Although many of us love to have birds around there are many who are not so fond of them. There are reasons for this. Living by the sea means living with gulls and gulls are big. They eat a lot and yep, they poop a lot too. When you see caps on posts like this you know the owner of the dock doesn’t wish to have gulls hanging around messing up his or her dock. Of course gulls are not stupid. They sit on the dock itself quite fine.
Around here ospreys are beginning to nest in or on top of chimneys and roofs so things like this are beginning to show up as well….
These spin in the wind and scare the birds, at least in theory. At least one nest has been built beside one of these things.
This is another thing home owners and dock owners are not fond of….broken shells of mollusks and crabs dropped by the gulls. Gulls drop these savory items from up high to break them open and beach parking lots are full of the evidence of their success. Truth is that they drop them on softer surfaces, too, but the hard surfaces are the ones most of us are familiar with. Boat owners may also take issue with this.
This walkway is at a local beach and will be cleaned daily once the beach season begins but for now, it is one big buffet table for area gulls.
What a difference a few days can make! They are a little late this year but the herring are finally here…
All those dark squiggly lines are fish. We mostly get two kinds of herring here, the blueback herring and the more common alewives. All herring are what are known as anadromous fish. They live in salt water except to breed and lay eggs. For that they need to migrate to fresh water.
If you click on these images you will get a better view of the fish but you can see how well camouflaged they are. These guys know the real meaning of swimming upstream and you can watch them swim up the waterfalls and inclines even against rushing water.
Watching the herring and alewives arrive each spring is a true Cape Cod tradition and something many of us look forward to every year. I am linking to the Mass Fish and Wildlife page that gives updated information on this annual event and rules that accompany it now that the fishery numbers have declined dramatically.
If you have a chance to go to a herring run, please do. It is a sight you won’t soon forget and kids love it. Watch the gulls, herons and ospreys gather all along the creeks and rivers to take advantage of the huge numbers of fish, too. If you ever wondered why herring gulls are so named, you won’t after you see them feasting on the fish…they swallow them whole!
These pictures were taken this morning at the Brewster Herring Run on Stony Brook Rd.
You may not see them in this photo…
but there are lots and lots of whales out there in Cape Cod Bay–especially around Provincetown and Truro! We saw at least a dozen whales from the beach today–both right whales and humpbacks so if you live on the Cape….what are you waiting for?
This picture is from Herring Cove in Provincetown
There’s been a very cool gull down at Kalmus Beach this week. It looks like a herring gull until you notice that it has yellow legs, not the usual pink. It has a darker back and possibly an eye ring that is more red than orange, causing many birders to stop and think about this one…
At first the bird was thought to be a lesser black backed gull, a rare enough bird for these parts, and in fact it was that description that sent me down to the beach with my camera and binoculars. My first pictures weren’t good enough when I sent them to the experts to look at so I went back the next day to try and get pictures showing better field marks. These are just a few of the many shots I took.
Some think it may be a hybrid gull but others have been photographing it in flight and from all angles and there is some thought that it might be a Yellow Legged Gull. Yeah, I know, you’re thinking that’s pretty obvious but in actuality, a Yellow Legged Gull in our part of the world would be very, very rare and the experts are going to be very, very sure before they declare this to be one. Add to the mystery that the very declaration of a Yellow Legged Gull is in itself a controversial call for there are some that do not feel it is a separate species and you have a real birding adventure going on…
I will post updates as I have them. The bird was at Kalmus as of this afternoon, even in the driving rain so if you are so inclined…go take a look!
Just for fun….
If gulls could talk, what would these gulls be saying?
Please leave your answer in the comment section. There will be a prize….
I love goldfinches. I always have. They are one of the first birds I learned to identify as a very small girl and I have loved them ever since. There’s just something cheerful and gutsy about them and I do all I can to keep them around. I leave the dandelions growing–they LOVE dandelion seeds almost as much as thistle, I think–and I grow sunflowers just so I can watch those bright yellow birds on those bright yellow flowers on summer mornings. I let the wild evening primrose grow tall as well, for there’s something about yellow flowers that seems to attract these little guys. Goldfinches just make me happy. What can I say?
All winter long the males look almost the same as the females but this past week the males have started to sport their true colors. Check out this little guy–he has a white spot in the middle of his black cap–
The females will stay a more subdued olive green color all summer so they can stay hidden a little better but I think they are very pretty and elegant as well.
These two are feeding at the thistle feeder and right about now I think there are a dozen or so that are hanging out in my yard. Pretty soon it will be dandelion time and that should bring in even more!
These pictures were taken yesterday in my yard in Hyannis.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to spot a horned lark foraging in the dune grass. There may have been more than one but this was the only one I saw. I followed it as it made its way down the beach. It occasionally stopped to sing. Once you’ve heard a horned lark sing you know why they are called larks. Their song is quiet but very sweet.
Horned larks look as if they have tiny horns on their heads but they are really feather tufts, not horns.
Here on the Cape they are often found by the dunes or on beaches that have good grass or plant cover. They are seed eaters so these places are especially attractive to them in the off seasons. They are the only true lark in North America by the way, and often called shore larks overseas, a name that fits them here on the Cape as well, in my opinion.
These birds are very well camouflaged as you can see from this picture. If you can’t see him, he is almost smack in the center of the photograph.
This bird was photographed by me at Kalmus Beach in Hyannis yesterday. They can be found on many Cape beaches, in fields and meadows, along marsh edges and other such areas.
I know ospreys are more and more common here but I still get a thrill when I see one. They are one of the environmental success stories from my youth. I didn’t see one until I was well into adulthood and I think I saw my first one in Florida…
This osprey platform was built by the utility company after several nesting attempts atop the bare utility pole ended badly for the ospreys. For the first year ospreys visited and perched there but it wasn’t until this year that they actually have showed some nest building interest beyond a few random sticks.
Not far from where this bird was perched I could see another one.
Can you see the osprey? It is the black dot on top of the pole and yes, that is what it looked like from where I was standing. I have learned to look for a second bird nearby the first and they are often on a pole so I zoomed in on this one…
And this is what I saw…
Later on I headed to a different spot where I knew I would probably see multiple birds nesting. The Centerville River is a popular osprey hang out and sure enough….
I saw this pair (the second one is hidden in this picture but is behind the first)
This pair….and I especially love this pair because the homeowner has obviously gone to some lengths to keep them off…
And this one was a loner for the moment though there were other birds in the air. There were 2 other nests along the river as well, both with birds but I would have had to go on private property to photograph them so I left it for another time…
I know it may seem I’ve disappeared for a bit but I am busy planning my summer art and nature class schedule. There will be watercolor painting for adults and teens, nature sketching for families and adults and late afternoon nature walks for families. I will also be offering some private and semi private drawing and watercolor lessons.
Last weekend I sprained my ankle which took me off the trails for a bit but hopefully I’ll be back on my feet very soon. It has given me time to do some planning, however, so that is good.
I also gave a talk yesterday to a local garden club and it was so much fun. I had been very nervous but everyone asked so many wonderful questions that it was great. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it and now I feel maybe I could do more of these for local groups.
Anyway, that is what I’ve been up to. I will hopefully have some more fun things to post about what is going on outside very soon.
This familiar little plant is an evergreen, also called a wintergreen since it stays green all year. It has bright red berries each fall and a few may manage to last until the spring. The berries and leaves are eaten by many animals and birds and also often used by people to make tea or even chew as a sort of gum.
The scientific name for this little plant that is very common in our woodlands is Gaultheria procumbens
but you will most likely hear it referred to as Checkerberry, Teaberry or just plain old Wintergreen.
If you pick a leaf and break it you will get a great whiff of wintergreen and if you cover a few tablespoons of fresh leaves with boiling water and let steep for about 10 or 15 minutes you will have a delightful tea. You can also chew the leaves like a gum to sweeten your breath if you like. The berries won’t harm you but are sort of waxy, at least to my taste. In the spring these plants will have new leaves and will put forth small white bell like blossoms.