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.

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

 

SOME BEAUTIFUL CREATURES YOU’LL SEE ON OUR SHORES IN EARLY JUNE

A random grouping of recently spotted birds. The Song Sparrow and Cooper’s Hawk were seen in the lot at Good Harbor beach. Beautiful creatures surround here on Cape Ann, even in parking lots ūüôā

Sanderlings migrating north

 

BEAUTY ABOUNDS WITH SNOWY OWLS, HORNED LARK, SNOW BUNTINGS, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, DUNLINS AND MORE!

With early predictions of a Snowy Owl irruption heading our way and several sightings in Gloucester, I have been periodically popping over to Cranes Beach in Ipswich. Thanks to Bill Foley, Cranes Chief of Police (and Kate’s awesome Dad!), who showed me around and provided some great tips on locating the Snowies, I was able to find one second time out. The first day was a bust because a dog owner had allowed his dog off leash. I watched the dog chase the Snowy, who then headed far and away over the dunes. This made me so very sad for myriad reasons, but especially so at Cranes Beach because there is a fabulously huge area that dogs are allowed off leash. Anyhow, seeing the Snowy that first day, and knowing he was there, was all I needed to keep trying.

Dunlins, Sanderlings, Snow Buntings, and Horned Lark

That day, a flock of Dunlins was resting in the sand, with one lone Sanderling, and there was a small flock of Snow Buntings in the parking lot. Feeding amongst the flock was, what I believe to be, a female Horned Lark!Second day out was wonderfully rewarding. Approaching the stairs to descend to the beach, I inadvertently startled a Snowy and he flew from the area, way, way down the beach, perching on one of the poles that mark the access to the Green Trail. Off I trudged in 15 degree weather, keeping my eyes peeled on where he was resting. He stayed for quite some time while I stood back at a great distance, not wanting to disrupt his hunting. Suddenly, and with what I thought, great bravery, he flew quite close and past me, heading over to the sandy beach. I wasn’t anticipating his flight and didn’t get much of a photo, but it was exquisite to see.The temperature had climbed to twenty, but I was getting worried about exposed photo fingers and frostbite. After taking a few more photos and some footage of the Snowy in the sand, I very reluctantly headed home.

Today I didn’t see the Snowy Owl, but did find a scattering of Snowy feathers in the sand, in the same area where one had been hunting the previous week. I showed the ranger at the gate, Emily White, the feathers and she confirmed they were from a Snowy. She said that hawks and falcons will attack Snowies. I didn’t see any bones or body parts, so hopefully it wasn’t a fight to the death. Emily was super helpful and shared lots of useful information. This year’s Audubon Christmas Bird Count at Cranes was relatively uneventful, with fewer numbers counted than usual. Many more beautiful birds will be arriving to our shores in the coming weeks, foraging in the dunes and shrubby habitat, and hopefully, there will be lots more Snowy Owl sightings!Emily White, Cranes Ranger

Song Sparrow eating ripe beach grass seed heads.

Yellow-rumped Warbler winter plumage.

More scenes from the Green Trail

Scofflaw dog owner

THEY’RE BACK – OSPREYS, HERONS, EGRETS, AND MORE – SPRING HAS SPRUNG ON THE MARSHES!

Great Egret Flying Over Perched Osprey

There is much to chortle about in this latest Cape Ann Winged Creature Update. Early April marked the arrival of both Snowy and Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and Great Blue Herons. Osprey pairs and evidence of Osprey nest building can be seen wherever Essex Greenbelt platforms have been installed. Northern Pintail and American Wigeon Ducks are stopping over at our local ponds on their northward migrations while scrub and shrub are alive with the vibrant song of love birds singing their mating calls. Oh Happy Spring!

Ospreys Nest Building

Northern Mockingbirds Singing 

Blackbird Tree

Female American Wigeon

Gadwall (center), Male Pintail, Mallards, Male and Female American Wigeons 

THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM

Sanderling eating insect copyright kim Smith

My grandmother was fond of saying “the early bird catches¬†the worm.” I¬†assumed she¬†said that because I adored getting up early to eat breakfast with my grandfather before he left for work. In a large¬†family with siblings and cousins, I had him all to myself in those day break hours. Having developed a passion and love¬†for wild creatures and wild places, I understand better what she meant. She and my grandfather built a summer home for their family in¬†a beautiful, natural seashore setting and both she and my parents packed our¬†home with books and magazines about nature. Now I see her design…

Wednesday morning at day break, beautiful scene, beautiful creatures by¬†the¬†sea’s edge

God Harbor Beach Sunrise August 3, 2016 -2 copyright Kim Smith

Song Sparrow copyright Kim SmithSong Sparrow breakfast

American Robin fledgling copyright Kim SmithAmerican Robin fledgling, note its speckled breast feathers

Mockingbird copyright Kim SmithMockingbird feeding its fledgling

Song Sparrow Virginia creeper copyright Kim SmithSong Sparrow and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) flowers and fruit

Sanderling copyright Kim SmithSanderling

Gull eating crab copyright kim Smith

God Harbor Beach Sunrise August 3, 2016 copyright Kim Smith

GROSS!

Not really gross, but actually quite beneficial!

Song Sparrow eating caterpillars copyright Kim Smith

Through my camera’s lens, I thought this sweet little Song Sparrow was hopping around with a breakfast of leaves until downloading the photos. Rather, his mouth is stuffed with¬†what¬†appears to be¬†the larvae of¬†the¬†Winter Moth, those¬†annoying little green caterpillars that dangle from trees, which¬†pupate into the dreaded adult Winter Moths, which¬†are destroying trees and shrubs throughout the region. So, thank you Song Sparrow!

The Song Sparrow was most likely bringing the caterpillars to its nestlings. Although adult Song Sparrows prefer seeds, to a newly hatched bird a plump juicy green caterpillar is easy to digest and rich in nutrients. As a matter of fact, most songbirds rear their young on insects. The Song Sparrow photo illustrates yet another reason why it is so important not to spray trees with pesticides and herbicides. When a landscape is pesticide free, a natural balance returns. Insects are bird food!

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL GOOD HARBOR BEACH

Scenes from this morning’s Good Harbor Beach sunrise.

Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Sunrise Kim Smith

Pink and violet hues when I arrived at 5:15 quickly gave way to reds and yellow, and then the looming gray mass of clouds overtook the sky.

Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Sunrise -2 Kim SmithGood Harbor Beach Gloucester Sunrise -3 Kim SmithBeauty abounds–from the grandest skies to the smallest creatures–that’s life at the edge of the sea.

Sparrow Gloucester Massachusetts Kim SmithThis fearless little Song Sparrow ate breakfast at my feet

Red-winged Blackbird Gloucester Massachusetts Kim SmithMorning songster

Kildeer Gloucester Massachusetts Kim SmithKildeer trying her hardest to distract me from her nest

Brace Cove Seals Sleeping at Daybreak

Brace Cove seals at sunrise ©Kim Smith 2014While filming B-roll for several projects I caught the sunrise at Brace Cove this October morning. The seals were awakening, as were the swan couple, the cormorants and gulls stretching wide their wings, and the songbirds breaking fast on the abundance of wild berries and seed heads found along the berm at Niles Pond. Click image to see full size.

Brace Cove seals at sunrise -2 ©Kim Smith 2014Brace Cove Seals

Brace Cove at sunrise ©Kim Smith 2014Fledgling juvenile male cardinal ©kim Smith 2014Juvenile Male Cardinal

Niles Pond daybreak ©Kim Smith 2014Niles Pond

Sparrow ©Kim Smith 2014Camouflaged!

Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave

Photos from a foggy morning walk along the berm between Niles Pond and Brace Cove this morning.

Spider's Web Niles pond -2 ©Kim Smith 2014

The shoreline draped in gossamer nets–the world according to spiders.

Spider's Web Niles pond -3 ©Kim Smith 2014

Spider's Web Niles pond -4 ©Kim Smith 2014

Spider's Web Niles Pond Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014JPGSong Sparrow Niles Pond Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014Song Sparrow

Rosa rugosa Nile pond ©Kim Smith 2014

Rosa rugosa

See more photos here.

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