I so love chance encounters with wild creatures and this young Black-crowned Night heron did not disappoint. He stayed close to the rocky embankment, stealthily foraging for small shrimp in the dark crevices at mid-tide. The youngster did not seem to mind my presence; after a bit of time passed I walked away and when I returned he continued to steadily fish.

Scratching, preening, wing-stretches, and standing on one leg.

Eventually stopping to preen, stand on one leg, and then, walking aways from where he was feeding–how do I say this politely–took a huge enormous poop. Off he then flew to the marsh with a signature quark.

Black-crowned Nigh Herons are making a comeback in our region for several reasons, most notably because the pesticide DDT was banned and because the quality of our water has improved. During the 1950s, folks who did not care for midnight quarks coming from Black-crowned Night Heron nests either shot them dead out of trees or dynamited the rookeries.

This past spring there were the most Black-crowned Night Herons I have ever seen in one tree at Niles Pond. If I recall correctly, there were nine in all! 

Mature Black-crowned Night Heron, Niles Pond

The Black-crowned Night Herons proper name (Nycticorax nycticorax) translated from Ancient Greek is Night Raven, suggesting its nocturnal feeding habits. I like to refer to them as the onomatopoeic Quarky birds and unknown to me, until I began writing this post, in the Falkland Islands, the bird is called Quark.


Off to the marsh.


Photo left to right – Scout: Carly Williams, Atticus Finch: Lewis D. Wheeler, Jem: Nathaniel Oaks & Dill: Gabriel Magee

To Kill a Mockingbird Triumphs at Gloucester Stage Company

By Tom Hauck

The Gloucester Stage Company is renowned for introducing important new plays to New England and often the world. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the company proves it has the same magic touch with a story that since its publication in 1960 has become an American classic. The stage version, written by Christopher Sergel, made its debut in 1990, and won the Pulitzer Prize.

The GSC production of To Kill a Mockingbird is nothing less than a magnificent shooting star streaking across the heavens and with only a month of performances, you must see this masterful interpretation before it vanishes into the night. Every aspect of the production, directed by Boston stage legend Judy Braha, is exceptional. Led by GSC veterans Amanda Collins as the grown-up Scout and Lewis D. Wheeler as Atticus Finch, with Aaron Dowdy as Tom Robinson and Cheryl D. Singleton as Calpurnia, Carly Williams (Scout), Nathaniel Oaks (Jem), and Gabriel Magee (Dill) as the children, the cast is pitch-perfect throughout. They’re supported by an evocative and flexible set designed by Jon Savage and sublime lighting by John Malinowski. The lighting, in particular, effectively sets the mood for each scene, whether it’s the ramshackle courthouse interior or the deep and mysterious woods on Halloween night.

This is a great story masterfully interpreted by an outstanding company. To Kill a Mockingbird  deeply touches our hearts and connect us with the humanity of each of the characters. The GSC production is outstanding on every level, and it is my guess that during the final scene when Boo Radley makes his appearance, you will be among the many people in the audience who feel tears gathering in their eyes.

To Kill a Mockingbird is onstage now through October 28. For schedules and ticket information, visit www.gloucesterstage.com or call 978-281-4433. A smash hit, get your tickets today!

All Photos Courtesy Gloucester Stage Company By Gary NG


Scout: Carly Williams & Jean Louise Finch: Amanda Collins



Proposals for community-oriented arts, humanities, and science programs due October 16

The Rockport Cultural Council has set an October 16 deadline for organizations, schools, and individuals to apply for grants that support cultural activities in the community.

According to Council spokesperson Julie Andrews, these grants can support a variety of artistic projects and activities in Rockport — including exhibits, festivals, field trips, short-term artist residencies, or performances in schools, workshops, and lectures.

The Rockport Cultural Council is part of a network of 329 Local Cultural Councils serving all 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. The LCC Program is the largest grassroots cultural funding network in the nation, supporting thousands of community-based projects in the arts, sciences and humanities every year. The state legislature provides an annual appropriation to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, which then allocates funds to each community.

This year, the Rockport Cultural Council will distribute about $4400 in grants. Previously funded projects include: Rockport New Year’s Eve, Northeast MA Youth Orchestra, Cape Ann Shakespeare Troupe, and Windhover Foundation’s Quarry Dance VI.

For local guidelines and complete information on the Rockport Cultural Council, contact Julie Andrews, Chair at 978-290-1495 and/or juliebandrews1@gmail.com. Application forms and more information about the Local Cultural Council Program are available online at http://www.mass-culture.org.

Essex National Heritage: 7 Cape Ann awards, Bass Rocks Golf Club, & just how many people visit Salem?

There are 49 National Heritage Areas throughout the United States. Massachusetts shares three of its four with neighboring states: CT, NH and RI.  The fourth, Essex National Heritage Area, is the only one located entirely within the Commonwealth. The enviable Essex National Heritage Area was established in 1996 for all of Essex County, Massachusetts, its 34 cities and towns, nearly 10,000 historic places on the national historic register, 26 national historic landmarks and 2 National Park headquarters (Salem and Saugus Iron Works).  Trails and Sails is just one of Essex National Heritage’s memorable rallying efforts. Make sure to participate! Another initiative is the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway which calls attention to our county via its lovely, historic roads. You may have noticed the brown byway signs which were installed in 2012 after years of establishing the best routes to re-connect and highlight Essex County. This is one of the signs installed in Gloucester, MA. David Rhinelander helped with the Gloucester and Cape Ann part.


2017 Essex National Heritage Presenters

The Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage) held its Annual Fall Meeting on Thursday, October 4 at the Flint Public Library in Middleton. Business and community leaders throughout the county were in attendance. John Farmer, Essex National Heritage President, mentioned that he joined Bass Rocks Golf Club and that he enjoyed visiting the Gloucester HarborWalk for this year’s Trails & Sails in his opening report. Farmer is the Senior Vice President & Senior Credit Officer, of Eastern Bank, Lynn, one of the major Lightkeeper Sponsors* for Essex National Heritage.


President Essex National Heritage, John P. Farmer, Senior Vice President & Senior Credit Officer, Eastern Bank, Lynn 20171004_083544
John Farmer, Essex National Heritage President, Essex National Heritage Commission. Farmer is the Senior Vice President & Senior Credit Officer, of Eastern Bank, Lynn, one of the major Lightkeeper Sponsors* for Essex National Heritage


Can you guess how many guests the busy Salem vistitor center welcomed since 2013? Paul DePrey, the National Park Service Superintendent for the Salem Martime & Saugus Iron Works National Historic Sites, shared this update…

Continue reading “Essex National Heritage: 7 Cape Ann awards, Bass Rocks Golf Club, & just how many people visit Salem?”

We’re so excited to introduce everyone
our newest addition, we added another $10 Reward to use at Happy Belly onto every Rewards Card* 
Happy Belly is unlike any other Serenitee Group restaurant, with casual counter service, coffee roasted on-site, AND cocktails on draft!
If you weren’t able to visit last week, or you just want to try it again, you have another FREE $10 Serenitee bucks to use at Happy Belly. This limited time offer will expire at 11:59 PM on Thursday, October 12th!
What are you waiting for? Happy Belly serves breakfast ALL DAY, so you can enjoy a Breakfast Burrito or Open Faced Benedict with a draft cocktail, sangria or beer for dinner tonight 😉
Happy Belly is located at 3 Duncan Street in Gloucester
*$10 Serenitee Bucks is valid at Happy Belly only, expires at 11:59 PM on 10/12/17.
Displayed as ‘LTO $’ on account balance.
Dine in only, one per party. Cannot be combined with external offers or coupons.

A Tale From the Sea

This is the story of a cousin lost at sea.  Ho Hum you might think.  Gloucester has suffered thousands of such losses but  in every person’s life there is a story  and this is one of the many heroic tales of the sea.

John Handran was lost at sea aboard the Schooner Cleopatra Dec 26, 1885.  He left a wife and 3 very young children just a day after Christmas that year.  I don’t know how long the fishing trip had been at the time of the accident, but it is certain he and the rest of the crew were not home for Christmas that year.

This is a picture from Fred Bodin  of that time period and I like to imagine it reflects what it must have looked like seaside in the 1880s in Gloucester

He called it “Return of the Fishing Fleet Circa 1880”

The Cleopatra story inspired an epic poem “The Ballad of the Cleopatra” available on Google Books from Cornhill Magazine .  I encourage you to read it when you have a chance as it gives an interesting viewpoint from a fisherman’s perspective.  A storm came up and swept 3 men into the ocean, John Handran was one of them.  Another crewman died on the deck.  A distress flag was raised and seen by a British vessel, the Lord Gough.  As they prepared to send a rescue boat, the distress flag was taken down.  The potential rescuers were confused by this but continued their mission.  Apparently the captain and crew of the Cleopatra took down the distress flag so as not to put other sailors in danger by attempting to rescue them.  This seems a very brave decision to me and speaks to the nature of Gloucester fishermen.  The remaining crewmen were rescued and delivered to the Philadelphia port.

J. Handran

This information is from the Out of Gloucester archives.

I believe this to be the same John Handran of Gloucester who, a few years earlier, was  recipient of a peacetime Medal of Honor awarded by President Ulysses S. Grant for heroism in rescuing a shipmate who was swept off the US Steamer Franklin near Lisbon Portugal in 1876.  From the New York Herald:  “”poor Henry O’Neil seemed about to pay with his life the penalty for having gone to sea without learning to swim” when two sailors “were soon in the water making for the spot.  One of them, Edward Madden, held a rope’s end.  The rope proved too short, the icy waters chilled him, to let go the rope was to lose his own life, and he returned.  The other, John Handran, seaman, kept on with vigorous strokes.  This was not the first time he had risked his life to save a shipmate.  As he approached the drowning man with admirable coolness he kept clear of his struggling efforts to clutch, swimming round until he could grasp him with his right hand just so as to keep his mouth above water”.

Such bravery boggles the mind.  Such acts have repeated themselves over and over again throughout fishing’s long history in this area.  This story is representative of the proud heritage of Gloucestermen throughout time.  I am proud to have descended from such men.