Category Archives: Native Plants

“BEAUTY ON THE WING” AWARDED BEST DOCUMENTARY AT THE BOSTON INTERNATIONAL KIDS FILM FESTIVAL

Dear Friends,

I hope you are doing well. Just a quick note to let you know that the awards for the Boston International Kids Film Festival were announced today and Beauty on the Wing was given Best Documentary. Simply overjoyed !! 🙂

The festival went very, very well. The organizers, Laura Azevedo and Natalia Morgan from Filmmakers Collaborative, working with WGBH, did an extraordinary and outstanding job producing an online film festival, no easy feat, but especially during a global pandemic! I was able to view many of the films and they were wonderfully entertaining and inspiring. I am so proud Beauty on the Wing was a part of the BIKFF 2020!

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever that may be during these most challenging of days.

Warmest wishes,
Kim

Boston International Kids Film Festival 2020

Best Documentary
Winner: Beauty on the Wing: The Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: Kapaemahu

Best Animated Short Film
Winner: The Magical Forest and the Things

Best Live Action Short Film
Winner: Esme Gets a Job.

The Peggy Charren Award for Excellence
Winner: All American Kids

Best Student Narrative Film
Winner: First Dances! What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Best Student Documentary Film
Winner: DACAmented

New short, with clips from Beauty on the WingMonarch Dreams 2, “Afternoon at Saties.,” by Jesse Cook.

CHECK OUT THIS SUPER VIDEO FEATURING GREENBELT’S 2020 ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND OVERVIEW OF BEAUTIFUL PROPERTIES WITH PRESIDENT KATE BODITCH

We in Essex County are so incredibly blessed to have Greenbelt working so hard to conserve beautiful green space throughout the region. Check out this super video to get an overview of just some of the good work that has taken place this past year.

From Greenbelt, “Join Greenbelt President, Kate Bowditch, as she reviews Greenbelt’s challenges and accomplishments this past year. Thank you for your continued support of our organization!”

If you’d like to make a donation in support of Greenbelt, please visit ecga.org/annualfundBluebird nesting box Greenbelt Ipswich

Piping Plover Dad and Marshmallow Good Harbor Beach

Seine Field Gloucester

WHEN SNOW BUNTINGS FILL THE SKIES!

At this time of year flocks of Snow Buntings small and large can be found at our local sandy beaches and rocky coastlines. I am finding them throughout my roaming range, from Plum Island to South Boston.

What is not to love about this sweetly charming tubby little songbird, including its name, Snow Bunting, and nickname Snowflake. I am often alerted to the Snow Buntings presence by their distinct and highly varied social chattering. More than once though I and it have been startled as one flutters away to avoid my footsteps. The alarmed Snow Bunting will call loudly, warning its flock mates of a human, and then they will all lift to the skies in a swirling unison of Snowflakes.

Snow Buntings especially love rocky crevices and outcroppings. They nest in rocky areas of the Arctic tundra and while resting and foraging along Massachusetts coastlines, Snow Buntings go largely undetected in the similarly colored rocks.

The conical -shaped bill of Snow Buntings tells us that they are are seed eaters and in autumn and winter, Massachusetts beaches provide a wealth of seed heads remaining on expired wildflowers and grasses. Beach stones, along with piles of beach debris, trap seeds and I have captured a number of photos where the foraging songbirds pop up between the rocks with a mouthful of seed.

Early morning invariably finds Snow Buntings sleeping amongst beach rocks. It is a joy to watch as they slowly awaken, stretching and floofing, before tumbling out in a burst of black, white, and rusty brown to forage for the day.

Remarkably, Snow Buntings are nocturnal migrants. They are able to detect the geomagnetic field of the Earth for guidance to their breeding and overwinter grounds. The orientation of the Snow Bunting during migration is independent of any visual cue.

The 40 plus year old annual Christmas Bird Count shows a 64 percent decline in the Snow Bunting population. Climate change and neonicotinoids (pesticides) are thought to be the main reason for the decline.

CAPE ANN BEACON WICKED LOCAL BEAUTY ON THE WING FEATURE STORY

Thank you so much to Joseph Barrett for the interview and feature story in the Cape Ann Beacon/Wicked Local for Beauty on the Wing!

Block #3 Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly
Today, November 21st 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Purchase tickets here:
https://bikff.org/schedule/

Can Ann Butterflies Featured at Festival

Gloucester filmmakers documentary featured at Boston International Kids Film Festival

Joseph Barrett

November 20, 2020

Gloucester resident Kim Smith will showcase her film on butterflies at the Boston International Kids Film Festival on Saturday, Nov. 21

Smith’s “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” is a 56-minute narrated film featuring visuals of Cape Ann and Mexico’s volcanic mountains.The film explores the life journey of the monarch butterfly from birth, and talks about environmental impacts that led to it being an endangered species.

“I think butterflies are beautiful. They make a garden come to life,” Smith said.

The picture will not only share information about monarchs, but will bring attention to other endangered species as well, said Smith.

The film is 10 years in the making, she said. The idea of the film came to her in 2006 when Smith was writing a book about monarch butterflies and taking pictures of them.

“It was a phenomenal migration that year and they just kept pouring in,” Smith said. “Over the years, I just kept at it.”

Smith bought a video camera and took it with her wherever she went.

Smith traveled to Mexico twice to film, and other parts of the project were shot in Gloucester. She said she enjoys incorporating Cape Ann because it’s a “special and unique place” that’s full of hardworking people.

“I love my community, I love the people in my community. It’s truly my home,” Smith said.

Smith then reached out to the Boston International Kids Film Festival, who helped her through the process of presenting her film.

The festival, taking place November 20-22, will be held virtually due to the coronavirus.

The festival includes 70 animated short and narrative films from 17 countries, all directed towards children.

Laura Azevedo is the executive director of the festival, who said it’s important to help creators get their stories out to the world.

“We’ve been a resource for independent filmmakers all over the country,” Azevedo said. “It’s a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it.”

Azevedo said Smith’s film will do a great job connecting with children. Kids will get access to the movie and a zoom link to interact with Smith about butterflies and the filmmaking process.

“Kim’s film is an example of one where we work with schools as well,” Azevedo said.

Smith hasn’t just helped the environment on-screen. Kim Smith Designs was launched in 1985, and Smith has designed and maintained gardens in locations such as Gloucester, Cambridge, and Andover.

The award-winning landscape designer now brings her talents to the screen, and said she appreciates the Boston International Kids Film Festival for highlighting her findings.

“It’s grown and grown and grown over the past eight years,” Smith said. “Filmmakers are provided an opportunity to showcase their work.”

Her film will be during block #3 of the festival on Saturday, Nov. 21 at noon. To purchase tickets to the festival, visit this link: https://bikff.org/schedule/

“Filmmaking is one of the best ways in the world to communicate,” Smith said.

Joseph Barrett is a senior communication student at Endicott College.

MONARCH DREAMS

So looking forward to tonight’s opening of the Boston International Kids Film Festival! The show’s opener is the outstanding film, The Biggest Little Farm, and there is a full lineup of over 65 films scheduled from now through Sunday. See the schedule and how to purchase tickets here.

Beauty on the Wing is playing during Block #3 at noon on Saturday, November 21st, followed by a Q and A.

Who doesn’t love The Cranberries “Dreams,” and one of my favorite covers of this beautiful song is by Mandy Lee and MisterWives. I edited a rough cut of Monarch Dreams this afternoon, with clips from Beauty on the Wing and set to “Dreams.” That my film is at last finding an audience is a dream come true for me.

I dream about Monarchs and other creatures nightly and am thinking about ways to make Monarch Dreams more dream-like, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this cut <3

 

CHECK OUT THE BOSTON INTERNATIONAL KIDS FILM FESTIVAL TRAILER HERE!

So looking forward to viewing all the films at the Boston International Kids Film Festival this weekend.  The BIKFF202 starts Friday night, November 20th, with a fantastic feature “The Biggest Little Farm.” For more information visit the BIKFF2020 website here.

Check out the BIKFF2020 trailer –

TICKETS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING ON SALE NOW WITH Q. AND A. FOLLOWING THE SCREENING

Dear Friends,

In case you missed previous posts and emails, if you would like to see my Monarch Butterfly film documentary, please consider watching Saturday, November 21st, from the comfort and safety of your own home, via the Boston International Kids Film Festival and WGBH. 100 percent of the ticket sales goes to support this outstanding festival! There will be a Q and A following the screening, with me in the role of director, and hosted by WGBH and Filmmakers Collaborative.

With beautiful music by Jesse Cook and filmed on Cape Ann, Cape May, Santa Barbara, and the butterfly sanctuaries at Cerro Pelon and Angangueo, Mexico. Please share with friends and click the link below to learn more.

Block #3 Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Saturday, November 21st 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Purchase tickets here:

https://bikff.org/schedule/

TICKETS TO THE 8th ANNUAL Boston International Kids Film Festival NOW ON SALE
THIS YEAR IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GBH!
Screen both Professionally and Student-Made films!
Meet filmmakers from around the world!
Take a workshop in filmmaking or stop-motion animation!
ALL FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME!
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2020
FILM BLOCKS INCLUDE:
  • Family-Friendly Features
  • SHORT films for ages 10 and under
  • STUDENT-MADE films
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE films
  • SHORT films for middle-schoolers ( and above!)
ALL GEARED TOWARDS KIDS!
$55 INDIVIDUAL FESTIVAL PASS ( watch everything!)
$75 FESTIVAL PASS two or more viewers ( honor system!)
$20 per film block

AN EAR-FULL OF CEDAR WAXWINGS! ALONG WITH MERLINS AND HAWKS ON THE HUNT

During the last weeks of summer, I was blessed with the great good fortune to come across a flock of Cedar Waxwings. Everyday I followed their morning antics as they socialized, foraged, preened, and was even “buzzed” several times when making too quick a movement or crunched on a twig too loudly for their liking. They were actually remarkably tolerant of my presence but as soon as another person or two appeared on the path, they quickly departed. I think that is often the case with wildlife; one human is tolerable, but two of us is two too many. 

The Cedar Waxwings were seen foraging on wildflower seeds and the insects attracted, making them harder to spot as compared to when seen foraging at berries on trees branches. A flock of Cedar Waxwings is called a “museum” or an “ear-full.” The nickname ear-full is apt as they were readily found each morning by their wonderfully soft social trilling.  When you learn to recognize their vocalizations, you will find they are much easier to locate.

These sweet songbirds are strikingly beautiful. Dressed in a black mask that wraps around the eyes, with blue, yellow, and Mourning Dove buffy gray-brown feathers, a cardinal-like crest atop the head, and brilliant red wing tips, Cedar Waxwings are equally as beautiful from the front and rear views.

Cedar Waxwings really do have wax wings; the red wing tips are a waxy secretion. At first biologist thought the red tips functioned to protect the wings from wear and tear, but there really is no evidence of that. Instead, the red secondary tips appear to be status signals that function in mate selection. The older the Waxwing, the greater the number of waxy tips. Birds with zero to five are immature birds, while those with more than nine are thought to be older.

Waxwings tend to associate with other waxwings within these two age groups. Pairs of older birds nest earlier and raise more fledglings than do pairs of younger birds. The characteristic plumage is important in choosing a mate within the social order of the flock.

By mid-September there were still seeds and insects aplenty in the wildflower patch that I was filming at when the beautiful Waxwings abruptly departed for the safety of neighboring treetops. Why do I write “safety?” I believe they skeedaddled because a dangerous new raptor appeared on the scene. More falcon-like than hawk, the mystifying bird sped like a torpedo through the wildflower patch and swooped into the adjacent birch tree where all the raptors like to perch. It was a Merlin! And the songbird’s mortal enemy. Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks, too, had been hunting the area, but the other hawks did not elicit the same terror as did the Merlin.

Merlin, Eastern Point

Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks

A small falcon, the Merlin’s short wings allow it to fly fast and hard. The Merlin is often referred to as the “thug” of the bird world for its ability to swoop in quickly and snatch a songbird out of the air. The day after the Merlin appeared, I never again found the Waxwings foraging in the wildlflowers, only in the tree tops.

Within the sociable ear-full, Waxwings take turns foraging. Some perch and preen, serving as sentries while flock-mates dine. Cedar Waxwings mostly eat berries and they love a wide variety. The first half of their name is derived from one of their favorite fruits, the waxy berries of cedar trees. During the breeding season, Waxwings add insects to their diets. Hatchlings are fed insects, gradually switching to berries.

Juvenile Cedar Waxwing with adult Waxwings

If you would like to attract Cedar Waxwings  to your garden here is a handy list that I compiled of some of their most favorite fruits and berries –

Dogwood, Juniper, Chokecherry, Cedar, Honeysuckle, Holy, Crabapple, Hawthorn, Serviceberry, Mulberry, Raspberry, Grapes, and Strawberry. Cedar Waxwings are becoming increasingly more prevalent in backyards because people are planting more ornamental flowering and fruiting trees.

TONIGHT FIRST LOCAL ZOOM FILM SCREENING OF BEAUTY ON THE WING!

Tonight I am presenting a Zoom screening/presentation of Beauty on the Wing to a private group. The screening was scheduled a year ago, before covid, and was planed to be live. The organizers have been super throughout the planning changes. This is the first time doing a screening not through a film festival and I am on pins and needles. I hope they love the film and that there are no technical glitches! If all goes well, I would love to do more of these and will let you know. <3

For information on how to see Beauty on the Wing via WGHB and the Boston International Kids Film Festival on Saturday, November 21st, please follow this link here.

 

TICKETS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING ON SALE NOW!

Dear Friends,

Although not the gala premiere event we had envisioned pre-covid, if you would like to see my Monarch Butterfly film documentary, please consider watching Saturday, November 21st, from the comfort and safety of your own home, via the Boston International Kids Film Festival and WGBH. 100 percent of the ticket sales goes to support this outstanding festival. I hope you can come! With music by Jesse Cook. Filmed on Cape Ann, Santa Barbara, Cape May, and the butterfly sanctuaries at Cerro Pelon and Angangueo, Mexico. Please share and click the link below to learn more.

Block #3 Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Saturday, November 21st 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Purchase tickets here:

https://bikff.org/schedule/

TICKETS TO THE 8th ANNUAL Boston International Kids Film Festival NOW ON SALE
THIS YEAR IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GBH!
Screen both Professionally and Student-Made films!
Meet filmmakers from around the world!
Take a workshop in filmmaking or stop-motion animation!
ALL FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME!
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2020
FILM BLOCKS INCLUDE:
  • Family-Friendly Features
  • SHORT films for ages 10 and under
  • STUDENT-MADE films
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE films
  • SHORT films for middle-schoolers ( and above!)
ALL GEARED TOWARDS KIDS!
$55 INDIVIDUAL FESTIVAL PASS ( watch everything!)
$75 FESTIVAL PASS two or more viewers ( honor system!)
$20 per film block

VOTE FOR THE MONARCH MIGRATION!

The Monarch Butterfly migration is at tremendous risk. Herbicides such as Bayer’s/Monsanto’s Roundup and Roundup Ready crops have already had a profoundly negative on the Monarch population as well as myriad spices of bees and other butterflies.

The current administration’s EPA is recklessly promoting use of some of the world’s most dangerous pesticides and has approved over 100 products with pesticides banned in multiple countries or slated for US phase out.

For example, and just the tip of the iceberg, the current administration gave a green light to Chlorpyrifos an insecticide with origins in Nazi Germany, which was set to be banned by the EPA over health and environmental concerns. The current administration reversed the decision after Dow Chemicals, a manufacturer of the chemical, donated one million dollars to his inauguration fund.

Vote for the Monarch Migration!

For all our winged wonders,

For the birds, the butterflies, the bees,

And mostly

For the future of the littlest human wonders that we so cherish.

Excerpt from Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Music by Jesse Cook “Fields of Blue.”

VOTE the Blue Wave –

Vote for Science

Vote for the Environment

Vote for Racial Justice

Vote for a Woman’s Right to Choose

Vote for Wildlife

Vote for an Economy that Works for All

Vote for Fiscal Responsibility

Vote to End Voter Suppression

Vote to Educate All

Vote for Jobs

Vote for Infrastructure

Butterflies for Biden!

 

VOTE FOR BUTTERFLIES!

For all our winged wonders,

For the birds, the butterflies, the bees,

And mostly

For the future of the littlest human wonders that we so cherish.

Excerpt from Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Music by Jesse Cook “Fields of Blue.”

VOTE the Blue Wave –

Vote for Science

Vote for the Environment

Vote for Racial Justice

Vote for a Woman’s Right to Choose

Vote for Wildlife

Vote for an Economy that Works for All

Vote for Fiscal Responsibility

Vote to End Voter Suppression

Vote to Educate All

Vote for Jobs

Vote for Infrastructure

Butterflies for Biden!

 

 

Tickets for the 2020 Boston International Kids Film Festival NOW ON SALE!

TICKETS TO THE 8th ANNUAL Boston International Kids Film Festival NOW ON SALE
THIS YEAR IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GBH!
Screen both Professionally and Student-Made films!
Meet filmmakers from around the world!
Take a workshop in filmmaking or stop-motion animation!
ALL FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME!
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2020
FILM BLOCKS INCLUDE:
  • Family-Friendly Features
  • SHORT films for ages 10 and under
  • STUDENT-MADE films
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE films
  • SHORT films for middle-schoolers ( and above!)
ALL GEARED TOWARDS KIDS!
$55 INDIVIDUAL FESTIVAL PASS ( watch everything!)
$75 FESTIVAL PASS two or more viewers ( honor system!)
$20 per film block

Block #3 Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Saturday, November 21st 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Purchase tickets here:

 

WITH THANKS AND GRATITUDE TO JOANN MCKENZIE, ANDREA HOLBROOK, AND THE GLOUCESTER TIMES FOR THE WONDERFUL ARTICLE FOR OUR MONARCH DOCUMENTARY <3

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Joann Mackenzie, Andrea Holbrook, and the Gloucester Times for the beautifully written story “Butterfly Film Takes Flight”.

Ten years in the making, Kim Smith’s butterfly film takes flight

Kim Smith’s monarch movie 10 years in the making

GLOUCESTER TIMES OCTOBER 28, 2020

Every story has a back story, and Kim Smith’s back story began in her backyard.

In the mid 1990s, Smith — an award-winning landscape designer — filled her Gloucester garden with native and pollinator plantings that attract all manner of winged creatures. These, thanks to lots of milkweed, included lots of magnificent monarch butterflies. “I just loved them,” says Smith,  “I wanted more and more of them.”

There began a tale that this year saw Smith complete a 10-year project, the making of the 56-minute documentary “Beauty on the Wing — Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.” In a few short months, and despite the pandemic canceling its local premiere, the film has seen its way to six film festivals, all virtual, the latest of which — the Boston International Kids Film Festival — runs Nov. 20 to 22.

American Public TV Worldwide —the world’s largest distributor of educational television has just signed the documentary for global distribution.

Armed with a handheld digital camera, an artist’s eye, and a love of her subject, Smith has captured the life, work and world of what she calls “this charismatic little creature,” beginning with its metamorphosis from a tiny egg, to its amazing annual journey from the summer shores of its Gloucester habitats to its winter habitats in the Mexican mountains and forests of Michoacán, where the monarchs annual arrival has long been regarded as something of a miracle: the returning of the souls of the dead descending from the sky in fluttering orange clouds, to roost by the millions in the trees.

When she began the project in 2006, Smith knew nothing about filmmaking. Photographing the monarchs, first as “a record,” she was urged on by family and friends. One of them, Gloucester’s late historian Joe Garland, was particularly encouraging. “Oh, I thought, I have to learn to make a film,” she recalls, of her early days learning the basics with Andrew Love and Lisa Smith at Cape Ann TV (now Studio 1623).

Investing in a hand-held HD Canon video camera, Smith began shooting digital. “It was small and so easy to use that I could crouch down, or lie down to capture extreme close-ups,” she says. Supported by community fundraising that covered the $35,000 production budget, she shot “tons of footage over the years,” wrote and recorded the narrative script, and saved on post production costs by teaching herself to digitally edit her film.

Her goal, she says, was not just to celebrate the monarch, but to educate viewers about the plight of this creature that is loved around the world. Indigenous to North America, these light, bright orange butterflies have through the centuries been blown by wind and weather to other continents, including England, where, in the late 17th century, they were named in honor of King William III of England, also known as the Prince of Orange.

In the last 20 years, however, the butterflies’ numbers have plummeted worldwide from a billion to 30 million, as the excessive use of herbicides has killed off much of their main food source —milkweed— while climate change has confused their flight patterns. And in Mexico, the logging of trees has sabotaged the delicate ecosystem of their annual return.

Smith’s film joins a growing body of environmental activism on behalf of the monarch butterfly. Gardeners across the nation have, like Smith, filled flower beds with milkweed to feed their numbers. The Obama administration, concerned by its alarming decline, allocated $3.2 million to protect it.

In making her documentary, Smith traveled to Mexico twice to film, and learned firsthand just how endangered the monarchs have become. Over time, she says, she came to see monarchs as “little gateway creatures that can open the way to for people to learn about other endangered creatures.”

At Good Harbor Beach, a favorite early morning photographic haunt, Smith began to turn her camera to another local endangered species, piping plovers. Like the monarchs, the little shore birds rely on a fragile ecosystem that Smith began to take an active role in protecting, while filming them. With her monarch documentary now in worldwide release, the piping plovers are  on their way to star billing in a new documentary, now in production.

Meanwhile, the Boston International Kids Film Festival, a program of Filmmakers Collaborative, will screen Smith’s documentary as “one of best that the world of independent filmmaking has to offer.” Shown for one week to schoolchildren across the city, the festival, which describes her documentary as  “illuminating how two regions, separated by thousands of miles, are ecologically interconnected,” will then host a Zoom author event in which the students can engage in a Q&A which Smith herself.

Smith, by the way, doesn’t just train her talents on winged creatures. In yet another ongoing film project, she captures the aerial antics of Gloucester’s falling Greasy Pole walkers. That documentary, which celebrates the spirit of the city’s annual St Peters Fiesta, is well underway.

https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/local_news/ten-years-in-the-making-kim-smiths-butterfly-film-takes-flight/article_5271bd72-777c-5f49-83dc-b9c3b372033d.html

ABOUT KIM SMITH AND HER FILM

Gloucester resident Kim Smith is a documentary filmmaker, environmental conservationist, photojournalist, author, illustrator and  award-winning landscape designer.

Her documentary “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” was released in February. It has been chosen as an official selection at New Haven Documentary, Nature Without Borders International, Flickers’ Rhode Island International , Docs Without Borders , WRPN Women’s International, and Conservation Wildlife film festivals.

It next shows at the Boston International Kids Film Festival (https://bikff.org/schedule/) on Nov. 20 to 22; tickets start at $20. Links to view the film will be provided upon ticket purchase.

More information about the film is available by visiting https://monarchbutterflyfilm.com/  or email Smith at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

50KM POP-UP FUNDRAISER FOR BUTTERFLIES AND THEIR PEOPLE AND MONARCH SANCTURAY

Last spring my husband Tom and I traveled to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve at Cerro Pelón to continue filming Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. We stayed in the magically beautiful tiny rustic town of Macheros at the equally as beautiful JM Butterflies Bed and Breakfast. The hotel is owned and operated by a visionary husband and wife team, Joel Moreno Rojas and Ellen Sharp. In five short years, the dynamic duo turned a four room home into a wonderfully accommodating 14 room inn, replete with a new restaurant, swimming pool, ensuite bathrooms, internet, mountain view roof top cocktail area, yoga studio, with many more amenities.

Macheros is located at the base of Cerro Pelón, the location where the butterflies overwintering grounds were first documented by Mexican citizen scientist Catalina Aguado Trail, working with Canadian and US scientists (1975). The trail leading up to the sanctuary is mere footsteps from JM Butterflies B and B..

Cerro Pelón is the most pristine of all the reserves. The beautiful natural state in which the sanctuary is kept is only made possible by a group of highly dedicated arborists.  The arborists daily patrol the forest to prevent illegal logging and provide information to the guides on the butterfly’s current location (Monarchs move around the mountains during their winter stay). The arborists are working to protect the existing forest. Some organizations focus on replanting trees after they have been logged, but it can take 30 to 40 years for a tree to become a special “butterfly tree,” one on which the butterflies roost during the winter.

Monarchs and Snakeroot, Cerro Pelon

The arborists are paid through the forest conservation non-profit organization created by Ellen and Joel appropriately called Butterflies and Their People. The mission of Butterflies and Their People is to support the Monarchs while also providing livelihoods for members of the community. Much of the village of Macheros depends on visitors to the sanctuary. Additionally, the Inn provides well paying jobs including restaurant work, trail guides, drivers, and inn keeping.

As you can imagine, a tiny town such as Macheros has been devastated by the pandemic. Gratefully so, no one in Macheros has caught the disease however, the local town officials have closed the sanctuary to the public for fear that someone may contract Covid from visitors to the sanctuary. Cerro Pelón will be shuttered for the entire year, a devastating blow to the tiny township and all her citizens. As has happened to so many in the US and around the world, overnight the people of Macheros lost their livelihoods.

A fundraiser has been organized by Carlotta James and the Monarch Ultra Team. So far, they have raised $1,900.00, nearly two thirds of the $3,000.00 goal.

Please consider donating to the 50km pop-up fundraiser at:

50km Fundraiser for Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Any donation of any amount will be tremendously appreciated. Thank you for our consideration.

Butterflies and Their People Mission Statement: To preserve the butterfly sanctuary by creating jobs for local people in forest and monarch butterfly conservation.

BEAUTY ON THE WING RECEIVES OUTSTANDING EXCELLENCE AWARD AT THE WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

With gratitude to WRPN Women’s International Film Festival for this honor

Monarch passing through on Tuesday

SWEET WARBLER OF MARSH AND FIELD AND THICKET EDGE

Life at the Edge of the Sea – Common Yellowthroat

Foraging energetically amidst the expiring sunflower stalks and then darting to the thicketed woodland edge, a mixed flock of adult and juvenile Common Yellowthroats is finding plenty of fat bugs to eat in these early days of autumn.

Common Yellowthroat female juvenile

Yellowthroats breed in cattail patches at our local North Shore marshes and will soon be heading south to spend the winter in the Southeastern US, Mexico, and Central America.

The above male in breeding plumage was seen taking a bath in our garden several years ago.

ATTENTION BIRD LOVING AND PHOTOGRAPHY FRIENDS – RUN, DON’T WALK, TO PARKER RIVER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE!

According to Rangers at Parker River, the 2020 fall migration at Plum Island is the best they have ever seen, with over 180 species on the current list (last ten days).

Perhaps the lessened human activity across North America has allowed for many species of birds to flourish.

Female Bobolink (more about beautiful Bobolinks in an upcoming post)

I was filming at a location nearby at dawn or I would have gone at my usual daybreak time, which I find is the best time to observe birds, and wildlife of all sorts. Mid-day is not the best time to go, but it was my one and only chance and I wanted to check it out. Plum Island is gorgeous whenever you go. Autumn hues are beginning to show (especially the brilliant purple-red of PI), there are great swaths of goldenrods in full bloom, and there is a wealth of bird food, berries and seed heads, for the birds to forage upon. Stage Island and Hellcat are two current hotspots for bird sightings.

When you drive up to the kiosk where you show your membership card, ask for the species list of birds seen recently. Or click this link here:

Recent Bird Sightings from Plum Island

Stage Island, Plum Island

MATING PAIR OF SMALL WHITE BUTTERFLIES FLUTTERING THROUGH THE GARDEN

If you observe a butterfly that looks twice as large as normal fluttering by, take note. What you are seeing is often a pair of butterflies mating.

This afternoon when I returned home that’s just what caught my eye, two Small Whites, also known as Cabbage Whites, joined abdomen to abdomen, looking for a discreet place to stay coupled together for a bit.

The Whites flew from aster clump to aster clump, then to the lilac foliage before finding a hidden spot. A disrupter (male ) tried to break up the match, but the pair would have none of it.Males are mostly white except for the black dots and smudges of gray on the forewings. The females are similar to males, and also have some yellow shading with stronger gray stippling on the underside of their wings.

BEAUTY ON THE WING ON AMERICAN PUBLIC TELEVISION WORLD WIDE!

Hello Friends,

So proud and excited to share – here are several screenshots and a link to my listing for licensing on American Public Television World Wide. APTWW Program: Beauty on the Wing:Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

If you would like to license Beauty on the Wing or would like more information, please follow the  above link and click on the Contact Us box. Thank you!

For more information about the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly migration, visit the film’s website here: Beauty on the Wing

 

TINY KALEIDOSCOPE OF MONARCHS PASSING THROUGH

Winds from the north brought a tiny kaleidoscope of Monarchs to our shores over  the weekend. Isn’t that a wonderful official word for a group of butterflies! A bunch of caterpillars is officially called an army.

Will there be more waves of Monarchs passing through? Time will tell. Along the Atlantic Coast Flyway, we’ve seen far fewer butterflies so far this year, especially when compared to last year’s numbers. Keeping my hopes up though 🙂Dancing Monarch

Soaring Monarch

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

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