Assorted Wildlife — pat morss

First, an update on Atlantic Merlin, our “Curious Visitor” last week – thanks to Catherine who yesterday posted photos of her in the sea smoke off Cape Ann, taken by C.Ryan who indicated Atlantic Merlin is working on a fiber optic cable from Lynn, MA to the UK and France. Early this afternoon Marine Traffic positioned her about 20 miles NE of the Cape. Here are a few mostly wildlife updates:

Not paying attention to the Wrong Way sign at dusk, …
… these turkeys nearly caused a traffic accident
A crow decided the weathervane at Beauport Museum wasn’t quite complete
A content Bufflehead on a Niles Pond rock that was exposed 3 feet during the summer drought
Eight of at least twenty seals hauled out on the rocks on this day at low tide, Brace Cove
“This your house? OK if we pass through?”
They said they wouldn’t eat anything, but we don’t trust them
Amazing how they can canter through the Audubon rocks
Maybe the sanctuary visitor wasn’t a threat after all
A Northern Harrier scouting low for small mammals, in the same area
My take on Saturday’s frigid sunrise with sea smoke
Later in the day, the Boston skyline filtered through the lingering sea smoke

Curious Visitor — pat morss

Early this morning Atlantic Merlin, classified by Marine Traffic as an “Offshore tug/supply vessel” under Canadian registry, arrived a couple of miles off Eastern Point. I watched through the haze as several cargo packages were transferred to a smaller fishing boat. After the samller vessel left, Atlantic Merlin continued closer over the next several hours, finally inching out of sight up the Cape Ann coast during the sunny afternoon. It would be interesting to know what her assignment is.

Taking a Dunk — pat morss

There are different ways to take a dunk.

Mallard on Niles Pond completing his waterproofing.
And then the dunk.
Water ran right off.
Stand up straight to flap-dry the wings.
That felt great – Onward!
Winter Robins with a shallow dunk (dip and sip) in a puddle.
Downy Woodpecker with a dunk (duck) into a cherry tree.
USCG Cutter Key Largo
… takes a dunk during exercises.
It’s over when the sun takes its evening “dunk.”

Back to the Birds — pat morss

Winter birds are settling into their seasonal routines.

Our Mockingbird welcomes us back to Niles Pond – at eye level
A Merganser fly-by
On this dive, a Merganser comes up with a fish
And gobbles it down
Another is just enjoying a nap on the calm pond
A Mallard pair is oblivious to sleet starting to fall
Mom Mallard is sipping fresh water from ice-melt
While Dad snoozes
He then waddles into the water for a dunking
Pops up refreshed, sheathed in water
Remember the saying “…like water rolling off a duck’s back”?
Drying his head with feathers, for lack of a towel
Back at our Nyjer seed feeder, the Golfinches celebrate their good fortune
The second seating is for house sparrows, but the kitchen is running low

Gloucester 400+ “Overture” Celebration — pat morss

This year we are, of course, celebrating Gloucester’s 400+ Anniversary (the “+” is for the centuries native peoples were here before Europeans, and for the years that are yet to come). The Overture was televised locally, and the Gloucester Times had comprehensive coverage, so this is more my personal view of this opening event of the year-long celebration.

Members of multiple services and organizations uniting to present the colors.
Marching on stage.
Great pride.
Members of the Cape Ann Symphony performed pieces composed by our local Robert Bradshaw
Mayor Verga was impressed by Allessandro Shoc’s rendering of the National Anthem.
State Senator Bruce Tarr, Master of Ceremonies, introduced Joey Porcello.
Joey is Gloucester’s Ambassador to Massachussets Project 351 (each town and city).
Bruce congratulated him, as we look to the future.
Allen Estes sang Gloucester’s song “Where’d They Go?” which he wrote.
Great Energy!
Allen and Bruce are two more terrific ambassadors for Cape Ann.
State Rep Ann-Margaret Ferrante introduced Grace Carey, a student at GMGI.
Grace is an image of our faith in the next generatio.
David Walt is the charismatic co-founder of the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute (GMGI).
His keynote speech about Gloucester’s potential in the next century was stirring.

Some Then and Now — pat morss

It’s been slow recently for our waterfront and wildlife activity, so here are some photos that didn’t “fit the theme” a while back, followed by a few from our recent walks.

Herring Gulls have adapted happily to Gloucester’s LED streetlights.
An expert at camouflage.
A replica of the 1812 Baltimore Privateer Lynx visited us last August.
A quiet father and son afternoon, fishing off the Jodrey State Fish Pier.
Other fishermen faced more challenging conditions for casting.
And came prepared, whatever the weather.
Just recently, a relaxed Northern Mockingbird greeted us at eye level, Niles Pond.
Male Greater Scaups, leisurely cruising.
Nearly precise choreography – Mergansers clockwise, Mallards counter-clockwise.
A content Mallard in the late afternoon sun.
Our friend Wiley Coyote hunting rodents in the early morning sun.

Closing Out 2022 — pat morss

Things were about normal for the end of the year.

Boats standing tall in hibernation.
Turkeys in the trees.
Hit by an early storm that caused worse chaos across most of the country.
A good day to stay in port.
Surveying the coastal breakers (color photo).
Flocks of winter Robins are back.
With a few Cedar Waxwings joining them to eat berries.
A couple of days of hockey on Niles Pond before the thaw.
US Coast Guard conducting exercises.
A perfect place in the low winter sun (mom or dad beyond).
And many more red sunsets.
New Year’s Eve toast with warm Sambucca (with 3 “flies”) and chilled Pear-apple Brandy.
Ushering in 2023 at the Rocky Neck Polar Plunge, with a towel for Dad.

Thoughts During the Holidays — pat morss

Some things to keep in mind when we’re celebrating this Holiday season.

A time for sharing the bounty.
If you are prone to quarreling ….
…. make time to work it out.
Fish with friends and learn from your mentor.
When you see your target, make a hole in the water.
Then snatch the flying fish.
Observe what’s around you – a mirage of the Boston skyline ….
…. and a similar mirage of a ship.
Wish for everyone to make it home safely.
Appreciate your cultural traditions.
Thank you to the Lobster Trap Tree builders, and our students for the painted ornaments.
And Thank you Mother Nature for the marvelous sunsets.

Hank Encounters Ice — pat morss

Hank Heron (‘The Great Blue’) continues to entertain us, this time dealing with the first ice of the winter on Niles Pond. Here, in his very own words.

“I’ll gingerly test the ice with one foot.”
“It went through. Not good.”
“I’ll go ashore and rethink this.”
“I know I walked on the ice last winter. Let’s try again.”
“Nope. Same problem.”
“One last try. I’ll proceed carefully.”
“Increase the weight slowly, Hank. So far, so good.”
“Whoa! This stuff is slippery.”
“Gotta regain my balance.”
“I think it’s time to retreat.”
“This is so embarrassing. I hope nobody was watching.”

All is Well, Late Fall — pat morss

Everything is normal for this time of year, leading up to the Holidays.

The driver shortage for package deliveries has been solved.
As the seas build, commercial fishermen enjoy returning home.
And a few sport fishermen head out.
Our regulars convene around the feeders – male House Finch.
And there are new faces on our walks – Carolina Wren.
Over on Niles Pond, a stoic Cormorant sculpture.
Hank Heron (or Great Blue friend) fishes the same area every day.
A bit less graceful in deeper water.
And he’s still looking for a shoe that will fit.
A pair of female Hooded Mergansers cruise mid-pond.
Adjacent, in Brace Cove, this rock supports the 3-seal limit.
There is never a shortage of spectacular sunsets.

Fishing Lesson from a Pro — pat morss

During our walk by Niles Pond yesterday we were treated to one of Hank Heron’s younger friends scoring some misses, but mostly hits, while fishing for lunch. Here’s one of his (her?) successes.

Carefully stalking his prey. With eyes on the prize, he’s ready to strike.
Lightning fast, his head is in the water like a slingshot.
Came up with a nice fish at the tip of his bill.
The Mallards were bottom feeding, neither competition nor a distraction.
Time to reposition the “flying fish” further up the bill.
That’s better.
Now I need to turn it toward my stomach.
Properly aligned.
And I can close my bill.
Swallow, and the fish goes head first into the gullet.
Straighten the neck and it slides all the way down. Delicious.

Birds and Surf — pat morss

Another week enjoying our feathered friends, and the weather extremes.

Female Cardinal wondering how to get at the last of the suet.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way”
“Look! We’re back at Niles Pond for the winter” – Buffleheads bracketed by Mergansers.
This young lady (3rd from left) had a flotilla of suitors, in formation.
I’ll take a chance. “Excuse me Ma’am – would you like to go out for dinner with me?”
Lucky guy. Invitation accepted. Bottom buffet, Mallard style.
Our Bald Eagle is back, surveying his surroundings from a treetop.
There was good surf swirling around Brace Rock …
… that could surprise you.
Stormy outside Brace Cove. Twin Lights/Thacher Island disappearing in the mist (at right).
Downright threatening for anything except the gulls.

A Mystery and More — pat morss

There is never a lack of interesting happenings around here. Recently – historic ships coming to Cape Ann for maintenance by knowledgeable craftspeople; a mystery as to the animal contractors at Niles Pond; and celestial bodies showing off.

Northern Lights hauled out for work at Gloucester Marine Railways, Rocky Neck
Beaver, replica Boston Teaparty Museum ship, on the ways at Maritime Gloucester
Refurbishing will include new masts, bowsprit and rigging
Over on Niles Pond, is this an otter den? Otters have been sighted.
This mysterious mound has appeared over the last month. Buffleheads are looking on.
A Red-eared Slider turtle was compacting this new mound several weeks ago
It has now grown into a high-rise, with a concerned Painted Turtle observing at the lower left
On the next rock over, “We’re taking a stand and will defend our favorite sunning rock”
Last week the full moon was headed toward a total eclipse
It developed a beautiful red glow at totality, shortly before setting
A month ago the moon was setting behind the Eastern Point Lighthouse, not yet ready for an eclipse
And sunset has now migrated behind the lighthouse in an annual rite of passage, headed south

NEMA Conference — pat morss

I’m back from the annual New England Museum Association Conference that was held “live” this year in Springfield, MA. We are fortunate to benefit from such diversity and density of museums in New England, including here on Cape Ann. I ventured out to a few of them, walking and on field trips.

Home base was the Sheraton in downtown Springfield – Connecticut River view
The Basketball Hall of Fame is on the river a short walk away
Dr Seuss is well represented on the ‘Springfield Museums’ campus
Springfield’s past comes alive in the History Museum
Collections in two Art Museums span from Ancient cultures, through centuries …
… to Contemporary
Emily Dickinson’s house is on the Amherst College campus
This is the library where she wrote much of her poetry
Amherst’s Beneski Museum houses an extensive dinosaur and fossil collection
The New England Air Museum, across in Windsor Locks, CT, goes back to the Wright Brothers
And includes civilian and military aircraft, such as the WWII B-29 Superfortress
As well as supersonic fighters. This simulator is a real blast if you crash.

Just Another Week — pat morss

A variety of encounters over the last week.

Nature education at the Audubon Sanctuary
“It’s a bird,… It’s a plane,… It’s Supermen” – on the Eastern Point lighthouse radio tower
Halloween is approaching with a pumpkin palette of colors
Can you lend me a hand?
‘Gloucester 400+’ fundraiser at Blue Collar Lobster, for 2023 complimentay event tickets
The Madhouse band musicians played among the dancers and from the tabletops
Bonhams Skinner will auction a small Winslow Homer – estimate $250,000 to $350,000
My 1986 similar view on Ten Pound Island, Winslow Homer’s 1880 summer home
“Birds of a feather…” – Hank Heron in the rain with his little Nuthatch friend
The week brought to a close

Autumn Canvas — pat morss

We’re getting some beneficial rain. Fall colors are now more than dry, brown leaves.

Color and shadow composition on a stone wall
Maple leaves are among the earliest to turn
Rain intensifies color
Some colors are subtle, here surrounding turtles on Niles Pond
The brightest colors can be berries rather than leaves
This House Finch travels with his own spot of color
Audubon Sanctuary in the early morning sun
Swirls of color near the rocks in the afternoon
Audubon is overseen by a Cooper’s Hawk
‘Hank Heron’ is preparing for his daily sunset hunt in the sanctuary

Seals Rock – pat morss

Maybe the Great White sharks are moving south, because the seals are back at Brace Cove. Yesterday I watched for 20 minutes as the initial rocks became exposed.

First claims on West Rock and East Rock. Other seals were reconnoitering.
Testing security at East Rock. “You’re bleeding in the neck – go away.”
“I’m also bleeding, and I’m bigger. What are you going to do about it?”
Intimidation wins out, with a look of resignation on the defender’s face.
Meanwhile, there is an unwelcome intruder on West Rock.
And another invader on East Rock. “I’ll try being belligerent again.”
The smaller arrival is relegated to the side of East Rock – precarious
In an hour there will be plenty of low tide rocks for all newcomers.

Cape Ann Plein Air Quick Draw — pat morss

This week the annual Cape Ann Plein Air Festival is in full swing. The weather so far has been challenging – cold and windy. The opening event on Sunday was the Quick Draw, held at Essex County Greenbelt’s Allyn Cox Reservation. Competitors had two hours to complete their paintings, followed by a half hour to frame and submit them for judging and for sale.

Headquarters for judging at the Cox Reservation, Essex
No restrictions on creativity, as the sign notes
The Great Marsh took center stage
Well along at 1-1/2 hours
Coffee to warm the hands
Small was a good approach to the windy conditions
This artist’s easel blew over – now in restoration mode
Low to the ground also worked well
The perfect compact outdoor kit
Framing before the judging

Catching Up With the Neighbors — pat morss

Our wildlife remained active while we were distracted enjoying late summer.

Large swarms of swallows harvesting mosquitos
Getting recharged on the power lines
A lone Ruby-throated Hummingbird by the front door
Makeshift nest for feeding
A nursing Red Squirrel thankful for water during the drought
Seems a little late for this little Snapping Turtle
A pretty-patterned caterpillar rhythmically galloping across the road
Monarchs gathering for their multi-generational migration to Mexico
A pair of Wood Ducks visiting Niles Pond
Hank Heron (Great Blue) back in his/her tree, enjoying the rain
Young antlers
And adult antlers

Refuge from Hurricane Fiona — Pat Morss

There was a lot of cruise ship activity viewable from Gloucester yesterday (Friday) with Hurricane Fiona disrupting two of the prime NE coast itineraries – Bermuda and the Canadian Maritimes. “Maritime Traffic: Global Ship Tracking” ( is a great tool for seeing what’s going on. Following just the four ships sighted, Zaandam and Roald Amundsen docked in Boston Friday night. On Saturday morning Caribbean Princess (origin and destination shown as Boston, with no ETA???) and Norwegian Breakaway (destination NYC) headed around Cape Cod and were passing east of Nantucket. Queen Mary 2 is due in Boston from NYC this evening.

Here is yesterday’s activity of just the four visible from Eastern Point.

Norwegian Breakaway silhouetted in the Friday morning sun
Zaandam and Norwegian Breakaway, and Roald Amundsen coming from the south, converging on Boston
Caribbean Princess arrived from the north in the afternoon
She hung around and didn’t go into Boston. No room in the Inn?
Windy but safe conditions at Friday sunset