A flock of a dozen male and female Ruddy Ducks were recently spotted on Cape Ann, foraging at fresh water ponds and the marsh. They are really quite funny to watch as they dive for insects, other invertebrates, and aquatic plants and seeds. The males are especially fun and show-offy, animatedly puffing out their chest and fanning their feathers.
The waves along the back shore were pretty terrific the other day
As I was filming a Great Blue Heron, and standing as still as a tree, the beautiful Rusty Blackbird flew on the scene, not four feet away! My heart skipped a beat and I quickly turned my camera on the little blackbird. It’s foraging habit of flipping leaves to uncover insects and plant matter was fascinating and my only wish was that he stayed longer than a brief minute.
Scientists only relatively recently became aware of the dramatic decline of the Rusty Blackbird. Reports show that the population of the RB has plummeted between 80 and 99 percent.
As is the case with so many creatures the whole earth wide, two of the greatest threats facing the Rusty Blackbird are loss of habitat and climate change. The birds are elusive, nesting in remote areas of the great northern boreal forest and wintering over in the wet woodlands of the southeastern United States. Over 80 percent of their winter habitat in the southeast has been lost to development. Changes in the ecosystem of the boreal forests has affected nesting and foraging.
Without doubt, global climate change is the greatest challenge of our day. All living life as we know is in danger. Millions of human lives have been directly impacted by the Earth’s warming temperature. We are at risk of losing thousands of species of flora and wild creatures.
Non-breeding Male Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)
I often think of May as the magical month of migration through Massachusetts, but am beginning to think of October in the same light. At this time of year I don’t have much spare time but when you go out for even the briefest walk, you will encounter beautiful creatures not usually seen. Several days ago it was a Rusty Blackbird! I was only able to capture a single photo, but did catch half a minute of footage. He was pecking vigorously at the water’s edge, lifting and flipping leaves as he darted about looking for insects and plant matter.
Not only do they eat plants and insects, but they have also been documented attacking and eating other birds including sparrows and Robins.
Rusty Blackbirds are migrating through Cape Ann. They breed in the boggy boreal forests of the far north. During winter Rusty Blackbirds can be found at pond edges, swamps, and wet woodlands.
Rusty Blackbirds are mysteriously in sharp decline and sadly, their population has plummeted an estimated 80-99 percent.
My friend Patti Papows shares that she heard a promo on PBS for the Autumnwatch Cape Ann Monarch migration episode, which we believe airs Friday night at 8pm. The BBC team is still editing the segment so if anything changes, we will let you know.
The Monarch migration interview was filmed at Patti’s beautiful garden in Gloucester, at Good Harbor Beach, and the episode includes footage from my forthcoming film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.
Patti is a fantastic hostess and the producer Sophie, cameraman Bobby, and his wife Gina were thrilled with her warm hospitality and the refreshments she provided. It was cold and damp and drizzly, yet despite that, half a dozen Monarchs emerged from the chrysalises I had brought to the interview. Everyone was excited to see this and I think it was all meant to be.
The three night series airs Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8pm (October 17th-19th).
Photos from an October passel of Monarchs migrating along our shores and nectaring at the late blooming asters.
Good Morning Gloucester reader DB took a snapshot and reports that she saw this little Porcupine moseying along the side of the road in Essex on Friday.
The North American Porcupine is more commonly seen in central and western Massachusetts, less so in the eastern regions of our state. Porcupines are nocturnal, preferring to hide away during the day in dens and treetops, which is another reason we don’t often see them in these parts.
So wonderful that DB saw this and was able to get a photo. Thank you for sharing DB!!!
If you regularly listen to our GMG podcasts, we often talk about wildlife. As we have seen the great coyote migration, from west of the Rocky Mountains to every region of the American East and South so too are Black Bears migrating eastward and they have become relatively common in some parts of New England. We talked about this on a recent podcast and I predicted that they would be seen on Cape Ann within five years. After reading the story in the Globe about the Black Bear mama and cub in Amesbury, perhaps we will see them sooner.
Unlike coyotes, which are not native to the Eastern U.S., Black Bears are native to Massachusetts. Legend has it that Rockport’s Bearskin Neck is named for the bear skins drying on the shores of the small peninsula. Prior to 1952, Black Bears were nearly extirpated from Massachusetts because anyone could kill a Black Bear at anytime. Regulations passed in 1952 allowed killing only during hunting season. Because of these conservation efforts, the Bears are making a comeback at an estimated rate of 8 percent annually.
Don’t you think it doubly exciting that a female and her cub were tranquilized in Amesbury? This may tell us that males have established territories much further eastward. A male can cover up to 120 miles annually while a sow with cubs stays within a 12 mile range.
I imagine areas within Dogtown would make ideal Black Bear habitat, with plentiful food, rocky crevices and fallen trees for den-making, fresh water, and a wooded canopy with thick understory. I am looking forward to hearing of the first Cape Ann Black Bear sightings!
Black bears tranquilized after sitting in Amesbury tree for hours
A mother bear and her cub were tranquilized in Amesbury after they spent much of Tuesday morning up a tree, much to the delight of locals who gathered to watch them.
“There were a few scary moments for the crowd,” said Michele Velleman, a Georgetown resident who happened to be in Amesbury. “Everybody was concerned about it.”
“With the assistance of Amesbury firefighters and police, Environmental Police and MassWildlife first immobilized the sow and relocated her to a wooded location, then immobilized the cub and relocated it to the same location,” said Katie Gronendyke, a spokeswoman for the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Some press for the show that I have been working on with the BBC! The shows air October 17-19th, at 8pm. I don’t know yet which night the Cape Ann Monarch episode will play, but will let you know.
PBS announced, as part of its co-production partnership with the BBC, that a new three-part live event, AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND, will air Wednesday-Friday, October 17-19, 2018, at 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings).
Travel journalist Samantha Brown, BBC presenter Chris Packham and wildlife cinematographer Bob Poole will host the multi-platform television experience from alongside Squam Lake, New Hampshire. Similar in format to PBS’ previous summer spectacles BIG BLUE LIVE and WILD ALASKA LIVE, the new series will include a mix of live feeds and pre-taped footage from across New England.
Unique to AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND, the live event will focus on cultural traditions and historical sites in addition to local wildlife and the colorful gold and red landscapes in the region that’s best known for them.
To accomplish this, local experts in food, wildlife, music, literature, and history will join the trio of hosts each night to showcase characteristics special to New England.
“In AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND, audiences will experience exquisite outdoor adventures while surrounded by nature’s most picturesque imagery,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President, Programming & Development, PBS. “We look forward to partnering with the BBC once again to present this ambitious live production and share this American experience with PBS and BBC viewers.”
AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND cameras will be there to capture time-lapse changes of fall foliage; a quest for majestic moose in Maine; the Monarch butterfly migration through Cape Ann, key wildlife species like squirrels, chipmunks and turkey gangs as they invade backyards in preparation for the winter months; and the critters like owls, bats and bears that make the most of nighttime.
Audiences can expect to see segments that highlight Native American history and traditions, Halloween traditions, regional fairs and the many farms that provide the region with its rich varieties of apples, pumpkins, cranberries and maple syrups.
“I’m thrilled that AUTUMNWATCH is moving to New England for this very special week of live programming,” Tom McDonald, BBC Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual, said. “The teams are heading to one of the most iconic locations in the USA to experience the great American ‘fall’ for what promises to be an unforgettable chapter in the Watches’ history.”
Female (left) and male (right) Monarch Butterfly. These two beauties (resting on native wildflower New England Aster) eclosed (emerged) during the BBC filming of the Monarch migration through Cape Ann.
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.
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.
How do week long Experience Weeks that engage in and develop critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity sound?
Check out the Experience Weeks being offered below.
Harborlight Montessori, conveniently located in Beverly, is opening their doors to non-enrolled students, Grades 1-8, to join them during their newly designed Experience Weeks. These weeks are scheduled during February, March, April, and June school vacation weeks to supplement Harborlight’s rich curriculum and provide non-enrolled students opportunities to experience learning with us.
You can also come learn more about these weeks TOMORROW morning at 8:45 on Harborlight’s campus at 243 Essex Street, Beverly
Please note that the June Presidential Traverse with the Appalachian Mountain Club is for Harborlight students only.
If you are interested in joining us please email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the midst of photographing all of the beautiful schooners, I was happy to take a second to appreciate the gorgeous back drop to it all…that is, our Gloucester.
Fun poster (note sponsor Lyon-Waugh) for the 2018 Healey Seaside Summit which has just one more day in our area. I look forward to seeing photographs of these beautiful cars zipping around our scenic shores; send some in to GMG!
Pauline Bresnahan shares this photo and writes: “Ladies from the Austin-Healey summit travelled along our Woman Owned Business on the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway. They are now headed to Beautiful Gloucester Ma to enjoy a sail on Schooner Lannon and the Schooner Ardelle. Thanks Ladies for stopping in.”
The beautiful collection of ducks currently migrating along our shores could also be called ‘A Study in Black and White,’ with a touch of orange, too.
Swimming inshore with the diminutive, albeit more ubiquitous, Buffleheads are Common Goldeneyes. Both sea ducks are members of the Bucephala genus; their name is derived from the ancient Greek word boukephalos, which means bullheaded and is in reference to their bulbously-shaped heads. During courtship rituals, male members of the Bucephala genus puff out their head feathers, making them appear even more buffalo-headed.
How can you tell the two apart when side by side? Goldeneyes are larger than Buffleheads and they have a circular white patch on their cheek, behind the bill.
Female (left) and Male Buffleheads
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has re-vamped their website. From here you can read more about Long-tailed Ducks, but I thought the following was particularly interesting while learning how to distinguish the different plumages. “Unlike most ducks, which molt twice per year, the Long-tailed Duck has three distinct plumages each year, achieved in a complex series of overlapping partial molts. The Definitive Basic Plumage is never worn in its entirety, as portions of Alternate are retained through the summer and elements of the Supplemental are acquired before all of Basic Plumage is obtained. Therefore change in plumage seems continuous from April to October. Unlike other waterfowl, the Long-tailed Duck wears its “breeding” or Alternate Plumage only in the winter. It gets its “nonbreeding” or Basic Plumage in the spring and wears it for the breeding season. Most other ducks wear the nonbreeding plumage only for a short period in the late summer.”
Male and Female Long-tailed Ducks in nonbreeding plumage.
The male Surf Scoter’s well-defined stark white patches against ebony feathers lends this sea duck its common name, “Skunk-headed Coot.” But it is the scoter’s bulbous-at-the-base orange, black and white patterned bill that I find interesting and almost comical. The female is a plainer dull blackish-brownish with light colored patches, one behind each eye and at the base of the bill.
The number of, and locations of, Brant Geese appear to be increasing as they are readying for the long migration to the Arctic breeding grounds. Brants migrate the greatest distance of any North American goose.Brant breakfast.
A lone Canada Goose joined the scene for a moment, but his presence was not welcome by the Brants. His appearance provided a terrific opportunity though to compare the size difference between the Brant and the Canada Goose. You can see in the photo below, the Brant is quite a bit smaller, but that didn’t prevent one from chasing away the Canada Goose.
The sunsets at Lanescove never disappoint,, Friday nights sunset,
Driving around the back shore in Gloucester there are so many incredible views of our gorgeous town, this scene is no different. As I approached the Beacon Marine the light was changing fast I knew there wasn’t much time so I quickly pulled over and grabbed gear and set up through the railings just in time,
The avian northward migration is heating up! The following are just three of the fascinating species of wild birds readily seen at this time of year, found all around Cape Ann. Look for Brants, Scaups, and Ring-necked Ducks at coves, bays, ponds, quarries, and marshes.
Currently migrating along Cape Ann’s shoreline is a beautiful brigade of Brant Geese. They usually turn up at about this time of year, late winter through early spring, and I have been looking for them in all the usual places. Brants thrive in Cape Ann coves, devouring sea lettuce while riding the incoming and outgoing waves. I see them eating and pecking for food atop barnacle-crusted rocks and am not sure if they are eating seaweed caught on the rocks or tiny crustaceans.
Brants eating bright green sea lettuce.
In the 1930s a terrible disease devastated eel grass and the Brant population plummeted. Surviving Brants adapted to sea lettuce and as the eel grass recovered, so too is the population of Brants recovering.
Brants are wonderfully vocal, making a funny “cronk” sound. I was walking past a flock of geese off in the distance and wasn’t paying much attention. Thinking they were Canada Geese, I ignored them until hearing their vigorous cronking.
They fight with each too, over rocks and food. Tomorrow if I can find the time I will try to post photos that I took of a Brant scuffle.
Brants feeding on the rocks are knocked off by the incoming tide, but then quickly get right back up again.
Brants migrate the furthest north of any species of goose, as far north as Hedwig territory.
The Greater Scaup breeds as far north as Snowy Owls and Brant Geese, and Ring-necked Ducks are also passing through, not traveling quite as far, but on their way to the Alaskan and Canadian boreal forests. Greater Scaups travel in flocks, sometimes forming rafts of thousands. You can see why in the photos Greater Scaups are colloquially called Bluebills.
Three male Scaups and a Red-breasted Merganser
The most significant threat to Greater Scaups is habitat loss, oil, and sewage pollution. Nearly eighty percent winter over in the Atlantic Flyway where they are subjected to heavy metals in foods and habitat.
The two species are closely related (Aythya collaris and Atythya marila); both are small diving ducks and both are vulnerable to becoming poisoned by lead from diving for food and incidentally eating the lead shot and lures that continues to cause problems in our wetlands.
READ MORE HERE
Sometimes things just line up for you. While watching and waiting for our Snowy Owl to take flight and hunt,, she landed on this telephone pole perfectly aligned with the moon..
I also love to photograph wildlife,, i had found this screech owl about a month ago and have visited the tree a few times sense.i knew once the snow started Thursday I️ had to get a shot with the falling snow, and thankfully he was just sitting there..