“There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” –Rachel Carson
It’s glorious outdoors today and I hope you have a chance to get outside. See below for photos from my morning Earth Day walk, although I can’t bear to sit at my computer all day when it’s so gorgeous out and will head back out this afternoon to see what we see.
For Earth Day this past week I gave several screenings of Beauty on the Wing (thank you once again most generous community for all your help funding BotWing!) along with presenting “The Hummingbird Habitat Garden” to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. For over twenty years I have been giving programs on how to create pollinator habitats. People are hungry for real information on how to connect to wildlife and wild habitats and each year the interest grows and grows. It’s truly a joy to witness!
Last night it was especially rewarding to bring Beauty on the Wing to Connecticut’s Sherman Conservation Commission attendees. We had a lively Q and A following the screening with many thoughtful questions and comments. My gratitude and thanks to Michelle MacKinnon for creating the event. She saw the film on PBS and wanted to bring it to her conservation organization. Please let me know if you are interested in hosting a Beauty on the Wing screening.
Monarchs are on the move! The leading edge in the central part of the country is at 39 degrees latitude in Illinois and Kansas: the leading edge along the Atlantic Coast is also at 39 degrees latitude; Monarchs have been spotted in both Maryland and New Jersey. Cape Ann is located at 43 degrees — it won’t be long!
Monarchs are heading north! Female Monarch depositing egg on Common Milkweed
Hummingbirds have been seen in Mashpee this past week (41 degrees latitude). Don’t forget to put out your hummingbird feeders. Dust them off and give a good cleaning with vinegar and water. Fill with sugar water and clean regularly once installed. The sugar water recipe is one part sugar to four parts water; never replace the sugar with honey, and never use red food coloring.
Happy Glorious Earth Day!
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Super surprised to see this mystery duck asleep on a rock. I was so curious and kept hoping he would wake up so as to identify. He at last lifted his head for all of ten seconds and then promptly tucked back in and went back to sleep. I’ve only ever seen Surf Scoters bobbing around far off shore in the distance. Skunk bird- what a cutie!
American Kestrel, male, too far away to get a good photo but a joy to see!
Beautiful, beautiful Great Egret preening its luxurious spray of feathers. An egret’s spray of feathers is also referred to as aigrette.
No Earth Day post would be complete without our dear PiPls – Mom and Dad foraging at the wrack line this am, finding lots of insects for breakfast.
Tomorrow evening I am giving a presentation on how climate change is impacting Monarchs for Cape Ann Climate Change Coalition. I am looking forward to presenting. Please join us if you can! RSVP with Zoom link to the meeting is on the Cape Ann Climate Change Coalition’s website on the ‘NEWS/EVENTS’ page. www.capeannclimatecoaltion.org
Thank you so very much to everyone who is donating to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. To date, we have raised over $17,000.00. To learn more about the fundraiser, please visit my website at kimsmithfilms.com and donate here.
Today Charlotte spotted the first Monarch in our garden and we saw the first in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach today as well. Both were depositing eggs on Common Milkweed! My friend Patti shares she saw one flitting about in her (fabulous) butterfly garden today, too. They are here and butterflies love this warm weather. Plant milkweed and they will come!
Kim Do you live on Cape Ann and are concerned about climate change? Come to our quarterly meeting on Tuesday, June 29 at 7-9pm and see what we are doing about it on a local level. We have action groups working on: Carbon Sequestration; Climate Arts; Community Building & Education; Energy Efficiency; Renewable Energy; and Vision, Policy & Legislation.
The Meeting will also include: “The Monarch Butterfly and Climate Change”
A Presentation by Kim Smith- There is no more urgently needed time than the present to learn about how we can all help protect the Monarch Butterfly.
“Electrifying Everything!” And what this means for local city and town governments and us individually. A Presentation by Jennifer Wallace Brodeur of VEIC
RSVP with Zoom link to the meeting is on our website on the ‘NEWS/EVENTS’ page. http://www.capeannclimatecoaltion.org
First the bad – the nest at Salt Island side was washed out by the storm surge and super high tide. The wrack left behind shows that the tide exceeded several feet beyond the exclosure.
I couldn’t locate the parents this morning, but that is not unusual after a storm. Oftentimes what follows are more attempts at nesting so we will see what we see. This sweet pair tried so hard to become established. Hopefully, they won’t give up.
Salt Island eggs washed away
The miraculous update is that our beautiful pair at #3, the footbridge end of the beach, has survived, but I think just barely. The tide came up past the exclosure. Wrack surrounds and is caught in the edges of the wire cage. Despite the 11 foot tide, both Mom and Dad were there, taking turns sitting on four eggs just like every other morning. Between the time I looked at daybreak and then returned later in the morning, they had dug the nest in slightly deeper.
The #3 nest that survived was built up on a slightly higher hummock. The beach narrows at the Salt Island end and I think the tide comes up higher and deeper at that end. The tides have risen well over 11 feet the past several nights. Today’s high tide at 3:26 is expected to be only 9. 2 feet and tonight’s 10.1 feet. I hope so much we are over the worst of it but with storm surges added to the equation, we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed for the best outcome.
Footbridge nest intact. Dad on the nest and Mom heading out to forage
The DPW has installed an additional symbolically roped off area between Boardwalk #1 and the snack bar entrance. There had been a pair attempting to nest there. Perhaps with all the disruption from the storm and high tides, they will return in the now protected area.
Barn Swallows were seemingly trying to sort themselves out. Usually we see them darting swiftly, crisscrossing the beach at top speed but this morning they struggled in the cold and wind to dry off and find a footing. There were several unleashed dogs running the beach and Not on voice command either.
We’ll count our blessings for our surviving nest. The next high tides will take place towards the end of June and by that time, the chicks will be several weeks old and able to skedaddle to higher ground.
All this school vacation week, the Providence Children’s Film Festival is 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 buy a pass, which allows for viewing all films all week long. Beauty on the Wing is playing through Saturday and I will be part of a Q and A at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. Please vote for BotWing after watching the film. Thank you!
At this moment I am currently watching First We Eat – funny, wry, and fascinating to watch the teenagers especially as they try to adjust to eating only local sourced food, in the middle of the Yukon. Read more here –
“What happens when an ordinary family, living just south of the Arctic Circle, bans all grocery store food from their house for one year? Add 3 skeptical teenagers, 1 reluctant husband, no salt, no caffeine, no sugar, -40 temperatures.
Putting food security to the test in the far North of Canada filmmaker Suzanne Crocker, living just 300 km from the Arctic Circle, removes absolutely all grocery store food from her house. For one year, she feeds her family of five, only food that can be hunted, fished, gathered, grown or raised around Dawson City, Yukon. Add three skeptical teenagers, one reluctant husband, no salt, no caffeine, no sugar and -40 temperatures. Ultimately the story becomes a celebration of community and the surprising bounty of food that even a tiny community in the far North can provide. After all, “First we eat, then we do everything else.” – MFK Fisher. Written by Suzanne Crocker”
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.
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.