Cold front blows through

Last night around 6 o’clock the bright sun faded as a huge dark cloud approached from the north. Living on the south side by a harbor we were treated to a sky half sunny and half stormy…

The wind blew, branches bent and on the north side of our house fat raindrops hit our windows. The front passed in minutes, leaving golden light behind.

That’s the same scene just moments later. Pretty amazing, huh?

Then there was this

And this

It was like fire in the sky which then calmed and faded to this

Within minutes it had faded to this

Do you see the tiny star?

It was definitely worthy of a wish!

All photos taken with my iPhone and within an hour or so last night.

Icebergs, Cape Cod Style

Perhaps you’ve seen the photos and news story that went viral about the giant (for us) icebergs breaking up and floating in Cape Cod Bay. Wellfleet at low tide was suggested as the best place and time to see them and that was around 9:30 this morning. Of course I had to go!

I was running a bit behind so I stopped at First Encounter Beach in Eastham. What a sight! About a dozen people were there taking photos and chatting….

Someone had walked out on the ice–not a great idea, by the way–and if you look really closely in the center of the second photo you can see a standing person dressed in black….gives you some idea of how big those chunks of ice were….

When I left there I headed to Wellfleet but at the last minute I thought I’d try Corn Hill in Truro. It should have had the same big ice and maybe not the crowds of Wellfleet. Whoa! I hit a bonus for sure! The water was glassy still, the sky clear and blue and the ice was clean and white!


The photos just don’t do it justice. It was profoundly beautiful, peaceful and sublime. I was there by myself for a long time but finally someone else came by so I could get some scale.

Finally I dragged myself away–it was a warm and lovely day here–and went to Wellfleet. What a mob! Hundreds of people and scraggly looking ice….

I took my lunch to Skaket where there were also a lot of people….

And in the end I was seriously glad I had listened to that little voice that told me to try somewhere different. It was truly a sight and a day I will never forget…

If you go, know that the ice is melting and that salt ice is not reliable, even on the sand. Dogs may try to jump and could be stranded so leashes are advised around the ice floes. Also, low tide is your friend. Don’t wait too long! They will be gone soon.

Winter visitors at the bird feeders

This has been a tough winter for many of our feathered friends. Copious amounts of snow have made it difficult to find natural food and many birds that don’t usually visit feeders have been coming around, hoping for some nutritious handouts to tide them over.

For the first time in my yard I have had a hermit thrush. Hermit thrushes do over winter here on the Cape in small numbers but in 30 years I have never had one in the yard until now.

036 037Another bird that we have all summer but not usually at a feeder in the winter is the gray catbird and yet one showed up about two weeks ago and visits the suet feeder daily.



This isn’t a great shot but check out that rusty red under the tail feathers!020

Another unusual visitor has been this northern mockingbird. Again, a bird that we know is around even in the winter but which usually stays far away from the feeders.

005 009 011And then there is the visitor to the feeders none of the other birds like to think about but hey, it’s been a tough winter and even the Cooper’s hawks are hungry…

100Many people have been spotting unusual birds in their yards this winter. What have you been seeing?


Finding Beauty in a Cape Cod Winter

This has been quite a month and I’m pretty sure most of us are tired of the “S” word by now. Rain is predicted after beginning as snow for tonight and tomorrow and although it will probably make a mess of the roads I’ll be glad to see at least some of these huge snow piles wash away.

The beaches, though cold, have been stark and gorgeous, if you like that sort of thing, which I do.


My husband and I took some time off to go exploring down Cape this past week and the reward was well worth it.

We originally aimed for Chatham so took Rt. 28, the southern route. This allowed us to stop at Seagull Beach in West Yarmouth


and West Dennis Beach


Chatham was freezing cold and windy so we just looked onto South Beach from the parking lot.



We decided to head on up to Eastham and stopped at Fort Hill

And Coast Guard Beach


And First Encounter Beach


Where you can see how frozen Cape Cod Bay is


Our last stop of the day was Paine’s Creek in Brewster


As we traveled the temperature dropped about 20 degrees from morning until late afternoon but we went well prepared. Have you been out and around since all this snow fell? What is your favorite snowy beach scene?



Blizzards make for hungry birds!

Today the sun is shining and the temperature is climbing to at least freezing. The howling winds and stinging snow are now just memories. What we do have is lots of snow to move around and lots of very hungry birds.

Although I had seed and suet out all through the storm the wind was so tough not many birds braved it. I threw seed out the back door and into areas where the wind wasn’t quite so fierce and we got some takers.

We got a lot of snow and had a lot of drifting…the day after the storm is when the feeding frenzy began and lasted pretty much through the day.


My feeders are by my garden which has a chicken wire fence so the bird is not in a cage, just behind the wire…
006 I don’t remember seeing such hungry birds. I had dozens of birds everywhere I looked, eating, eating, eating!009I seem to have at least a dozen juncos that are calling my yard home this winter and I always think of them as the true snow birds…
030 Mr. Cardinal and all his cardinal friends were very hungry and at one point I had over 20 in and around the feeders.039



I was most excited to see that the little orange crowned warbler survived the storm! It showed up about midday yesterday….013

The resident Carolina wren also survived and was very territorial around the suet feeder.018


Blue jays arrived in a feisty little group to take over the ground feeding at one point.002This morning the sun shone clear and bright and Mrs. Cardinal posed as if to say, “All is right in the world today!”
027Things are slowly returning to normal around here and the birds feeding today are hungry as usual but not frantic. How did you make out in the blizzard? Any unusual birds to report?


Battening down for the blizzard

If you’re in New England you can’t help but know there’s a big storm on the way and it seems to have started already.

This morning its was totally serene and peaceful at the beach.


I put out a lot of extra food for the birds, including extra suet for the little orange crowned warbler that continues here…that’s the little warbler on the left, on the suet.



The regular visitors are also here such as the house finches


and the white breasted nuthatches025and the cardinals, among many others…


Stay safe and warm, everyone! And may the power stay with you!



Get the kids outside!

Today is March 1 and we all know what that means! There may be snow on the ground and snow in the forecast but spring is on its way.

March is a great month to get the kids outside. There’s so much to see and do and new sights and sounds are arriving daily. The best parts of just getting outside? it doesn’t cost a penny, needs no special tools or knowledge and it’s fun!

DSC01005The hardest part of getting kids outside these days is actually getting them outside. Inside they have many easy distractions, as do we. Just get them out the door and ignore the pouting and whining. And yes, pouting and whining does happen.

Kids are natural explorers. Just go for a walk. Pick any place you like. Be prepared for exuberance and lack of direction. Be prepared for early complaints but by the end, be prepared for a hard time getting them ready to turn back around and head home. Let them poke about, look under and over stuff, inside stuff and around stuff. Let them laugh and hop and holler, too. I know, many birders have a hard time with this philosophy but I’m betting most birders did a little whooping and hollering when they were kids outside….

DSC05484Some kids like to write or draw when they are outside but many do not. Many prefer to climb and jump and look under rocks. Try not to correct them too often. I always give kids the rules of the path, beach or pond before we head out. I tell them to be kind to all living things, plant or animal, no matter how big or small. I ask them to return rocks and logs to their original spots gently so they don’t disrupt too much and to be mindful that even the smallest patch of grass or dead branch is a community to some living being. Even very young children can understand this and need few reminders. They probably need more reminders about their own physical limitations such as their lack of ability to really fly like a bird.

DSC00945If you see something cool, point it out! Let them point things out, too. Many kids like to collect rocks, leaves or shells. Just remind them not to put live things in their pockets.

I am out with kids a lot and even the oldest ones that whine the most about how boring it is to not have their video games or phones on hand will be enjoying the walk before they know it. Older kids rarely get outside any more unless someone takes them so if you know an older kid that is turning into a couch potato, take them out. Let them bring a friend but leave the phones at home. They may grumble but probably not for long. There’s freedom in not being connected all the time, a valuable lesson that you can give them for free.

025If you know how to skip a stone, whittle a twig, make a whistle out of a blade of grass or acorn cap, by all means show a kid how to do it. Let them build a fairy house or a tower of stones and let them show you how to hop across rocks to cross a stream. Never mind that you’ve done it before. Let them be the first to have ever done it. While they’re at it, show them how to make little boats from twigs and leaves and have a little race.

Even in March we can do all these things, though maybe not the wading at the beach part. We can, however, walk a beach looking for whale spouts and other wonderful signs of spring. We can watch thousands of sea ducks gather to fly north and we can watch for the first ospreys to return to the Cape once again.

Dress warmly, get a kid and go have some fun. Get outside!





For the love of squirrels

That’s right, this is a post for the love of squirrels. How can I not love a squirrel? They’re cute, they’re funny and they’re smarter than I want them to be. Anyone with a bird feeder knows that.

My lot is only 100 x 100 feet square smack in the middle of Hyannis yet some days I have up to a dozen squirrels hanging out in my yard. I’m not sure where they all come from and why the number stays pretty constant. We have a pair of foxes that helps keep them in control as well as a pair of red tailed hawks that pick them off pretty regularly and that doesn’t even account for traffic or coyotes or feral cats. And yet, the squirrel population is still robust. This week,after one of the snow storms I looked out the window and there were 8 squirrels taking their fill of sunflower seeds.

012Over the years I’ve devised all kinds of things I hoped would keep the squirrels out of the bird feeders and this is what I found out. Squirrels like a good obstacle course. Those soda bottles strung on the rope only offer them a chance to become squirrel circus performers. Squirrels can leap great distances. And do. A squirrel can travel from tree to roof and leap almost 10 feet onto a feeder.

So over the years I have moved my feeders around. They are near a stand of old lilacs which give the birds cover but which are too flimsy for the squirrels to use. They are about 20 feet away from the house so no roof jumping and I finally invested in some good solid baffles which after a little experimenting with the placement really do baffle the squirrels.

003Here’s the thing. I’ve been watching one squirrel run up the pole under the sunflower feeder and bang on the baffle. At first I thought it was trying to move the baffle and in a way, it is. It is shaking the pole so the seed falls on the ground.

005Then the squirrel and its little squirrel friends stuff their little squirrel faces. I also throw seed on the ground for them, especially when it is very cold or stormy, As I said, I do get a kick out of these little guys. I just don’t want them hogging all the feeders.

005Right now you may be noticing that some squirrels are looking quite well padded. Most of these chunky squirrels are actually pregnant and soon will disappear from sight while they give birth and nurse their new little ones. Don’t worry. it won’t be long before they’ll be back at the feeders and in a few months they’ll introduce a whole new generation to your backyard. In the meantime, it may be a good idea to stock up on more sunflower seeds.




Sketching birds

This has been a tough winter here on Cape Cod for getting outside and doing much sketching so most of my bird sketching has been done from inside. During one of the first big snow storms I sketched some of these little guys that were visiting my feeders.

012Birds move quickly so I have to sketch really quickly to keep up with them. Mostly I go for a quick gesture or detail. I can take photos, and I do, but the sketches are just more lively.

I work at a small table by a window overlooking the feeders in my tiny back yard in Hyannis. I get a surprising number of birds.

011One day I may concentrate on flickers and another on nuthatches or Carolina wrens.

034I like to add little notes, making it a bit of a bird journal as well as sketchbook.

008And some days I just draw and sketch cardinals. They tend to hang around the longest…

Cardinal sketches by Mary Richmond Cape Cod Art and Nature

035People ask me often what the secret is to drawing birds. It isn’t hard. You just have to be patient and willing to make some silly looking drawings. Be observant before you make the first line. Birds repeat motions. Which poses are most indicative of the species? Start slowly and practice. Have fun!






Snowy winter on Cape Cod

You’d think I would post more since I’ve been somewhat housebound through the recent snowstorms. I have managed to get out quite a bit and to be honest, January was a crazy busy month for me between online sales, workshops, classes and talks. I’ve been writing my columns but not writing here.

Scenes like this have been common this winter….


as have scenes like this….007

Birds like this male cardinal have had to persevere through the storms in order to find food…006

You know what they say about red sky in the morning….002

Those red morning skies can make for scenes that look more like the arctic than Cape Cod….

We have become very familiar with many, many shades of gray….009

But some days the sun does still come out and fat little squirrels like this pregnant lady come out to stuff their faces….009

No doubt hoping the resident red tailed hawk isn’t looking for dinner…010It’s been a long snowy winter here on the Cape with more storminess predicted for the end of this week. I don’t know about you, but I am feeling winter weary.