Category Archives: Butterflies of Massachusetts

TINY KALEIDOSCOPE OF MONARCHS PASSING THROUGH

Winds from the north brought a tiny kaleidoscope of Monarchs to our shores over  the weekend. Isn’t that a wonderful official word for a group of butterflies! A bunch of caterpillars is officially called an army.

Will there be more waves of Monarchs passing through? Time will tell. Along the Atlantic Coast Flyway, we’ve seen far fewer butterflies so far this year, especially when compared to last year’s numbers. Keeping my hopes up though 🙂Dancing Monarch

Soaring Monarch

PEARL CRESCENT – YET ANOTHER REASON TO GROW ASTERS (as if we needed one!)

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Pearl Crescent Butterfly

Seen throughout the summer, the beautiful female Pearl Crescent on the asters is from my garden just a few days ago. Pearl Crescents drink nectar from a great many flowers. On the smaller side, with a wing span of about 1.5 inches, they are not always easy to identify because their wing patterning is highly varied. The composite photograph below is from wiki and shows some of the many variations.

Grow Native! Pearl Crescents are found throughout North America, wherever asters grow. Asters are the caterpillar’s food plants and according to Mass Audubon the species of asters they are known to feed on in New England are: Heath Aster (Aster pilosus), Many-flowered Aster (A. ericoides), Bushy Aster (A. dumosus), Calico Aster (A. lateriflorus), Whorled Aster (A. acuminatus), Smooth Aster (A. laevis), Panicled Aster (A. simplex), Purple-stemmed Aster (A. puniceus), and New England Aster (A. novae angliae). Female Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent Caterpillar – image courtesy wikicommons media

RAGWEED VS GOLDENROD – WHAT IS CAUSING MY SEASONAL ALLERGIES?

Migrating Monarchs and Seaside Goldenrod

So often I hear folks blaming goldenrod as the source of their allergy suffering, when they really mean to say ragweed. The three species of goldenrod that we most often see in our coastal north of Boston fields, meadows, woodland edges, and dunes are Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima), and Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).  All three have beautiful yellow flowers, Seaside blooming a bit after Canada and Tall, and all are fabulous pollinator plants, providing nectar for bees, butterflies, and migrating Monarchs.

In our region, we most often encounter Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia), with Plain Jane tiny green flowers and raggedy looking foliage. Goldenrods and ragweeds both bloom at roughly the same time of year, in mid- to late-summer, but why is ragweed the culprit and goldenrods are not? The colorful showy flowers of goldenrods are attractive to pollinators and they are both insect and wind pollinated. The drops of goldenrod pollen are too large to fall far from the plant. Ragweed’s tiny flowers are not of interest to most pollinators and the plant has evolved to rely on the wind to disperse its pollen from plant to plant. Ragweed produces massive amounts of teeny, breathable pollen to travel widely on the wind.

Cedar Waxwing foraging in weed patch with Common Ragweed

Although many of us are fortunate not to be bothered by ragweed, I completely empathize with friends who are. If it is any consolation, I recently learned two good uses for Common Ragweed. Shetland sheep love to eat it and it is good for their wool. And I have been following a flock of  Cedar Waxwings for over a month. I often see in the morning the Waxwings descend on patches of mixed weeds, mostly Common Ragweed. Waxwings change their diet in summer to include insects and I think the birds are attracted to the plant for the host of insects it supports. So next time you are ragging on ragweed remember, it is a native plant and it does support a community of insects and birds.

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENTS ON ALL OF CAPE ANN – ‘SAILOR’S DELIGHT’ SUMMERSWEET

Clethra alnifolia is more commonly known by its many descriptive names of Summersweet, Sweet Pepperbush, and Honeysweet. In an old book on fragrance, written by Louise Beebe Wilder, she writes that in Gloucester of old it was described as ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ During the 19th and early 20th century, as told by Wilder, the sailors entering the harbor on homebound ships would reportedly delight in its fragrance wafting out to see.

Much of Niles Pond road is to this day lined with great thickets of ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ Wild Clethra growing on Cape Ann blooms during the month of August.

The following is an excerpt from a book that I wrote back in 2004-2007, which was published by David R. Godine in 2009. The book is about designing landscape habitats for wild creatures and for people, titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester Garden, and all that I wrote then, still holds true to day.

“Summersweet bears small white florets held on racemes, and depending on the cultivar may be shaded with varying hues of pink to rose-red. The tapering spires of fragrant blossoms appear in mid to late summer. Clethra has a sweet and spicy though somewhat pungent aroma, and when the summer air is sultry and humid, the fragrance permeates the garden, Summersweet is a nectar food attractive to bees and a wide variety of butterflies, notably the Silver-spotted Skipper.” See more at Oh GardenMyriad species of bees and butterflies, along with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, are attracted to Clethra for its sweet nectar, while American Robins, Goldfinches and warblers dine on Summersweet’s ripened berries.
Clethra fruits ripening

BEAUTY ON THE WING OFFICIAL SELECTIONS FOR THE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION AND NATURE WITHOUT BORDERS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVALS

Deeply honored to be included in the Nature Without Borders International and Wildlife Conservation Film Festivals

Kim Smith Interview with NHDocs

New Haven Documentary Film Festival presents a Q&A w/Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly director Kim Smith.

A Q&A, , moderated by NHdocs festival supervisor Karyl Evans, which accompanied the virtual screening of the feature documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the 7th annual edition of NHdocs: the New Haven Documentary Film Festival in August 2020.

For more information: www.NHdocs.com

With thanks and gratitude to New Haven Documentary Film Festival director Gorman Bechard and interviewer Karyl Evans for this interview. I am so appreciative of the support given to filmmakers by these two, filmmakers themselves. The festival was beautifully organized and I have received so much positive feedback. What an honor to be accepted!

Exciting news to share and Thank You Friends and Donors!

Dear Friends of Beauty on the Wing,

With thanks to all of you who so very kindly have shown support towards Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, I have wonderful news to share. The fundraiser allowed me to complete my documentary, including masters for television broadcasting, and we have a beautiful finished film, worthy of the story of the Monarchs. I worked with an outstanding, talented editor and film finisher, and all around terrific person, Eric Masungua, who owns Modul.US Studios, which is located in the Boston area. Getting a film off the ground during the pandemic has been a challenge and while submitting to film festivals, I jumped ahead a bit and have also been speaking with distributors. I am so happy to share that I signed a contract this week with American Public Television World Wide. APTWW is the largest distributor of educational content in the world and it is a dream come true for Beauty. One of the main objectives in creating the film was to distribute to schools, libraries, and other institutions, as well as translate the narration into Spanish for our south of the border neighbors.

American Public Television World Wide is different from American Public Television Domestic. APTWW distributes to schools, libraries, governments, online, foreign countries, the travel and leisure industry, etc. APT Domestic distributes content to public television stations. I have also been offered a contract with APT Domestic, although one is not contingent upon the other. I did not know that people pay to have their films and shows aired on public television. For example, when you see at the beginning of a broadcast “this show was made possible by the Anninger Foundation,” the Anninger Foundation sponsored the broadcast with many thousands of dollars, paid to PBS. So, the next step for Beauty on the Wing is to approach foundations for sponsorship.

I want to give a huge shout out to Filmmakers Collaborative. FC is a fiscal sponsor for filmmakers and I was made aware of this stellar organization by my friend Nubar Alexanian. FC’s director, Laura Azevedo, and her assistant Kathleen Shugrue, handled the financial aspects of fundraising impeccably. Not only that, but I learned so much about launching a film from the workshops and webinars that they sponsor throughout the year. Filmmakers Collaborative is a tremendous resource for filmmakers. You can visit their website here to learn more about all the programs that they offer, as well as the films they sponsor. I was recently interviewed for the FC website about the making of Beauty and you can read the interview here: Capturing Beauty on the Wing

We’re still planning a local premiere and showings. Signing the contract with APTWW did not preclude that and as soon as the pandemic allows for safe viewing, we’ll have an in person local premiere.

Again, I just want to thank all of you who have supported Beauty on the Wing. I think when you (finally!) see the film, you will be proud that you did.

Stay well and take care.
Very best wishes,
Kim

NEW STUDY BY MONARCH WATCH CHIP TAYLOR REFUTES “MIGRATION MORTALITY” AS THE MAJOR REASON FOR THE DECLINE OF THE MONARCHS

Female Monarch depositing egg on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Evaluating the Migration Mortality Hypothesis Using Monarch Tagging Data

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

August 7, 2020

Authors:

Orley Talor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

John M. Pleastant, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, United States

Ralph Grundel, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Chesterton, IN, United States

Samulel D. Pecoraro, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Chesterton, IN, United States

James P. Lovett, Monarch Watch, Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

Ann Ryan, Monarch Watch, Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

The decline in the eastern North American population of the monarch butterfly population since the late 1990s has been attributed to the loss of milkweed during the summer breeding season and the consequent reduction in the size of the summer population that migrates to central Mexico to overwinter (milkweed limitation hypothesis). However, in some studies the size of the summer population was not found to decline and was not correlated with the size of the overwintering population. The authors of these studies concluded that milkweed limitation could not explain the overwintering population decline. They hypothesized that increased mortality during fall migration was responsible (migration mortality hypothesis). We used data from the long-term monarch tagging program, managed by Monarch Watch, to examine three predictions of the migration mortality hypothesis: (1) that the summer population size is not correlated with the overwintering population size, (2) that migration success is the main determinant of overwintering population size, and (3) that migration success has declined over the last two decades. As an index of the summer population size, we used the number of wild-caught migrating individuals tagged in the U.S. Midwest from 1998 to 2015. As an index of migration success we used the recovery rate of Midwest tagged individuals in Mexico. With regard to the three predictions: (1) the number of tagged individuals in the Midwest, explained 74% of the variation in the size of the overwintering population. Other measures of summer population size were also correlated with overwintering population size. Thus, there is no disconnection between late summer and winter population sizes. (2) Migration success was not significantly correlated with overwintering population size, and (3) migration success did not decrease during this period. Migration success was correlated with the level of greenness of the area in the southern U.S. used for nectar by migrating butterflies. Thus, the main determinant of yearly variation in overwintering population size is summer population size with migration success being a minor determinant. Consequently, increasing milkweed habitat, which has the potential of increasing the summer monarch population, is the conservation measure that will have the greatest impact.

Introduction

Since the late 1990s, the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, population has declined significantly based on measurements made at the Mexican overwintering grounds (Brower et al., 2011; Semmens et al., 2016). Identifying the cause or causes of the decline is important in order to focus conservation measures appropriately. Two explanations for the decline in the size of the overwintering population dominate the literature. The first, known as the “milkweed limitation” hypothesis, posits that the decline in the number of milkweed host plants in the major summer breeding area in the Upper Midwest of the U.S. (Figure 1) has led to a reduction in the size of the migratory population (Pleasants et al., 2017). The second, known as the “migration mortality” hypothesis, posits that the resources and conditions during the fall migration have declined resulting in an increase in mortality during the migration and a decline in the overwintering population (Agrawal and Inamine, 2018).

Figure 1. All wild-caught butterflies tagged from north of 40° latitude and east of 100° longitude were included in the study. This area includes the region we are calling the Midwest, encompassing the area from 40 to 50° latitude and 80 to 100° longitude (outlined in red) and the region we are calling the Northeast, encompassing the area from 40 to 50° latitude and 65 to 80° longitude (outlined in blue). What we are calling the Total Area is the Midwest and Northeast combined. The NDVI values (Saunders et al., 2019) come from the region that encompasses the area from 30 to 40° latitude and 90 to 105° longitude (outlined in green). The dark blue square indicates the location of the overwintering colonies. Butterflies were tagged in other sectors besides the Midwest and Northeast but those data are not included in this study.

The milkweed limitation hypothesis is supported by data showing that in the early 2000s the majority of monarch production came from common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, in corn and soybean fields in the Midwest (Oberhauser et al., 2001) and that the abundance of those milkweeds declined precipitously due to glyphosate herbicide use in those fields (Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2013; Flockhart et al., 2015; Pleasants et al., 2017; Thogmartin et al., 2017a; Saunders et al., 2018). The loss of the milkweeds from corn and soybean fields began in the late 1990s with the adoption of glyphosate-tolerant crops. Milkweeds had been nearly eliminated from these fields by 2006 (Pleasants, 2017). During this period, an estimated 71% of the monarch production potential of milkweeds on the Midwest landscape was eliminated, amounting to 25 million hectares of agricultural habitat that no longer had milkweeds (Pleasants, 2017). The subsequent decrease in the availability of milkweed is thought to have limited the size of the summer breeding population. Support for this hypothesis comes from the pattern of decline in milkweed availability that parallels the decline in the size of the overwintering population (Pleasants et al., 2017). Further support comes from the strong correlation between yearly late summer Midwest monarch egg production and yearly overwintering population size (Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2013; Pleasants et al., 2017).

READ MORE HERE

“BEAUTY ON THE WING” AT THE NEW HAVEN DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL!

I am so excited to share that the New Haven Documentary Film Festival begins on Tuesday the 18th. Because of the pandemic, much of the festival is online. Beauty on the Wing will begin airing at 11am on the 21st. There is also an interview about the making of Beauty on the Wing with myself and Karyl Evans.

Very unfortunately  and yet another consequence of the pandemic, the films in the program are geoblocked, which means they can only be viewed in Connecticut. Not to worry though, as soon as it is safe, we will have a local premiere and I am very much looking forward to that!

For any of my readers in Connecticut, if you are interested in purchasing a ticket, please GO HERE

To learn more about the New Haven Documentary Film Festival, click here.

See the NHdocs 2020 trailer here (with lots of clips from Beauty on the Wing!) –

Beauty on the Wing Movie Poster

Version two of Monarch movie poster, with laurels!

INSTAGRAM HACK!

Friends, my Instagram account was hacked and it was super creepy. My kimsmithdesigns account and monarchbutterflyfilm account are temporarily disabled. If you would like to follow me on instagram, I have a new account, kimsmithfilms. Please follow at kimsmithfilms if you would like to connect on Instagram. Thank you so much! Monarch Butterfly and blue Rose of Sharon

MINIATURE HUMMINGBIRD, ENORMOUS FURRY BEE, FLYING LOBSTER, OR MUTANT NEW WORLD CREATURE?

Hummingbird and Snowberry Clearwing Moths

By Kim Smith

Startled! is an apt description of the reaction most gardeners experience when first they encounter a clearwing moth. Hovering while nectaring, with wings whirring rapidly and audibly, is it a miniature hummingbird, enormous furry bee, flying lobster, or mutant new world creature?Verbena and Hummingbird Clearwing MothHummingbird Clearwing Moth  (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring at Verbena bonariensis 

The family Sphingidae are easily identified in both their adult and caterpillar forms. The medium-to-large-sized sphinx, or hawk, moths have characteristic robust, chunky bodies tapering to a point, and slender wings, which are adapted for rapid and sustained flight. Often mistaken for hummingbirds, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe), with green tufted body and ruby colored scales, suggesting the male hummingbird, and the Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), with the gold and black striped color pattern similar to that of a fat bumble bee, mimic both the bees and birds they fly with during the day. The ability of certain Sphingids to hover in mid air while nectaring is unusual in nectar feeders and has evolved in only three species: Sphingids, bats, and hummingbirds. Sphinx moths also do an exceptionally unusual movement called “swing-hovering,” swinging from side to side while hovering, it is thought, in an effort to escape predators lying in wait amongst the flora.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), nectaring at Buddleia

Sphinx moths are grouped together because their caterpillars hold their head and thorax erect in a sphinx-like fashion. Most larvae have a horn protruding from their last segment. For this reason, they are often called hornworms. The adult sphinx moth is a powerful flier and usually has a long proboscis suitable for tubular-shaped flowers with a deep calyx, such as trumpet vine. The slender wings must beat rapidly to support their heavy bodies. The names of many sphinx or hawk moth species correlate to their caterpillar host plant, to name but a few examples: Catalpa Sphinx, Huckleberry Sphinx, Paw Paw Sphinx, Cherry Sphinx, and Elm Sphinx.

The order Lepidoptera is comprised of butterflies, moths and skippers. The name is derived from the Greek lepidos for scales and ptera for wings. Their scaled wings distinguish them as a group from all other insects. Shortly after the Hummingbird and Snowberry Clearwings are born, they immediately begin to shed their wing scales, hence the common name clearwing moth. While nectaring, moths receive a dusting of pollen as they brush against the pollen-bearing anthers. Their fuzzy, fur-like scale-covered bodies are an excellent transporter of pollen. Because moths are on the wing primarily at night, moth-pollinated flowers are often white and pale, pastel-hued and tend to be sweetly scented. White flowers are more easily distinguished in the evening light, whereas colorful flowers disappear. Adult clearwing moths are diurnal (day flying) and nectar at a variety of flowers. In our garden, they are most often spotted at our native Phlox ‘David,’ bee balm (Monarda didyma), purple-top Verbena bonariensis, and butterfly bushes with blue and white flowers. The larvae of Hummingbird Clearwings feed primarily on viburnum, honeysuckle, and snowberry (all Caprifoliaceae), and less commonly on hawthorn, cherry, and plum (Rosaceae). Snowberry larvae feed on honeysuckle and snowberry.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth nectaring at native Phlox paniculata ‘David’
(Click photo to see full size image)

For the most part, Sphinx moths are on the wing at night, although the beautiful White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) is often seen at dusk. The forward wings are dark olive brown streaked with white. The hind wings are black with a vivid band of rose-pink. Found throughout North America, both larvae and adults are consummate generalists. The caterpillars feed on the foliage of apple trees, four-o’clocks, evening primrose, elm, grape, and tomato. The adults nectar at a wide variety of flowers including larkspur, gaura, columbine, petunia, moonflower, lilac, bouncing bet, clover, Jimson weed, and thistle. White-lined Sphinxes are drawn to lights and those that remain in the garden the next morning are quite subdued, and may come to your finger.

Snowberry Clearwing

Orchids often have a symbiotic relation to very specific sphinx moths. The starry white, six-petalled Comet Orchid (the French common name, “Etoile de Madagascar” means “Star of Madagascar”) produces nectar at the bottom of an extremely long corolla, nearly a foot in length. Star of Madagascar (Angraecum sesquipedale) was predicted by Charles Darwin to have a highly specialized moth pollinator with a proboscis at least that long.  “Angraecum sesquipedale has nectaries eleven and a half inches long, with only the lower half filled with very sweet nectar…it is, however, surprising, that any insect should be able to reach the nectar: our English sphinxes have probosces as long as their bodies; but in Madagascar there must be moths with probosces capable of extension to a length of between ten and twelve inches!” (Darwin). The giant hawk moth Xanthopan morganii praedicta (“the predicted one”) was named appropriately upon its discovery, after Darwin’s death.

Etoile de Madagascar and Hawk Moth Xanthopan morganii praedicta

Image courtesy wiki commons media

Co-evolution, the specialized biological embrace of two species, bears both benefits and risks. Each partner benefits in that no energy is wasted on finding ways to reproduce. The risk lies in becoming too dependent on a single species. If one half of the co-evolved partnership perishes, the other will surely become extinct as well.

This article was first published on August 3, 2011 and was subsequently republished by the New England Wildflower Society.

 

THANK YOU HEATHER ATWOOD AND KORY CURCURU FOR THE WONDERFUL MONARCH FILM 1623 STUDIOS INTERVIEW!

Thank you so very much to Heather Atwood and Kory Curcuru for sharing about all things Monarchs, including the current state of the butterflies, Monarchs and other species of butterflies found in our gardens, and about my forthcoming film Beauty on the Wing; Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.  

I look forward to watching weekly episodes of their show, Cape Ann Today, and was simply delighted to be interviewed. Thank you again

“As light as a paperclip and they travel over 3,000 miles.” The Monarch Butterfly and its awe-inspiring life cycle has become a sort of northstar for documentary filmmaker Kim Smith. Watch the trailer to her soon-to-be-released film, “Beauty on the Wing – Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” and hear Smith discuss this iconic winged being, and what we can do to support its journey.

You can watch the interview on either Youtube or the Facebook link; I think the Youtube version is a little clearer.

GLOUCESTER’S AND GREENBELT’S BEAUTIFUL, TRANQUIL SEINE FIELD

Located in our East Gloucester neighborhood is a rare bit of New England coastal habitat called a Relic Sandplain Grassland or Open Heathland (see below to read more about Sandplain Grasslands). I love walking there in the early morning when the light is especially beautiful. The native flora attracts a wide array of wildlife, including favorite songbirds, skippers, butterflies, hawks, and Eastern Coyotes.

Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans) Seine Field

Earlier in the summer on an evocatively lit semi-foggy morning I went to photograph. The sun was pouring long shooting rays through the atmosphere and it was stunning to see.

Several weeks later I went again on a foggy morning and was delighted to find the field shrouded in seine nets. Called Seine Field because during the 19th and 20th centuries, fisherman laid out their seine nets across the expansive field to dry and to repair.

Seine nets were used by Gloucester’s seiner boat fishermen, the same type of boats we see during Fiesta: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The field is still used by local fishermen and it was totally random and by chance when I was there while in use.

Gloucester Seine Boats

In 2018, Essex Greenbelt applied for, and received, a Community Preservation Act grant to improve the quarter mile trail. The wide, newly graded walkway provides accessibility for most and I especially love it because ever since I had complications from a tick bite, I don’t feel much like traipsing through grass and dense vegetation, particularly during the summer months, and especially when with Charlotte (she loves Seine Field, too!). The trail is fantastic for adults and young children alike.

Seine Field is managed by Essex County Greenbelt Association and is located on Farrington Avenue in Gloucester. For more information about ECGA and to learn how you can be come involved follow this link: Essex County Greenbelt Association

*Additional Reading

From the mass.gov website:

Sandplain Grasslands are open, essentially treeless, grass dominated communities that generally occur on sand or other dry, poor soils; Occurrences are maintained by fire, salt spray, and, now, mowing.

Differentiating from Related Communities: Sandplain Grasslands are part of a structural and successional continuum with other coastal communities. When communities are not distinct the best fit should be named. Sandplain Heathlands and Sandplain Grasslands share ~70% of their dominant species: the proportions of the species and the community structure separate the types. Sandplain Heathlands look shrubbier with a taller shrub layer comprised of scrub oak, black huckleberry, and/or lowbush blueberry, and overall have fewer plant species. Both Sandplain Grasslands and Maritime Dune Communities have grasses, forbs, and low shrubs, with patches of bare soil. Dune communities are often dominated by beach grass and beach heather that occur less abundantly in grasslands, where if they occur they are with other plants. Sandplain Grasslands – Inland Variant are located inland away from maritime influences and fewer coastal species including sandplain flax, golden heather, and sandplain blue-eyed grass.

Male Northern Cardinal Seine Field

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BUTTERFLIES GONE?

In thinking about where have all the butterflies gone, I am reminded of the poignant song written by Pete Seeger “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” which although a song about the futility of war, sums up much about the environmental impact of habitat loss. Without wildflower habitat, there will be no pollinators of any sort.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago.

Buckeye and Seaside Goldenrod

Where have all the butterflies gone? Different species of butterfly populations fluctuate from year to year. For example, some years you may see far greater numbers of Buckeyes, the next year not so much. That same year you may hardly see any Tiger Swallowtails but will the following.

That being said,, everyone must realize that every year there are fewer butterflies than the year before. Butterflies thrive in meadows, the very same topography that is the easiest to build upon. Every time a new house or shopping mall is built on a meadow, we decrease not just butterfly habitat, but a whole community of wildlife habitat.

In the above photo you can see a Monarch with a Black Swallowtail flying overhead. This stunning patch of wildflowers and nectar plants was sited in Gloucester at a prime spot for Monarchs to rest and refuel after migrating across Massachusetts Bay. The new home owners ripped out most of the wildflowers and planted the site in a more formal style, with non-native perennials and shrubs. At this location, I would often see Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Painted and American Ladies, Sulphurs, and many other species. That is no longer true.

Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from Joe Pye-weed at the same wildflower patch, no longer in existence.

Butterfly and bee populations are declining overall, not only because of habitat loss, but because of the unbridled use of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture and home lawn care.

Butterflies are especially sensitive to fluctuations in weather, and also to overall climate change. This year we had a long, cold wet spring. The inclement weather is continuing, too, from a butterflies perspective, because although we are seeing some warmer temperatures the past few days, it has mostly been rainy, foggy, or overcast. Butterflies thrive during long stretches of sunny, hot weather. Their wings don’t work very well in the damp and cold. Because of global climate change, we have seen a seven percent increase in precipitation worldwide.

One of the best years I have ever seen for dozens and dozens of species of butterflies, including Monarchs, in the Northeast, was the summer and fall of 2012. That year, we had a warm winter followed by a warm spring, then a warm, dry summer, and a long, warm Indian summer. It was butterfly bonanza that summer and autumn!Adding to people’s concern is the fact that last year, there was an abundance of spring rain that in turn created an extraordinary wildflower bloom in Texas, which got all the butterflies off to a good start. In 2019, we were seeing Monarchs as early as early June, which was very unusual for Cape Ann. Folks are comparing this year to that of 2019, however, 2019 was not an average year.

Monarchs are a case unto themselves. Their spring and summer numbers depend upon a variety of additional conditions, including how successful was the previous year’s autumn migration, whether or not there were nectar providing wildflowers on their northward and southward  migrations, and wind and weather conditions from Canada to Mexico.

Note the bar graph in that the eastern population of the Monarchs plummeted by half, according to this year’s spring count by the World Wildlife Fund Mexico.

Particularly in the northeast, the wind patterns during the Monarchs spring northward migration matter tremendously. My friend Charmaine at Point Pelee, in southern Ontario, which is 49 degrees latitude (we are 43 degrees latitude) has been raising and releasing Monarchs for over a month now, while most of us on Cape Ann have only seen a smattering. The Monarchs moved this year in a straight northward trajectory. If the wind does not blow from west to east during some part of their northward migration, far fewer will end up along the eastern shores.Monarchs and Seaside Goldenrod

All is not lost. I am 90 percent certain we will soon be seeing some of our migratory and non-migratory local populations, we just need some good weather. They are later than usual, but not gone entirely.

For so many more reasons, I am hopeful for the future of wildlife and their habitats and see such tremendous, positive change. Despite the current administration’ s extremely harmful stance against the environment, many, many individuals and organizations are gaining a deeper appreciation about the importance of habitats and taking positive action. Many have made it their life’s work. These individuals and organizations are creating wildlife sanctuaries and conserving existing habitats. If the Monarch is declared an endangered species, that will surely bring an added awarenesses and increased federal spending for protecting and creating habitats.

How can you help the Monarchs, which in turn will help myriad species of other butterflies and pollinators? Plant wildflowers! Both Marsh and Common Milkweed for their northward migration, and lots of nectar-rich later summer blooming wildflowers for their southward migration, including New England Aster, Smooth Aster, Purple-stemmed Aster, Seaside Goldenrod, and Canada Goldenrod.Monarchs and New England Aster

BEAUTIFUL MORNING AT GOOD HARBOR WITH DAD AND MASTER WORM-CATCHER! AND THANK YOU TO AMBASSADOR SUE FOR DONATING TO GREENBELT!!

Good Morning PiPl Ambassadors,

Finally, a bit of sun this morning! Dad and Little Chick spent the morning feeding at the tide pools at the main beach. An adult Red Fox was far, far down the beach, but that didn’t stop Dad from giving chase. I left at about 7:15, after the beach raker. Following the near fatal raking mishap on Duncan’s shift yesterday, I didn’t want to take any chances. Today the raking gentleman stayed close to the footbridge and then onto Whitham Street end, via the Creek road. Thankfully he did not drive across the front of the roped off area.

Surprisingly, not too much garbage, and hopefully, we have seen the last of the fireworks.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by the Creek and had the joy to see both Deb, who was finishing up, and Jonathan who was coming on. Wonderful talking to them both! I am so appreciative of everyone’s interest and thank you all so very much.

There is so much good eating at the Creek. Dad and Chick were finding lots of fat juicy sea worms. No worm was too large or too small for our Little One.

I met Zöe and her Mom, who both adore our PiPl family and follow their story daily. Zöe has even named one of her stuffed animals Marshmallow, after Little Chick, and Marshmallow was there at the beach with her. Next year they are planning to sign up to be Ambassadors! Perhaps we should name our chick Marshmallow; it’s really very charming. What do you all think about that?

Edited Note – I just received some fantastic news from Sue, one of our PiPl Ambassadors. She is writing an article about our GHB PiPl for a local publication. Sue is donating her entire writing fee to Essex County Greenbelt as a way to thank Dave Rimmer and ECGA for their tremendous help in managing our GHB Plovers We are so grateful and appreciative of Greenbelt, especially so because of the fact that they have never charged any fee for their kind assistance these past five years. 

Thank You and a Truly Outstanding Gift Sue!!!! 

xxKimZöe, future PiPl Ambassador

Master Worm-Catcher

Monarch Butterfly Good Harbor Beach Milkweed Patch July 5, 2020

 

OUR LITTLE CHICK IS TEN DAYS OLD!

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

Today marks another milestone, ten days old. After today, we begin to think of chicks as two weeks old, three weeks, old, etc. Thank you to Everyone for your watchful eyes and kind interest!

Yes, Duncan, if the tracks you saw were down by the water, it was our GHB Red Fox. I think it was the Dad (the Mom is much skinnier, from nursing and scavenging food for the kits). He was bringing a rabbit breakfast to the kits.

Sally – such a joy to see when they stretch and try to “flap” their tiny wing buds ❤

The cooler weather this weekend is a tremendous break for the PiPls. Last night I stopped by and people are partying much later on the beach on weeknights than in previous years, surely because of coronavirus and a lack of jobs. I picked up six empty full-sized whiskey bottles, three were in the roped off area, and fifty plus beer cans that had been buried in the sand. That smell of stale beer at 6 in the morning is so Gross!

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Good Harbor Beach

Thank you Deb for the Monarch sighting report. The milkweed is in full bloom in the dunes–perfect timing for the Monarchs to begin arriving. I have a friend who is so worried she hasn’t seen any in her garden. I’ve been telling her they usually arrive around July 4th, in a normal year. She will be thrilled when I share your sighting.

Thank you PiPl Ambassadors!
Happy July 3rd.
xxKim

Ten to eleven day old chick

BEAUTY ON THE WING ACCEPTED TO THE NEW HAVEN DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL!

Overjoyed Beauty on the Wing is going to the New Haven Documentary Film Festival!

2019 Honors Filmmaker –

TWELVE NATIVE MILKWEEDS

Did you know that there are over two hundred species of milkweed (Asclepias) found around the world? Seventy different species are native to North America.

Milkweeds, as most know, are the host plant for Monarch Butterflies. A host plant is another way of saying caterpillar food plant.

Monarchs deposit eggs on milkweed plants. Some milkweeds are more productive than other species. For the Northeast region, the most productive milkweed is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). The second most productive is *Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). What is meant by productive? When given a choice, the females choose these plants over other species of milkweed and the caterpillars have the greatest success rate. In our own butterfly garden and at at my client’s habitat gardens, I grow both side-by-side. The females flit from one plant to the next, freely depositing eggs on both species.

This fun chart shows some of the most common species of milkweeds found in North America. *Swamp Milkweed is another common name for Marsh Milkweed.

SINGING THE PRAISES OF CAPE ANN’S WINGED AERIALISTS- Please join Kim Smith, John Nelson, and Martin Ray for a fun zoom hour of conversation!

Please join John Nelson, Martin Ray, and myself for an hour of talk about the many birds and habitats found on Cape Ann. The event is hosted by Literary Cape Ann and will be moderated by Eric Hutchins, Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for NOAA.

From Literary Cape Ann’s newsletter-

TRY BIRDING IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD!

Singing the praises of Cape Ann’s winged aerialists

Families are invited to join some of our favorite local naturalists and authors —  John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray — for a fun hour talking about the many birds and natural habitats found on Cape Ann. Wildlife biologist Eric Hutchins will moderate this-one hour conversation.

Zoom in this coming Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. for an hour of fun as you celebrate the long-awaited summer solstice. See and hear birds, ask questions, learn some birdwatching tips and discover ways to document your bird sightings using your camera, notebook, blog or sketch pad.

This event is brought to you by Literary Cape Ann, a nonprofit group that provides information and events that support and reinforce the value and importance of the literary arts. LCA commemorates Toad Hall bookstore’s 45 years of service on Cape Ann. LCA’s generous sponsors include: SUN Engineering in Danvers, Bach Builders in Gloucester and The Institution for Savings.

Use this link next Friday: 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81423552319?pwd=VU5LU21Ga09wVE5QYWpsRnlhRCtFUT09

Order books by our guest authors at The Bookstore of Gloucester. For those interested, bird books make great Father’s Day gifts. Further down in this newsletter, you’ll find lots of great information about books and birdwatching organizations.

Thank you, Kim Smith and Martin Ray, for providing us with some of your beautiful photography to help promote this event. And thank you, John Nelson, for the annotated lists of books and birding organizations.
Meet our panel!

Meet our panel!

Artist, author/blogger, and naturalist Martin Ray will talk about maintaining his fine blog, “Notes from Halibut Point,” and share stories discovered in that magical place.

Filmmaker, naturalist, and activist Kim Smith will share her own adventures chronicling Cape Ann’s vibrant bird life including the work she does advocating for the endangered piping plovers that nest at Good Harbor Beach.

Author-naturalist John Nelson will start things off with some birdwatching basics before getting into a few stories about local birds, their habits and habitats from his new book, “Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds.”

Our moderator, Eric Hutchins, is the Gulf of Maine Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the NOAA Restoration Center located in Gloucester. He  has worked as both a commercial fisherman and government biologist on domestic and foreign fishing vessels throughout the Northeast and Alaska.

Books by our speakers are available through The Bookstore of Gloucester:

Martin Ray
“Cape Ann Narratives of Art in Life” — A collection of interviews and images tracing the creative lives of 28 contemporary artists.
“Quarry Scrolls” (2018)— 24 photographs of Halibut Point natural life and scenes with accompanying Haiku poems

Kim Smith:
“Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!” — Written and illustrated by Kim Smith.

John Nelson:
“Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds”

More books, recommended by John Nelson:

  1. Sibley, David. The Sibley Guide to Birds
  2. Kroodsma, Donald. The Singing Life of Birds. 2005. On the science and art of listening to birds, by a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts and a foremost authority on bird vocalizations.
  3. Leahy, Christopher, John Hanson Mitchell, and Thomas Conuel. The Nature of Massachusetts. 1996. An excellent introduction to the natural history of Massachusetts by three prominent Mass Audubon Society naturalist-authors.
  4. Sibley, David. What It’s Like to Be a Bird. 2020. Just published, a study of what birds are doing and why, by a longtime Massachusetts resident and renowned author/illustrator of a series of bird and nature guides.
  5. Weidensaul, Scott. Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds. 2000. A Pulitzer Prize finalist study of bird migration by the naturalist and author of Return to Wild America, the subject of his memorable 2020 BBC lecture.
  6. Zickefoose, Julie. Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest. 2016. Where art meets natural history, by a talented author/artist, former student of biological anthropology at Harvard, and keynote speaker at the 2014 Massachusetts Birders Meeting.

If you’d like to learn more or get involved in the birding life, here are some recommendations from John Nelson:

An excellent overall resource is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, especially the “All About Birds” sections, which includes free access to the MaCauley Library (the country’s best collection of vocalizations of birds and other animals), the free Merlin bird identification app, live bird cams, and other resources for beginners and intermediates. Some programs, like their “Joy of Birdwatching” course, require an enrollment fee, but many of their resources are free to anyone.

For bird conservation, the most active national organizations are the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon. For state bird conservation, Mass Audubon (not affiliated with National Audubon) is most active and the best source of information, but many other organizations are involved in preservation of habitats, often with a local focus.

For birding field trips, Mass Audubon and the Brookline Bird Club both offer frequent trips at different seasons to Cape Ann, sometimes for just a morning, sometimes for a whole day. Both organizations welcome novices, and both have trip leaders who make an effort to be particularly helpful to beginners. Mass Audubon trips, generally sponsored by MAS Ipswich River or MAS Joppa Flats, require advance registration and some payment.

Brookline Bird Club trips are free, without any registration, but regular participants are encouraged to join the club with $15 as the annual dues. The name of the BBC is misleading; the club originated in Brookline in 1913 but is now one of the largest, most active clubs in the country and offers field trips across and beyond Massachusetts.

John Nelson is on the BBC Board of Directors and leads a few Cape Ann trips in both winter and spring. John reminds us that this is a strange time for beginners, since Mass Audubon has cancelled many field trips and the BBC has cancelled all trips through June, but eventually field trips will open up again, especially in places where social distancing is most possible.

The very active Facebook page, Birding Eastern Mass, has over 2,000 subscribers, from novice birders to experts. It’s a great site for sharing bird photos.

 

About Birding in Our Backyard

This Zoom event is for friends and families who are looking for safe, fun things to do close to home. Cape Ann’s abundance of natural wonders are here for us to enjoy and protect. Try chronicling your experiences in a new blog or a photo journal.

• • •

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
— John Muir, from “Our National Parks”

BEAUTY BY THE SEA WITH PIPING PLOVERS MATING! AND WE HAVE TWO PIPING PLOVER EGGS!!! EPISODE 8

Happy Memorial Day!

The flags that you see lining the boulevard are organized each year by Pauline Bresnihan. She owns the gift shop Pauline’s Giftson Essex Avenue in Gloucester, with many lovely hand painted and whimsical items for your home and garden.

Good Harbor Beach open to half capacity.

Piping Plover endangered/threatened species signs installed at GHB.

Sending thanks and gratitude to everyone who wrote emails ❤

Piping Plovers are on the agenda for the City Council meeting on Tuesday night, which will be live streamed at 7pm.

Alexandra and Jon at Alexandra’s Bread

Castaways Vintage Café

Caffe Sicilia

Short and Main

Beauport Hotel

Incredible job at Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester

Tree Peony, Rock’s peony, divinely scented,five blossoms

Please report your Monarch sightings. .

Piping Plover Chronicles continue –excellent detailed footage of Piping Plovers mating.

Two Eggs!

HAS ANYONE SEEN MONARCHS YET?

Although Monarchs have been sited as far north as 46 degrees, it is still very early for us even though we are at 43 degrees latitude because we are so far east. Please write if you see one in your garden. And feel free to send a photo. I will post photos here. Thank you so much!

Keep your eyes peeled, especially on emerging milkweed shoots. In the photos below, Monarchs are drinking nectar from, depositing eggs on, and also mating on the milkweed plants. Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) are the two most productive milkweeds for the Northeast region.

MONARCH BUTTERFLY PROTECTIONS UNDER HISTORIC AGREEMENT

Historic Agreement Will Conserve Millions of Acres for Monarch Butterflies and Other Pollinators Across the United States

USFWS-

Efforts to stem the decline of monarch butterflies took a giant leap forward today with the completion of a historic agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Illinois-Chicago. The agreement encourages transportation and energy partners to participate in monarch conservation by providing and maintaining habitat on potentially millions of acres of rights-of-way and associated lands.

Thanks to the monarch agreement, more than 45 companies in the energy and transportation sectors and countless private landowners will provide habitat for the species along energy and transportation rights-of-way corridors on public and private lands across the country. Participants will carry out conservation measures to reduce or remove threats to the species and create and maintain habitat annually. Although this agreement specifically focuses on monarch habitat, the conservation measures will also benefit several other species, especially pollinating insects.

“Completing this agreement is a huge boost for the conservation of monarch butterflies and other pollinators on a landscape scale,” said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This is a great example of how the Trump administration is working proactively with our partners in the energy, transportation and agriculture industries to provide regulatory certainty for industry while addressing the conservation needs of our most at-risk species.”

Monarch butterflies and other pollinators are declining due to multiple factors, including habitat loss. Agreements like this offer an innovative way for partners to voluntarily help at-risk species while receiving regulatory assurance and predictability under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service is currently evaluating the monarch to determine whether listing under the act is appropriate.

“Restoring this species cannot be done by the federal government alone; cooperation is key. This agreement is essential to ensuring that private landowners embrace practices to protect and preserve monarch butterflies, and those private landowners will benefit from regulatory certainty in return. It’s a true win-win,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper. “I am proud that my state of Delaware is engaged in this effort, and I want to thank the CCAA participants for driving this agreement forward and seeing it through to finalization. It’s my hope that, by working together, we can bring monarch butterflies back from brink of extinction.”

“By engaging early in voluntary conservation, utilities and departments of transportation can avoid increased costs and operational delays as a result of a potential listing. This provides tremendous value to industry and will also yield big benefits to the monarch butterfly,” said Iris Caldwell, program manager of the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Energy Resources Center, which will administer the agreement. “Not only is this the largest CCAA in history and completed on one of the fastest timelines thanks to our incredible partners, but it also represents an extraordinary collaboration between industry leaders and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that can serve as a model for addressing challenges to other at-risk species.”

“The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) applauds the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the participating energy and transportation organizations to conserve the monarch butterfly across the landscape,” said Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “AFBF appreciates the efforts of Director Skipwith and her staff for their coordination with farmers and ranchers to develop this important conservation tool. This agreement brings greater certainty to those who manage lands in and near rights-of-way while providing essential habitat for the monarch and other pollinators.”

“The signing of this CCAA for monarch butterflies is the culmination of a great deal of work by an amazing public-private partnership, including utilities, state department of transportation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Brian Kortum, director of environmental planning for NiSource. “We are excited by the opportunity this presents NiSource to do our part for monarch butterfly conservation while providing flexibility to our company operations.”

The Service and the University of Illinois-Chicago signed an integrated, nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) and Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for the monarch butterfly on energy and transportation lands throughout the lower 48 states.

CCAAs and CCAs are formal, voluntary agreements between the Service and landowners to conserve habitats that benefit at-risk species. A CCAA is for non-federal partners only and provides assurances to participants (in the form of an “enhancement of survival permit”) that no additional conservation measures will be required of them if the covered species later becomes listed under the ESA. A CCA can be entered into by any partner, whether federal, state or local authority, NGO or private individual or corporation. It memorializes the conservation commitment of the landowners, but unlike a CCAA, it does not provide assurances.

The monarch agreement integrates both CCA and CCAA programs so energy and transportation partners and private landowners can provide conservation seamlessly throughout their properties, where there may be a mix of non-federal and federal lands.

In addition, if monarch butterflies are listed as endangered or threatened in the future, the Service would grant permission for “incidental take” (a term under the ESA) to partners enrolled in the agreement. Incidental take includes the unintentional harming, harassing or killing of a listed species and is prohibited under the ESA unless a permit is issued.

The Service was petitioned to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act in 2014 and is required to make a determination on whether a listing is warranted in December 2020.

More information regarding the Service’s monarch butterfly conservation efforts and the candidate conservation agreement with assurances can be found on the Service’s Save the Monarch website.

GOOD NEWS CAPE ANN! – EPISODE 5

Good News Cape Ann! – Episode #5

 Sounds of Cape Ann, fog horn, songbirds, boats

Red-winged Blackbird singing across the marsh and calling to his mate in the reeds below.

Musing over name of show-  Good News Cape Ann, Finding Hope, my friend Loren suggested Beauty of Cape Ann, and husband Tom suggests Coastal Currents – what do you think?

Loren Doucette beautiful pastels and paintings. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Castaways gift certificate

Fishermans Wharf Gloucester now also selling lobsters in addition to scallops, haddock, and flounder. Our son made a fabulous scallop ceviche this week, so easy and delicious.

Cedar Waxwings, Hummingbird, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Baltimore Orioles, and Palm Warbler

Mini tutorial on how to plant a hummingbird garden

TWO MONARCH CONTORVERSIES! Is it okay to raise Monarchs at home? What is the problem with Butterfly Bushes?

Jesse Cook new release “One World One Voice”

Beautiful Piping Plover courtship footage – Piping Plovers in the field, what are they doing right now?

Charlotte stops by.

Take care and be well ❤

Alex’s Scallop Ceviche Recipe

1 lb. sea scallops completely submerged in fresh lime juice

Dice 1/2 large white onion. Soak in a bowl with ice water to the reduce bitterness.

Dice 1 garden fresh tomato, 1 jalapeño, and cilantro to taste

Strain the onions.

Strain scallops but leave 1/4 of the lime juice.

Gently fold all ingredients. Add cubed avocado just prior to serving.

 

 

NEW YOUTUBE SHOW “GOOD NEWS CAPE ANN!” EPISODE #4

Good News Cape Ann! 

Topics Episode #4

Thank you Friends for watching! Links to topics provided below

 Timelapse sunrise over Salt Island (see end of video)

Ospreys catch a Skate!

Coronavirus – Sending much love and prayers to my family of friends who are suffering so greatly.

Nicole Duckworth’s birthday parade

Time to put your hummingbird feeders out -how to attract hummingbirds and keep them coming to your garden

Cape Ann List of ToGo Curbside Pickup TakeOut Restaurants

Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester and Sole Amandine Recipe

Gloucester Bites

Allie’s Beach Street Café

Turner’s Seafood

Castaways Vintage Café

Melissa Tarr’s Naan bread

Monarch Butterflies Mating

Piping Plovers nestling

Project SNOWStorm shares

Turkeys in the morning sun and Turkey bromance (correction – there was one hen with the group of toms).

Chocolate-dipped almond biscotti recipe

Please write if there is a Good News topic you would like to share. I am thinking about changing the name of the show to Finding Hope, what do you think about that?