The West Coast wildfires continue to cast a strange and eerie haze over Eastern skies. The sun appears redder and later in the sky in the morning and disappears behind a thick gray haze earlier in the afternoon.Gloucester Harbor Cape Pond Ice Sunset
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
Six schooners sailed about Gloucester Harbor Sunday morning. Oh how we all missed this year’s Schooner Festival! But it was glorious to see these sailing beauties out in the harbor together at the same time. I was at Niles Beach Sunday morning and raced home to get my camera. The parade was coming to an end by the time I returned, but how lucky to catch a glimpse of Cape Ann Schooners Redbird, Thomas E. Lannon, and Ardelle lined up.
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.
This morning on my way out I saw the most gratifying sight. A Red Fox KIT was carrying a captured rabbit in its mouth! Why so happy to see this? Because it means our neighborhood Red Fox family is dispersing, the Mama and Papa fox have taught the kits well, and that the young ones are able to hunt for themselves! The moment was so fleeting I wasn’t able to take a photo but the sighting reminded me that I hadn’t finished posting the last batch of photos from the week with the Good Harbor Beach Red Fox Family.
Face to face encounter with a kit – I was very quietly filming his siblings when I heard a faint scraping/rustling noise behind me and turned to see this curious one, perched on a garage roof above looking down. We were only several feet apart and for many good long moments we were able to examine each other eye to eye before he scampered off the roof. Dad Red Fox
I just want to add for the benefit of people who think Red Fox are a nuisance and may even be a bit frightened by their presence. Red Fox are solitary animals (unless denning). They do not hunt in packs and are about half to two-thirds the size of the Eastern Coyote, also seen in our neighborhoods. Their diet consists largely of small rodents, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, fruits, berries, and insects. Generally speaking, they do not go after people’s cats and dogs.
A tremendous plus to having Red Fox in our community is that they are the best hunters of mice and chipmunks, far better than Eastern Coyotes. Chipmunks and mice are the greatest vectors (carriers) of Lyme disease. So the presence of Red Fox is a good thing to help cut down on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Because Red Fox compete with Eastern Coyotes for habitat, and because Coyotes eat fox kits, Red Fox are denning closer to human dwellings as they deem it a safer choice than denning where they may encounter a Coyote.
The one drawback to the presence of Red Fox is that they also eat chickens. I am sure. you have heard the phrase don’t allow the ‘fox to guard the henhouse.’ The root of that phrase comes from the fact that unlike many of their competing predators, fox cache their food, meaning they will kill a large number, and then hide the food, which has been known to happen at henhouses.
Here are some fun facts I learned about Red Fox while photographing and filming the Good Harbor Beach fox family –
Red Fox are super fast runners that can reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. And they can also leap more than six feet high!
The Red Fox was originally thought to be introduced from Europe in the 19th century, recent DNA tests have shown that these foxes are indeed native to North America.
To keep warm in winter, the Red Fox uses its bushy tail.
Enjoy any fox sightings, Red or Gray, and please let me know if you are continuing to see them in your neighborhood.
Just a few of the species of wildlife found on Cape Ann that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treat Act of 1918!
From the Center for Biological Diversity
NEW YORK— A federal court today overturned a Trump administration reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that had upended decades of enforcement and let industry polluters entirely off the hook for killing birds.
The administration argued the law only applied to intentional killing of birds and not “incidental” killing from industrial activities, including oil spills, electrocutions on power lines, development and other activities that kill millions of birds every year.
The reinterpretation was first put in place in December 2017 through a legal opinion authored by the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior and former Koch Industries employee, Daniel Jorjani. This opinion was already allowing birds to be killed across the country.
Citing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni wrote that “if the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence.”
In rejecting the Jorjani opinion, the court noted that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it unlawful to kill birds “by any means whatever or in any manner” — thus the administration’s interpretation could not be squared with the plain language of the statute.
Had the Trump administration’s policy been in place at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, for example, British Petroleum would have avoided paying more than $100 million in fines to support wetland and migratory bird conservation to compensate for more than a million birds the accident was estimated to have killed.
The policy was put in place over objections from Canada, a co-signer of the treaty that led to the law. Scientists now estimate North American birds have declined by 29% overall since 1970, amounting to roughly 3 billion fewer birds.
Since the Jorjani opinion, snowy owls and other raptors have been electrocuted by perching on uninsulated power lines in Delaware, Maryland, Tennessee and North Dakota – with no consequences for the responsible utilities. Oil spills in Massachusetts, Idaho and Washington, all of which caused the subsequent deaths of many birds, did not prompt any penalties. Landscapers in San Diego were reported to have thrown live mourning dove chicks into a tree shredder, prompting a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services agent to go undercover to investigate. But the case was closed with no action taken due to the changed policy.
“The Trump administration’s policy was nothing more than a cruel, bird-killing gift to polluters and we’re elated it has been vacated,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Birds are in real trouble across the United States. We must do everything we can to ensure they continue to brighten our skies and sing to us in the morning, for which they ask nothing in return.”
“The court’s decision is a ringing victory for conservationists who have fought to sustain the historical interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect migratory birds from industrial harms,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “The Department of the Interior’s wrong-head reinterpretation would have left the fate of more than 1,000 species of birds in the hands of industry. At a time when our nation’s migratory birds are under escalating threats, we should be creating a reasonable permit program to ensure effective conservation and compliance, rather than stripping needed protections for birds.”
“This decision confirms that Interior’s utter failure to uphold the conservation mandate of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service simply cannot stand up in a court of law,” said Katie Umekubo, senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The MBTA protects millions of birds and the Trump administration’s reckless efforts to rollback bird protections to benefit polluters don’t fool anyone.”
“Today’s commonsense ruling is a much-needed win for migratory birds and the millions of Americans who cherish them,” said Mike Parr, president of American Bird Conservancy. “The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is one of our nation’s most important environmental laws, and has spurred industry innovation to protect birds, such as screening off toxic waste pits and marking power lines to reduce collisions. This decision represents the next vital step on the path to restoring our nation’s declining bird populations and is a major victory for birds and the environment.”
“Like the clear crisp notes of the wood thrush, today’s court decision cuts through all the noise and confusion to unequivocally uphold the most effective bird conservation law on the books–the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” said Sarah Greenberger, interim chief conservation officer for the National Audubon Society. “This is a huge victory for birds and it comes at a critical time. Science tells us that we’ve lost 3 billion birds in less than a human lifetime and that two-thirds of North American birds are at risk of extinction due to climate change.”
“Migratory birds are once again protected in the United States from industrial and other threats, thanks to a court ruling rejecting the Administration’s blatant misinterpretation of protections Congress put in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” said Mike Leahy, director of wildlife, hunting and fishing policy at the National Wildlife federation. “Common-sense measures to protect birds like the snowy egret, wood duck and greater sandhill crane have been restored, and bird advocates, affected industries, and Congress can now focus on developing a permit program to reduce harms to birds and impacts to businesses through best management practices.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at http://www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at http://www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.
American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).
The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization, uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
On Tuesday I attended the annual Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting. This was my third year attending the conference. I love every minute and find them wonderfully educational. During a normal year, they take place on Cape Cod; this year was virtual. I took tons of screen shots of interesting data and and am writing an article about the meeting and what we learned is taking place at regions all around Massachusetts, as well as at other New England States. More to come 🙂
I was asked to make two presentations, one to share a film about Marshmallow and the second presentation, to talk about our Ambassador program. I’ll share the text of the second program tomorrow, and in the meantime, here is a short video, the finished version, of our marvelous Marshmallow Montage –
Thank you to Peter Van Demark for adding marvelous to Marshmallow’s name 🙂
For more about Piping Plovers, please see the Piping Plover Film Project page on my website. The page is progress but here you will find short films, information about my Atlantic Coast Piping Plover lecture program, photos, and links to hundreds of articles and posts that I have written from 2016 to the present (articles from 2019 have not yet been organized into the list).
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?Hummingbird 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.
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.
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.
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.
Good afternoon PiPl Ambassadors,
As Bette, Jane, and Jennie have shared, the beach was very quiet this morning and activity was low.
I love Jonathan’s new term for thermoregulating – “thermo-snuggling.” It more aptly describes their behavior, and that is all Marshmallow wanted to do this morning! I wish the footage was more exciting but the temperature was in the low 60s and it was drizzling when Heidi came along at 7:00. Marshmallow ran out of the roped off area several times but returned just as quickly as there were several gulls and a crow getting too close for Dad’s comfort.
Taylor Ann Bradford from the Gloucester Times phoned this morning and I shared with her your names. You may have already received an email from her.
The following is a link to a post that I wrote addressing the overcrowding at GHB. The last paragraph is about the PiPls. I have read on several social media sites that the PiPls are taking a bad rap for overcrowding at GHB, which, when you look at the pandemonium on the side streets and understaffed, overstuffed parking lot, even suggesting the PiPls are to blame is more than ridiculous.
Video footage of Marshmallow from this morning –
Have a great day!
A people and parking pandemonium marked the second weekend in July at Cape Ann beaches during the global pandemic. Mayor Sefatia, Chief Conley, City Council, and the DPW have been working to address last weekend’s pandemic pandemonium so same is not repeated.
The City of Gloucester has closed the parking lots at its three most densely populated beaches, Wingaersheek, Good Harbor Beach, and Stage Fort Park, to resident parking only. In addition, new no parking signs are being installed on residential streets this week, which include towing warnings. Gloucester is not the only community struggling with massive numbers of day trippers overcrowding beaches and parking illegally. Rockport is also experiencing many similar issues.
The amount of parking tickets issued last weekend shattered all previous records. According to Gloucester Times reporting by Taylor Ann Bradford, 478 tickets were issued, totaling approximately $31,000.00. Chief Conley states during the same weekend last year only 154 tickets were issued.
How will the City manage the issue of WALK-ONS? Without addressing this key component, nonresidents will continue to find places to park illegally and pour onto Good Harbor Beach. The parking lots at both Shaws and Stop and Shop were nearly filled to capacity on both Saturday and Sunday. You need only drive down Nautilus Road and watch the mass of beachgoers filing along, packed with a days worth of fun in the sun equipment, to understand the extent of the problem.
The parking lots need attendants during the entire time they are open. The word has gotten out that it’s free and unstaffed in the afternoon. On both weekend days at 5:00pm, the lot was filled to capacity however, cars were continuing to pile in.
Several of our parking attendants have tested positive for covid-19. I feel deeply for City dwellers and out-of-towners that want to come and enjoy our beautiful beaches but we are in the midst of a global pandemic and the first concern is for the safety of our community.
Nonresidents have alternatives to Good Harbor, Wingaersheek, and Stage Fort. Governor Baker has opened all DCR Northshore beaches, including Salisbury, Winthrop, Revere, Lynn Shores Reservation, and Nahant. These state run beaches have the facilities and staff to deal with the inordinate pandemic-sized crowds. Additionally, the police patrol beaches such as Revere on horseback. For Massachusetts residents parking is $10.00 at Nahant and $14.00 at Salisbury.
Stay Safe Friends! Please, WEAR MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCE! It shouldn’t be one or the other, but both!
Because the Piping Plovers are continually brought up as a reason for the beach overcrowding the following has been added to the original post –
Edited Note regarding the conservation areas set aside at Good Harbor Beach. A roped-off corridor eleven feet wide was created last spring, which runs the length of the entire beach. This corridor was established to help shore-up the dunes. We think protecting the dunes is a fantastic idea and you can already see positive results. Later in the spring, on April 17, an additional area was roped off for Piping Plover protection by the conservation agent. It was noted at the time that this area was twice as large as in previous years. The extremely large area we felt would obviously and unnecessarily frustrate the community and beach goers once the season was underway. Following that, at the time the nest exclosure was installed many weeks later, on May 29th, it was again noted and summarily dismissed that the area was unnecessarily too large. It’s not possible to change the size of the roped off area now while the PiPl chick is still present at GHB, but hopefully in the future there will be improved communication. Regardless of how anyone feels about Plovers, they are not causing the overcrowding, parking lot, and off street parking pandemonium.
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.
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.
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.
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
My friend Enza writes:
I’m excited to announce that I will be opening up a second location!!
VIP Fitness Cape Ann 🥳🎉
Thank you Gloucester, for accepting VIP Fitness with open arms!! I’m so honored to work in such a beautiful community!
A HUGE THANK YOU to all my clients who have been amazing the last 9 years of business and not to mention through the crazy time in quarantine, without you folks, this wouldn’t be possible!!
Now let’s make some healthy gains 💪🏼😜🔥
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”
The most tenacious of Piping Plover pairs has a second egg in their nest!
For the next few days you may see them on and off the nest. The pair won’t start brooding full time until all the eggs are laid. The reason being is that the hatchlings are precocial, which means active from birth. The parents want the chicks to hatch as closely together as possible so the tiny rockets zooming around the beach are more easily managed. The difference in a PiPl day old hatchling and a PiPl week old chick in human years is like trying to look after a newborn and a precocious preteen simultaneously.
Piping Plovers take about a week to complete the nest and lay all their eggs (sometimes two eggs or three or five, but most often four eggs). If they started brooding one egg full time, that egg would hatch a week earlier than the last egg laid, which would spell disaster for a precocial chick. Observing PiPl chicks that had hatched twenty-four hours apart was hard enough on the parents, let alone a week apart!
If you stop by to see the PiPls on the beach, please bear in mind they are working hard at completing their nest and laying eggs. Please don’t hover around the roped off areas or when you see the birds on the shore. Trust me, hovering attracts gulls and crows. Both species are smart and I’ve seen over and over again how human interest in the PiPls attracts these super predators to the nesting sites. Additionally, hovering around the adults off the nest stymies courtship and mating as well. Have a look with binoculars or take photo or two with a long lens and move on, especially when with more than one adult.
Thank you so much for your consideration!
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:
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!
Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our first family of Good Harbor Beach chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. Many of the morning times are filled, so we are especially looking for help mid-day, afternoon, and early evenings if you can lend a hand. Thank you! HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION
This morning the awesome Dave Rimmer and his assistant Mike Galli installed an exclosure at the area we call #1 (because it is closer to boardwalk #1). I write “awesome” because Dave Rimmer is Director of Land Stewardship at Essex County Greenbelt Association and for the fifth year in a row, he has lent his experience and expertise at absolutely NO CHARGE $$ to the City of Gloucester. We all owe Dave and Greenbelt huge thanks of appreciation. Thank you once again Dave for your kind assistance.
The exclosure was quickly and efficiently assembled and sledge hammered into place. Would the young pair accept the wire exclosure? It looked dicey for about half an hour or so. I had Charlotte with me and had to leave but a short time later, Dave texted that they were back on the nest. In all his years of installing exclosures (30 plus), only one pair has ever rejected an exclosure.
This nest with currently one egg is located in an extremely open site and not at all where expected. It is their fourth attempt at a serious nest. The first was up by the dune edge in a nicely camouflaged location but as it was not symbolically roped off, it was visibly disturbed by people and pets. Their next nest was located in the roped off area at #1 and that sweet nest had two eggs. Sadly, the eggs disappeared from the nest. The third active nest scrape was actually in the dunes but unfortunately again that was disturbed by people, this time by people going along their same path to go to the bathroom in the dunes. So this fourth nest is in a most open spot and not entirely safe from a stormy high tide.
New nest location, with no protective vegetation
June 15th is late in the year to begin a new nest but it happens often enough. Last year I filmed a PiPl family nesting in July, with three eggs. The nest gets hot as the summer progresses, but the adults were very smart about brooding. They would stand over the nest, not actually sitting on it, which provided shade from the melting sun, without their additional body heat. The adults were also panting to keep cool in the heat. One chick was lost in a storm, but two survived to fledge and the Dad stayed with them the entire time.
In the photos above you can see the PiPl heat wave brooding technique.
I think we should change the names of the nests to the Creek Family and the Salt Island Family. It sounds a lot more personable than #3 and #1. What do you think?
Hello Friends, update on the Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach and other PiPl news-
First, a bit of sad news. We lost the second nest at Good Harbor Beach, which was located at area #1, the opposite end of the nest at #3, down by Salt Island Road. It only had two eggs and the exclosure installation was scheduled for Monday.
Good Harbor Beach Nest at Area #1
There is no way of knowing what happened because it was very windy yesterday and the tracks of predator or pet have been blown away.
There is the strong likelihood that the pair will renest and they appear to be making attempts to however, it is getting rather late in the year. This would be truly historic to have two nests at GHB if they do renest.
The good news is that our pair at #3 are coming along beautifully. They are constantly brooding the eggs and are doing an awesome job defending their “territory” against avian species (real and imagined predators) that fly onto the scene including sparrows, finches, Mockingbirds, gulls, and Crows. No bird is too small or too large to escape defense of their territory.
Good Harbor Beach Papa Plover brooding eggs.
A bit of amazing news –there is a Piping Plover nest for the first time ever in Quincy! More to come on that 🙂
Massachusetts is at the forefront of Piping Plover recovery and we can all be so proud of our local and state agencies and how they are managing beaches for both people and wildlife to share, despite the global pandemic. Just some of the organizations include Mass Wildlife, Massachusetts Department of Conservation, Essex Greenbelt, The Trustees of Reservations, Parker River National Wildlife USFWS, and many, many more. Thank you Massachusetts Piping Plover partners for all you are doing to help this tiny threatened shorebird.
On a separate note, over the past several days I have been filming a beautiful nest of four PiPl chicks hatching at a location in the area. It was amazing to witness, so very life reaffirming, and pure joy to see. Hopefully I’ll have time tomorrow to share more of the photos.
In this one photo, you can see the hole where the chick is just starting to peck its way out (far left egg). I had lost track of the days with this particular family and only stopped by to check, not realizing it was “the day.” I said to myself, I don’t recall seeing that big black spot on that egg. After studying it for a few moments, I realized there was movement beneath the hole in the shell. Hatching was about to begin at any moment!
Many locals are familiar with Mary Rhinelander and her beautiful artistry. For my out of town friends, as well as local readers who may not yet be aware, did you know Mary has an amazing website where, for super, super reasonable prices, you can purchase one of her prints?
Not only prints, but her wonderfully fun and whimsical greeting cards.
Mary also teaches block printing workshops at the Cape Ann Museum. It’s on my bucket list to take her class. Now more than ever, after the pandemic has run its course, of course.
STUDIO VISITS BY APPT
34 Mt. Pleasant Ave
Gloucester, MA 01930
From Mary’s About page on her newly revamped website –
WHO IS MARY?
In the nursery rhyme, she has a reputation for being quite contrary. No doubt some would say in real life too.
Ever desperate for affirmation, this Mary won an art prize in first grade and that was the beginning of “making stuff.” Creating kept me semi-sane in high school and college. A sculptor student suggested I design wallpaper and I was grievously insulted. No doubt it would have been more lucrative! But he had a point. I love the strictures of graphic design and the precision of typography. My first jobs were in the art departments of publishing companies. However the freedom and mess of ink and paint tempted me back to graduate school, where I earned an MFA in printmaking. Since then I have been a practicing artist and educator.
My mixed media work has graced the walls of television shows and movies (thank you set designers), and it is in many collections, both public and private (thank you art reps). I have shown in Canada and Europe and the USA. One of the best things about printmaking and works on paper is probably also the worst: they tend to be very affordable! When a young person buys their first piece of original art from me, I am proud.
Yesterday morning while filming on the waterfront, activity at the Blue Collar Lobster Co. caught my attention and I stopped by to see what was happening. Two words –
The entire front of the house has been enclosed in glass, with a to-go window, which allows for safe food preparation and service. The restaurant is being kept super clean (the steam cleaning man was just finishing up when I stopped by) and everyone is wearing masks.
Don’t you love the “clean pens” and “dirty pens” idea?!
Lenny shares that for the next phase of restaurant openings, June 8th I believe, the outdoor bar and dining area is organized with six foot spacing for super safe dining.
Blue Collar Lobster Co. is now serving lobsters, fresh fried seafood, sandwiches, chowder, cornbread, shrimp, salads, fish tacos, and more . Additionally you can purchase fresh off the boat seafood at wholesale prices including lobsters, haddock, and STEAMERS FOR ONLYY FIVE DOLLARS PER POUND!
Blue Collar Lobster Co. is open SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, 11:30am to 8:30pm
63 Rogers Street in Gloucester
Great morning at Good Harbor Beach with Dave Rimmer and his intern Mike Galli along with Gloucester’s DPW Joe Lucido installing the wire exclosure at #3. The guys were in an out hammering in the exclosure and after completing, before they had walked thirty feet, Dad PiPl was back on the nest!
One of the chief risks of installing an exclosure is the birds may reject the nest after placing the exclosure. Dave shared that in all his years of experience (and he has been helping Piping Plovers on the North Shore since 1986 when they were first declared threatened) only once did the nesting birds reject the exclosure. He waited forty five minutes for the birds to return and then removed the exclosure.
For friends who may not recall what an exclosure is – an exclosure is a six foot in diameter wire cage placed over a nest and held securely with metal stakes. The openings in the exclosure are large enough to allow PiPl sized birds to go in and out of the cage, but small enough to prevent most small mammals and larger birds such as crows, gulls, hawks, and owls from entering and eating the eggs. Exclosures don’t work in all circumstances but are very practical at busy town beaches such as ours. Bear in mind that over the course of four years, 15 eggs have been laid at Good Harbor Beach by one Piping Plover pair. All fifteen eggs survived and hatched because of the use of an exclosure.Mom sitting on the nest prior to the exclosure installation
EDITED NOTE: Carolyn from Mass Wildlife just shared that Dave has been asked to install the exclosure!!!!!!!
Piping Plovers are on the City Council’s agenda tonight. Despite the fact the wire exclosures have been used with tremendous success the previous four years, there is resistance to using them this year, we can’t imagine for what reason other than the City’s conservation agent was denied a permit for lack of training. The exclosures are still needed without doubt.
The meeting is tonight, Tuesday, at 6pm and can be viewed live. I am trying to find the link and will post that as soon as it is located 🙂
Here is the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84416635156
Please bear in mind ALL FIFTEEN OF THE FIFTEEN EGGS that were laid at Good HarborBeach over the past four years hatched. The success of eggs hatching would not have been possible without the use of the exclosures. Read more below and thank you so much for taking the time to read.
Dear Friends of Gloucester’s Piping Plovers,
I hope you are well, staying safe, and taking care.
As you may have heard, we have a nest with two eggs! at Good Harbor Beach (there may be a third egg as of this writing). The nest is only mere feet from the location of the nest of the four previous years. The attached photo was taken Sunday night at around 7pm.
In the past, within hours of phoning Essex County Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship, Dave Rimmer, to report a nest with eggs, Dave and an assistant would arrive to install the exclosure.
For friends who may not recall what an exclosure is – an exclosure is a six foot in diameter wire cage placed over a nest and held securely with metal stakes. The openings in the exclosure are large enough to allow PiPl sized birds to go in and out of the cage, but small enough to prevent most small mammals and larger birds such as crows, gulls, hawks, and owls from entering and eating the eggs. Exclosures don’t work in all circumstances but are very practical at busy town beaches such as ours for the reasons outlined below. Also, please bear in mind that over the course of four years, 15 eggs have been laid by one Piping Plover pair. All fifteen eggs survived and hatched because of the use of an exclosure. There simply is no denying that.
Installing an exclosure is tricky and can be disruptive to the birds. In the past, Dave and his assistants did the installation with lightening speed and the birds returned to the nest within a few moments. Exclosures can only be installed by a trained, certified person. Certification is issued by Mass Wildlife.
It is our understanding that the conservation agent may not wish to install the exclosure. It is also our understanding that she applied for a permit and was told she could obtain a permit if she received training from Greenbelt, as Audubon offices were closed due to the pandemic. She opted not to receive training and was subsequently denied a permit. Because of these choices and set of events, it would be a tragic mistake to deny the birds the protections they need to survive at Good Harbor Beach.
Why exclosures are imperative to the survival of Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach.
The use of exclosures is imperative to the survival of Piping Plover eggs at Good Harbor Beach. Over the previous four years Piping Plover eggs have been protected by exclosures. Why are they used? Because exclosures are extremely effective in safeguarding the birds from dogs, crows, seagulls, stray balls, unwitting people, foxes, coyotes, and all manner of small predatory mammals, from eating or stepping on the eggs.
In 2016, the use of an exclosure to protect eggs at Good Harbor Beach was determined necessary by Mass Wildlife’s John Regosin and Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer.
Because of the use of exclosures, all 15 Piping Plover eggs that have been laid at Good Harbor Beach have hatched.
The critical survival challenge facing our PiPl population happens after the chicks hatch and they are running around on the beach; dangers include gulls, crows, and off-leash dogs, as has been documented.
Exclosures protect shorebird eggs from:
1) Gulls and crows are attracted to Good Harbor beach in great numbers because of the garbage left behind on the beach.
2) Off-leash dogs running through the nesting area. Please see attached photo from the evening of May 24th from 7:00pm to 7:30pm when there were four dogs on the beach during that half hour. Dogs are at Good Harbor Beach during off hours regularly. The large yellow No Dog signs have not yet been installed in the parking lot or at the Whitham Street end of GHB. Even when the signs are posted, people still bring pets to GHB after hours. Signage helps, but it doesn’t prevent everyone from disregarding the rules. Suggestion: A brief period of enforcement (ticketing) during off hours would help get the word out No Dogs allowed.
3) Beachgoers regularly cut through the nesting area, especially by #3, where the nest with eggs is located. It is the most private area of the dunes, which they use as a bathroom, and it is a short cut to their car if they are parked at creek end of the beach.
4) Volleyball games are played adjacent to where the nest is located. Soccer tournaments are also set up next to the nesting area. People bring all kinds of balls to the beach and they often end up in the nesting area.
5) Foxes, which love to eat shorebird eggs.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read the above.
We are grateful for your consideration.Please take care and be well.
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.