Save the date for my upcoming Monarch Butterfly program for kids at the Sawyer Free Library on August 21st at 10am. This program is free and held in conjunction with the Cape Ann Reads exhibit on display at the Sawyer Free.
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!
Monarch Butterflies–Beauty on the Wing
How can Wellesley help Monarchs throughout Their Life Cycle?
WHAT: Wellesley Conservation Council Spring Lecture
WHO: Kim Smith, Naturalist and Award-winning Photographer
WHEN: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 – 7:00pm
WHERE: Wakelin Room, Wellesley Free Library
The Monarch’s life story is one of nature’s most incredible examples of adaptation and survival. But the Monarch migration is in great peril. Learn how you can help. Through photographs and discussion, Beauty on the Wing tells the life story of the Monarch Butterfly, the state of the butterflies’ migration and why they are in sharp decline, and the positive steps we can take as individuals and collectively to help the Monarchs recover from devastating effects of habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides.
Kim Smith is an award winning nature author, documentary filmmaker, native plant landscape designer, and naturalist. She specializes in creating pollinator habitat gardens utilizing primarily North American native wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and vines.
The Wellesley Conservation Council Annual Meeting for the election of officers and board members will precede the program at 6:30pm. This event is free and co-sponsored by Wellesley Free Library. For more information go to http://www.wellesleyconservationcouncil.org.
Although scientists have long known that the toxic sap that flows through milkweed veins, called cardenolides, can make a bird very sick if it attempts to eat a Monarch caterpillar, it was unclear whether the butterfly’s acquired adaption to the toxicity was a side effect that allowed the caterpillar to eat the milkweed or had developed separately as a defensive mechanism against predators. A Cornell University study recently published in Proceedings B of The Royal Society Publishing reveals that they have indeed evolved to weaponize milkweed toxins! Thank you so much to Maggie Rosa for sharing “The Scientist” article and you can read more about it here.
“Monarch butterfly caterpillars have evolved the ability to store toxins known as cardenolides, obtained from their milkweed diet, specifically to make themselves poisonous to birds, as has at least one other species of milkweed-munching caterpillar, according to a study published Wednesday (November 4) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“This finding is fascinating and novel,” Stephen Malcolm, a professor at Western Michigan University who studies cardenolides but was not involved in the new research, wrote in an email to The Scientist. “It is exciting to have evidence for the importance of top-down influences from predators.” Continue Reading
Please join me Thursday evening, November 12th, at 7pm at the Sawyer Free Library for my illustrated talk, Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. Looking forward to seeing you there!
Nature’s Compass ~ My current group of nine Monarchs are synchronized, all lined up on a north-south axis and pupating within moments of each other.
From the moment a caterpillar emerges, internally it begins to form the adult parts of its body. Adult Monarchs have magnetic receptors along the inner margins of their thorax, which help guide them on their south to north, north to south migration. I wonder if the magnetic receptors are here at work in the caterpillars north-south pattern of pupating.
All nine hung in a J-shape on the north-south axis as well. Since I took this photo three more have also pupated on the north-south axis. In the above photo, you can see the center caterpillar and caterpillar to the far left are in the midst of changing from a caterpillar to a chrysalis (pupating).
During this past summer while filming B-roll for the monarch film I shot some wonderful little scenes, the baby robins for example. Oftentimes I just happen upon some stunningly beautiful event unfolding and because too many beauty scenes got away from me in the past, I have gotten really smart about nearly always traveling with camera bag in tow.
The four baby robins were in a nest that had been constructed at slightly higher than waist height, in a tree that was for sale at Wolf Hill. My friends at both Wolf Hill and Goose Cove Gardens are always so kind to point out these exciting happenstances, whether robin nestlings or Black Swallowtail caterpillars and eggs, and they are always tremendously accommodating, never minding when I run back to the car to grab my cameras! I only needed approximately fifteen seconds of robin footage, and here you have it! Thank you so much Kate for steering me to the robins!
In my monarch film there is a sequence about the different types of migrations that happen through our region. American Robins are especially interesting as the species has evolved a multi-fold strategy for surviving winter; in the fall, some robins leave Cape Ann for regions further south, some stay throughout the winter, and some arrive in great flocks in January and February from parts further north; for the Canada to Gloucester winter robins, Cape Ann is like their Bermuda!
For the past three years I have been filming the life story of the Monarch Butterfly in backyards and along the shores of Cape Ann. My original intent was to tell the story of the butterflies primarily as it relates to their northern breeding grounds and specifically here in our community. Prior to filming, I wrote a children’s story about the Monarchs and during this entire time I have had an ongoing inner debate as to whether or not to travel to Mexico. While editing the film these past few months, I determined that capturing the butterfly’s story in their winter sleeping grounds as they are awakening in Mexico would only add to the film’s depth and beauty. To film in Mexico would be a dream come true.
In February I am going to Mexico to film the Monarchs!!! This all has come about very quickly! I have to practice walking five miles a day, recall how to ride a horse, and learn enough Spanish so that if I am separated from my group or kidnapped by bandits, I can at least inquire as to where is the bathroom.
Does anyone know of a local outfit that gives lessons in trail riding? And does anyone have experience with a Spanish language lesson CD (basic)? If so, can you please recommend in the comment section. Thank you!!!!!!!
Stay tuned for adventures from Mexico! Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly will premiere in the summer of 2014.
Rather than wait until the film was complete, this weekend I made a new website for the film-in-progress. When you have a moment, I hope you’ll visit my website and read more about Beauty on the Wing here.
Beauty on the Wing celebrates the poetry and majesty of the uniquely North American phenomenon of the Monarch butterfly and its migration. There are no other butterflies the world over that travel this distance and it is a fascinating ecological link that connects Mexico with nearly every geographic region within the United States and Canada. How well the forested habitats of Michoacán are taken care of is as of equal importance to the Monarchs as how we in Gloucester conserve our habitats.
Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly
In preparing for my upcoming presentation to the Gloucester Garden Club, Wednesday, April 13th, I am discovering new images shot last summer. The photo shows a freshly emerged Monarch clinging to its chrysalis, with crumpled wet wings yet to fully expand. Butterflies Days can’t get here soon enough! Later in the afternoon we will be attending Ellen Lefavour’s art opening and book signing for Did you Know at Alchemy of Art Gallery. I hope to see you there.