Thank you all so very much for taking the time to respond to my ‘survey’ question about how you view films. Wow, what a variety of answers. I am working on a plan for Everyone to view!
Such a disappointingly light Monarch migration through Cape Ann this autumn but the shift in wind direction at the beginning of the week produced a tiny sprinkling of butterflies. Friends along the New Jersey coast are reporting good numbers the past few days. You can see on the map from Journey North how few overnight roosts have been recorded on the East Coast. Typically the map is much more densely colored: Monarch Butterfly Overnight Roosts 2020 Hopefully the migration will strengthen in the central part of the country
Stay well and take care,
Very best wishes,
Migrating Monarch in the garden fattening up on nectar at the pink New England Asters
I hope you are all doing well and fortunate enough to have good health.
After a brief cold snap we are having a beautiful Indian Summer here on Cape Ann. I hope you have the opportunity to get outdoors today and enjoy nature. Bird and butterfly migrations are well underway. At Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, rangers shared that they have never seen a migration such as this year’s, with over 180 species sited at the refuge this past week. The birds appear to have benefitted from decreased human activity over the past seven months. On the other hand, the Atlantic Coast Monarch migration seems stalled or nonexistent. Perhaps we will have a late, great migration as we did several years ago. And there are some positive signs for the butterflies, especially through the Mississippi Flyway as Monarch Waystations further north, such as the one at Point Pelee have been reporting that the Monarch migration is doing well. I’ve seen Monarchs migrating through Cape Ann in good numbers as late as the second week of October, so we’ll be ever hopeful.
Good news to share -the page for Beauty on the Wing is up on American Public Television World Wide! Here is the link, including information with a link on how to license Beauty. The page looks great and the line-up of films, stellar. We are so honored to be included in this fine catalogue of Science, Health, and Nature Programming!
And more super good news to share – Beauty on the Wing has been accepted to the Boston International Kids Film Festival! This is an outstanding festival for kids, by kids, and about kids and is organized by a dynamic group of women: Laura Azevedo, Kathleen Shugrue, and Natalia Morgan. A complete list of films for the 2020 BIKFF will be posted in the upcoming days, along with information on how the festival will be organized for safe viewing during the pandemic.
I have been following (or become enchanted is a more accurate description) a small flock of Bobolinks. Click here to read a story posted on my website: Bobolinks Amongst the Sunflowers. While reading about Bobolinks, I came across a link to The Bobolink Project, a truly worthwhile organization. The Bobolink Project habitat conservation plan not only helps Bobolinks, but many species of declining grassland birds.
The sun is coming out and the temperature still summery. Stay well and enjoy the day!
Clethra alnifolia is more commonly known by its many descriptive names of Summersweet, Sweet Pepperbush, and Honeysweet. In an old book on fragrance, written by Louise Beebe Wilder, she writes that in Gloucester of old it was described as ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ During the 19th and early 20th century, as told by Wilder, the sailors entering the harbor on homebound ships would reportedly delight in its fragrance wafting out to see.
Much of Niles Pond road is to this day lined with great thickets of ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ Wild Clethra growing on Cape Ann blooms during the month of August.
The following is an excerpt from a book that I wrote back in 2004-2007, which was published by David R. Godine in 2009. The book is about designing landscape habitats for wild creatures and for people, titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester Garden, and all that I wrote then, still holds true to day.
“Summersweet bears small white florets held on racemes, and depending on the cultivar may be shaded with varying hues of pink to rose-red. The tapering spires of fragrant blossoms appear in mid to late summer. Clethra has a sweet and spicy though somewhat pungent aroma, and when the summer air is sultry and humid, the fragrance permeates the garden, Summersweet is a nectar food attractive to bees and a wide variety of butterflies, notably the Silver-spotted Skipper.” See more at Oh GardenMyriad species of bees and butterflies, along with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, are attracted to Clethra for its sweet nectar, while American Robins, Goldfinches and warblers dine on Summersweet’s ripened berries. Clethra fruits ripening
I am so excited to share that the New Haven Documentary Film Festival begins on Tuesday the 18th. Because of the pandemic, much of the festival is online. Beauty on the Wing will begin airing at 11am on the 21st. There is also an interview about the making of Beauty on the Wing with myself and Karyl Evans.
Very unfortunately and yet another consequence of the pandemic, the films in the program are geoblocked, which means they can only be viewed in Connecticut. Not to worry though, as soon as it is safe, we will have a local premiere and I am very much looking forward to that!
For any of my readers in Connecticut, if you are interested in purchasing a ticket, please GO HERE
To learn more about the New Haven Documentary Film Festival, click here.
See the NHdocs 2020 trailer here (with lots of clips from Beauty on the Wing!) –
Cedar Rock Gardens retail shop is now open. Tucker and Elise have created a super safe shopping experience. All customers and employees wear masks.
Elise’s parents, Juile and Jim Jilson, are lending a helping hand during the pandemic.
The checkout area is protected by plexiglass.
Come shop their organically grown gorgeous selection of veggies, herbs, annual seedlings, and perennial plants. Everything looks healthy and beautiful! And the refrigerator is stocked with their famously super delicious farm to table produce.
Although Monarchs have been sited as far north as 46 degrees, it is still very early for us even though we are at 43 degrees latitude because we are so far east. Please write if you see one in your garden. And feel free to send a photo. I will post photos here. Thank you so much!
Keep your eyes peeled, especially on emerging milkweed shoots. In the photos below, Monarchs are drinking nectar from, depositing eggs on, and also mating on the milkweed plants. Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) are the two most productive milkweeds for the Northeast region.
Many thanks to Mike Mack and the North Shore Horticultural Society for the invitation to present “The Hummingbird Garden.” We had a great talk and I really want to thank everyone who volunteered what Ruby-throated Hummingbirds like to forage on in their gardens. Hummingbirds are opportunistic feeders and it was so interesting to learn the plants that support RTHummingbirds in other’s gardens. Although Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the most widely distributed Hummingbird in North America many aspects of its migration, breeding, and ecology remain poorly understood. In addition to what was presented, local gardeners added Cuphea, Penstemon ‘Husker Red,’ Rose of Sharon (all shades), Agastache, and a flowering quince in a rich shade of fuchsia.
Special thanks to the lady who brought a hummingbird nest and shared it with the attendees.
A reader inquired about a photo that I had posted with the announcement of the lecture. The photo is of a Rivoli’s Hummingbird and was taken in Macheros, Estado de México. We were staying in a tiny cottage on the banks of a forested mountain stream. The banks were abundant with blooming Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) and both the gently flowing stream and flowering sage were Mecca for all the hummingbirds in the neighborhood. Every morning we awoke to the chattering of dozens of hummingbirds, mostly Rivoli’s and White-eared Hummingbirds, bathing in the stream and drinking nectar from the sage.
A note about Rivoli’s Hummingbirds. They were originally called Rivoli’s, then the name was changed to Magnificent Hummingbird, but it’s name has since reverted back to Rivoli’s Hummingbird.
Rivoli’s Hummingbird and Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
Another banner weekend for butterflies on Cape Ann with Yellow Sulphurs, Painted Ladies, and American Ladies joining the streams of Monarchs migrating along our shores.
Butterflies struggle at this time of year to find sources of nectar. Whatever you do, please do not cut back your garden until mid-November or so. Best NOT to cut back at all and to leave the drying seed heads for the songbirds and leaf litter and plant stalks for hibernating bees and caterpillars, but if one really must cut back, wait as long as possible.
If you click on the photos in the gallery, each picture is labeled with the name of the butterfly and the names of the late-blooming plants on which they are drinking nectar and building their fat reserves for the journey ahead . Butterflies will even fight over a Dandelion to try to get nectar when nothing much else is available (the best reason of all not to use Roundup on the Dandelions in a lawn).
Please join me Thursday evening at the Sacred Heart Church in Manchester where I will be giving my presentation “The Hummingbird Garden” for The North Shore Horticultural Society. It’s been a phenomenal year for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on Cape Ann and I am looking forward to sharing information on how you, too, can create a hummingbird haven. I hope to see you there!
“The Hummingbird Garden” is free for members and five dollars for guests.
THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird that nests in Massachusetts. Learn what to plant to help sustain this elusive beauty while it is breeding in our region and during its annual spring and fall migrations. Through photographs and discussion we’ll learn about the life cycle of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the best plants to attract this tiniest of breeding birds to your garden.
I have so much to be thankful for – my family, friends, work, film projects, and all of you for your generous donations to the documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.
If we’ve spoken recently, then you know that over the past months I have been adding new scenes, from the Monarch migration of 2017, and from our most recent beautiful fall migration of 2018. This past week we screened the film for my two amazing producers Lauren and Susan (they both loved it and provided excellent feedback!). In the coming weeks the film next goes to an audio engineer and to a film “finisher,” with the goal of having a final cut in hand by the end of February. I’ll be sending updates more frequently now that the project is beginning to spread her wings.
My sincerest thanks to you for being part of the wonderful journey of Beauty on the Wing.
Wishing you much love, joy, and beauty in the coming year.
While releasing the last Monarchs of the season with Charlotte, one landed on her hair and stayed for few moments, just long enough to catch a minute of footage and to take a photo.
Thank you to Patti Papows for our little straggler. Patti’s chrysalis was attached to a plant in her garden, an aster, which had lost all its leaves. She was worried a predator might eat it, so we scooped up the chrysalis and placed it in a terrarium at my home, where the butterfly emerged on October 17.
Will these last of the season’s Monarchs that are migrating along the Atlantic Coast make it to Mexico? Some will follow a path along the coastline, where when they reach the Delaware Bay, winds will begin to funnel them towards Mexico, between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. Some will continue on down the coast all the way to Florida. Some of these Atlantic Coast Monarchs will live their days out in Florida, and some will cross the Gulf of Mexico on their journey to Mexico.
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.
My friend Patti Papows shares that she heard a promo on PBS for the Autumnwatch Cape Ann Monarch migration episode, which we believe airs Friday night at 8pm. The BBC team is still editing the segment so if anything changes, we will let you know.
The Monarch migration interview was filmed at Patti’s beautiful garden in Gloucester, at Good Harbor Beach, and the episode includes footage from my forthcoming film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.
Patti is a fantastic hostess and the producer Sophie, cameraman Bobby, and his wife Gina were thrilled with her warm hospitality and the refreshments she provided. It was cold and damp and drizzly, yet despite that, half a dozen Monarchs emerged from the chrysalises I had brought to the interview. Everyone was excited to see this and I think it was all meant to be.
The three night series airs Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8pm (October 17th-19th).
Photos from an October passel of Monarchs migrating along our shores and nectaring at the late blooming asters.
Some press for the show that I have been working on with the BBC! The shows air October 17-19th, at 8pm. I don’t know yet which night the Cape Ann Monarchs episode will play, but will let you know.
– Travel journalist Samantha Brown, wildlife cinematographer Bob Poole and BBC presenter Chris Packham host the live nature show celebrating fall in New England –
PBS announced, as part of its co-production partnership with the BBC, that a new three-part live event, AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND, will air Wednesday-Friday, October 17-19, 2018, at 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings).
Travel journalist Samantha Brown, BBC presenter Chris Packham and wildlife cinematographer Bob Poole will host the multi-platform television experience from alongside Squam Lake, New Hampshire. Similar in format to PBS’ previous summer spectacles BIG BLUE LIVE and WILD ALASKA LIVE, the new series will include a mix of live feeds and pre-taped footage from across New England.
Unique to AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND, the live event will focus on cultural traditions and historical sites in addition to local wildlife and the colorful gold and red landscapes in the region that’s best known for them.
To accomplish this, local experts in food, wildlife, music, literature, and history will join the trio of hosts each night to showcase characteristics special to New England.
“In AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND, audiences will experience exquisite outdoor adventures while surrounded by nature’s most picturesque imagery,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President, Programming & Development, PBS. “We look forward to partnering with the BBC once again to present this ambitious live production and share this American experience with PBS and BBC viewers.”
AUTUMNWATCH – NEW ENGLAND cameras will be there to capture time-lapse changes of fall foliage; a quest for majestic moose in Maine; the Monarch butterfly migration through Cape Ann, key wildlife species like squirrels, chipmunks and turkey gangs as they invade backyards in preparation for the winter months; and the critters like owls, bats and bears that make the most of nighttime.
Audiences can expect to see segments that highlight Native American history and traditions, Halloween traditions, regional fairs and the many farms that provide the region with its rich varieties of apples, pumpkins, cranberries and maple syrups.
“I’m thrilled that AUTUMNWATCH is moving to New England for this very special week of live programming,” Tom McDonald, BBC Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual, said. “The teams are heading to one of the most iconic locations in the USA to experience the great American ‘fall’ for what promises to be an unforgettable chapter in the Watches’ history.”
Female (left) and male (right) Monarch Butterfly. These two beauties (warming their wings on native wildflower New England Aster) eclosed (emerged) during the BBC filming of the Monarch migration through Cape Ann.
A surprise meeting with a beautiful female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
She is drinking nectar from the wildflower Saponaria officinalis. The plant’s many common names include Soapwort, Bouncing-bet, and Wild Sweet William. The name Soapwort stems from its old fashioned use in soap making. The leaves contain saponin, which was used to make a mild liquid soap, gentle enough for washing fine textiles.
Saponaria blooms during the summertime. Although introduced from Eurasia, you can find this wildflower growing in every state of the continental US.
The hummingbird in the clip is a female. She lacks the brilliant red-feathered throat patch, or gorget, of the male. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are all around us, you just have to know what to plant to bring them to your garden. Mostly they eat tiny insects but if you plant their favorite nectar-providing plants, they will come!
If I could only grow one plant to attract the Ruby-throats, it would be honeysuckle. Not the wonderfully fragrant, but highly invasive, Japanese honeysuckle, but our beautiful native trumpet honeysuckle that flowers in an array of warm-hued shades of Spanish orange (‘John Clayton’), deep ruby red (‘Major Wheeler’), and my very favorite, the two-toned orange and red ‘Dropmore Scarlet.’
Lonicera sempervirens’ Dropmore Scarlet’
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird drinking nectar from zinnia florets.
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.
A bodacious beauty possessing the toughest of traits, Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium) is the stalwart star of the eastern native plants garden. Large, airy dome-shaped flowerheads blooming in a range of shades from pink to lavender to purple provide food, by way of nectar, foliage, and seed heads to myriad species of bees, butterflies, and songbirds. Beginning in mid-July and continuing through mid-October, pollinators on the wing can find sustenance in a garden planted with Little Joes and Big Joes.
Joe Pye, the person, is thought to have been a North Carolina Native American medicine man who used these wildflowers to cure many ailments, including typhoid fever. The plants became know as Joe Pye’s weed.
A name changer from weed to wildflower would be a game changer for numerous species of native plants. Why do so many native wildflowers have the suffix weed? Because when the colonists arrived from Europe, they wanted their crops, as well as European cultivated flowers, to grow in their new gardens. Anything native that interfered with their plans was deemed a “weed.” Examples of beautiful and invaluable North American native pollinator plants with the name given weed are milkweed (Asclepias), sneezeweed (Helenium), ironweed (Veronia), and jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).
Three favorite and fabulous species for the New England landscape are Eutrochium purpureum, E. maculatum, and E. dubium. Joe-pye grows beautifully in average to moist soil, in full sun to light shade. Plant Joe-pye in the back of the border. E.purpurem grows five to seven feet tall, while Little Joe grows three to five feet. With their beautiful blossoms, robust habit, winter hardiness, and disease resistance, these long blooming members of the sunflower family are treasured for their ability to attract an array of butterflies, bees, and songbirds to the garden during the mid- to late-summer season.
Just look at this sampling of the different species of Lepidoptera finding noursihment from the blossoms of Joe-Pye!
Painted Lady Black Swallowtail
Joe-Pye does especially well in a coastal native plants garden.
If you enjoyed reading this post, I hope you will consider donating to the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. Every contribution is tremendously appreciated. For more information on how you can help, please visit the film’s website at http://www.monarchbutterflyfilm.com
MILKWEED SEED COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION PROJECT SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH
Collect ripe milkweed seed pods (only Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed please). Place in a paper bag, not plastic, as plastic can cause the seed pods to become damp and moldy.
Bring seedpods to Captain Joe and Sons on Sunday morning between 10:30 and noon. Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, East Gloucester.
If you’d like to distribute seeds, meet at the dock between 10:30 and noon and I will show you what to do.
NOTE: It is easy to tell when milkweed seedpods are ripe. The seeds inside turn brown. Do not collect the pods when the seeds are white or green. If you pick them too soon, they will never be viable. You can check the seed pods by slitting the pod a tiny bit and peeking inside.
Any questions, please comment in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and I hope to see you Sunday morning!
To learn more about how you can help fund the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly Film Online Fundraising event, please visit the film’s website at monarchbutterflyfilm.com.
The sheer number of Painted Ladies migrating are stealing some of the Monarchs thunder!
Many readers have written inquiring about the beautiful butterflies with wings in a tapestry of brilliant orange, brown, black, cream, and blue. Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) are often confused with Monarch butterflies, especially during the late summer. Both are currently migrating and you will often see the two species drinking nectar side-by-side.
As do Monarchs, Painted Ladies depart from Mexico to begin their northward migration in springtime. Both Monarchs and Painted Ladies belong to the brush-foot family (Nymphalidae) and can only survive in warm climates.
Monarch Butterfly, top, and Painted Lady bottom. Note that the Painted Lady is about half the size of the Monarch.
Sightings from the midwest recorded large numbers early in the season, and 2017 has proven to be an outstanding year for this most successful of butterflies. The Painted Lady is also nicknamed the “Cosmopolitan” butterfly because it is the most widespread butterfly in the world.
Painted Lady drinking nectar from the Seaside Goldenrod at the Gloucester HarborWalk
One reason we may possibly be experiencing a Painted Lady irruption in North America is because a rainy spring in the south was followed by a fabulous bloom of dessert annuals that provided abundant food plants for the caterpillars. Unlike Monarch butterflies, which will only deposit their eggs on members of the milkweed family (Asclepias), Painted Lady caterpillars eat a wide range of plants. More than 300 host plants have been noted; favorites include thistles, yarrow, Pearly Everlasting, Common Sunflower (Asteraceae), Hollyhock and many mallows (Malvaceae), various legumes (Fabaceae) along with members of Boraginaceae, Plantaginaceae, and Urticaceae.
Common Buckeye and Painted Lady Nectaring at the Seaside Goldenrod at the Gloucester HarborWalk
Much, much more remains to be discovered about the beautiful Painted Lady, its habits and how their behavior and seasonal distribution varies by geographic location.
Would you like to help us spruce up the pollinator gardens at the HarborWalk? The wonderful Maggie Rosa called last week expressing interest in helping care for the garden. We had a nice walk through the HarborWalk and talked about weed versus wildflower. Maggie has already made a tremendous improvement. If you would like to volunteer, I’ll be at the HarborWalk on Sunday morning from 7am to 8:30, before the podcast, and happy to show anyone interested how to identify the wildflowers. Please feel free to comment in the comment section or email me at email@example.com if you have any questions. Thank you.