Category Archives: Life at the Edge of the Sea

PEARL CRESCENT – YET ANOTHER REASON TO GROW ASTERS (as if we needed one!)

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Pearl Crescent Butterfly

Seen throughout the summer, the beautiful female Pearl Crescent on the asters is from my garden just a few days ago. Pearl Crescents drink nectar from a great many flowers. On the smaller side, with a wing span of about 1.5 inches, they are not always easy to identify because their wing patterning is highly varied. The composite photograph below is from wiki and shows some of the many variations.

Grow Native! Pearl Crescents are found throughout North America, wherever asters grow. Asters are the caterpillar’s food plants and according to Mass Audubon the species of asters they are known to feed on in New England are: Heath Aster (Aster pilosus), Many-flowered Aster (A. ericoides), Bushy Aster (A. dumosus), Calico Aster (A. lateriflorus), Whorled Aster (A. acuminatus), Smooth Aster (A. laevis), Panicled Aster (A. simplex), Purple-stemmed Aster (A. puniceus), and New England Aster (A. novae angliae). Female Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent Caterpillar – image courtesy wikicommons media

BABY CEDAR WAXWINGS IN THE HOOD!

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Cedar Waxwing Baby Masked Bandits

For over a month I have been filming a flock of Cedar Waxwings. Exquisitely beautiful creatures, with their combination of soft buffy and brilliantly punctuated wing patterning, along with graceful agility, it’s been easy to fall in love with these birds and they have become a bit of an obsession. 

I filmed some wonderful scenes and will share the photos and story as soon as there is time but in the meantime I wanted to share these photos of a juvenile Cedar Waxwing so you know what to look for. Waxwings are often found high up in the treetops. They are most easily seen on limbs bare of leaves. Their repetitious soft trilling song gives them away and if you learn the sound you will begin to see Cedar Waxwings everywhere. They have an extended breeding period in our region and because it is so late in the season, this juvenile may be one of a second brood.

While I was shooting for my short short story, the Waxwing flock was mostly on the ground in a wildflower patch devouring insects. Cedar Waxwings are more typically berry-eating frugivores. During the summer they add insects to their diet and I think it may have to do with keeping the hatchling’s bellies filled. It wasn’t until they moved back up into the treetops that this little guy began appearing amongst the flock. He has the same masked face, but the breast is softly streaked. You can see the yellow feathers tips beginning to grow in.

Juvenile Cedar Waxwing

Adult Cedar Waxwing

TREE SWALLOW, BARN SWALLOW, OR CLIFF SWALLOW?

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Swallows of Massachusetts

Lovely large flocks of Tree Swallows continue to gather, gracing our shores with their chattering cheery chirping. But these flocks aren’t only comprised of Tree Swallows, often seen in the mix are Barn Swallows, too.Barn Swallow left, female Tree Swallow right

Male Tree Swallows

There are six species of Swallows that breed in Massachusetts and they are Tree, Barn, Cliff, Purple Martin, Northern Rough-winged, and Bank Swallows. Tree Swallows are the most abundant breeders, with Barn Swallows coming in second. Cliff, Northern Rough-winged, Bank, and Barn Swallows are all in decline.Male and female Tree Swallows

Male Tree Swallows wear brilliant iridescent greenish blue feathers, with a sharply defined face mask. The females are a duller brownish, but they too have some blue iridescence in their plumage. Both have white chins and predominantly white breasts.Barn Swallow

Male Barn Swallows are a beautiful cobalt blue with rusty red forehead and red feathers below their bills. Their bellies vary from buffy tan to cinnamon colored.

Tree Swallows breed in the wetlands and fields of Cape Ann. Their name comes from the species habit of nesting in tree cavities. Tree Swallows have benefited tremendously from efforts to help save the Eastern Bluebird because they also nest in the nest boxes built specifically for the Bluebirds.

Juvenile Barn Swallow

Barn Swallows build their nest cups from mud and they prefer nesting sites such as the rafters, eaves, and crossbeams of barns, stables, and sheds. They also chose the undersides of wharves and bridges.

Acrobatic aerialists, both Tree and Barn Swallows twist and turn mid-flight to capture a wide variety of insects including flies, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, beetles, and wasps. We on Cape Ann especially love swallows because they eat the dreaded Greenhead.

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Good Afternoon Little Green Heron!

A Little Green Heron crossed my path, flying in low and fast. Stealthily hunting along the water’s’s edge, he had an uncanny ability to make himself nearly flat before striking.

The light was at first overcast but when the sun poked through the clouds, everything turned all golden orange.

Green Herons eat a wide variety of fish and small creatures including minnows, sunfish, catfish, pickerel, carp, perch, gobies, shad, silverside, eels, goldfish, insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, amphibians, reptiles, and rodents. Although found throughout the US but, it is a species in decline in most regions, except California, where the bird appears to be increasing. Green Herons breed in Massachusetts coastal and inland wetlands.

My days are full, full to overflowing sometimes, with taking care of Charlotte and family, film, and design projects. Though there isn’t day a day that goes by that I don’t think of my life as a gift. Daily I try to fit in a walk, always with a camera slung over each shoulder. How blessed are we on Cape Ann, especially during the pandemic, to have such beauty for our eyes to see and our hearts to travel.  I can’t keep up with sharing footage and that will all go towards larger projects anyway, and I am behind with sharing photos. Perhaps I should make these walk photos a series – ‘life at the edge of the sea,’ or something along those lines.

 

SCHOONER FLASH MOB SAIL AROUND GLOUCESTER HARBOR!

Six schooners sailed about Gloucester Harbor Sunday morning. Oh how we all missed this year’s Schooner Festival! But it was glorious to see these sailing beauties out in the harbor together at the same time. I was at Niles Beach Sunday morning and raced home to get my camera. The parade was coming to an end by the time I returned, but how lucky to catch a glimpse of Cape Ann Schooners Redbird, Thomas E. Lannon, and Ardelle lined up.

RAGWEED VS GOLDENROD – WHAT IS CAUSING MY SEASONAL ALLERGIES?

Migrating Monarchs and Seaside Goldenrod

So often I hear folks blaming goldenrod as the source of their allergy suffering, when they really mean to say ragweed. The three species of goldenrod that we most often see in our coastal north of Boston fields, meadows, woodland edges, and dunes are Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima), and Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).  All three have beautiful yellow flowers, Seaside blooming a bit after Canada and Tall, and all are fabulous pollinator plants, providing nectar for bees, butterflies, and migrating Monarchs.

In our region, we most often encounter Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia), with Plain Jane tiny green flowers and raggedy looking foliage. Goldenrods and ragweeds both bloom at roughly the same time of year, in mid- to late-summer, but why is ragweed the culprit and goldenrods are not? The colorful showy flowers of goldenrods are attractive to pollinators and they are both insect and wind pollinated. The drops of goldenrod pollen are too large to fall far from the plant. Ragweed’s tiny flowers are not of interest to most pollinators and the plant has evolved to rely on the wind to disperse its pollen from plant to plant. Ragweed produces massive amounts of teeny, breathable pollen to travel widely on the wind.

Cedar Waxwing foraging in weed patch with Common Ragweed

Although many of us are fortunate not to be bothered by ragweed, I completely empathize with friends who are. If it is any consolation, I recently learned two good uses for Common Ragweed. Shetland sheep love to eat it and it is good for their wool. And I have been following a flock of  Cedar Waxwings for over a month. I often see in the morning the Waxwings descend on patches of mixed weeds, mostly Common Ragweed. Waxwings change their diet in summer to include insects and I think the birds are attracted to the plant for the host of insects it supports. So next time you are ragging on ragweed remember, it is a native plant and it does support a community of insects and birds.

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENTS ON ALL OF CAPE ANN – ‘SAILOR’S DELIGHT’ SUMMERSWEET

Clethra alnifolia is more commonly known by its many descriptive names of Summersweet, Sweet Pepperbush, and Honeysweet. In an old book on fragrance, written by Louise Beebe Wilder, she writes that in Gloucester of old it was described as ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ During the 19th and early 20th century, as told by Wilder, the sailors entering the harbor on homebound ships would reportedly delight in its fragrance wafting out to see.

Much of Niles Pond road is to this day lined with great thickets of ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ Wild Clethra growing on Cape Ann blooms during the month of August.

The following is an excerpt from a book that I wrote back in 2004-2007, which was published by David R. Godine in 2009. The book is about designing landscape habitats for wild creatures and for people, titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester Garden, and all that I wrote then, still holds true to day.

“Summersweet bears small white florets held on racemes, and depending on the cultivar may be shaded with varying hues of pink to rose-red. The tapering spires of fragrant blossoms appear in mid to late summer. Clethra has a sweet and spicy though somewhat pungent aroma, and when the summer air is sultry and humid, the fragrance permeates the garden, Summersweet is a nectar food attractive to bees and a wide variety of butterflies, notably the Silver-spotted Skipper.” See more at Oh GardenMyriad species of bees and butterflies, along with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, are attracted to Clethra for its sweet nectar, while American Robins, Goldfinches and warblers dine on Summersweet’s ripened berries.
Clethra fruits ripening

BEAUTY ON THE WING OFFICIAL SELECTIONS FOR THE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION AND NATURE WITHOUT BORDERS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVALS

Deeply honored to be included in the Nature Without Borders International and Wildlife Conservation Film Festivals

Kim Smith Interview with NHDocs

New Haven Documentary Film Festival presents a Q&A w/Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly director Kim Smith.

A Q&A, , moderated by NHdocs festival supervisor Karyl Evans, which accompanied the virtual screening of the feature documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the 7th annual edition of NHdocs: the New Haven Documentary Film Festival in August 2020.

For more information: www.NHdocs.com

With thanks and gratitude to New Haven Documentary Film Festival director Gorman Bechard and interviewer Karyl Evans for this interview. I am so appreciative of the support given to filmmakers by these two, filmmakers themselves. The festival was beautifully organized and I have received so much positive feedback. What an honor to be accepted!

WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT LAUGHING GULLS?

Laughing Gulls are so named for their wonderfully noisy laugh-like call and a large flock, such as the one seen on our shores lately, is even more fun to listen to.

Laughing Gull in breeding plumage

Strikingly handsome birds in their breeding feathers, with a sharply defined black head contrasting against their crisp white breast and slate gray feathers, the flock that is currently on Cape Ann looks entirely different because they are a varied mixture of mostly juvenile first hatch year, along with adults that are losing their breeding plumage.The younger members wear a contrasting scalloped brown and white pattern on their flight feathers while the adults have smudgey gray heads. All have stout, slightly curved bills; at this time of year the adult’s bills are black although you may see some red remaining in its bill.

Whether adult or juvenile, an easy way to id is that both have a pair of white crescent spots above and below the eye.

All three above are Laughing Gulls

If spotted beside a juvenile Herring Gull, the Laughing Gull is smaller, with more sharply defined plumage.

The Laughing Gulls diet is varied; they eat many invertebrates including snails, crabs, insects, and earthworms. Laughing Gulls also eat berries, fish, squid, and garbage.

Coming in for a landing

Tossed off by a rock by an incoming wave

Laughing Gulls breed in the Northeast and typically depart to winter in Central America and northern South America. They can be found year round along both the Gulf and Southeast coastlines.

PIPING PLOVER (AND OTHER SHOREBIRD) RESTORATION PROJECT SUCCESS STORY AT BARNEGAT LIGHTHOUSE

A dream come true for our Piping Plover friend and PiPl hero Todd Pover.

 

Exciting news to share and Thank You Friends and Donors!

Dear Friends of Beauty on the Wing,

With thanks to all of you who so very kindly have shown support towards Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, I have wonderful news to share. The fundraiser allowed me to complete my documentary, including masters for television broadcasting, and we have a beautiful finished film, worthy of the story of the Monarchs. I worked with an outstanding, talented editor and film finisher, and all around terrific person, Eric Masungua, who owns Modul.US Studios, which is located in the Boston area. Getting a film off the ground during the pandemic has been a challenge and while submitting to film festivals, I jumped ahead a bit and have also been speaking with distributors. I am so happy to share that I signed a contract this week with American Public Television World Wide. APTWW is the largest distributor of educational content in the world and it is a dream come true for Beauty. One of the main objectives in creating the film was to distribute to schools, libraries, and other institutions, as well as translate the narration into Spanish for our south of the border neighbors.

American Public Television World Wide is different from American Public Television Domestic. APTWW distributes to schools, libraries, governments, online, foreign countries, the travel and leisure industry, etc. APT Domestic distributes content to public television stations. I have also been offered a contract with APT Domestic, although one is not contingent upon the other. I did not know that people pay to have their films and shows aired on public television. For example, when you see at the beginning of a broadcast “this show was made possible by the Anninger Foundation,” the Anninger Foundation sponsored the broadcast with many thousands of dollars, paid to PBS. So, the next step for Beauty on the Wing is to approach foundations for sponsorship.

I want to give a huge shout out to Filmmakers Collaborative. FC is a fiscal sponsor for filmmakers and I was made aware of this stellar organization by my friend Nubar Alexanian. FC’s director, Laura Azevedo, and her assistant Kathleen Shugrue, handled the financial aspects of fundraising impeccably. Not only that, but I learned so much about launching a film from the workshops and webinars that they sponsor throughout the year. Filmmakers Collaborative is a tremendous resource for filmmakers. You can visit their website here to learn more about all the programs that they offer, as well as the films they sponsor. I was recently interviewed for the FC website about the making of Beauty and you can read the interview here: Capturing Beauty on the Wing

We’re still planning a local premiere and showings. Signing the contract with APTWW did not preclude that and as soon as the pandemic allows for safe viewing, we’ll have an in person local premiere.

Again, I just want to thank all of you who have supported Beauty on the Wing. I think when you (finally!) see the film, you will be proud that you did.

Stay well and take care.
Very best wishes,
Kim

RARE ROLLING THUNDER CLOUD OVER EASTERN POINT!

I think this is what is meant by a Rolling Thunder Cloud, also called Cumulonimbus Arcus. Click on panoramas to view larger.

 

NEW STUDY BY MONARCH WATCH CHIP TAYLOR REFUTES “MIGRATION MORTALITY” AS THE MAJOR REASON FOR THE DECLINE OF THE MONARCHS

Female Monarch depositing egg on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Evaluating the Migration Mortality Hypothesis Using Monarch Tagging Data

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

August 7, 2020

Authors:

Orley Talor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

John M. Pleastant, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, United States

Ralph Grundel, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Chesterton, IN, United States

Samulel D. Pecoraro, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Chesterton, IN, United States

James P. Lovett, Monarch Watch, Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

Ann Ryan, Monarch Watch, Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

The decline in the eastern North American population of the monarch butterfly population since the late 1990s has been attributed to the loss of milkweed during the summer breeding season and the consequent reduction in the size of the summer population that migrates to central Mexico to overwinter (milkweed limitation hypothesis). However, in some studies the size of the summer population was not found to decline and was not correlated with the size of the overwintering population. The authors of these studies concluded that milkweed limitation could not explain the overwintering population decline. They hypothesized that increased mortality during fall migration was responsible (migration mortality hypothesis). We used data from the long-term monarch tagging program, managed by Monarch Watch, to examine three predictions of the migration mortality hypothesis: (1) that the summer population size is not correlated with the overwintering population size, (2) that migration success is the main determinant of overwintering population size, and (3) that migration success has declined over the last two decades. As an index of the summer population size, we used the number of wild-caught migrating individuals tagged in the U.S. Midwest from 1998 to 2015. As an index of migration success we used the recovery rate of Midwest tagged individuals in Mexico. With regard to the three predictions: (1) the number of tagged individuals in the Midwest, explained 74% of the variation in the size of the overwintering population. Other measures of summer population size were also correlated with overwintering population size. Thus, there is no disconnection between late summer and winter population sizes. (2) Migration success was not significantly correlated with overwintering population size, and (3) migration success did not decrease during this period. Migration success was correlated with the level of greenness of the area in the southern U.S. used for nectar by migrating butterflies. Thus, the main determinant of yearly variation in overwintering population size is summer population size with migration success being a minor determinant. Consequently, increasing milkweed habitat, which has the potential of increasing the summer monarch population, is the conservation measure that will have the greatest impact.

Introduction

Since the late 1990s, the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, population has declined significantly based on measurements made at the Mexican overwintering grounds (Brower et al., 2011; Semmens et al., 2016). Identifying the cause or causes of the decline is important in order to focus conservation measures appropriately. Two explanations for the decline in the size of the overwintering population dominate the literature. The first, known as the “milkweed limitation” hypothesis, posits that the decline in the number of milkweed host plants in the major summer breeding area in the Upper Midwest of the U.S. (Figure 1) has led to a reduction in the size of the migratory population (Pleasants et al., 2017). The second, known as the “migration mortality” hypothesis, posits that the resources and conditions during the fall migration have declined resulting in an increase in mortality during the migration and a decline in the overwintering population (Agrawal and Inamine, 2018).

Figure 1. All wild-caught butterflies tagged from north of 40° latitude and east of 100° longitude were included in the study. This area includes the region we are calling the Midwest, encompassing the area from 40 to 50° latitude and 80 to 100° longitude (outlined in red) and the region we are calling the Northeast, encompassing the area from 40 to 50° latitude and 65 to 80° longitude (outlined in blue). What we are calling the Total Area is the Midwest and Northeast combined. The NDVI values (Saunders et al., 2019) come from the region that encompasses the area from 30 to 40° latitude and 90 to 105° longitude (outlined in green). The dark blue square indicates the location of the overwintering colonies. Butterflies were tagged in other sectors besides the Midwest and Northeast but those data are not included in this study.

The milkweed limitation hypothesis is supported by data showing that in the early 2000s the majority of monarch production came from common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, in corn and soybean fields in the Midwest (Oberhauser et al., 2001) and that the abundance of those milkweeds declined precipitously due to glyphosate herbicide use in those fields (Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2013; Flockhart et al., 2015; Pleasants et al., 2017; Thogmartin et al., 2017a; Saunders et al., 2018). The loss of the milkweeds from corn and soybean fields began in the late 1990s with the adoption of glyphosate-tolerant crops. Milkweeds had been nearly eliminated from these fields by 2006 (Pleasants, 2017). During this period, an estimated 71% of the monarch production potential of milkweeds on the Midwest landscape was eliminated, amounting to 25 million hectares of agricultural habitat that no longer had milkweeds (Pleasants, 2017). The subsequent decrease in the availability of milkweed is thought to have limited the size of the summer breeding population. Support for this hypothesis comes from the pattern of decline in milkweed availability that parallels the decline in the size of the overwintering population (Pleasants et al., 2017). Further support comes from the strong correlation between yearly late summer Midwest monarch egg production and yearly overwintering population size (Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2013; Pleasants et al., 2017).

READ MORE HERE

“BEAUTY ON THE WING” AT THE NEW HAVEN DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL!

I am so excited to share that the New Haven Documentary Film Festival begins on Tuesday the 18th. Because of the pandemic, much of the festival is online. Beauty on the Wing will begin airing at 11am on the 21st. There is also an interview about the making of Beauty on the Wing with myself and Karyl Evans.

Very unfortunately  and yet another consequence of the pandemic, the films in the program are geoblocked, which means they can only be viewed in Connecticut. Not to worry though, as soon as it is safe, we will have a local premiere and I am very much looking forward to that!

For any of my readers in Connecticut, if you are interested in purchasing a ticket, please GO HERE

To learn more about the New Haven Documentary Film Festival, click here.

See the NHdocs 2020 trailer here (with lots of clips from Beauty on the Wing!) –

Beauty on the Wing Movie Poster

Version two of Monarch movie poster, with laurels!

INSTAGRAM HACK!

Friends, my Instagram account was hacked and it was super creepy. My kimsmithdesigns account and monarchbutterflyfilm account are temporarily disabled. If you would like to follow me on instagram, I have a new account, kimsmithfilms. Please follow at kimsmithfilms if you would like to connect on Instagram. Thank you so much! Monarch Butterfly and blue Rose of Sharon

RED FOX KIT IN THE HOOD!

This morning on my way out I saw the most gratifying sight. A Red Fox KIT was carrying a captured rabbit in its mouth! Why so happy to see this? Because it means our neighborhood Red Fox family is dispersing, the Mama and Papa fox have taught the kits well, and that the young ones are able to hunt for themselves! The moment was so fleeting I wasn’t able to take a photo but the sighting reminded me that I hadn’t finished posting the last batch of photos from the week with the Good Harbor Beach Red Fox Family.

Face to face encounter with a kit – I was very quietly filming his siblings when I heard a faint scraping/rustling noise behind me and turned to see this curious one, perched on a garage roof above looking down. We were only several feet apart and for many good long moments we were able to examine each other eye to eye before he scampered off the roof. Dad Red Fox

I just want to add for the benefit of people who think Red Fox are a nuisance and may even be a bit frightened by their presence. Red Fox are solitary animals (unless denning). They do not hunt in packs and are about half to two-thirds the size of the Eastern Coyote, also seen in our neighborhoods. Their diet consists largely of small rodents, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, fruits, berries, and insects. Generally speaking, they do not go after people’s cats and dogs.

A tremendous plus to having Red Fox in our community is that they are the best hunters of mice and chipmunks, far better than Eastern Coyotes. Chipmunks and mice are the greatest vectors (carriers) of Lyme disease. So the presence of Red Fox is a good thing to help cut down on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Because Red Fox compete with Eastern Coyotes for habitat, and because Coyotes eat fox kits, Red Fox are denning closer to human dwellings as they deem it a safer choice than denning where they may encounter a Coyote.

The one drawback  to the presence of Red Fox is that they also eat chickens. I am sure. you have heard the phrase don’t allow the ‘fox to guard the henhouse.’ The root of that phrase comes from the fact that unlike many of their competing predators, fox cache their food, meaning they will kill a large number, and then hide the food, which has been known to happen at henhouses.

Here are some fun facts I learned about Red Fox while photographing and filming the Good Harbor Beach fox family –

Red Fox are super fast runners that can reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. And they  can also leap more than six feet high!

The Red Fox was originally thought to be introduced from Europe in the 19th century, recent DNA tests have shown that these foxes are indeed native to North America.

To keep warm in winter, the Red Fox uses its bushy tail.

Enjoy any fox sightings, Red or Gray, and please let me know if you are continuing to see them in your neighborhood.

TREMENDOUS NEWS!!! Court Overturns Trump Administration Policy That Sharply Curtailed Protections for Migratory Birds

Just a few of the species of wildlife found on Cape Ann that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treat Act of 1918!

From the Center for Biological Diversity

NEW YORK— A federal court today overturned a Trump administration reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that had upended decades of enforcement and let industry polluters entirely off the hook for killing birds.

The administration argued the law only applied to intentional killing of birds and not “incidental” killing from industrial activities, including oil spills, electrocutions on power lines, development and other activities that kill millions of birds every year.

The reinterpretation was first put in place in December 2017 through a legal opinion authored by the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior and former Koch Industries employee, Daniel Jorjani. This opinion was already allowing birds to be killed across the country.

Citing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni wrote that “if the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence.”

In rejecting the Jorjani opinion, the court noted that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it unlawful to kill birds “by any means whatever or in any manner” — thus the administration’s interpretation could not be squared with the plain language of the statute.

Had the Trump administration’s policy been in place at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, for example, British Petroleum would have avoided paying more than $100 million in fines to support wetland and migratory bird conservation to compensate for more than a million birds the accident was estimated to have killed.

The policy was put in place over objections from Canada, a co-signer of the treaty that led to the law. Scientists now estimate North American birds have declined by 29% overall since 1970, amounting to roughly 3 billion fewer birds.

Since the Jorjani opinion, snowy owls and other raptors have been electrocuted by perching on uninsulated power lines in Delaware, Maryland, Tennessee and North Dakota – with no consequences for the responsible utilities. Oil spills in Massachusetts, Idaho and Washington, all of which caused the subsequent deaths of many birds, did not prompt any penalties. Landscapers in San Diego were reported to have thrown live mourning dove chicks into a tree shredder, prompting a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services agent to go undercover to investigate. But the case was closed with no action taken due to the changed policy.

“The Trump administration’s policy was nothing more than a cruel, bird-killing gift to polluters and we’re elated it has been vacated,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Birds are in real trouble across the United States. We must do everything we can to ensure they continue to brighten our skies and sing to us in the morning, for which they ask nothing in return.”

“The court’s decision is a ringing victory for conservationists who have fought to sustain the historical interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect migratory birds from industrial harms,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “The Department of the Interior’s wrong-head reinterpretation would have left the fate of more than 1,000 species of birds in the hands of industry. At a time when our nation’s migratory birds are under escalating threats, we should be creating a reasonable permit program to ensure effective conservation and compliance, rather than stripping needed protections for birds.”

“This decision confirms that Interior’s utter failure to uphold the conservation mandate of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service simply cannot stand up in a court of law,” said Katie Umekubo, senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The MBTA protects millions of birds and the Trump administration’s reckless efforts to rollback bird protections to benefit polluters don’t fool anyone.”

“Today’s commonsense ruling is a much-needed win for migratory birds and the millions of Americans who cherish them,” said Mike Parr, president of American Bird Conservancy. “The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is one of our nation’s most important environmental laws, and has spurred industry innovation to protect birds, such as screening off toxic waste pits and marking power lines to reduce collisions. This decision represents the next vital step on the path to restoring our nation’s declining bird populations and is a major victory for birds and the environment.”

“Like the clear crisp notes of the wood thrush, today’s court decision cuts through all the noise and confusion to unequivocally uphold the most effective bird conservation law on the books–the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” said Sarah Greenberger, interim chief conservation officer for the National Audubon Society. “This is a huge victory for birds and it comes at a critical time. Science tells us that we’ve lost 3 billion birds in less than a human lifetime and that two-thirds of North American birds are at risk of extinction due to climate change.”

“Migratory birds are once again protected in the United States from industrial and other threats, thanks to a court ruling rejecting the Administration’s blatant misinterpretation of protections Congress put in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” said Mike Leahy, director of wildlife, hunting and fishing policy at the National Wildlife federation. “Common-sense measures to protect birds like the snowy egret, wood duck and greater sandhill crane have been restored, and bird advocates, affected industries, and Congress can now focus on developing a permit program to reduce harms to birds and impacts to businesses through best management practices.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at http://www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at http://www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization, uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Protected piping plover chick illegally removed from RI beach dies

Piping Plover ambassador Deb Brown shared the following story. My readers know not to pick up a chick alone on the beach but please help spread the word. If you see someone attempting to do so, let them know that the parents are more than likely close by and waiting for “the rescuer” to leave the area.  Keep your eye on the chick from 100 feet away and if after an hour an adult is not spotted in the vicinity, contact USFWS or a local rehabber. It is against the law to handle Piping Plover chicks.  A protected piping plover chick that was illegally removed from a Westerly beach receives care at a wildlife center in Massachusetts. The chick later died. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Protected piping plover chick illegally removed from RI beach dies

by JESSICA A. BOTELHO, NBC 10 NEWS

The death of a protected piping plover chick that was illegally removed from a Westerly beach has prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Massachusetts to remind everyone that the birds should not be touched.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asks that people do not disturb or interfere with plovers or other wildlife,” the agency noted Monday in a press release, adding that the chick became ill after vacationers brought it home with them.

“Members of the public should never handle wildlife or remove it from the area before contacting authorities,” according to the release.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the vacationers brought the chick to a Massachusetts wildlife rehabilitator when it began to show signs of poor health.

It was eventually transferred to Tufts Wildlife Clinic, and then to Cape Wildlife in Barnstable, because its condition rapidly worsened and it later died.

“Despite the best efforts of veterinarians, the chick had become too weak from the ordeal and died,” according to the agency.

Piping plovers are protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Maureen Durkin, who is the Service’s plover coordinator for Rhode Island, said handling wild animals does more harm than good. She added that with such a small population of plovers, every single bird makes a difference.

“By sharing our beaches and leaving the birds undisturbed, we give plovers the best chance to successfully raise chicks each year,” Durkin said, with the release noting that about 85 pairs of piping plovers breed in Rhode Island “under the close watch of several agencies.”

It is illegal to possess or handle most wildlife, especially threatened and endangered species.

Piping plovers are on that list and should not be disturbed.

“While wild animals may appear to be ‘orphaned,’ they usually are not; parents are often waiting nearby for humans to leave. Plover chicks are able to run and feed themselves, and even if they appear to be alone, their parents are usually in the vicinity. Baby songbirds, seal pups, and fawns are also at risk from being removed from the wild unnecessarily by people mistaking them for orphans. If a young animal is encountered alone in the wild, the best course of action is typically to leave the area. In most cases the parents will return without human intervention,” the release noted.

In 2018, two piping plovers were found nesting in a strip of vegetation that was sprouting from a crack in a parking lot at Roger Wheeler State Beach in Narragansett.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management worked to protect the plovers and their nest, giving them “a safe passage” to the beach when they hatched.

DEM described piping plovers as small sand-colored shorebirds. They breed on Atlantic beaches from Newfoundland and southeastern Quebec to North Carolina.

LION’S MANE JELLYFISH AT NILES BEACH TODAY!

A larger-than-dinner-plate-sized Lion’s Mane Jellyfish was spotted at Niles Beach today by Charlotte and I. We alerted the lifeguards, who dug it up and placed it in a red biohazard bag. Although quite dead, the sting can sill be felt upon contact.

The following are a description and some fun facts from wiki –

The lion’s mane jellyfish, also known as the giant jellyfish or the hair jelly, is one of the largest known species of jellyfish. Its range is confined to cold, boreal waters of the Arctic, northern Atlantic, and northern Pacific Oceans. It is common in the English Channel, Irish Sea, North Sea, and in western Scandinavian waters south to Kattegat and Øresund. It may also drift into the southwestern part of the Baltic Sea (where it cannot breed due to the low salinity). Similar jellyfish – which may be the same species – are known to inhabit seas near Australia and New Zealand.

The largest recorded specimen was measured by Alexander Agassiz off the coast of Massachusetts in 1865 and had a bell with a diameter of 210 centimetres (7 feet) and tentacles around 36.6 m (120 ft) long. Lion’s mane jellyfish have been observed below 42°N latitude for some time in the larger bays of the east coast of the United States.

The lion’s mane jellyfish uses its stinging tentacles to capture, pull in, and eat prey such as fish, zooplankton, sea creatures, and smaller jellyfish.

As coldwater species, these jellyfish cannot cope with warmer waters. The jellyfish are pelagic for most of their lives but tend to settle in shallow, sheltered bays toward the end of their one-year lifespan. In the open ocean, lion’s mane jellyfish act as floating oases for certain species, such as shrimp, medusafish, butterfish, harvestfish, and juvenile prowfish, providing both a reliable source of food and protection from predators.

Predators of the lion’s mane jellyfish include seabirds, larger fish such as ocean sunfish, other jellyfish species, and sea turtles. The leatherback sea turtle feeds almost exclusively on them in large quantities during the summer season around Eastern CanadaThe jellyfish themselves feed mostly on zooplankton, small fish, ctenophores, and moon jellies.

Most encounters cause temporary pain and localized redness. In normal circumstances, and in healthy individuals, their stings are not known to be fatal. Vinegar can be used to deactivate the nematocysts, but due to the large number of tentacles, medical attention is recommended after exposure.

There may be a significant difference between touching a few tentacles with fingertips at a beach and accidentally swimming into one. The initial sensation is more strange than painful and feels like swimming into warmer and somewhat effervescent water. Some minor pains will soon follow. Normally there is no real danger to humans (with the exception of people suffering from special allergies). But in cases when someone has been stung over large parts of their body by not just the longest tentacles but the entire jellyfish (including the inner tentacles, of which there are around 1,200, medical attention is recommended as systemic effects can be present. Although rare, at deep water severe stings can also cause panic followed by drowning.

On a July day in 2010, around 150 beachgoers were stung by the remains of a lion’s mane jellyfish that had broken up into countless pieces in Wallis Sands State Beach, Rye, New Hampshire, in the United States. Considering the size of the species, it is possible that this incident was caused by a single specimen.

WITH THANKS AND DEEP APPRECIATION FOR OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER AMBASSADORS

Jonathan, Sally, Jennie, Heidi, Barbara, Sue, Deb, Jane, Duncan, and Bette Jean

Last night we had our end of the season Piping Plover Ambassadors get together. It’s so challenging with the pandemic because I just wanted so much to hug everyone and thank them for the fantastic job they did. Thanks to their enthusiasm, dedication, interest, and kindness, we were able to fledge our little Marshmallow. It’s not the number of birds that fledge that matters, but that they are in good health when they depart and our Marshmallow was strong and well fortified after a season of healthy, and largely uninterrupted, foraging at Good Harbor Beach.

A heartfelt thank you to all who helped make 2020 a tremendously joyous Piping Plover season!

Deb Brown made the funniest and most charming Marshmallow cupcakes (and they were delicious, too)! Don’t you think it should be a tradition?

Charlotte loving her marshmallow cupcake! 

 

The following is the text of the program that I gave at this year’s Coastal Waterbird meeting –

Program for Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators Meeting

The Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors

Thank you to Carolyn Mostello for the invitation to talk about our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassadors Program.

It is an honor and a joy to be included in the annual cooperators meeting.

Thanks so much to Carolyn for also providing advice and guidance throughout the course of the 2020 Piping Plover season. Early on, she shared a phrase she uses, Educate, Not Enforce and I found that sharing that thought with our Ambassadors really conveyed how we wanted to treat our community.

Good Harbor Beach is Gloucester’s most highly populated stretch of shoreline. Less than two miles long, during the summer months the beach is packed with beach goers from morning until after sunset. And because of the pandemic, Good Harbor has become even more popular.

We had a small but truly stellar group of people this year: Deb Brown, Jane Marie, Bette Jean, Jennie, Jonathan, Sally, Shelby, Barbara, Heidi, Duncan, and myselfBetween the bunch of us we were able to provide coverage from 5:30 am to 8:30pm, from sunrise until sunset. I asked each person to commit to an hour a day simply because in the past there was too much confusion with scheduling, where some people could volunteer for an hour one day a week, or only on Tuesdays, etc. An hour a day, seven days a week, for a month is a tremendous volunteer commitment but no one seemed daunted, people volunteered for even longer time frames, and I think everyone’s time with the PiPls became something that they looked forward to very much.

After everybody’s shift, we shared our notes in the group’s email chain and to a person, it was always positive and informative. 

We have been working in partnership with Essex County Greenbelt Association’s director of land stewardship, Dave Rimmer, who over the course of the past five years has provided help and guidance with everything Piping Plover and has given freely and generously of his time. Our Ward One City Councilor, Scott Memhard, has been super helpful in navigating the City’s role in Piping Plover management and we have also been working with the City of Gloucester’s Department of Public Works. Many of the DPW crew have taken a genuine interest in the birds, as has our Mayor Sefatia.  

 Our number one goal from early on has been to keep Good Harbor Beach open while also protecting the Plovers. 

The most important thing has been to build a solid relationship with the community about why it is so important to protect threatened and endangered species. For the first four years that the Piping Plovers had been at Good Harbor Beach, I thought that writing stories, photographing, and filmmaking; sharing how beautiful, tiny, resilient, funny, spunky, and just plain adorable Piping Plovers are, people would fall in love and just naturally do the right thing. The thing is, 99 percent of people do fall in love when introduced and do want to help protect the Plovers, but there is always that 1 percent that simply does not care.

I’ve learned through experience that the very best way to handle difficult situations is to not engage, and most pointedly, to not mention enforcement. Especially during this age of coronavirus when we know people may be struggling and be very much on edge, the last thing we want to do is provoke a confrontation. We changed the name from Piping Plover Monitors, to Piping Plover Ambassadors, which has a much friendlier ring.  This year we had a mostly new crew of volunteers and at the onset of this year’s first Piping Plover meeting we made it very clear that we were not to approach anyone about their behavior. We were there to speak positively about the birds, share information, and answer any and all questions.  

For example, in the case where someone was walking directly toward a tiny newborn hatchling, we would say, “Hello, and have you had a chance to see our Piping Plover baby birds? Here, let me show you.” Several of the volunteers even shared their binoculars. That’s just one example, but by keeping a positive tone, people were just so thrilled to catch a glimpse and to learn about the birds on the beach.

 One change that has really made a monumental difference is that we worked really hard to successfully change the City’s dog ordinance, which is now written to disallow all dogs on the beach, at all times of the day, beginning April 1st, rather than May 1st. There are still scofflaws, but this one change has greatly reduced tensions.

Next year I am planning to do more community outreach prior to the PiPls arrival. I have developed a program, which I was hoping to give freely to local audiences at places such as our Sawyer Free Library and Cape Ann Museum in the spring but because of the virus, that will have to wait until next year. I think presenting programs about the birds will also be a way to help recruit ambassadors. 

One of our young Piping Plover fans who followed the bird’s stories daily, five-year-old Zoe, nicknamed our one surviving PiPl Marshmallow. Next year I think it would be great to have a Piping Plover naming contest as well as a Piping Plover art poster sign project for young people. 

We also think it would be very helpful to have brochures, with fun photos and a brief outline of the life story of the Plovers to give to interested beachgoers. My one concern with that is generating litter. We made our own 24 x 36-inch signs on coroplast boards that could be placed easily in the sand and moved about, depending on where the chicks were foraging that day. These signs were a little bit funny and helped bring attention to the birds in a super friendly manner.

I am so grateful for the advice given by Carolyn at the onset of the season and for our Ambassadors. This kind, thoughtful group of people who came together in the worst of times, knowing that despite all the problems in the world and the personal toll the pandemic has taken on us all, taking care of threatened and endangered species remained a priority, and in a summer such as 2020, perhaps the birds needed even more special care.

NEW SHORT FILM – MARVELOUS MARSHMALLOW MONTAGE!

On Tuesday I attended the annual Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting. This was my third year attending the conference. I love every minute and find them wonderfully educational. During a normal year, they take place on Cape Cod; this year was virtual. I took tons of screen shots of interesting data and and am writing an article about  the meeting and what we learned is taking place at regions all around Massachusetts, as well as at other New England States. More to come 🙂

I was asked to make two presentations, one to share a film about Marshmallow and the second presentation, to talk about our Ambassador program. I’ll share the text of the second program tomorrow, and in the meantime, here is a short video, the finished version, of our marvelous Marshmallow Montage

Thank you to Peter Van Demark for adding marvelous to Marshmallow’s name 🙂

For more about Piping Plovers, please see the Piping Plover Film Project page on my website. The page is progress but here you will find short films, information about my Atlantic Coast Piping Plover lecture program, photos, and links to hundreds of articles and posts that I have written from 2016 to the present (articles from 2019 have not yet been organized into the list).

 

 

LEAST TERN BABES AT BEAUTIFUL WINTHROP SHORE RESERVATION

Several weeks ago on my way home for work, I stopped by one of my favorite places to film and photograph, Winthrop Shore Reservation. I began filming there several years ago because I thought it would be super helpful for our community to understand what was happening with Piping Plovers at beaches similar to Good Harbor Beach, similar in that they are urban beaches located in densely populated neighborhoods and are managed without the 24/7 protection of the Trustees (Crane Beach) or the USFWS (Plum Island).

What I discovered there was so much more than the story of WSR Piping Plovers and have since been filming and documenting many species of birds that call Winthrop Shore Reservation home throughout the four seasons, including the Least Tern colony, Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings, a family of Great Blue Herons, Oystercatchers, and Killdeers.

On my visit of several weeks ago there were so many Least Tern nestlings, fledglings, and juveniles, I was afraid to walk through the rocky shore for fear of stepping on a nestling. In their soft hues of buffy peach, gray, and ivory, the wee ones were perfectly camouflaged, tucked in and amongst the wind- and weather-worn monochromatic stones.

Tiny Killdeer chicks and newly hatched Piping Plovers were also running about the Tern colony. I left with a heart full of joy at seeing so much new life in such an extraordinary location, extraordinary in the sense that it was only a few short years ago that Winthrop Shore Reservation underwent a major restoration, renovation, and renourishment project, which was undertaken by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation. I’d say the renourishment aspect of the project has been a whopping success!!!

Ready for take-off!

Piping Plover and Killdeer chicks at Winthrop

Nesting Least Tern

Least Tern in flight

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #4, WINTHROP BEACH IS AMAZING, AND LOTS OF SEX ON THE BEACH

Fishing For Sex

Least Tern One Day Old Chicks!

Two-Day-Old Least Tern Chicks

STUCK BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE