A SUMMER SIEGE

A congregation of egrets has many collective names including skewer, siege, sedge, wedge, and congregation. I like the names siege and congregation and the above photo shows a siege of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets preening after a day of fishing at the Jones River Salt Marsh.

WHY IT’S WAY TOO EARLY IN THE SEASON TO DO YOUR ANNUAL FALL GARDEN CLEAN-UP!

Our fall pollinator gardens are a rich tapestry of expiring stalks, fresh blossoms of asters and goldenrods, fading blossoms of garden favorites, and vibrant annuals getting a second wind after the intense heat of summer. Blooming in a medley of of rose and dusty pink hues, violet, purple, crimson, rusty red, yellowed greens, Spanish orange, golden yellow–the colors are made more vivid in the atmospheric glow of autumn’s light.

Monarchs, Sulphurs, Painted Ladies, American Ladies, Swallowtails, and Buckeyes are just some of the butterflies on the wing, hungrily seeking nectar to sustain their journeys. Not to be forgotten are a host of songbirds, and too, honey bees and native bees, all also in need of sustenance.

Tips for early fall maintenance, with pollinators in mind.

1) Tidy-up anything that looks really raggedy, but leave the tall dry stalks of plants such as sunflowers, Joe-pye, Echinacea, and Rudbeckia. The stalks provide winter shelter for many species of bees.

2) Dead head plants such as Butterfly Bushes and Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia), which encourages continued bloom.

3) No need to bother deadheading Zinnias and Cosmos as they will flower whether or not the expired blooms are removed. The seed heads provide food for Goldfinches, Nuthatches, and many species of resident and migrating songbirds.

4) Don’t forget to provide blossoms and sugar water for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Our annually returning female and her 2018 brood of two has departed for the season, but we have been daily visited by southward migrating RTHummers.

Even on a cloudy October day our front dooryard garden at the Mary Prentiss Inn is abuzz with blossoms and pollinators. The Monarch nectaring at the Tithonia was the first to greet me while checking on the garden.

SAVE THE DATE: ECOLOGICAL GARDENING SYMPOSIUM AT ELM BANK WELLSELEY

Please join me on Wednesday, November 7th, from 1:00 to 5:00pm where I am one of three presenters for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society at Elm Bank. I hope to see you there!

Discover new ways to garden, and new plants to select to make your home more sustainable in three presentations that address methods and plantings that you can adopt to improve your local environment and welcome more wildlife to your gardens. Presentations will review methods of ecological landscaping, introduce you to native shrubs, and share what you can plant to support pollinators.

Register Now!

Presentations

Organic Land Care – Why it Matters
Presented by Evelyn Lee, Butternut Gardens LLC

Protect your landscape, yourself, and the environment. Urban and suburban land care matters. It can save money in the long run and does a world of good for the birds, insects and other wildlife that coexist in our gardens, lawns and yards.

Evelyn Lee is a professional flower farmer and floral designer at her specialty cut flower farm – Butternut Gardens LLC in Southport, Connecticut. Evelyn received her horticultural training at New York Botanical Garden, is a Connecticut Advanced Master Gardener, holds a Masters degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, studied floral design at Flower School New York among other places, and is a CT NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professional. Her farm is a certified Bee Friendly Farm.

 

Planting Native Shrubs
Presented by Karen Longeteig, Going Native Gardens

There are many beautiful native shrubs which you can incorporate into your landscape. These plants provide food and habitat to wildlife, lend color and beauty to your yard, and they require less maintenance. Karen Longeteig will review ten lesser-known native shrubs and their growing habits which grow very well in Massachusetts landscapes.

Karen Longeteig, owner of Going Native Gardens of Lexington, became a certified landscape designer from the Landscape Institute (formerly Radcliffe Seminars) in 2005. She is a 10-year member of Lexington’s Town Tree Committee, and an adviser on tree planting and management to the pro bono Lexington High School landscaping group. She belongs to the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD).

 

Pollinator Gardening
Presented by Kim Smith, Kim Smith Designs

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.

Kim Smith, landscape designer and owner of Kim Smith Designs, documentary filmmaker, photojournalist, photographer, author, and illustrator. In conjunction with Cambridge Seven Associates architectural firm, Kim designed the award-winning Gloucester HarborWalk butterfly garden. In 2018 Kim was honored to receive the Salem State University “Friend of the Earth Award.” She both wrote and illustrated her book on landscape design, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Look for Kim’s interview and preview of her forthcoming documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly in the PBS/BBC television special Autumnwatch: New England.

Attention!

The always animated Snowy Egret

ADMIRING THE NOT OFTEN SEEN LITTLE BLUE CALICO HERON

Have you ever seen the Little Blue “Calico” Heron? I had not, until this summer. I thought at first we have yet another species to add to the wonderful world of wildlife found on Cape Ann.  The calico heron is not at all a different species but is the in-between stage of the Little Blue Heron as it loses its first hatch-year white plumage and gains its adult blue plumage.

In the bird’s first summer after hatching the Little Blue Heron is pure white, with just a wee bit of grey at the wing tips. In its second hatch-year, you’ll find the Little Blue Heron in a range of white and blue-gray combinations. By the third summer, the Little Blue Heron’s body feathers are a tableau of rich blue-grey-green with lovely violet maroon neck and head feathers.

During the breeding months, Little Blue Herons are occasionally seen at Cape Ann marshes, freshwater ponds, and along the shoreline. By late summer and autumn they can be found in mixed flocks of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Green Herons, and Great Blue Herons, feasting on fish and frogs to build a reserve of fat for the southward migration.

The above photo and top photo shows the contrast between the Little Blue Heron first hatch-year, which is flying by a calico second hatch-year Little Blue.

First hatch-year Little Blue Heron

Adult Little Blue Heron

Calico (second hatch-year) Little Blue practicing nest building skills

Left to right, Snowy Egret, calico Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, and adult Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron range map – Cape Ann is at the northern edge of their breeding range

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FEMALE AND MALE MONARCH BUTTERFLY

A question often asked, “how can you tell if it’s a male or female Monarch Butterfly?”

Female (left) and male Monarch (right)

The difference is easy to see when you are looking at the upper side of the butterfly’s wings. On the hind wings of the male Monarch are two black dots, one dot on each hind wing. These dots are actually pockets filled with pheromones, or “love dust.” When the male and female meet, he sprinkles his love dust, and if she is receptive, the pair will join abdomen to abdomen, where they stayed coupled together for several hours.

You can also see the difference by comparing wing veination. The females wing veins are thicker and smokier, the male’s wing veins are thinner.

During the summer breeding months, you can often tell the difference by behavior, especially when near a patch of milkweed. The males vigorously fly about looking for females, whereas the females are more slowly flitting and hovering around the foliage, looking for places on which to oviposit her eggs. Their behavior during the fall migration is such that both male and female are intently drinking nectar, building their lipid reserves for the long journey south.

Next time you see a Monarch in your garden, have a look and see if you can tell whether male or female.

Male and female Monarchs mating and ascending to a Maple Tree from “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” illustrated book (unpublished).