CAPE ANN EARLY SPRING WILDLIFE UPDATE

Hello Friends,

I hope you are all doing well, or as well as can be expected during this heartbreaking pandemic event. The following kind words were spoken by Pope Francis today and I think they could not be truer.

“We are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed,” he said.

“All of us called to row together, each of us in need of each other.”

In the world of wildlife spring migration is well underway and gratefully, nothing has changed for creatures small and large. That may change though in the coming days as resources for threatened and endangered species may become scarce.

A friend posted on Facebook that “we are all going to become birders, whether we like it or not.” I love seeing so many people out walking in the fresh air and think it is really the best medicine for our souls.

Several times I was at Good Harbor Beach over the weekend and people were being awesome practicing physical distancing. Both Salt Island Road and Nautilus Road were filled with cars, but none dangerously so, no more than we would see at a grocery store parking lot. I’m just getting over pneumonia and think I will get my old bike out, which sad to say hasn’t been ridden in several years. Cycling is a great thing to do with a friend while still practicing distancing and I am excited to get back on my bike.

An early spring wildlife scene update

The Niles Pond juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron made it through the winter!! He was seen this past week in his usual reedy location. Isn’t it amazing that he/she survived so much further north than what is typical winter range for BCHN.

Many of the winter resident ducks are departing. There are fewer and fewer Buffleheads, Scaups, and Ring-necked Ducks seen at our local waterways and ponds.

Male and Female Scaups

No sign lately of the American Pipits. For several days there were three! Snow Buntings at the berm at Brace Cove.

I haven’t seen the Northern Pintail in a over a week. Sometimes the Mallards play nice and on other days, not so much.

Male Northern Pintail and Mallards

As some of the beautiful creatures that have been residing on our shores depart new arrivals are seen daily. Our morning walks are made sweeter with the songs of passerines courting and mating.

Black-capped Chickadee collecting nesting fibers and foraging

Song Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Robins, Cardinals, Chicadees, Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, and Carolina Wrens are just a few of the love songs filling backyard, fields, dunes, and woodland.

Newly arrived Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets have been spotted at local ponds and marshes.

Cape Ann’s Kildeers appeared about a week or so ago, and wonderful of wonderful news, a Piping Plover pair has been courting at Good Harbor Beach since they arrived on March 22, a full three days earlier than last year.

Kildeers

Why do I think it is our PiPls returned? Because Piping Plovers show great fidelity to nesting sites and this pair is no exception. They are building nest scrapes in almost exactly the same location as was last year’s nest.

Piping Plover Nest Scrape Good Harbor Beach 2020

I’m not sure if the Red Fox photographed here is molting or is the early stages of mange. It does seem a bit early to be molting, but he was catching prey.

We should be seeing Fox kits and Coyote pups any day now, along with baby Beavers, Otters, and Muskrats 🙂

It’s been an off year for Snowy Owls in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic with relatively many fewer owls than that wonderful irruptive winter of 2017-2018 when Hedwig was living on the back shore. 2019 was a poor summer for nesting however, reports of high numbers of Lemmings at their eastern breeding grounds are coming in, which could mean a good nesting season for Snowies in 2020, which could lead to many more Snowies migrating south in the winter of 2020-2021.

Take care Friends and be well ❤

Mini-nature lover ❤

AMERICAN PIPIT PAIR ARE STILL HERE!

Throughout the winter of 2019-2020 we have been graced with a sweet pair of Pipits. As you can see from the map, we are fairly far north of their winter range. Sunday, March 15th, the two were seen again in their usual location at Brace Cove.  They have found plenty to eat, between the wildflower seed heads and the tiny mollusks and insects available in the seaweed.

SWAN ALERT!

A young Mute Swan arrived at Niles Pond this morning. He /she seems a bit travel weary and spent most of the day sleeping. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see him eat once. This is very unusual behavior for Mute Swans who spend their days alternating between foraging, preening, resting briefly, and then resuming eating.

He at first was closer to shore, but a Coyote was skittering around the edge of the pond this morning and perhaps that is why the young visitor moved to the center of the pond.

You can see that he is very young because he has so much brown in his feathers.

WILD WAVE WEEKEND TOUR #GLOUCESTERMA GOOD HARBOR BEACH, TWIN LIGHTS, STRAITSMOUTH ISLAND LIGHT, BRACE COVE

Spectacular wildy waves after the March 6th storm. And stunning sunrise this am. Photos from around the back shore of Cape Ann, from Gloucester to Rockport, taken Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

 

BEAUTIFUL CAPE ANN WINTER WILDLIFE UPDATE

Our shores abound with wonderful wild creatures we more often see in wintertime, and species we can view better because the trees are bare. The duo of male American Wigeons are still here, as are the pair of Pipits. I watched yesterday afternoon as the Pipits flew away from the beach in unison, and then returned together about twenty minutes later to continue to forage in the seaweed and sand.

American Wigeons

American Pipits

It’s easier to catch a glimpse of a Downy Woodpecker pecking and a wasp nest in the tangle of thickets when viewed through naked limbs and branches.

The Harbor Seals are seen almost daily. One day last week 24 were present!

A sleepy-eyed female Common Eider was peacefully resting on the beach. I know she was okay because on our way back she slipped back into the surf.

Song Sparrow
Red-breasted Merganser

And that’s our Charlotte, my favorite wild one, and ever at the ready to go exploring. After we get dressed in the morning she chortles, “Now I’m ready for action Mimi.”

A PAIR OF PIPITS AT BRACE COVE!

Don’t you just love the name ‘Pipit?’ At first glance the American Pipit looks rather like a Plain Jane but their sweet name complements their spunky personality. I loved watching them energetically forage on the beach as they ran hither and thither wagging their tails and craning their necks chicken-like while searching for tiny bits of seafood amongst the popples and seaweed.

With a silhouette that looks something like a slender and smaller American Robin, and a facial expression to match, I was having trouble identifying the bird. I emailed John Nelson, author of Flight Calls and a recent guest on our podcast, and he knew just what they were.

The photos were taken in low light and at some distance, but you can still get a good idea of what to look for. In Massachusetts, the American Pipit is reportedly seen during spring and fall migration, much less so in winter. They breed in both the high Arctic tundra as well as alpine meadows. Their varied habitats include mudflats, sandbars, airfields, and farms.

Notice the Pipits long, long hind claws – excellent for foraging on the ground.

American Pipit range map

 

THE WONDERFULLY WHACKY FEET OF THE AMERICAN COOT!

Positively pre-historic looking, I was amazed when watching an American Coot lift its foot out of the water. What on earth!

Have you ever seen such wildly wonderful feet?

The Coot’s whacky-looking feet only adds to the charm of this adorable waterbird, with its chicken-shaped silhouette, white pointed beak that ends in a sploge of maroon, and garnet, bead-like eyes. Oh, and when the light hits just right, you can see the Coot’s feet are colored in shades of blue, green, and yellow.

The American Coot’s foot is an all-purpose foot so to speak. The lobes serve the bird well for both walking on dry land and for swimming. Most ducks have webbed feet, which are great for propelling through water, but which don’t work very well on land. The Coot’s lobes fall back when lifting its foot, which aids in walking on a variety of surfaces including grass, ice, and mud.

The Coot’s oversized feet also help in becoming airborne; the bird must run across the surface of the water and flap its wings vigorously in order to take off. Its palmate toe helps it swim, and lastly, the Coot uses its strong feet for battling other Coots.

Before the current cold snap, there was a small flock of Coots at Niles Pond, foraging on pond vegetation alongside the flock of four Swans. They all departed shortly before the snowstorm.

The American Coot chicks are equally as whacky looking as are the adult birds. Image courtesy wikicommonsmedia.

American Coot range map.

#GLOUCESTERMA SNOWSTORM HIGH TIDE EASTERN POINT LIGHTHOUSE, BACKSHORE, GOOD HARBOR BEACH SURFERS, TWIN LIGHTS, AND TURKEYS

At sunset this evening, the skies cleared for a bit and one could see the snowstorm departing in an easterly direction, while more squalls were beginning to blow ashore from the west. The nearly half-Moon was rising over the marsh through the clouds. Swells along the backshore were larger than average, but nothing nearly as dramatic as the waves during a nor’easter. Perhaps the waves were bigger on the other side of the Island.

Although I didn’t get a snapshot, the small flock of Wild Turkeys was leaping about at the base of a bird feeder, hungrily looking for food. Which was actually pretty funny because grace is decidedly not a characteristic shared with these large-bottom birds. I wished I had a handful to give them.

 

BEAUTIFUL WILDLIFE CURRENTLY AT EASTERN POINT, BRACE COVE, AND NILES POND – GREAT BLUE HERON, HARBOR SEALS, AMERICAN COOTS, BONAPARTE’S GULLS, RUDDY DUCKS, RING-NECKED DUCKS, LARK SPARROW AND WILL THE RECENTLY DEPARTED SWANS RETURN?

The past week Eastern Point has seen a wonderful influx of wildlife, in addition to the beautiful creatures already wintering over and migrating through.

On Tuesday before Thanksgiving, a great raft of Ring-necked Ducks joined the flock of Buffleheads and Mallards at Niles Pond. Five chunky American Coots have been there for over a week, and two female Ruddy Ducks have been spotted.

American Coot

Fifteen Harbor Seals were sunning and basking on the rocks at Brace Cove on Wednesday, along with several Bonaparte’s Gulls that were diving and foraging in the waves. The increasingly less timid Lark Sparrow is still here, too.

Lark Sparrow

Great Blue Heron agitating the Ring-necked Ducks

The most enigmatic of Great Blue Herons criss crosses the pond a dozen times a day but, unlike last year’s fall migrating GBH, who allowed for a closer glimpse, this heron is super people shy. He has been here for about a week and was present again today.

This morning I watched the four beautiful Mute Swans depart over Brace Rock, in a southerly direction. Will they return? Mute Swans migrate from body of water to body of water within a region. Perhaps they will return, or they could possibly have flown to a nearby location–further exploring our Island.

The four had not returned to Niles Pond by day’s end. If any of our readers sees a group of four Mute Swans, please write and let us know. Thank you so much!

 

Leaving Niles Pond this morning and flying over Brace Cove.

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU!

Happy Thanksgiving to all our Friends of the Blog!

Each and every day we are thankful for your interest, kind comments, and suggestions. I hope your Thanksgiving  is filled with family, friends, and joy. 

Today’s Brace Cove sunrise – My heart is filled with gratitude for this beautiful, beautiful island we call home and for the amazing and fascinating wild creatures that call our shores home.

I think I speak for many in the community in that we are so especially grateful for the return of Swans!

GOOD MORNING BROUGHT TO YOU BY BRACE COVE SUNRISE AND SEASMOKE

Several days ago at daybreak after photographing the setting Moon, I popped over to Brace Cove. The temperature was 19, the wind was biting. and my hands were already frozen stiff from photographing the Moon. I only stayed for a moment but as you can see, the seas smoke was rising in the distance. Happy for the return of warmer temperatures, albeit however brief!

THE LOLLYGAGGERS HAVE RETURNED IN CONCERT – THIRTEEN SEALS HAULED OUT AT BRACE COVE SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Thirteen Harbor Seals warming on the rocks, plus a few bobbing heads spotted around the harbor. This charming duo was the most photogenic of the bunch 🙂

THE SMALL FLOCK OF FOUR BEAUTIFUL SWANS IS SETTLING IN

The flock of Mute Swans that arrived just about two weeks ago at Niles Pond is settling in. They are finding plenty to eat and spend their days foraging at pond vegetation, preening, napping, and occasionally stretching their wings for a flight around the pond.

Mute Swans migrate from body of water to body of water within a region. Will they stay in our area or is Niles Pond only a temporary home? When Niles Pond, and all other freshwater ponds and waterways freeze this winter, they will have to move to saltwater coves and harbors. 

The absence of Mr. Swan has allowed this small flock to live peaceably at Niles Pond. Mr. Swan and his previous mates spent the winters at Rockport and Gloucester Harbors. Perhaps our Niles Pond flock will do the same. We can tell by the lack of gray in their feathers that they are at least two years old, which means they have managed to survive at least one winter in our region. That is no small feat!

Romance is in the air with these two!