Category Archives: Good News Cape Ann

REMINDER: PIPING PLOVER INFORMATIONAL MEETING THURSDAY JUNE 16TH AT 5:45PM

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

A reminder of our Piping Plover informational meeting this Thursday the 16th, at 5:45 pm, at area #3. For new PiPl friends, park in the lot at the far end, near Boardwalk #3. Walk down the boardwalk and turn right towards the footbridge. You will see the symbolically roped off area and we will meet there. I am looking forward to seeing everyone, old and new <3

We are looking for more volunteers. If you know someone who would like to help, please feel free to bring them to the meeting and please share my email.

Mini-update on our GHB nesting pairs. Both Moms were on the nests this morning while both Dads were foraging at the tidal flats and in the wrack. Everyone looks healthy and ready for chicks! There was hardly any trash on the beach, which was wonderful to see. Thank you Gloucester’s DPW beach crew!

#3 Dad eating a Painted Lady Butterfly

#3 Mom on the nest, well-camouflaged in beach grass

There are many tracks in Area #2 and I am hoping perhaps, if Cape Hedge Mom is still alive, we will have a renest there, but there are no nest scrapes, only footprints. We’ll keep checking.

Thank you to all our PiPl friends, old and new. We’ll see you Thursday!
Warmest wishes,
xxKim

#1 Mom on the nest, next to a shoot of Sea Rocket

#1 Dad preening

AMERICAN LADY AT CAPE HEDGE BEACH

There are a surprising number of butterflies this year at Cape Hedge Beach. Several days ago an American Lady was warming on the popples and today, a female Black Swallowtail.

An easy way to see the difference between an American Lady Butterfly and a Painted Lady Butterfly

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) ~ Note the two large eyespots on the underside of the hindwing, close to the outer margin.The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) has four smaller eyespots on the underside of the hindwing. 

Painted Lady, left; American Lady right

THE FINAL GRAND TOTAL OF PIPING PLOVER EGGS!

Dear PiPl Friends,
Happy Memorial Day. I hope you are spending the day with family and friends <3

We have a whopping new grand total of Piping Plover eggs for Cape Ann’s eastern shore and it is an even dozen! This morning when I stopped by for PiPl check in, Salt Island Dad popped off the nest to reveal a fourth egg. All three Cape Ann PiPl families are brooding nests with four eggs in each. We are so blessed to see their beautiful life story unfold!

An added note about the nesting pair at #1, the Salt Island side of Good Harbor Beach – The pair first had a nest of three eggs up in the dune grass. We think it was predated, possibly by a seagull. There were no tracks near the nest and the only evidence found was one crushed egg.

#1 Salt Island original nest

After the first clutch of eggs disappeared, the pair immediately began setting up house away from the grass and closer to the wrack line. Piping Plovers will attempt to re-nest up to five times. The pair eventually settled on a scrape behind a mini mound of dried seaweed, albeit a more vulnerable location than the first.

Salt Island renest

As of today, the Salt Island pair have a nest of four, for a total of seven eggs laid over the past several weeks. Egg laying takes a toll on the Mom. At Good Harbor we now have handicapped Mom at #3 and over extended Mom at #1. When you see Plovers on the beach resting and foraging, please give them lots and lots of space and let them be to do their thing. Thank you!

Tired Mama at #1

Handicapped Mom at #3

MOM COMING IN FOR A LANDING!

Please share your Monarch sightings. We would love to hear from you <3

This Mama Monarch photographed yesterday was zeroing in and depositing eggs on the freshly emerging shoots of Common Milkweed sprouting in the grassland meadows at Cox Reservation.

 

On May 21st the first Monarch was spotted; this is the earliest many of us have seen Monarchs in our gardens, dunes, and meadows. MJ observed one on the 21st in Lanesville, Patti in East Gloucester on the 23rd (she has tons of milkweed), Duncan spotted one at Brier Neck, they are in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach in the Common Milkweed patches, in my garden (also lots of milkweed), and have been seen at several Greenbelt sanctuaries, both Castle Neck River Reservation and Cox Reservation.

The butterflies at Cox Reservation were drinking nectar from the Red Clover

The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch –  share with kids!

 

Please join us Wednesday, June 22nd at 7pm for a free in-person screening and Q and A of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Salem Visitor Center, as part of Essex National Heritage Pollinator week-long series of events.

SAVE THE DATE FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING FREE SCREENING EVENT AND BEAUTY IS AN OFFICIAL SELECTION AT THE SANTA BARBARA FILM FESTIVAL

Hello Butterfly Friends,

Super fun news to share and please save the date – Essex National Heritage is hosting a week of events for National Pollinator Week, which takes place June 20th through June 26th. We have been invited to present a LIVE screening and Q and A of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly on June 22, from 7pm to 9pm at the Salem Visitor Center.

This is a free event.

You can pre-register HERE, which is recommended as there is limited seating.

Essex National Heritage has planned many events for National Pollinator Week. As soon as I have more information from organizer Ryan Conary, I will post the complete schedule.

The Salem Armory Visitor Center is located at 2 New Liberty Street, Salem, MA.

And more happy news to share – Beauty on the Wing is nominated for an award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival!

Common Milkweed emerging in May, Good Harbor Beach

And lastly, we saw our first Monarchs this week, one at Good Harbor Beach flitting through the dunes and a second at Cox Reservation. There is plentiful Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) emerging at our local dunes and meadows! <3

HAPPY MAY!

xxKim

Common Milkweed mid-summer

BEAUTIFUL ORIOLE ALERT- BOTH ORCHARD AND BALTIMORE ORIOLES!!

Time to put out orange slices (and hummingbird feeders, if you haven’t already done so.) Orioles are nectar feeders and follow the blooming times of fruit trees on their northward migration along the East Coast. My friend Sally Jackson spotted a Baltimore Oriole at her hummingbird feeder several days ago, and they are delighting in our pear tree blossoms and orange halves we have placed in the garden.

Baltimore Oriole male

Recently while recording audio in a field, I was delightfully surprised by an Orchard Oriole, a species new to my eyes. Orchard Orioles are slightly smaller than Baltimore Orioles and their plumage is more rusty red rather than vivid orange. Nonetheless, they sing a characteristically beautiful bird song and it was a joy to hear the chorister from across the meadow.

Orchard Oriole male

You can see from the photos that orioles have evolved with long pointed bills, ideal for extracting nectar from fruit blossoms. Their toes, too, are especially well adapted to forging for tree fruits and nectar as they are long and flexible, allowing the birds to dangle every which way while clinging to the branches.

Ancient Crabapple tree, where the Orchard Oriole was spotted

*    *    *

Please join me at the Sawyer Free Library on Saturday, May 14th, at 2pm for a FREE in-person all ages presentation about the life story of the Piping Plover –

Why Give a Peep for Plovers?

The Piping Plover is one of only a handful of birds that nests on North Atlantic beaches. By learning about this tiny but most resilient of shorebirds, we gain a deeper understanding on how best to protect Piping Plovers and our shared coastal habitat.

Told through the lens of Kim Smith’s photo journal work, the Piping Plover’s life story is presented from migration to nesting to fledging. We’ll also cover the current status of the bird’s population, learn about where Piping Plovers spend the winter, and how communities and conservation organizations can work together to help Piping Plovers flourish for generations to come.

If you are new to or have ever considered joining our Piping Plover Ambassador group, this presentation is a great way to become introduced to Piping Plovers. Please come and learn more about these most lovable and charismatic shorebirds.

We hope to see you there!

THE GREAT EGRET’S SHOWER OF WHITE

The Great Egret’s beautiful shower of white feathers and plume hunter’s greed nearly caused this most elegant of creatures to become exterminated in North America. Because of  the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in 1918, slowly but steadily, the Great Egret is recovering. An increasing number of pairs are breeding today in Massachusetts.

A chance encounter and a joy to observe this Great Egret, floofing, poofing, and preening after a day hunting in the marsh. 

The MBTA states that it is unlawful to kill, hunt, sell, or possess most native species of birds in the United States without a permit and it is one of our nation’s most foundational conservation laws.

Birds Protected Under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act

USFWS: Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 implements four international conservation treaties that the U.S. entered into with Canada in 1916Mexico in 1936Japan in 1972, and Russia in 1976. It is intended to ensure the sustainability of populations of all protected migratory bird species.

The law has been amended with the signing of each treaty, as well as when any of the treaties were amended, such as with Mexico in 1976 and Canada in 1995.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The List of Migratory Bird Species Protected by the MBTA

The list of migratory bird species protected by the law is primarily based on bird families and species included in the four international treaties. In the Code of Federal Regulations one can locate this list under Title 50 Part 10.13 (10.13 list). The 10.13 list was updated in 2020, incorporating the most current scientific information on taxonomy and natural distribution. The list is also available in a downloadable Microsoft Excel file.

A migratory bird species is included on the list if it meets one or more of the following criteria:

  1. It occurs in the United States or U.S. territories as the result of natural biological or ecological processes and is currently, or was previously listed as, a species or part of a family protected by one of the four international treaties or their amendments.
  2. Revised taxonomy results in it being newly split from a species that was previously on the list, and the new species occurs in the United States or U.S. territories as the result of natural biological or ecological processes.
  3. New evidence exists for its natural occurrence in the United States or U.S. territories resulting from natural distributional changes and the species occurs in a protected family.

 

EASTER SUNRISE

Easter sunrise over Good Harbor Beach Salt Island

CALLING ALL BACHELORETTES!

Good afternoon PiPl Friends,

Currently we have three male Piping Plovers positioned for action at Good Harbor Beach at respective territories. The bachelors are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the bachelorettes, marking their turf with nest scraping and the calls for which Piping Plovers are so well known, all accomplished with chests a-puff.

 Meet the three candidates-Bachelor #1  

Bachelor #2  

Bachelor #3

#1 chasing #2 off his turf

The head count can change on a dime overnight. Let’s hope the ladies will soon be arriving.

If you would like to be a Piping Plover Ambassador, please contact me by either leaving a comment or emailing at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

Exciting news, we have three new wonderful recruits! We’ll have an informational meeting later this spring, once we have an actively nesting pair. I am so looking forward to working with you all, both our super experienced and dedicated volunteers, along with our new members!

Jennie and Deb, I received your requests to continue in your last year’s time slots and we will also work on getting more coverage at peak times.

xxKim

WONDERFUL PIPING PLOVER NEWS!

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

Happy news to share – the first of our little friends arrived overnight Friday. We found him/her feeding with great gusto at the intertidal zone Saturday morning. After foraging she moved to the roped off area at #3 to find shelter from the wind. Not sure yet if it is a male or female and we’ll know once courtship starts, but I am leaning towards female.

And, a reader shared that she saw several PiPls Sunday!

Finding mini mollusks in the intertidal zone

Please, If you see Plovers, stay a good distance away and give them some space as they are very worn out from their journeys (from where I wish we knew.)

We are looking for volunteer Plover Ambassadors. The volunteer season begins when the Plovers chicks are close to hatching, which is not for approximately another two months. We are a wonderfully dedicated group and if you are interested in joining, please leave a comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Happy Spring!

xxKim

Windy, windy morning

FOR NEW YORK, SAN FRANCISCO, AND LA FRIENDS AND FAMILY – THIS WEEK’S BEAUTY ON THE WING AIR TIME ON PUBLIC TELEVISION

Good Morning Friends! The following are this week’s showtimes for Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly airing on NY, LA, and San Francisco stations. Thank you for watching <3

WEDWDT3 1 __W____ 2:30:00 2/17/2022 2/17/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 ____F__ 5:00:00 2/19/2022 2/19/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 M______ 9:00:00 2/14/2022 2/14/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 _T_____ 13:00:00 2/15/2022 2/15/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 ______S 15:00:00 2/13/2022 2/13/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 ______S 22:00:00 2/13/2022 2/13/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
KOCEDT2 1 _____S_ 17:00:00 2/12/2022 2/12/2022 Los Angeles 2 4.66 %
KVCRDT 1 ______S 16:00:00 2/20/2022 2/20/2022 Los Angeles 2 4.66 %
KVCRDT3 1 M______ 5:00:00 2/22/2022 2/22/2022 Los Angeles 2 4.66 %
WYINDT 1 __W____ 23:00:00 2/16/2022 2/16/2022 Chicago 3 2.90 %
KQEDDT 1 __W____ 5:00:00 2/17/2022 2/17/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KQEDDT 1 __W____ 23:00:00 2/16/2022 2/16/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KQEHDT2 1 __W____ 5:00:00 2/17/2022 2/17/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KQEHDT2 1 __W____ 23:00:00 2/16/2022 2/16/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KRCBDT 1 ___T___ 12:00:00 2/17/2022 2/17/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KRCBDT 1 _T_____ 21:00:00 2/15/2022 2/15/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %

THE PBS PASSPORTS LINK TO WATCH BEAUTY ON THE WING!

Hello Friends,

We are are receiving many wonderful comments from viewers who have seen the film on their local public television channel, viewers from coast to coast! For we in Massachusetts (and everywhere), if you are a member of PBS Passports, here is the PBS.org Passports link to watch Beauty on the Wing: 

https://www.pbs.org/show/beauty-wing-life-story-monarch-butterfly/

Note about the photos – I took a bunch of these Monarch and Buoy photographs as there were several flying around the buoys one day (only on Cape Ann = Monarchs + buoys!). They were taken during this year’s autumn migration on a hazy October afternoon. I didn’t put two and two together until finally having a chance to look at the images several days ago, that one of the buoys was painted orange and black 🙂

Thank you Friends for your continued support and for your love of Monarchs!

Warmest wishes,

xoKim

 

Monarchs and Buoys, Cape Ann

AUTUMN HARVEST – SONGBIRDS FEASTING ON FRUITS, BERRIES, AND SEEDS

A very berry morning to you!

During early morning walks it has been a joy to observe the many beautiful songbirds breakfasting  on the array of autumn foods readily available, truly a smorgasbord of seeds, berries, and fruits.

My wild creature habitat radar has been especially drawn to a wonderful spot, so nicknamed ‘Four Berries Corners.’ Always alive at this time of year with chattering songbirds, there is a lovely crabapple tree, bittersweet, a small tree with black berries, privet I think, and two scraggly, but highly productive, Eastern Red Cedar trees.

In thinking about the about the most successful habitats for songbirds, a combination of seed-producing wildflowers, grasses, and garden flowers are planted along with primarily native flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs. The shrubs and trees also play the important role of providing nesting habitat and protective cover. The photo collection is a small sampling, and meant for design inspiration.

Native Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and Male House Finches

A male and female House Finch feeding each other in the Crabapples!

 

Grass seeds, much beloved by many including Song Sparrows, Bobolinks, and even Snow Buntings

Poison Ivy berries – by no means am I suggesting to plant, just mentioning that over 60 species of birds have been documented eating Poison Ivy drupes.

Cattail seed heads for male Red-winged Blackbirds

 

Sunflower Seeds fo all!

Along with songbirds, come their predators. Look for Merlins, Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks

Blue Jay preening after a morning of berry eating

The berries of Spindle Tree are the most beautiful part of the tree, but the tree is not recommended as it reseeds freely and is notorious for pushing out species of native trees and shrubs.

Seed heads make great perches for dragonflies and damselflies

Coyotes getting in on the action– much of their scat at this time of year has plainly visible partially digested fruits and berries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOOK FOR AMERICAN PAINTED LADIES ON THE MOVE!

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! For more information go here.

The American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) is seen often drinking nectar alongside Monarchs during the late summer migration. She is one of four North American (of the 22 species found worldwide) Vanessa butterflies. The North American tribe also includes the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), and the West Coast Lady (Vanessa anabella). 

Some of the caterpillar’s favorite food plants are Sweet Everlasting (Graphalium obtusifolium), Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), and Plantain-leaved Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia). The caterpillars also feed occasionally on Burdock (Arctium), Wormwood (Artemisia), and Ironweed (Vernonia)

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

THE BEST NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING AND PLEASE SAVE THE DATE!

Good morning Butterfly Friends!

I hope so much you had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend. We on Cape Ann were treated to the magnificent Schooner Festival. The Schooner Festival committee, Maritime Gloucester, and the City of Gloucester create a magical last-weekend-of-the-season hurrah, all tied around the Schooner Fest, and each year more and more fun events and activities for the whole family are added.

I have fantastic news to share. As many of you know, all my in person film screenings and live film festival events were cancelled because of Covid. Beauty on the Wing has never been shown on the Big Screen. We have been accepted to the outstanding Boston Film Festival! Not only that, but Robin Dawson, the Executive Director of the Boston Film Festival, has created a wonderful event. We are going to have a live, free, in-person, fundraising, community screening and Q and A at the Shalin Liu!!!

Please save the date of September 23rd at 7pm. The film is 56 minutes long, followed by the Q and A. I think the standard for all Boston Film Festival live screenings will be masks and proof of vaccination required. Admission will be on a first come first serve basis I believe but will find out more about that. The Boston Film Festival, which runs September 23rd through September 27th is truly a stellar event and as soon as I know more about the lineup of films and full schedule, I will post that as well.

For my several new Butterfly Friends who are reading this, please go to kimsmithfilms.com or here and here to learn more about our ongoing fundraising efforts to bring Beauty on the Wing to PBS.

Monarch and Zinnia elegans

Common Green Darners on the move!

An added note of good news – with all the breeding Monarchs we have been seeing this summer, the butterflies are on the move and it appears as though we may have a strong migration. So many friends from around the Northeast are reporting many sightings and for we on Cape Ann, this is very early in the season. And from what we are observing empirically (not actual numbers counted) we are having a phenomenal dragonfly and darner migration, too.

Happy September Butterfly Days!

xoKim

With deep appreciation and gratitude for generous contributions to the following butterfly friends –

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Joeann Hart and Gordon Baird, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Heidi and John Shiver (Pennsylvania), Marty and Russ Coleman, 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, 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, Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Jan Waldman (Swampscott), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Ian Gardiner, Judy Arisman, Tom Schaefer, Margaret Thompson, Edward DeJesus (Maryland), Kim Tieger (Manchester), Mary Weissblum

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!

MORE MONARCH BABES ON THE WAY!

More teenies found in the garden!  I thought we had seen the last Monarch eggs but while cutting milkweed in the garden for the larger caterpillars, we found four more!  I can’t recall when was the last time I saw this many Monarchs in our garden and in meadows.

For your daily Monarch photo, today we have a range of Monarchs in our garden in different stages, from minuscule first instars to J-shapes readying to pupate to an old worn out boy winding down.

1st Instar

3rd Instar

J-shape readying to pupate

Chrysalis

Newly emerged zipping together proboscis

Female newly emerged drying wet wings and readying for take off

An old boy – note his tattered and fading wings

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!

 

 

Wonderful press for “Beauty on the Wing” from Pennsylvania! From the Ground Up: Preserving beauty on the wing

From the Ground Up: Preserving beauty on the wing

I want to share with you an email that I received in response to my column last week in which I reviewed a new book, by Sara Dykman, titled “Bicycling with Butterflies.” (2021, Timber Press)

The reader wrote:

“I read your article today about monarchs. My wife and I recently saw a film created over a several year period by Kim Smith. It has won many awards as listed on her website. It was sponsored by local environmental groups and others for a local showing via Zoom. I thought I knew everything about the monarch, but her video of the life cycle was amazing, with incredible detail.” (The film is tentatively scheduled to air on PBS in February 2022.)

I clicked on the website link provided (see below), and discovered that it contains a short, free video designed for children, titled, “The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch.” The detail of the close-ups of the various stages of the monarch’s life-cycle is captivating, and a young child featured in the video demonstrates how easy it is to make a monarch habitat to be able to observe and help restore the number of monarchs in the wild. The message is that anyone can raise monarchs, even pre-schoolers.

As I mentioned in my previous column, helping monarchs is really as simple as planting monarch-sustaining milkweed plants, along with other native, nectar plants. Milkweed is the only plant that monarchs feed on. There are many species, and it’s important to plant the ones suited to this area. The best ones for the Delaware Valley are Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Swamp Milkweed has lavender-pink flowers and a lovely evening fragrance. It can grow fairly large, and works well in a stand-alone planting bed or in a naturalized border. With its bright orange or yellow flowers and more refined habit, Butterfly Weed is a knockout in any flower bed or container.

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

A monarch “habitat” only really needs to comes into play if you want to go the next step — and if you want to get up close to nature. All that is required — in addition to some care and curiosity — is a large aquarium with a screen cover, some cheesecloth, a glass jar with a lid (make holes in the lid), and water. When you find monarch caterpillars on your milkweed, cut the stem they are on, and place it through the holes in the jar lid, so that the stem is in the water. Cover the aquarium with the cheesecloth and then the screen. Caterpillars can eat a huge amount for their size, so be prepared to add/replace milkweed stems as needed.

In his email, the reader also explained that donations are needed to enable Kim Smith’s film, “Beauty on the Wing,” to appear on PBS:

“[The film] has been accepted by PBS, but requires a fee for distribution to get it shown. She has a link for donations to reach the amount she needs. It is tentatively scheduled for February 2022. The web-site explains how to donate to get it on PBS. I recommend this highly and thought you might like to keep an eye out for it when hopefully it will appear on PBS. (https://monarchbutterflyfilm.com/)”

Last week, I discovered that monarchs are at risk not just from habitat loss in their breeding and over-wintering grounds, both here and in Mexico. The larvae are vulnerable to predation by stink bugs, both the nymphs and the adults. Sadly, we discovered this just last week in our own garden, with two of four monarch caterpillars killed by stink bugs. More incentive to “adopt” at least some of the monarch caterpillars, to keep them safe from these predators. I’ve done this with black swallowtails, and it’s a fascinating process.

Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to pamelacbaxter@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on Facebook at “Chester County Roots.” Pam’s book for children and families, Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets, is available on Amazon.

TINY CATERPILLAR MOLTING

Did you ever wonder how a caterpillar fits into its new suit after shedding the old? The caterpillar in the photo has just shed its skin, or molted, and you can see its discarded and shriveled skin.

After molting, the caterpillar rests quietly for a bit, sucking in great deal of air, which expands the new suit. After molting and resting, the caterpillar eats its old skin.

The caterpillar feeds and feeds, expanding and growing into its baggy suit until it again feels a sense of tightening and will molt again.

Caterpillars molt four to five times and each stage is called an instar, for example, 1st instar, 2nd instar, 3rd instar, etc.

I haven’t seen a female depositing eggs for a week or so. Perhaps this is our last batch of caterpillars and these will grow to become the Super Monarchs, the Monarchs that journey to Mexico.

Last of the teeny tinies?

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!

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