Category Archives: MassWildlife

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)

BEAUTY ON THE WING AT THE SHALIN LIU! AND THANK YOU NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS!!!

Good Morning Butterfly Friends!

Don’t you love these last days of summer, they are simply so atmospherically glowing! According to the calendar, September 22nd marks the official beginning of autumn but if this balmy weather continues we still have many days ahead of warm golden light to look forward to.

The Monarch’s are on the move with continuous reports from all around the region of great flyovers and stopovers at meadows and friend’s gardens. I thought I was done rearing butterflies but a beautiful Mama stopped in our garden on Monday where she deposited dozens and dozens of eggs. More about that when I have time to write the story about why this happens. My friend Lauren was getting milkweed for the last of her caterpillars. She found an egg on one of the milkweed plants and it hatched yesterday! These late hatching Monarchs most likely won’t make it to Mexico, but they may travel as far as Florida where they will spend the cooler months there.

Female Monarch in the garden depositing eggs on September 13, 2021. Note the two tiny pin-head sized eggs on the milkweed leaf.

I am very delighted and proud to announce that we have our first corporate contributor/underwriter, New England Biolabs, Inc. We are equally as proud to write that New England Biolabs is a certified B Corporation, which means that a Certified B Corporation, or B Corp as it is commonly referred to, is a for-profit company that meets the highest level of third-party verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. More about New England Biolabs and its founder, Donald G. Comb’s love of butterflies, in an upcoming post.

I have been working like crazy making posters and postcards for the upcoming screening, along with preparing images and artwork for American Public Television and PBS. It’s all pretty exciting, and also a bit nerve wracking, as this is the first time Beauty on the Wing will be appearing in front of a live audience on the big screen. We have printed a few extra posters. Any suggestions of where would be the best place to post, please write. Many thanks to Samantha at Seaside Graphicsfor her excellent advice in printing! The screening and Q and A are next Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm.

I hope so much that all our friends who have supported Beauty so greatly, through interest and good will and/or contributions, will be able to attend. Please spread the word to your friends and family.  The screening is early enough in the evening that I think school age kids can attend and will really enjoy. Please be assured that this is a masked event and proof of vaccination may be required.

That Beauty on the Wing is having its live premiere at the Sahlin Liu is a full circle moment. Jesse Cook, the artist whose transcendent music you hear in the documentary, played at the Shalin Liu several years ago, pre Covid. Link to the concert photos at the Shalin Liu “Follow the Road

Here is the link to the lovely Rockport Music/Shalin Liu listing. Many thanks to Rockport Music’s Michelle Alekson for creating the page!

Happy September Days!

xoKim

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

Lauren Mercadante, New England Biolabs, Inc., 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, Susan Pollack

New Poster –

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!

MONARCHS (AND OTHER BUTTS) IN THE JOE-PYE!

Why do we plant Joe-pye Weed? Especially a plant with a common name that ends in Weed?

Because it is beloved by every pollinator in the hood!

Let me count the Ways – a nectar plant for Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, American Ladies, Monarchs, all manner of bees, and many more beneficial insects!

Joe-pye Weed is a native wildflower and wonderfully easy to grow. It does best in full sun, but will tolerate some shade and the blooms last longer in part shade. The plant does prefer average to moist soil, but if planted in dryer conditions, provide shade and water.

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.  For the latest update with PBS, please go here: Over the Moon. 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.

WHY ARE THERE GOLD DOTS ON A MONARCH CHRYSALIS?

Glimmering sparkly gold in the sunlight, a question often asked is why is the Monarch chrysalis adorned with metallic dots and dashes? The gold dots serve the function of oxygen exchange but that doesn’t answer how and why the dots are gold.

Since time immemorial people have noticed the brilliant golden dots, dashes, and gold leafing of many species of butterfly chrysalides. The word chrysalis originates from the Greek word “chrysos,” which means gold.

There are are several hypotheses. The two that make the most sense are deterrents to predators and camouflage.

For the same reason the iridescent scales of the Blue Morpho Butterfly flash light when the butterfly is in flight, the golden markings of the chrysalis catch light, confusing and deterring predators.

Butterfly pupae are protein-rich easy targets. They are too busy rearranging their insides while undergoing metamorphosis to fend off predators. For the most part, throughout a butterfly’s life cycle, from caterpillar to chrysalis to adult, each species has evolved with specific-to-that-species warning and/or camouflage markings.

The chrysalis of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly is a perfect example. When the butterfly pupates in the spring and summer, the chrysalis has a soft golden green hue, which blends beautifully with the lush green of summer foliage.

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis newly formed

When the butterfly pupates late in the summer, the chrysalis turns woody brown, taking on the same hues of bare tree branches.

Golden studs, dashes, and leafing reflect the surrounding area, create flashes of light, look like drops of dew, shafts of light, and is some cases, such as that of the Tigerwing Butterfly, may frighten a predator when it sees its own reflection.

Tigerwing Butterfly (Tithorea harmonia) Photo by Desus Mortus

How the gold is formed is easier to pinpoint. Metallic and iridescent markings in butterflies are created when both pigmented cells (in this case yellow carotenoids) and structural cells are present. You see carotenoids present when trees turn yellow, gold, and orange in autumn. The Monarch caterpillar gets its carotenoids from the plant it eats, milkweed.

The crown of the Monarch pupa is called a diadem. If you look closely at the diadem, it’s a raised structure, a line of tiny hills. The combination of the raised hills and carotenoids present both absorb and reflects the light, creating the appearance of shiny gold.

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!

PRECIOUS GEMS IN THE GARDEN!

Gems more precious than jade.

The pupating Monarch caterpillar spins a fine mat of silky threads, to which the little black post, called the cremaster, attaches during pupation. Thirty or so of these jade-like pendants are in the garden and readying to emerge.   

Twins!

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!

MONARCH FLOWER BUD BABIES

The Mama Monarch of these three early instar caterpillars deposited her eggs on the buds of Common Milkweed. I see this behavior often, not as much as on the leaves, but often enough.

The three hatched and stayed foraging on the flowers, where they were well camouflaged in their early instar paler colors. By the third molt, they had all three moved off the blossoms and were foraging on foliage.

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!

MONARCHS EMERGING AT BREAKFAST

Last weekend watching the Monarchs emerge at breakfast – I think Charlotte loves butterflies nearly as much as do I <3

 

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

YOUR DAILY MONARCH BUTTERFLY PHOTO AND WHY WE LOVE JOE-PYE WILDFLOWER!

With wonderfully exuberant pollinator friendly flower clusters atop 7 -12 foot tall stalks, what is not to love! Plant Joe-pye in a sunny location at the back of the border and enjoy the array of bees and butterflies that will flock to the nectar-rich blossoms.

More reasons to love Joe-pye is that it is low maintenance, attracts pollinators, is deer resistant, not flattened by rain, not bothered by diseases, blooms when Monarchs are on the wing, and is super easy to grow.

Coming in for a landing

 

NEW FILM FOR MONARCH KIDS: THE MARVELOUS MAGNIFICENT MIGRATING MONARCH! AVAILABLE TO VIEW FOR FREE

Dear Monarch Friends,

Last week the short film about Monarchs created for the Sawyer Free Library children’s program had lots of interest. The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch! finished its run at the SFLibrary and I thought I would love to share it with you and the youngest members of your family. Many, many thanks to Justine Vitale, Sawyer Free Library Department Supervisor, for encouraging me to create this short film for children!!

At about four minutes in, Charlotte demonstrates an uncomplicated and fun method of raising  Monarchs caterpillars. She has been doing this with me since she was two, and you can see how simple it is to set up a terrarium.

The number of Monarchs in gardens, meadows and dunes over the past month has been nothing but extraordinary. Simply going no further than on our front porch and in my garden (not quite recovered from broken leg yet), I have photographed countless females depositing eggs along with many battles of male to male combat as they stake out their patch of wildflowers and milkweed while patrolling for females.

Circling round for a sneak attack

Battle Royale over the Joe-pye wildflower (Eupatorium). What makes this patch of Joe-Pye so attractive to the males is that is it located adjacent to a patch of Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate)

Over the past few days, the Monarchs have been settling down a bit, which happens every year toward the mid to end of August. I think the butterflies we have been seeing battling and depositing eggs may be the parents of the Methuselah Monarchs. This newly emerging batch of caterpillars may very well be the generation of Super Monarchs, the ones that journey to Mexico.

I am so hopeful for the future of this tiny marvel of nature. I hope The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch is easy for your youngsters to follow along and to understand, and also provides you with some tips on how we can all help the butterflies. Safe travels Monarchs!

My deepest gratitude and thanks to all who are contributing to the second phase of launching Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of  the Monarch Butterfly out into the world, the world of Public Television. To date we have raised close to $18,000.00 toward our goal of $51,000.00.

For more information on how you can help launch Beauty on the Wing to the American Public Television audience, please go here.

DONATE HERE

Thank you so very much to all these kind contributors:

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.

Female depositing eggs on Common Milkweed seedpod

 

 

PIPING PLOVER GREAT NEWS UPDATE AND NEW SHORT FILM!

Good morning dear PiPl Friends!

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying these beautiful dog days of August. I sure miss you all!

Last week I had the joy to attend the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting. Next year we are all hoping for in person but for the past two years, the organizers have done  a fantastic job creating an interesting and engaging online event.

The meeting is held annually to bring together people and organizations that are involved with population monitoring and conservation efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds. Threatened and endangered species, which include Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Roseate Terns, and American Oystercatchers, are given the greatest attention.

Nahant Beach chicks hatch day

Participants were invited by Carolyn Mostello, Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist and the event organizer, to submit to the “Strange and Unusual” part of the program. I created a short film about the Nahant Piping Plovers. It was extraordinary to observe the Nahant PiPl Dad valiantly try to rescue an egg after the king tides of Memorial Day weekend. You can see the video here:

Conservation organizations from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby New England states, including representatives from Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the local organizations presenting at the meeting were Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Essex Greenbelt, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Mass Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.

In the morning, each region gave the 2021 population census report for nesting birds as well as providing information about problems and solutions. We all share similar challenges with predation from crows and gulls, uncontrolled dogs, enforcement, extremely high tides, storm washout, and habitat loss and it was very interesting to learn about how neighboring communities are managing problems and issues.

Unfortunately because of a doctor’s appointment, I had to miss the first part during which Trustees of Reservations Coastal Ecologist Jeff Denoncour presented on behalf of the North of Boston region, of which Gloucester and Rockport are a part.

I am hoping to get the stats from the part of the meeting that I missed and will share those as soon as they are available.

The absolutely tremendous news is that New England is doing fantastically well, particularly when compared to other regions. The policies of New England conservation organizations are extremely successful and are truly making an impactful difference, as you can see from the graph.

As Massachusetts citizens, we can give ourselves a collective pat on the back for the great work our state is accomplishing. The strides being made in Massachusetts are because of the dynamic partnerships between conservation organizations, towns, citizen scientists, volunteers, and ambassadors, just like ourselves, all working together!

Above two screenshots courtesy Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators event.

Super PiPl Ambassador Jonathan Golding sent a photo of two Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach. I can’t get down to the Creek bed but I stood on the footbridge Saturday morning and took several snapshots of two Plovers that were way down the Creek. The pair were foraging together when suddenly they began piping their beautiful melodic peeps and off they flew together down the Creek.

If folks are wondering if the Plovers at the Creek are the Salt Island Dad and chick that went missing, these two are not them. Our Salt Island chick  would be about 31 days and would look more like this 33 day old chick from 2019. And it would not be flying as well as the Plovers seen in the photos from Saturday morning.

Have a great rest of your weekend!

xxKim


33 day old PiPl chick, from 2019

Plovers at the Creek Saturday morning –

Pair of Piping Plovers a Good Harbor Beach, August 7

Nahant hatch day chick, June 1, 2021

 

 

 

 

SALT ISLAND UPDATE and we have the swimmingest Plovers ever at Good Harbor Beach!

Good morning dear lovers of all things PiPl!

I hope everyone is doing well. I sure miss seeing you at the beaches.

Salt Island Update (thank you to our Ward One Councilor Scott Memhard for the information) – the Salt Island hearing has been postponed upon Mr. Martignetti’s request. The hearing will be rescheduled for August.

In the meantime we can add Adrienne Lennon, the Conservation Commission clerk to the people who we should be sending our emails to –

alennon@gloucester-ma.gov

Please also send an email to Robert Gulla, the Conservation Commission co-chair  –

rgulla@robertgulla.com.

You can find a list of all members of the Conservation Commission here: https://gloucester-ma.gov/1027/Conservation-Commission, where their snail mail only addresses are provided

Several years ago, in 2019 I believe, our GHB PiPls began swimming daily across the Creek to forage on the other side. This year Junior was observed swimming, and now our littlest is also swimming.

PiPl Ambassador Deb writes, “Here’s the story. Dad and chick were feeding in different spots along the creek, then stopped to take a rest at the end of the creek. When they got back to work, Dad flew to the other side of the creek; chick dabbled her feet in the water, then swam over to the other side. At that point the creek was only about three feet wide.”
Deb sent a video but I am having trouble uploading. Thank you Deb for sharing! Here is the video from 2019 – Gloucester Plovers Go swimming

Have a great day!

xoKim

 

EVERYONE’S HELP IS NEEDED TO SAVE SALT ISLAND FROM DEVELOPMENT AND FROM GOAT INVASION!!! YOU CAN TAKE ACTION!

The entire community’s help is needed. Salt Island is one of Gloucester’s most beautiful natural treasures and a vibrant part of our coastal ecosystem. Martignetti’s proposed future dream house for Salt Island

Why goats are a terrible idea for a coastal ecosystem

Goats used to control vegetation in places like Central Park and cemeteries have had some success however, these locations are not fragile coastal ecosystems. Goats are not discriminating and will eat everything in their path. To eradicate PI, you must dig it up by the roots.

Salt Island is an oasis of native plants and shrubs. Natural, largely undisturbed habitats, like Salt Island, provide refuge and food for resident and migrating birds alike.  Note in the photo below, which was taken at the time of installing the fence posts, the beautiful native vegetation growing at the Island.

We need to point out that the fallacy stated by Mr. Matignetti at the Conservation Committee meeting,”Poison Ivy is an invasive species,”  is incorrect. Poison Ivy is a native North America plant and is known for its value to wildlife. Poison Ivy flowers bloom early in the spring, providing nectar to myraid species of bees and other pollinators. The fruit of Poison Ivy is consumed by dozens and dozens of songbird species. The berries provide much needed sustenance in the late summer, fall, and winter. These are just some of the birds that eat PI fruits: Northern Flicker, Bobwhite. Quail, Eastern Phoebe, Cedar Waxwing, woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, and American Robin.

Granted, Poison Ivy is not a plant you want to become entangled with but the entire Island does not need the vegetation eradicated under the guise of removing PI. 

There are shorebirds, ducks, and gulls nesting at Salt Island, along with a highly productive shellfish bed. Lobsters are caught off the shores of Salt Island and baby lobsters need fresh, uncontaminated water. We do not want goat feces and goat worms contaminating this vibrant coastal ecosystem!

Typical fencing used for goat vegetation control is three feet tall livestock fencing-

unlike the fence posts that have been installed at Salt Island, which are permanently bolted into the granite rocks.Fence posts permanently bolted to the granite at Salt Island

Notice how far the fence posts go down on the left. This is not a “keep in the goats” fence line, but a “keep out the people fence line.”

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE:

Please email our City Councilors. We learned that when trying to change the dog ordinance to protect Piping Plovers that the more people that write to the Councilors, the better chance our voices will be heard. There is power in numbers. Please write in your own words, or copy paste the following –

Dear Councilor,

Please help us save Salt Island from future development, goats, and all destructive and detrimental activities to this vibrant coastal ecosystem. Thank you.

Attend the virtual Conservation Committee meeting on Wednesday evening at 6pm.

https://gloucester-ma-gov.zoom.us/j/85146365487

Councilors email addresses:

Ward 1 Salt Island Councilor Scott Memhard smemhard@gloucester-ma.gov

Melissa Cox mcox@gloucester-ma.gov

John McCarthy jmccarthy@gloucester-ma.gov

Jamie O’Hara johara@gloucester-ma.gov

Barry Pett bpett@gloucester-ma.gov

Steven LeBlanc sleblanc@gloucester-ma.gov

Valerie Gilman vgilman@gloucester-ma.gov

Sean Nolan snolan@gloucester-ma.gov

Jen Holmgren jholmgren@gloucester-ma.gov

Joanne Senos City Clerk jsenos@gloucester-ma.gov

Join the Save Salt Island Facebook page to keep updated on the latest developments.

Join the CapeAnn MA Facebook page, which also provides updates on the latest developments.

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Photos of fence post installation May 12, 2021 –

Exploring fun at Salt Island

HOW DO WE KNOW HOW OLD THE CAPE HEDGE CHICKS ARE?

Good Morning dear PiPl Friends,

Thank you all so very much for the updates and great insights. And for all your watchful eyes over our Cape Ann PiPls!

Many thanks again to Denton Crews for installing the posters, to Jonathan for organizing the printing and laminating, and to Duncan Todd for designing. What a tremendous contribution! Thanks to Jonathan for providing the photos, it’s so nice to see!

Thank you Deb and Sally for pointing out the Least Terns. Both Least and Common Terns were here last summer at this time. I wonder if they are nesting on Salt Island? Wouldn’ that be exciting!

A note about the age of the Cape Hedge chicks, which are approximately four weeks old as of last Thursday. The first sighting was reported on Friday June 18th and was confirmed by Sue Catalogna on June 26th. The chicks were teenie tiny on the 18th so I am assuming their hatch date was roughly Thursday the 17th, which would make them approximately four weeks old last Thursday, the 15th of July.

They look smaller than our GHB chicks at the same age, due largely I think to their diet at Cape Hedge. Chicks develop at different rates, depending on the availability and quality of food.

The sun is shining now, but it looks as though the rest of the weekend may be another overcast and quietly perfect day for chick rearing 🙂

Have a super weekend!

xoKim

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL OUR CAPE ANN PIPING PLOVERS!

Hello dear PiPl Friends!

All good news to share about our Cape Ann PiPl families!

Happy Birthday to our oldest chick/fledgling who reached the five week/36 day old milestone today!

Happy Birthday to our Cape Hedge chicks who we think are 28 days, or four weeks old, approximately today!

And last, but not least, Happy Birthday to our littlest Salt Island chick, who turned one week old today!Dad and chicks, it’s not easy to spot the Cape Hedge Family in the fog and popples!

Wonderful sightings about all three families are being shared by our great team of Piping Plover Ambassadors. They are keeping excellent watch over Cape Ann’s Plovers but it hasn’t been easy, trying to locate these beautifully well-camouflaged chicks in the super dense fog of recent days.

Hello and a haiku from ambassador Heidi Wakeman this morning:

Fledgling, Dad at bridge,
Teeny, Dad,thermosnuggling
Up the creek, all’s well!

Later in the morning, ambassador Duncan adds this haiku

On this misty morning
Where are the miracle birds?
Ah…see?… right… here.

The Plover informational posters are being installed at the Good Harbor Beach kiosks either today or tomorrow. With gratitude and deep appreciation to Duncan Todd for creating the posters, to Jonathan and Sally for printing and laminating, and to Denton Crews for installing in the kiosks. Hooray Team Plover!

Keep your eyes peeled for interesting shorebirds visiting our beaches. The summer southward migration has begun!  Today ambassador Maggie spotted two Semipalmated Sandpipers and several days ago, a Dowitcher was seen at Brace Cove. Both species are returning from their northern breeding grounds at the Arctic tundra.Dowitchers at Good Harbor last spring on their northward migration

Spotted Sandpiper, left, Semipalmated Sandpiper, right

 

THOUSANDS OF MOON SNAIL BABY EGGS IN COLLARS AT CAPE HEDGE BEACH!

Saturday morning’s low tide revealed dozens of Northern Moon Snail sand collars on the flats at Cape Hedge Beach. Perhaps the storm released the collars from the ocean floor.

There are hundreds of species of moon snails, so named because they are round like the Moon. The sand collars we see locally and all along the northern Atlantic Coast are made by the beautiful Northern Moon Snail (Euspira heros).

Moon snails are marine gastropods that live in the intertidal zone. We often find their shells washed ashore but rarely see living ones. When you find a clam or mussel shell,  or even another moon snail shell, with a perfectly drilled hole, chances are it was eaten by a moon snail.

Moon snail drill holes – Liv Hauck photo

Piping Plover chick and Northern Moon Snail

The beautiful sculptural sand collars at Cape Hedge Beach are Northern Moon Snail egg cases. When you find a collar, and it is soft, and flexible, it is comprised of thousand eggs. Please don’t remove the collar from the beach. Toss it back into the water, which will also help prevent other folks from collecting.

How the female Moon Snail constructs the egg collar is nothing short of spectacular. When a female is ready to lay her eggs, at low tide,  she begins preparing her egg collar by secreting mucus. During high tide, she digs down to begin forming the collar with mucus and sand. She spreads out the front part of her foot (the propodium) so that it covers her shell.  She collects grains of sand with tiny cilia that cover her foot. Creating a sort of egg “sand”- wich, she combines a layer of mucus with thousands (and even hundreds of thousands) of released eggs and then cements all with another layer of mucus to form the flexible egg case.

The snail lies at the center of the collar as she creates it, so the hole in center of the collar gives an indication of the size of the mother snail. When finished building the collar she has to escape from her egg case sitting on the ocean floor. She digs straight down using her foot and burrows away from the collar.

The collars are pushed to the surface and, during low tide, are visible on the beach. The egg cases stay on the beach as the water from the incoming tide washes over them.

The eggs hatch before the collar falls apart. so while it is still flexible and rubbery there are thousands of tiny Northern Moon Snail larvae swimming in the mucus matrix of the collar.

Within a week or so, the mucus breaks down and the collar begins to disintegrate, freeing the larvae.

Piping Plover chick and Northern Moon Snail collar

Daughter Liv loves collecting beautiful Northern Moon Snails – Liv photos

Chilly Saturday July 4th Piping Plover weekend update

Good Morning PiPl Friends!

Thank you Susan and Maggie for your early morning reports. Great weather for the chick’s growth and fattening up! I am so sorry Mom still has the filament on her foot.

All three chicklets at Cape Hedge Beach are doing the same, feeding and snuggling, taking turns beneath Mom and Dad.

New ambassador Sue Catalogna and I met at Cape Hedge Beach this morning and we went over our goals as ambassadors. Sue is one of the Rockport residents who first alerted us to the chick’s presence at CHB. She described seeing the chicks for the first time and how astonishing it was to watch the teeny birds scrambling over the rocks and down to the beach.

Sue lives at Cape Hedge and showed me her wonderful pollinator garden. She has offered to assist in any emergencies as well.

I am going to share our phone numbers with the new ambassadors (see attached). Any new ambassadors, if you would like your phone number added please send.

Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative shared the following wonderfully informational videos with us:

 

Have a great wet chilly rainy day!
xoKim

GOOD MORNING FROM CAPE ANN PLOVER CENTRAL!

Hello PiPl Friends!

It’s so nice to write “Cape Ann Plover Central” as I feel this nest on Cape Hedge Beach is an indication that the Pover population may be expanding further throughout our region. You can’t really make a judgement based on one family of Plovers, but with two at GHB and now one at CHB, I think the Cape Ann community as a team is doing our part to help restore this beautiful tender species.

All three chicks, plus Dad, were at GHB feeding in the flats, running nearly the entire length of the beach. I was there at 5am, and then again at 7:30 to say hello to Susan, and did not spot Mom this morning. If anyone sees all five together today, please write.

The Cape Hedge Beach family are thriving, too. One teeny tiny nearly got washed away by a wave this morning. It made me think, what if that actually happens, and a chicklet doesn’t right itself after a wave crashes over its head. I guess we’ll just jump in and try to find it!

Dad at Salt Island was sitting proudly on his nest, chest a-puff, and looking pretty pleased with himself. Perhaps we should call these two Salty and Izzie, rather than Dad and Mom one and two. On that note, Footie and Bridgette for our No.3 family, but I like Sally’s name for Dad, which is Handsome 🙂

Several of our Ambassadors have reminded me that over the Fourth of July weekend, people have been letting off fireworks near the Plovers at Good Harbor Beach. Next email is to Mayor Sefatia and Chief Conley. I am sure the GPD is super, super busy on the night of the Fourth, but I am wondering how Good Harbor Beach will be patrolled knowing it has become a hotspot for fireworks. There are crazy amounts of fireworks going off at Long Beach so I am also wondering, what happens at Cape Hedge and will email Susan C, who lives there and is a new Ambassador.

The GHB chicks were about 15 days old when this clip was shot. Often after thermosnuggling, the chicks pop up and stretch their developing wing muscles. The clip is extra fun because you don’t often see all three stretching as they run off, or if they do stretch, they do it some distance from where they were regulating. A lucky shot for the filmmaker 🙂

Thank goodness for yesterday’s blessed rain! Have a wonderfully cool and comfortable day.
xxKim

 

FIVE IN THE FLATS – AND HAPPY THREE WEEK OLD BIRTHDAY LITTLE PEEPS!

Good morning PiPl Friends,

The GHB family of five were all in the flats this morning, foraging like nobody’s business. Both parents were very relaxed around the early morning beach walkers and joggers. The CHB three little chicklets are all doing beautifully as well. Leslie placed a double sided sign up by where this little family heads when the beach is crowded. Thank you so very much to Sally and Barbara for sharing tips and advice with Leslie!!

On Monday morning, Todd Pover, who is the senior wildlife biologist for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey visited us at Good Harbor Beach. We are so honored to have Todd come to GHB. We were hoping to have a visit earlier in the season and I was planning to have a group of us meet Todd. But as it goes, this was last minute however, Todd did get to meet Ambassadors Maggie and Kai!

Todd heads the CWFNJ beach nesting bird project and has been involved with nesting shorebirds for nearly thirty years. Todd also leads CWFNJ Bahamas PiPl wintering grounds initiative. Years ago, Todd had a dream to restore early successional habitat at New Jersey’s Barnegat Light, habitat ideal for nesting shorebirds. Please watch this video and see how Todd’s beautiful dream project came to fruition.

Todd has recently returned from a site visit to check on Chicago’s Monty and Rose PiPls and it was interesting to get his insights on our similarities/differences. As they are at Good Harbor Beach, battles between Killdeers and PiPls are a regular occurrence at Chicago’s Michigan Lake shorebird habitat. Todd loves our signs and especially our new badges (thanking Jonathan, Duncan, and Ducan, once again a million times over for the badges). We had a great meeting and I am just so sorry it was so brief. After checking at GHB, Todd was headed over to Parker River NWR and was possibly going to stop at Cape Hedge Beach. Many thanks to Todd for taking an interest in our Cape Ann Piping Plovers!

Todd, Maggie, Nancy beachgoer, and Charlotte

Here is an image of one of the birthday chicks grabbing a Mayfly for breakfast. When I googled Mayfly-Massachusetts-beach, hoping to id what species of Mayfly, the first thing that popped up is a website on how to kill them. It’s no wonder why insect species around the world are in sharp decline, and becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate.

Anglers love Mayflies, and so do Plovers!

Last day of the heat wave. Please take care everyone.
xoKim

Mayfly life cycle -from nymph to adult, a wide range of invertebrates and vertebrates consume Mayflies

THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY AND CLIMATE CHANGE KIM SMITH PRESENTATION

Dear Monarch Friends,

Tomorrow evening I am giving a presentation on how climate change is impacting Monarchs for Cape Ann Climate Change Coalition. I am looking forward to presenting. Please join us if you can! RSVP with Zoom link to the meeting is on the Cape Ann Climate Change Coalition’s website on the ‘NEWS/EVENTS’ page. www.capeannclimatecoaltion.org

Thank you so very much to everyone who is donating to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. To date, we have raised over $17,000.00. To learn more about the fundraiser, please visit my website at kimsmithfilms.com and donate here.

Today Charlotte spotted the first Monarch in our garden and we saw the first in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach today as well. Both were depositing eggs on Common Milkweed! My friend Patti shares she saw one flitting about in her (fabulous) butterfly garden today, too. They are here and butterflies love this warm weather. Plant milkweed and they will come!

Warmest wishes,
Kim
Do you live on Cape Ann and are concerned about climate change? Come to our quarterly meeting on Tuesday, June 29 at 7-9pm and see what we are doing about it on a local level. We have action groups working on: Carbon Sequestration; Climate Arts; Community Building & Education; Energy Efficiency; Renewable Energy; and Vision, Policy & Legislation.
The Meeting will also include: “The Monarch Butterfly and Climate Change”
A Presentation by Kim Smith- There is no more urgently needed time than the present to learn about how we can all help protect the Monarch Butterfly.
“Electrifying Everything!” And what this means for local city and town governments and us individually. A Presentation by Jennifer Wallace Brodeur of VEIC
RSVP with Zoom link to the meeting is on our website on the ‘NEWS/EVENTS’ page. http://www.capeannclimatecoaltion.org

LINK TO MY MONARCH BUTTERFLY PRESENTATION FOR CAPE ANN CLIMATE COALITION

PLEASE JOIN ME TUESDAY NIGHT FOR “THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY AND CLIMATE CHANGE” PRESENTATION

HERE IS THE LINK

Tuesday evening I will be giving a presentation about how climate change is impacting Monarch Butterflies for the Cape Ann Climate Coalition’s quarterly meeting. Jennifer Wallace Brown is giving a presentation “Electrifying Everything.” I hope you can join us! This event is free and open to the public.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. More information can be found at kimsmithfilms.com and monarchbutterflyfilm.com

 DONATE HERE

Common Milkweed blooming at Good Harbor Beach