Wonderful Essex County islands IBA #ornithology talk by Chris Leahy | Straightsmouth keeper’s house gets love from Thacher Island Assoc & looks like a scene from Edward Hopper!

Esteemed conservationist and bird and insect authority, Chris Leahy discussed recent multi-year surveys of Essex County islands for Mass Audubon and Mass Fish & Wildlife with humor and depth as only he can having resided on the North Shore, in Gloucester, and championed this Important Bird Area for some 50 years.

The islands range in size and offer different kinds of nesting habitat. There are great shoals for fishing. Islands include familiar names like Tinkers, Straitsmouth, Thacher, Children’s, Kettle, House, Eagle, Ram, Cormorant and Ten Pound. Leahy recalled visiting some in the 1960s-70s for the first ever field counts with Dorothy “Dottie” Addams Brown, Sarah Fraser Robbins & others, and readily compares data then and now.

Some of the bird species making the count: gulls, egrets, herons, cormorants, harlequin duck, geese, loon, coots, purple arctic sandpiper, common eiders, and snowy owls. There are not a lot of songbirds due to restricted habitat although so many song sparrows he quips, “it almost feels like they’re going to attack.” Predators do and did. Gulls and rats stuck in my mind, and our ruinous plume hat trade. At that time “Snowy egrets– in FLA and elsewhere south– were slaughtered for plumage developed solely at breeding time, leaving any young to die and rot.”

Climate is partly a factor and population dispersement in the birds they find. Sometimes there are great “fallout” of migratories which are unpredicatable and awesome. Various species are easier to count especially those perched amid low tree shrubs. Guess which ones? Forgot the burrowers! Forecasts are exciting. He predicts we might see Manx shearwters maybe nesting here in the coming years.

Kindness of organizations and people with boats helps make this happen. And one steel hulled sailboat that makes access to these rocky isles a bit more possible.

Chris Leahy presented Treasure Islands for Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library. Mary Weissblum has endeavored to host evenings for Leahy’s numerous publications and projects, so many that she’s lost count. “Always a treat to be educated and charmed by his incredible store of knowledge,” she writes. Look for Chris Leahy’s next talk.

Learn more about Thacher Island Association (Paul St Germain) here 

Learn more about Birdlife International here

photos below ©Linda Bosselman Sawyer Free Library- thanks for sharing Linda!

GO! Whale sightings NOW off the shores of Magnolia #GloucesterMA

Right whales gloucester MA _20180504 visible from shore_074320 ©c ryan.jpg
MAY 4th- Right Whales visible to the naked eye from shore near Gloucester MA end of Long Beach. May 6th and 7th they’re still off shore. Go- see them!

David Vanderhooft writes about his whale sightings May 6 & 7,  2018

He’s counted five total today.

“The whales are around this morning; I saw the spouts around 9:00, relatively farther offshore. Yesterday they were in the vicinity all day, with one cruising between Magnolia and Kettle Island around noon, and all within view of the naked eye. Lots of people with binoculars, telescopes, cameras. As I mentioned in my post, at least one whale has a dorsal fin, which right whales apparently do not.”

Keep to shore!

“Please do remind everyone that it’s a stiff fine if one approaches them. Yesterday there were several kayakers and at least one paddle boarder who went out, and one sailboat too. The lobstermen seem to be observing the rule with care, as I haven’t seen very many.”

I look forward to seeing the Magnolia photographs and hearing more spectator reactions. What a gift this spring. Thanks so much for writing, David.

 

Kayaking out to Kettle Island

Yesterday my friend Walt and I kayaked (into the wind) from Magnolia Beach to Kettle Island. It’s not that far, but at high tide it seems a lot farther. Once we reached the island, we climbed the rocks like kids to the top. The view was fantastic! Coming down was a challenge and leaving the island proved to be another challenge. The wind had picked up , but we paddled hard and rode the waves back to the beach. Exhilarating!

Sharon Lowe Photography