PLease join me Tuesday evening at 7:00pm at the Wellesley Free Library for the Wellesley Conservation Council Meeting. I am giving my newly updated Beauty on the Wing lecture. This program is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!
A series of interesting, thoughtful speakers and exciting events are scheduled and I will post the flyer and more information as soon as is available. This program is open to the public. I hope to see you there!
I think Dandelions growing in a lawn are lovely and they also provide nectar early in the season for bees and butterflies, as well as late in the season, especially for migrating Monarchs. It’s lamentable that the lawn care industry has convinced consumers that Dandelions are unwelcome in the lawn.
One morning in mid-fall I watched as hundreds of migrating Monarch poured in from over the water. They were tired and hungry but as it was late in the season, there were few wildflowers and garden flowers still blooming. Nearly every Monarch made a beeline for the Dandelions and even got into little tussles over who would drink first. The lawn was simply covered with bright yellow blossoms and orange and black flakes. Unfortunately, a maintenance crew arrived to mow the lawn. No matter how hard I tried to convince the guys that perhaps they could come back the next day, after the butterflies had departed our shores, they would have none of it. The lawn was mowed and the weary butterflies dispersed and did not return.
Next time you reach for a spray bottle of poisonous pesticide, such as Monsanto’s Round-up, think instead about the bees and butterflies. And, too, the strong taproots of Taraxacum officinale will aerate your soil and the tender, young greens are delicious in salads.
Please join me Thursday, February 8th, for my Pollinator Garden program at Ebsco, 5 Peatfield Street, Ipswich. The program begins at 6:30pm and is sponsored by the Ipswich Town and Country Garden Club. I hope to see you there!
“Following the rhythm of the seasons, celebrated landscape designer Kim Smith presents a stunning slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates.”
By Kim Smith
Cape Ann provides welcome habitat for a menagerie of creatures beautiful, from the tiniest winged wonder to our region’s top predator, the Eastern Coyote. Last year I posted a Cape Ann Wildlife Year in Pictures 2016 and I hope you will find the wildlife stories of 2017 equally as beautiful. Click on the image to find the name of each species.
Winter: Only partially frozen ponds allowed for dabblers and divers such as Mallards, Mergansers, and Buffleheads to forage at the freshwater. Mr. Swan had his usual entourage of quwackers and daily heads to the other side of the pond to get away for his morning stretches. Sightings of Red-tailed Hawks and other raptors abounded. Although photographed in Newburyport, the owl photos are included, well, just because I like them. An Eastern Screech Owl (red-morph) was seen daily perched above a playground and Barred Owl sightings too were reported throughout the winter. Raptors live on Cape Ann all year round but are much easier to see in winter when the trees are bare of foliage.
The beautiful green eyes of the juvenile Double-crested Cormorants were seen wintering at both Niles Pond and Rockport Harbor. And during a warm February day on a snowless marsh a turkey bromance shindig commenced.
In early spring, a male and female American Wigeon arrived on the scene making local ponds their home for several weeks. In the right light the male’s electric green feathers at the top of his head shine brightly and both the male and female have baby blue bills.
Meadow and marsh, dune and treetop were graced with the heralding harbingers of spring with photos of a Red-winged Blackbird, a pair of Cedar Waxwings, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Kingbird, Tree Swallow, and Grackle included here.
The Great Swan Escape story made the news in Boston as Mr. Swan eluded captors for hours. He had re-injured his foot and someone took it upon themselves to call the animal rescuers, which would have surely meant death for our beloved 27-year old swan if he had been wrangled into captivity.
M is clearly for Migration through Massachusetts and the month-long arrivals and departures did not abate. Short-billed Dowitchers, winsome Willets, Yellow Legs, and Ruddy Turnstones are just some of the migrating shorebirds spied on Cape Ann beaches and marshes. The best news in May was the return of the Piping Plovers. Of the five or six that camped at Good Harbor Beach to investigate potential nesting sites, one pair bonded and built their nest mere yards from the nesting pair of last year. Could it be the same pair? The nesting Piping Plover story took up much of the spring and by early summer four little Piping Plover chicks hatched over Fiesta weekend. Hundreds of photos and hours of film footage are in the process of being organized with a children’s book and documentary in progress.
The survival of one Piping Plover chick was made possible by a wholesale community effort, with volunteers covering all hours of daylight, along with Mayor Sefatia and her team, Ken Whittaker from the conservation office, Chief McCarthy, and animal control officer Diane Corliss all lending a hand.
Sadly, several Northern Gannets came ashore to die on our Cape Ann beaches, struck by the same mysterious and deadly disease that is afflicting Northern Gannets in other regions. During the summer season they are typically at their North American breeding grounds, which are six well-established colonies, three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Newfoundland.
By mid-July many of us were seeing Monarchs in much greater numbers than recent years. Nearly every region within the continental United States experienced a fantastic Painted Lady irruption and butterflies of every stripe and polka dot were seen flitting about our meadows, fields, and gardens.
The tadpoles and froglets of American Bullfrogs and Green Frogs made for good eating for several families of resident otters, who are making their homes in abandoned beaver lodges. Little Blue Herons too, find plentiful frogs at our local ponds.
In early August we see the Tree Swallows begin to mass for their return migration. They find an abundance of fruits and insects in the dunes, headlands, and beaches. The Cedar Waxwings and Ruddy Trunstones were back again observed foraging on their southward journey, along with myriad species of songbird, shorebird, diver, and dabbler.
Tree Swallows Massing
The Late Great Monarch migration continued into the fall as we were treated to a wonderfully warm autumn. Waves and waves of Monarchs came ashore and more butterflies arrived on the scene including new batches of Painted Ladies, Clouded Sulphurs and Common Buckeyes (nothing common about these beauties!).
A pair of Northern Pintails called Cape Ann ponds and coves home for nearly a month while we seem to be seeing more and more raptors such as Red-tailed Hawks, Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons. Juvenile herons of every species that breeds on Cape Ann lingered long into the fall—Black-crowned Night Herons, Yellow-crowned Herons, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, and Green Herons.
Just as Mr. Swan and the Young Swan appeared to be warming to each other, the Young Swan, who has yet to learn to fly, became trapped in the ice at Niles Pond. He was rescued by caretakers Lyn and Dan and is now spending the winter at a cozy sanctuary built by Lyn and friends.
Thank you to all our readers for your kind comments of appreciation throughout the year for the beautiful wild creatures with which we share this gorgeous peninsula called Cape Ann. If you’d like to read more about a particular animal, type the name of the animal in the search box and the original post should come up
With its expansive marshes and dunes, bodies of fresh clear water, saltwater coves and inlets, and geographic location within the Atlantic Flyway, 2017 has been a banner year for Cape Ann’s wild and wonderful creatures. I can’t wait to see what awaits in 2018!
WITH THE GREATEST APPRECIATION FOR OUR COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS AND SPONSORS, I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT TO DATE WE HAVE RAISED $34,900.00 FOR THE DOCUMENTARY FILM “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER, with a recent grant awarded in the amount of $10,000.00.
Friends of the Monarch Butterfly: If you would like to help towards the completion of the documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:
Donors contributing over $5,000. will be listed in the credits as a film producer.
For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film
For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget
Thank you so very much for your help.
MY DEEPEST THANKS AND APPRECIATION TO LAUREN MERCADANTE (PRODUCER), SUSAN FREY (PRODUCER), NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS FOUNDATION, JOHN HAUCK FOUNDATION, BOB AND JAN CRANDALL, MARY WEISSBLUM, SHERMAN MORSS, PETE AND BOBBI KOVNER (ANNISQUAM AND LEXINGTON), CLAUDIA BERMUDEZ (LEXINGTON), JAY FEATHERSTONE, MIA NEHME (BEVERLY), CHICKI HOLLET, JUNI VANDYKE, ERIC HUTCHINSE, KAREN MASLOW, MARION F. (IPSWICH), ELAINE M., KIMBERLY MCGOVERN, MEGAN HOUSER (PRIDES CROSSING), JIM VANBUSKIRK (PITTSBURGH), NANCY MATTERN (ALBUQUERQUE), DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN (NEW YORK), ROBERT REDIS (NEW YORK), NUBAR ALEXANIAN, PETER VAN DEMARK, PATRICIA VAN DERPOOL, FRED FREDERICKS (CHELMSFORD), LESLIE HEFFRON, JIM MASCIARELLI, DAVE MOORE (KOREA), LILIAN AND CRAIG OLMSTEAD, JOHN STEIGER, PAT DALPIAZ, AMY KERR, BARBARA T. (JEWETT, NY), ROBERTA C. ((NY), MARIANNE G. (WINDHAM, NY), PAULA RYAN O’BRIEN (WALTON, NY), MARTHA SWANSON, KIM TEIGER, JUDITH FOLEY (WOBURN), PATTI SULLIVAN, RONN FARREN, SUSAN NADWORNY (MELROSE), DIANE LINDQUIST (MANCHESTER), HEIDI SHRIVER (PENNSYLVANIA), JENNIFER CULLEN, HOLLY NIPPERUS (BROOKLYN), HILDA SANTOS (SAUGUS), TOM HAUCK, AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.
Butterfly days forever! Overjoyed to share that this past week I received a grant for $10,000.00 towards my documentary film Beauty on the Wing. Total raised to date is $34,900.00! www.monarchbutterflyfilm.com Posting a Monarch migration update tonight. #monarchbutterfly #wildflowers #nativeplants #monarcamariposa #monarchmigration
MONARCH MIGRATION UPDATE
The Monarch migration of 2017 was the latest ever recorded and the butterflies are continuing to arrive!
The region where the Monarchs spend the winter is confined to a narrow altitudinal band across twelve trans-volcanic mountaintops in central Mexico. This narrowest of overwintering habitat is only 73 miles wide. What allows the Monarchs to survive in these these twelve habitats? The sites are at a high elevation of 10,000 to 11,000 feet, where the temperature hovers around freezing at night and warms during the day to about 50 to 60 degrees. The towering cathedral-like Oyamel Pine Trees contribute to creating the perfect microclimate to meet the butterflies needs by providing shelter from harsh winds and when the Monarchs cluster together high up on the Oyamel boughs they maintain a cool temperature, which conserves the fat that they stored on their southward migration.
During the month of December, the all important work of counting the butterflies takes place. Several years ago a late migration occurred (not as late as this year’s) and the scientists counted the butterflies a bit too early. I hope they wait until much later in the month to begin the count.
If you would like to learn more about how to count Monarchs, go to this to link to an interview that I conducted with Thomas Emmel, the Director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florida, Gainesville. Dr. Emmel is a butterfly population specialist and has been counting the Monarchs since 1980. The interview took place at Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Angangueo, Mexico.
Common Milkweed (Ascleipias syriaca) is the essential food plant for populations of the Northeastern and Atlantic coast Monarchs. During Colonial times, the silky floss found in the dried seed heads was used to stuff quilts and pillows. In the 1860s, in Salem Massachusetts, Common Milkweed silk was used as a mattress filling.
During WWII, Common Milkweed became the substitute for kapok, a soft cottony material from the kapok tree that was the preferred filling for life vests. Japan cut off the supply of kapok from Java, the main source of the material, and part of the wartime effort included children sent to fields to gather millions of pounds of Milkweed seed heads for the armed services.
“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
An innovative Canadian clothing manufacturer, the Quartz Company and Altitude Sports, has created the first modern insulated jacket using milkweed silk. Hundreds of acres of Common Milkweed have been planted in Vermont and Quebec. Particularly noteworthy is that the fields of Milkweed are not harvested until after the Monarchs have left.
Milkweed Silk and Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis
WWII Common Milkweed photos courtesy Google image search.
The Monarch last to eclose departed on Wednesday, November 15th. Although the air temperature was only in the low 40s when I left for work, the sun was shining. Our front porch faces southwest so it wasn’t long before his wings were warmed by the sun’s rays and away he flew. The forecast for parts further south along the east coast, the next leg of his journey–Westport, Long Island, and the Jersey shore–looked promisingly mild. Thank you to my friend Patti Papows for the gift of this last little trooper.
We in the Northeast aren’t alone; I am reading reports about late comers from all around the United States, and even as far north as Toronto, Canada. So few Atlantic coast Monarchs were seen last year, do the great numbers this year portend of a permanent population increase? Bare in mind that the Monarchs were formerly counted in the billions when first discovered in the late 1970s, and now, forty years later, only millions.
A cold New England spring was offset by an unseasonably warm fall and that certainly helped the Monarchs (and myriad species of Lepidoptera). In response to the vast areas of farm acreage that no longer supports butterflies and bees, due to the use of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready genetically modified seeds of corn, soybean, and sorghum, people all across the U.S. are planting milkweed, creating pollinator habitats, and finding alternatives to pesticides and herbicides.
With Thanksgiving only a few days away I am writing with the deepest appreciation and gratitude to my community for your tremendous contributions to Beauty on the Wing. From donations of $5.00 to $10,000.00, from over 70 donors, to date we have raised $24,710.00. We are well on our way to reaching our goal! Your kind words, contributions, and friendships mean the world. We are going to make an outstanding, thoughtful and thought-provoking film about the Monarchs that along the way, through storytelling and cinematography, shines a beautiful light on Cape Ann.
Listen to the audio in slow motion, of the Monarch’s wings brushing against my camera lens! These were the last two of the morning to depart. No time to waste! This batch of several thousand did not pause to nectar after awakening but instead flew straight out to sea, at first traveling along the Dogbar breakwater before heading to the open ocean. #monarch #gloucesterma #monarchmigration #mariposamonarca