Category Archives: Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

WILD MUSTANG BEAUTY, MONARCH MIGRATION, AND HIP HOP!

Dear Friends,

While I began writing this note yesterday morning and was looking out my office window, there were Monarchs drinking nectar from the Zinnias in the front flower border and Monarchs nectaring at the New England Asters around back. The migration is underway, with small assemblages here and there. I’m keeping my hopes up that we will see a greater influx in the coming days. And hopefully, too, the drought has not too badly harmed the Monarchs as there seems to have been enough moisture in the air that native wildflowers such as goldenrods and asters are blooming.

It was a good year for many species of butterflies in our garden. Here is a short video set to Camile Saint-Saens “Carnival of the Animals,” organized for a request for footage by a news organization:Monarchs and Friends in the Summer Garden #plantforthepollinators

On another note, the Shalin Liu and the Boston Film Festival are screening a new film titled Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West on Friday evening. This screening is free and open to the public. Here is a link to the trailer: Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the WestThe footage of the wild horses looks stunning. The film documents that wild horses are disappearing. You can find more information on my website here, too much for an email.

Our sweet little Hip Hop has not been seen for several days (as of this writing), but as Piping Plover Ambassador Deb writes, he has a Houdini-like way of disappearing and reappearing. Hopefully, he has departed. I am not sure if I sent this along to you – Ethan Forman from the GTimes wrote a fantastic article about our GHB Plovers. You can find the story here: Best Year Ever for Plovers at Good Harbor Beach.

I was so happy to read in the Gloucester Times that Mayor Verga’s new beach reservation system is a success, not only for the City, but because an interesting outcome is that I think the reservation system also helped the PiPls. Folks with reservations weren’t desperate to get to the beach by 7am and took their time arriving. The net result was that the wildlife that finds shelter and sustenance on the beach was less disturbed and could forage in relative peace. The new system appears to be a win for all!

In the sixties with mostly sunny skies this weekend. There are many creatures migrating along the coast and through New England currently. I believe I saw a pair of American Golden Plovers but haven’t had time to check my footage to verify 100 percent. I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy the predicted beautiful weather and see some wildlife.

Warmest wishes,

Kim

Charlotte’s first day of kindergarten with a newly emerged Monarch to send her off – her idea to accessorize 🙂

GUIDELINES ON HOW TO RESPONSIBLY RAISE MONARCHS

The first guideline in becoming an excellent citizen scientist is to do no harm while trying to do good. Considering the spiraling downward numbers of the Monarch Butterfly population, this basic tenet has never rang more true.

A number of friends have written in the past month with questions about captive rearing butterflies and the new listing of the Monarch as an endangered species by the IUCN (International  Union for the Conservation of Nature) and by the state of California. The ruling by the IUCN, which is an organization based in Gland, Switzerland, has no legal bearing on rearing Monarchs however, that is not the case with the California ruling.

In June, a California court ruling opened the door for the protection of insects as endangered species, which now includes the Monarch Butterfly. It is unlawful to take possession of live monarchs, breed and rear them in captivity, and conduct other interventions including covering eggs, larvae, and adult butterflies with nets, and transporting Monarchs to different locations. Canada and Mexico also restrict Monarch handling.

The ruling is understandable. There are folks who are rearing Monarchs by the hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands in wholly unsatisfactory conditions, ignoring safe and sanitary protocols.

As goes California, so goes the rest of the nation. I am deeply saddened that it won’t be long before we in the rest of the country will also no longer be able to rear Monarchs, even on the most modest scale.

READ MORE HERE

Monarch Chrysalis ready to eclose – native garden  phlox (Phlox paniculata)

One of the strongest reasons for not rearing hundreds (or more) Monarchs in close quarters is the spread of the highly contagious parasite OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha).

“Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) is a debilitating protozoan parasite that infects Monarchs. Infected adult Monarchs harbor thousands or millions of microscopic OE spores on the outside of their bodies. When dormant spores are scattered onto eggs or milkweed leaves by infected adults, Monarch caterpillars consume the spores, and these parasites then replicate inside the larvae and pupae. Monarchs with severe OE infections can fail to emerge successfully from their pupal stage, either because they become stuck or they are too weak to fully expand their wings. Monarchs with mild OE infections can appear normal but live shorter lives and cannot fly was well as healthy Monarchs.” From Monarch Joint Venture

Simply put, the very best way to help Monarchs is to create pollinator habitats on whatever scale you can manage. Plant milkweeds native to your region, which provides food for the caterpillars.*  Plant native wildflowers such as New England Asters, Seaside Goldenrod, and Joe-pye, which provide sustenance to migrating Monarchs and a host of other pollinators. Plant annuals native to Mexico with simple, uncomplicated structures, such as single (not double) Zinnias,Cosmos, and Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia), which will bring the pollinators into the garden and provide sustenance throughout much of the growing season, while the pollinators are on the wing.

Plants such as daylilies, roses, and dahlias are eye candy for humans. Keep your candy to a minimum and know that they are just that, eye candy. They do not help pollinators in any way, shape, or form.

A Monarch in the wild flits from plant to plant and from leaf to leaf when looking for a suitable milkweed plant on which to deposit her eggs. She is carefully inspecting each leaf, first scratching the surface with her feet, the butterfly’s way of sensing taste. The female will typically deposit no more than one egg or possibly two eggs per leaf or bud. When you see an image of a large cluster of Monarch eggs, you can be sure the female was raised in close quarters in captivity and is desperate to deposit her eggs.

Recommendations from the Xerces Society:

How can I rear monarchs responsibly?

  1. Rear no more than ten Monarchs per year (whether by a single individual or family). This is the same number recommended in the original petition to list the monarch under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
  2. Collect immature Monarchs locally from the wild, heeding collection policies on public lands; never buy or ship monarchs.
  3. Raise Monarchs individually and keep rearing containers clean between individuals by using a 20% bleach solution to avoid spreading diseases or mold.
  4. Provide sufficient milkweed including adding fresh milkweed daily.
  5. Keep rearing containers out of direct sunlight and provide a moist (not wet) paper towel or sponge to provide sufficient, not excessive, moisture.
  6. Release Monarchs where they were collected and at appropriate times of year for your area.
  7. Check out Monarch Joint Venture’s newly updated handout, Rearing Monarchs: Why or Why Not?
  8. Participate in community science, including testing the Monarchs you raise for OE and tracking parasitism rates.

Monarch Butterfly newly emerged and expanding wings

Monarch newly emerged and sun drying wings

*Best milkweeds native to Cape Ann, in order of productivity: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

 

 

GARDENING TIPS TO HELP POLLINATORS (AND YOUR GARDEN) SURVIVE THE DROUGHT PLUS HUMMINGBIRD SHORT FILM

Summer morning scene

Eyeing landscapes that are usually lushly verdant at this time of year, every where we look, wild places and yardscapes are prematurely shriveling and turning brown. This does not bode well for pollinators, especially the butterflies we look forward to seeing in August and September, including Monarchs, Painted and American Ladies, Buckeyes. and Sulphurs. These beauties depend upon wildflowers for daily sustenance and to build their lipid reserves for journeys south.

Six tips to help your garden survive the drought

1. In our garden, we prioritize what needs water most. Pollinator favorite annuals and perennials such as Zinnias, Phlox, Monarda, Joe-pye, and milkweeds provide nectar for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies that are on the wing at this time of year, and they are watered consistently.  Perennial wildflowers that Monarchs, the Vanessa butterflies, and Sulphurs rely on in late summer include asters and goldenrods and we give them plentiful water, too. Fruit trees, native flowering dogwoods and shrubs are also given plenty of attention because they take the longest to become established, give shade, and provide sustenance to myriad species of pollinators. Assess your own garden with an eye to prioritizing what you think pollinators are most reliant upon now and over the coming  two months.

Plants such as daylilies, iris, lily-of-the-valley, grass, and hosta support nothing, or very few species. They are typically well-rooted and can afford temporary neglect.

2. Water by hand, selectively (see above). Hold the hose nozzle at the base of the plant to soak the soil, not the foliage.

3. Water deeply, and therefore less frequently. Fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs especially appreciate deep watering.

4. Watering after dark saves a tremendous amount of water as a large percentage of water (anywhere from 20 to 30 percent) is lost to evaporation when watering during daylight hours. The best time of day to water is after sunset and before sunrise.

5. Do not fertilize with chemical fertilizers, which promotes an over abundance of growth, which in turn requires more water. Instead, use organic fertilizers and amendments, which will improve the soil’s ability to store and hold water. Fertilize with one of Neptune Harvest’s excellent fish fertilizers, and cover the soil beneath the plants with a two inch layer of Black Earth compost. The soil will be healthier and able to retain moisture more readily.

6. Remove weeds regularly. Weeds suck up valuable moisture. To be clear, by weeds, I don’t mean plants that are misnamed  with the suffix weed.  So many of our native wildflowers were unfortunately given names that end in weed by the early colonists. For example, Butterfly Weed (Milkweed), Ironweed (Veronia),  and Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium), to name but a few. These native wildflowers are some of our very best plants to support native species of Lepidoptera.Canadian Tiger swallowtail drinking nectar – keeping the Zinnias well-watered to help the pollinators

 

 

 

 

SAVE THE DATE AND SELLING OUT – KIM SMITH MONARCH BUTTERFLY ALL AGES PROGRAM AT THE ESSEX BURNHAM LIBRARY

Please join me Thursday, August 18th, at 10am at Essex’s T.O.H.P. Burnham Library for an all ages (5 plus) Monarch Butterfly talk, The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch. To register, please GO HERE I hope to see you there!

Newly emerged Monarch and Asclepias tuberosa

WHY THE MONARCHS LISTING AS ENDANGERED BY THE IUCN IS A CLARION CALL

Headline after headline shouts: MONARCHS LISTED AS ENDANGERED, MONARCHS CLASSIFIED AS ENDANGERED, MONARCHS ARE NOW AN ENDANGERED SPECIES.

What most articles fail to highlight is that the species was listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Prior to the IUCN adding the Monarch to its Red List, most Americans had never even heard of the IUCN. Although the listing brings no funding to help protect the Monarchs, it can however serve as a call to action.

What is the IUCN? VISIT THE IUCN WEBSITE HERE 

In 2020, the US Fish and Wildlife Service categorized the Monarch as warranting protection under the Endangered Species Act, but failed to add it to the Endangered Species List. The stated reason was because other species had higher protection priorities. Perhaps, too, an unspoken reason is that it would be very complicated try to prevent habitat loss, and to go toe to toe with companies that manufacture herbicides (Glyphosate),*along with the corporations (Bayer) that manufacture genetically modified crops that can withstand the deadly herbicides. The Monarch’s status will again be reviewed in 2024 and many hope that the IUCN’s declaration will prompt the USFWS to add the Monarch to the federal Endangered Species List.

Climate disruption, habitat loss, and the abuse of herbicides are the greatest threats facing the migrating population of the Monarch Butterfly. Where the population was once counted in the billions only fifty years ago, the numbers have plummeted to mere millions. Although that may sound like a robust number, in actuality, a series of events such as a drought in the northern breeding grounds followed by a deep freeze in the butterfly’s wintering habitat could wipe out the eastern population by as much as 90 percent.

We can all help the Monarchs, individually, and collectively. Creating Monarch habitat is probably one of the most joyful and satisfying first steps. Not only will you be helping the Monarchs, but many other species of pollinators will benefit from planting milkweeds and plants that are rich with nectar.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be posting pollinator stories, along with gardening advice and tips to help our gardens survive the drought.

Charlotte and newly emerged Monarch August 3, 2022

*Glyphosate, manufactured by Bayer, is an herbicide used in the weed killer Roundup. Roundup is sprayed on vast acreage of farmland in the Midwest on crops that have been genetically modified to withstand the Roundup. Tragically, when the herbicide is sprayed on farm fields, the GMO crops can withstand the deadly toxin, but the milkweeds and other wildflowers growing in and around the farm fields are decimated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEAUTY ON THE WING IS AN OFFICIAL SELECTION AT THE SAN DIEGO INTERNATIONAL KIDS FILM FESTIVAL

Terrific update to share for Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly – We have been accepted to the San Diego International Kids Film Festival. With Covid on the rise, the presenters don’t know yet if the festival will be live or virtual, but it is fun to imagine attending.

Male Monarch and Coneflower

Truly an amazing number of Monarchs have been spotted across Cape Ann, and New England, in recent weeks. Many are finding eggs and caterpillars in gardens and in meadows. My friends Lillian and Craig, Jane, and Lauren shared their recent sightings. Please write and let me know what you are seeing in your garden. Thank you! 

AMERICAN LADY AT CAPE HEDGE BEACH

There are a surprising number of butterflies this year at Cape Hedge Beach. Several days ago an American Lady was warming on the popples and today, a female Black Swallowtail.

An easy way to see the difference between an American Lady Butterfly and a Painted Lady Butterfly

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) ~ Note the two large eyespots on the underside of the hindwing, close to the outer margin.The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) has four smaller eyespots on the underside of the hindwing. 

Painted Lady, left; American Lady right

GRAND TOTAL CAPE ANN PIPING PLOVER EGGS IN NEST COUNT

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

Joyful update to share from Cape Ann PiPl nest check-up this morning –

Cape Hedge

The Cape Hedge Plover parent’s are doing an excellent job guarding their clutch of four eggs, the most well-camouflaged nest in Massachusetts, as our state coastal waterbird biologist Carolyn Mostello refers to the nest. There was a Coyote scavenging around the wrack line near the nest but Mom and Dad went into full protective mode trying to distract. The “broken wing” display wasn’t too necessary though as the second the Coyote saw me, he/she hightailed into the marsh.

Area #1 Salt Island

Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer installed the exclosure at #1 (Salt Island end of the beach) yesterday afternoon and there are now three eggs in the nest! The Salt Island pair are not yet brooding full time and still continuing to mate. Quite possibly, we’ll have a fourth egg at #1. This little Mama has up to this point laid a total of six eggs, three in the first nest, which we think was predated, and three currently.

Area #3 Saratoga CreeK

In saving the best for last, our amazing handicapped Mom and ever vigilant Super Dad at #3 now have FOUR eggs in the nest. Mom popped off for a brief moment and I was “ploverjoyed” to see a fourth egg. I am not sure when this last egg was laid. It’s going to be a challenge to gauge when is the hatch date but I am working on that this weekend. *Borrowing the expression #ploverjoyed from our PiPl friends at Conserve Wildlife New Jersey 🙂

GHB #3 Mom well-camouflaged on the nest this foggy, foggy morning

Cape Ann’s current grand total of eggs in nests is Eleven (with a possibility of one more).

Yesterday morning, City Councilor Jeff Worthley and I met at Good Harbor Beach. He was very interested in learning about the Plovers and their history at GHB. Jeff agreed that Martha’s idea to speak before the next City Council meeting was a good plan; the next full council meeting is June 14th. He also suggested we do a brief presentation before City Council. The presentation has to be pre-planned and approved by City council president, Valerie Gilman. I don’t know if it’s either/or, or if we would be able to do both. What are your thoughts, PiPl friends? I think also we should definitely plan a “lessons learned” meeting at the end of the season, per Jonathan’s suggestion.

The Good Harbor Beach pre-reservation parking system goes into effect today. Some of the issues will be alleviated with the DPW and parking crew present, restrooms open, and end-of-the school-year high school senior parties behind us. We will still have issues with intoxicated persons tromping through the protected nesting area, but not the sheer numbers as the past two weeks, and hopefully we will see stepped up police enforcement on the beach.

A very brief Monarch update – Monarchs are here (first sightings by friends MJ on the 21st and Patti on May 23rd!) We see them in gardens, meadows, and dunes. Many other species of butterflies, too, have been sighted, including Tiger Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, American Coppers, Common Ringlets, and Spring Azures. May 23rd is early in the season for Monarchs. About every ten years or so we have an extra wonderful year with butterflies. The last was 2012. We are due and perhaps 2022 will be one of those years 🙂

Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly has been invited to screen at the Essex National Heritage Pollinator Week Program on the evening of June 22nd. For more information go here. Also, Beauty on the Wing is an official selection at the Santa Barbara Film Awards.

If anyone stops by GHB or CHB this weekend, please let us know. I feel fairly confident that the nests at GHB are safe, ensconced in their exclosures, but we like to check regularly nonetheless.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with friends and family,
xoKim

Pair of Snow Egrets at Saratoga Creek

MOM COMING IN FOR A LANDING!

Please share your Monarch sightings. We would love to hear from you <3

This Mama Monarch photographed yesterday was zeroing in and depositing eggs on the freshly emerging shoots of Common Milkweed sprouting in the grassland meadows at Cox Reservation.

 

On May 21st the first Monarch was spotted; this is the earliest many of us have seen Monarchs in our gardens, dunes, and meadows. MJ observed one on the 21st in Lanesville, Patti in East Gloucester on the 23rd (she has tons of milkweed), Duncan spotted one at Brier Neck, they are in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach in the Common Milkweed patches, in my garden (also lots of milkweed), and have been seen at several Greenbelt sanctuaries, both Castle Neck River Reservation and Cox Reservation.

The butterflies at Cox Reservation were drinking nectar from the Red Clover

The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch –  share with kids!

 

Please join us Wednesday, June 22nd at 7pm for a free in-person screening and Q and A of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Salem Visitor Center, as part of Essex National Heritage Pollinator week-long series of events.

SAVE THE DATE FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING FREE SCREENING EVENT AND BEAUTY IS AN OFFICIAL SELECTION AT THE SANTA BARBARA FILM FESTIVAL

Hello Butterfly Friends,

Super fun news to share and please save the date – Essex National Heritage is hosting a week of events for National Pollinator Week, which takes place June 20th through June 26th. We have been invited to present a LIVE screening and Q and A of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly on June 22, from 7pm to 9pm at the Salem Visitor Center.

This is a free event.

You can pre-register HERE, which is recommended as there is limited seating.

Essex National Heritage has planned many events for National Pollinator Week. As soon as I have more information from organizer Ryan Conary, I will post the complete schedule.

The Salem Armory Visitor Center is located at 2 New Liberty Street, Salem, MA.

And more happy news to share – Beauty on the Wing is nominated for an award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival!

Common Milkweed emerging in May, Good Harbor Beach

And lastly, we saw our first Monarchs this week, one at Good Harbor Beach flitting through the dunes and a second at Cox Reservation. There is plentiful Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) emerging at our local dunes and meadows! <3

HAPPY MAY!

xxKim

Common Milkweed mid-summer

HAPPY EARTH DAY ON THIS MOST BEAUTIFUL OF EARTH DAYS!!

“There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” –Rachel Carson

Dear Friends,

It’s glorious outdoors today and I hope you have a chance to get outside.  See below for photos from my morning Earth Day walk, although I can’t bear to sit at my computer all day when it’s so gorgeous out and will head back out this afternoon to see what we see.

For Earth Day this past week I gave several screenings of Beauty on the Wing (thank you once again most generous community for all your help funding BotWing!) along with presenting “The Hummingbird Habitat Garden” to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. For over twenty years I have been giving programs on how to create pollinator habitats. People are hungry for real information on how to connect to wildlife and wild habitats and each year the interest grows and grows. It’s truly a joy to witness!

Last night it was especially rewarding to bring Beauty on the Wing to Connecticut’s Sherman Conservation Commission attendees. We had a lively Q and A following the screening with many thoughtful questions and comments. My gratitude and thanks to Michelle MacKinnon for creating the event. She saw the film on PBS and wanted to bring it to her conservation organization. Please let me know if you are interested in hosting a Beauty on the Wing screening

Monarchs are on the move! The leading edge in the central part of the country is at 39 degrees latitude in Illinois and Kansas: the leading edge along the Atlantic Coast is also at 39 degrees latitude; Monarchs have been spotted in both Maryland and New Jersey. Cape Ann is located at 43 degrees — it won’t be long!

Monarchs are heading north! Female Monarch depositing egg on Common Milkweed

Hummingbirds have been seen in Mashpee this past week (41 degrees latitude). Don’t forget to  put out your hummingbird feeders. Dust them off and give a good cleaning with vinegar and water. Fill with sugar water and clean regularly once installed. The sugar water recipe is one part sugar to four parts water; never replace the sugar with honey, and never use red food coloring.

Happy Glorious Earth Day!

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Super surprised to see this mystery duck asleep on a rock. I was so curious and kept hoping he would wake up so as to identify. He at last lifted his head for all of ten seconds and then promptly tucked back in and went back to sleep. I’ve only ever seen Surf Scoters bobbing around far off shore in the distance. Skunk bird- what a cutie!

American Kestrel, male, too far away to get a good photo but a joy to see!

Beautiful, beautiful Great Egret preening its luxurious spray of feathers. An egret’s spray of feathers is also referred to as aigrette.

No Earth Day post would be complete without our dear PiPls – Mom and Dad foraging at the wrack line this am, finding lots of insects for breakfast.

A seal’s life

 

OH JOYOUS SPRING!

Happy Spring dear Friends!

Please forgive me if I am slow to respond to your notes, emails, and kind comments. I am so sorry about that but am spending every spare minute on the Piping Plover film project, creating the first rough cut while converting six plus years of footage. And uncovering wonderful clips of these extraordinary creatures, some I am just seeing for the first time since shooting! Not an easy task but I am so inspired and full of joy for this project, trying not to become overwhelmed, and taking it one chunk at a time, literally “bird by bird,” as Anne Lamott would say.

From daily walks, a mini migration update –

Gadwall female

Gadwall and American Wigeon pairs abound. Both in the genus Mareca, they share similar foraging habits when here on our shores and can often be seen dabbling for sea vegetation together.  The Orange-crowned Warbler was still with us as of mid-week last, as well as the trio of American Pipits. The very first of the Great Egrets have been spotted and Killdeers are coming in strong. The first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will be here any day now; at the time of this writing they have migrated as far north as North Carolina

Have you noticed the Weeping Willows branches are turning bright yellow? In the next phase they will become chartreuse. For me it it one of the earliest, earliest indicators that trees are starting to emerge from dormancy. And our magnolia buds are beginning to swell, too. Please write with your favorite early signs of spring and I’ll make a post of them.

xxKim

Male and Female Gadwalls, American Wigeons, Black Ducks, and Buffleheads foraging for aquatic vegetation

More spring scenes

Eastern Screech Owl in camo, possibly brown morph 

Owl on the prowl

White-tailed Deer at Dusk

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler preening

FINDING HOPE

As Putin’s war rages and the Russian’s crimes against humanity continue to hold the Ukrainian people hostage, we look for hope everywhere and anywhere. Especially when taking care of a child, an ill family member, or an elderly person we have to keep our spirits up, for the sake of our loved ones at the very least.

Hope is nations coming together and helping nations and individuals helping individuals, in the form of the hand extended to two million (and counting) refugees given by European neighboring countries, to the crushing economic sanctions imposed, to supplies arriving to the Ukraine from NATO countries and from around the globe, along with everyone in the world (aside from Putin and his allies at home and abroad), trying their damndest to prevent World War Three.We’re finding hope, too, in the signs of spring and new life beginning.

Four year old Charlotte coming in breathless with delight at the crocus and daffodil shoots emerging in the garden. And one of the most welcome sounds of spring is the beautiful chorus of courtship love songs of Passerines. There is renewed energy with the neighborhood songbirds; their appetites have increased markedly and nest building has commenced.

Eastern Bluebird male, Black-capped Chickadee, and American Robin eating the last of the Sumac fruits.

Monarch Butterflies are departing Mexico in a great swirling exodus while our winter resident birds are shoring up for their mass migration northward. Some have already left our coastline and waterways. There have been no sightings of the Snow Buntings for a week and fewer Buffleheads appear to be about. Soon, most of the Snowies will have departed. Local owls and eagles are laying eggs, while many travelers have yet to arrive.

Snow Buntings on the wing

Grand flocks of Brant Geese are massing. A long distant migrant, they’ve earned the nickname ‘Little Sea Goose’ for their habit of wintering over in saltwater bays, marshes, and sounds.

Killdeer nestlings

Killdeers have arrived and are sorting out their territories and, If you can imagine, Piping Plovers will be returning in just a few short weeks. To follow are members of the Ardeidae Family – Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Black and Yellow Crowned Herons, and Little Blue and Green Herons.

Piping Plover nest with two eggs

Mother River Otter and kits

We’ll soon see Muskrats, River Otters, and Beavers skirting around thawing ponds and baby Red Fox kits will in no time at all be peaking from dens.

Red Fox Kits

Red-winged Blackbirds have been here for several weeks. The male’s courtship call is welcome music of the marsh. He poses a striking silhouette chortling from the tips of Cattails, dressed in jet plumage with red shoulder epaulettes underlined in yellow. A female has yet to be spotted in her plain jane nesting camouflage of brown and tan.

Despite the horrors unfolding before our very eyes there is much to look forward to in the arrival of spring. We can’t as individuals end the war but we can take heart in a thousand acts of kindness and find joy in the unfolding beauty that surrounds, of new life in spring.

Pussy Willows (Salix discolor)

BEAUTY ON THE WING AIRING ACROSS THE NATION!

Super great news update from my friend and American Public Television Vice President Judy. She shares that since our documentary premiered a month ago, Beauty on the Wing has been broadcast 276 times, reaching 48.95 percent of the UStv households. She thinks we will have even greater activity in April because of programming centered around Earth Day! We have received emails and messages from viewers around the country, many inspired to create a Monarch habitat.

With thanks and gratitude to our many generous contributors, without whose help this film would not have been possible.

To the lovely woman in Idaho whose name I think is Shelly – if you are reading this – I accidentally deleted your note but would be happy to advise you on how to establish a Monarch habitat at your field. Please feel free to email so we can connect. Thank you!

THE PBS PASSPORTS LINK TO WATCH BEAUTY ON THE WING!

Hello Friends,

We are are receiving many wonderful comments from viewers who have seen the film on their local public television channel, viewers from coast to coast! For we in Massachusetts (and everywhere), if you are a member of PBS Passports, here is the PBS.org Passports link to watch Beauty on the Wing: 

https://www.pbs.org/show/beauty-wing-life-story-monarch-butterfly/

Note about the photos – I took a bunch of these Monarch and Buoy photographs as there were several flying around the buoys one day (only on Cape Ann = Monarchs + buoys!). They were taken during this year’s autumn migration on a hazy October afternoon. I didn’t put two and two together until finally having a chance to look at the images several days ago, that one of the buoys was painted orange and black 🙂

Thank you Friends for your continued support and for your love of Monarchs!

Warmest wishes,

xoKim

 

Monarchs and Buoys, Cape Ann

BEAUTY ON THE WING PREMIERES ON PUBLIC TELEVISION TODAY!!

Hello Friends!

Today Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly is scheduled to begin premiering on over 180 public television across the US. From cities coast to coast (including New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Charlotte, Raleigh, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Hartford, and many more), you can check your local listings to find out when Beauty on the Wing is scheduled to air.  Additionally, if you don’t see your city listed this week, more stations are planning to add the documentary to their schedule in the coming days.

If you happen to watch Beauty on the Wing on television, please write and let us know. We would love to hear from you!

The one major market that at this date is not planning to air Beauty on the Wing is Boston (??). However, if you are a member of your local PBS station and have contributed more than $60.00, shows are available to stream through PBS Passports. I believe the streaming option for Beauty on the Wing begins this week.

My deepest thanks and appreciation once again to all who so kindly donated to Beauty on the Wing. With your support we were able to complete our documentary, showcase at film festivals, and now bring to a nationwide television audience. Huge special shoutouts to my dear friend Lauren Mercadante who is not only extraordinarily generous, she also loves creating butterfly magic in her garden, and to Jesse Cook, who gave so generously of his music. Thank You Friends <3

Official 30-second promo for American Public Television

BEAUTY ON THE WING WINS GOLD AT THE SPOTLIGHT DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARDS!

Dear Monarch Friends,

Good news to share for Beauty on the Wing – Many thanks to the Spotlight Documentary Film Awards for the gold award! And starting in February, Beauty on the Wing will begin airing on public television stations across the country. As soon as I have dates, I will write and let you know 🙂

Fantastic news for our West Coast population of Monarchs – Tuesday, January 25th, the Xerces Society released the outcome of the 2021-2022 Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, an organized group of volunteer community scientists that has been cataloging the Western Monarchs for over 25 years. In a remarkable turn of events the final winter tally of 247, 237 butterflies were counted across the West, a 100- fold increase from last year’s count and the highest recorded since 2016!

Insect populations can fluctuate widely from year to year and the Monarchs are by no means out of the woods. In an otherwise bleak outlook for the West Coast population, this is a positive note and gives us hope that we can make the necessary changes to prevent the extirpation of the Western population.

Read the full report here

We’re expecting a classic nor’easter snowstorm this weekend while last weekend we had an exquisite “ocean effect” snowfall, which was lovely and magical. I am teaching myself a new film editing program and used the B-roll that I shot during the fairy-like snowstorm at Hammond Castle. Link to new short film  – Hammond Castle-by-the-Sea.

Stay warm and safe and Happy Snow Days!

xoKim

 


2021 WILD CREATURES REVIEW! PART TWO

Cape Ann Wildlife – a year in pictures and stories

July through December continued from part one

July 2021

Conserve Wildlife NJ senior biologist Todd Pover makes a site visit to Cape Ann beaches, summer long updates from “Plover Central,” GHB Killdeer dune family raise a second brood of chicks,  Cape Hedge chick lost after fireworks disturbance and then reunited with Fam, Great Black-backed Gulls are eating our Plover chicks, thousands of Moon Snail collars at Cape Hedge,  Monarchs abound, #savesaltisland, missing Iguana Skittles, and Earwig eating Cecropia Moth cats.

August 2021

New short film for the Sawyer Free Library The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch!, Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting new short Piping Plover film, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the garden, why we love Joe-pye and other wildflowers, butterfly friends, Monarch cats in the garden, what is the purpose of the gold dots found on Monarch chrysalides?,Black Beauty came calling, Tigers in the garden, School Street sunflowers, Hoverflies, luminescent Sea Salps return to Cape Ann beaches, Petal Dancers and lemony Yellow Sulphurs on the wing.

 

September 2021

Flower Fairies, irruptive Green Darner migration, mini glossary of late summer butterflies, what to do if you find a tagged Monarch, Painted Ladies, White-tailed Deer family, Monarchs mating, Tangerine Butterflies,  yellow fellow in the hood, and Beauty on the Wing first ever live screening at the Shalin Liu.