Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

A FINE FROGGY DINNER FOR A LITTLE BLUE HERON

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.

LUMINESCENT SEA SALPS

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 (kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com) 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.

TRAILER! NEW FILM -“RECIPE FOR DISASTER: GREEN CRABS IN THE GREAT MARSH”

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.

 

OTTER KIT STEALS FROG FROM OTTER MOM?

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.

NEW FILM! SCREENING OF NUBAR ALEXANIAN’S STUNNING DOCUMENTARY “RECIPE FOR DISASTER”

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.

R.A.T.S. – RAPTORS ARE THE SOLUTION!

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.

PROGNOSIS NOT LOOKING GOOD

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

THANK YOU COURTNEY RICHARDSON AND THE CAPE ANN MUSEUM KIDS!

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!

 

MONARCH MADNESS!

Four Monarchs eclosing and nineteen caterpillars becoming chrysalises, all in a day! And we have a new batch of caterpillars, just in time for my program tomorrow morning at the Cape Ann Museum. I hope to see you there!

Many thanks to my friend Jan Crandall for the caterpillars. She has a gorgeous butterfly garden and this morning there were dozens and dozens of caterpillars on her Common Milkweed plants.

Velvet wings drying in the morning sun.

Monarch Conference

CATERPILLAR CONDO

Caterpillar Condo

Several readers have written to ask how do I manage to have so many Monarch Butterfly caterpillars and chrysalises. The answer is very simple–because we have planted a wonderful little milkweed patch! We grow both Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) side-by-side. Our milkweed patch is planted near our kitchen. When washing the dishes, I can look out the window and watch all the pollinators and fabulous activity that takes place at the milkweed patch.

Several weeks ago, a Mama Monarch arrived and I watched as she gently floated from leaf to leaf, and bud to bud, ovipositing one golden egg at a time. She went back and forth between the Common and Marsh, depositing eggs on both the tender upper foliage as well as the more sturdy lower leaves. I waited for her to leave, but not too long (because the eggs are quickly eaten by spiders) and collected the sprigs with the eggs. I thought I had scooped up about eight eggs and you can imagine our surprise when 19 caterpillars hatched, all within the same day! Female Monarchs like to deposit eggs around the tiny buds of Marsh Milkweed and many of the eggs were hidden within the buds.

Here’s a video of a Mama depositing eggs on Marsh Milkweed buds. Charlotte was with me that day and we were dancing to the song “There She Goes” as the butterfly was depositing her eggs and it was too perfect not to include in the video clip.

Our garden is postage stamp size, but I have managed to fill it with a wide variety of songbird, butterfly, bee, and hummingbird attractants. The great majority of plants are North American native wildflowers and shrubs, and we also include a few nectar-rich, non-native, but non-invasive, flowering plants. Plant, and they will come 🙂

I am super excited to give my children’s program at the Cape Ann Museum on Saturday morning. The program is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

RESCUED MINKE WHALE PHOTOS FROM AL BEZANSON AND IMPORTANT MARINE STRANDING MESSAGE FROM NOAA

Minke Whale Smith’s Cove Gloucester Harbor

Green Dragon Schooner Captain Al Bezanson, who first alerted GMG to the Minke Whale temporarily grounded at Gloucester Harbor, shares his photos and observations. Ainsley Smith, NOAA’s Marine Animal Response Coordinator, shares information on what to do if you see a whale, dolphin, or seal stranded or in distress. With so many whales currently feeding off our shores, as well as the extreme number of seal deaths, we appreciate Ainsley’s advice.

Al writes, “The whale looked to be a juvenile about ten feet long, I thought. Perhaps confused by running aground and kept trying to forge ahead. I did not see the rescue but turning him or her was probably the key to freedom, and moving a rock would provide the space.”
Ainsley writes, “Yesterday morning, a small minke whale got stuck in less than 2 feet of water in Smith Cove, Gloucester. The beaching was reported to us at around 8 a.m., and our Stranding Coordinator immediately left for the scene. The situation was also reported to the harbormaster, the animal control officer, and NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement.

By the time our Stranding Coordinator arrived at 8:30, we are told that a local resident had moved a large boulder that appeared to be preventing the whale from returning to deeper water. Our Stranding Coordinator, along with the harbormaster, Gloucester animal control officer, and NOAA OLE agent, then searched for the whale throughout the harbor, but were unable to find it again, which is good news! We are hoping the whale made it back to deep water safely.

We appreciate the outpouring of concern for this whale, and understand that it is very hard to watch a whale struggle. We feel the same way, which is why we are in this line of work!

This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that, under federal law, specifically the Marine Mammal Protection Act, only authorized responders are allowed to interact with stranded marine mammals. Often, marine mammals strand because they are in distress, and a trained responder will best know how to evaluate and help the animal. Pushing an animal back into the water may delay treatment or response, and also limits our ability to gather important information to be able to best help. For example, an entangled minke whale was reported near Gloucester last week, so it would have been valuable to examine this whale for injuries and see if it may have been the same one.

Whales in distress can also be dangerous, as they are unpredictable and very powerful. People have been seriously injured or killed trying to help, which is another reason we ask that people wait for trained responders.

The best thing you can do to help a marine mammal in distress is call the NOAA hotline (866-755-6622) or your local stranding response partner, and stand by the animal until help arrives.

Additionally, if people see a marine mammal in an unusual place (like a busy harbor or shallow water), please report it to the hotline so it can be monitored and we can alert people in the area to help keep it safe. We heard several reports yesterday after the stranding that a whale had been seen in the harbor earlier the week, but no one had reported it to us.” 

Minke Whale Smith’s Cove Goucester Harbor Al Bezanson Photo

BREAKING: STRANDED MINKE WHALE RESCUED GLOUCESTER HARBOR

Minke Whale Image 7 Seas Whale Watch

Early this morning Al Bezanson reported that a Minke Whale was caught on a small rock in Smith’s Cove, next to the Studio Restaurant. A kind group of Rocky Neck neighbors removed the rock and the whale swam away instantly. The whale appeared to be recovering from its entanglement and, as Mona Faherty reports, did an arcing dolphin-like move after swimming to the middle of the Cove.

The small rock, about a foot and half, that entangled the whale.

The Minke may possibly be injured. Please keep an eye out and if you see the whale contact the Northeast Marine Mammal hotline at 866-755-6622. Thank you!

NOAA official Ainsley Smith and Animal Control Officer Teagan Dolan looking for the whale.

HUNTING FOR MONARCH BUTTERFLY CATERPILLARS

I am super excited to give my children’s program at the Cape Ann Museum on Saturday morning. The program is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

 

Does anyone by chance have young caterpillars in the garden at this time? All my current, and very mature caterpillars, are about to pupate at any moment. I’d like to have more than chrysalis’s to share with the kids. Please email me at kimsmithdesigns.com if yes; I would love to stop by before Saturday’s program. Thank you!

BUTTERFLIES AND BIRD POOH, SAY WHAT?

Red Admiral Butterfly with wings folded, resembling tree bark.

Birds are an adult butterfly’s number one enemy and over millennia, butterflies have evolved with many different strategies to avoid being eaten.

Monarch Butterfly and Tropical Milkweed

Some butterflies, like Monarchs, taste terrible, because the caterpillar’s food plant milkweed has toxic and foul tasting substances. The Monarch caterpillar has evolved to withstand the poisonous milky sap, but a bird that attempts to eat the caterpillar may become ill, and even die. The vivid black, yellow, and white stripes of the caterpillar, along with the brilliant orange and black wing pattern of the adult butterfly, are forms of aposematic coloring. Their bright colors warn of danger to would be predators.

Great Spangled Fritillary with iridescent spots.

The wings of other butterflies, like the Great Spangled Fritillary and Blue Morpho, are patterned with iridescent scales. The iridescence creates little flashes of light when in flight, which confuses predatory birds.

The friendly Red Admiral employs the strategy of mimicry for protection from birds. When its wings are folded, the butterfly is perfectly camouflaged against the bark of a tree trunk. And if that isn’t protection enough, the outer margins of the wings resemble splodges of bird poop!

 *   *   *

Have you ever had a butterfly land on your arm? It was probably a Red Admiral. The word friendly is often used to describe these beautiful butterflies but, it isn’t really friendship they are wanting. Red Admirals are attracted to the salt in your perspiration and will alight to have a sip of sweat.

 

JUVENILE SHARP-SHINNED OR COOPER’S HAWK?

What do you think local birders – juvenile Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk? Thank you for your comments!

A CHITTERING, CHATTERING, CHETAMNON CHIPMUNK GOOD MORNING TO YOU, TOO!

The common name chipmunk is believed to be derived from the word chetamnon, the word given this small member of the squirrel family by the Chippewa Indians. If you’ve ever heard a chipmunk chattering away in the morning, it’s easy to understand why the Chippewa gave it the very onomatopoeic sounding chetamnon. Their genus name, Tamias, is Greek for treasurer, steward, or housekeeper, a reference to their habit of collecting and storing seeds, nuts, and acorns for the winter.

BELTED KINGFISHER

Look for this amazing bird at our local ponds and streams–amazing I think, for the way she hunts. The Kingfisher can hover mid-air, high above still water and then plunge straight down, plucking frog or fish from the depths of the pond. This one is always on the other side of the pond and I only become aware of her presence by her telltale crickley song. One of these days I hope she’ll come a little closer so we can have a much better look.Female Belted Kingfisher

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