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?


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.


December Long Night’s Moon


Not really gross, but actually quite beneficial!

Song Sparrow eating caterpillars copyright Kim Smith

Through my camera’s lens, I thought this sweet little Song Sparrow was hopping around with a breakfast of leaves until downloading the photos. Rather, his mouth is stuffed with what appears to be the larvae of the Winter Moth, those annoying little green caterpillars that dangle from trees, which pupate into the dreaded adult Winter Moths, which are destroying trees and shrubs throughout the region. So, thank you Song Sparrow!

The Song Sparrow was most likely bringing the caterpillars to its nestlings. Although adult Song Sparrows prefer seeds, to a newly hatched bird a plump juicy green caterpillar is easy to digest and rich in nutrients. As a matter of fact, most songbirds rear their young on insects. The Song Sparrow photo illustrates yet another reason why it is so important not to spray trees with pesticides and herbicides. When a landscape is pesticide free, a natural balance returns. Insects are bird food!

Provocative Pokeweed

The charming note posted below was in my inbox today. I thought Fred would enjoy, as would our GMG readers find interesting.

Allen writes:

Dear Madame Butterfly,

(You may recognize my name as an infrequent commenter on

GMG. More importantly, I am an FOF, Friend of Fred Bodin, although he NEVER invited me to his gallery soires !!!!!)

I always read your GMG posts and enjoy and learn from them.

I have a plant that comes up in my back yard and grows to a height of 5 or 6 feet. This week it fell down. Do you know what it is? Can I cut it up safely and dispose of it? Should I throw it over the fence in the back and let wildlife eat the berries?

Any help, thanks,



Hi Allen,

Allen, as an FOF and FOB, of course you are invited to ALL GMG soirées. I hope you’ll come to the mug-up this Saturday morning at E.J.’s new summer gallery on Rocky Neck. I am planning to go, but will not get there until closer to 11:00. I look forward to meeting you!

American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is what you have growing in your backyard. Pokeweed possesses nearly as many common names as the birds that find nourishment from its fruit, including pokeberry, Virginia poke, inkberry, ink weed, bear’s grape, American spinach, and American nightshade. The American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, European Starling, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, and Pileated Woodpeckers are some of the birds that dine on the fruits of pokeberry. Many mammals such as Red Fox, Virginia Opossum, Raccoon, White-footed Mouse, and Black Bear eat the berries, too.


Pokeweed can grow to ten feet, with an equally as long taproot as is it is tall in height. It typically grows in disturbed areas, pastures, roadsides, fencerows, open woods, and woodland borders. All parts of the plant are toxic to people and livestock, and especially to children. The root is the most toxic and the berries the least. It is not recommended to add to you compost. If you have children visiting your garden, I would suggest that you talk to them about the plant’s toxicity, and only throw it over you fence if beyond your fence is part of your property. To control a plant, cut below the root crown. An older plant may have a ten foot taproot, which would be very difficult to dig up.



Images courtesy wiki commons.

Look Who Stopped By The All You Can Eat Bird Buffet Today

PrintTodays cold  weather  brought a steady flow of visitors to our backyard buffet…





I am so pleased with the success of this bird feeder click link below to see how it was made

Sista Felicia’s Recipe For Feeding Your Backyard Birds

Posted on January 8, 2014 by Sista Felicia

Sista Felicia’s Recipe For Feeding Your Backyard Birds


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There always seems to be a plentiful assortment of birds feeding and playing in our backyard. For years, I have been drawing our little friends to visit with my used cooking oil, day old loafs of bread, stale cereal and crackers.  After hearing this weeks predicted weather forecast, I  decided to do a little research on homemade bird suet, and learned that with a little creativity and time, I could treat our backyard birds to an ample supply of nourishing goodness! With in 5 minutes of hanging, 3 Red Cardinal, 3 Blue Jay, 2 Yellow Finch, 1 Sparrow, and a woodpecker appeared. My brother Joey ran to grab his camera and we both I sat on the bench in my my breakfast nook peering out the window… As we watched this saying came to mind…”If you build it they will come!”  

A fun project to do with the kids …take some photos and send them to me…I will post them with our growing list of GMG Cooks!


1  3.5 lbs. bag Classic Wild Bird Feed

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup peanuts

2 cups cornmeal

1 3/4 cups  leftover cooked meat fat, cut in small pieces

2 cups lard, Cut into pieces

1 3/4 cups  leftover/used La Spagnola vegetable olive oil blend cooking oil


30 inch plastic tube fish netting(can be found at fishing supply stores, an onion bag can also be used)

4 12 inch lengths twine

1 plastic saucer shaped container(I like to use the bottom section of my cherry tomato container)

waxed paper

6-8  red berry branch pieces

2 zip tie


1 combine first six ingredients in large mixing bowl; mix well

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2 add fat pieces; mix well

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3 add lard pieces and oil; mix well using hands

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4 line cookie sheet with aluminum foil; spread mixture evenly into prepared pan; chill overnight in refrigerator

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5 spread 3 cups birdseed on cookie sheet

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6 remove mixture from refrigerator; shape mixture into one 18×12 inch log shaped piece

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7 transfer log to cookie sheet with birdseed; roll cover outer surface of log with seeds; transfer to wax paper; wrap

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8 Tie and secure knot at one of fish netting; open netting pouch using your hands; slide waxed paper wrapped log into tube of netting; Remove wax paper; Secure tight knot; fix one zip tie to the top end of fishing net bird feeder

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9 fix 4 holes evenly spaced on sides of plastic saucer shaped container; knot and secure one twine length to each hole; Gather four lengths together and knot; Secure to bottom knot of bird feeder

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10 position red berry branches into holes of fishing net feeder

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11 secure feeder to tree branch or hook to section cup window hook  holder; fill saucer with birdseed; sit back and watch the birds feed!

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