Category Archives: Creating a Butterfly Garden

BEAUTY ON THE WING MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM FREE (VIRTUAL) SCREENING WEDNESDAY EVENING AT 7PM AT DOCTALKS FILM FESTIVAL!

Laura Azevedo, Director of Filmmakers Collaborative, and I are featured guests at the 2021 DOCTalks Festival and Symposium that takes place annually (this year virtually from New Brunswick). We will be screening Beauty on the Wing and then discussing myriad topics related to filmmaking. The screening and discussion are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Please see below to register for the event.  Our talk and screening is scheduled to take place June 16th at 7pm (our time), which is actually 8pm Atlantic Daylight Time. I hope you can join us!

Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. DONATE HERE and READ MORE HERE

Event Registration:

Register at Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-doctalks-festival-symposium-tickets-152537905983

Free Public Screenings & Talks

All evening screenings & talks are open to the public. A Zoom link will be provided for admission.

 

MONARCHS IN THE NEWS, MILKWEED GROWING TIPS, AND FILM FUNDRAISING UPDATE

Monarchs have been sighted in our region! Before the Memorial Day weekend cold snap, Monarchs as far north as Nova Scotia have been reported. One was spotted in Ipswich and another in Concord, New Hampshire.  The chilly temperatures surely put the kibosh temporarily on flight but as soon as it warms again, Monarchs will be on the wing. Map from Journey North of first adult Monarchs sighted

Milkweed growing tip – The most productive milkweed for Monarchs in northern regions is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the species you see growing prolifically in dunes, meadows, roadsides, and even in the cracks of sidewalks. By productive I mean that females deposit more eggs on Common Milkweed than any other species. Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), also know as Swamp Milkweed, is second.

Common Milkweed Good Harbor Beach

We grow patches of both in our gardens. I find Marsh Milkweed is generally slower to emerge than Common. Some of our Common is already two feet tall. Because most Monarchs will not be depositing eggs in our New England gardens for another few weeks, I prune half of the Common Milkweed plants to nubs several inches high. The plants quickly regrow and when the majority of Monarchs arrive, there is new fresh tender foliage emerging. The females prefer to deposit their eggs on new shoots and tender leaves to that of the older, thickened foliage. The flowers of the milkweed plants that aren’t pruned are there for  pollinators and for any early bird Monarchs.

Common Milkweed thrives in full sun but also does remarkably well with morning sun and afternoon shade. And as you can see based on the variety of rugged areas from where it emerges, A. syriaca is not fussy in the least about soil!

 

With gratitude to my generous community, we have raised $16,000.00! We are more than one quarter of the way toward our goal of $51,000.00, which will enable us to distribute Beauty to the national public television audience.

Thank you to all for your very generous donations and kind, thoughtful  comments. 

Lauren Mercadante, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, Heidi Shiver (Pennsylvania), John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport), Jennie Meyer, Kathy Gerdon Archer (Beverly)

 

For more information about the film and how to donate, please see the following links:

SUPER, SUPER, SUPER EXCITING NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING -COMING TO YOUR LIVING ROOM! AND PLEASE CONSIDER A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION

DONATE HERE

BEAUTY ON THE WING WINS ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD

THANK YOU GENEROUS COMMUNITY! FIRST WEEK OF FUNDRAISING AND WE HAVE RAISED $12,000.00!

THANK YOU O’MALEY INNOVATION MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS FOR THE LOVELY THANK YOU NOTES AND DRAWINGS!!

How the amazing monarch butterfly migrants became refugees — from us

 

 

 

 

MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM FUNDRAISER UPDATE!

Dear Monarch Friends,

With gratitude to my generous community, we have raised over $15,000.00! We are more than one quarter of the way toward our goal of $51,000.00, which will enable us to distribute Beauty to the national public television audience.

We had our first contribution from Mexico, too. Thank you Fernando!

Last week, I had the joy to present Beauty on the Wing to the O’Maley Innovation School students. See post here. 

Thank you to all for your very generous donations and kind, thoughtful  comments. 

Lauren Mercadante, James Masciarelli, Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Karrie Klaus (Boston), Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, Heidi Shiver (Pennsylvania), John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport)

 

For more information about the film and how to donate, please see the following links:

SUPER, SUPER, SUPER EXCITING NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING -COMING TO YOUR LIVING ROOM! AND PLEASE CONSIDER A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION

DONATE HERE

BEAUTY ON THE WING WINS ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD

THANK YOU GENEROUS COMMUNITY! FIRST WEEK OF FUNDRAISING AND WE HAVE RAISED $12,000.00!

THANK YOU O’MALEY INNOVATION MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS FOR THE LOVELY THANK YOU NOTES AND DRAWINGS!!

 

I love the above photo because it shows how Common Milkweed supports so many many species of wildlife. There is a Monarch and a honey bee drinking nectar and also, adjacent to the single floret on the upper right, you can see a spider trapped a moth in its web. Smart spider to spin its web where so many insects may be found!

THANK YOU O’MALEY INNOVATION MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS FOR THE LOVELY THANK YOU NOTES AND DRAWINGS!!

Last week I had the joy of presenting my Monarch documentary Beauty on the Wing to a wonderful bunch of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade O’Maley students. I was invited by the school’s Spanish teacher Heidi Wakeman. Ardis Francour’s library media classes participated as well. The kids were wonderfully engaged and asked the best questions!

Heidi shared their thank you notes. I am so impressed by the kids expressive notes and drawings. Here are just some of their thoughts : Olivia writes, “…The documentary was super interesting and informed me on a topic I didn’t know much about…, ” and Brady writes, ” My favorite part was when you showed the butterfly escaping the chrysalis.” I shared the notes with my husband this morning and we both enjoyed Cassidy’s comment, …”It is crazy that it took ten years to make, that must take a lot of dedication and patience.” Yes, Cassidy it does take a lot of dedication and patience, and YES, it is a bit crazy!

Thanks so much again O’Maley students, Heidi, Ardis, and the Gloucester Cultural Council! it was My Joy!

Thank you Heidi!

 

SUPER, SUPER, SUPER EXCITING NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING -COMING TO YOUR LIVING ROOM! AND PLEASE CONSIDER A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION

Dear Monarch Friends!

I have the most wonderful, exciting news to share. Our documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly has been accepted for distribution by the American Public Television Exchange market, which means that within the year, you will be watching Beauty from your living room, on your local public television station!

American Public Television Exchange is the largest source of free programming to US public television stations, covering virtually every market in the country (nearly 350 stations). APT writes that they expect the documentary “to engage and delight public television viewers of all ages who are interested in nature, conservation, and our planet’s amazing ecosystems.”

What happens next? Beauty on the Wing needs underwriters and donors! The total distribution cost to bring the documentary to public television is just over $51,000.00. We only have several months to raise the funds. Please consider donating to the distribution of Beauty through my tax deductible online fundraiser at Network for Good. The link is here.

If you have donated previously to the fundraiser for the post-productions costs, I am so grateful for your generosity. Because of your kind contribution, Beauty on the Wing is doing exceptionally well at film festivals and has received a number of awards. If the distribution phase of the project is of interest, please consider a second donation.

Film screenings and awards to date include:

Winner Best Documentary  Boston International Kid’s Film Festival

Winner Best Feature Film Providence International Children’s Film Festival

Environment Award Toronto International Women Film Festival

Outstanding Excellence Nature Without Borders Documentary Film Festival

Outstanding Excellence Women’s International Film Festival

New Haven Documentary Film Festival

Montreal Independent Film Festival

Flicker’s Rhode Island International Film Festival

Docs Without Borders International Film Festival

The names of supporters contributing $10,000.00 and over will be promoted in the film’s underwriting credit pod. What does it mean to be an underwriter? As an example, when you watch a show on public television and the announcer says, “This show was brought to you by Katherine and Charles Cassidy, by The Fairweather Foundation, by Lillian B. Anderson, and by The Arnhold Family, in Memory of Clarisse Arnhold,” that’s where your name, or the name of your foundation, will appear. APT allows for up to 30 seconds per film and your name or promo will appear at both the beginning and at the end of the film.

Please write and let me know if you would like more information about underwriting, including a complete budget, along with APT’s underwriting guidelines. Email at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

All donors, no matter how large or small the donation, will be listed on the film’s website and on APT’s website. Any amount contributed is tremendously appreciated!

Thank you for being part of launching Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly onto the national television stage!

With gratitude,

Kim

A brief overview of the film – Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly is a 56-minute narrated documentary film that takes place along the shores of Cape Ann and in the heart of Mexico’s forested volcanic mountains. Filmed in Gloucester, Massachusetts and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserves at Estado de México and Michoacán, the film illuminates how two regions, separated by thousands of miles, are ecologically interconnected. See more at monarchbutterflyfilm.com

MONARCH BUTTERFLY POPULATION CRASHING

For a second year in a row, the Monarch numbers are plummeting.

“World Wildlife Fund Mexico in collaboration with CONANP and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) announced the total forest area occupied by overwintering monarch colonies today. Nine (9) colonies were located this winter season with a total area of 2.10 hectares, a 26% decrease from the previous season (2.83 ha).” – Monarch Watch

Call to Action! Create wildlife sanctuaries by planting flowering native trees, shrubs, vines, and wildflowers that bloom throughout the growing season.

For nearly two decades I have been sharing information on how we can all help all pollinators, not just Monarch Butterflies. Learn more by joining me virtually on March 17th for my program “The Pollinator Garden” that I am presenting to the Massachusetts Pollinator Network.

To register, click here

For Monarchs specifically, we in the northeast need plant milkweed for Monarch caterpillars and asters and goldenrods for the southward migrating adult butterflies. Creating habitats for Monarchs has a cascading effect that helps myriad pollinators and songbirds. 

All along the Monarch’s migratory corridors, climate change, loss of habitat, and the use of pesticides are the greatest threats to the butterflies. Because of climate change, the life cycle of wildflowers are often out of synch with the time the butterflies are traveling through a region. Examples include last September’s drought in the Texas Funnel (2020) and the cold Arctic blast in Texas this past February (2021). When the Monarchs migrated through Texas last fall, there were few if any wildflowers still in bloom to help fuel their journey. Followed by the unusually deep freeze in Texas that killed emerging milkweed shoots (food for the next generation’s caterpillars), this double whammy of sorts does not bode well for this year’s already reduced population traveling along the Monarch Highway. 

 

“BEAUTY ON THE WING: LIFE STORY OF THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY” WINS BEST FEATURE FILM AT THE PROVIDENCE CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL!

Dear Friends,

I am overjoyed to share that Beauty on the Wing received the Best Feature Film award at the Providence Children’s Film Festival. Thank you friends for voting!  I am so appreciative of your ongoing support. Thank you for taking the time to watch and to vote. 

It is not easy to host a film festival during the pandemic. Without doubt, it takes enormous amounts of work and professionalism. Festival organizer Eric Bilodeau created a fantastic event, and managed to do all with grace and a wonderful sense of humor. I looked forward to Eric’s communications, for instance, when he requested stills from the film, I sent a batch of photos. He wrote back, did I have anything more colorful? I was taken aback at first before realizing he was kidding. And when he announced Beauty had won, writing -“the Monarch is King!” I think I will use that in the future 🙂

I was able to view many of the films and they were wonderfully interesting and inspiring. I am so proud Beauty on the Wing was a part of the Providence Children’s Film Festival! This was mentioned previously but two of my favorites were Microplastic Madness and The Last Lightkeepers. I hope you have a chance to see if you haven’t already done so.

Thank you so very much again for your kind support.

Take care and stay well.

Warmest wishes,
Kim

FINAL TWO DAYS TO VIEW BEAUTY ON THE WING AND PLEASE VOTE!

Dear Friends,

Beauty on the Wing is playing through tomorrow, Saturday, and I will be part of a Q and A at 3:00pm on February 20th, Saturday afternoon. If you would, please share the link with friends and please vote for Beauty on the Wing after watching the film. Thank you! Here is the link if you would like to sign up to participate in the Q and A. All the films in the festival are geoblocked to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

All this school vacation week, the virtual Providence Children’s Film Festival has been airing an outstanding collection of wonderfully educational and interesting films for families and kids of all ages. Tickets are only $12.50 per film for the entire family. Or you can do as I did and purchase a pass, which allows for viewing all films all week long.

Some of the outstanding documentaries I have had the chance to view this week are First We Eat, Microplastic Madness, and The Last Lightkeepers. I think everyone would enjoy all the films in the festival but especially, we on Cape Ann will love The Last Lightkeepers.

Do you know why Thacher Island has not one, but two lighthouses? At about ten minutes into the documentary, local lighthouse historian and president of the Thacher Island Association Paul St. Germain reveals why. Thacher Island’s Twin Lights are featured prominently in the film as are a number of familiar New England lights.

The Last Lightkeepers is filmed beautifully, telling different aspects of the history of lighthouses as well as current status. A quote from one of the interviewees, author Eric Jay Dolan (Brilliant Beacons), especially resonated, “Lighthouses are there to benefit everyone regardless of where they come from, their race, nationality, their creed, their beliefs. Lighthouses are a manifestation of a government’s desire to make navigation for Everyone safer. In today’s turbulent political times, I especially like to think about lighthouses being a beacon for the world, a welcoming embrace for those that are choosing to come to our country…”

This week only, find The Last Lightkeepers, Beauty on the Wing, and more fabulous films at the virtual Providence Children’s Film Festival

I hope you’ll have a chance to enjoy this beautiful gentle snowfall today.

Take care and stay well

xoKim

BEAUTY ON THE WING BEGINS AIRING VIRTUALLY FRIDAY FEBRUARY 12TH AT 4PM!

Please join me at the virtual screening of Beauty on the Wing at the Providence Children’s Film Festival. Screenings begin tomorrow, Friday the 12th, at 4pm. Tickets are only $12.50 per family and can be purchased here at Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly (Feature Doc)Scene from Beauty on the Wing – Standing atop Cerro Pelón and looking down into a valley of exploding Monarchs

For further reading and some terrific background information, see the following article, published by the NRDC in early February of this year. Scenes from Beauty on the Wing were filmed at the stunning forest at the Cerro Pelón Monarch Butterfly sanctuary. 

 NRDC Profiles:

For a Family in Mexico, a Mission to Protect Monarchs

Siblings Joel, Anayeli, and Patricio Moreno see the future of their community and that of the butterflies that migrate annually to the local Cerro Pelón forest as being intimately connected.

If there’s something that the Moreno family agrees on, it’s that monarch butterflies changed their lives. And not just their own but the lives of most in Macheros, Mexico. The agricultural village of 400 people—whose name translates to “stables” in Spanish, because of the 100 horses that also make their home here—sits at the entrance to Cerro Pelón, one of four sanctuaries in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, established by the federal government in 1986.

It started when Melquiades Moreno de Jesus secured a job as a forest ranger, or guardabosque, in 1982. Six years earlier, National Geographic had run a feature on monarch migration, bringing international attention to the butterflies’ overwintering sites in the mountainous oyamel fir forests some 80 miles west of Mexico City—though locals had discovered the colonies long before outsiders descended on the area. Soon after that publication, the State of Mexico’s Commission of Natural Parks and Wildlife (Comisión Estatal de Parques Naturales y de la Fauna, or CEPANAF) established the local forest ranger positions, employing men from Macheros to patrol the part of the sanctuary that’s in the state of Mexico. (Part of the butterfly reserve also lies in the state of Michoacán.) CEPANAF hired Melquiades several years later and he stayed on, monitoring the butterflies and deterring illegal loggers, for more than three decades.

The village of Macheros; Cerro Pelón is the tallest peak on the right.

Ellen Sharp

“When my dad got the job as a forest ranger, it changed our lives,” says Joel Moreno Rojas, the fourth-born of Melquiades’s 10 children. His father’s steady income brought the family out of poverty and afforded the children the chance to go to school. It also instilled a sense of local pride and inspired his family’s commitment to caring for the natural wonder at their doorstep.

Among the Moreno siblings, three have continued their father’s legacy: Joel, Anayeli, and sixth-born Patricio (“Pato”). Pato took over Melquiades’s forest ranger position after his dad’s retirement in 2014. When the monarchs are roosting in Cerro Pelón, roughly from November to March, he spends many days near the overwintering colonies, monitoring them and asking visitors not to disturb the impressive clusters. The butterflies, which have migrated thousands of miles from the eastern part of the United States, are drawn to the oyamel canopy—which provides insulation and keeps out the elements—for their winter rest. “I love it,” says the father of two. “It’s the most marvellous thing that could have happened in my life to have a job like this.”

Pato Moreno at work in Cerro Pelón after a rainstorm

Ellen Sharp

Being among hundreds of thousands of butterflies sparks such an intense emotional reaction that the Moreno siblings say it is impossible to name. When they do find the words, they describe experiencing the monarchs as powerful, beautiful, and emotional. Joel has seen visitors drop to their knees and pray or break out in tears when they first see the butterflies, who some locals believe are the souls of their ancestors, since the migrating monarchs arrive in Macheros right around the first of November, el Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.

“As Mexicans, we should all be proud of the butterflies,” Pato continues. “I’d like everyone to understand the value of the forest, because it helps us and it helps the butterflies.”

READ MORE HERE

 

 

 

BUTTERFLIES IN THE NEWS – BUTTERFLIES “CLAP” THEIR WINGS AND THE DEMISE OF THE WEST COAST MONARCH

I read the following article with great interest “Butterflies fly using efficient propulsive clap mechanism owing to flexible wings”.

Subsequent reports have come out with headlines such as “Butterfly wing claps explain mystery of flight” and“Natural wonder: Wing ‘clap’ solves mystery of butterfly flight”

Butterfly wings come in all shapes, sizes, and degree of flexibility. They have evolved with a range of mechanisms and strategies in flight. Butterflies such as the Silver-washed Fritillary (see video below) and Yellow Sulphur clap their wings frequently, but other butterflies, the Monarch Butterfly for example, does not “clap”  their wings every time they take flight. The Monarch’s wings create an open cup shape, operating in more of a figure eight pattern.

Scientist have known about butterfly wing clapping for more than fifty years. I don’t think a mystery has been solved by the recent study from Sweden’s Lund University nonetheless, the articles are interesting to read.

 

In the above video you can see in the first few frames when the Monarch is taking off that its wings do not clap.

  *    *     *

On a more terrifying note, the Western Monarch population has become nearly entirely extirpated from its historic range. A recently published article from the Xerces Society “Western Monarch Population Closer to Extinction as the Wait Continues for Monarchs’ Protection Under the Endangered Species Act”reports a 99.9 percent decrease in population since the 1980s. Only 1,914 Monarchs were located during the annual Thanksgiving Butterfly Count.

Monarchs at the Goleta Butterfly Grove, 2015

In 2015, when my daughter Liv was living in Santa Monica, she and I took a day trip to the Goleta Butterfly Grove, just outside of Santa Barbara.

Goleta Butterfly Grove

The butterflies were, for the most part, sleeping quietly  in the Eucalyptus trees. A few were fluttering about, drinking nectar from the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) growing nearby.

Non-native nectar source for Monarchs, Cape Honeysuckle

The Western Monarch Butterfly demise has been in the making for decades. The Ecaplytus trees the butterflies were roosting in appeared stressed. Eucalyptus trees are not native to California and are highly flammable. I wondered at the time why the forest couldn’t be underplanted with native tree and also wondered exactly what were the trees the butterflies may have historically roosted in.

With unbridled development that has lead to loss of habitat, forest fires, a warming climate, and the use of deadly pesticides and herbicides in this American breadbasket to the world, is it really a mystery as to why the butterflies are nearly extirpated from California.Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count Data 1997-2020 shows that despite a strong volunteer effort, monarch numbers are at the lowest point recorded since the count started in 1997.

THANK YOU GLOUCESTER DAILY TIMES GAIL McCARTHY AND ANDREA HOLBROOK FOR THE “LOCAL ARTISTS EARN ACCOLADES” FILM UDATE!!

Lovely update from the Gloucester Daily Times Gail McCarthy for Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. So many thanks to the Times for their continued support for BotWing. I am so grateful and appreciative!

AROUND CAPE ANN: Local artists earn accolades

  • January 14, 2020

Gloucester’s Kim Smith, who boasts a love of nature, photography and all things art, has found growing recognition for her film “Beauty on the Wing,” about the life of the monarch butterfly and its intercontinental migration from Canada to Mexico.

Smith spent more than eight years researching and documenting the natural phenomenon, whose more than 3,000 miles includes Cape Ann.

This fall, her documentary was accepted into the Boston International Kids Film Festival, where it earned an award for best documentary.

More recently, “Beauty on the Wing” received an Award of Excellence from the Nature Without Borders International Film Festival and was accepted as an official selection to the Providence Children’s Film Festival, which takes place in February.

“I am overjoyed that ‘Beauty on the Wing’ is finding acceptance at both children’s and conservation festivals; that jurors see it as it was meant to be, a conservation film for people of all ages,” Smith said.

She noted that “Beauty on the Wing” also appears on the American Public Television Worldwide website in its catalog of science and nature programming at aptww.org/program/Beauty-on-the-Wing-Life-Story-of-the-Monarch-Butterfly.

Rockport artist wins Texas honor

Rockport artist Susan Lynn won the grand prize at the EnPleinAirTEXAS competition with her painting titled “Peace on the River.”

“It was overwhelming to get the grand prize because there is a stellar group of painters in that competition every year,” she said. “It was humbling, and I was very honored to be recognized in that group.”

READ MORE HERE

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2020: THE YEAR IN PICTURES, MOVIES, AND STORIES

Several years ago my husband suggested I write a “year end” wildlife review about all the creatures seen over the preceding year. That first review was a joyful endeavor though daunting enough. Over the next several years the reviews became more lengthy as I tried to cover every beautiful, wonderful creature that was encountered on woodland hikes, beaches, dunes, marshes, ponds, and our own backyards and neighborhoods. 2020 has been a very different year. There were just as many local wildlife stories as in previous years however, the pandemic and political climate have had far reaching consequences across geographic regions around the world, touching every living creature in the interconnected web of life we call our ecosystems.

This first year of the global pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on wildlife and their habitats. In urban areas in developed countries, perhaps the economic slowdown afforded wildlife a break, with less pollution, less air travel, and some wild animals even reclaiming territory. Though the true downside of Covid-19 is that the pandemic has had an extraordinarily harmful impact on wildlife in rural areas and in less developed countries People who are dependent upon tourism, along with people who have lost jobs in cities and are returning to rural areas, are placing increasing pressure on wildlife by poaching, illegal mining, and logging. As mining and logging destroy wildlife habitats, animals are forced into ever shrinking areas, causing them to become sick, stressed, and to starve to death. These same stressed wild animals come in contact with people and farm animals, creating an ever increasing potential to transmit horrifically deadly illness, diseases such as Covid-19.

There are many, many organizations working to protect wildlife and conserve their habitats. I am especially in awe of one particular grass roots non-profit organization located in Macheros, Mexico, previously featured here, Butterflies and Their People. Co-founded by Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno Rojas, the work they are doing to both protect the butterfly’s winter habit and provide employment for the forest’s guardians is outstanding.

All the butterfly sanctuaries (their winter resting places), are closed this year due to the pandemic. Dozens of people in the tiny town of Macheros are wholly dependent upon the income received by the work they do protecting the butterfly trees from illegal logging, as well as income from the tourist industry.  Ellen, Joel, and their team of arborists have come up with a wonderfully creative way to bring the butterflies to you. For a modest fee, you can sign up to “Adopt a Colony” to receive monthly newsletters and video tours of the Monarchs at Cerro Pelon. The newsletters are written by Ellen, who writes beautifully and clearly about the month-by-month current state of the butterflies in their winter habitat, as well as human interest stories drawn from the community. To subscribe to “Adopt a Colony” from Butterflies and Their People, go here.

We can be hopeful in 2021 that with a new administration, a much greater focus will be paid by our federal government to stop the spread of the virus in the US as well as around the globe. Not only is there hope in regard to the course correction needed to battle the pandemic, but the Biden/Harris administration has made climate change and environmental justice a cornerstone of their platform, including measures such as stopping the environmental madness taking place along our southern border and reversing many of the previous administration’s mandates that are so harmful to wildlife and their habitats.

Around the globe, especially in less developed countries, the pandemic has set back environmental initiatives by years, if not decades. We are so fortunate in Essex County  to have conservation organizations such as Greenbelt, MassWildlife, The Trustees, and Mass Audubon; organizations that protect the sanctity of wildlife and recognize the importance of protecting habitats not only for wildlife but equally as important, for the health and safety of human inhabitants.

The following are just some of the local images and stories that make us deeply appreciate the beauty of wildlife and their habitats found on Cape Ann and all around Essex County. Each picture is only a brief window into the elusive, complex life of a creature. Every day and every encounter brings so much more to observe, to learn, to enjoy, and to love.

To read more, each image and story from the past year is Google searchable. Type in the name of the creature and my name and the link to the story and pictures posted on my website should come right up.

Some Beautiful Raptors of 2020 – Red-tailed Hawk, Short-eared Owl, American Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, and Snowy Owls

 

Essex County Greenbelt’s Osprey pair, Annie and Squam, successfully fledged three chicks, Vivi, Rusty, and Liz (nestling photo courtesy ECGA)

Dave Rimmer video from the Osprey cam at Lobstaland

The Snowy Owl Film Project was completed in March, with the objective of providing pandemic- virtually schooled kids a window into the world of Snowy Owls in their winter habitat (see all five short films here).

 

Spunky Mute Swan Cygnets

Utterly captivated by the winsome Red Fox Family

A tiny sampling of the beautiful songbirds that graced our shores in 2020 – Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, American Robins, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Snow Buntings, American Pipits, Horned Larks, and Eastern Bluebirds

 

A new favorite place to film is at my friend Paul’s wonderfully fun sunflower field in Ipswich, School Street Sunflowers. Beautiful Bobolinks, Common Yellowthroat Warblers, and Bluejays were just some of the songbirds seen feasting on the expiring seedheads  of sunflowers and wildflowers growing amongst the rows of flowers.

Graceful White-tailed Deer herd of adult females and youngsters

Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and juvenile Little Blue Herons delight with their elegance, beauty, and stealth hunting skills. Included in the montage is a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron that spent the winter at Niles Pond

A fraction of the different species of Shorebirds and Gulls seen on Cape Ann this past year – Dowitchers, Killdeers, Black-bellied Plovers, Common Tern, Least Tern, Laughing Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Glaucus Gull, and rarely seen Dovekie, or”Little Auk.”

Cecropia Moth life cycle unfolding in our garden, from mating, to egg laying, to caterpillar, to adult.

 

Dozens and dozens of orb spider webs draped a small patch of wildflowers. The dream catchers were attracting Cedar Waxwings to feast on the insects caught in the webs. The following day I returned after a rainstorm. The webs had melted away in the downpour and the Waxwings had vanished into the treetops.

Harbor and Gray Seals hauled out on the rocks at Brace Cove, as many as 28 were counted on a winter’s day!

Piping Plovers and Marshmallow Montage

In 2020, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair fledged one chick, nicknamed Marshmallow. Despite the global pandemic, a group of super dedicated Piping Plover Ambassadors worked tirelessly from sunrise until sunset to help ensure the safety of the Piping Plover family and to help educate beachgoers about the beautiful life story of the Plovers unfolding on Gloucester’s most popular beach destination. We worked with Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, the Gloucester DPW, and Gloucester City Councilor Scot Memhard, with much appreciated advice from Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist Carolyn Mostello.

Read more about Marshmallow, the Ambassadors, and the Piping Plover Film Project here.

Piping Plover Marshmallow Montage, from egg to thirty-eight days old. Filmed at Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

MONARCHS!

It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, infinitely educational, and beautifully challenging journey creating my documentary, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterflies. The film was released in February 2020, but because of the pandemic, was not seen by the public until August, when it premiered (virtually) at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival. Beauty on the Wing has gone on to win honors and awards at both environmental and children’s film festivals, including the tremendous honor of Best Documentary at the Boston International Kids Film Festival. I’ve just received the very attractive award in the mail and have not had time to post a photo yet.

Beauty on the Wing portrays Cape Ann in the most beautiful light and I think when we are ever able to have a live premiere in this area, local friends will be delighted at the outcome. Joyfully so, Beauty is now being distributed to schools, libraries, institutions, and the travel industry through American Public Television Worldwide.

Beauty on the Wing continues to be accepted to film festivals and I will keep you posted as some are geo-bloced to this area, including the upcoming Providence Children’s Film Festival.

 

Last but not least, our wonderfully wildy Charlotte, little adventurer and nature-loving companion throughout the year

 

 

 

 

 

 

MONARCHS IN THE NEWS – ENDANGERED, BUT NOT ENOUGH TO WARRANT PROTECTIONS

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that Monarchs are indeed threatened with extinction, but will not be added to the US list of Endangered and Threatened Species.  The official designation is “warranted, but precluded,” which means they fall in line behind 161 other species considered more endangered.

Monarchs mating in a patch of Common Milkweed, Good Harbor Beach Gloucester

From USFWS –

What action did the Service take?
We have made a 12-month finding on a petition to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Based on a thorough review of the monarch’s status, we determined that listing is warranted, but a proposal to list the monarch is precluded at this time while we work on higher-priority listing actions.

Is the monarch federally protected now?
No. Our 12-month finding does not protect monarchs under the ESA at this time. We first must propose the monarch for listing as either an endangered or threatened species, gather and analyze public comments and any new information, and using the best available science, make a final decision and publish a final rule. That process is deferred while we work on higher-priority listing actions.

What is a 12-month finding?
Under the ESA, when we receive a petition to list a species, we first make a 90-day finding, in which we evaluate the information in the petition to see if it is substantial enough to begin a review of the species’ status. If it is a substantial finding, we then prioritize the species in our evaluation process, and at the appropriate time, we begin a status review. The culmination of that review is a 12-month finding on whether listing is warranted, not warranted, or warranted but precluded by higher-priority listing actions.

Who petitioned the Service to list the monarch?
The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society and a private individual petitioned us in 2014 to list the monarch. We made a positive 90-day finding in December 2014 and launched the status review in 2016.

Read more questions and answers here on the USFWS website –

Questions and Answers: 12-month finding on a petition to list the monarch butterfly

For further reading –

Monarchs and the Endangered Species Act

Monarch Butterflies Qualify for Endangered List. They Still Won’t Be Protected

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finds Endangered Species Act Listing for Monarch Butterfly Warranted but Precluded

Officials agree monarch butterflies belong on endangered species list, but still won’t protect them

Assessing the Staaus of the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies denied endangered species listing despite shocking decline

 

MONARCH DREAMS

So looking forward to tonight’s opening of the Boston International Kids Film Festival! The show’s opener is the outstanding film, The Biggest Little Farm, and there is a full lineup of over 65 films scheduled from now through Sunday. See the schedule and how to purchase tickets here.

Beauty on the Wing is playing during Block #3 at noon on Saturday, November 21st, followed by a Q and A.

Who doesn’t love The Cranberries “Dreams,” and one of my favorite covers of this beautiful song is by Mandy Lee and MisterWives. I edited a rough cut of Monarch Dreams this afternoon, with clips from Beauty on the Wing and set to “Dreams.” That my film is at last finding an audience is a dream come true for me.

I dream about Monarchs and other creatures nightly and am thinking about ways to make Monarch Dreams more dream-like, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this cut <3

 

TONIGHT FIRST LOCAL ZOOM FILM SCREENING OF BEAUTY ON THE WING!

Tonight I am presenting a Zoom screening/presentation of Beauty on the Wing to a private group. The screening was scheduled a year ago, before covid, and was planed to be live. The organizers have been super throughout the planning changes. This is the first time doing a screening not through a film festival and I am on pins and needles. I hope they love the film and that there are no technical glitches! If all goes well, I would love to do more of these and will let you know. <3

For information on how to see Beauty on the Wing via WGHB and the Boston International Kids Film Festival on Saturday, November 21st, please follow this link here.

 

VOTE FOR THE MONARCH MIGRATION!

The Monarch Butterfly migration is at tremendous risk. Herbicides such as Bayer’s/Monsanto’s Roundup and Roundup Ready crops have already had a profoundly negative on the Monarch population as well as myriad spices of bees and other butterflies.

The current administration’s EPA is recklessly promoting use of some of the world’s most dangerous pesticides and has approved over 100 products with pesticides banned in multiple countries or slated for US phase out.

For example, and just the tip of the iceberg, the current administration gave a green light to Chlorpyrifos an insecticide with origins in Nazi Germany, which was set to be banned by the EPA over health and environmental concerns. The current administration reversed the decision after Dow Chemicals, a manufacturer of the chemical, donated one million dollars to his inauguration fund.

Vote for the Monarch Migration!

For all our winged wonders,

For the birds, the butterflies, the bees,

And mostly

For the future of the littlest human wonders that we so cherish.

Excerpt from Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Music by Jesse Cook “Fields of Blue.”

VOTE the Blue Wave –

Vote for Science

Vote for the Environment

Vote for Racial Justice

Vote for a Woman’s Right to Choose

Vote for Wildlife

Vote for an Economy that Works for All

Vote for Fiscal Responsibility

Vote to End Voter Suppression

Vote to Educate All

Vote for Jobs

Vote for Infrastructure

Butterflies for Biden!

 

WITH THANKS AND GRATITUDE TO JOANN MCKENZIE, ANDREA HOLBROOK, AND THE GLOUCESTER TIMES FOR THE WONDERFUL ARTICLE FOR OUR MONARCH DOCUMENTARY <3

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Joann Mackenzie, Andrea Holbrook, and the Gloucester Times for the beautifully written story “Butterfly Film Takes Flight”.

Ten years in the making, Kim Smith’s butterfly film takes flight

Kim Smith’s monarch movie 10 years in the making

GLOUCESTER TIMES OCTOBER 28, 2020

Every story has a back story, and Kim Smith’s back story began in her backyard.

In the mid 1990s, Smith — an award-winning landscape designer — filled her Gloucester garden with native and pollinator plantings that attract all manner of winged creatures. These, thanks to lots of milkweed, included lots of magnificent monarch butterflies. “I just loved them,” says Smith,  “I wanted more and more of them.”

There began a tale that this year saw Smith complete a 10-year project, the making of the 56-minute documentary “Beauty on the Wing — Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.” In a few short months, and despite the pandemic canceling its local premiere, the film has seen its way to six film festivals, all virtual, the latest of which — the Boston International Kids Film Festival — runs Nov. 20 to 22.

American Public TV Worldwide —the world’s largest distributor of educational television has just signed the documentary for global distribution.

Armed with a handheld digital camera, an artist’s eye, and a love of her subject, Smith has captured the life, work and world of what she calls “this charismatic little creature,” beginning with its metamorphosis from a tiny egg, to its amazing annual journey from the summer shores of its Gloucester habitats to its winter habitats in the Mexican mountains and forests of Michoacán, where the monarchs annual arrival has long been regarded as something of a miracle: the returning of the souls of the dead descending from the sky in fluttering orange clouds, to roost by the millions in the trees.

When she began the project in 2006, Smith knew nothing about filmmaking. Photographing the monarchs, first as “a record,” she was urged on by family and friends. One of them, Gloucester’s late historian Joe Garland, was particularly encouraging. “Oh, I thought, I have to learn to make a film,” she recalls, of her early days learning the basics with Andrew Love and Lisa Smith at Cape Ann TV (now Studio 1623).

Investing in a hand-held HD Canon video camera, Smith began shooting digital. “It was small and so easy to use that I could crouch down, or lie down to capture extreme close-ups,” she says. Supported by community fundraising that covered the $35,000 production budget, she shot “tons of footage over the years,” wrote and recorded the narrative script, and saved on post production costs by teaching herself to digitally edit her film.

Her goal, she says, was not just to celebrate the monarch, but to educate viewers about the plight of this creature that is loved around the world. Indigenous to North America, these light, bright orange butterflies have through the centuries been blown by wind and weather to other continents, including England, where, in the late 17th century, they were named in honor of King William III of England, also known as the Prince of Orange.

In the last 20 years, however, the butterflies’ numbers have plummeted worldwide from a billion to 30 million, as the excessive use of herbicides has killed off much of their main food source —milkweed— while climate change has confused their flight patterns. And in Mexico, the logging of trees has sabotaged the delicate ecosystem of their annual return.

Smith’s film joins a growing body of environmental activism on behalf of the monarch butterfly. Gardeners across the nation have, like Smith, filled flower beds with milkweed to feed their numbers. The Obama administration, concerned by its alarming decline, allocated $3.2 million to protect it.

In making her documentary, Smith traveled to Mexico twice to film, and learned firsthand just how endangered the monarchs have become. Over time, she says, she came to see monarchs as “little gateway creatures that can open the way to for people to learn about other endangered creatures.”

At Good Harbor Beach, a favorite early morning photographic haunt, Smith began to turn her camera to another local endangered species, piping plovers. Like the monarchs, the little shore birds rely on a fragile ecosystem that Smith began to take an active role in protecting, while filming them. With her monarch documentary now in worldwide release, the piping plovers are  on their way to star billing in a new documentary, now in production.

Meanwhile, the Boston International Kids Film Festival, a program of Filmmakers Collaborative, will screen Smith’s documentary as “one of best that the world of independent filmmaking has to offer.” Shown for one week to schoolchildren across the city, the festival, which describes her documentary as  “illuminating how two regions, separated by thousands of miles, are ecologically interconnected,” will then host a Zoom author event in which the students can engage in a Q&A which Smith herself.

Smith, by the way, doesn’t just train her talents on winged creatures. In yet another ongoing film project, she captures the aerial antics of Gloucester’s falling Greasy Pole walkers. That documentary, which celebrates the spirit of the city’s annual St Peters Fiesta, is well underway.

https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/local_news/ten-years-in-the-making-kim-smiths-butterfly-film-takes-flight/article_5271bd72-777c-5f49-83dc-b9c3b372033d.html

ABOUT KIM SMITH AND HER FILM

Gloucester resident Kim Smith is a documentary filmmaker, environmental conservationist, photojournalist, author, illustrator and  award-winning landscape designer.

Her documentary “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” was released in February. It has been chosen as an official selection at New Haven Documentary, Nature Without Borders International, Flickers’ Rhode Island International , Docs Without Borders , WRPN Women’s International, and Conservation Wildlife film festivals.

It next shows at the Boston International Kids Film Festival (https://bikff.org/schedule/) on Nov. 20 to 22; tickets start at $20. Links to view the film will be provided upon ticket purchase.

More information about the film is available by visiting https://monarchbutterflyfilm.com/  or email Smith at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.