Late yesterday afternoon Charlotte and I encountered this frisky young buck. I was curious to learn if you could tell the age of a deer by its antlers and found this growth chart on the Animal Diversity Web. Judging by the chart, he appears to be older than six months but younger than 11 months.
Dear Friends of Beauty on the Wing,
I hope you are all doing well and fortunate enough to have good health.
After a brief cold snap we are having a beautiful Indian Summer here on Cape Ann. I hope you have the opportunity to get outdoors today and enjoy nature. Bird and butterfly migrations are well underway. At Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, rangers shared that they have never seen a migration such as this year’s, with over 180 species sited at the refuge this past week. The birds appear to have benefitted from decreased human activity over the past seven months. On the other hand, the Atlantic Coast Monarch migration seems stalled or nonexistent. Perhaps we will have a late, great migration as we did several years ago. And there are some positive signs for the butterflies, especially through the Mississippi Flyway as Monarch Waystations further north, such as the one at Point Pelee have been reporting that the Monarch migration is doing well. I’ve seen Monarchs migrating through Cape Ann in good numbers as late as the second week of October, so we’ll be ever hopeful.
Good news to share -the page for Beauty on the Wing is up on American Public Television World Wide! Here is the link, including information with a link on how to license Beauty. The page looks great and the line-up of films, stellar. We are so honored to be included in this fine catalogue of Science, Health, and Nature Programming!
And more super good news to share – Beauty on the Wing has been accepted to the Boston International Kids Film Festival! This is an outstanding festival for kids, by kids, and about kids and is organized by a dynamic group of women: Laura Azevedo, Kathleen Shugrue, and Natalia Morgan. A complete list of films for the 2020 BIKFF will be posted in the upcoming days, along with information on how the festival will be organized for safe viewing during the pandemic.
I have been following (or become enchanted is a more accurate description) a small flock of Bobolinks. Click here to read a story posted on my website: Bobolinks Amongst the Sunflowers. While reading about Bobolinks, I came across a link to The Bobolink Project, a truly worthwhile organization. The Bobolink Project habitat conservation plan not only helps Bobolinks, but many species of declining grassland birds.
The sun is coming out and the temperature still summery. Stay well and enjoy the day!
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.
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!
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
Hello PiPl Friends and Ambassadors,
It took awhile to discover where Marshmallow was this morning. He was at the wrack line calling nearly continuously with his soft melodious piping call, (which is how I was able to locate him), before then flying off over the dunes. I found him on my return walk, preening and fluffing at the PiPls favorite piece of driftwood within the enclosure. Note that is the very same driftwood that our PiPl Mom and Dad had their very first nest scrape at, way back in April!
Heidi noticed the pair of Semipalmated Plovers as well; it’s one of the first sightings of Semipalmated Plovers at GHB this summer and is a sure sign that the summer/fall migration is underway. Last year we had an unusual occurrence, Mystery Chick – a Semipalmated Plover fledgling appear suddenly and foraged for a bit with our three PiPl chicks.
Good Harbor Beach, and all of Cape Ann’s shorelines, continue to provide an extraordinary window into the world of migrating creatures. Despite 2020 being such a challenging summer on so very many levels, a saving grace has been our Piping Plovers and having the joy of meeting and getting to know our Ambassadors, and all of Marshmallow’s friends.
Semipalmated Plover fledgling, “Mystery Chick”
Heather Atwood updated us that the Cape Ann Today PiPl episode is not going to air until Friday or Monday and as soon as I know, will let you know.
Have a great day and thank goodness for today’s cooler temperatures 🙂
In thinking about where have all the butterflies gone, I am reminded of the poignant song written by Pete Seeger “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” which although a song about the futility of war, sums up much about the environmental impact of habitat loss. Without wildflower habitat, there will be no pollinators of any sort.
Buckeye and Seaside Goldenrod
Where have all the butterflies gone? Different species of butterfly populations fluctuate from year to year. For example, some years you may see far greater numbers of Buckeyes, the next year not so much. That same year you may hardly see any Tiger Swallowtails but will the following.
That being said,, everyone must realize that every year there are fewer butterflies than the year before. Butterflies thrive in meadows, the very same topography that is the easiest to build upon. Every time a new house or shopping mall is built on a meadow, we decrease not just butterfly habitat, but a whole community of wildlife habitat.
In the above photo you can see a Monarch with a Black Swallowtail flying overhead. This stunning patch of wildflowers and nectar plants was sited in Gloucester at a prime spot for Monarchs to rest and refuel after migrating across Massachusetts Bay. The new home owners ripped out most of the wildflowers and planted the site in a more formal style, with non-native perennials and shrubs. At this location, I would often see Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Painted and American Ladies, Sulphurs, and many other species. That is no longer true.
Butterfly and bee populations are declining overall, not only because of habitat loss, but because of the unbridled use of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture and home lawn care.
Butterflies are especially sensitive to fluctuations in weather, and also to overall climate change. This year we had a long, cold wet spring. The inclement weather is continuing, too, from a butterflies perspective, because although we are seeing some warmer temperatures the past few days, it has mostly been rainy, foggy, or overcast. Butterflies thrive during long stretches of sunny, hot weather. Their wings don’t work very well in the damp and cold. Because of global climate change, we have seen a seven percent increase in precipitation worldwide.
One of the best years I have ever seen for dozens and dozens of species of butterflies, including Monarchs, in the Northeast, was the summer and fall of 2012. That year, we had a warm winter followed by a warm spring, then a warm, dry summer, and a long, warm Indian summer. It was butterfly bonanza that summer and autumn!Adding to people’s concern is the fact that last year, there was an abundance of spring rain that in turn created an extraordinary wildflower bloom in Texas, which got all the butterflies off to a good start. In 2019, we were seeing Monarchs as early as early June, which was very unusual for Cape Ann. Folks are comparing this year to that of 2019, however, 2019 was not an average year.
Monarchs are a case unto themselves. Their spring and summer numbers depend upon a variety of additional conditions, including how successful was the previous year’s autumn migration, whether or not there were nectar providing wildflowers on their northward and southward migrations, and wind and weather conditions from Canada to Mexico.
Particularly in the northeast, the wind patterns during the Monarchs spring northward migration matter tremendously. My friend Charmaine at Point Pelee, in southern Ontario, which is 49 degrees latitude (we are 43 degrees latitude) has been raising and releasing Monarchs for over a month now, while most of us on Cape Ann have only seen a smattering. The Monarchs moved this year in a straight northward trajectory. If the wind does not blow from west to east during some part of their northward migration, far fewer will end up along the eastern shores.Monarchs and Seaside Goldenrod
All is not lost. I am 90 percent certain we will soon be seeing some of our migratory and non-migratory local populations, we just need some good weather. They are later than usual, but not gone entirely.
For so many more reasons, I am hopeful for the future of wildlife and their habitats and see such tremendous, positive change. Despite the current administration’ s extremely harmful stance against the environment, many, many individuals and organizations are gaining a deeper appreciation about the importance of habitats and taking positive action. Many have made it their life’s work. These individuals and organizations are creating wildlife sanctuaries and conserving existing habitats. If the Monarch is declared an endangered species, that will surely bring an added awarenesses and increased federal spending for protecting and creating habitats.
How can you help the Monarchs, which in turn will help myriad species of other butterflies and pollinators? Plant wildflowers! Both Marsh and Common Milkweed for their northward migration, and lots of nectar-rich later summer blooming wildflowers for their southward migration, including New England Aster, Smooth Aster, Purple-stemmed Aster, Seaside Goldenrod, and Canada Goldenrod.Monarchs and New England Aster
On an early morning walk in May, I came upon the sweetest scene of three Red Fox kits romping at the edge of a home with an expansive granite foundation. They were having a wonderful time of it, playing hide and seek by slipping in between the cracks and crevices of the great granite blocks and boulders, running up the rocky hillside, and just being adorably puppy-like. I was perched in a well-hidden location and standing very quietly, when Mom soon arrived with a small mammal in her mouth.
Hide and seek while waiting for breakfast
I spent the next week or so checking on the family each morning, sometimes lucky enough to see, and sometimes they were nowhere to be found. I was hoping to simply capture a few minutes of footage to show how Red Fox share the same beach habitat as Piping Plovers, but saw so much more!
It’s a real challenge for vixen and dog to keep a family of healthy, active pups well fed. Both bring freshly caught prey to the kits continuously during the day and night. The Good Harbor Beach male was visibly more robust; the female was thin, with a slender concaving silhouette. From what I have read, she needs about a thousand extra calories a day to both nurse and hunt. By the time the kits are weened, she will have lost 20 to 30 percent of her body weight.
The kits menu ranged from the tiniest shrew, to baby bunnies, adult bunnies, and even a very large Crow that was eaten less, and played with more. The youngsters took turns shaking the Crow in their mouths, much like how you may have seen a puppy shake a toy vigorously in its mouth. Red Fox are omnivorous and their diet also includes fruits, berries, grasses, crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, squirrels, mice and other small mammals.
Based on the kits’ eye color and coat, I would estimate the three were two and a half months to three months old when these photos were taken.
For the first eight weeks of its life, a Red Fox has blue eyes. At about two months of age, its eyes turn brown. You can also estimate the age of the pup by noting the color of its coat. When the kits are in their den for the first month or so of its life, they are blue-gray. They become sandy colored for the next six to eight weeks and then develop their beautiful red color from three months on.
The family has since moved from its cozy granite den and is now most likely still together as a family, but living in a more woodsy, brambly location. Coming next, Part Two.Note the brown eyes and developing red coat
Good Morning PiPl Friends,
Today marks another milestone, ten days old. After today, we begin to think of chicks as two weeks old, three weeks, old, etc. Thank you to Everyone for your watchful eyes and kind interest!
Yes, Duncan, if the tracks you saw were down by the water, it was our GHB Red Fox. I think it was the Dad (the Mom is much skinnier, from nursing and scavenging food for the kits). He was bringing a rabbit breakfast to the kits.
Sally – such a joy to see when they stretch and try to “flap” their tiny wing buds <3
The cooler weather this weekend is a tremendous break for the PiPls. Last night I stopped by and people are partying much later on the beach on weeknights than in previous years, surely because of coronavirus and a lack of jobs. I picked up six empty full-sized whiskey bottles, three were in the roped off area, and fifty plus beer cans that had been buried in the sand. That smell of stale beer at 6 in the morning is so Gross!
Thank you Deb for the Monarch sighting report. The milkweed is in full bloom in the dunes–perfect timing for the Monarchs to begin arriving. I have a friend who is so worried she hasn’t seen any in her garden. I’ve been telling her they usually arrive around July 4th, in a normal year. She will be thrilled when I share your sighting.
Thank you PiPl Ambassadors!
Happy July 3rd.
Saturday afternoon I arrived back to the nest at about 5:30pm hoping to see if the fourth and last chick had hatched. Yes it had hatched! Judging by how sleepy and that he appeared to be still a bit wet and sticky, I think it had happened within the past hour.
Piping Plover chicks are precocial birds. That is a word biologists use to describe a baby bird’s stage of development at birth. Precocial means that shortly after hatching, the bird is fully mobile. Plover chicks are not completely mature, they still need parents to help regulate their body temperature, but they have downy feathers and can run and feed themselves within an hour or so after emerging.
The opposite of precocial is altricial. Birds that hatch helpless, naked, usually blind, and are incapable of departing the nest, are altricial. Robins and Cardinals are examples of altricial birds.
Weighing about as much as a nickel at the time of hatching, Piping Plover chicks are able to feed themselves but are unable to regulate their body temperature. They need to tuck under Mom and Dad to warm up.
It makes it hard on the parents when hatching is stretched over a twenty four hour period. The day old chick was full of vim and vigor while the newborn could barely walk. To make matters even more challenging, and because the nest was sited in an extremely exposed location, the parents were trying to move the entire family, including the newborn hatchling, to a safer and less exposed site on the beach.
The adults piped softly to the newborn, coaxing him to leave the nest. He kept taking a few steps and then flopping back toward the nest.
In the meantime, the three older chicks were out exploring the beach in short forays and then snuggling together under Mom or Dad.
After an hour or so of watching the youngest hatchling struggle, slowly making its way across the beach, the parents eventually succeeded in moving all four chicks to a safer location at the base of the dune where there were divots, dried beach grass and seaweed, and new vegetation sprouting, providing much needed cover.
By day’s end all four were tucking under Mom and Dad.
It was a gift to witness the beautiful Clam Fam hatch day, a day I won’t soon forget. So small and sparrow-sized, you could hold an adult Piping Plover in the cup of your hand, but so beautiful, fascinating, resilient, and intelligent a species of bird.
Please consider becoming a Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover Ambassador this summer. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to one hour a day, from the time the chicks hatch to the time they fledge, which is approximately one month. Our GHB chicks may hatch as early as June 23rd. HERE IS THE LINK WITH MORE INFORMATION
To clarify about My Blog. Several friends have written with confused questions re my blog. I have been writing, filming, designing, photographing, and painting all my life. I started my own blog long before I began contributing to a local community blog. I both wrote and illustrated a book on garden design, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!, which was published by David R. Godine, and have written many articles for numerous publications including a weekly column on habitat gardening. Here is a link to my blog and to my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden.
If you would like to follow or subscribe to my blog, click the Follow button in the lower right hand corner. Thank you so much if you do! http://www.kimsmithdesigns.com.
Baltimore Orioles arrive when the pears and crabapples come into bloom in our garden. Great idea for an Oriole feeder from friend Robin!
Castaways Vintage Cafe
Piping Plover Chronicles –
Piping Plover Smackdowns
How can you help raise the next generation of PiPls? It’s a great deal to ask of people during coronavirus to care for, and write letters about, tiny little shorebirds, but people do care. For over forty years, partners have been working to protect these threatened creatures and it is a shame to put them at risk like this needlessly. We have been working with Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard and he has been beyond terrific in helping us sort through the problems this year; however, I think if we wrote emails or letters to all our City Councilors and asked them to help us get signs installed it would be super helpful. Please keep letters kind and friendly, or just simply copy paste the following:
Subject Line: Piping Plovers Need Our Help
Dear City Councilors,
Gloucester Plovers need our help. Please ask the Conservation Commission to install the threatened species signs at the symbolically cordoned off nesting areas and at the entrances at Good Harbor Beach.
Thank you for helping these birds raise their next generation.
Link to all the City Councilors, but I believe that if you send one letter and also cc to Joanne Senos, a copy will be sent to all the City Councilors. Her address is: JSenos@gloucester-ma.gov
This is what snow in May looks like!
Happy Mom’s Day! Sending love to all our beautiful and hard working Mums, Aunts, Friends, Grandmothers, Great Grannies, Great Aunties, and all our loved ones <3
Piping Plover Chronicles – new series – currently following three different PiPl families at three different locations. This is great for comparing and contrasting. Our PiPls are behind, by several weeks. Not because they arrived any later, but because of dog and human disturbance in the nesting area, which is due to a lack of signage. We are working to correct this oversight.
A behavior shared by all Plovers is called “foot-trembling.” Also called “foot-tapping” and “foot-pattering,” the vibration caused by the PiPl shaking its foot brings worms and other prey closer to the surface of the sand.
Please send in your wildlife stories, restaurants and businesses you think we ought to know more about and help support, fun recipes, and anything else you would like to share about.
Thank you for watching! Happy Mom’s Day <3
Good News Cape Ann! – Episode #5
Sounds of Cape Ann, fog horn, songbirds, boats
Red-winged Blackbird singing across the marsh and calling to his mate in the reeds below.
Musing over name of show- Good News Cape Ann, Finding Hope, my friend Loren suggested Beauty of Cape Ann, and husband Tom suggests Coastal Currents – what do you think?
Cedar Waxwings, Hummingbird, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Baltimore Orioles, and Palm Warbler
Mini tutorial on how to plant a hummingbird garden
TWO MONARCH CONTORVERSIES! Is it okay to raise Monarchs at home? What is the problem with Butterfly Bushes?
Beautiful Piping Plover courtship footage – Piping Plovers in the field, what are they doing right now?
Charlotte stops by.
Take care and be well <3
Alex’s Scallop Ceviche Recipe
1 lb. sea scallops completely submerged in fresh lime juice
Dice 1/2 large white onion. Soak in a bowl with ice water to the reduce bitterness.
Dice 1 garden fresh tomato, 1 jalapeño, and cilantro to taste
Strain the onions.
Strain scallops but leave 1/4 of the lime juice.
Gently fold all ingredients. Add cubed avocado just prior to serving.