Tag Archives: Seaside Goldenrod

$22,265.00 RAISED FOR  BEAUTY ON THE WING!!!

$22,265.00!!! RAISED FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING DOCUMENTARY! THANK YOU KIND DONORS!!!!!!!!!!!

WITH THE GREATEST APPRECIATION FOR OUR COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS AND SPONSORS, I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT TO DATE WE HAVE RAISED $22,265.00 FOR THE DOCUMENTARY FILM “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER!!!

Friends of the Monarch Butterfly: If you would like to help towards the completion of the documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:

DONATE HERE

Donors contributing over $5,000. will be listed in the credits as a film producer.

For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film

For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget

Thank you so very much for your help.

With gratitude,

Kim

MY DEEPEST THANKS AND GRATITUDE TO LAUREN MERCADANTE (PRODUCER), SUSAN FREY (PRODUCER), NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS FOUNDATION, BOB AND JAN CRANDALL, MARY WEISSBLUM, SHERMAN MORSS, JAY FEATHERSTONE, MARION F., ELAINE M., KIMBERLY MCGOVERN, DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN (NEW YORK), ROBERT REDIS (NEW YORK), NUBAR ALEXANIAN, PETER VAN DEMARK, PATRICIA VAN DERPOOL, FRED FREDERICKS (CHELMSFORD), LESLIE HEFFRON, JIM MASCIARELLI, DAVE MOORE (KOREA), LILIAN AND CRAIG OLMSTEAD, JOHN STEIGER, PAT DALPIAZ, AMY KERR, BARBARA T. (JEWETT, NY), ROBERTA C. ((NY), MARIANNE G. (WINDHAM, NY), PAULA RYAN O’BRIEN (WALTON, NY), MARTHA SWANSON, KIM TEIGER, JUDITH FOLEY (WOBURN), PATTI SULLIVAN, RONN FARREN, SUSAN NADWORNY (MELROSE), HEIDI SHRIVER (PENNSYLVANIA), JENNIFER CULLEN, TOM HAUCK, AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.

 

SPECIAL FILM SCREENING OFFER!

Donors contributing $20.00 or more will be invited to a very special screening preview party of the documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.

Consider the cost of a movie ticket, beverage, and popcorn is $20.00. By contributing to the film’s online fundraising campaign, you will help bring it to theaters and classrooms. Contributors will be invited to the film’s preview screening party and be amongst the first to see this stunning film!

One of the many ways that you will find Beauty on the Wing to be unique is that it was filmed entirely on location, outdoors, and in nature. There are absolutely no computer generated graphics. The life cycle scenes were filmed on Cape Ann, in meadows, dunes, and gardens (not laboratories). Flight scenes are not simulated, but filmed on location, predominantly on Cape Ann, some in Angangueo, and also Santa Barbara, Westport, Cape May, and Stone Harbor Point. Mostly though, through story telling and cinematography, the film shines a beautiful light on the Monarch migration as it unfolds on the shores of Cape Ann, portraying our community and the natural world of Cape Ann as we would hope to be revealed to the world at large.Cape Ann Monarch Butterfly Habitat

CHASING MONARCHS ~ WHIRLWIND TRIP TO STONE HARBOR AND CAPE MAY PART TWO

See Part One Here
Google maps sent me back to Cape May via a different route and I did not again pass the one gas station that appeared to be open for business. Concerned though that the Jetty Motel’s office would close for the night before I had checked in, I headed straight there, passing several closed gas stations along the way.  Not looking good in the refueling department. I arrived just in time, moments before the front desk closed, and was helped tremendously by the receptionist. She pointed me in the direction of the one and only gas station open and provided great advice for dinner, The Lobster House, located on Schellengers Landing Road, Fisherman’s Wharf at Cape May.

My dinner of chowder and oysters was fabulous! I met a super nice guy  at the bar and he shared lots of information about the area. He is marine biologist on one of the local whale boats, which is actually a schooner! He was headed the next morning to the Keys to help a friend rebuild his campgrounds.

The Lobster House is open seven days a week, all year round, and includes several restaurants, a coffee shop-lunch counter style diner, fish market, and dining on the Schooner American, which is moored dockside. The commercial fishing fleet at the Lobster House offloads millions of pounds of seafood and supplies much of the fresh seafood on the Lobster House menu.

The following morning I had checked out by daybreak, filled with anticipation to return to Stone Harbor Point to see the Monarchs departing the trees at first light. First though I headed to the beach across from the hotel for a very quick glimpse. The wide sandy beach has a perfect view of the Cape May Lighthouse. You can walk along the beach and through the trails of the Cape May State Park for direct access to the Lighthouse.

At the shoreline were poised to cross the Bay a great flock of Black Skimmers. Overnight the wind had picked up tremendously and the flock were aligned in perfect soldier-like order, all facing into the strong gusts. Oh how I wished I could have spent more time there exploring this area so rich in fabulous creatures and wildlife. Most definitely on my next visit!

Notice the amazing lower mandible of the Black Skimmer. While flying, the Skimmers use their bill to skim small fish along the surface of the water. The Skimmers pictured here are mostly young Black Skimmers in plumage mottled brown and white.

I arrived at Stone Point Harbor just as the butterflies were awakening. When butterflies roost in trees, they will often situate themselves so that the eastern light of the early morning sun rays warm their wings. They will also typically (but not always) choose overnight sleeping areas that are out of the way of the of the prevailing winds.

Because of the strong winds, instead of leaving the trees all at once, as I have often observed, the Monarchs would take off, have difficulty navigating the wind, and then return to the trees. These attempts lasted several hours as the Monarchs tried again and again to negotiate the harsh wind.

In the mean time, the Monarchs that weren’t as intuitive as the ones that were roosting in trees had roosted overnight on the dried out stalks of wildflowers. They were having an extremely tough time, clinging with all their strength to the stalks or getting pulled down to the sand. This was challenging to observe as there was nothing that could be done to help the butterflies expending so much energy to stay grounded.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BawAbPmljVHAnGl29-fn5xh5kmFBKUEtsG6s6o0/

Monarchs Clinging to Dry Stalks of Seaside Goldenrod and Beach Grass in the Sand

Time was spent between the trees and the dunes. After several hours there were still a number of butterflies warming in the trees, barberry bushes, and wildflowers when I had to leave Stone Harbor Point to return to Cape May Point to check on butterflies that may have been there.

Female (left) and Male Monarch Butterfly warming their wings on a barberry bush.

None were roosting at the Cape May Lighthouse and few were on the wing.  With the wind blowing in precisely the opposite direction for safe travel across the Delaware Bay, the Monarchs were waiting yet another day to take the next leg of their journey. Looking towards a nine hour drive ahead of me, I couldn’t stay a moment longer. Except to grab a bowl of chowder at the Lobster House and have a quick glimpse in the daylight hours at the Fisherman’s Wharf at Cape May.

Sea Bass fishing season was open and fisherman Jim is cutting up squid for bass bait.

Monarchs began arriving in Angangueo several days ago. And in much greater numbers than have been seen in recent years. Barring any huge weather events, this late, great batch of migrants will make it too. Friends are reporting that there are Monarchs in their gardens still, and I have one of Patti Papows caterpillars in its chrysalis, yet to emerge.

Eggs, caterpillars, chrysalides, and butterflies that would have been killed by more seasonable colder temperatures are able to survive in the unusually warm weather we are experiencing on the East Coast. However, most of the wildflowers that provide fortification to the Monarchs on their southward journey have withered. You can help late stragglers by keeping nectar producing flowers in your garden going as long as possible. In our garden, it is the old passalong Korean Daisy that is providing nectar to bees and butterflies, and it will bloom until the first hard frost.

Friends of the Monarch Butterfly: If you would like to help towards the completion of the documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:

DONATE HERE

Donors contributing over $5,000. will be listed in the credits as a film producer.

For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film

For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget

Thank you so very much for your help.

With gratitude,

Kim

WHERE DO ALL THE MONARCHS GO?

Monarch Butterfly and Seaside Goldenrod at Gooseberry Island, Westport

After departing the shores of Cape Ann in autumn, where is the Monarch’s next destination on their several thousand mile journey to Mexico? Our Cape Ann Monarchs join the stream of Monarchs that are migrating southward along the Atlantic Coast. They hug the coastline, crossing bays and ponds, and pausing at beaches to nectar and rest when caught in a headwind or during a storm. When weather and habitat variables combine to create a favorable year for the Monarchs, there may be tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of butterflies traveling along the Atlantic Coast beaches.

The Gooseberry Island old lookout tower is surrounded by a sea of Seaside Goldenrod.

The next major stopover is Westport in Massachusetts, at Gooseberry Island and Allen’s Pond Wildlife Sancturary. Here they find dunes and fields of nectar-rich wildflowers such as Frost Asters, Purple-stemmed Asters, Seaside Goldenrod, Knapweed, Red Clover, and more.

Monarchs drinking nectar from Red Clover at Allen’s Pond Middle Meadow

The sanctuary at Allen’s Pond is host to many species of butterflies during the Monarch’s fall migration, including Clouded Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, and Painted Ladies.  They, too, drink nectar from the Knapweed, Red Clover, asters, goldenrod, and Black Mustard in the sanctuary fields.

The Atlantic Monarchs next head to New York, traveling along the coast of Long Island, from the eastern tip of Montauk, southwest to Fire Island, and continuing to Coney Island. On the day of October 9th, because of a storm passing through, a batch of migrating Monarchs was “stuck” on Plumb Island in Brooklyn.  After the storm passed the following morning, tens of thousand of Monarchs were observed flying over the dunes and along the beach, resuming their journey south.

Monarchs in the gardens at Battery Park with ferry to the Statue of Liberty in the background. Liv photo and video (below).

Our daughter Liv reports that over the weekend of October 21-22, New York City was teeming with Monarchs. She observed hundreds at Coney Island on Saturday, and even more at the gardens at Battery Park on Sunday. Liv has even seen them in the NYC underground subway stations!

After departing the shores of Long Island and NYC, the next great stopover and roosting area is Cape May, New Jersey. The Monarchs pause along the way, stopping to drink nectar and rest on the barrier beaches of the Jersey Shore. Latest field reports suggest that the dunes and fields of Cape May are rife with Seaside Goldenrod that is still in bloom. I am on my way there today and will report all that I see.

From Cape May Point the Monarchs travel ten miles across the Delaware Bay, then journey along the eastern shores of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Some years the Monarchs converge by the millions at the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge waiting for the right winds to carry them across the Chesapeake Bay.

Some Monarch Butterflies travel to Florida, but most are funneled in through the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains, on into Texas and central Mexico.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaIN9gcFtxOrWP27M6OactjFI6UB_VYRPCaaU00/

If you would like to help towards the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, filmed in the wilds of Cape Ann and Angangueo, Mexico, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:

DONATE HERE

Donors contributing over $5,000. will be listed in the credits as a film producer.

For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film

For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget

Thank you so very much for your help.

With gratitude,

Kim Smith

 

$20,450.00 RAISED FOR “BEAUTY ON THE WING” DOCUMENTARY! THANK YOU KIND DONORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WITH THE GREATEST JOY AND APPRECIATION FOR OUR COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS AND SPONSORS, I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT TO DATE WE HAVE RAISED $20,450.00 FOR THE DOCUMENTARY FILM “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER!!!

MY DEEPEST THANKS AND GRATITUDE TO LAUREN MERCADANTE (PRODUCER), SUSAN FREY (PRODUCER), NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS FOUNDATION, LAUREN M., MARION F., ELAINE M., DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN AND ROBERT REDIS (BOTH FROM NEW YORK), NUBAR ALEXANIAN, PETER VAN DEMARK, PATRICIA VAN DERPOOL, FRED FREDERICKS (CHELMSFORD), LESLIE HEFFRON, JIM MASCIARELLI, DAVE MOORE (KOREA), LILIAN AND CRAIG OLMSTEAD, JOHN STEIGER, PAT DALPIAZ, AMY KERR, BARBARA T. (JEWETT, NY), ROBERTA C. ((NY), MARIANNE G. (WINDHAM, NY), PAULA O’BRIEN (WALTON, NY), TOM HAUCK, AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.

If you would like to help towards the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, filmed in the wilds of Cape Ann and Angangueo, Mexico, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:

DONATE HERE

Donors contributing over $5,000. will be listed in the credits as a film producer.

For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film

For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget

Thank you so very much for your help.

With gratitude,

Kim SmithMonarch Silhouettes at Twilight 

HOW YOU CAN HELP FUND MY MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM!

I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT WE HAVE RAISED 1800.00 IN THE FIRST TWO DAYS OF “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER!!! MY DEEPEST THANKS  TO LAUREN M., DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C, ELAINE M., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN AND ROBERT REDIS (BOTH FROM NEW YORK), AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.  

Dear Friends,

Today I am excited to launch the online fundraising campaign for my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.

This film—more than five years in the making—chronicles the extraordinary story of the Monarch butterfly. Tiny creatures, each weighing less than a paperclip, journey thousands of miles from their northern breeding grounds, of which Cape Ann is an integral part, to the trans-volcanic mountaintops of central Mexico. The most magical thing is that their story unfolds in our own backyards, marshes, meadows, and fields. Beauty on the Wing reveals the interconnection between the butterfly’s habitat and wildflowers and the importance of conserving their ecosystems. The film is unique in that every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle is recorded in vibrant close-up in the wild, both on Cape Ann and in Mexico.

The current goal is to raise funds to create a 55-minute feature-length final cut to distribute to elementary schools nationwide. My fundraising partner is the nonprofit Filmmakers Collaborative and donations are tax deductible. Please consider donating what you can. No donation is too small ($5, $25, $100) and every dollar helps get us one step closer to completing the film.

DONATE HERE

Donors contributing over $5,000 will be listed in the credits as a film producer.

For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film

For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget

Thank you so very much for your help.

With gratitude,

Kim Smith

Pure magic in the marsh this morning! For one moment, there were eight Monarchs on this single spray of Seaside Goldenrod.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZ7AgYml1koxVpEtiuxZHIowzTQrC1NUYL8Mbo0/

A SPECTACULAR PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY IRRUPTION HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!

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.

Read More about Painted Ladies here:

DANCE OF COLOR AND LIGHT

Painted Lady Drinking Nectar from the Purple-stemmed Aster

LEARN HOW YOU CAN HELP THE POLLINATORS AT THE SAWYER FREE LIBRARY TONIGHT!

Seaside Goldenrod for Bees and Butterflies

Come on over to the Sawyer Free Library tonight and learn how you can create a welcoming haven for birds, bees, and butterflies!

Plant Cosmos for the Songbirds, Bees, and Butterflies

Marsh Milkweed for the Butterflies and Bees

Male and Female Luna Moths

Zinnias for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Bees, and Butterflies

Mexican Sunflower and Bee

Monarch and Hibiscus

Happy First Day of Autumn

Look for Seaside Goldenrod blooming across marsh and meadow–it also makes a wonderful addition to the garden, and is one of the top ten plants for migrating Monarchs.

seaside-goldenrod-solidago-sempervirens-gloucester-copyright-kim-smith

Good Morning Gloucester Photography Show at Cape Ann Giclee

Please join us Friday April 10th from 5pm – 8pm at Cape Ann Giclee to view photographs by Good Morning Gloucester Contributors Kim Smith, Joey Ciaramitaro, David Cox, Manny Simoes, Craig Kimberley, Marty Luster, Fred Bodin, Donna Ardizoni, and Paul Morrison. Stop by for cocktails and appetizers. I hope to see you there!

All prints are 17″x 22″ and priced at only 60.00 each. James and Anna have printed the images on heavy weight lustrous paper and it really adds to the depth and beauty of the images. At this price, they will quickly sell. Come see!

Don’t miss the rare opportunity to purchase one of my photos for only 60.00!

Good Harbor Beach Sunrise ©Kim Smith 2014Good Harbor Beach Sunrise

Mayor Romeo Thekan and Greasy Pole Walkers ©Kim Smith 2014 copyHer Honor

Buona Fiesta! ©Kim Smith 2014 copyBuona Fiesta!

Seaside Goldenrod ©Kim Smith 2014 copySeaside Goldenrod

Sunflower and Bees ©Kim Smith 2013 copySunflower and Bees

Cape Ann Giclee is located at 20 Maplewood Avenue, Gloucester.

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.

Top Native Bee Friendly Plants

Obedient Plant and Bee Physostegia virginiana ©Kim Smith 2013Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Below is a list of some favorite nectar- and pollen-rich bee-friendly North American wildflowers for attracting native bees and honey bees to your gardens. They are listed in order of bloom time, from spring through late summer, to provide your foragers with nourishment all growing season long.

Mexican Sunflower © Kim Smith 2013Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria viginiana)

Wild Blue Lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Sunflower (Helianthus annus)

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis)

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Sailor Stan sunflower and bee ©Kim Smith 2011Sailor Stan Sunflower (Helianthius annus)

Eupatorium and Bee ©Kim Smith 2012Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

Ironweed Bee ©KIm Smith 2011New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis)

Where Are All the Monarchs?

Monarchs usually arrive in our region by the first week in July and go through several brood cycles. This year, barely any arrived. The Monarch’s sensitivity to temperature and dependence on milkweed make it vulnerable to environmental changes. Since 1994, U.S. and Mexican researchers have recorded a steady decline in the Monarch population in their overwintering grounds, with 2012-2013 being the lowest recorded to date.

Monarch butterflies daybreak willow tree ©Kim Smith 2012

Temperature change and habitat loss affect breeding success and longevity. Dr. Chip Taylor, a leading Monarch researcher at the University of Kansas reports that the widespread adoption of GMO corn and soybean crops resistant to herbicides, along with with intensive herbicide use, coupled with the federal government’s incentivized expansion of corn and soy acreage for the production of biofuels have caused a significant drop in milkweed throughout the heart of the Monarch’s range. Lack of milkweed equals no Monarchs. “Monarch/milkweed habitat has declined significantly in parallel with the rapid adoption of glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans and, since 2006, the rapid expansion of corn and soy acreage to accommodate the production of biofuels,” Taylor wrote on May 29.

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Seaside Goldenrod ©Kim Smith 2011Monarchs Nectaring at Seaside Goldenrod

What can we do? Encourage conservation organizations that conserve Monarch habitat, plant milkweed, plant nectar plants, and raise caterpillars. Hopefully the weather next spring and early summer will be more conducive to the Monarch’s northward migration and breeding success, and if and when the Monarchs arrive, they will find our milkweed plants.

Monarch Butterflies New england Aster ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterflies Nectaring at New England Asters

If anyone sees a Monarch, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or leave a comment in the comment section.

Update: For more information, see previous GMG posts on Monarchs and Milkweed:

How Exactly is Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging the Monarch Butterfly Population?

News Release: MONARCH WATCH ANNOUNCES ‘BRING BACK THE MONARCHS’ CAMPAIGN

Cape Ann Milkweed Project

GloucesterCast Podcast 4/25/13 With Guest Kim Smith

Call for Wildflower Locations

While I am finishing editing my Black Swallowtail film, I am also shooting footage for my film about the Monarch butterflies. I am looking for scenes of wildflower meadows and drifts–milkweed, asters, and goldenrod, for example. If you have a favorite place and know of such a scene on Cape Ann (accessible to the public) or are willing to allow me to come film and photograph on your property, please let me know. There is no extensive equipment involved, just me and my camera and tripod. Please feel free to email me directly at kimsmithdesigns1@gmail.com. Thank you.

Eastern Point Gloucester Seaside Goldenrod

How to Tell the Difference Between a Male and Female Monarch Butterfly

For Devera, who wrote in asking how to tell the difference between a male and female Monarch Butterfly ~

Click photos to view large.

The first photos shows all male Monarch Butterflies necatring at Seaside Goldenrod. Notice the pair of little black pockets, or dots, on the inner vein of the hind wings. These are pockets of pheromones, or what scientists actually refer to as “love dust,” which the male sprinkles on the female during courtship.

The female Monarch Butterfly lacks the the black pockets on her hind wings. Notice too that her wing veination is thicker and smokier.

 

During courtship, male and female join, and he carries her to higher ground. This photo shows the male and female mating, with the male above.

Foggy Autumn Sunrise Featuring Ring-necked Pheasant

Foggy Autumn Sunrise ~ Featuring Ring-necked Pheasant, November 9, 2011, 7 minute duration

Filmed at Good Harbor Beach on a luxuriously warm November morning. Standing in the sand dunes filming the wildflowers and rising sun I heard a noise behind me, and only several feet away. I turned to see a Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus). This is my first encounter with a Ring-necked Pheasant at Good Harbor Beach, but have subsequently learned they are fairly common. I was amazed to see it foraging so close to the public beach and not closer to the marsh where cover is dense. Introduced to Massachusetts in 1894, this game bird continues to thrive in both rural and metropolitan areas. The footage of dried flower heads is of Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens). The opening and final clips show the White’s house, formerly referred to by townspeople as the ‘”Birdcage” because it was wrapped on all four sides with open porches, which have now been enclosed.

Music composed by Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Sesaons Opus 8 Autumn Allegro. Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Itzhak Perlman Violin.

From wiki: The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni) is a set of four violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Composed in 1723, The Four Seasons is Vivaldi’s best-known work, and is among the most popular pieces of Baroque music. The texture of each concerto is varied, each resembling its respective season. For example, “Winter” is peppered with silvery pizzicato notes from the high strings, calling to mind icy rain, whereas “Summer” evokes a thunderstorm in its final movement, which is why the movement is often dubbed “Storm.”

The concertos were first published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti, Vivaldi’s Op. 8, entitled Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Contest between Harmony and Invention). The first four concertos were designated Le quattro stagioni, each being named after a season. Each one is in three movements, with a slow movement between two faster ones. At the time of writing The Four Seasons, the modern solo form of the concerto had not yet been defined (typically a solo instrument and accompanying orchestra). Vivaldi’s original arrangement for solo violin with string quartet and basso continuo helped to define the form.

Gloucester Harbor Day’s End

Views from Eastern Point and Raymond’s Beach with wildflowers Smooth Aster, Common Milkweed, and Seaside Goldenrod. Time lapse of Seven Seas Navigator cruise ship turning in the harbor.

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Raymond’s Beach Gloucester

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Update: Monarch Butterfly Migration Late Summer 2010

Monarch butterfly migration seaside goldenrodMagical Seaside Goldenrod Meadow

Monarch butterfly migration seaside goldenrod

Dear Gardening Friends,

So many have telephoned or emailed inquiring about the status of the annual Monarch butterfly migration through our region. This past summer I have observed umpteen Monarch butterflies and caterpillars in cultivated gardens, wildflower meadows, and along the shoreline; however, I did not see the great numbers in great heaps roosting in any one particular place that I have in some years past. Rather I would find a small passel here and a small passel there—perhaps several dozen at a time—roosting in the wild black cherry trees (Prunus serotina) at Eastern Point, awakening in the early morning and nectaring at the Seaside Goldenrod in the meadow below.

Monarch butterfly migration Monarchs Mimic Withering Foliage of Black Cherry Tree

Although the Monarchs are guided genetically, using their internal sun-compass navigation and circadian clock, each year the annual southward migration takes a different form that depends on many  variables, primarily the weather conditions in their overwintering site in Michoacán, Mexico as well as weather patterns in their US and Canadian breeding grounds. Because Cape Ann is located at approximately 43 degrees latitude north, our peak migration pattern is estimated at around September 11, but I modify this pattern because of the strong winds and storms we often experience in the late summer living along the coastline.

I have read reports of fantastic migrations that are taking place this year, from Long Island, south to Cape May, and west to Virginia—some saying it is the best they have seen in decades! I continue to remain on the look out because the air temperatures were atypically warmer this summer, creating a longer breeding season than usual, which would indicate that there may be newly emerging Monarchs on the scene. While photographing during this year’s migration, I encountered a pair of Monarchs mating, a very unusual occurrence at this time of year. The “Methuselah” Monarchs that we see in late summer and early autumn are generally speaking sexually immature and do not mate until next year, after they journey south and after they overwinter and awaken in Mexico.

Monarch butterfly migration monarchs mating seaside goldenrodMonarchs Mating Amidst the Goldenrod

Monarchs observed in late summer and early autumn are intent on nectaring and not easily distracted. This later generation of Methuselah Monarchs is feeding aggressively to increase and store their lipid reserves for the long journey south. We provide plenty of nectar-rich blossoms to help the Monarchs in their exhaustive migration, taking cues from marsh and meadow. Blooming freely at this time of year are copious members of the Composite family—goldenrods, asters, pearly everlasting, zinnias, ironweed, Mexican sunflowers, and Korean daisies. If one diligently deadheads the butterfly bushes and Verbena bonariences, they too will be available for the migrating Monarchs.

My favorite goldenrod is Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), which blooms from August to November. Seaside Goldenrod is the gorgeous brilliant golden wildflower we see growing and glowing along the edge of the sea. It is easily differentiated from other New England goldenrods in that the flowerheads are comparatively larger and the leaves are thicker and fleshier, with a waxy feel, an adaptation to the drying effect of salty sea spray. Seaside Goldenrod grows prolifically in rich, moisture retentive soil, less so in drier conditions.

Although I strongly discourage digging plants from local marsh and meadow, perfectly acceptable is the practice of collecting ripened seed stalks and shaking them about. That is just how we obtained our Smooth Asters (Aster laevis). With cheery one-inch button-shaped flowers borne along the lengths of the stalks, the pale-hued lavender-blue ray flowers and yellow disk florets of Smooth Asters are attractive to bees and butterflies. We have observed Common Sulphers, Pink-fringed Sulphurs, Monarchs, American Ladies, Red Admirals, and Cabbage Whites nectaring simultaneously on a clump growing in the sheltered border along our fragrant path. Pinch back the developing growth tips during the early part of the growing season (until roughly July fourth) to encourage a bushier and more compact plant. Asters provides nourishing sustenance for transitory butterflies when many nectar-rich plants have finished blooming for the season. Not particularly fussy in regard to soil conditions, Smooth Aster grows and flowers profusely in full sun to light shade. Smooth Aster and Purple-stemmed Aster (Aster puniceus) are the asters we see blooming along the backshore at this time of year. With golden yellow florets at the center of their ray flowers, asters and goldenrods create a convenient landing pad for nectaring Lepidoptera. Flowering alongside ripening red berries and surrounded by changing autumnal leaf color, goldenrods and asters transform the seasonal tapestry.

Monarch butterfly migration

Monarch butterfly migration seaside goldenrodPollen-dusted Male Monarch

Mockingbird fledglingsWhile photographing the Monarchs, I couldn’t help but notice two noisy Mockingbird fledglings, who were going at each other for over a half hour.