NOT ONE, BUT TWO, SUPER RARE BIRDS SPOTTED AT EASTERN POINT TODAY – A LARK SPARROW AND A WESTERN KINGBIRD

A very rare-for-these parts Lark Sparrow was spotted by numerous birders today and yesterday at Niles Pond. The beautiful little songster kept either close to the ground foraging on tiny seeds or well camouflaged in the crisscrossing branches of trees and shrubs.

Lark Sparrow Niles Pond Gloucester Massachusetts

Song Sparrows Gloucester and Ipswich

We mostly see Song Sparrows around Niles at this time of year. Compare in the above photos how plain the breast of the Lark Sparrow is to that of the heavily streaked Song Sparrow’s underparts. I write rare-for-these-parts because the Lark Sparrow is entirely out of its range as you can see in the first attached map below.

A second rare bird has been spotted on Eastern Point, a Western Kingbird. It was a rough day for photographing, too overcast, so here is a photo from wikicommons media so that if you are around the Point, you will know what to look for. The Western Kingbird is also far outside its range.

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!

NILES POND SONGSTER

The melodious notes of the Song Sparrow are heard from sunup ’til sundown, spring, summer, and fall. Their beautiful song is most welcome, especially at this time of year when there are fewer songbirds on our shores and many that remain through the winter months don’t sing during the non-breeding season.

Song Sparrows have adapted to a wide variety of habitats. Despite the narrowness of the strip of land that separates freshwater Niles Pond from salty Brace Cove, Song Sparrows find plenty to forage on and excellent cover in the shrubby undergrowth found there.

Follow this link to hear the Song Sparrow’s song

 

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.

SNOWY DAY IN GLOUCESTER with YOUNG SWANS, SAINT ANTHONYS-BY-THE-SEA, TEN POUND ISLAND, BRACE COVE, PAINT FACTORY, AND MORE

The prettiest kind of snowy day, not too cold, with swirly fluffy flakes.

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

#GLOUCESTERMA DEEP FREEZE SEA SMOKE GOOD HARBOR BEACH, TWIN LIGHTS, EASTERN POINT, BACKSHORE, TEN POUND ISLAND, NILES POND

My fingers froze and I had to call it quits yet despite the bitterly cold five degree temperature and biting wind, day break brought blue skies and beautiful sea smoke all along the backshore, from Gloucester’s Ten Pound Island Lighthouse to Rockport’s Twin Lighthouses.

Take heart friends -today is the last day of January- only 48 more days until the spring equinox!

Fresh wild animal tracks crossing Niles Pond

 

NILES POND EAST #GLOUCESTERMA KIDS ICE SAILING!

The beautiful wooden ice sail boats that Andy Lee is generously sharing with the neighborhood kids are his family’s boats. Andy grew up ice sailing on Chebacco Lake with his Dad.

Michelle Barton pointed out that there aren’t too many places in the area where the ice and wind are just right for ice sailing, and Niles Pond happens to be one of those unique places. Andy shares they were sailing at 40mph today!

Andy Lee (from Lee Tree) and Geoff are restoring the ice boats at Geoff’s woodworking studio and I think they are planning to build more!

Andy (left) and Geoff (right).

 

ICE SAILING UNDER THE WOLF MOON

Lovely to see ice sailing at Niles Pond under the twilit January Wolf Moon last week. The sun was setting while the not-quite-full moon had risen early.

Ice Sailing at Niles Pond

I took Charlotte out Friday at dusk to look for the moon and we found it at Niles Pond, along with hockey players and ice sailors. We can thank her favorite storybook Good Night, Moon for her lunar passion.