Category Archives: Home and Garden


Cape Ann Wildlife – a year in pictures and stories

July through December continued from part one

July 2021

Conserve Wildlife NJ senior biologist Todd Pover makes a site visit to Cape Ann beaches, summer long updates from “Plover Central,” GHB Killdeer dune family raise a second brood of chicks,  Cape Hedge chick lost after fireworks disturbance and then reunited with Fam, Great Black-backed Gulls are eating our Plover chicks, thousands of Moon Snail collars at Cape Hedge,  Monarchs abound, #savesaltisland, missing Iguana Skittles, and Earwig eating Cecropia Moth cats.

August 2021

New short film for the Sawyer Free Library The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch!, Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting new short Piping Plover film, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the garden, why we love Joe-pye and other wildflowers, butterfly friends, Monarch cats in the garden, what is the purpose of the gold dots found on Monarch chrysalides?,Black Beauty came calling, Tigers in the garden, School Street sunflowers, Hoverflies, luminescent Sea Salps return to Cape Ann beaches, Petal Dancers and lemony Yellow Sulphurs on the wing.


September 2021

Flower Fairies, irruptive Green Darner migration, mini glossary of late summer butterflies, what to do if you find a tagged Monarch, Painted Ladies, White-tailed Deer family, Monarchs mating, Tangerine Butterflies,  yellow fellow in the hood, and Beauty on the Wing first ever live screening at the Shalin Liu.

October 2021

Bee-sized butterfly the American Copper, Monarch conga line, Thunder and Cloud, abandoned Piping Plover egg, School Street Sunflowers, Monarchs migrating, quotidian splendor, Monarch fundraiser updates, collecting milkweed seeds, the Differential Grasshopper, Cooper’s Hawk – a conservation success story,  #ploverjoyed, and nor’easter from the EP Lighthouse.

November 2021

Bridges between life and death, ancient oak tree uprooted, autumn harvest for feathered friends, Monarch migration update, we have achieved our fundraising goal!, Harbor Seal pup hauled out,  flight of the Snow Buntings, and a very rare for these parts wandering Wood Stork calls Cape Ann home for a month.

December 2021

New short film Wandering Wood Stork, tiny tender screech owl suffering from rat poison under the care of Cape Ann Wildlife Inc., Praying Mantis in the autumn garden, masked bandits in the hood, short film The Majestic Buck and Beautiful Doe Courtship Frolic, Snowy Owl boy in the dunes, short film Cedar Waxwing vocalization, the story of the Steller’s Sea-Eagle’s foray to Massachusetts, and Harbor Seal Pig Pile.












Dear Friends,

Wishing you Happy Holidays, good health, peace and joy in the coming year. I am so thankful for you and grateful for your support of our Monarch documentary, Cape Ann’s Piping Plovers, and for the shared love of all our backyard and shorebird wild creatures.

I made this short film for you, mostly for the audio, but there is a funny moment when one of the Waxwings takes a large berry that is a challenge to swallow.

Several people have asked how  do I “see” so many Waxwings. Cedar Waxwings are sociable birds that tend to flock together. They make a wonderfully ascending trilling sound, which once you learn their vocalizations, you will begin to hear everywhere. When Waxwings are at eye level dining on fruits and berries, they are readily detected. Often, though, Waxwings congregate in treetops. You can hear them, but can’t see unless you look to the tippy top of trees. Learn the Cedar Waxwing’s lovely trilling sounds and look up!

In the following short, shot several weeks ago in early December, the Cedar Waxwings were intermittently feeding alongside American Robins, flitting between several crabapple trees and a large clump of native Winterberry. You can also hear the Robin’s birdsongs in the video. The Waxwings are here in our midst, as long as there are plentiful fruits. Happy finding!

Butt shot 🙂


Over the weekend my daughter Liv and I headed to The Barn at Todd Farm. We simply love how Barbara Breaker, the proprietor, decorates her multi-dealer shop, especially at Christmas time. All the dealers stock and decorate their individual areas in the holiday spirit as well. We find the most amazing vintage treasures at The Barn at Todd Farm, from housewares to jewelry to furniture to festive decor.

I also brought along my camera to take photos of my dear friend Briar Forsythe’s display at The Barn for a post I had planned for today. Briar has a wonderful new business endeavor, Ava and Ruby, where along with her friend Dona, create the loveliest of gift bundles. Each of the themed bundles are thoughtfully curated and packaged exquisitely. One of my favorites is the one for the baker on your shopping list.

Ava and Ruby bundles range in price from $44.00 to under $200.00. Shipping is very reasonable, a flat fee for all bundles. You can either purchase the gift bundles at The Barn at Todd Farm or at their online marketplace here at Ava and RubyJoyful surprise of surprises, when I arrived home Monday, there was a package waiting from Briar, addressed to Charlotte and myself. We eagerly opened to find inside the baker’s gift bundle!! The lovely hand painted box (that also serves as a recipe box) is a treasure trove of fun. Included are a charming polka dot tea towel, cookie cutters, a complete set of measuring cups and spoons, ruby red sparkle sugar, and blank cookie recipe booklet for keeping track of your favorite cookie recipes. Charlotte was thrilled, and me, even more so!

Check out Ava and Ruby’s website here: Ava and Ruby. And visit The Barn at Todd Farm at 275 Main Street, Rowley. The barn is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11am til 5pm, and on Sundays from 10am til 4pm.


The wreath that adorns our front door was made from stock found at Wolf Hill, and it was super easy to put together. We used a 12 inch wreath, 5 sea stars, green wire, and a bow made from a stunning champagne hued sparkly snowflake wire ribbon. I made the bow, but if you don’t have the time, Pam at Wolf Hill has a fabulous selection of bows ready made. Additionally, you can pick a ribbon from their gorgeous stock and she will custom make a bow for you. You’ll find a lovely array of starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, and seashells to include in your coastal holiday decor.

Note – The battery operated string of bubble lights we had on hand from last year, purchased at Ikea. However, Wolf Hill also has strings of battery powered lights.




A pretty mixed flock of Cedar Waxwing and Robins are finding plenty to eat on Cape Ann, dining on crabapple fruits, and the fruits of native Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Plant, and they will come <3


A half frozen female Praying Mantis was found in our garden. She at first appeared dead but then we noticed her slender antennae moving ever so slightly though and when the sun peaked out from the corner of our house she began to revive.

Praying Mantids do not survive New England winters. The one in our garden is a female. You can tell because her abdomen has six segments, whereas a male Praying Mantis has eight segments. She may be pregnant. Wouldn’t it be fun to find her egg case?!

Female with six abdominal sections

Praying Mantis go through incomplete metamorphosis. Unlike butterflies, which undergo complete metamorphosis, Praying Mantis skip the caterpillar stage. Tiny young Praying Mantis that look identical to the adults, only smaller, will emerge next year from the egg case, called an ootheca.

Hosting Praying Mantis in your garden is reason number ten thousand why we do minimal tidying up of the garden in autumn. Her egg case is somewhere in the garden. Maintaining a garden for wild creatures means tolerating some disarray. By removing leaves, along with the physically disruptive act of raking, and by chopping down stalks, we are causing more harm than good even with the best of intentioned habitat gardens.


The graphic below illustrates how to tell the difference between the two species of Praying Mantis found in New England, the Carolina Mantis and Chinese Mantis, which is introduced and by far the most commonly seen.


During the night of devastation wreaked by the nor’easter of October 27th, at around 1:30am, the magnificent Northern Red Oak neighboring Mandy Davis and Geoff Deckebach’s home on East Main Street came crashing to its demise. The tree was completely uprooted and toppled by the dangerously high winds. Fortunately, not a soul was harmed, including chickens in the coop, and bees in the hive. The tree fell dead to center between the main house and the little house; truly a miracle everyone was spared.

Neighbors and family gathered to help Mandy and Geoff with some of the more dangerous and inconvenient brush and branches. It may take many months to remove the massive trunk and larger limbs.

How to gauge (approximately) the age of an oak tree from the US Forest Service.

The most prolific oaks in the northeast are Northern Red Oaks (Querus rubra). The growth factor formula is slightly different for White, Black, and Pin Oaks.

Measure the circumference of the oak’s trunk at 54 inches up from the ground. For example, the tree that fell in Mandy and Geoff’s yard is 168 inches in circumference. Divide 168 inches by pi (3.14) to obtain the diameter. 168 divided by 3.14 equals 53.5. For a Red Oak, multiply the diameter by a growth factor of 4 to obtain the approximate age. Using this formula, we can approximate the age of the tree that was uprooted at 214 years old.

For a Pin Oak, the factor is 3 and for a White Oak, multiply the diameter by a growth factor of 5.

The tree may be even older than 214 years because a tree growing in a dense neighborhood or urban environment does not grow as fast as a tree in the forest.  It’s fascinating to think that the tree was here when much of East Gloucester was pastureland and to imagine all the changes the magnificent old beauty had born witness to. Mandy shares that Geoff will be cutting through the trunk to count the rings, so it will be interesting to see how close the US Forest Service formula for aging an oak tree measures up to the actual rings counted.

Hole left from the massive rootball, filled with water.

Tree Growth Factor Chart



Good Morning Friends!

More fantastic migration news to share – a massive wave of butterflies is traveling through the Texas Hill Country. Although experts predicted a late migration, butterfly observers on the LLano River, at a location about two and half hours west of Austin, witnessed thousands arriving in an early wave. The Monarchs appeared stalled in the face of winds out of the south, roosting overnight in Pecan trees.

It’s entirely possible that the early wave of Monarchs that we saw migrating through Cape Ann this season are part of the early wave currently traveling through Texas!

Monarch good news update at home – the eighteen late coming caterpillars have all pupated and are now beautiful green chrysalides. The warmer temperatures we are experiencing has surely helped these cats pupate more quickly than expected and I am relieved there will be nectar plants still blooming to help get them started on their southward migration. This is a good reminder as to why we need not clean up our gardens in autumn. Late blooming flowers provide nectar, dried flower stalks create winter homes for bees, and leaf litter offers shelter from the cold for overwintering caterpillars and other insects.

Twins – these two October chrysalides pupated within moments of one another!

Wonderful news from film festivals – Beauty on the Wing has been accepted to the New Haven International Film Festival!! We have also been notified that we are an award winner at the Boston Independent Film Awards (they haven’t yet let us know what award). It’s because of generous contributions from friends such as yourself that we were able to apply to and to bring Beauty to film festivals. Thank you once again!

There were several Monarchs on Eastern Point this past weekend and in our garden. If you see a Monarch in your garden at this late date, please write and let me know, and please feel free to send a photo; we would love to post.

Warmest wishes,

Fundraising Update – We are in the final phase of fundraising to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. If you have thought about giving a contribution and have not yet done so, 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 PBS. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go hereThank you!

An added note – for any person or organization contributing over $1,000.00, your name will be at the beginning and end credits each and every time the documentary airs nationwide! For contributions of $5,000.00 or more, your organization’s logo will also be included in the credits. For more information, please feel free to contact me.

With gratitude and deep appreciation to the following for their generous contributions to Beauty on the Wing –

Lauren Mercadante, New England Biolabs, 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, Nancy Leavitt, Susan Pollack, Alice and David Gardner (Beverly), Kristina and Gene Martin, Gail and Thomas Pease (Beverly), Carol and Duncan Ballantyne (Beverly), Sharon Byrne Kashida, Eric Hutchins and Julia McMahon, C. Lovgren, Joan Keefe, Linda Kaplan, Mary Rhinelander


We love Russell Orchards throughout the seasons, not only for their wonderful array of fresh fruit, including peaches, strawberries, raspberries, plums. pears, and an infinite variety of apples, but because they have the sweetest farm animals. Ruth and Rosie have to be the cutest pair of goats, but it it Thunder and Cloud, Russell Orchards resident pair of black and white sheep that have won Charlotte’s heart.