Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bird-a-thon Lite

The Massachusetts  Audubon Society schedules its annual Bird-a-thon for the peak of spring migration when the possibility of fair weather, colorful plumage, and the absence of annoying tree leaves give us the best chance at varied sightings in a twenty-four hour sprint.

Northern flicker
 In the weeks leading up to the Bird-a-thon I worked on extending my stalking ability into the treetops. The uncertain balance point lies where the limits of the zoom lens meet the limits of wariness.

Turkey vulture passing the Halibut Point State Park Visitors' Center
 Birds with their superior vision maintain the upper hand in this contest. From the heights they keep an eye on the binoculars and cameras below.

Green heron
 Down at the quarry rim we photographers enjoy wide-open sight lines but so do the birds. They generally head for the exits at the sight of even innocuous intruders like me.

Double-crested cormorant
Their disappearance into the air pits admiration against frustration. The camera man can no more command a portrait than he can fly.

Spotted sandpiper
Sometimes the portrait itself doesn't fly, in the instant of composing, focusing, exposing, and not breathing or being visible. But perhaps you will manage enough for an indisputable sighting record, with GPS and dating authority, to contribute at the Bird-a-thon tabulation.

Swamp sparrow
There are fine points of identification to sharpen up.

Field sparrow
I studied distinctions among some of the 'Little Brown Jobs' - LBJs.

Kingbirds
Often enough the pleasures of art and nature sweetened the pursuit of science and math on a ramble through the Park.

Chris Leahy at dawn
I joined Chris Leahy and friends at 6:00 this past Saturday morning for the Halibut Point portion of the Bird-a-thon.

Peering into the dim, pewtery skies the experts called out gannets, ring-billed gulls, and red-throated loons. From somewhere in the treetops they distinguished vocalizations of warblers: northern parula, black-throated blue, Wilson's. Their unfulfilled prize would have been to hear the drumbeat coos of a black-billed cuckoo, bringing their cumulative multi-year Cape Ann Bird-a-thon total to 199 species. But the cuckoo probably wouldn't show up for a week or two.

Red-breasted nuthatch
I added to my Halibut Point portfolio a sharp photograph of a tiny hyperactive nuthatch holding pose for a moment between branches of a spruce tree. Its spritely success within nature's pitfalls, its pert beauty, surely reprised the delight at the heart of each member of the Bird-a-thon band.

*  *  *

The Bird-a-thon Team entering Halibut Point State Park,
warming up to jokes for roasting Chris
at his retirement party from Mass Audubon this week.
Neil Emond photo
Ps - overdue warm weather brought the black-billed cuckoo to Halibut Point on Wednesday.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Freshness

 

Shad blossoms







Hermit thrush







Mullein






Gray birch catkins






American lady butterfly on dandelion






Staghorn sumac






Highbush blueberry






Chickadee in apple blossoms






Cattails rising

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Government

The Granite Industry, Part 5 of 6

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,...provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty....  Preamble to the Constitution, 1787
 
The fledgling American government aimed to foster an environment where individuals and businesses could thrive fairly. It had to define citizenship and immigration policies, mediating among intensely different points of view toward an 'Open Door.' During the nineteenth century the original thirteen States increased to forty-five. Territorial, economic, and population  expansion took on mythic values interrupted by cycles of crash and conflict that elicited a growing response in government regulation. The evolution of Cape Ann granite commerce from an artisan to industrial enterprise coincided with all these trends.

The Constitutional mandate to "provide for the common defense" was exacerbated by our own expansionism and by the shifting ambitions of European powers. In 1812 the United States was at war again with England. Government expenditures for coastal defense gave early impetus to the granite industry. 

Fort Warren, Boston Harbor 1

Many of the first quarry developments here between 1824 and 1842 resulted from shoreline resource explorations to supply stone for the fortification of Boston Harbor islandsarbor islandsi engineered by Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, and the development of naval yards at Charlestown and Portsmouth. 2

Norfolk (VA) Naval Yard dry dock under construction, 1918.
Stone supplied by the Rockport Granite Company. 3
Government appropriations continued to fund large opportunities for the granite industry throughout its history. Cape Ann artisans learned to satisfy ornate as well as structural standards. Local granite companies crafted dimension stone and facades for many handsome edifices around the country, such as these pictured below. 4 
Boston Custom House
Essex County Courthouse, Salem
The Longfellow Bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge

Stock purchase agreement by incorporators of the Rockport Granite Company
Authorized by Internal Revenue stamp October 4, 1864 5
The new American political economy met the Industrial Revolution by experimenting with methods of business formation. In Europe, up to the middle of the nineteenth century, the typical corporation was a privileged monopoly created by rulers in return for favors promised by the company, and few such entities existed. Early America was not so different. It appears that only seven business corporations were created in the Thirteen Colonies, and another twenty eight up to 1790. By 1860 state legislatures had chartered more than 30,000 corporations. 6

Chartering corporations by special acts of state legislatures became a system susceptible to corruption. Incumbent or aspiring corporations would bribe or otherwise influence legislators. The solution to these problems after they became increasingly evident was the general incorporation statute, which makes the granting of corporate charters a routine function of the executive branch. This was the environment in which the Rockport Granite Company sought legislative sanctification in 1864, followed by the Cape Ann Granite Company in 1867.

Governing functions expanded inexorably with the growth of America. Public support, or demand, envisioned an increasing role to "promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty."  The government sector gradually assumed a vital presence in education, transportation, utilities, commerce, health, safety. Public works benefitted consumers and producers. 

The proposed Sandy Bay Harbor of Refuge, 1894 7

Maritime support, a traditional service of government, resulted in significant boons to the Cape Ann granite suppliers. Sandy Bay Harbor received its defining enclosure by the federally funded Long Cove Breakwater project of 1836-1840. The maritime sanctuary concept was extended remarkably by a petition for the Sandy Bay Harbor of Refuge. Construction of a granite wall nearly two miles long emerging from sixty-foot depths of the Atlantic Ocean was sponsored by Congressional appropriations from 1885 to 1915, bringing headline notice from the New York Times "To Have Second Largest Harbor: Rockport, Mass., Will Rank Next to Cherbourg, France, When Breakwater is Completed." 8 Local newspapers carried accounts of bountiful speeches and banquets as each segment was completed and new rounds of expenditure proposed.


Placing capstones on the Sandy Bay Breakwater, c. 1915 3

To supply the prodigious amount of stone required for one substantial phase of the Sandy Bay (Rockport), Dog Bar (Gloucester), and Newburyport breakwaters in 1896 the three major Cape Ann granite companies "hitherto in deadly competition" successfully combined their bid. 9 One of the boons of this type of construction was a compensated dumping ground for the jagged quarry waste stone which could lock together desirably in a breakwater foundation. Supplying huge dimensional stones for the superstructure gave rise to new quarry developments on Folly Point and Halibut Point.

The budgetary strains of World War One halted the breakwater boon. It never revived as engine-powered vessels coming to the fore after the Age of Sail had less need for a Harbor of Refuge. Increasing governmental consideration for the welfare of labor in the twentieth century counted as another factor in the untenable circumstances of the granite industry here.

Notes
1. 1906 photo from the Detroit Publishing Co. collection, The Library of Congress.
2. Lemuel Gott, History of Rockport, 1888.
3. Sandy Bay Historical Society photos.
4. Arthur Wellington Brayley, History of the Granite Industry of New England, Volume 2, 1913.
5. Rockport Granite Company Collection, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
6. Richard Sylla, "How the American Corporation Evolved Over Two Centuries," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 158 No. 4, December 2014.
7. Sketch from "The Building of a Breakwater" by Herman Babson, New England Magazine, October 1894.
8. New York Times, September 27, 1914. Erkkila notes, Cape Ann Museum.
9. The Boston Globe, September 28, 1896. Erkkila notes, Cape Ann Museum.