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September Dreamscapes

As the fog was dissipating in the setting sun, whichever direction the camera was pointed, we were treated to a breathtaking view. 

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September dreamscape – wildly beautiful foggy sunset

A photo posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Buzz Off!

Buzz Off! #monarchbutterfly

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Please Share Your Monarch Butterfly Sightings ~ Thank You!

There have been few Monarch sightings this summer but I have been hoping for a strong fall migration. The migration is peaking in Kansas and we are always a little bit behind. Please let me know if you see a Monarch, and where. Thank you very kindly!

Monarch stretching wide its wings in the morning sun #monarchbutterfly

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Monarchs are emerging daily in our garden, from eggs collected at my friend’s field in Salem. This too would be an indication that we may be seeing them soon.

newly-emerged-monarch-butterfly-copyright-kim-smith-jpgThis newly eclosed Monarch is clinging to its chrysalis case. Within moments of emerging, the two-part Monarch proboscis must zip together to form a siphoning tube. If the two parts do not join, the butterfly will not be able to drink nectar. In this photo, you can see the proboscis is not yet fully zipped. Note its wet, crumpled wings.

Happy First Day of Autumn

Look for Seaside Goldenrod blooming across marsh and meadow–it also makes a wonderful addition to the garden, and is one of the top ten plants for migrating Monarchs.

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The Three Muskrateers

three-muskrat-family-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithMore muskrat love! Did you know Muskrats eat phragmites?!! They gnaw off the emerging and exposed shoots at the base and then eat the green stems. Very cool. Other fun facts: Muskrats can hold their breath underwater for up to fifteen minutes. They can also chew underwater. Unlike beavers, whose tails are flattened horizontally, a muskrats tail is laterally flattened (in other words vertically). The tail functions like a rudder to help the Muskrat maneuver through water. Muskrats can swim forward and backward.three-muskrat-family-massachusetts-2-copyright-kim-smith

Outstanding Environmental News for Gloucester Part Two

niles-pond-causeway-restoration-2-copyright-kim-smithThe Niles Pond-Brace Cove causeway restoration is progressing admirably. You may recall our story about the extensive damage the causeway had suffered from several fierce back to back storms. In 2014, the Association of Eastern Point Residents restored the structural rocks supporting the causeway. This past week, preparations for restoring the plantings has begun.  niles-pond-causeway-restoration-3-copyright-kim-smithniles-pond-causeway-restoration-1-copyright-kim-smith-2016niles-pond-causeway-restoration-copyright-kim-smith

Below are  photos taken in 2013 of storm damage, prior to restorationniles-pond-brace-cove-storm-damage-1-c2a9kim-smith-2013-copy

Phase one of restoration work, 2014

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BORING BIRDS

Boring Birds

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithEspecially that Black-belied Plover. Just look at his washed out and mud spattered feathered coat in drab shades of sand and dirt. He’ll never find a girlfriend attired in that old thing. He is so undistinguished, it is often difficult to discern the difference between him and his surrounds.

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-2-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithReally, hanging out in that smelly, bug and mollusk infested seaweed patch?

Migration routes of black-bellied plovers tagged on breeding grounds and a stopover location along the St. Lawrence River.

Migration routes of black-bellied plovers tagged on breeding grounds and a stopover location along the St. Lawrence River.

But wait, from where did you say he hails? I heard tell he summers in islands of Nunavet, Canada and winters in Brazil, stopping in Cuba or Honduras along the way. Known as the Grey Plover on the other side of the globe, his kin are world travelers, too, some leaving the Arctic circle breeding grounds and heading to fall stopovers in Great Britain and Norway, migrating all the way to South Africa, while other members of the family travel over Russia to winter in Japan, Australia, or perhaps even as far away as New Zealand. Black-bellies have been tracked flying 3,400 miles nonstop from Brazil to NorthCarolina in five days. Tedious, I know.

While at his summer tundra home he sports a handsome black and white tuxedo, in reverse, sort of get up, like this –

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You mean that tired old coat molts to that dapper cutaway? Yes!

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-in-flight-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithDespite his flashy tux, he’s genuinely shy, and will flush on a dime if danger is sensed (i.e. this filmmaker for instance). He knows all the tricks of the plover trade, feigning broken wing to distract the enemy from his territory, and scraping together a nest from nothing but mere sand and tiny bits of stone.

And just look at the Black-bellied Plover’s spotted eggs painted in shapes and shades of lichen covered stones. A clever disguise if ever there was one.

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Perhaps the Black-bellied Plover isn’t so boring after all. We living within the continental flyways encounter these Plain Janes and James when at their plainest. Black-bellied Plovers are seen along Atlantic coast beaches at this time of year within mixed groups of Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, yellow legs, and sandpipers. Although similarly as drably feathered as the other ‘boring’ birds during the winter months, at 11 inches, Black-bellied Plovers are easy to spot in these feeding flocks because  they are almost twice as large as the smallest shorebirds. Next time you see a flock of birds feeding along the shoreline take a closer look for the world traveling Black-bellied Plover.

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Each and every wonderful species of bird that I have been filming while working on documentary projects over the past several years has a fascinating life story. Living in the midst of the Atlantic Flyway, I can’t imagine a more interesting region, although when I was visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Santa Monica, the creatures flowing through the Pacific Flyway were pretty exciting too. I hope to in the future spend time in the Central and Mississippi Flyways as well. I love thinking about this constant longitudinal movement of life force flowing as it does, year in and year out, century in and century out, millennium in and millennium out. For the most part, we go about our daily lives relatively unaware of this extraordinary undercurrent. Whether migrating by land or by sea, we are surrounded by this great movement of life, forms always in search of plentiful food on which to rear the next generation.

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-in-flight-2-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithIf having difficulty identifying, one of the clues to look for is the black feathers under the wings, visible when in flight as in the above photo.black-bellied-plover-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

All photos not attributed to Kim Smith are courtesy of Google image searches.