Tag Archives: Asclepias syriaca

MAKING A BEELINE FOR THE MILKWEED! and save the date for my children’s programs at the Sawyer Free Library

Dear Monarch Friends,

A joyful sight to see so many Monarchs in the dunes and in our gardens over the weekend! A female flew in and left us with another dozen or so eggs, deposited on the Common Milkweed. She briefly inspected the Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) and Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), but as usual, opted to only lay a batch on leaves and buds of the Common Milkweed.

Early Sunday morning on PiPl watch, several Monarchs flew in from across the bay and later that day, dozens and dozens were spotted drinking nectar and depositing eggs at the Common Milkweed growing at the Good Harbor Beach dunes. The milkweed has been blooming for over a month now and all this rain has kept the blossoms fresh and inviting.

Beeline for the Milkweed!

Save the dates to share Monarchs with the youngest members of your family. I have created a short film for Cape Ann young people for the Sawyer Free Library about the Magnificent Monarch – here is the link and more information: August 3rd – August 6th, Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 to 10:30. Children’s Services Summer Reading Program “Tails and Tales” presents Monarch Butterflies with Kim Smith! Kim creates a short film and virtual presentation to share these beautiful creatures with children and families, and see how Gloucester is a part of their amazing migration journey! Register here and we will send you the link to enjoy this presentation throughout the week starting Tuesday August 3rd.

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 over $17,500.00 toward our $51,000.00 goal. 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), 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)

If you are interested in contributing to Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please find more information here.

DONATE HERE

 

HAPPY MISTY MORNING FROM PLOVERVILLE AND THANK YOU JONATHAN, DUNCAN T, AND DUNCAN H

Good Morning PiPl Friends,

Sally and I were remarking last night how the chicks seemed to have grown overnight. The plumplings are losing their baby faces and are turning into tweens. All three were feasting in the tide flats and wrack. The tide again was high, not as high as the previous two days, and the receding water is leaving a smorgasbord in its wake. The beach is so quiet on these foggy misty days. Perhaps the peaceful time foraging has allowed them to put on extra ounces.

I only saw Mom very briefly this morning. She was not putting any weight on her right foot and there appears to be a new piece of seaweed attached. I am going to stop by later today and try to get a better look.

Jonathan arrived this morning at GHB with the most fantastic and perfect Piping Plover badges. I think he is passing the bag along to Heidi, who will pass on to either Bette Jean or Jane Marie, and so on throughout the day. A thoughtful gift for us all and so very needed. A HUGE shoutout and thank you to Jonathan for organizing and purchasing, to Duncan T for his wonderful graphic skills, and to Duncan H for helping to organize.

Heidi saw a Dogfish Shark several days ago at the Creek! I think this is the second sighting in the past week. I’ll post her video later today.

Have a great day!
xoKim

The chicks two days apart, at 14 days and 16 days old

RAINY MORNING PIPING PLOVER UPDATE

Good morning PiPl Friends, or Team Plover, as my granddaughter calls us,

All three snuggled under Dad on this wet and windy morning. I didn’t see Mom, but wasn’t there for very long.

No need for Ambassadors to go in the rain. There wasn’t a soul on the beach this morning and despite the weather, I am sure they are relishing the peace and quiet.

I took this photo yesterday of a pair of 25 day old chicks that I have been filming. You may recall their Super Dad, the PiPl that tried to roll the stray egg into the depression where the chicks were hatching. That nest had been destroyed by the same king tide that took out our nest at #1.

Sharing these photos to show the amazing wing growth that is taking place. The first photo is our chick’s wing buds at one day old, the next two at ten days old, the next at 14 days old, and the last is one of the Plover twins, at 24 days old.

Thank you so much to everyone for all your tremendous cooperation, updates, good thoughts, positive spirits, helpful ideas, and dedication to seeing this beautiful bird family survive on Gloucester’s most popular and beloved beach.

xoKim

Piping Plover chick wing buds one day old

Piping Plover chicks ten days old

Piping plover chick 14 days old

Piping plover chick 24 days 

BEAUTIFUL JUNE MORNING UPDATE FROM PLOVERVILLE

Good afternoon PiPl Friends!

When I returned home from filming this afternoon my husband remarked, “another perfect day in paradise.” So much to love about these fine, fine June days!The filament is still wrapped around Mom’s foot however it doesn’t prevent her from going after birds ten times her size. Here she is chasing a Grackle this morning

The tide again rose more than halfway through the roped off area. Both parents and chicks were feeding well this morning, spending almost the entire time in the roped off refuge. Jennie currently can’t locate the chicks as I write this, but I imagine they are sleeping during the heat of the day, with very full bellies.

Eating an insect from the tip of the grass

I arrived this am at 5:15 and all the way from the footbridge, I could hear Dad loudly and repeatedly sounding the alarm. There was a photographer with her gear inside the roping. She became Extremely Defensive when I asked her to step back ten to fifteen feet, trying to explain about Dad piping alarm calls when people are too close, and Mom just getting by with her injured foot. She would have none of it and became extremely argumentative. I walked further down the beach and away and she began to argue even more vigorously. I surprised myself when I blurted out ZIp It, which is what I say to three and half year old Charlotte when she is being super fresh.The Ambassador badges can’t come soon enough!

When going to and from the beach, take a moment to smell the Milkweed. The dunes are redolent with the sweet scent of honey and hay, the perfume of Common Milkweed. Common Milkweed is in full glorious bloom all around Cape Ann and it is the only milkweed that has that beautiful fragrance. I just wish the Monarchs were here, too. I am giving a presentation on the Monarch Butterfly and Climate Change, Tuesday evening, the 29th, for the Cape Ann Climate Coilition’s quarterly meeting at 7:00pm. Flyer and zoom links to follow. It is free and open to the public. I hope you can come!Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

The full Strawberry Moon rises tonight over Gloucester at 8:46. It is the last Supermoon of the year and the skies look promising.

Have a great rest of your day, and beautiful evening!
xxKimWake up!

BEAUTY ON THE WING MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM FREE (VIRTUAL) SCREENING WEDNESDAY EVENING AT 7PM AT DOCTALKS FILM FESTIVAL!

Laura Azevedo, Director of Filmmakers Collaborative, and I are featured guests at the 2021 DOCTalks Festival and Symposium that takes place annually (this year virtually from New Brunswick). We will be screening Beauty on the Wing and then discussing myriad topics related to filmmaking. The screening and discussion are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Please see below to register for the event.  Our talk and screening is scheduled to take place June 16th at 7pm (our time), which is actually 8pm Atlantic Daylight Time. I hope you can join us!

Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. DONATE HERE and READ MORE HERE

Event Registration:

Register at Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-doctalks-festival-symposium-tickets-152537905983

Free Public Screenings & Talks

All evening screenings & talks are open to the public. A Zoom link will be provided for admission.

 

BEAUTY ON THE WING INVITED TO THE DOCTALKS FESTIVAL AND SYMPOSIUM AND FILM SCREENING!

Laura Azevedo, Director of Filmmakers Collaborative, and I are featured guests at the 2021 DOCTalks Festival and Symposium that takes place annually (this year virtually from New Brunswick). We will be screening Beauty on the Wing and then discussing myriad topics related to the filmmaking process. The screening and discussion are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Please see below to register for the event.  The schedule has not yet been finalized but I believe our talk and screening will take place June 16th at 7pm (our time), which is actually 8pm Atlantic Daylight Time.

 

Earlier on Thursday  June 16th, at 1pm (6pm UK time), I screening Beauty on the Wing to the British Mexican Society in London. Thanks to Zoom, it’s going to be an international day for Beauty!

Please consider becoming an underwriter and donating to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. Thank you! 

2021 DOCTalks Festival & Symposium

DOCTalks Dialogues – online June 15 to 17, 2021

The theme for the 2021 festival and symposium is – DOCTalks Dialogues – a program of conversations that will feature people from various cross-sectors that have associated with DOCTalks over the last nine years (2013 to 2021).

In a ‘relaxed conversational’ format that will feature knowledge-based documentary media – long form documentaries, short videos, podcasts, immersive learning technology, interactive website, social media – DOCTalks Dialogues will explore ‘best practices’ used to create, fund, and mobilize knowledge-based documentary media using a cross-sector collaborative storytelling approach.

Our moderator and host for the DOCTalks Dialogues program will be Catherine D’Aoust from Jemseg, New Brunswick. Enrolled in a Masters program studying linguistics at MUN (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Catherine will also be investigating – How does language and personal intention affect cross-sector collaborative outcomes when producing knowledge-based documentary media?

It should be noted that an underlying narrative for cross-sector, knowledge-based documentary media is – real stories, about real people, living in real communities, addressing real issues, and trying to create real change in society.

Event Registration:

Register at Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-doctalks-festival-symposium-tickets-152537905983

Free Public Screenings & Talks

All evening screenings & talks are open to the public. A Zoom link will be provided for admission.

BEAUTY ON THE WING SELECTED AS A SEMI-FINALIST AT THE DUMBO FILM FESTIVAL!!

We are overjoyed to share that Beauty on the Wing has been selected a semi-finalist at the Dumbo Film Festival. We’ll know on June 11th whether or not we have been selected officially to show at the festival that takes place in September. Keeping my hopes up!

About the Dumbo Film Festival

The Dumbo Film Festival (DFF) is a yearly event structured in bimonthly contests. Every two months, each of the categories will be awarded and a final ceremony will be held every year in New York City’s district of Dumbo to award projects that have been judged the very best over the past year. This structure is meant to highlight both affirmed and emergent filmmakers and to launch promising artists into the world film stage.

Read more here

Please consider donating to our online fundraiser to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. Thank you!

Read more about our fundraiser here.

MONARCHS IN THE NEWS, MILKWEED GROWING TIPS, AND FILM FUNDRAISING UPDATE

Monarchs have been sighted in our region! Before the Memorial Day weekend cold snap, Monarchs as far north as Nova Scotia have been reported. One was spotted in Ipswich and another in Concord, New Hampshire.  The chilly temperatures surely put the kibosh temporarily on flight but as soon as it warms again, Monarchs will be on the wing. Map from Journey North of first adult Monarchs sighted

Milkweed growing tip – The most productive milkweed for Monarchs in northern regions is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the species you see growing prolifically in dunes, meadows, roadsides, and even in the cracks of sidewalks. By productive I mean that females deposit more eggs on Common Milkweed than any other species. Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), also know as Swamp Milkweed, is second.

Common Milkweed Good Harbor Beach

We grow patches of both in our gardens. I find Marsh Milkweed is generally slower to emerge than Common. Some of our Common is already two feet tall. Because most Monarchs will not be depositing eggs in our New England gardens for another few weeks, I prune half of the Common Milkweed plants to nubs several inches high. The plants quickly regrow and when the majority of Monarchs arrive, there is new fresh tender foliage emerging. The females prefer to deposit their eggs on new shoots and tender leaves to that of the older, thickened foliage. The flowers of the milkweed plants that aren’t pruned are there for  pollinators and for any early bird Monarchs.

Common Milkweed thrives in full sun but also does remarkably well with morning sun and afternoon shade. And as you can see based on the variety of rugged areas from where it emerges, A. syriaca is not fussy in the least about soil!

 

With gratitude to my generous community, we have raised $16,000.00! We are more than one quarter of the way toward our goal of $51,000.00, which will enable us to distribute Beauty to the national public television audience.

Thank you to all for your very generous donations and kind, thoughtful  comments. 

Lauren Mercadante, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), 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)

 

For more information about the film and how to donate, please see the following links:

SUPER, SUPER, SUPER EXCITING NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING -COMING TO YOUR LIVING ROOM! AND PLEASE CONSIDER A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION

DONATE HERE

BEAUTY ON THE WING WINS ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD

THANK YOU GENEROUS COMMUNITY! FIRST WEEK OF FUNDRAISING AND WE HAVE RAISED $12,000.00!

THANK YOU O’MALEY INNOVATION MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS FOR THE LOVELY THANK YOU NOTES AND DRAWINGS!!

How the amazing monarch butterfly migrants became refugees — from us

 

 

 

 

NEW STUDY BY MONARCH WATCH CHIP TAYLOR REFUTES “MIGRATION MORTALITY” AS THE MAJOR REASON FOR THE DECLINE OF THE MONARCHS

Female Monarch depositing egg on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Evaluating the Migration Mortality Hypothesis Using Monarch Tagging Data

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

August 7, 2020

Authors:

Orley Talor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

John M. Pleastant, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, United States

Ralph Grundel, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Chesterton, IN, United States

Samulel D. Pecoraro, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Chesterton, IN, United States

James P. Lovett, Monarch Watch, Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

Ann Ryan, Monarch Watch, Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

The decline in the eastern North American population of the monarch butterfly population since the late 1990s has been attributed to the loss of milkweed during the summer breeding season and the consequent reduction in the size of the summer population that migrates to central Mexico to overwinter (milkweed limitation hypothesis). However, in some studies the size of the summer population was not found to decline and was not correlated with the size of the overwintering population. The authors of these studies concluded that milkweed limitation could not explain the overwintering population decline. They hypothesized that increased mortality during fall migration was responsible (migration mortality hypothesis). We used data from the long-term monarch tagging program, managed by Monarch Watch, to examine three predictions of the migration mortality hypothesis: (1) that the summer population size is not correlated with the overwintering population size, (2) that migration success is the main determinant of overwintering population size, and (3) that migration success has declined over the last two decades. As an index of the summer population size, we used the number of wild-caught migrating individuals tagged in the U.S. Midwest from 1998 to 2015. As an index of migration success we used the recovery rate of Midwest tagged individuals in Mexico. With regard to the three predictions: (1) the number of tagged individuals in the Midwest, explained 74% of the variation in the size of the overwintering population. Other measures of summer population size were also correlated with overwintering population size. Thus, there is no disconnection between late summer and winter population sizes. (2) Migration success was not significantly correlated with overwintering population size, and (3) migration success did not decrease during this period. Migration success was correlated with the level of greenness of the area in the southern U.S. used for nectar by migrating butterflies. Thus, the main determinant of yearly variation in overwintering population size is summer population size with migration success being a minor determinant. Consequently, increasing milkweed habitat, which has the potential of increasing the summer monarch population, is the conservation measure that will have the greatest impact.

Introduction

Since the late 1990s, the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, population has declined significantly based on measurements made at the Mexican overwintering grounds (Brower et al., 2011; Semmens et al., 2016). Identifying the cause or causes of the decline is important in order to focus conservation measures appropriately. Two explanations for the decline in the size of the overwintering population dominate the literature. The first, known as the “milkweed limitation” hypothesis, posits that the decline in the number of milkweed host plants in the major summer breeding area in the Upper Midwest of the U.S. (Figure 1) has led to a reduction in the size of the migratory population (Pleasants et al., 2017). The second, known as the “migration mortality” hypothesis, posits that the resources and conditions during the fall migration have declined resulting in an increase in mortality during the migration and a decline in the overwintering population (Agrawal and Inamine, 2018).

Figure 1. All wild-caught butterflies tagged from north of 40° latitude and east of 100° longitude were included in the study. This area includes the region we are calling the Midwest, encompassing the area from 40 to 50° latitude and 80 to 100° longitude (outlined in red) and the region we are calling the Northeast, encompassing the area from 40 to 50° latitude and 65 to 80° longitude (outlined in blue). What we are calling the Total Area is the Midwest and Northeast combined. The NDVI values (Saunders et al., 2019) come from the region that encompasses the area from 30 to 40° latitude and 90 to 105° longitude (outlined in green). The dark blue square indicates the location of the overwintering colonies. Butterflies were tagged in other sectors besides the Midwest and Northeast but those data are not included in this study.

The milkweed limitation hypothesis is supported by data showing that in the early 2000s the majority of monarch production came from common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, in corn and soybean fields in the Midwest (Oberhauser et al., 2001) and that the abundance of those milkweeds declined precipitously due to glyphosate herbicide use in those fields (Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2013; Flockhart et al., 2015; Pleasants et al., 2017; Thogmartin et al., 2017a; Saunders et al., 2018). The loss of the milkweeds from corn and soybean fields began in the late 1990s with the adoption of glyphosate-tolerant crops. Milkweeds had been nearly eliminated from these fields by 2006 (Pleasants, 2017). During this period, an estimated 71% of the monarch production potential of milkweeds on the Midwest landscape was eliminated, amounting to 25 million hectares of agricultural habitat that no longer had milkweeds (Pleasants, 2017). The subsequent decrease in the availability of milkweed is thought to have limited the size of the summer breeding population. Support for this hypothesis comes from the pattern of decline in milkweed availability that parallels the decline in the size of the overwintering population (Pleasants et al., 2017). Further support comes from the strong correlation between yearly late summer Midwest monarch egg production and yearly overwintering population size (Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2013; Pleasants et al., 2017).

READ MORE HERE

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BUTTERFLIES GONE?

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.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago.

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.

Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from Joe Pye-weed at the same wildflower patch, no longer in existence.

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.

Note the bar graph in that the eastern population of the Monarchs plummeted by half, according to this year’s spring count by the World Wildlife Fund 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

OUR LITTLE CHICK IS TEN DAYS OLD!

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!

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Good Harbor Beach

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.
xxKim

Ten to eleven day old chick

TWELVE NATIVE MILKWEEDS

Did you know that there are over two hundred species of milkweed (Asclepias) found around the world? Seventy different species are native to North America.

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). 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 side-by-side. The females flit from one plant to the next, freely depositing eggs on both species.

This fun chart shows some of the most common species of milkweeds found in North America. *Swamp Milkweed is another common name for Marsh Milkweed.

Grow Native!

I love this handy chart that features a number of common butterflies we see in New England, and thought you would, too

Nectar plants are wonderful to attract butterflies to your garden, but if you want butterflies to colonize your garden, you need to plant their caterpillar host (food) plants. We all know Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed are the best host plants for Monarchs, and here are a few more suggestions. When you plant, they will come! And you will have the wonderful added benefit of watching their life cycle unfold.

Monarchs are dependent upon milkweeds during every stage of their life cycle. Milkweeds are not only their caterpillar food, it provides nectar to myriad species of pollinators.

KIM SMITH MONARCH BUTTERFLY PROGRAM FOR KIDS AT THE SAWYER FREE LIBRARY

Come join us Wednesday morning from 10am to 11am at the Sawyer Free Library where I will be sharing Monarch fun with young people. We have art activities, as well as eggs, caterpillars, chrysalides, and possibly a butterfly or two emerging on the day of the program. I hope you can join us!

This program is held in conjunction with the Cape Ann Reads exhibit currently on view at the main floor of the Sawyer Free.

2019 has been an amazing year for Monarchs. We got off to a very early and fantastic start, but then with a wave of cool rainy weather the Monarch movement slowed considerably. Despite the slow down, we’ve had at least two subsequent waves come through for a total of three broods this summer. Hopefully this will translate to a great 2019 migration followed by strong numbers at the Monarch butterfly’s winter sanctuaries at Michoacán and the state of Mexico.

The eggs we see now on milkweed plants are the super generation of Monarchs that will travel to Mexico!

The photos show the Monarch caterpillar becoming a chrysalis. When ready to pupate, the caterpillar finds a safe place and spins a silky mat. He inserts his last pair of legs into the silky mat and hangs upside down in a J-shape for about a day. Biological developments that began when the caterpillar first emerged are in high gear now. The caterpillar’s suit, or exoskeleton, splits along the center line of the thorax and shrivels as the developing green chrysalis is revealed. The last photo in the gallery shows the moment when the old skin is tossed off.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1Bl9XZHu1a/

FRIEND ERIC HUTCHINS’S LUSH MILKWEED PATCH

My friend Eric Hutchins sent along this snapshot of his wonderfully lush patch of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). He thought I would like to see how beautifully his milkweed has grown from seeds distributed at our milkweed sale several years ago. Thanks so much to Eric, love seeing this!
Plant for the pollinators and they will come 🙂

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER CHICKS ARE TWO WEEKS OLD TODAY!

Two weeks ago today, four tiny Piping Plover chicks hatched at Good Harbor Beach. Nesting got off to a rocky start, with the mated pair first attempting to nest at the beach, then at the parking lot, but then thankfully, returning to their original nest site.

The relative peace on the beach, excellent parenting by Mama and Papa PiPl, cooler than average temperatures, vigilant monitoring by a corps of dedicated volunteers, outpouring of consideration by beach goers, as well as support from the DPW, City administration, and City Councilors has allowed the chicks to attain the two-week-old stage of maturity. With each passing day, we can see the chicks are gaining in strength and fortitude and listening more attentively to their parent’s voice commands. Adhering to Mama and Papa’s piping calls is an important milestone in their development. The parents continuously pipe commands and directions, warning of danger and directing the chicks to come to a stand still. The tiny shorebird’s best defense is its ability to blend with its surroundings when motionless.

The chicks spent the early morning warming up and foraging at the protected area. Afternoon found them camped out at the creek.

Snapshots from the morning

There was a group of young people stationed near the PiPl protected area enjoying the beach on this fine sunny afternoon. All was good though as the chicks were perfectly safe, foraging far down the creek. With gratitude and thanks to everyone who is helping to keep our PiPl family safe.

Snapshots from the afternoon

MONARCH EGGS UPDATE

Dear Friends,

There has been more interest than anticipated in Monarch eggs. Thank you to everyone for writing!

At present, Jane has over 100 caterpillars in her kitchen terrariums. These will become butterflies within the month, and each female that emerges will lay between 300 to 700 eggs. I’ve compiled a list of everyone who left a comment. We are thrilled and grateful readers are so interested in helping raise Monarchs this summer. I will contact all as soon as Jane has a new batch of freshly laid Monarch eggs.

In the meantime, I am going to type up some FAQs. I also suggest using a glass rectangular fish tank/terrarium, with a fitted screen top, for rearing the caterpillars. If you don’t have one, they are available at our local pet stores. Also, a package of cheese cloth. Along with a plentiful supply of milkweed, that’s all you will need.

Thank you again and we’ll be in touch. <3

MONARCH EGGS FREE FOR THE TAKING!

A friend with a lovely garden just loaded with milkweed would like help this summer raising Monarchs. She is located in the Annisquam area. Last year Jane had so many eggs and caterpillars, she had a real time of it trying to take care of all. This year promises to be as good as, if not better than, last year.

If you would like Monarch eggs and information on how to take care of the eggs and caterpillars, please comment in the comment section, and we will provide you with Monarch babies!

Raising Monarchs with kids is the best!

Quick snapshot of Jane’s garden

 

MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM UPDATE

A very brief update to let all our Friends know that work is progressing on my documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. The new footage from this year’s magnificent migration in Mexico has been added. My amazing team, Eric and Kristen, are plugging in the newly recorded voice over.

For the next several weeks, I’ll be planting my client’s pollinator gardens and getting them underway for the summer. After mid-June, we’ll be back in the editing studio with Eric and Kristen finessing the color correction and audio, with plans for a mid-summer release. Happy Butterfly Days!

Tree-top view – standing at the top of the mountain looking down into the valley below. All the orange bits and flakes in the trees are Monarchs.

In early March, the native wildflower White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) was at bloom in Cerro Pelon and the Monarchs couldn’t get enough of it!

So many Monarchs this early in the season portends a possibly great summer for butterflies in our meadows and gardens. It’s the perfect time of year to plant Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seeds and many of our local nurseries carry Marsh Milkweed  (Asclepias incarnata) plants. These two species are the most productive for Monarch eggs and caterpillars in our region.

Monarchs mating in a patch of Common Milkweed.

Monarch drinking nectar from Common Milkweed florets.
Female depositing egg on Marsh Milkweed foliage.

The milkweed we grow in the north supports spectacular migrations such as the one that took place this past winter of 2018-2019.

MORE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES SPIED AROUND CAPE ANN!

Monarch Butterfly on native Buttonbush blossoms

David Rhinelander had one two days in a row at his garden on Pine Street, Heather Hall spotted a Monarch at the Hamilton Library, Jennie Meyer had one in her garden and sent along some photos, Donna Soodalter-Toman had one in her yard, Jen in Rockport has them, and Susan Donelan Burke saw a Monarch in Magnolia. This is very early and thank you so much to Everyone for writing!

Keep your eyes peeled for Red Admirals and Painted Ladies, too.

Red Admirals nectaring at lilacs. The last time we had so many Red Admirals in our garden in May was in 2012 and that was a banner year for butterflies of many species.

Painted Ladies

In the above photo compare the Monarch to the Painted Lady. If you see a “small” Monarch, it may be a Painted Lady or a Red Admiral.

AMAZING!!! MONARCH BUTTERFLIES HAVE ALREADY ARRIVED TO CAPE ANN

There are Monarchs on Cape Ann, and they are laying eggs!!! Check your milkweed Friends! This is nearly a month earlier than usual.

Jane Danekis had a female several days ago in her garden on Revere Street and she deposited over 100 eggs on shoots of newly emerging milkweed.

Michele Del Vecchio saw a Monarch at Good Harbor Beach today, too!

Please let us know if you have seen a Monarch recently, and take a snapshot if you can. Thank you 🙂

A Monarch egg is pale golden yellow in color and shaped like a tiny ridged dome. The egg is no larger than a pinhead.

Morgan Faulds Pike spotted a female Monarch nectaring on her lilacs. Photo courtesy Morgan.

BEST MILKWEED TO PLANT FOR MASSACHUSETTS GARDENS, MEADOWS, FIELDS, AND DUNE RESTORATION

Friends often ask, and I cover this topic extensively in my Monarch programs, “What is the best milkweed to plant in our region?” Without a doubt, the two most important and productive are Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

Marsh Milkweed also goes by the name Swamp Milkweed, but Marsh sounds so much more appealing, don’t you think? Milkweeds already have the suffix weed attached to their names. To some folks any wildflower that includes the word weed seems invasive, and we don’t want to frighten people from planting our sweet native wildflowers by inferring they are a swamp dweller, too.

Gallery of Marsh Milkweed

When a weed is not a weed  – It’s unfortunate that so many of our native beauties end in “weed.” Ironweed, Joe-pye Weed, Sneezeweed, Thimbleweed, Butterfly Weed, and Milkweed are just some examples. Why were these native wildflowers at one time long ago named “weed.” Because the earliest colonists brought from their home countries flowering plants that were beloved and familiar to them, delphiniums and larkspurs, for example. In their new American home gardens, these treasured European plants would have been easily overtaken by our more vigorous American wildflowers.

To return to the topic of milkweed, Common Milkweed spreads by both underground and by seed. It’s ideal for dunes, meadows, and fields. Marsh Milkweed is more clump forming and stays relatively close to where you plant it. You can control how much it spreads by deadheading, or not, before the seed heads turn to fluff and sail away. I grow both Marsh Milkweed and Common Milkweed side-by-side. In our garden, the female Monarch does not discern the difference between the two species of milkweeds, she will flit from one to the other, and back again, depositing her eggs all along the way.

Gallery of Common Milkweed

By the way, both A. syriaca and A. incarnata are also the easiest milkweeds to grow in Massachusetts.

A ten-year nation-wide study was recently published. Across the country, Marsh and Common proved to be the most productive, in other words, more eggs were laid on these two species than on any other species of milkweed.

The map provided below is somewhat helpful; I write somewhat with a word of advice. If you click on Massachusetts, for example, not only are Common and Marsh Milkweeds listed but also Purple Milkweed (A. pupurascens), Fourleaf Milkweed (A. quadrifolia), Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa), Poke Milkweed (A. exaltata), Whorled Milkweed (A. verticillata), and Clasping Milkweed (A. amplexicaulis). We grow a nice patch of Whorled Milkweed and I have never, ever seen a Monarch once visit the foliage or flowers. Purple Milkweed can be very challenging to get started, and Butterfly Weed is not as hardy in our region as are Common and Marsh.

Milkweeds are the only food plant for Monarch caterpillars and also provide nectar to a host of pollinators including many, many species of butterflies, bees, beetles, and even hummingbirds. Plant for the pollinators and they will come!

This is an image from my recent adventure to Cerro Pelon. I am dying to write about the trip, but have had a very full schedule finishing up my film, organizing landscape jobs for the season, and hoping to get the PiPls settled in. The Monarchs in the photo are mud-puddling. Tens of thousands leave the butterfly trees during the heat of the day, sucking up water and much needed nutrients from the mud at nearby mountain streams

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2018: A YEAR IN PICTURES AND STORIES Part Three: Summer

Go here to read Part One: Winter

Go here to read Part Two: Spring

PART THREE: SUMMER

The most joyous story about Cape Ann wildlife during the summer months of 2018 is the story of the high number of Monarch butterflies and caterpillars in gardens and meadows, seen not only in strong numbers along the Massachusetts coastline, but throughout the butterfly’s breeding range–all around New England, the Great Lakes region, Midwest, and Southern Canada.

Three days after celebrating the two week milestone of our one remaining Piping Plover chick, Little Pip, he disappeared from Good Harbor Beach. It was clear there had been a bonfire in the Plover’s nesting area, and the area was overrun with dog and human tracks. The chick’s death was heartbreaking to all who had cared so tenderly, and so vigilantly, for all those many weeks.

Our Mama and Papa were driven off the beach and forced to build a nest in the parking lot because of dogs running through the nesting area. Despite these terrible odds, the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair hatched four adorable, healthy chicks, in the parking lot. Without the help of Gloucester’s DPW, the Piping Plover volunteer monitors, Ken Whittaker, Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, and the AAC, the parking lot nest would have been destroyed.

These brave little birds are incredibly resilient, but as we have learned over the past three years, they need our help to survive. It has been shown time and time again throughout the Commonwealth (and wherever chicks are fledging), that when communities come together to monitor the Piping Plovers, educate beach goers, put in effect common sense pet ordinances, and reduce trash, the PiPl have at least a fighting chance to survive.

Little Pip at twelve- through seventeen-days-old

All four chicks were killed either by crows, gulls, dogs, or uneducated beach goers, and in each instance, these human-created issues can be remedied. Ignoring, disregarding, dismissing, or diminishing the following Piping Plover volunteer monitor recommendations for the upcoming 2019 shorebird season at Good Harbor Beach will most assuredly result in the deaths of more Piping Plover chicks.

FOUR WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN HELP THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS SUCCESSFULLY FLEDGE CHICKS: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE MAYOR

Piping Plover chick testing its wings

Not one, but at least two, healthy and very hungry North American River Otters families are dwelling at local ponds, with a total of seven kits spotted. We can thank the fact that our waterways are much cleaner, which has led to the re-establishment of Beavers, and they in turn have created ideal habitat in which these beautiful, social mammals can thrive.

Several species of herons are breeding on our fresh water ponds and the smaller islands off the Cape Ann coastline. By midsummer, the adults and juveniles are seen wading and feeding heartily at nearly every body of water of the main island.

In order to better understand and learn how and why other Massachusetts coastal communities are so much more successful at fledging chicks than is Gloucester, I spent many hours studying and following Piping Plover families with chicks at several north of Boston beaches.

In my travels, I watched Least Terns (also a threatened species) mating and courting, then a week later, discovered a singular nest with two Least Tern eggs and began following this little family, too.