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.

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

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!

SO SORRY TO WRITE OUR LITTLE SWAN PASSED AWAY THIS MORNING

Sending heartfelt condolences to Lyn Fonzo, and to all of the Young Swan’s and friends and caretakers. The little Swan’s leg injury became deeply infected, all the way into the bone.

If you see Lyn Fonzo, please thank her for all that she has done over the past year in caring for our Young Swan and in trying to rehabilitate him to Niles Pond. Please thank and support Dr. Cahill, too, who generously donated his services.

AMELIE SEVERANCE’S LOVELY DRAWING OF THE YOUNG SWAN

GMG FOB Jennifer Cullen shares this beautiful drawing of our Young Swan by Amélie Severance. Jenn writes the following, ” I told Amélie (9-years old) the story of Young Swan and Mr. Swan and showed her a few of Kim Smith’s pics from GMG…next thing you know, she drew this for me. Well done, Amélie!”  

Our Young Swan Suffers a Second Attack

The Young Swan has survived a second attack by Mr. Swan, but only barely. He is injured and needs veterinary care.
The Young Swan is temporarily back at Lyn Fonzo’s swan sanctuary, until a forever home can be found. Photo courtesy Lyn Fonzo.
Katia Mason shares the following, “Tonight the Young Swan was being chased then attacked by the Senior Male Swan in the Harbor. The neighbors at Hawthorne Point ran into the harbor and broke up the attack and protected the young swan.  Thank goodness for Jodi Swenson at Cape Ann Wildlife who got their message and came to help complete the rescue before the tide came in and it got too dark.
Thanks to the Good Morning Gloucester Blog, neighbors had been following the story and knew what was happening. “
Katia Mason Photos

YOUNG SWAN UPDATE

The beautiful Young Swan that was recently taken from his home at Niles Pond and deposited in Gloucester Harbor is so far managing to survive.

As he cannot, or will not, fly we do not know how long he can live without drinking fresh water. Lyn is feeding him romaine lettuce daily and he appears to be eating some seaweed, but that is not enough food.

The Young Swan stays tucked in around the seawall by the old Bell House, swimming in circles of only a several hundred feet radius.

If we could only see him maintain a sustained flight!

SWAN CRISIS

Our Young Swan was badly injured today.

As you may recall, the rescue cygnet was deposited at Niles Pond about ten months ago. Local residents Lyn Fonzo and Skip Hadden had been watching out for him and feeding him regularly, when he became frozen in the ice last fall. Lyn and Dan Harris rescued the Young Swan, and Lyn cared for him all winter long, feeding him and providing fresh bedding and water daily in a custom-made swan sanctuary.

Several weeks ago the Young Swan was released back to Niles Pond. Lyn has not yet seen him fly, not because of injury, but we think he simply does not know that he is a swan. Many species of birds imprint on the first thing they see upon hatching and when this little guy was found he was without parents.

The Young Swan has not been adapting well, and has been seen wandering around the Pond, by foot, and sitting quietly in the yards of neighboring homes.

Mr. Swan gave the Young Swan a tremendous thrashing today, as witnessed by several people, pounding his head against the ground and causing him to bleed. We can’t hold this behavior against Mr. Swan, he is just doing what swans do naturally, and that is to defend their territory, especially from other males.

Lyn volunteered to take the Swan back to her swan sanctuary while a new home is identified. Very unfortunately, it was determined that the Young Swan be placed in the OCEAN. The Young Swan has never swam in, or for that matter even seen, the ocean, and he cannot fly well. The excuse was that Mass Wildlife rules state that if an animal is not visibly injured it has to be returned to the wild. However, our understanding is that Mass Wildlife guidelines do not pertain to non-native species and to pets. The Swan’s caretakers were begging to keep the swan safe and not dump him on the beach, repeating that the swan would be cared for, yet, despite their pleas, he was taken to Niles Beach and released there. 

He is currently swimming around and around in circles off of Niles Beach, in the harbor. We hope at some point tomorrow he will come to shore, where he can be recaptured and placed in a safe environment.

Please write and let us know if you know of a swan rehabilitator or potential long term swan caretaker.Alone in the harbor with no ability to escape danger or to defend himself.

We hope he stays close to shore and out of the path of boats.

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.

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.

THE YOUNG SWAN GOES TO SEAPORT VETERINARY HOSPITAL

The Niles Pond Young Swan, rescued by Lyn Fonzo and Dan Harris on Friday, was taken to SeaPort Veterinary Hospital Saturday morning for a wellness checkup and because it is thought she may have contracted round worm at the shelter from where she originated. Dr. Cahill gave her a complete physical, checking on wings, feet, degree of fat on her bones, took an xray, and drew blood for a blood work up. His assistant also plucked a few feathers to send off to a lab to determine the sex of the young Mute Swan. It will take several weeks for the results of the tests, but based on Dr. Cahill’s visual assessment, she appears to be in excellent health!!

Swans can become very defensive when they feel threatened however, the Young Swan has a relatively speaking mild temperament. Lyn and Dan handled her with lots of tender care and caution and no one was bit during during transport and during the exam.

While we were at the vets, Joel Murnroe, one of Mr. Swan’s loyal caregivers and a fine carpenter, was back at Lyn’s home modifying Lyn’s chicken coop, with a larger entryway door and swan-sized rebuilt ramp.

The Young Swan has had an eventful and productive first day in captivity. With much gratitude and thanks to Lyn for taking on the tremendous responsibility of caring for a wild swan for the winter. Our hope is that the Young Swan is a she, and that she will be re-released to Niles Pond this coming spring.

1) Lyn Fonzo and Dan Harris, 2) Joel Munroe, 3) Dan Harris and the Young Swan