Monarchs are currently migrating, albeit in small numbers, throughout the North Shore. The butterflies arrived several days ago and because of the rainy weather, they are in a holding pattern. When the sun reappears, look for Monarchs on any still-blooming garden favorites such as zinnias, as well as wildflowers. Please send an email or comment in the comment section if you see Monarchs in your garden or while outdoors over the weekend and upcoming week. Thank you!
Many species of asters and goldenrods have finished flowering; instead the Monarchs are fortifying for the long journey by drinking nectar at Black Mustard flowers, and even Dandelions.
Although not native to North America, Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) is beneficial to bees and butterflies for late season sustenance. Don’t you love its lemony golden beauty in the autumn sunlight?
Black Mustard is not the easiest nor most efficient plant for Monarchs to draw nectar from. I never see the butterflies on Black Mustard unless it is very late in the migration and there are few other choices available.
The ray flowers of asters provide a convenient landing pad for butterflies. Panicle-shaped flowering plant, such as goldenrods, also provide a convenient landing pad while supplying a smorgasbord of nectar rich florets. Black Mustard provides neither. You can see in several photos in an upcoming post that the Monarchs are nectaring with their legs gripped tightly around the base of the flower.
Black Mustard is an annual plant native to Eurasia and North Africa. Cultivated widely as a condiment, medicinally, and vegetable, it came to North America via the early colonists. The plant is in bloom from May through October, or until the first hard frost, and grows well in disturbed man-made sites.
Black Mustard is a member of the Brassicaceae, also classically called the Cruciferae (Latin, meaning ‘cross-bearing’) in reference to its four ‘crossed petals’, which is commonly known as the mustard family. Black Mustard is related to cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, turnips, and watercress.
Over time historic ditching processes have compromised the resilience of the Great Marsh by destroying its natural draining process, leaving it increasingly vulnerable to floods. The Trustees and partners are working to fortify 330 acres of the marsh in Newbury, Essex, and Ipswich using an innovative nature-based method of “ditch remediation” that, to date, has only been piloted on a very limited basis on the neighboring USFWS Parker River Wildlife Refuge.
Hard to miss in the wintertime both at Crane Beach and at Plum Island are the layers and swirls of pink and purple sand. On a recent visit to Revere Beach I noticed there were also rivulets of pink and purple sands.
The pink and purple are mineral deposits of rose quart and garnet and come to north of Boston beaches via the White Mountains. Water and wind worn rock is carried in river waters until it meets the ocean and becomes deposited on barrier beaches. We mostly see the garnet and quartz deposits in winter as storms erode the dunes, leaving the heavier minerals exposed. During the spring and summer, the lighter white quartz sand blows back over the dunes and covers the heavier sand.
JEOL is a supplier of electron microscopes, ion beam instruments, mass spectrometers and NMR spectrometers. On a visit to Plum Island looking for Snowy Owls, several JEOL employees found purple sand. They analyzed it using an optical microscope, a scanning electron microscopes (SEM) and an energy dispersive X-Ray spectrometer (EDS).
At first look under the optical microscope, the granules of sand appeared like scattered jewels of many colors; predominantly glassy pink angular grains, with smaller quantities of milky white rounded grains, clear angular grains, black grains (some magnetic and some not), and even the occasional green.
What could be the cause of the purple color? The answer was one that came as no surprise to the scientist, but was exciting for the beach walkers because they had an exact answer to a question that no doubt is one that many people have when they visit Plum Island – which was actually named for its beach plum bushes, not the plum-colored sand.
When large amounts of fine grained pink is intermixed with a smaller number of darker grains and dampened by rain or sea water the human eye will “see” the sand as a much darker pink to almost purple. The two most common pink minerals are rose quartz (while quartz is one of the two most common minerals on earth, the pink rose quartz variety is not so common ,especially in the New England geology, and is found only in a few isolated pegmatite deposits in NH & southern Maine which are where most gemstones originate) and the solid solution series of almandine and pyrope garnet which is also a very common mineral (and is quite common in the Seacoast area from the abundance of metamorphic rocks called mica schist and from contact metamorphism. This is also why many commercial sandpaper products have a pink color as the angular hard gains of almandine / pyrope garnet are the perfect abrasive. The most likely candidates for the white and clear are any of the feldspars and or quartz. The green is most likely epidote. Just based on the optical examination these are no more than educated logical guesses (but still guesses).
Vern Robertson, JEOL’s SEM Technical Sales Manager, originally examined the grains under a low power optical stereo microscope with the above conclusions. In addition to providing technical and scientific support to JEOL SEM customers for a multitude of applications, Vern holds a degree in Geology. After a cursory look optically, it was time to get down to some spectroscopic analysis to determine the actual mineral species present in the sand.
Individual grains of various colors were selected and mounted for examination with the JSM-6010LA+ InTouchScope SEM and for analysis using EDS. The SEM allows much higher magnification imaging with greater depth of field than a traditional OM and the low vacuum capability allows examination of the sample without the traditional conductive coating that needs to be applied for SEM imaging. However, it generates images in only black & white (electrons have no color!). One specialized detector in the SEM, the Backscatter Electron Detector, yields images with the gray level intensity directly proportional to the average atomic number (or density). This means that minerals containing only lighter elements like O, Si are darker in appearance to minerals that contain heavier elements like Fe or any of the metallic or rare earth elements.
Once located, each grain can be analyzed with the EDS. When an electron beam hits a sample it creates not only an image from the emitted electrons but creates X-rays, which when collected in a spectrum, indicate what elements are present and at what concentrations. This allows not only the elemental composition of the individual grains to be determined but the concentrations can be compared to known stoichiometry of the suspected mineral grains. The combination of color and magnetic properties from OM examination and the chemical makeup of the individual grains yield the answer.
The purple color (or more appropriately, pink color) comes from the abundance of almandine-pyrope garnet with a nominal solid solution composition of Fe3+2Al2Si3O12 to Mg3+2Al2Si3O12. As expected, the white grains are a mix of feldspars but mostly K-feldspar (potassium alumino-silicates) and quartz SiO2. The black nonmagnetic grains were a mix of a pyroxene called augite which showed its characteristic strong cleavage, (Ca,Na)(Mg,Fe,Al)(Si,Al)2O6 , and a mix of ilmenite FeTiO3 and hematite Fe2O3 which are the magnetic components. The green was confirmed to be epidote Ca2(Al,Fe)3(SiO4) 3(OH). With the exception of the high concentration of garnets the rest are common minerals one would expect to find in sands.
Although I am not suggesting that this case of attempted abduction correlates to the disappearance of Abbie Flynn, it illustrates how easily a woman of any age could be abducted. Ipswich Local News
John P. Muldoon
March 6, 2020
IPSWICH — A Mattapan man is being held on cash bail after he allegedly tried to force a woman into his car at Pavilion Beach Tuesday.
The woman escaped by pretending a man nearby was her husband, police said.
Police said they arrested the suspect after a 30-minute standoff on Jeffreys Neck Road where they had to smash a car window to haul the man out.Pavilion Beach
The suspect, Anson V. Frazier, 30, of 27 Briarcliff Terrace, Mattapan, was still in custody Friday afternoon on $5,000 cash bail, according to records in Ipswich District Court.
Records said Frazier was charged with:
Attempt to commit a crime, to wit kidnapping
Resisting arrest, and
Assault and battery.
Should he make bail, he will have to wear an electronic monitor, stay away from Ipswich and the victim, not leave the state, remain drug and alcohol free and undergo random screening, and not possess any firearms or dangerous weapons, the court record said.
The incident reportedly happened around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, the police complaint on file said.
According to one report written by Officer Ryan Mayer, police were told a man “attempted to grab a woman and pull her into his vehicle.”
Mayer, who arrived first at Pavilion Beach, said he was met by a “distraught” woman, 65, who said she saw a man doing yoga on the beach.
The suspect “approached her and grabbed her right arm with both hands and began forcibly pushing her towards his car saying that he had a dog service that she would be very interested in,” the complaint alleged.
Police said the woman pointed to the vehicle next to her and said the man inside was her husband and they could talk with him about the service.
Mayer said that was a ruse to have Frazier let her go while simultaneously signalling for help.
Frazier “then let go of [the woman] and got in his vehicle and attempted to leave the scene at a high rate of speed,” the complaint alleged.
One man who said he witnessed the alleged abduction attempt told police Frazier “was acting strange on the beach, doing yoga poses near the water and believed he may have been on drugs due to his actions.”
Another witness told police “Frazier went near the water and started performing yoga [and] seemed to be laughing and talking to himself, and pacing around.”
The woman, whose daughter and grandchildren witnessed the alleged incident, “was in fear for her safety and stated that she thought Anton Frazier was there to grab whoever he could get his hands on,” Mayer’s report said.
With a number of witnesses in the area, police were given a license plate and a description, it added.
One man attempted to follow the car while another woman called 911, police said.
On the lookout for a gray Hyundai on his way toward the beach, Officer Daniel Holway saw the car, turned around and pulled the Hyundai over near 37 Jeffreys Neck Road, his report said.
Holway said he approached and asked the driver for license and registration, which was supplied, the report added.
Holway said his plan was to get Frazier’s side of the story while waiting for more information from Mayer and Officer Kelly Phelan, who had joined him at Pavilion.
He said he asked Frazier if he was at the beach. The driver replied that he had completed a delivery to Gloucester.
“But he later told me that he came here from Mattapan to enjoy the weather and meditate on the beach,” Holway said.
Frazier reportedly said “he only approached people and asked them if there were into dog massages and he didn’t touch anyone,” Holway’s complaint said.
Holway said he then heard back from the beach and told Frazier he was under arrest, the report added.
At that point, “he rolled up his window and locked his vehicle doors,” Holway said.
Officer Mark Ruggiero was at the scene at this point and the officers reportedly tried to talk Frazier out of the car for around 30 minutes, Holway said.
At one point, Frazier told police he wanted to get back to work, Holway added.
“Frazier was advised by me several times that his actions were making the circumstances worse and that his actions would result in further criminal charges,” Ruggiero’s report said.
However, Frazier reportedly lowered the driver’s side window a little for a few minutes “to allow limited conversation,” he added.
Although the Hyundai was boxed in, police said the engine was still running, and that presented an unsafe situation.
“After all options were exhausted,” Mayer said police decided to use a special tool to break the passenger side window to pull Frazier from the vehicle.
“This was explained to Anson very clearly at which point, Anson indicated he understood what I was explaining to him and what was about to happen,” Holway said.
After the window was smashed, Holway said he reached in, unlocked the passenger door and two officers reportedly hauled Frazier out, pinned him to the ground and arrested him.
Charlotte and I had a wonderful adventure morning checking on the owls at Plum Island. We observed several Harrier Hawks flying low over the marsh grass hunting for prey, a Short-eared Owl perched on a craggy tree, and a Snowy parked for the morning far out in the dunes. We played on the beach and she had a blast zooming up and down the boardwalk at lot no. 2.
Tiny white wedge in the distance
We next stopped at the refuge headquarters to play in the marsh boat that is part of the exhibit about the Great Salt Marsh. She brought along her own stuffed Snowy to join on the boat ride.
Next destination was a visit to see the farm friends at Tendercrop Farm. Currently in residence are a turkey, ginormous steer, pony, chickens, ducks, llama, and the sweetest miniature goat who is just wonderful with toddlers.
I purchased the best steaks we have ever had, Tendercrop’s own grass fed rib-eye, made even more magnificent cooked to perfection by Alex, with a beautiful red wine demi-glace.
Everything at Tendercrop Farm is always amazingly delicious. They have the freshest and best selection of fruits and vegetables during the winter months, bar none.
Great bunches of freshly cut pussy willows are for sale at Tendercrop
Last stop was lunch at the Ipswich Clambake. The owners and staff are just the most friendly. The clam chowder at the Clambake is perfection. Charlotte and I shared a mini super fresh fried clam appetizer and that, along with the chowder, made the best sort of lunch to top off our fun adventure morning.
Tendercrop Farm is located at 108 High Road, 1A, in Newbury.
Ipswich Clambake is located at 196 High Street, 1A, in Ipswich.
Grant helps plovers have record year on Crane Beach
By John P. Muldoon
ROTARY CLUB PAID FOR THREE SOLAR-POWERED ELECTRIC FENCES
IPSWICH — Those little birds you see running around the beach don’t have it easy.
Although they have wings, they won’t fly to trees to build their nests. Instead, they scoop holes, or “scrapes,” in the sand and lay their eggs there.
And that’s an invitation for all kinds of trouble: predators, rogue waves, dogs, or clumsy or malicious humans.
Combined with widespread loss of habitat, piping plovers are now on the federal government’s threatened species list. One estimate says there are just 8,400 left worldwide.
But along with lease terns, which are protected in Massachusetts, the plovers are well taken care of on Crane Beach.
In fact, they were so well taken care of in 2019 that a record number of chicks fledged and are now ready for the next perilous phase of their lives — a migration to the Bahamas.
This year, 49 pairs of plovers raised 96 chicks, said Jeff Denoncour, coastal ecologist with The Trustees of Reservations.
The last year that good for the birds was in 1999, when 44 pairs produced 89 fledglings, he added.
To show how precarious the species’ existence can be, Denoncour said the year 2000 was disastrous. Just 12 fledglings survived despite the efforts of 49 pairs. “That was due to a major storm,” he explained.
The brand new beautiful School Street Sunflower field is not to be missed. With gently rolling hills, abundantly planted rows, and a wide, easy path to stroll (easy enough for a two-year-old to navigate), the 5 acres of sunflowers is a wildflower lover’s dream.
Paul Wegzyn and his Dad, also Paul Wegzyn, shared their enthusiasm for this exiting new venture.
There are picnic tables for those who would like to take lunch, and positioned artfully around the fields are photo props such as tractors and bales of hay, but for the most part, the scene is straight up gorgeous sunflowers (and bees!).
The variety planted blooms in 50 to 60 days from when planted and today is day 61. Only a few flowers have droopy seed-laden heads, or have passed. NOW is the time to go as the blooms will all have expired in another two weeks.
School Street Sunflower Farm
At the corner of Linebrook Road and School Street (for google maps type in – 79 Linebrook Road)
Open 8am to sunset.
The cost is eight dollars during the week, ten dollars on weekends, and the ticket covers a full day. Wristbands are available if you would like to return the same day. Children under five are free.
Trustees of Reservations ecologist Jeff Denoncour kindly shares information about the Piping Plovers at Crane Beach and he wrote two days ago with an update for us on their Piping Plover population. “Unfortunately the weather has been pretty inclement this year making it tough to monitor and really nail down the number of pairs. That mixed with an abundance of birds and a lot of loss due to storms and high tides and a bit of predation its really hard for me to get an accurate pair count right now. I am estimating that we have more than 33 plover pairs.
So far we have discovered 36 plover nests, but right now we only have 19 active nests. 3 of the 36 nests are renests, which is why I’m saying we have 33 or more pairs. Some pairs have been scraping consistently in areas but have not laid eggs.
Our first nest is due to hatch tomorrow.”
I sent him an email this morning and hopefully we’ll have news of hatchlings!
Tiny flakes falling through the trees, making that distinct pitapat sound of snowdrops landing on crisp frozen leaves below. But wait, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. An assembly of Redpolls overhead, hungrily teasing seeds from the tree’s cones were creating a shower of snow-seeds.
I followed along ever so quietly as the flock moved from tree to tree, expertly pulling the cones apart for the small kernel held within.
Returning several times to the same trail and hoping to catch sight again but, with most of the cones gone, so too were the Redpolls.
The Common Redpoll is a species of finch with a distinct crimson cap that looks like a mini French beret, giving the song bird a bit of a rakish appearance.
Their small yellow bills evolved to eat small seeds, such as those of thistles and birches. Some studies show that in winter Redpolls subsist almost entirely on birch seeds.
Common Redpolls have been known to survive temperatures of -65 degrees below and even sleep at night in snow tunnels that can be up to a foot long. Redpolls nest in the Arctic tundra; we only ever see them during the winter months.
This striking Baltimore Checkerspot was photographed last week in a field of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). The field is located in Ipswich’s town center.
Notice the Baltimore Checkerspot’s vivid orange antennal clubs and white and orange dotted abdomen. The caterpillar’s food plant, or host plant, is mainly turtlehead (Chelone glabra) in low lands and gerardias upland, e.g., Smooth False Foxglove (Aureolaria flava).
I find absolutely the most interesting creatures in fields where grows Common Milkweed, which tells us that the plant provides a wealth of nourishment for a diverse range of organisms.
Note: The underside of butterfly wings are referred to as ventral; the upper surface as dorsal. An easy way to remember the difference between the terms dorsal and ventral is to think of the dorsal fin of a dolphin.