Tag Archives: Wildflowers

HAS ANYONE SEEN MONARCHS YET?

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.

LOSS OF HABITAT, THE USE OF PESTICIDES AND HERBICIDES, AND CLIMATE CHANGE ARE HAVING A PROFOUNDLY NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE BUTTERFLIES

IT’S NOT JUST MEXICO’S FORESTS THAT NEED PROTECTING FOR BUTTERFLY MIGRATION

THEIR ROUTE FROM CANADA IS THREATENED BY OVERUSE OF HERBICIDES AND CLIMATE CHANGE, AMONG OTHER FACTORS

Monarch and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Mexico, the United States and Canada must share responsibility for the conservation of the monarch butterfly, according to a biologist who warns that the insect’s North American migratory path is at risk of becoming a thing of the past.

Víctor Sánchez-Cordero, a researcher at the National Autonomous University’s Institute of Biology and Mexico’s lead representative on a tri-national scientific committee that studies the monarch, said that the butterflies’ route from southeastern Canada to the fir tree forests of Michoacán and México state is under threat.

He blames the excessive use of herbicides, changes in the way land is used, climate change and a reduction in the availability of nectar and pollen.

“The commitment to conserve this migratory phenomenon not only focuses on Mexico; it’s a shared responsibility between our country, Canada and the United States,” Sánchez-Cordero said.

The researcher, who along with his team developed a system to monitor the migration of the monarch, said that there is a misconception that the most important – almost exclusive – factor in ensuring the continuation of the phenomenon is the conservation of forests in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (RBMM), located about 100 kilometers northwest of Mexico City.

That idea “has placed great international pressure on Mexico,” Sánchez-Cordero said before adding that he and his team published an article in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science that shows that the decline in the number of monarch butterflies migrating to Mexico is not due to deforestation in the RBMM.

Deforestation has been drastically reduced in the past 10 years but butterfly numbers have continued to decline, he said.

“The dramatic reduction in the density of monarch butterflies that arrive at overwintering sites in Mexico doesn’t correlate with the loss of forest coverage, which shows that this factor is not responsible for the population reduction. … Other hypotheses to explain the decrease must be sought,” Sánchez-Cordero said.

One possible cause for the decline, he explained, is that the excessive use of herbicides is killing milkweed, a plant that is a main food source for monarch butterflies and on which females lay their eggs. Less nectar and pollen in the United States and Canada as a result of deforestation is another possible cause, Sánchez-Cordero said.

He added that large numbers of migrating butterflies have perished in Texas and the northeast of Mexico due to drought linked to climate change.

To conserve the migratory phenomenon of the monarch – butterflies fly some 4,500 kilometers to reach Mexican forests from Canada over the course of three to four generations – a network of conservation areas along their migration routes needs to be developed, Sánchez-Cordero said. He also said that the routes followed by the butterflies should be declared protected areas.

“A new conservation paradigm is needed. … It’s something that we [Mexico, the United States and Canada] should build together,” the researcher said.

Monarch Butterfly Seaside Habitat

THANK YOU MIKE MACK AND THE NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY!

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)

THE HISTORIC BUTTERFLY MIGRATION OF 2019 CONTINUES MOVING THROUGH CAPE ANN

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).

 

KIM SMITH PRESENTS “THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN” FOR THE NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY THURSDAY OCTOBER 24TH

THE HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN

OCTOBER 24TH AT 7:30PM

SACRED HEART CHURCH PARISH HALL

62 SCHOOL STREET

MANCHESTER, MA

Hummingbird and Salvia elegans

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.

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.

Snowy Owl Sleeping – Please Do Not Disturb

I dream about Snowies sometimes, especially in wintertime. I wonder if Snowies dream–probably, if they do, its all about tasty morsels 🙂

Sleepy Snowy Boy in the wildflower patch.

Do Snowy Owls, like other owl species, feed at night?

Snowy Owls are crepuscular (active and feed at dawn and dusk), diurnal (hunt during the day time), and nocturnal (hunt during darkness). Mostly, while wintering in our region, they rest during the daylight hours. When you see a Snowy sleeping, whether on the beach, a fence post, rooftop, or tree, please give him/her lots of space and let him rest quietly and undisturbed.

In the summer months, Snowies feed in the continuous daylight hours of the Arctic. Their main source of food is lemmings. In years when lemmings are super abundant, female Snowies will actually lay more eggs! Both the male and female hunt and bring food to the growing owlets. Feeding a hungry brood of baby owls is nonstop during the long days of the Arctic summer, and the owls also cache food.

What do Snowy Owls eat when wintering over in New England? I’ll share what we saw Hedwig eat because I am reading tons of misinformation posted online. We saw her eating rabbits, shrews, rats, mice, and yes, sea ducks. At day’s end, she would leave her hotel perch, sometimes heading over the golf course for a rabbit, or swooping down to the rocky shoreline for a shrew, or out to sea for a Common Eider or Bufflehead.

A cache of lemmings circling a Snowy Owl nest–and btw, aren’t they just the cutest!

A Snowy Owl irruption occurs when there is an abundance of lemmings, which leads to an abundance of Snowy Owl hatchlings (more lemmings equals fewer hungry owlets), which leads to more fledglings. Easier-to-catch food is available for the less experienced young hunters further south in the lower 48 states. The adults typically keep north, the first- and second-hatch-year owls often head south. This is another reason to keep a respectful distance, many of the owls are still developing and growing.

Our Hedwig appeared especially adept at catching rodents that were scurrying between the rocks at Bass Rocks. In summer, Arctic Lemmings shelter in shallow underground burrows, or under rocks, just as do Cape Ann members of the rodent family.

Interestingly, some Snowy Owls move further north for the winter. They spend these darkest and most frigid of months at sea, ice hunting for Arctic birds at open patches of water.

Please Do Not Distrub

Monarch Butterfly Film Update

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 Dear Friends,

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.

Kim

WELCOME TO GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

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.

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers – Broomrapes

Reader Robert Millman sent photos and wrote the following question:

I am new to Gloucester, having bought a home two years ago.

As we were clearing some down trees and brush, we came upon a small stand on what I think are Monotropa, related to Indian Pipes, but do not look like any other pictures I have found.  Corliss and another local nursery were not able to provide anything further information.

Can you ask your readers or do you have any suggestions of who I could reach out to?

Thank you

Hello Robert,

Your beautiful clumps of wildflowers are the North American native One-flowered Broom-rape (Orobanche uniflora); also called Naked Broomrape. I can see why you thought it was related to Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), or Ghost Plant. Neither grows green leaves and both produce single flowers, typically seen growing in bunches.
Indian Pipes photo courtesy wikicommons media
Like Indian Pipes, it is a parasitic plant, which means it does not produce chlorophyll, or green tissue, deriving nutrients by attaching its roots to neighboring plants.
One-flowered Broom-rape photos submitted by Robert Millman
There are over 200 species Orobanche. Host plants for One-flowered Broom-Rapes include species of sunflowers, goldenrods, and sedums. 
Aside from white, Naked Broomrape also flowers in lavender and yellow.
The stems of Sporchia (Orbanche crenata), a species parasitic on the fava bean, are gathered and eaten in the region of Apilia, in southern Italy. Image courtesy wikicommons media.

COMMUNITY MILKWEED SEED POD PROJECT FOR THE POLLINATORS!

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 kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. 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.

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

Help With the HarborWalk and Thank You Maggie Rosa!

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 kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com if you have any questions. Thank you.

Hummingbird Fall Banquet

Crimson-eyed Rose mallow ©Kim Smith 2014Native Crimson-eyed Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moshuetos)

Fall Blooms for Tiny Travelers ~ just as we can create milkweed corridors in summer and aster corridors in autumn for the Monarchs, we can provide a nourishing banquet for the weary Ruby-throated Hummingbirds so that they may rest and refuel on their southward migration.

Lonicera John Clayton. ©Kim Smith 2010.Native Honeysuckle ~ Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’

Jewelweed ©Kim Smith 2014Native Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

Hibiscus ©Kim Smith 2014jpgHibiscus 

Fields From Which Dreams Are Made

So many thanks to the Donovan Family for allowing me continued access to film and photograph B-roll for my Monarch film, at their beautiful…

Wildflower Field of Dreams

Donovan Wildflower Field & House ©Kim Smith 2013 copySkylar’s Field

Goldfinch and Cosmos ©Kim Smith 2013Male American Goldfinch Eating Seed Heads ~ click to view larger

Large file Juvenile Blue Heron & Cosmos Donovan ©Kim Smith 2013Juvenile Blue Heron

Sunflower Donovan Field ©Kim Smith 2013 copySunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Come Visit My Film’s New Website!

Dear Friends,

When you have a spare minute, I hope you”ll take a moment to look at the new website for my forthcoming film Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. I had lots of fun creating the website and it was great to be able to assemble and house all the information in one place, including photos, upcoming events, the trailer, and a share page. Please let me what you think. THANK YOU! 

Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly

*

To all who have expressed interest in attending the premier of Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly, the advance tickets are selling rapidly and the event is nearly sold out.  Please purchase tickets while still available. Link to Advance Ticket sales at Cape Ann Community Cinema.

Order Your Tickets NOW! ~ WORLD PREMIERE of My Film!!!

COMING SOON! WORLD PREMIERE at the

CAPE ANN COMMUNITY CINEMA

FRIDAY JUNE 21, 2013 at 7:30 pm

ADVANCE TICKETS available at Cape Ann Community Cinema

FINAL blog- Seaside graphics  Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Movie poster CACC -1

Come celebrate the premiere of my film, Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly, on the Summer Solstice, Friday, June 21st at 7:30pm, at the Cape Ann Community Cinema.

As everyone who knows me knows, I have been working on developing this film for nearly two years. It is the first to be completed in the trilogy and I am overjoyed to announce the premier ewill be held at the Cape Ann Community Cinema. Many thanks to Rob Newton for inviting me to have the premiere at his wonderfully unique and super fun movie theatre. I hope everyone will come celebrate this special night with me. I think you will love seeing scenes of our native flora and fauna, filmed all around Gloucester and Cape Ann, on the Big Screen.

The Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly is a 45-minute narrated film. Every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle is experienced in vibrant close-up, from conception to pupation to metamorphosis. The film is for adults and for children so that all can gain a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between wildflowers and pollinators and the vital role they play in our ecosystem. Filmed in Gloucester.

Note ~ The beautiful music that you hear is my daughter Liv singing and friend Kathleen Adams on the accompanying organ. The song is their improvisation of the Quaker dance song “Simple Gifts.” The soundtrack was recorded at the Annisquam Village Church on the organ built by Gloucester’s own Jeremy Adams. Thank you Liv and Kathleen! 

ADVANCE TICKETS available at Cape Ann Community Cinema

Light refreshments, including wine, and beer will be served. I hope to see you there!

CACC_logo_full

Butterflies of Massachusetts

July Butterfly Update

Great Spangled Fritillary Nectaring on Coneflower at Willowdale EstateGreat Spangled Fritillary nectaring at native Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Dear Friends,

Have you noticed the sheer numbers of our winged friends? Returning this evening from a swim at 6:45, I bumped into three Monarchs nectaring and a Red-spotted Purple (all in pristine, newly emerged condition). Early evening is an unusually late time of day for butterflies on the wing, especially when skies are slightly overcast. This, after a day of observing and shooting numerous numbers of butterflies, caterpillars and hummingbirds–and never leaving our garden. I work for a bit, but then the garden calls and I’m out the door with both video and still cameras. If this fabulously warm weather keeps up, I think we are in for another banner year with the butterflies, and skippers too.

Currently, we have 28 Monarchs, in various stages of development, residing in our kitchen, and seven Black Swallowtail caterpillars and chrysalids.

Black Swallowtail CaterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar–note the fine “girdle” spun by the pupating caterpillar. Attached to the stem by both the girdle and a silky mat in which his last proleg is hooked, the caterpillar is securely latched. The proleg becomes the cremaster during pupation.

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis newly formedNewly formed chyrsalis

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis The darkening chyrsalis–perhaps it will emerge tomorrow! After ten days, the silky girdle and cremaster continue to perfectly support the pupa.

I am often asked why I collect butterfly eggs and don’t simply leave them in the garden. Butterfly larvae have a roughly one in ten chance of survival in the wild. In our kitchen, the odds increase exponentially, with a ten in ten rate of survival. For instance, I have learned, that after observing a butterfly deposit her eggs on a host plant, to gather them up quickly. If I become distracted and wait even only an hour, they often disappear, usually having been eaten or parasitized.

Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

More detailed information on each species will be forthcoming. Much footage to edit…

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice ~ My favorite photo of the season (click on the photo to see full size). Yesterday afternoon, Lisa Smith, one of the producers over at Cape Ann TV, with her After the Beach Video Club for Teens, were filming in the garden. While Patrice was interviewing me, this Question Mark alighted briefly on her shoulder several times. I was prepared the second time, with camera ready and adjusted to the appropriate settings. The Question Mark’s cooperation throughout the day’s shoot–nectaring, sunning itself, and taking long sips of sap through the chinks of bark in the weathered old pear tree–was very much appreciated by all; he was the true star of the day!

Oh Joyous July!