Fillmmaker Will Bermudez and his ‘bubble’ crew from Pratt were at Seine Field in Gloucester today working on Will’s short film Beneath the Grass. Local girls (our) Charlotte and Meadow Anderson were cast as sisters. It’s a full circle moment for my family- Will’s Mom, and my dear friend Claudia, featured our daughter Liv in a children’s film twenty-five years ago, when Liv was about Charlotte’s age.
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 little River (nestling photo courtesy ECGA)
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.
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.
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
I hope you are doing well. Just a quick note to let you know that the awards for the Boston International Kids Film Festival were announced today and Beauty on the Wing was given Best Documentary. Simply overjoyed !! 🙂
The festival went very, very well. The organizers, Laura Azevedo and Natalia Morgan from Filmmakers Collaborative, working with WGBH, did an extraordinary and outstanding job producing an online film festival, no easy feat, but especially during a global pandemic! I was able to view many of the films and they were wonderfully entertaining and inspiring. I am so proud Beauty on the Wing was a part of the BIKFF 2020!
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever that may be during these most challenging of days.
Boston International Kids Film Festival 2020
Winner: Beauty on the Wing: The Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Short Film
Winner: The Magical Forest and the Things
Best Live Action Short Film
Winner: Esme Gets a Job.
The Peggy Charren Award for Excellence
Winner: All American Kids
Best Student Narrative Film
Winner: First Dances! What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Best Student Documentary Film
New short, with clips from Beauty on the Wing – Monarch Dreams 2, “Afternoon at Saties.,” by Jesse Cook.
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,
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!
IT’S NOT JUST MEXICO’S FORESTS THAT NEED PROTECTING FOR BUTTERFLY MIGRATION
THEIR ROUTE FROM CANADA IS THREATENED BY OVERUSE OF HERBICIDES AND CLIMATE CHANGE, AMONG OTHER FACTORS
Víctor Sánchez-Cordero, a researcher at the National Autonomous University’s Institute of Biology and Mexico’s lead representative on a tri-national scientific committee that studies the monarch, said that the butterflies’ route from southeastern Canada to the fir tree forests of Michoacán and México state is under threat.
He blames the excessive use of herbicides, changes in the way land is used, climate change and a reduction in the availability of nectar and pollen.
“The commitment to conserve this migratory phenomenon not only focuses on Mexico; it’s a shared responsibility between our country, Canada and the United States,” Sánchez-Cordero said.
The researcher, who along with his team developed a system to monitor the migration of the monarch, said that there is a misconception that the most important – almost exclusive – factor in ensuring the continuation of the phenomenon is the conservation of forests in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (RBMM), located about 100 kilometers northwest of Mexico City.
That idea “has placed great international pressure on Mexico,” Sánchez-Cordero said before adding that he and his team published an article in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science that shows that the decline in the number of monarch butterflies migrating to Mexico is not due to deforestation in the RBMM.
Deforestation has been drastically reduced in the past 10 years but butterfly numbers have continued to decline, he said.
“The dramatic reduction in the density of monarch butterflies that arrive at overwintering sites in Mexico doesn’t correlate with the loss of forest coverage, which shows that this factor is not responsible for the population reduction. … Other hypotheses to explain the decrease must be sought,” Sánchez-Cordero said.
One possible cause for the decline, he explained, is that the excessive use of herbicides is killing milkweed, a plant that is a main food source for monarch butterflies and on which females lay their eggs. Less nectar and pollen in the United States and Canada as a result of deforestation is another possible cause, Sánchez-Cordero said.
He added that large numbers of migrating butterflies have perished in Texas and the northeast of Mexico due to drought linked to climate change.
To conserve the migratory phenomenon of the monarch – butterflies fly some 4,500 kilometers to reach Mexican forests from Canada over the course of three to four generations – a network of conservation areas along their migration routes needs to be developed, Sánchez-Cordero said. He also said that the routes followed by the butterflies should be declared protected areas.
“A new conservation paradigm is needed. … It’s something that we [Mexico, the United States and Canada] should build together,” the researcher said.
Good news for my Monarch Butterfly documentary!
Dear Friends of Beauty on the Wing,
The past two summers we have seen a mini boom of Monarchs in gardens and meadows. Hopefully this will translate to a greater number of butterflies overwintering in Mexico, but we’ll only know after the annual count that takes place during December of 2018. I have been able to capture some wonderful footage and carve out good chunks of time time for editing.
I have some exciting news to share and that is over the past month I have been in discussion with producers from a BBC nature program. They found the trailer for Beauty on the Wing and contacted me for help writing the story about the Monarch migration through New England. Yesterday, I spent the day with the BBC film crew for my interview, and then showed them all around Cape Ann’s beautiful Monarch habitat. It was a very rewarding day and we covered much ground. The show is being produced in conjunction with PBS and will air in the US sometime in October. For myriad reasons, this is fantastic news for my film!
That’s all for now but I’ll keep you posted when I know more details.
Thank you Friends for your continued support and interest in Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly!
The interview took place at the lovely home and garden of my friend and East Gloucester resident Patti Pappows. When I met Patti, she already had a gorgeous established garden however, over the past few years, she has been adding great patches of milkweed and many species of native New England wildflowers. Just ask her how many butterflies (and hummingbirds) visit her garden daily! Patti’s garden made the most beautiful setting to showcase Cape Ann’s butterflies and wildflowers, despite the clouds and drizzle.The cameraman Bobby and producer Sophie were absolutely delighted and amazed to see half a dozen Monarchs emerging yesterday during shooting!
Salem State keynote spotlights beauty, plight of monarch butterflies
Smith, who spoke on campus Thursday, April 12, makes nature films and contributes to the daily blog Good Morning Gloucester. She also helps communities and individuals build gardens specifically aimed at attracting butterflies, bees and beneficial bugs.
On behalf of the Earth Days Planning Committee, Carol Zoppel, a campus librarian and co-chair of Earth Days Week, presented Smith with the Friend of the Earth Award.
“Salem State University’s Earth Days committee would like to recognize Kim Smith for her artistic and advocacy work on behalf of wildlife through her films, photo, gardens, and writings,” said Zoppel. Smith received her award and a framed poster of her program.
…Smith also reflected on our involvement with these creatures.
“I think compassion for all living creatures is really important,” said Smith. “Right here in our own backyards and beaches we have small winged creatures like Monarchs and Piping Plovers that are struggling to survive.”
In late October millions of Monarchs begin to arrive to the magnificent oyamel fir and pine tree forests of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, located in the heart of Mexico in the eastern regions of Michoacán. Their return coincides with the annual celebration of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead fiesta. Native peoples and their descendants today believe butterflies are the souls of departed loved ones, returning to Earth to be remembered by their ancestors. An even older tradition connects the Monarchs with the corn harvest, as their return signified that the corn was ripe. In the language of the native Purpécha Indians, the name for the Monarch is “harvester.” Ofrenda de Muertos Gloucester
Learn about the life history, decline of, current status, and how big agriculture use of GMO Roundup Ready crops are killing Monarchs and pollinators. Learn how you can help the Monarchs breed in Massachusetts during the summer months and on their annual fall migration to Mexico. Lecture and slide presentation at the Salem Garden Club. For more information, email email@example.com
Female Monarch depositing egg on Milkweed foliage and buds.
Essex National Heritage is celebrating their 20th anniversary. To mark this special occasion, Essex Heritage is recognizing organizations and people that make the Essex National Heritage Area (Essex County) so exceptional and I have been nominated!
Kim Smith Designs is nominated as an Essex Heritage Trailblazer in the second category, Connecting People to Place. The 130 nominees are all stellar and most are businesses and very large organizations, for example, the Peabody Essex Museum, Mass Audubon (statewide), and Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, so it is really quite an honor to be nominated.
The voting process is very simple, you don’t have to provide your email address or any other personal information. Please vote for me, in the center column, halfway down in the second category, Connecting People to Place. Here is the link to vote: surveymonkey.com/r/TrailblazersVote. Voting ends soon, on March 14th, so please vote today. And please share with your friends.
Work has begun in earnest sorting through all the Piping Plover footage and editing the documentary. In the mean time, I thought readers would enjoy this rare moment where we catch a glimpse of the new born chicks, and both mom and dad together.
Impossibly tiny—no larger than a marshmallow—moments after hatching Piping Plover chicks are on the move, running, tumbling, somersaulting, face-planting, and curious about every little thing in their brand new great big world. PuffPuff, FluffFluff, and TootsiePop are less than twenty-four hours old in this clip. Our East Gloucester neighborhood kids named the Plover family after spending an afternoon getting to know them, watching safely from beyond the roped off area.
Dad Joe finds an impression in the sand and the chicks come running to warm under his protective wings. Piping Plover chicks can feed themselves at birth but can’t yet perfectly regulate their body temperature. They need Mom and Dad for protection and for the warmth they provide. After a few moments rest, Joe pops up and Joy zooms in to take his place. Watch how PuffPuff does a somersault and FluffFluff gives her a little bump out of their cozy nest. Mom runs off camera to create a new resting spot and the chicks are chided by piping calls to come join her.
In shades of bone and driftwood, note how beautifully the Plovers are camouflaged in the colors of the sand and dry beach grass. There isn’t a living thing that doesn’t pose a threat to these most vulnerable of creatures. For protection against predators they will soon learn how to stand perfectly still when Joe and Joy pipe commands, but for now, it’s willy-nilly around the beach, much to the parents great consternation.
Thanks to Esme, Lotus, Meadow, Frieda, and Ruby for naming the Piping Plover family!
Here’s how you can help choose the Massachusetts state butterfly –
The choice is between the Black Swallowtail, the Great Spangled Fritillary, and the Mourning Cloak butterflies. All three are beautiful species of Lepidoptera, but as you know from my work, I am partial to the Black Swallowtail. I cast my vote for the Black Swallowtail and here is why. Both the Great Spangled Fritillary and Mourning Cloak are less commonly seen. I’d like children who are developing an interest in butterflies to have the opportunity to get to know their state butterfly easily. Black Swallowtails are widespread and very well-known. In a good year, Black Swallowtails will have two broods. The caterpillars eat plants kids can easily identify and plant, such as carrots, dill, fennel, parsley, and the common wildflower Queen Anne’s Lace. Black Swallowtails are typically on the wing throughout the summer, beginning in early spring through late summer.
On the other hand, the Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillars eat strictly violet plants. This butterfly is usually only seen for about a month, during mid-summer, and has one brood of caterpillars. In our region of Massachusetts, the Mourning Cloak may have a second brood, if we have an early spring, but I only see them in spring, near pussywillows, and again in the fall when they are getting ready to hibernate.
Black Swallowtails are found in backyards, gardens, meadows, marshes, and along the shoreline. They love to drink nectar from wildflowers, including milkweed (as you can see in the short film below) and many, many common garden plants such as lilacs, coneflowers, zinnias, and butterfly bush.
Please vote here: VOTE MASSACHUSETTS STATE BUTTERFLY
Enchanted by Monarchs! We had a fantastic day filmmaking, thanks to Emma, Pilar, Frieda, Annie Kate, Lotus, April, Elijah, Esme, Charlie, Atticus, and last but not least, Meadow. And an extra huge thank you to all the moms and dads for not minding the early morning wake up calls and texts to let the kids know the butterflies were emerging! I was tied up filming and so wish I’d taken more stills.
See More Photos Here Continue reading
Gloucester Schooner Festival 2015 Parade of Sail with time lapse ~
A perfect day for the Parade of Sail, the 31st annual Gloucester Schooner Festival was the most highly attended festival to date, with 23 schooners participating and thousands of spectators perched all around the beaches and boulevards surrounding the harbor.
You’ll see parading through the inner harbor the smallest rowboats to the grand three-masted 169-foot Schooner Mystic, with the Roderick McAllister chugging through the scene. Look for Gloucester schooners the Adventure at 2:10, the Thomas E. Lannon hoisting her sails at about 3:10, and the Ardelle at 3:30. GMG FOB Al Bezanson’s Green Dragon is seen at 4:51. Out by the Dogbar breakwater the 610-foot Navy’s USS Fort McHenry was positioned and surrounded by sailboats and schooners, you really get a sense of the size of this ship.
The parade time lapse footage was shot in real time and is one hour and 23 minutes long, compressed into roughly six minutes at 1000 percent.
Schooner identification provided by Green Dragon Captain Al Bezanson. Thank you Al!
3:10 THOMAS E. LANNON
3:54 LETTIE G HOWARD (w/o sails)
3:54 HINDU (hoisting)
4:51 GREEN DRAGON (into and out of Harbor Cove)
5:31 LIBERTY CLIPPER (inbound)
5:44 AMERICAN EAGLE
6:22 GREEN DRAGON
6:35 ELLEN MARIE
6:39 LIBERTY CLIPPER
Thank you to our beautiful Gloucester community for participating in Viva San Pietro! Thank you to the Greasy Pole Walkers for interviews given during the Sunday rally and especially to Nicky Avelis for help coordinating. A huge thanks to Joe DaSilva for the suggestion to listen to Mike Forgette’s music for the film’s soundtrack and for help in contacting Mike. A tremendous thank you goes to Mike Forgette for granting permission to use his song “Whats the Difference” (link to hear more of Mike Forgette Music).
Viva San Pietro! opens with Joe Novello preparing Gloucester’s Saint Peter’s Square for the formal opening ceremony, to which he is also the master of ceremonies. Highlights from Friday afternoon’s sporting events are followed by the procession of Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, around the American Legion Building (Gloucester’s first City Hall), with the parade ending in a fanfare of confetti and cheers. Mayor Sefatia Romeo Thekan takes to the stage and provides some history about the origins of the Fiesta. Senator Tarr and all officials give praise to the committee for their tireless dedication. Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante and City Councilor Steven LeBlanc rally the crowd with the traditional call and response that is heard throughout the city in the coming days, and Father Jim Achadinha gives his blessing.
Saturday’s Greasy Pole competition is featured with highlights from Joe DaSilva’s winning walk. Due to foul weather, Sunday’s events take place on Monday. The Sunday Greasy Pole Walkers in their zany and colorful costumes tell of past walks and wins at the rally held at the home of Sunday Walker Joe Sanfillipo. After processing through downtown with stops along the way at the Gloucester House Restaurant, House of Mitch, and Saint Peter’s Club, the Walkers head over to Beach Court. Because Sunday’s events had been postponed to Monday and the stage broken down on schedule, the statue of Saint Peter was temporarily moved to Beach Court. After blessings and prayers, the revelers headed back to Saint Peter’s Square to board the ferry to the Greasy Pole.
The men’s seine boat competition does not disappoint, with Lock and Load taking the trophy, followed by an outstanding flag capture by Jake Wagner.
The Walkers hoist Jake upon their shoulders and carry him to the Greasy Pole Hall of Fame Wall. Then it’s back to Beach Court where the closing ceremony is held. Congratulatory speeches are given by the team captains, with much cheering and accolades for all. After the award ceremony, the statue of Saint Peter is processed through the Fort amidst much merriment, joyful singing, and “Me chi samiou tutti mutti? Viva San Pietro!,” which roughly translated means: Are you all mute? (or Why are you not shouting?)—long live Saint Peter!
You’ll see all three Greasy Pole winners Joe DaSilva, Lenny Taormina, and Jake Wagner, Mayor Sefatia Romeo Thekan, House Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante, State Senator Bruce Tarr, Sunday Greasy Pole Walker and City Councilor Steven LeBlanc, Peter Black Frontiero, Nicky Avelis, Joe Sanfilippo, Paul Nicastro, Kyle Barry, Mark Allen, Crazy Hat Ladies, sisters Robyn and Amy Clayton, and many, many more. Viva San Pietro!
Marion Frost, two time past President and six time Program Chair for the Ipswich Town and Country Garden Club, wrote a very kind note about the Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film and program that I gave this past week to her club.
How often does something you’ve looked forward to for a long time live up to your expectations? Not often. But last night at Ebsco your presentation, including your film, your comments and your Q&A were just about perfect in my book! I’ll smile as I remember the evening.
I liked having the trailer for the monarch film first. You gave the group something to look forward to. Jesse Cook’s music is an excellent choice, I think. I drum to his music often. I was pleased with the questions and with your answers. It’s obvious you’ve done a lot of research. The way you answered questions made the group comfortable. Very nice! And the film. What can I say. I’d seen clips, but seeing the whole thing was something I won’t forget. I especially liked your reference to other butterflies and your comparison of the swallowtail with the monarch. Liv’s voice was just right for the commentary!
I know from experience that the presenter is the harshest critic of the presentation. I hope you were feeling pleased with your work last night. I’d be happy to repeat the whole evening!
I’m wishing you well with the editing.
All the best to you,
Thank you Mim. It was my joy! You and your fellow club members were so receptive and interested, it was truly a pleasure to give my presentation to the Ipswich Town and Country Garden Club! Many thanks again for your kind words.
Filming for Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project is continuing throughout the novena and on Saint Joseph’s Day. Visit the film’s blog for latest scenes!
During this past summer while filming B-roll for the monarch film I shot some wonderful little scenes, the baby robins for example. Oftentimes I just happen upon some stunningly beautiful event unfolding and because too many beauty scenes got away from me in the past, I have gotten really smart about nearly always traveling with camera bag in tow.
The four baby robins were in a nest that had been constructed at slightly higher than waist height, in a tree that was for sale at Wolf Hill. My friends at both Wolf Hill and Goose Cove Gardens are always so kind to point out these exciting happenstances, whether robin nestlings or Black Swallowtail caterpillars and eggs, and they are always tremendously accommodating, never minding when I run back to the car to grab my cameras! I only needed approximately fifteen seconds of robin footage, and here you have it! Thank you so much Kate for steering me to the robins!
In my monarch film there is a sequence about the different types of migrations that happen through our region. American Robins are especially interesting as the species has evolved a multi-fold strategy for surviving winter; in the fall, some robins leave Cape Ann for regions further south, some stay throughout the winter, and some arrive in great flocks in January and February from parts further north; for the Canada to Gloucester winter robins, Cape Ann is like their Bermuda!
When watching, know that the first two minutes of the film were shot in Gloucester. I think you will be dazzled by the sheer numbers of Monarchs that travel through Cape Ann’s backyards and meadows during the peak of migration.
I began photographing the Monarchs in 2006, which was a year when we had an extraordinary number of Monarchs visiting our shores. At that time, I became determined that if ever again this phenomenon were to occur on Cape Ann, I was going to have the ability to document on film, rather than only through still images, this beautiful event for my community. It’s hard to imagine without observing and here you can see what I have wanted to share.
A Flight of Monarchs begins on a September day as first one and then passels of Monarchs begin to arrive to the fields and meadows of Cape Ann, carried across Massachusetts Bay on a tailwind. By the early evening light they begin to pour into the surrounding trees, clustering to stay warm in the branches furthest away from the prevailing breezes. The following morning as the sun begins to touch their wings, they alight from the trees, seeking the freshest wildflowers from which to drink nectar to help build their lipid reserves for the several thousand mile journey south. They drink and drink until the last of the sun’s rays dip below the tree line. As they arrived on a tailwind, they again depart, and are carried to the next gathering area. For coastal Monarchs, Allens Pond, which is located in Westport, Massachusetts is often the next stop.
In the next scene, the butterflies have arrived to the sacred oyamel fir forests of Angangueo, Michoacán, deep in the heart of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. It’s early morning and the butterflies are suspended in great primordial branched clusters that may become so heavy from the weight of so many butterflies the boughs of the trees bend to the breaking point. Later in the day, as the sun begins to warm their wings, the butterflies begin to stir. During the winter, it is imperative that the Monarch’s body temperature remains relatively low. They leave the sunniest branches in search of shade and a drink of water from nearby mountain streams. Occasionally in late February, as the air temperatures begin to warm with the coming springtime, for a short period during the day, the butterflies leave the trees all at once. This phenomenon is called a butterfly “explosion,” and is a truly magnificent event to observe.
A Flight of Monarchs is set to the evocative and tender “Fields of Blue,” written and performed by composer and guitarist Jesse Cook and his band, to which permission was granted by the artist for the purpose of this short film. Here is a link to Cook’s website. I highly, highly recommend attending a live performance of Jesse Cook and Company. As was I, you will be completely taken by their gorgeous music, exquisite artistry, and with Cook’s songwriting, will travel in beautiful melodies inspired from around the world.
I am currently editing my feature length documentary, Beauty on the Wing, which after months and months of organizing and editing three years of footage, is currently running at approximately twelve hours in length. At eleven hours too long, I have a great deal of editing to accomplish in the coming winter months!
A Flight of Monarchs presented here is the shorter version of the film that I created for the Berkshire Museum’s “Butterflies” exhibit. The first version is six minutes long and played on a continuous loop in the main gallery of the exhibit hall. The longer version will soon be posted on Vimeo.
While filming B-roll for several projects I caught the sunrise at Brace Cove several mornings ago. The seals were awakening, as were the swan couple, the cormorants and gulls stretching wide their wings, and the songbirds breaking fast on the abundance of wild berries and seed heads found along the berm at Niles Pond. Click image to see full size.
[PITTSFIELD, MA] – The Berkshire Museum will present a workshop and documentary screening with landscape designer and filmmaker Kim Smith on Saturday, September 20, 2014. Both events are included with regular Museum admission. The slide-illustrated talk, Creating a Bee, Bird, and Butterfly Garden, begins at 10 a.m.and the screening of the film, Life Story of the Black Swallowtail, will follow the talk, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Both programs are part of the Museum’s BeMuse program series.
Creating a Bee, Bird, and Butterfly Garden
Saturday, September 20, 10 a.m.
Following the rhythm of the seasons, Kim Smith presents a stunning slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates. Pollinator plant list handout included with workshop.
Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Saturday, September 20, 11:30 a.m. (time approximate; screening follows workshop)
Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly is a 45-minute narrated film that takes place in a garden and at the sea’s edge. Every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle is experienced in vibrant close-up, from conception to pupation to metamorphosis. The film is suitable for all ages so all can gain a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between wildflowers and pollinators and the vital role they play in our ecosystem. The film was shot in Gloucester, Massachusetts. A discussion and Q & A with Kim Smith, the filmmaker, will follow the screening. Life Story of the Black Swallowtail is the first film in a trilogy about butterflies and will be followed next year by Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.
About Kim Smith
Kim Smith is a filmmaker, designer, author, illustrator, photographer, and naturalist who documents, in a variety of media, the world around her. She is the author and illustrator of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine, publisher, 2009). Kim’s landscape and interior design firm, Kim Smith Designs, works with clientele to create highly individualized homes and gardens, and she specializes in creating butterfly and songbird habitat gardens in public spaces. Smith is a daily contributor to the stellar community blog Good Morning Gloucester.
About the Berkshire Museum
Located in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts, at 39 South St., the Berkshire Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $13 adult, $6 child; Museum members and children age 3 and under enjoy free admission. Admission to the Butterfly Pavilion is an additional $2 per person. For more information, visit Berkshire Museum or call 413.443.7171.
In association with the Smithsonian since 2013, Berkshire Museum is part of a select group of museums, cultural, educational, and arts organizations that share the Smithsonian’s resources with the nation.
Established by Zenas Crane in 1903, Berkshire Museum integrates art, history, and natural science in a wide range of programs and exhibitions that inspire educational connections between the disciplines. Butterflies is on view throughOctober 26, 2014. Objectify: A Look into the Permanent Collection is currently on view. Little Cinema is open year-round. Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, Worlds in Miniature, Aquarium, and other exhibits are ongoing.
SEE PREVIOUS POST ABOUT BUTTERFLIES! AT THE BERKSHIRE MUSEUM
While filming B-roll and “Bee”-roll for my nature documentaries this morning, I came upon the German National television channel’s ZDF cast and crew getting organized for a day of filming at the Eastern Point Lighthouse. They are shooting films based on the Katie Fforde romance novels. Not considered mini-series, four separate films are being shot all around the North Shore and filming will continue to take place in Gloucester this week.
“All of Fforde’s stories-into-movies focus on the lead character (usually a woman) overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream. Each film runs for 90 commercial-free minutes.”
For the past several seasons the show has been filmed in and around Poughkeepsie, New York. This year, the producers wanted to change it up and film north of Boston. I hope they decide to come back next year!
Stills from last night and this morning ~
I hope you can come join me for an evening of screenings and Q and A at the 2014 Lowell Film Series. My film Life Story of the Black Swallowtail is playing, along with Whales of Gold, a film by Lucia Duncan, about the gray whale migration and how to conserve habitat and species in a way that also sustains the livelihoods of local people.
About the film: Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly is a 45-minute narrated documentary that takes place in a garden and at the sea’s edge. Every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle is experienced in vibrant close-up, from conception to pupation to metamorphosis. The film is for adults and for children so that all can gain a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between wildflowers and pollinators and the vital role they play in our ecosystem. Filmed in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
The location of the screening is at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center, 246 Market Street, Lowell. Click this link to read more about the series.
The 2014 Film Series: Land, Air, and Water is offered in partnership by the Lowell Film Collaborative and the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust.
Click here to visit the film’s website: Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly
BomBom Butterflies, Voted People’s Choice Award Rockport Short Film Festival 2013