Sketch classes, art show, live owls, and tour on tap
By Gail McCarthy
The fifth annual Cape Ann Birding Weekend promises to provide bird enthusiasts of all kinds with tours of local hot spots with expert guides, a boat cruise, talks, a live owl demonstration and other programs — even an art exhibition.
Bird watchers from New England and beyond flock to Cape Ann, known for its concentrations of winter seabirds, to take part in the event, which runs this Friday, Jan. 31, to Sunday, Feb. 2. This is an opportunity to view certain Arctic species that may not be encountered farther south.
“The guides who are leading the tours know the most likely place to find rare and interesting birds that winter here on Cape Ann,” said Peter Webber of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.
The Cape Ann Chamber, working with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, has organized the event, which continues to grow each year. The event headquarters is at the Elks at Bass Rocks on Gloucester’s scenic Back Shore, with events at other venues, including the Trident Gallery in Gloucester, which is mounting a special exhibition with works on loan from the Museum of American Bird Art at Massachusetts Audubon.
This year’s program includes bus tours of Cape Ann’s birding hot spots led by some bird experts from the Brookline Bird Club, founded in 1913, which is the largest and one of the oldest bird clubs in Massachusetts. The club’s website notes that Harlequin ducks have returned to Halibut Point in Rockport, “awaiting the arrival of the hearty participants in the Fifth Annual Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend.”
Some of the club’s best birders will take part, including Jim Berry, Susan Hedman, Jim McCoy, Sue McGrath and John Nelson. Berry will present a slide show on Cape Ann’s winter birds Friday at the Elks. On Saturday afternoon, Nelson, the director of the Brookline club, will give a lecture and slide show on “Capt. John Smith’s Eagles: Birds and Cape Ann Cultural History.” Sunday, weather permitting, features the boat trip on the Seven Seas whale watch boat Privateer IV, skippered by Jay Frontierro.
“It’s going to be a great weekend. There are close to 100 people signed up,” said Webber. “There is growing interest in the weekend for sure. It is drawing people from near and far. We have the locals who love to come and we also have bird enthusiasts coming from Brattleboro,Vermont, and upstate New York.”
This year there is a new collaboration with Trident Gallery in downtown Gloucester. Matthew Swift, the gallery director, has been part of the birding weekend because of his own interest and is now part of the steering committee.
The gallery is hosting a loan of works from the Massachusetts Audubon Society Museum of American Bird Art through March 2. The exhibit features more than 30 prints, paintings, and miniature sculptures by the renowned and important artists John James Audubon, Milton Avery, Andy Warhol, Allen James King, Robert Verity Clem, Lars Jonsson, and others.
Before the official weekend registrations opens late Friday afternoon at the Elks, the Trident Gallery will host a workshop,“Drawing Birds and Wildlife from Nature,” from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at the gallery, 189 Main St. in Gloucester. Artist Sandy McDermott will talk about field sketching of birds and other wildlife, as well as basic avian anatomy and topography. Photographs and mounted specimens will also be used. The workshop is free, but reservations are required because space is limited. Those attending are asked to bring supplies. Contact events@tridentgallery or call the gallery at 978-491-7785 to register.
Webber said the organizers are continuing on a theme started last year in which the links between the arts and nature are featured. Last year, there was a bird-themed music concert in Rockport.
“This year we are highlighting a different field of art,” said Webber. “Bird enthusiasts and artists share a similar skill — that of close observation. It’s a nice connection.”
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go The Elks at Bass Rocks at 101 Atlantic Road in Gloucester is the headquarters for the Cape Ann Birding Weekend. Check-in starts at 3 p.m. Friday when materials can be picked up. For more information, to register online, or tour tickets ($30 to $80), visit capeannchamber.com. The schedule includes: Friday, Jan. 31 Exhibitor venue, open to public, 3. to 7 p.m. Welcome reception (cash bar), 5 to 7 p.m. “Winter Birds of Cape Ann,” a talk presented by Jim Berry, Essex County coordinator for Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 Coffee, bagels and late check-in at 7 a.m. Guided bus tours 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Exhibitor venue, open to public, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lunch available for purchase at noon Guided bus tour from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Eyes on Owls program,with live birds, at 2 p.m. Lecture and slide show at 4 p.m., presented by: John Nelson, Brookline Bird Club Sunday, Feb. 2 Birding Boat Trip with Capt. Jay Frontiero aboard the Privateer IV at 8 a.m. Wrap up and checklist at the Gloucester House Restaurant at 12:15 p.m.