MISSING: ONE BEAUTIFUL BLUE-EYED MR. SWAN

 

Friends, If you have seen a solitary swan in your neighborhood, please write and let us know in either the comments or at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. We haven’t seen him in his usual places since Easter. He sometimes takes off for an extended rendezvous, but this one seems unusually long.

If close enough, you can see that Mr. Swan has very distinct blue eyes. Most of the Mute Swans in our region have black eyes.

UPDATE ON THE THREE YOUNG SWANS

While out doing errands, I always hope to have time to take the “scenic route,” which usually means driving by one or more of our local bodies of water, whether sea, pond, marsh, or river. The day before I left for Mexico I was wonderfully surprised to spy the Three Graces swimming in a marsh on the other side of Cape Ann. There was still snow on the ground, but they were right at home foraging in the salt water marsh for vegetation.

Swans don’t migrate long distances, but move around from body of water to body of water within a region. These three siblings were most likely kicked out of their family and nesting area by the dad, as he is preparing to mate and nest with the mom to produce the next brood of cygnets. The Three Graces won’t be mature enough to mate and lay eggs for at least two more years and during this time, I imaging they are learning the lay of the land, where food may be plentiful and where may be a good place to nest. Swans are at their most vulnerable in these first few years of life. Hopefully at least one will survive and decide to make Cape Ann his/her future home!

THE YOUNG SWANS RETURN!

Three Young Graces Update No. 3

Although Niles Pond had refroze, I wasn’t expecting to see the young swans, especially after sunset. But there they were, all three, sitting in the near dark on the ice.

They were taking turns drinking fresh water from a small opening in the ice. I watched for a moment when suddenly all three stood. In unison, they took a running start across the ice and were quickly airborne, flying in a northwest direction.

Where had they been and where were they flying to when nearly dark?

 

FEATHERED FURY, FEATHERED GLORY – MR. SWAN, RULER OF CAPE ANN’S WATERWAYS, RETURNS

Three Young Graces Update No. 2

Niles Pond thawed, and so too was the knowledge that Mr. Swan would return. He is the bird-ruler of Cape Ann’s waterways, from Gloucester Harbor to Rockport Harbor, and vigilantly patrols all our local ponds and inlets. Mr. Swan does not take kindly to other swans in his territory. 

I checked in on the Three Graces at day’s end, and they were contentedly preening after a full day of eating.

Swanference

The following morning I returned and there was Mr. Swan, but no young swans. Although I did not see a battle take place, Mr. Swan’s behavior can only be described as victorious. Swans do a thing called busking when they want to appear big and bad and that is exactly what he was doing. Swimming with vigor and much greater speed than usual, he was patrolling one end of the pond to the other, with his feathers all busked out. It’s a swan’s way, and his territorial behavior is in part what has contributed to his longevity. Mr. Swan is more than thirty years old. I do so hope no one was injured, though.

Feathered Fury, Feathered Glory – Mr. Swan Busking

Perhaps the pond will freeze again, Mr. Swan will head back to Rockport Harbor, and we’ll see the Three Graces at Niles Pond once more.


Busking full speed ahead to the other side of the pond to see if the three young ones are hiding, and then taking a break after what must have been a demanding morning.

UPDATE ON THE THREE GRACES MUTE SWANS AT NILES POND


I’ve been calling the three young swans that arrived at Niles the Three Graces, but my husband reminds that they could also be the Three Amigos. It’s nearly impossible to tell whether a young swan is male or female without a DNA test. When they reach breeding age, at about four years old, the male’s blackberry (black protuberance above the bill) becomes swollen during mating season.

Our young swans are first hatch year, meaning this is their first year of life. They hatched last spring. Late winter is the time of year when Dad swan kicks the young swans out of the family group, to make room for the next brood.

The swans forage nearly nonstop at the pond vegetation. They don’t mind at all the dabbling ducks that feed adjacent to them. The ducks are stealing away smaller bits of vegetation left behind by the deeply diving swans. Periodically the youngsters pause to preen, but then hungrily resume eating.

Scenes from Niles Pond and Brace Cove while checking in on the Three Graces

Notice the young swans are all have black eyes. This is typical for swans in our area. Mr. Swan, on the other hand, has beautifully distinct blue eyes.

THREE GRACES – BEAUTIFUL YOUNG SWANS AT NILES POND!

A beautiful trio of young Mute Swans spent the day at Niles Pond foraging on pond vegetation and enjoying fresh water. When the fresh water ponds thaw, we see our local swans take a break from their salty harbor refuges. The Three Graces spent the entire day eating nearly nonstop, which suggests they are very hungry.

I believe the three young swans are not quite one year old. Their bills are pale, and brown first-molt feathers mix with incoming white feathers. It’s their first winter so if you see the young swans, please be kind.

Mr. Swan, too, has been enjoying the fresh water at Henry’s Pond. He’s so territorial that I hope he stays over in Rockport for a bit so the Three Graces can fortify at Niles.


Mr. Swan thawing at Henry’s Pond

MR. SWAN ALERT!

Dear Readers,

Over the weekend the Rockport Fire Department was called by a well-meaning person because they thought Mr. Swan was stuck in the ice. Believe me when I write that Mr. Swan has spent the last 29 years of his life (at least 29 years) on Cape Ann’s wintry waterways. If Mr. Swan finds himself partially frozen in the ice he uses his mighty breast to break up the ice by lifting his body out of the water and then coming down hard, pounding the ice with his chest. We have seen him do this powerful move dozens of times.

Notice Mr. Swan’s large and well-defined breast bones, which are ideal for breaking up ice.

There was a concern last year about him being unable to get off ice he had unwittingly flown onto, only because he had an injured foot. With his gimpy foot, he could not get a running start to take off flying. Mr. Swan’s foot has healed and he is doing beautifully.

It is of grave concern when the local authorities are called regarding Mr. Swan. We are afraid that the case will be referred to Mass Wildlife. Mute Swans are considered an invasive species and it is not part of their protocol to save non-native species of wildlife. As he is a “community” pet, some leeway may be permitted, but that is not guaranteed.

Please contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. When you contact me about any issues regarding Mr. Swan, I in turn contact and discuss with his longtime caretakers and friends Lois and Serena, Lyn, Skip, Joel and Skip, Elaine, and Jodi and Erin at Cape Ann Wildlife. It was a terrible ordeal last time there was an attempt to capture Mr. Swan. We don’t want him to go through that kind of trauma ever again, especially at his age.

During the winter months, Mr. Swan’s territory expands tremendously and it includes the length of the Annisquam River and all inlets, all along the backshore from Rockport Harbor to Gloucester Harbor, and all the fresh bodies of water in between. Please let people know and share this post with everyone you know who may have contact with Mr. Swan.

Mr. Swan in the partially frozen water at Niles Pond

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2018: A YEAR IN PICTURES AND STORIES Part One: Winter

Part One: Winter

By Kim Smith

Cape Ann provides welcome habitat for a menagerie of creatures beautiful, from the tiniest winged wonder to our region’s top predator, the Eastern Coyote. Last year and the previous year I posted Cape Ann Wildlife: A Year in Pictures 2016 and Cape Ann Wildlife: A Year in Pictures 2017. This year I changed the title to A Year in Pictures and Stories and have provided a partial list of some of the stories. You can find links to the posts at the end of each season. I hope you have found the wildlife stories of 2018 equally as interesting and beautiful. Click on the image to find the name of each species.

  *   *   *

The first days of January began with the dramatic rescue of our blue-eyed swan by Mr. Swan’s Niles Pond caretakers, Skip, Lyn, and Dan. He flew onto the ice and could not maneuver off. The most amazing thing is that two black-eyed “angel swans” magically appeared at just the right time they were needed and, in a swan sort of way, helped release Mr. Swan from the ice.

Mr. Swan stuck on the ice.

One of a pair of mystery black-eyed  “angel” swans.

“The” story of the winter of 2018 though is the story of Hedwig, the female Snowy Owl that made Gloucester’s Back Shore her home for several months.

She arrived sometime in December and stayed until mid-March. Hedwig staked out a territory that covered a great part of East Gloucester, from Captain Joes Lobster Company on the inner harbor, up over the Bass Rocks Golf Club hill, and all along Atlantic Road, even battling a young male we called Bubo to maintain her dominance over this rich feeding ground. Late in the afternoon we would see her departing for her nightly hunt and she was seen eating a wide variety of small animals, including rabbits, mice, and Buffleheads.

Hedwig was photographed battling, bathing, grooming, and eating.

Mostly though, Hedwig was observed while sleeping and resting on her various perches; not only the beautiful rocks along the shoreline, but Atlantic Road homeowner’s chimneys, as well as the rooftop railings of the Ocean House Hotel and Atlantis Oceanfront Inn.

Hedwig’s onlookers creating traffic jams on Atlantic Road.

This remarkably people-tolerant owl drew crowds from all over (including a Canadian visitor), providing a wonderful window into the secret world of these most magnificent of Arctic wanderers.

Resident Eastern Coyotes and beautiful migrating ducks were photographed and filmed. And then came the terribly destructive power of the four’easters of March, reeking havoc on wildlife habitats all along the coastline.

Hedwig was last seen during the early evening on March 12th, departing the rooftop of the Ocean House Hotel. This was also the night before the third nor’easter. She was perched on the railing of the Ocean House Inn facing towards the sea. The wind was blowing fiercely. After making several attempts, she successfully flew in a southerly direction out over the water.

We Love You Too Snowy Owl!

Mr. Swan Rescue Update and a Pair of Mysterious Swans Arrive at Niles Pond!
Mr. Swan Update Rescue #2
Not One, But Two Snowy Owls on the Back Shore
Snowy Owl Aerial Fight
Close Encounter of the Coyote Kind
Snowy Owl Hedwig Takes a Bath
My What Big Feet You Have Hedwig
Hello Hedwig! What Are You Eating
How Can the Wings of a Snowy Owl Be Quieter Than a Butterfly’s Wings?
Good Morning Sleepyhead
Snowy Owl Feathers in the Moonlight
Beautiful Brants, Scaups, and Ring-necked Ducks Migrating Right Now On Our Shores
Gloucester March Nor’easters Storm Coverage 2018
Clear Evidence of the Destructive Forces of Global Warming on the Coastline and How this Negatively Impacts Local Wildlife

THRILLING TO SEE SWANS FLYING OVER THE TWIN LIGHTHOUSES!

Friday afternoon, after the nor’easter, the sun came out just barely before the skies again darkened with a brief snow squall. I was driving along Atlantic Road during those fleeting in between moments when way off in the distance I spied a flock of birds, with the distinct shape of swans in flight. Swans fly with their long necks extended, unlike herons and egrets, which fly with their necks tucked in. What is Mr. Swan doing out in this wildly windy weather I thought. But it wasn’t Mr. Swan, it was an entire family of Swans! There were two adults and four cygnets. Stunning to see and very uplifting. They flew over the Twin Lights and then further and further until I could not see them any longer. 

 

The first and third swans are the adults, the second, fourth, fifth and sixth are the cygnets, or first-hatch year juveniles.The young swans will retain their grayish brown feathers until their second summer.

Please write and let me know if you saw the Mute Swan family on Friday afternoon. They were flying along the backshore at about 2:15. Or, if you live on the Northshore and know of any swan family with two adults and four youngsters, I would love to learn more about them. My email address is kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you so much for any leads!

Swans and wave crashing

A few more of the Mute Swan family flying toward and over Thacher Island

MR. SWAN UPDATE

Lookin’ Good Mr. Swan!

Mr. Swan busking, a thing swans do to look twice as large and threatening.

Cape Ann’s beautiful blue-eyed swan is doing quite well especially considering he is at least 28 YEARS OLD. It is highly unusual for a Mute Swan to live that long. Wild Mute Swans live on average eight to twelve years. In captivity, they can live up to 40 years, but our Mr. Swan hardly lives the cushy life of a Queen’s swan.

He is only occasionally a little gimpy on his bad leg. Mr. Swan still manages to rule most of Cape Ann’s waterways, from the Annisquam River to Rockport Harbor, and everything in between.

Rock On, Mr. Swan!

HAPPY EASTER, BUONA PASQUA, HAPPY PASSOVER, AND HAPPY SPRING!

Wishing all our readers a Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Buona Pasqua, and Happy Spring

Happy Spring from our Mr. Swan! He is doing beautifully and is not limping even a tiny bit! Here he is enjoying a recent warm(ish) spring morning. 

MR. SWAN AND THE YOUNG SWAN UPDATE -By Kim Smith

Mr. Swan is back to frequenting both Niles and Henry’s Pond. He’s reveling in the return of warmer temperatures, which with it bring access to his preferred freshwater nesting sites. As I was walking alongside the pond at twilight, he suddenly flew overhead. I wish I had a better photo, but here you can see he is flying well, and it was wonderful to see him looking so full of vigor in the fading rosy light.

The Young Swan is also faring well this winter. His kindhearted caregiver Lyn has taken to calling him Thomas, after Farmer Thomas Niles, who at one time owned all of Eastern Point, and for whom Niles Pond and Niles Beach are named.

MR. SWAN EXPLORING THE ANNISQUAM! -By Kim Smith

A number of friends have been texting and emailing that they are seeing a swan all along the Annisquam. I suspected that it was Mr. Swan as I have seem him on the Annisquam, near the bridge and Cape Ann Marina after he lost his second mate. It would be swan-logical that he would head over to the Annisquam in search of open, fresh water because both Henry’s and Niles ponds are still frozen.

Thanks to Craig Kimberley, who texted a swan sighting in real time, I was able to get a closeup of the swan, and YES, it is Mr. Swan that many of our readers are seeing. Mr. Swan’s bill is uniquely marked and he has beautiful blue eyes, which is unusual for most Mute Swans seen in these parts. In the closeup photo above it is difficult to tell his eyes are blue. It’s much easier to notice when his eyes reflect sunlight, but trust me, if it were a black-eyed swan, you would not be able to distinguish the iris at all.

Thanks so much to Craig, Brianne, and facebook friends for sharing your Mr. Swan sightings, so very much appreciated 🙂

Craig Kimberley iPhone photo from this morning.

 The Annisquam River stretches from Annisquam Harbor on the north to Gloucester Harbor on south.

BREAKING: MR. SWAN RESCUE UPDATE -By Kim Smith

Angel Swan Sleeping

Thanks to Lyn Fonzo, Dan Harris, Skip Munroe, Skip Hadden, Duncan, Stephanie, Lillian, a bunch more Eastern Point residents, Steve Monell and a pair of “angel” swans, our Mr. Swan has flown off the ice at Niles Pond. As Lyn shared earlier, two Mute Swans flew to Niles Pond, precisely to the same spot where Mr. Swan was resting. They must have been very tired because the mysterious swans immediately closed their eyes and took a nap while Mr. Swan watched over the pair. He eventually dozed off, too. After a long rest, all three departed the Pond, circling around and then heading over Brace Cove towards Rockport. Mr. Swan had some difficulty but perhaps encouraged by the presence of companions, he successfully took off.

Cape Ann residents please be on the look out for the three swans!

Without Dan and Lyn’s overnight vigilance against a coyote attack, our daybreak watch, and the angel swans I think it unlikely Mr. Swan would have survived this latest escapade. Our most heartfelt thanks to all who are keeping good watch over Mr. Swan and friends.

Notice the angel swans have black eyes. A friend asked if they could be Mr. Swan’s offspring. Possibly, but most likely not. Mr. Swan has blue eyes, which is not typically seen in these parts.

Mr. Swan is the tiny lump on the ice toward the left. We don’t want to see you at Niles Mr. Swan until the Pond thaws!

MR. SWAN RESCUE UPDATE AND A PAIR OF MYSTERIOUS SWANS ARRIVE AT NILES POND!! BY KIM SMITH

Yesterday at mid-morning Mr. Swan flew to Niles Pond. This is an unfortunate occurrence as Niles Pond is frozen.

When temperatures plummeted in December, Mr. Swan moved to one of his favorite winter territories, Rockport Harbor and the adjacent coastline, where the salt water rarely freezes. My theory is that the January thaw we experienced over the past several days drew him to freshwater Niles Pond and I imagine, he expected to find a thawed pond. This is only a theory, but in trying to think like a swan and understand why he would be so uncharacteristically foolish, it is my best assumption.

Maneuvering on ice can be extremely difficult. In order to take off for flight, swans run a short distance on top of the water. Trying to gain the traction needed on ice may be nearly impossible.

After spending a good part of the day in the center of the pond, I coaxed him over to the edge where there was a patch of open water. He ate a little bit of corn, although not nearly as much as usual. He appeared to enjoy the freshwater but then at dusk, he half flew-half ran back to the center of the pond.

Extremely concerned about coyotes, Mr. Swan’s caretakers Lyn and Dan checked on him throughout the night. I took the dawn shift and found him alert and preening. He made several attempts to walk, but then would plop down and tuck his head under his wing to sleep and to keep warm. Eastern Point residents Duncan and Stephanie, and ice boat sailor Steven, offered to help while Lyn, Skip Munroe, Lois, and I conferred on the phone. We decided the best plan of action would be to capture him and return him to Rockport Harbor. At 9am Skip and Dan determined that the ice was okay to walk upon. They fearlessly walked onto the pond and at one point Lyn followed with blankets. After first attempting to capture him, they then herded him over near Skip Hadden’s dock. Skip, Skip, and Dan again tried to capture him. He’s a very smart swan, wily and wild, and after several unsuccessful attempts, we decided to not tire him out and try to feed him, and help him as much as he would allow, from Lyn’s little beach.

Mr. Swan at sunrise and trying to negotiate the ice.

Shortly after, and unbelievably, A PAIR OF TRAVELING SWANS flew into Niles, near Lyn’s beach, next to Mr. Swan. At the moment, while writing this post, all three are sleeping peaceably together in a little group!

Newly Arrived Swans!

DNA SEXING TEST FOR THE RESCUE SWAN RESULTS ARE IN

We’ve all been hoping so much that the Young Swan would be a female and that romance, or at the least friendship, would blossom between it and Mr. Swan. The results are in and our little she is actually a he. The news is somewhat dismaying because we do not know how Mr. Swan will react once he makes a determination. Will he allow the Young Swan to continue to live at Niles in the spring or will he drive him off? Perhaps Mr. Swan, who is at least 28 years old this year, will not be as territorial as would a much younger male Mute Swan and the two will live peaceably. For now, he is in the good care of Lyn and decisions won’t need to be made for a few months.

Notice how greatly the Young Swan’s plumage has changed over the past few months. In the photo on the left, he is four months old. In the next two photos, he is approximately eight months old.

Mr. Swan and the Young Swan

 

WHAT TO FEED SWANS IN WINTER?

Mr. Swan heading to Rockport Harbor for the winter.

Cape Ann Swan Update: Our little rescue swan, which Lyn has been valiantly and lovingly taking care of in her new winter quarters fit for a princess swan, is doing beautifully. Mr. Swan’s winter headquarters when the freshwater ponds are in a deep freeze is mostly Rockport Harbor to Front Beach and Lois reports he is doing fabulously as well, too!

Mute Swans in our region need our help to survive the winter. There simply isn’t enough wild food available, especially in a brutally cold winter such as the one we are currently experiencing, with freshwater ponds frozen solid. The very best thing to feed swans is whole corn and cracked corn. You can try greens such as washed and undressed romaine lettuce, spinach, and kale, but they will mostly go for the carbohydrate rich corn. What is the worse and most deadly food to feed swans, causing long term health problems? You guessed it–junk food and white bread. Please don’t give our local birds and wildlife human junk food, it’s a killer! This includes but not limited to chips, cheetos, crackers, and stale bread.

Be safe when feeding swans and don’t get too close.

We purchase our corn in bulk from the Essex Bird and Pet Shop, located at 121 Essex Avenue. In a pinch, Stop and Shop also carries small bags of cracked corn.

Two tips from Mr. Swan’s caretakers: 1) When feeding swans, feed at the water’s edge. Swans like to swallow water while they are eating. 2) Mr. Swan usually has a bevy of quwackers in tow and they so vigorously try to eat the corn, and there are so many of them, there oftentimes isn’t enough food for Mr. Swan. Mr. Swan’s caretakers will throw a scoop of food in one direction to distract the ducks and at the same time toss some down directly in front of Mr. Swan. This distraction technique works for a bit of time before needing to be repeated.

Mr. Swan and the Young Swan were just beginning to warm to each other when the pond froze up.

IS MR. SWAN TRYING TO SCARE THE BEJESUS OUT OF THE YOUNG SWAN?

Doesn’t this scene look deadly brutal? It is a photo of Mr. Swan chasing the Young Swan.

The thing is, we think that this may be Mr. Swan’s way of encouraging the Young Swan to fly. If she is going to survive a New England winter in the wild, she has to move to saltwater coves and harbors. Niles Pond resident Skip Hadden has seen her fly but she seems to have no interest in leaving the Pond. Niles Pond is freezing over, and unless the Young Swan follows Mr. Swan’s lead, she will have to be relocated.

THE PHOENIX RISES

Mr. Swan is also know as Papa Swan and Buddy to his human friends, and The Boss-of-the-Pond to all avian creatures, from Rockport Harbor to Gloucester Harbor. He will be turning at the very least 28-years-old in 2018. We know this because a gentleman named Skip has been keeping watch over Mr. Swan, along with his first mate, second mate, and cygnets, beginning in the year 1992. A male Mute Swan cannot mate until he is a minimum of two years old and even that age would be considered unusually young.

When Mr. Swan lifts out of the water to stretch his wings as he is doing in the photo below, he reminds me of the story of the Phoenix in Greek mythology. Not only because he has lived a very long life of at least 28 years, which is extraordinary for a wild swan, but because he has an incredible ability to adapt to a constantly changing environment, and to rise from the depths of sorrow. He has survived near capture, physical injuries, boats in the harbors, coyotes, snapping turtles, and the loss of not one, but two mates. He was so deeply distraught after his second mate was killed by a coyote, many of us worried whether or not he would survive. But he has, and magnificently so.

The Phoenix Rises