Tag Archives: Michoacán

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.

Ofrenda de Muertos Gloucester

Whether on the wings of a butterfly or the seat of a ferris wheel, the souls of loved ones return to earth to be remembered by their families and friends.

In late October millions of Monarchs begin to arrive to the magnificent oyamel fir and pine tree forests of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, located in the heart of Mexico in the eastern regions of Michoacán. Their return coincides with the annual celebration of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead fiesta. Native peoples and their descendants today believe butterflies are the souls of departed loved ones, returning to Earth to be remembered by their ancestors. An even older tradition connects the Monarchs with the corn harvest, as their return signified that the corn was ripe. In the language of the native Purpécha Indians, the name for the Monarch is “harvester.” Ofrenda de Muertos Gloucester

SAFE TRAVELS MONARCHS!

Cape Ann Monarch Butterfly Migration Update

Monarch Butterfly bougainvillea ©Kim Smith 2015Female Monarch and Bougainvillea

Monarch Butterflies Daisies ©Kim Smith 2015Methuselah Monarchs Heading to Mexico

Our last batch of Monarchs emerged from their chrysalides, dried their wings, and caught the tailwinds to Michoacán. I hope they arrive to their winter roosting sites at the trans-Mexican volcanic mountaintops safely!

Although not many migrating Monarchs were reported on the shores of Cape Ann, a great batch was seen migrating over Lake Erie in late summer. Cape May, which is 400 miles south of Cape Ann, also had a strong showing. Keep on the lookout though because on Election Day in 2007, I photographed a Monarch refueling at Korean Daisies.

The Monarchs are counted by the Mexican scientists in December and the numbers released in January. Last year a tiny increase from 2013 was noted (2013 was the year the lowest numbers were ever recorded). Lets keep our hopes up that the population will continue to improve.

Monarch Butterfly sunflower ©Kim Smith 2015Last Sunflowers of the SeasonMonarch Butterfly daisy ©Kim Smith 2015

Monarch Butterfly pink bougainvillea ©Kim Smith 2015

NEW FILM: A FLIGHT OF MONARCHS

When watching, know that the first two minutes of the film were shot in Gloucester. I think you will be dazzled by the sheer numbers of Monarchs that travel through Cape Ann’s backyards and meadows during the peak of migration.

I began photographing the Monarchs in 2006, which was a year when we had an extraordinary number of Monarchs visiting our shores. At that time, I became determined that if ever again this phenomenon were to occur on Cape Ann, I was going to have the ability to document on film, rather than only through still images, this beautiful event for my community. It’s hard to imagine without observing and here you can see what I have wanted to share.

A Flight of Monarchs begins on a September day as first one and then passels of Monarchs begin to arrive to the fields and meadows of Cape Ann, carried across Massachusetts Bay on a tailwind. By the early evening light they begin to pour into the surrounding trees, clustering to stay warm in the branches furthest away from the prevailing breezes. The following morning as the sun begins to touch their wings, they alight from the trees, seeking the freshest wildflowers from which to drink nectar to help build their lipid reserves for the several thousand mile journey south. They drink and drink until the last of the sun’s rays dip below the tree line. As they arrived on a tailwind, they again depart, and are carried to the next gathering area. For coastal Monarchs, Allens Pond, which is located in Westport, Massachusetts is often the next stop.

In the next scene, the butterflies have arrived to the sacred oyamel fir forests of Angangueo, Michoacán, deep in the heart of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. It’s early morning and the butterflies are suspended in great primordial branched clusters that may become so heavy from the weight of so many butterflies the boughs of the trees bend to the breaking point. Later in the day, as the sun begins to warm their wings, the butterflies begin to stir. During the winter, it is imperative that the Monarch’s body temperature remains relatively low. They leave the sunniest branches in search of shade and a drink of water from nearby mountain streams. Occasionally in late February, as the air temperatures begin to warm with the coming springtime, for a short period during the day, the butterflies leave the trees all at once. This phenomenon is called a butterfly “explosion,” and is a truly magnificent event to observe.

A Flight of Monarchs is set to the evocative and tender “Fields of Blue,” written and performed by composer and guitarist Jesse Cook and his band, to which permission was granted by the artist for the purpose of this short film. Here is a link to Cook’s website. I highly, highly recommend attending a live performance of Jesse Cook and Company. As was I, you will be completely taken by their gorgeous music, exquisite artistry, and with Cook’s songwriting, will travel in beautiful melodies inspired from around the world.

I am currently editing my feature length documentary, Beauty on the Wing, which after months and months of organizing and editing three years of footage, is currently running at approximately twelve hours in length. At eleven hours too long, I have a great deal of editing to accomplish in the coming winter months!

A Flight of Monarchs presented here is the shorter version of the film that I created for the Berkshire Museum’s “Butterflies” exhibit. The first version is six minutes long and played on a continuous loop in the main gallery of the exhibit hall. The longer version will soon be posted on Vimeo.

Monarch Butterfly Explosion!

Monarch butterfly explosion ©Kim Smith 2014Monarch Butterfly Explosion!

I am back from Mexico and, although there for less than a week, there was much to take in. My most sincerest thanks to all my readers for your safe-travels well-wishes and kind thoughts!

The butterflies were dazzling and beautiful beyond imagination, but also very sad. This wondrous migration of the Monarchs, which has taken place for over thousands of years, is in serious peril. If changes are not made very soon, the migration will end. I’ll write more about my trip and the extraordinary scientist that led our expedition, Doctor Tom Emmel, this weekend after I am all caught up with design work and photography projects. Additionally, I interviewed Dr. Emmel at the top of the Sierra Chincua Monarch Colony, located in Michoacán at 10,000 feet above sea level, and will be bringing readers the full interview!

Request for Help and Monarch Film Update

Header Good FINAL FINALFor 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.

monarch-butterfly-milkweed-good-harbor-beach-c2a9kim-smith-2011Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Common Milkweed ~ Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester

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.

Brooke O’Donnell Shares Monarch Photo from Michoacán

Monarchs in Michoacán, Mexico

Brooke O’Donnell Photo from Michoacán

From Brooke’s Mom, Janet:

Hi Kim,

When I looked at the photo, I immediately thought of your inspiring exhibit at the Sawyer Free Library.  Brooke had an eight or more hour bus trip, then an hour horseback ride up to the 10,000 foot elevation in Michoacan state to see the migration.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find you up there!

Back down here at sea level, I wish you a glorious Spring!
Janet