After getting pounded by the weather, the gulls were happy to see blue skies and low tide.
That is when they go looking for mussels. All over Gloucester, you will see mussels in parking lots, on docks, on flat rooftops and in the streets. The gulls have learned that they can get into clams and mussels by dropping them.
This is the first time I’ve actually been able to capture this behavior.
Easy-peasy gulls: Photo 1, 3 and 4 are a second winter Herring Gull. Photo 2 is an adult winter Herring Gull.
I don’t do much darkroom work. I’ll sharpen a photo, correct the exposure or crop. I don’t believe in messing with the colors. I want you to see what I saw. With that said. This is exactly what I saw one sunny morning.
It’s icy and cold this morning. I didn’t sleep much last night because the wind was howling, dropping ice chunks onto the neighbor’s mini-van. I woke up at about 1:00 in the morning. By 3:00, I got up and saw a beautiful crescent moon rising over East Gloucester. By 5:00, thinking that the sunrise would be good, I drifted back to sleep. At 7:00, I saw the sunrise from my warm bed. (Yup, I should have been out there, it was good.) I got up and started to salt the sidewalk and steps, warm up some of the frost in B’s car and try to shake off the cobwebs from the lack of sleep.
I don’t drink coffee. It makes my heart race and my hands shake. Who needs that? But this morning, I felt like eggs and toast.
While I was cooking breakfast this morning, I saw some chunky white fluffy birds about 50 yards out. With eggs in the pan and toast in the toaster, I risked the possibility of contributing to global warming by turning breakfast into charcoal, I grabbed the binoculars, still on the kitchen table from Friday, and took a look. I've never seen these birds before, and quite frankly, I was baffled. This was certainly a time to "shoot first and ask questions later".
It turns out that I had a flock of about six Snow Buntings. Cheery little fellows. Please forgive the over extended focal length, digital zoomed, backlit subject. I'm just tickled to have these little guys in the neighborhood and wanted to document the sighting.
I would be thrilled to tell you that this is a life bird, but I have seen them once before. I was driving across Wyoming one February after a snow storm back in 1992 and saw a flock fly up by the side of the highway. They have a very distinctive wing pattern in flight so I'm 80% confident on the call. This is the first time that I'm 100%.
It’s not too bad of a storm. It is hard for me to tell how much snow we have because the wind is always blowing here. We have some drifts from last night and today the wind has died down to about 10 miles per hour.
I took a bit of a stroll around the docks. Since the sidewalks were not plowed, I had to walk through drifts and walk in the road so I didn’t stray too far. You will recognize these boats from last week when the tide was high. I took this one at low tide.
It is always fun to shoot some color in the snow. These lobster pots make a fun photographic distraction.
We have more of the same weather planned for tonight and tomorrow.
It is Friday. We have been warned of a major snow storm. It was supposed to start here at 2:00 in the afternoon.
While making my breakfast, something caught my eye. It seemed odd. It is funny what catches your eye when not everything is familiar and the way it is expected. But being unexpected, a little gull with a black banded tail flying out in the harbor seemed more than out of the ordinary.
Luckily, I had my binoculars by the table with my camera. Binoculars and cameras on the kitchen table are some of the minor inconveniences that B has to put up with.
Today, with the strange weather coming in, things were unsettled. The mockingbird that claimed the bittersweet bush was being rather protective today, staying close to ensure the House Sparrows were not taking his berries. I thought he looked rather regal on the bush and decided to snap a silhouette picture, which explains both the camera and binoculars at the table.
With my breakfast prepared, I sat down to enjoy it before heading out to work. That is when it happened. I saw a small gull with an unfamiliar flight pattern and hunting behavior. He had a black band on his tail and was clearly not a Ring-billed Gull.
Because of the hour, I needed to get to work and decided to use the “Shoot first and ask questions later” policy. This could be one of three gulls.
Not only were the birds a little unsettled, but while I had my breakfast, the Grand Isle came in from patrol and the Flyingfish headed out. I’ve never seen the Flyingfish here before.
When I got to work, there was much talk about the approaching storm. Hey, I grew up in Vermont. I survived the April 2003 storm in Denver that dropped 4 feet of wet show. I don’t intimidate easily.
For all you who don’t get snow, or don’t “get” snow, snow has a moisture content, a consistency. Wet snow is very moist and heavy. The flakes are larger, but the resulting depths are lower. When the temperature drops, the moisture content of the snow drops and the amount of snow produced is higher. If that April 2003 snow was dry instead of wet, I’m sure that I would have gotten the 6 feet of snow that my friends living in Gold Hill, Colorado received from the same storm. (Yes, Steven Stills fans, that is the same Gold Hill.)
Now where was I, oh, yes. The Governor of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been a worried about this storm. We got an email from Management telling us to go home before noon. It seems like the Governor didn’t think it would be too good of an idea to have everyone commuting home in the afternoon. This turns out to be a smart plan because last year, companies sent their employees home during a major storm. It took many people eight to ten hours to get home.
Me? I’d hate to be contributing to the traffic on my three mile drive home. But my manager and my manager’s manager came by and we exchanged Christmas wishes. They both told me to hit the road. Good, now I’m following orders, not running out of the building like a sissy.
I stopped by the hardware store and bought some salt for the sidewalk. The drive through Gloucester is usually slow during the noon hour. Today it was nasty. Sending everyone home at one time had dire consequences. It took me 15 minutes to get home instead of the usual ten. I hope those on Rt. 128 are fairing better.
So I was thinking about all my friends' blogs with their window feeders again. I really miss the Siskins, Clarks Nutcrackers, Red Crossbills, Mountain Chickadees, Stellars Jays and Pigmy Nuthatches I used to get in Colorado. I feel left out of the conversation. When I got home, I saw the harbor seal poke his nose out. Not a feeder bird, but pretty cool anyway. And because B had already had her table littered with my binoculars and camera, I was able to get a quick snapshot before he went back in.
Well, it turned 1:50 and looking out the window, no snow in sight. Ha! The weatherman was wrong. Then after visiting my peeps’ blogs, at 2:06, I saw the snow was coming down. It’s real nasty out there now. Visibility is about ½ mile. I hope that folks make it home okay. Also, we have boats out there. My hat's off to you, Mr. Weatherman, timing a storm to six minutes is awsome!
Will this storm be known as "the blizzard of '08"? I hope not. I hope it just blows through leaving behind some photo ops. But right now, the snow is horizontal. I'm staying by my computer where it is warm and I'll figure out what this gull is.
It's a Black-headed gull, first winter plumage. I'm excited because this is the second one I've ever seen.
I don’t shoot the city from this view very often. It is a morning shot and usually by the time I get over to the other side of town, I’ve lost the favorable light. This time of year the light angle is low and more to the south. Works good.
This time of year we get our highest tides. With the full moon last Friday night, high tide for Saturday and Sunday are predicted to be +11 feet. Usually we have 8 to 9 foot tides. I like to go photograph boats at the docks at high tide because they stand tall and proud.
B and I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Keene, New Hampshire. As many in my blog community know, The North East got hammered by an ice storm. I always think of Robert Frost when I see birched bent.
When I see birches bend to left and right Across the line of straighter darker trees, I like to think some boy's been swinging them. But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay. Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning After a rain. They click upon themselves As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust— Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen. They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load, And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed So low for long, they never right themselves: You may see their trunks arching in the woods Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. But I was going to say when Truth broke in With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm (Now am I free to be poetical?) I should prefer to have some boy bend them As he went out and in to fetch the cows— Some boy too far from town to learn baseball, Whose only play was what he found himself, Summer or winter, and could play alone. One by one he subdued his father's trees By riding them down over and over again Until he took the stiffness out of them, And not one but hung limp, not one was left For him to conquer. He learned all there was To learn about not launching out too soon And so not carrying the tree away Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise To the top branches, climbing carefully With the same pains you use to fill a cup Up to the brim, and even above the brim. Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish, Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches; And so I dream of going back to be. It's when I'm weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs Broken across it, and one eye is weeping From a twig's having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over. May no fate wilfully misunderstand me And half grant what I wish and snatch me away Not to return. Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better. I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree, And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, But dipped its top and set me down again. That would be good both going and coming back. One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
On our Sunday drive to meet up with family in Keene, NH, we drove through part of the region hit by last weekend’s ice storm. This is New England. I’ve lived through ice storms, earth quakes, forest fires, tornados and severe thunderstorms that dumped six inches of hail and washed out roads. I’ve lived through the Blizzard of ’78 and through the April 2003 snow storm that left 4 feet of wet snow in Denver. Yes, Ma Nature can be hard.
It is easy for me to find beauty in this. We only got two inches of rain in Gloucester. In the region where the ice storm hit, there are folks that are still without power. I send them my best wishes.
When I shot these photos, the air was perfumed with the smell of evergreen. It was then I realized the extent of the damage. Driving across Rt 2 we saw numerous utility trucks heading towards the area. The air was filled with the sounds of buzzing chainsaws as people brought order back from the chaos.
As we drove through small towns between Princeton, Massachusetts and Keene New Hampshire, there were downed power lines, uprooted trees and streetlights malfunctioning. This is without a doubt the worst ice storm that I have ever seen.
New Englanders are a hardy bunch. Without a doubt, as some point, each and every one of us will marvel at the beauty.
I visited Eastern Point during the low tide. Braving the bitter winds to take some photos at sundown, I saw this Herring Gull hunting back and forth along the low tide line and suddenly swoop down.
He found a red crab and picked it up. I’ve seen gulls take crabs before, they shake them apart and get at the goodies inside.
This gull flew around and landed about 20 yards from me on the Dog Bar Breakwater. He abandoned the crab. I went over and picked up the crab. He was missing some legs. One claw was in tact the other fractured. He seemed to still be alive so I tossed him back into the water. Good luck little dude.
It was 23F this morning when I took a drive over to Good Harbor Beach.
I’ll give these guys and galls credit. I was dry, shooting from Bass Rocks looking past Salt Island (the bump to the extreme right of the first image) towards Thacher Island. The wind wind was whipping from left to right shearing the tops off of the waves. It was cold out there. After 15 minutes, I decided it was time to go home for a cup of hot chocolate.
What is really cool about these photos is looking into the waves, you see the true color of the ocean. It is green with the nutrients. The blue color is the blue light reflected from the sky.
This post is dedicated to my wife, B. B went to school in Santa Cruz, CA and although not a surfer herself, she knows the culture. When I was looking for work I told her that I was targeting getting her to the ocean. Work brought me back to New England. (I didn’t make any promises about which ocean!) In my eyes, this is a good compromise. I'm a mountain man (Vermont woodchuck), she is a mermaid.
We are lucky here on Cape Ann to have a couple of areas where Piping Plovers are doing well. I first heard about these threatened birds in the ‘80s and never thought I’d get to see one.
They have taken a beating because their habitat is very desirable for beaches and condos. Here on Cape Ann, we have at least two areas where they have been given some space to exist. I took these photos late last Spring before I started this blog.
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