FINAL EPISODE- SNOWY OWL RETURNS TO THE ARCTIC

Hello Friends,

Thank you to everyone for your very kind comments for this series. It has been a joy creating for such an enthusiastic audience ❤

Thank you to Jennifer Davis and her adorable daughters Ellie and Isla. They stopped by one morning to see if they could find Snowy Owl. The girls and Mom were being so good at watching her from a safe distance. I asked Jenny if she minded if I took a photo and some footage, too. Jenny very graciously said yes!

Some good news-

In the two years that have passed since our Snowy visited Cape Ann’s Back Shore, all of Boston’s North Shore has not seen the same tremendous numbers of that winter of 2018. I read though on ProjectSNOWstorm’s website of the possibility of an exciting upcoming winter of 2020-2021 because there has been a good population of lemmings in the eastern portions of the Snowies breeding grounds. Let’s hope for more visits by beautiful Snowies ❤

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann was created for the kids in the Cape Ann community during this at-home school time. Please share with young people you know who may be interested.

Thank you again for watching!

To see all five episodes together, please go to the Snowy Owl Film Project page on my website.

Again, thank you to Scott Weidensaul from ProjectSNOWstorm for script advice.

 

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann
Part Five: Snowy Owl Returns to the Arctic

Friends of Snowy Owl wondered how long she would stay before heading north on her return migration to the Arctic. Typically, Snowies leave New England by March or April, but some have stayed as late as July.

Why do people find Snowy Owls so captivating?

Owls symbolize wisdom and intelligence, and the characters they are given in popular culture and literature strengthen our associations.

We are provided a wonderful window into the world of owls through Snowies because they are crepuscular creatures, which means they are most active at dawn and at dusk.

There are only about 30,000 Snowy Owls in the wild. No one knows if their numbers are stable or decreasing.

Snowies face many threats, especially when they come south to us, including vehicles, planes, and toxic chemicals.

Research analysis shows that most carry some degree of rat poison, pesticides, and/or mercury in their bodies.

We can all be conscientious stewards of Snowies by not using poisonous chemicals and by keeping a safe distance when observing.

In early March, Snowy Owl began to appear restless. Migration is the most dangerous period in an owl’s life, but hormonal changes triggered by longer days were urging her northward.

Snowy Owl survived the fierce winds and waves of powerful nor’easters along with constant heckling by gulls and crows.

She ate well during her winter stay on Cape Ann.

Snowy Owl was strong and healthy when she departed, increasing the likelihood of a safe journey and return to her breeding habitat of Arctic tundra and grasslands.

Safe travels beautiful Snowy!

WONDERFULLY RARE FOOTAGE – SNOWY OWL TAKES A BATH

Hello Friends on this rainy, windy day. People’s holiday weekend ran the gamut from joyful to tragic and I so hope yours was not too difficult and you were able to find some light. It was such a beautiful day weather-wise yesterday and if there is one thing about the coronavirus is how wonderful it is to see so many families enjoying each other’s company while out in the fresh air.

Part four, Snowy Owl Takes a Bath, was filmed early one morning. I stopped by to check on Snowy Owl (her nickname at the time was Hedwig) and noticed her face was stained red from breakfast. I only planned to take a few snapshots when she hopped over to a rocky tide pool and began to wash her face. I ran back to the car to grab my movie camera and am so glad I did! For the next 40 – 45 minutes she bathed, preened, and fluffed.I am calling this rare footage because I can’t find anything else like it. Unlike most owls, which are nocturnal (active at night) Snowy Owls are active during the day (diurnal), providing a rare glimpse into the world of owls in the wild.

To see all four episodes together, please go to the Snowy Owl Film Project page on my website. These shorts were created for the kids in the Cape Ann community during this at-home schooling time. The last segment, part five, Snowy Owl Returns to the Arctic, is almost completed and will be posted later this week.

Thank you for watching!

Again, thank you to Scott Weidensaul from ProjectSNOWstorm for script advice.

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann
Part Four: Snowy Owl Takes a Bath

After a snow squall and as the sun was beginning to appear, a Snowy Owl came out to take a bath. She found a watery icy pool tucked out of sight from dive bombing crows and gulls.

Snowy Owls, like most non-aquatic birds, take baths to clean their feathers.

First washing her face, she tip-dipped and then dunked. After bathing, Snowy fluff dried her feathers, pooped, and preened. During preening, oil from the preen gland, which is located at the base of the tail, is distributed through the feathers to help maintain waterproofing.

Washing, fluffing, and preening took about forty-five minutes from head to talon.

BE PREPARED TO BE GROSSED OUT- SNOWY OWL PUKING A GINORMOUS PELLET – PART THREE: A SNOWY OWL COMES TO CAPE ANN

Casting a pellet is a totally normal thing that Snowy Owls, and all owls do. You may even have dissected a pellet in biology class. I  just had no idea until seeing Snowy do this that they could be so enormous!

You can view the first three episodes here: Snowy Owl Film Project. All five will eventually be found on this page. Almost finished with Part Four: Snowy Owl Takes a Bath 🙂

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann

Part Three: Snowy Owl Casts a Pellet

Once or twice a day an owl casts, or regurgitates, a pellet, which is a mass of undigested parts of the bird’s food. Pellets form after an owl has fed. The owl often casts a pellet, and goes poop, shortly before heading out to hunt.

Pellets contain sharp-edged bones and teeth that could damage the bird’s lower digestive tract. Its presence prevents the owl from swallowing fresh prey.

 

A SNOWY OWL COMES TO CAPE ANN PART TWO: SNOWY OWL MIGHTY HUNTER with graphic warning for very young children

Snowy Owl MightY Hunter is part two of the series A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann. The segment where Snowy is eating prey may be too graphic for very young children, so parents please preview.

Please share with friends and your young naturalists. Thank you for watching and take care

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann
Part One

Dear Friends,

Not last winter but the winter before, an exquisite Snowy Owl arrived on Cape Ann. I think it was sometime in December we first began seeing her perched on Bass Rocks. Many of us followed her escapades daily and we took lots of photos. I was also filming her. Like many Snowies, she was tolerant of people, but I think she was especially unperturbed by humans. I also filmed other Snowies that irruptive winter, a stunning nearly all white male nicknamed Diablo at Salisbury Beach, a pretty female at Plum Island, and several males that were located at a beach just north of Logan Airport. And while filming one morning in the dunes at Crane Beach, two were having an epic battle. I was sitting super still and one of the combatants landed within several feet of where I was perched, startling us both!

About two months ago my computer crashed and I lost my film editing program and also became sick with what I thought was a cold. I had been mostly self-quarantining for a month prior to the mandated quarantine because I didn’t want any elderly friends to catch my cold. It turns out it is pneumonia. So between quarantining and learning my brand new film editing program I have made a series of short 3-5 minute films, mostly for the parents and kids in our neighborhood, and also for all our owl lovers. Hopefully, these shorts will help a bit to pass the time.

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann is part one in the first of five episodes. Next to come is Snowy Owl Mighty Hunter.

Please share with your neighbors and Moms and Dads home with the kids. I think you will love seeing the Snowy and how beautiful, too, Cape Ann looks in wintertime. And we’ll also learn some fun facts about Snowies!

Thank you for watching and please be well ❤

NEW SHORT FILM: DO YOU REMEMBER CAPE ANN’S SNOWY OWL HEDWIG?

Dear Friends and Snowy Owl Lovers,

Not last winter but the winter before, an exquisite Snowy Owl arrived on Cape Ann. I think it was sometime in December we first began seeing her perched on Bass Rocks. Many of us followed her escapades daily and we took lots of photos. I was also filming her. Like many Snowies, she was tolerant of people, but I think she was especially unperturbed by humans. I also filmed other Snowies that irruptive winter, a stunning nearly all white male nicknamed Diablo at Salisbury Beach, a pretty female at Plum Island, and a pair of males that were located at a beach just north of Logan Airport. And while filming one morning in the dunes at Crane Beach, two were having an epic battle. I was sitting super still and one of the combatants landed within several feet of where I was perched, startling us both!

About two months ago my computer crashed and I lost my film editing program and also became sick with what I thought was a cold. I had been mostly self-quarantining for a month prior to the mandated quarantine because I didn’t want any elderly friends to catch my cold. It turns out it is pneumonia. So between quarantining and learning my brand new film editing program I have made a series of short 3-5 minute films, mostly for the parents and kids in our neighborhood, and also for all our owl lovers. Hopefully, these shorts will help a bit to pass the time.

A Snowy Owl Comes to Cape Ann is part one in the first of five episodes. Next to come is Snowy Owl Hunting. Stay tuned 🙂

Please share with your neighbors and Moms and Dads home with the kids. I think you will love seeing the Snowy and how beautiful, too, Cape Ann looks in wintertime. And we’ll also learn some fun facts about Snowies!

Thank you for watching and please be well ❤

 

A SOGGY SNOWY OWL FOR A SOGGY DAY

This sweet messy-faced girl was relaxing on the limb of a craggy tree after what had been a clearly successful morning hunt. She coughed up a pellet while enjoying a rare quiet moment perched in the branches

LATE WINTER WILDLIFE UPDATE -AND LOVE IS IN THE AIR!

Beautiful bird songs fill the air as songbirds are pairing up.

Carolina Wren

Red-winged Blackbird

American Robin

 

Winter resident ducks are seen in pairs, too.

Buffleheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and Scaups

A beautiful male Northern Pintail has been on our shores for several months.

 

Our young Black-crowned Night Heron has made it through the winter!

And a pair of American Pipits has been here all winter, too.

Many Short-eared Owls and Snowy Owls have not yet departed for their summer breeding grounds.

Red-tailed and Marsh Hawks are here year round and this is a wonderful time of year to observe their behaviors, before sparse vegetation turns lush with summer growth.

Fox and Coyotes have been busy mating; their kits and pups are born from mid-March-through May.

Bald Eagles in our area may begin laying eggs as early as February.

The Harbor Seal posse is seen nearly everyday. The highest count so far was 27!

A pair of sweet Snow Buntings has been here for several days, eating tiny seeds found on the ground.

Brant Geese are seen in small to large flocks before heading to the high Arctic tundra to breed.
Happy Spring-is-just-around-the corner!

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL DUXBURY!

Snapshots from beautiful Duxbury

 A new twist on a dream home -living in a Lighthouse House. The private home is sited at the beginning of the wooden Powder Point Bridge.

Wonderful fun to drive across Powder Point Bridge, which was at one time the oldest and longest wooden bridge in the US. It lost that status when the bridge was damaged by fire and completely rebuilt in the late 1980s. The bridge is one of two ways for the public to access Duxbury Beach.

Duxbury Beach, like Crane Beach and Plum Island, is a barrier beach that is home to Piping Plovers in the summer and Snowy Owls during the winter months. Read more about Duxbury Beach here.

“Our mission is to restore and to preserve the beaches in so far as reasonably possible in their natural state as host to marine life, native and migratory birds and indigenous vegetation, as barrier beaches for the protection of Duxbury and Kingston and as a priceless environmental asset to the Commonwealth and the nation; and to operate for the benefit of the people of Duxbury and the general public a public recreational beach with all necessary and incidental facilities, while preserving the right to limit and regulate such use so as to be consistent with the corporation’s primary ecological objective.”

Duxbury cranberry bog

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL SNOWY OWLS

I haven’t seen any Snowies yet this winter on Cape Ann; there simply seem to be fewer that migrated to our region than there were several years ago when Hedwig was the star of the backshore.

These Snowy Owl photos were taken earlier in the month at Parker River. The dirt road, the one that begins after the Hellcat Trail, has reopened, although I wouldn’t recommend going there on the weekends, much better to go during the week. There are so many photographers and owl lovers on the weekends, especially in the afternoon, that it has become really disruptive to the owls, both the Snowies and Short-eared. Even though folks are very respectful and (most) stay on the road, the Short-eared Owls aren’t catching much food, as far as I can observe, when there are great crowds chasing them up and down the road.

RULER OF THE MARSH – FEATURING RABBIT, HAWK, OWLS, AND EAGLE

Life on the marsh –

The Marsh Hawk (Northern Harrier) sitting in the grass off in the distance, was holding captive a bunny.

The bunny was staying still and the hawk was, surprisingly, not attempting to capture the rabbit. Perhaps because avian predators, like hawks, hunt by swooping in, and in a short distance stand-off, the hawk would have to sort of hop over to the bunny. Rabbits can hop to escape a great deal quicker than can hawks-on-foot give chase.

The Short-eared Owl arrives and the Marsh Hawk takes cover.

The Snowy Owl appears on the scene…

and the Short-eared Owls are nowhere to be seen.

The Bald Eagle, Ruler of Marsh and Meadow, swoops in. The Snowy departs.

 

 

MORE SNAPSHOTS OF THE BEAUTIFUL SHORT-EARED OWL, SNOWY OWL, TENDERCROP FARM, AND IPSWICH CLAMBAKE

Charlotte and I had a wonderful adventure morning checking on the owls at Plum Island. We observed several Harrier Hawks flying low over the marsh grass hunting for prey, a Short-eared Owl perched on a craggy tree, and a Snowy parked for the morning far out in the dunes. We played on the beach and she had a blast zooming up and down the boardwalk at lot no.2.

Tiny white wedge in the distance

We next stopped at the refuge headquarters to play in the marsh boat that is part of the exhibit about the Great Salt Marsh. She brought along her own stuffed Snowy to join on the boat ride.

Next destination was a visit to see the farm friends at Tendercrop Farm. Currently in residence are a turkey, ginormous steer, pony, chickens, ducks, llama, and the sweetest miniature goat who is just wonderful with toddlers.

I purchased the best steaks we have ever had, Tendercrop’s own grass fed rib-eye, made even more magnificent cooked to perfection by Alex, with a beautiful red wine demi-glace.

Everything at Tendercrop Farm is always amazingly delicious. They have the freshest and best selection of fruits and vegetables during the winter months, bar none.

Great bunches of freshly cut pussy willows are for sale at Tendercrop

Last stop was lunch at the Ipswich Clambake. The owners and staff are just the most friendly. The clam chowder at the Clambake is perfection. Charlotte and I shared a mini super fresh fried clam appetizer and that, along with the chowder, made the best sort of lunch to top off our fun adventure morning.

Tendercrop Farm is located at 108 High Road, 1A, in Newbury.

Ipswich Clambake is located at 196 High Street, 1A, in Ipswich.

 

BEAUTIFUL SHORT-EARED OWLS IN OUR MIDST!

Melded to the grass as he was, in monochromatic winter pasture shades of taupe, buff, and gray, it was nearly impossible to spot the impostor posing in the dry stalks and twigs. But there he was, a small mound resting along the thicket edge. You can just barely see him in the photo below.

He sat up for a brief moment and even from a great distance his wide-eyed, and only seconds long, golden-eyed look was unmissable.

I’ve read the Short-eared Owl flight described as erratic, but I would call it anything but that. They swoop gracefully over fields in multi-directions, with great intention, listening for the sound of voles, moles, mice and other small mammals scurrying through the tall winter grass and phragmites. Flying low while hunting, their wingbeats are smooth and steady.

The Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)  is called as such because of the little tufts of display feathers atop its head, which aren’t really ears at all. The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) is a cousin of the Short-eared and it has longer feather tufts. Owls have a highly developed hearing system and their ears are actually located at the sides of their heads, behind the eyes, and are covered by the feathers of the facial disc.

Unlike many species of owls, which prefer forest and woodland, the Short-eared Owls is a bird of open country. They require fields, grasslands, marshes, bogs, heaths, and dunes. Shorties are crepuscular, which means they mostly feed at dawn and dusk.

Short-eared Owls are found the world over on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Sadly, in Massachusetts, breeding pairs have been driven to the brink of extirpation. There may still be one or two pairs that breed at Nantucket’s Tuckernuck Island but, because of loss of habitat, the Short-eared Owl was listed as endangered in Massachusetts in 1985.

Listen for the Short-eared Owls wing “clapping” in the video below, and some adorable chicks, too 🙂

From Cornell: “Hawaii’s only native owl, the Pueo (Asio flammeus sandwichensis), is a Short-eared Owl subspecies found on all the chain’s major islands. Pueos may have descended from Alaska forebears, taking hold in the islands after the first arriving Polynesians brought owl food in the form of the Pacific rat.”
Short-eared Owl Range Map

OWL FEVER!

This past weekend’s glorious and record breaking mid-January 70-degree-plus weather encouraged everyone to get out doors and it was wonderful to see. On both Saturday and Sunday there was a line to get into Parker River Wildlife Refuge. Many were enjoying the beaches and hiking the trails while quite a few were there to see the Snowy Owls and Short-eared Owls.

There are currently two Snowy Owls and several Short-eared Owls at Parker River. Folks are asking where the owls can be found specifically. I can only share where I have seen them and that covers almost the entire refuge, from parking lot no.1 (where the gates are) all the way down to parking lot no. 6. The photographers and birders out shooting at the refuge are super helpful and if you see a bunch, park  your car (intelligently please, so that you are not blocking traffic) and ask. Many of the birders will also share a look through their scopes.

SNOWY OWL ALERT! AND BALD EAGLES, TOO!

It was a beautiful morning at Parker River despite mostly overcast skies and a strong wind. This first day of our “January thaw” was made even more beautiful by the presence of the Snowy Owl.

I believe she’s a female, although the lightest females can look like the darkest males. She appeared largely unperturbed by the gaggle of photographers that came and went. The Snowy flew across the dune for a few moments, but then flew back to roughly the same spot; in both locations she was somewhat protected from the blustery wind.

I have it on good authority that there are currently SIX Bald Eagles at Parker River, two hatch-years, two that are roughly three years old, and two adults. I have only seen one youngster this week, in a battle with a crow, and I couldn’t tell who was chasing who 🙂

FIRST SNOWY OWL SIGHTING OF THE 2019-2020 WINTER

Far, far down the ridge a little white wedge-shaped dot sat. We were all wishing he would fly our way, but alas, he was content to stay in place while washing his face and preening his flying feathers, with the crowd standing comfortably behind the rope set up by the refuge.

There are two Snowy Owls currently at Parker River and one has been spotted at Salisbury Beach. Hopefully, more will call the North Shore home this winter. The photo below was taken with a 400mm lens and very closely cropped.

ENCHANTING ENCOUNTER WITH THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN BITTERN

Taking advantage of whatever sunshine can be had at this time of year, I took Charlotte to Plum Island for the day this past Thursday. We began at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and were immediately enchanted with an American Bittern stealth hunting in the marsh, a regal buck, Pintail Ducks, and hawks. Next we made sand castles at Sandy Point and then spent a great deal of time exploring a seemingly abandoned bulldozer in the parking lot there.

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Our little sponge ❤️

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Lunch was a shared lobster roll from Bob’s Lobster Shack, which is located on the causeway heading out to Plum Island. We then stopped at the refuge headquarters to see the Snowy Owl, Piping Plover, and Monarch displays.

Charlotte’s day was made perfect when we learned that homemade cupcakes could be found at the Buttermilk Baking Company.

Last stop was one of my favorite shops for wonderfully unique and vintage home decor, The Barn at Todd Farm. The shop is decorated beautifully for the holidays and is bursting with Christmas gifts and treasures.

The American Bittern hunting in the marsh at Parker River was not at first easy to locate. Not only do the brown and buff colors of their feathers meld perfectly with the surrounding vegetation, but this heron has adapted an additional, highly effective method of camouflage. The Bittern stands motionless with its neck tilted upward, mirroring the tall reeds where the bird forages for fish, crustaceans, amphibians, insects, reptiles, and even small mammals. 

The Bittern was beautiful to watch, perfectly poised in striking mode and waiting for the exact moment to attack. He wasted not an ounce of energy and did not miss a single strike.

Swallowing fish whole and head first

American Bitterns breed in our region however, they generally migrate further south for the winter to regions where the water does not freeze. Managed wetlands such as those found within Parker River Wildlife Refuge play an important role in the survival of the American Bittern, especially during migration and the winter months.

DOG SNARLING AT SEAL PHOTO- HOW NOT TO TREAT WILDLIFE

The woman in the above picture was trying to capture a photo of her dog and the seal together. A friend of mine took the photo late last winter at a local Massachusetts beach and shared it. The seal was terrified and the woman appears to be oblivious to her snarling dog. I was in the area earlier that day when she was asked twice by an Audubon employee to stop disrupting a Snowy Owl.

It’s that time of year when Snowy Owls begin to arrive from the Arctic and a time of year when we may be fortunate enough to see a seal hauled out on the beach. Seals are only on the beach to rest, to recuperate, or to escape the jaws of a shark. NOAA’s rule of thumb is to keep at least 50 yards (150 feet) away from a hauled out seal.

If you make a Snowy fly, you are too close.

Please show your love for our local wildlife. Thank you

 

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE REHABBER JODI SWENSON ON FOX NEWS SPEAKING ABOUT RAT POISON KILLING OUR LOCAL WILDLIFE

LINK HERE TO SEE THE FOX NEWS SEGMENT

GLOUCESTER, Mass. – Wildlife rehabilitators are urging residents and business owners not to use rat poison as it is suspected in the deaths of three foxes and a coyote in Gloucester in recent weeks, as well as countless other animals.

The latest fox was found dead on Good Harbor Beach Tuesday morning.

Jodi Swenson, head of Cape Ann Wildlife Inc., said she has taken in too many animals that have died slow, painful deaths from secondary rodenticide poisoning.

Residents and business owners are leaving rat poison outside, killing mice and rats, which are then eaten by bigger predators, including foxes, chipmunks, raccoons and birds of prey.

“It’s a horrendous way to die. They’re basically bleeding out,” Swenson said. “It’s sad, and it’s maddening because we know [the fox] most likely ate a poisoned mouse or rat. He’s trying to do his job, and he’s dying for it.”

Jane Newhouse, the owner of Newhouse Wildlife Rescue of Chelmsford, said she has taken in more animals suffering from rodenticide poisoning than those hit by cars.

“Of all the things that I see, this is one of the worst things we as humans do to our wildlife,” Newhouse said. “Often, [the bigger animals] might eat one rat or mouse that has it and it’ll be in their system for a while.”

Newhouse treated a four-month-old fox that, testing showed, had ingested three different kinds of rodent poison over the course of its short life. She also cared for a pregnant raccoon that went into early labor. All of the animals died.

“It was probably the worst thing I’ve witnessed as a wildlife rehabilitator, not only to see her go through it and to see the amount of suffering that that poor mama endured, but then to have lost all the babies inside her,” Newhouse said.

As the natural predators of rats and mice are killed off, the rodent problem is only getting worse, Newhouse said.

“If you kill your local bird of prey, your local hawk who usually kills a thousand rodents a year, what’s going to happen is yes, temporarily your issue is solved, but it’s going to come back with a vengeance, and you’re going to have way more,” Newhouse said.

Newhouse is working on testing as many animals as possible for rodenticide poisoning to get solid numbers to bring to the state in order to get the legislature to ban rodent poison.

“If you’ve ever witnessed the slow death that rodenticide is, you’d absolutely be on board with banning this stuff,” Newhouse said. “It’s awful. It’s awful for the animals.”

Wildlife rescuers urge the public to use other alternatives to rodent poison, including prevention – simply limiting trash and food outside and sealing off entrances to shelter for rodents. If necessary, quick-kill snap traps are a better option than bait, experts say.

The above graphics are printable small poster size. The black and white one is great for kids to color.

 

SNOWY OWL BESTIES ON THE BEACH

When one Snowy Owl boy left his perch and flew within several feet of a second Snowy stationed further down the beach I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially after witnessing several territorial battles between Hedwig and Bubo last winter, as well as a Snowy dispute between a male and female at Crane Beach.

These two behaved as if they were expecting a visit from their best bud. After landing next to the stationary one, the active one immediately began to eat seaweed. This went on for several minutes.

Then he washed his big feet and fluffed his feathers. Both nodded and dozed off, like it was the most normal thing to hang with a Snowy bestie on the beach. They were spotted a few days later again, not too far apart 🙂