Friday afternoon, after the nor’easter, the sun came out just barely before the skies again darkened with a brief snow squall. I was driving along Atlantic Road during those fleeting in between moments when way off in the distance I spied a flock of birds, with the distinct shape of swans in flight. Swans fly with their long necks extended, unlike herons and egrets, which fly with their necks tucked in. What is Mr. Swan doing out in this wildly windy weather I thought. But it wasn’t Mr. Swan, it was an entire family of Swans! There were two adults and four cygnets. Stunning to see and very uplifting. They flew over the Twin Lights and then further and further until I could not see them any longer.
The first and third swans are the adults, the second, fourth, fifth and sixth are the cygnets, or first-hatch year juveniles.The young swans will retain their grayish brown feathers until their second summer.
Please write and let me know if you saw the Mute Swan family on Friday afternoon. They were flying along the backshore at about 2:15. Or, if you live on the Northshore and know of any swan family with two adults and four youngsters, I would love to learn more about them. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for any leads!
Swans and wave crashing
A few more of the Mute Swan family flying toward and over Thacher Island
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There are six lighthouses on Cape Ann, plus one more imaginative one at Stage Fort Park’s dynamite playground. Recently I hosted a large group visiting from Arizona. They wanted to walk a local history trail and ended up visiting two: the Freedom Trail in Boston and the HarborWalk in Gloucester. Their number one request? They wanted to see lighthouses. Last year, Kathie Gilson and Marie Santos designed this fun shaped brochure for the City of Gloucester. You can find it at the Chamber and the Stage Fort Park welcome center.
A huge shout out to Thacher Island Association and president Paul St. Germain for winning an Essex National Heritage Area partnership grant to restore the elevated pedestrian lighthouse walkway on Straitsmouth Island.
Paul St. Germain writes, “We will restore the original C 1850, 220-foot granite and wooden timber walkway to provide safe and easy access for the public to visit the lighthouse from the keeper house. This walkway has been there since 1854 and was destroyed sometime in the 1930’s. Besides its usefulness it has also been an iconic signature of the island’s profile for over 80 years.”
This unique 1906 photo shows the 315-foot walkway, the oil house, and keeper house, as well as Thacher Island’s Twin Lights in the distance.
Facts about Straitsmouth Island Light Station
First lighthouse was established in 1835 to mark the entrance to Rockport Harbor.
The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1851 and again in 1896.
A 6th order Fresnel lens was installed in the lantern in 1857.
The current Victorian styled keeper house was built in 1878 similar to the one on Thacher Island.
In 1932 the light was converted from white to green.
Coast Guard moved the station to shore at Gap Head and sold the island to private parties in 1934.
Coast Guard continues to maintain the light as an official aid to navigation today. In 1967 the island (except for the lighthouse) was donated to Massachusetts Audubon Society who maintains it as a wildlife sanctuary.
Straitsmouth Island was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
In 2010 the lighthouse and 1.8 acres of land was given to the Town of Rockport by the coast guard.
In 2014 the Town of Rockport signed a long term 30 year lease with Mass Audubon for the use of the keeper and oil houses.
Harbor Tours provides a tour of six Lighthouse tour on Cape Ann, (Ten Pound Island, Eastern Point, Straitsmouth, Thacher and Annisquam Lighthouses). The tour is far more; it is narrated by Captain Donald Steele; who gives the history of Cape Ann and the many points of interest; you seethe many islands along the coast line, local and private beaches, and some celebrities’ homes along the shore. As a Gloucester native he tells stories of the many storms, that occurred along the rough coast line of Cape Ann.
The tour is a must for locals and Gloucester visitors. In the slideshow you will see the many delighted faces of people on the tour that I went on this past weekend.