Category Archives: Creating a Butterfly Garden

HELLO MONARCH ACTU 676! – WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A TAGGED MONARCH

Good morning Butterfly Friends!

I hope you were able to get out and enjoy the glorious weather this past weekend! We dropped off our daughter Liv at Logan on Saturday. It was a dream having her home during this broken leg period and I am so grateful for her kind and loving care. We’ll all miss her terribly but her work and beautiful California call and we understand.

I graduated from the giant boot to the mini boot several weeks ago and am now doing well hopping around with only one crutch, which means, joyfully so, I can carry my cameras with my free arm! While out in marshes over the weekend I photographed a living tagged butterfly. I don’t usually see living tagged butterflies, only dead ones. Unfortunately, in the past, I have been in a field after a bunch of children ran unsupervised in catching and tagging butterflies, without proper training. Many were killed and/or mangled. Fortunately, male Monarch ACTU 676 appeared just fine and was flying well.

Only a small fraction of the butterflies tagged are actually recovered at their wintering grounds in the volcanic mountains of Mexico. Some are spotted near to where they were tagged, some along the migratory route, and the ones recovered and recorded in Mexico provide a meaningful connection between the tagger and the recoverer.

If you find a tagged Monarch, alive or dead, please go to the official online tagging form provided by Monarch Watch. You can find the 2020 -2021 form here and it looks like this screenshot –
As you can see, it’s a basic form and there is a link provided to add a photo. By submitting your sighting, you as a citizen scientist are participating in a long term study, first developed by Monarch Watch in 1992.

Please join us Thursday, September 23rd at 7pm for the world Live Premiere of Beauty on the Wing at the Shalin Liu, presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music. For more information, please go here.

Happy Butterfly Days,

xxKim

PETAL DANCERS

Your daily Monarch photo-Monarch and Black-eyed Susans

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here.  For the latest update with PBS, please go here: Over the Moon. Thank you!

BEAUTIFUL LEMONY BUTTER BUTTERFLIES

Later in the day the light is so beautiful in gardens. It’s not necessarily the best time of day for capturing winged wonders in flight, but the gossamer wings of white and yellow butterflies, the family Pieridae, look especially silky and diaphanous in the oblique light of late afternoon.

Clouded Sulphur and Zinnia elegant

Cabbage Whites are the earliest butterfly to appear in spring and one of the last sighted in fall. They are easy to ID, although some female Clouded Sulphurs and Orange Sulphurs have a white form and the Checkered Whites are very similar, yet less common around these parts.

Cabbage White

We see far more Clouded Sulphurs than Orange and Cloudless Sulphurs on Cape Ann. Cloudeds have a lovely pinked border and silver spot on the the ventral side of their hindwings. You can tell the male from the female because when the wings are open, the male has a black border on its wing margins (as you can see in the photo below); the female’s black border is spotted with yellow and not as pronounced.

Clouded Sulphur caterpillars eat clover, alfalfa, and legumes. The photo is possibly a caterpillar of the Pieridae family, or it could be a Skipper caterpillar.

Mystery caterpillar

 

BLACK BEAUTY CAME CALLING

A stunning male Eastern Black Swallowtail spent the afternoon in our garden, mostly drinking nectar at the Butterfly Bushes, but also the Mexican Sunflowers.

Hooray for the warm butterfly days of August <3

Ventral, or under, wing view

Dorsal, or upper, wing view

CATS IN THE GARDEN, MONARCH CATS THAT IS!

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

Monarchs deposit eggs on milkweed plants. Some milkweeds are more productive than other species. For the Northeast region, the most productive milkweed is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). The second most productive is Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), also known as Swamp Milkweed.

What is meant by productive? When given a choice, the females choose these plants over other species of milkweed and the caterpillars have the greatest success rate. In our own butterfly garden and at at my client’s habitat gardens, I grow both Common and Marsh side-by-side. The females flit from one plant to the next, freely depositing eggs on both species.

Monarch caterpillar readying to pupate (become a chrysalis) and hanging in a J-shape

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here. Thank you!

With thanks and gratitude to our growing list of wonderful folks for their kind contributions

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), JoeAnn Hart and Gordon Baird, 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), Melissa Weigand (Salem), Duncan Todd (Lexington), Catherine Ryan, Linda Bouchard (Danvers), Elaine Mosesian, Paul Wegzyn (Ipswich), Catherine Bayliss, Jan Waldman (Swampscott), Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), and Ian Gardiner.

BUTTERFLY FRIENDS STOPPING BY FOR MONARCHS!

Walking past our front porch, butterfly friends Meadow, Frieda, and Ruby stopped by to see a batch of newly emerged Monarchs. Both Frieda and Meadow are featured in Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, filmed when they were several years younger. It’s so wonderful to see all three girls are growing into the bright, beautiful young woman they are becoming.

Love our neighborhood kids <3

NEW FILM FOR MONARCH KIDS: THE MARVELOUS MAGNIFICENT MIGRATING MONARCH! AVAILABLE TO VIEW FOR FREE

Dear Monarch Friends,

Last week the short film about Monarchs created for the Sawyer Free Library children’s program had lots of interest. The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch! finished its run at the SFLibrary and I thought I would love to share it with you and the youngest members of your family. Many, many thanks to Justine Vitale, Sawyer Free Library Department Supervisor, for encouraging me to create this short film for children!!

At about four minutes in, Charlotte demonstrates an uncomplicated and fun method of raising  Monarchs caterpillars. She has been doing this with me since she was two, and you can see how simple it is to set up a terrarium.

The number of Monarchs in gardens, meadows and dunes over the past month has been nothing but extraordinary. Simply going no further than on our front porch and in my garden (not quite recovered from broken leg yet), I have photographed countless females depositing eggs along with many battles of male to male combat as they stake out their patch of wildflowers and milkweed while patrolling for females.

Circling round for a sneak attack

Battle Royale over the Joe-pye wildflower (Eupatorium). What makes this patch of Joe-Pye so attractive to the males is that is it located adjacent to a patch of Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate)

Over the past few days, the Monarchs have been settling down a bit, which happens every year toward the mid to end of August. I think the butterflies we have been seeing battling and depositing eggs may be the parents of the Methuselah Monarchs. This newly emerging batch of caterpillars may very well be the generation of Super Monarchs, the ones that journey to Mexico.

I am so hopeful for the future of this tiny marvel of nature. I hope The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch is easy for your youngsters to follow along and to understand, and also provides you with some tips on how we can all help the butterflies. Safe travels Monarchs!

My deepest gratitude and thanks to all who are contributing to the second phase of launching Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of  the Monarch Butterfly out into the world, the world of Public Television. To date we have raised close to $18,000.00 toward our goal of $51,000.00.

For more information on how you can help launch Beauty on the Wing to the American Public Television audience, please go here.

DONATE HERE

Thank you so very much to all these kind contributors:

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), JoeAnn Hart and Gordon Baird, 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), Melissa Weigand (Salem), Duncan Todd (Lexington), Catherine Ryan, Linda Bouchard (Danvers), Elaine Mosesian, Paul Wegzyn (Ipswich), Catherine Bayliss, Jan Waldman (Swampscott), Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), and Ian Gardiner.

Female depositing eggs on Common Milkweed seedpod

 

 

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.

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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