BEAUTIFUL FALL MIGRATION

Cape Ann, and throughout Coastal Massachusetts, is experiencing a magnificent late summer and early fall migration, and not just with Monarchs. Other species of butterflies migrating in plentiful numbers include Painted Ladies and Buckeyes. All along our beaches and waterways, from Rockport to Gloucester to Manchester to Essex, we are seeing steady streams of shorebirds, waders, and songbirds gathering. Several mass movements of Green Darners have come ashore, too.

Clover Plover Killdeer Chick, June 2019

A small flock of Killdeers at Good Harbor Beach was recently observed. It’s difficult to know for certain if they are the same family that nested this summer (our Clover Plovers), but they certainly appeared to have a routine, first dining on crickets during the hour before dawn in the marsh, then flying over to the Creek to take a family bath.

Killdeer eating a cricket at GHB

Killdeers Good Harbor Beach September 21, 2019

When out and about, take a look for Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Whimbrels, and Spotted Sandpipers, to name just some. The young Ring-tailed Duck is still here, too, and I am wondering if she’ll be calling Cape Ann home this winter.

Ring-tailed Duck female nodding off while swimming 

FRIENDS OF LITTLE CHICK

Common Tern delivering breakfast to its fledgling.

Here are a collection of recent photos of different species of shorebirds and songbirds gathering and migrating along Cape Ann beaches that Little Chick may encounter on his journey south.

During the spring breeding season Piping Plover mating adults chase all other birds out of their territory, from the largest Black-backed Gull to the tiniest Song Sparrow. At this time of year, during the summer southward migration, you’ll often see PiPl feeding alongside other PiPl, as well as with Semipalmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Killdeers, peeps, terns, and gulls.

Ruddy Turnstones

Ruddy Turnstones Photobombed

Common Tern fledgling squawking for breakfast.

Won’t someone, anyone, please, please feed me! Unlike Piping Plover chicks, Common Tern chicks cannot feed themselves at birth. Common Tern chicks can walk and swim, but it will be many weeks before they learn to fish.

Tree Swallows massing, foraging in dunes rich with insects and berries.

Bonaparte’s Gulls

 

Compare Common Tern in the foreground to Bonaparte’s Gull in the background. Both have red-orange legs and feet and both are black-headed. The easiest way to differentiate when on the beach is the Common Tern’s bill is orange; the Bonaparte’s Gull’s bill is black. 

 

Least Sandpipers are the smallest of peeps. Note how beautifully camouflaged are they in the drying seaweed at the high tide line.

Daybreak and early morning are often the most beautiful time of day to see wildlife.

RED KNOTS OR WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS?, PIPING PLOVERS, BLACK BELLIED PLOVERS, YELLOW LEGS, MONARCHS, AND MORE: CAPE ANN WINGED CREATURE UPDATE

Nine Piping Plovers napping Gloucester copyright Kim SmithNine Piping Plovers Napping 

WONDERFUL creatures are currently migrating through our shores. How blessed are we who live along the Atlantic Flyway. Whether traveling by shore or by sea, there is this great and continual movement of life happening always in our midst.

Many thanks to my friend Jeff Denoncour, Trustees of Reservations Ecologist for the Northeast Region, for assistance with identifying the birds. I met Jeff earlier this summer when he kindly took me out to the tippy far end of Cranes to film the Piping Plovers nesting there.

Additionally we have seven tiny Monarch caterpillars in terrariums. It’s so late in the season for these teeny ones. Last year at this time we were releasing adult butterflies and I worry that they are not going to pupate in time to successfully migrate to Mexico. The caterpillars are too small to handle, but if any of the kids in our community would like to come see, please comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. The last of the Cecropia Moth caterpillars has not yet pupated and he is fun to watch as well.

Here are some photos to help you identify our migrating feathered friends.

Black bellied Plover Semipalmated Plover Massachusetts copyright Kim Smith

Compare the larger size of the Black-bellied Plover in the foreground with the Semipalmated Plover and Semiplamated Sandpiper in the background

Yellow Legs

Red Knot non breeding plumage copyright Kim Smith

The above group of four photos are of either a pair of Red Knots or White-rumped Sandpipers in non breeding plumage. The White-rumped Sandpiper is thought to migrate an even greater distance than the Red Knot, from Canada’s Arctic Islands to the Southern tip of South America, and some further still to islands near the Antarctic Peninsula. These shy birds did not allow for human interest and the photos were taken at some distance.

Juvenile Laughing Gull copyright Kim Smith

Juvenile Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull copyright Kim SmithAdult Laughing Gull

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