Pasta Making with Nina Groppo Friends and Family!

Filming for Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project is continuing throughout the novena and on Saint Joseph’s Day. Visit the film’s blog for latest scenes!

Rain Forest Publications and Mourning Cloaks

Rain Forest Publications Butterfies of Mexico Guide Kim Smith cover photo ©Kim Smith 2015Recently brochures from Rain Forest Publications arrived. Don’t you love pocket guides, for the very reason the name infers–so easy to tuck along when traveling and hiking. That’s my photo on the cover of “Mexico Butterflies.” The photo was taken not in Mexico, but in Gloucester!

Be on the lookout for the first butterfly of spring, which will most likely be the Mourning Cloak Butterfly. Mourning Cloaks do not spend the winter in the cool volcanic mountains of Mexico as do the Monarchs, or as a chrysalis in our gardens, like the Black Swallowtail, or as a caterpillar rolled up in a tight little ball under a leaf, as does the Wooly Bear, but as an adult butterfly!

Pussy Willows, Salix discolor ©Kim Smith 2014Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)

During the winter months Mourning Cloaks live tucked away in cracks and crevices, between chinks of tree bark, for example. At the first warm breath of spring they begin to take flight, searching for a mate. You’ll often see them on the wing around Pussy Willows, one of the Mourning Cloak caterpillar’s food plants.

Mourning_Cloak_Butterfly_in_South_Central_AlaskaMourning Cloak image courtesy wiki commons media

Cape Pond Ice, Paint Factory, Jolly Roger, and Lobster Boats Black Pearl, Dunlin, and Tiffany Marie

Dunlin Lobster Boat Gloucester Massachusetts Paint Factory ©Kim Smith2014Dunlin Lobster Boat

Snapshots from an August morning, taken just after sunrise while watering the HarborWalk gardens. I am so swamped with work during the warmer months that I never got around to posting these.

Hurry Summer ~ We Miss You!

Tiffany Marie Lobster Boat Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2014Tiffany Marie

Jolly Roger fishing boat Gloucester Mssachusetts waterfront ©Kim Smith 2014Jolly Roger

Cape Pond Ice Gloucester Massachusetts waterfront ©Kim Smith 2014Cape Pond Ice

Black Pearl Lobster Boat Gloucester Massachusetts Paint factory ©Kim Smith 2014Black Pearl

Dunlin Lobster Boat Gloucester Massachusetts Paint factory -2 ©Kim Smith2014Dunlin

Helping Our Feathered Friends Make It Through The Last Weeks of Bitter Cold

American Robin Crabapple ©Kim Smith 2015Outside my office window is a pair of stately hollies, our “Dragon Ladies;” aptly named for their prickly foliage, and adjacent to the hollies is a sweet scented flowering crabapple. The autumn fruits of this particular crabapple are chunkier than most and, I simply assumed, must bear the worst tasting fruit imaginable because year in and year out, the fruit is never, ever eaten by the birds. When flocks of robins arrive in our garden in late January, the winterberry and hollies are stripped bare of their fruits in a day, or two, at the most, after which the robins head to our neighbor’s sumac and then further down Plum Street to our other neighbor’s smaller and much better tasting crabapples.

American Robin eating in crabaplle tree Turdus americanus ©Kim Smith 2015

Not this year! A pair of robins is setting up house along the garden path and they vigorously defend the crabapples from other robins. In late winter, robins typically switch over to worms, but with the ground still frozen solid, they are continuing to look for tree fruits. Unfortunately, much of it has been consumed.

American Robin eating crabapples Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Repeatedly, I noticed that our robin couple was struggling to eat the crabapples. They would snip off a stem and then drop it onto the brick path below and peck and peck and peck. A robin’s bill did not evolve to crack open grains and as it seems in this case, nor for penetrating our unusually hard crabapples. A great deal of energy was being spent to get a morsel of food, which is never a good thing because it can leave a creature weakened and at risk of freezing to death.

Robin flying ©Kim Smith 2015Robin on the wing

I picked a few berries and made a crabapple mash, placed it under the tree and, within hours, all the fruits were devoured! Now when feeding the pets and filling the bird feeders each morning I pluck a small handful of crabapples, mash, and place in the pie tin below the tree. I’ve experimented with adding blueberries and raspberries to the dish, but they prefer the crabapples.

If we move very slowly when walking down the path, they now allow us to come quite close—and what a treat to observe from this distance—beautiful, beautiful robins!

American Robin Turdus americanus ©Kim Smith 2015JPGDo you think we will be rewarded with a nearby nest? I hope so!Crabapple in snow ©Kim Smith 2015

Kim Smith Pollinator Program at Cox Reservation Tonight at 6pm

36. Zinnia Black Swallowtail Butterfly -1 ©Kim Smith 2013 copy

I hope to see you there!

The event is free.

RSVP to alice@ecga.org.

For more information: Planting an Essex County Pollinator Garden

Monarchs Gloucester MA ©Kim Smith 2012 -1269 copy

 

Do Birds Have Teeth?

Snow Goose teeth tomia Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Snow Goose Beak and Tomia

If I had thought about the answer to that question when I was five, I would have said yes, most definitely. At that time, our family was living on a lake in north central Florida. A friend’s unruly pet goose chased me home, nipping my bottom all the way to our front stoop!

The jagged points in the serrated-edge jaw of the Snow Goose are not called teeth because teeth are defined as having an enamel coating. There is a special word for the points and they are called tomia. During the Mesozoic era birds had teeth. Over time, birds developed specialized beaks suited to their diets. Bird beaks do the job teeth and lips once did. The Snow Goose’s tomia are not as tough as teeth but are perfectly suited to slicing through slippery grass.

The super graphic below, found on wiki, illustrates types of beaks and how the different shapes relate to the bird’s diet and foraging habits.

Wiki Bird Beak Graphic copy

GORGEOUS JUVENILE SNOW GOOSE IN GLOUCESTER!

Snow Goose Juvenile Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Many thanks to Michelle Barton for spotting the Snow Goose at Good Harbor Beach. Michelle has a superb eye for identifying rare and unusual birds that are migrating through our region. It was she who first alerted us to the Snowy Owl in our neighborhood this past January.

Snow Goose Juvenile Gloucester Massachusetts Cnadian Geese ©Kim Smith 2015Snow Goose Juvenile Canadina Geese Gloucester Massachusetts Essex County  ©Kim Smith 2015The juvenile Snow Goose and flock of Canadian Geese are foraging for grasses along the water’s edge. They yank and tug vigorously at the sea grass roots until dislodging.

Snow Goose Gloucester Massachusetts Essex County Teeth Tomia ©Kim Smith 2015 copySnow Geese mate for life, breeding during the summer months in the Arctic Tundra. Their annual journey  from summer breeding grounds to winter home is a roundtrip of more than 5,000 miles, and they are oftentimes traveling at speeds of up to 50mph! There are four migratory corridors, or flyways, in North America. From west to east, they are the Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic. Gloucester is a special place where we are centrally located in the Atlantic flyway.

Snow Goose Good Harbor Beach Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Thanks so much again Michelle for the Snow Goose alert!

See More Snow Goose Photos Here Continue reading