little Blue Heron

Dining all the day long on tender tiny bullfrogs, I wonder how many a juvenile heron eats throughout the course of a day. And wonder too, why there are any remaining in our ponds. A young frog appears to be one of the choicest of foods to feed the voracious appetites of otters, herons, and egrets.


The salps were filmed several years ago and we have been wondering, has anyone seen salps yet this year? I’ve been checking but have yet to see. Please email ( and let us know if you do, and where they were spotted. Thank you!

From several years ago: The salps were filmed in Gloucester’s inner harbor and had a luminous appearance in the blue lights of the fishing boat Hot Tuna, the largest boat in the Wicked Tuna fleet. I think the song “La Luna” by Lucy Schwartz adds to the magical movement of the salps and other creatures in the glowing blue (so sorry to Captain Ott for startling him while hanging over the edge of the dock to film the salps at the rear of his boat.)

Sea salps are warm ocean water creatures, exploding in population during algae blooms. With beating heart, notochcord, and gills they are more closely evolutionarily linked to humans than to jellyfish. Sea salps are individual creatures that through asexual reproduction, can form linear chains up to fifteen feet long!

Salps are planktonic (free floating) members of the subphylum Tunicata. Tunicates get their name from the unique outer covering or “tunic,” which acts as an exoskeleton. The sea salp’s tunic is translucent and gelatinous; in some species it is tough and thick.


Check out the trailer for Nubar Alexanian’s forthcoming tremendous documentary Recipe for Disaster: Green Crabs in the Great Marsh. A first-time screening will be held at the Cape Ann Cinema on Tuesday, September 18th at 7:30pm sharp.

The trailer may be viewed here.



Early morning at the dock during Schooner Festival.

The Schooner Ardelle and Schooner Lannon have seats remaining for morning, mid-afternoon, and sunset September sails. Go here to book your tickets! Schooner Ardelle – Schooner Lannon


Mother Otters burrow near to, and within, North American Beaver lodges, to give birth and to raise their young. The den will often have many entrances and exits. The mother raises her young alone. At about five weeks old the newborns will begin playing. At two months, the kits (also called pups) coat has grown in and she introduces them to water. At nine weeks they begin to eat solid food and are weaned by twelve weeks.

North American River Otter Kit

The family bond is beautiful to watch and the young River Otters are utterly adorable in their playfulness. Just some of the familial behaviors that have been so wonderful to observe–otters grooming each other, snuggling under Mom (and playfully biting her tail), siblings wrestling each other, and all taking a morning nap together.

One of the most interesting moments was observing what happened one morning after the mother caught a frog. At first look it appeared as though the kit was stealing the frog from her, but after examining the footage, she caught the frog and deliberately incapacitated it, although she did not eat. She was holding the frog for her young otter to come and catch it from her.

An Otter’s whiskers are extra sensitive; the long whiskers have evolved to aid in hunting underwater. NA River otters are near-sighted, possibly as a result of underwater hunting.

A family of otters is called a “romp.”

Cape Ann’s growing Otter population is a clear sign that our waterways are in good health. North American River Otters are very sensitive to dirty water. Clean water, along with the expanded range of the North American Beavers, has helped create a welcoming habitat for River Otters to dwell and to breed.
Mom continually checks the landscape for pending danger. At the slightest hint of disturbance, underwater they all go. A NA River Otter can last up to four minutes underwater.


Must see- I had the honor of seeing an early cut and you will not want to miss this film screening. The Green Crab invasion is happening in our local marshes! Extraordinary footage, extraordinary film, told by a master storyteller.


I had an unexpected extra afternoon off with Charlotte so we decided to check out today’s high tide and waves at Good Harbor Beach. In some areas, the tide came up all the way to the edge of the bluff. The waves weren’t high, but the undertow was super, super strong, nonetheless, folks were swimming and surfing in the surprisingly warm water. 

You can see in the above photo how high was the tide today.

Sand taste-testing


Ssshhhing nobody but me, then time for a quick catnap
See you again soon beach!


Check out these terrific outreach posters for wildlife educators and school teachers found on the website RATS, or Raptors are the Solution. They have a bunch of free downloadable, printable posters, including several versions for young kids to color. You can download these posters directly from GMG, and go to the RATS website here and see more free educational material.


Erin and Jodi at Cape Ann Wildlife are treating this sweetest juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk for rat poison. The young hawk is yet another patient in their long list of wild creatures that have been poisoned this year by rodenticide. The prognosis is not looking good for this little guy.

All photos of the sickly juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk courtesy Cape Ann Wildlife

The adult Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium sized hawk. They are mostly forest dwellers. I’ve only see one once and it was stunning in flight.

Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk – Image courtesy wiki commons media


Piping Plover Fledgling



September 4, 2018

With 128 fledglings this year, Maine is still meeting its conservation targets for gradually restoring the species of tiny beachcombers.

A record number of the endangered shorebirds nested on beaches from Ogunquit to Georgetown and produced a record number of fledglings, according to Maine Audubon. Maine beaches hosted 68 nesting pairs that fledged 128 birds, continuing a decade of steady growth in their population.

“That’s the most we’ve had in Maine since we began monitoring in 1981,” said Laura Minich Zitske, who leads the Maine Coastal Birds project for Maine Audubon.

After winter and spring storms left beaches in southern Maine in rough shape, there was some concern about how it would impact the tiny beachcombers that arrive in Maine in late April to early May to nest in the sand near dunes.

“We lost a lot of prime nesting habitat. Beaches like Ogunquit did look pretty rough at points, but thankfully the birds were adaptable and able to find spots to raise their young,” Zitske said.

Ogunquit Beach ended up seeing the most fledglings, with 24 produced by 11 nesting pairs. There were 15 fledglings each at Wells Beach and at Scarborough‘s Western Beach.

Zitske said the success of the plovers this year is due in large part to partnerships between Maine Audubon, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the landowners, volunteers and municipalities that create safe nesting conditions and educate the public about the endangered birds.

In 2005, just 27 chicks fledged on Maine beaches after nests and birds were wiped out by a combination of stormy weather and increased predation. While the numbers fluctuate year to year, the trend in Maine has shown consistent growth since then. Last year, 64 nesting piping plovers yielded 101 chicks.

The 100-plus fledglings – the stage at which chicks can evade predators or other dangers on their own – means Maine is still meeting its conservation targets for gradually restoring a diminutive species of shorebird that nests on Maine’s relatively few sandy beaches at the height of the summer tourism season.

Roughly 2,000 piping plover pairs nest on beaches from North Carolina to Newfoundland. The tiny birds can be spotted skittering at the ocean’s edge or on mudflats searching for worms, bugs and other invertebrates. When they aren’t foraging, plovers can be found nesting in the transition area between dunes and the sandy beach. Plover chicks are so small they are often described as cotton balls walking on toothpick legs.

Maine Audubon works closely with the state wildlife department and towns from Ogunquit to Georgetown to monitor the beaches for breeding pairs beginning in the spring and then advising the public about the birds’ presence. Nests with eggs are often protected by mesh fencing that allows the birds to skitter in and out of the area while keeping out predators. Volunteers and some paid beach monitors advise beachgoers and dog owners on how to avoid disturbing the sensitive birds.


Piping Plover adult in the foreground, fledgling in the background. Note the lack of headband and should epaulettes on the fledgling, compared with the adult PIPL.


We had a super fun morning at the Cape Ann Museum Kids program. Courtney Richardson and her helpers Sarah and Nick set up a long table in the auditorium where the caterpillars, art supplies, plants, and pods were arranged. The kids were wonderfully curious, as were the adults. Many thanks to Jan Crandall for supplying the caterpillars. Thank you to Courtney and to the Museum for the opportunity to share about Cape Ann Monarchs!


Cape Ann Symphony Opens Expanded Season with Bernstein and Prokofiev in TWO Venues



Yoichi Udagawa, Music Director




Cape Ann Symphony opens the orchestra’s 67th Concert Season on Saturday, September 22 at 7:30 pm at the Manchester-Essex High School Auditorium on 36 Lincoln Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA and on  Sunday, September 23 at 2 pm at the Dolan Performing Arts Center at Ipswich High School on 134 High Street, Ipswich, MA with Bernstein and Prokofiev: The Agony and Ecstasy of Love, a romance filled program featuring a celebration of revered American composer Leonard Bernstein’s Centennial with his Candide Overture and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story as well as European composer Prokofiev’s soaring romantic interpretation of Romeo and Juliet with his Romeo and Juliet Suite. The season opening concert with performances in two venues marks the non-profit orchestra’s first major expansion in the organization’s history. The orchestra will now present a full season of concerts including a Youth Initiativeconcert in February at both the Manchester and Ipswich performance venues. The 67th concert season also introduces the CAS’s inaugural Conducting Fellow Ipswich’s Michael Coelho who will lead Pre-Concert Lectures 30 minutes prior to the start of each concert during the season. According to Cape Ann Symphony Board President Fran White, “Our 67th expanded season is very exciting.  We have added a new pre-concert lecture which we hope is another way to offer more to our audiences. Our newly implemented conducting fellow, Michael Coehlo brings another dimension to the planned season! We know this season will prove to be very special!”

CAS Conductor and Music Director Yoichi Udagawa shares his thoughts on the upcoming concert, “We are opening the 67th Season of the Cape Ann Symphony with a program of incredibly romantic music by the Massachusetts born Leonard Bernstein who was born 100 years ago on August 25th, 1918, and the great Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, The pieces share the common theme of love, and the musical selections are all incredibly romantic and gorgeous. The orchestra and I are really looking forward to rehearsing and performing this music for our fabulous audiences. “

Leonard Bernstein was a Massachusetts boy. Born in 1918 in Lawrence, he spent summers in Sharon, and attended Boston Latin before completing his BA at Harvard University. Though he later moved to Philadelphia (to attend the Curtis Institute) and then to New York, he remained connected to the area – studying conducting at Tanglewood and frequently leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He holds the distinction of being the first American Music Director of a major orchestra – the NY Philharmonic. Musically, he was a jack of all trades: a brilliant pianist, much sought-after conductor, a critic and lecturer on the arts, and of course, a prolific composer of music in many styles.


Once West Side Story opened in 1957 it not only became an instant classic (732 performances on Broadway, a highly successful tour, and an award-winning film version) but this classically orchestrated “opera” with leitmotifs and mambos defined musical theater as a uniquely American genre where popular and classical music could combine to tell all sorts of stories and explore thorny personal and societal problems. Jerome Robbins’ choreography was as groundbreaking as Bernstein’s music or Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics. It was very athletically demanding, with movement that crossed ballet, modern dance, and body-mime, highly choreographed fight scenes, and–of course–lots of Latin dancing.With a much richer orchestration than a Broadway pit can allow for, Symphonic Dances fromWest Side Story includes some of these spectacular dance moments and follows the dramatic arc of the musical. “The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story is composed of music from nine sections of the famous Broadway musical arranged in a symphonic fashion,” points out CAS Conductor and Music Director Udagawa, “In other words, the music is not necessarily in order of the plot of the story, but arranged so that it has a musical logic. Some of the most popular numbers in the piece are the Mambo,Somewhere and the Rumble. The  piece captures the full glory of Bernstein’s West Side Story and is a real tour-de-force for the orchestra!”.

The overture to Bernstein’s comic operetta Candide is one of his most popular and widely performed orchestral works. According to CAS Conductor and Music Director Udagawa, “The melodies are bright and clear and the whole piece is marked by energy and lightness. For those people who remember the Dick Cavett show on PBS,” adds Udagawa, “the music from the coda of this piece was the opening music for this popular show.

Prokofiev’s music for Romeo and Juliet was originally written in 1935 to accompany a ballet production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Prokofiev created three orchestral suites and CAS will perform selections from two of the suites including: Suite No. 1: Masks; Balcony Scene and Love Dance; and Death of Tybalt and Suite No. 2: The Montagues and Capulets; and Juliet. Udgawa explains “Prokofiev really outdid himself in this music. It is one of his most often performed pieces and is full of color, passion, humor, love and loss.”

Founded in Gloucester in 1951, the Cape Ann Symphony is a professional orchestra of over 70 players from throughout the New England area. They perform a subscription season of four concerts per year plus several Pops and youth concerts. The Symphony Board of Directors named Yoichi Udagawa the Music Director and Conductor of the Cape Ann Symphony in the summer of 2000 after a yearlong search. In addition to his leadership of Cape Ann Symphony, he is Music Director and Conductor of the Melrose Symphony Orchestra, and the Quincy Symphony Orchestra and a cover conductor at the Boston Pops Orchestra. Maestro Udagawa is on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory where he teaches conducting. Frequently invited to guest conduct, Maestro Udagawa has worked with many different orchestras including the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, Nobeoka Philharmonic Orchestra, the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra, the Indian Hill Symphony, the Garden State Philharmonic, the Brown University Orchestra, the Syracuse Society for New Music, the Boston Conservatory Orchestra, the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, the Newton Symphony, the Austin Civic Orchestra, and the Mid-Texas Symphony. Maestro Udagawa is at home in popular and contemporary music as well as the standard symphonic repertoire. He is known for his relaxed manner and ability to speak from the podium which has helped new audiences as well as enthusiasts gain a greater appreciation for symphonic music. His programs often include premieres of new works – some specially commissioned for the orchestra — as well as great orchestral works across the symphonic repertoire and lively Pops programs. He is also an integral part of the Cape Ann Symphony Youth Initiative.

Yoichi Udagawa, the son of a nuclear physicist father and singer/artist mother, was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1964. His family immigrated to the United States soon thereafter. He began playing the violin at age four and made his conducting debut at age fifteen. After receiving a music degree from the University of Texas at Austin, he continued advanced studies in conducting with Gunther Schuller, Seiji Ozawa, Morihiro Okabe, and Henry Charles Smith. A fan of many different styles of music, Mr. Udagawa also enjoys performing gospel music in addition to his conducting activities. He is also an accomplished violinist and an avid fan of exercise and yoga.

The Cape Ann Symphony’s Bernstein and Prokofiev: The Agony and Ecstasy of Love, is Saturday, September 22 at 7:30 pm at the Manchester-Essex High School Auditorium on 36 Lincoln Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA and on  Sunday, September 23 at 2 pm at the Dolan Performing Arts Center at Ipswich High School on 134 High Street, Ipswich, MA. Pre-Concert Lectures begin 30 minutes prior to the start of each concert. Single ticket prices are $43 for adults, $38 for senior citizens, $15 for students of any age; $5 for youth 12 years old and under. For information, call 978-281-0543 or visit

« Older Entries