My friend Elaine pointed this sweet little sea duck sleeping on the rocks. Softly hued in shades of white, buff, and chocolate brown, with root beer colored eyes, a pale blue mottled bill, bluish-white feet and legs, and only about as large as a crow, we struggled to figure out what species. The little toothy hook at the end of the bill gave it away. I am almost ninety percent certain the little mystery duck is a female immature Long-tailed Duck. If any of our readers know otherwise, please write 🙂

Long-tailed Ducks breed far up in the Arctic tundra but in the winter they are found in our area, along the coast in salty water and sandy shorelines. Perhaps the young sea duck will stay for the winter. Write and let us know if you see any Long-tailed Ducks in your neighborhood. Thank you!


Monarch Butterfly and Tithonia rotundifolia

You may have noticed that the late summer of 2019 has so far been a banner year for migrating Monarchs, as well as other species of butterflies. Not only are reports of good numbers of butterflies being shared all around Boston’s North Shore, but numbers are high across states east of the Rocky Mountains and the southern Canadian provinces. Let’s keep our hopes up that these current high counts will translate to strong numbers at the Monarch’s overwintering sites in Mexico.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and Seaside Goldenrod

I am very often asked, “what is that small Monarch?” Actually, it’s not a small Monarch but a butterfly of an entirely different species, the Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui). Every year we see Painted Ladies migrating at the seam time of year as do the Monarchs. Additionally, we are currently in the midst of a Painted Lady irruption. An irruption is a word used to describe a burst in the population numbers of a species.

Keep your eyes open for the beautiful floaty Sulphurs, also on the wing during the Monarch and Painted Lady migrations.

Mourning Cloak, underside of wings

Here is a butterfly I don’t always see during the late summer migration, a Mourning Cloak. The generation that emerges at the end of the summer spends the winter not as a chrysalis or a caterpillar, but as an adult. They hibernate in the cracks and crevices of trees and buildings.

Mourning Cloaks are one of the first butterflies on the wing in earliest of spring and are a true harbinger of warmer days to come.

Mourning Cloak, upper, or dorsal side of wings showing

In the British Isles, the name for the Mourning Cloak is Camberwell Beauty. I much prefer that name, don’t you 🙂

Notice how when the Mourning Cloak’s wings are folded, the butterfly will be well camouflaged when hibernating in the cracks of tree bark.


Green Darners are on the move!

A recent study described in Biology Letters has revealed the story of the migration of the Common Green Darner (Anax janius). Watching Green Darners along the shores of Cape Ann today I was reminded of the following article published this winter in Science News, written by Susan Milius.


Green darner dragonflies migrate a bit like monarch butterflies

Each annual migratory loop takes multiple generations

By Susan Milius

The monarch butterfly isn’t the only insect flying up and down North America in a mind-boggling annual migration. Tests show a big, shimmering dragonfly takes at least three generations to make one year’s migratory loop.

Ecologist Michael Hallworth and his colleagues pieced together the migration of the common green darner, described December 19 in Biology Letters, using data on forms of hydrogen in the insects’ wings, plus records of first arrivals spotted by citizen scientists.

The study reveals that a first generation of insects emerges in the southern United States, Mexico and the Caribbean from about February to May and migrates north. Some of those Anax junius reach New England and the upper Midwest as early as March, says Hallworth, of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Those spring migrant darners lay eggs in ponds and other quiet waters in the north and eventually die in the region. This new generation migrates south from about July until late October, though they have never seen where they’re heading. Some of these darners fly south in the same year their parents arrived and some the next year, after overwintering as nymphs.

A third generation emerges around November and lives entirely in the south during winter. It’s their offspring that start the cycle again by swarming northward as temperatures warm in the spring. With a wingspan as wide as a hand, they devote their whole lives to flying hundreds of kilometers to repeat a journey their great-grandparents made.


Mass migration
At least three generations make up the annual migration of common green darner dragonflies. The first generation emerges in the southern United States, Mexico and the Caribbean starting around February and flies north. There, those insects lay eggs and die, giving rise to second generation that migrates south until late October. (Some in that second generation don’t fly south until the next year, after overwintering as nymphs.) A third generation, hatched in the south, overwinters there before laying eggs that will start the entire process over again. These maps show the emergence origins of adult insects (gray is zero; red is many) captured at sampling locations (black dots).


The Lifespan of a Fact

By Tom Hauck

August 2019, former vice-president Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner for the 2020 presidential election, told a campaign rally audience a deeply moving story about how he had pinned a medal on the chest of a Navy captain who had valiantly tried to rescue a wounded comrade who had fallen to the bottom of a deep ravine. The soldier had died, and the Navy captain told Biden he didn’t want the medal. “He died,” the captain insisted. “He died!”

Reporters quickly discovered that most of the facts in Biden’s story were incorrect. The story seemed to be a mishmash of several events—a little from one, a little more from another.

When asked about these divergent facts, Biden replied, “(Details) matter in terms of whether you’re trying to mislead people. And I wasn’t trying to mislead anybody…. The fact is, the point I was trying to make, I’d make again. The valor and honor of these warriors are as significant as any warriors we’ve ever had in the history of the United States of America. That was my point.”

Watching the stunning regional premiere of “The Lifespan of a Fact” at the Gloucester Stage Company, the viewer cannot avoid thinking about the real-life implications of this brilliant new play. Written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell, and directed by Sam Weisman, this tightly constructed, no-nonsense story quickly takes off when hardboiled magazine editor Emily Penrose (Lindsay Crouse) asks intern fact checker Jim Fingal (Derek Speedy) to do a routine fact check on an essay submitted by star writer John D’agata (Mickey Solis). Trouble arrives when Fingal takes the job seriously and produces a long list of errors. While some of D’agata’s literary inventions are trivial, others appear to have real consequences.

With surprising integrity, the script offers each character the opportunity to sincerely defend their point of view. Like Joe Biden, D’agata insists his job is to convey the essence of the human drama, and individual details should be subservient to that purpose. Fingal is appalled that the writer is stubbornly cavalier about altering the building blocks of the story—the “facts.” Meanwhile, editor Penrose has a looming deadline, and she needs this important piece to be hammered into shape and sent to the printer.

The three actors are superb. Lindsay Crouse needs no introduction to Gloucester audiences, and her laser-focused performance confirms why during her career she’s earned a boatload of honors including an Academy Award nomination. Recent Harvard graduate Derek Speedy proves he’s got the right stuff for a successful career onstage, and Mickey Solis does an amazing job of playing along with the viewer’s initial assumption that he’s nothing but a pompous “artiste,” and then gradually revealing he’s got a good heart and really believes in the power of stories to transform lives.

Playing now through September 22, this poignant and darkly comic drama is both topical and timeless. Reserve your seats by calling 978-281-4433 or visiting https://gloucesterstage.com/.


Brilliant, funny, witty, inspired, visionary, and so much more to so many -you will be missed by your loved ones, friends, and fans. 

Weezer, Billy Idol, Bette Midler, The HoldSteady, and more artists pay tribute to Ric Okasek

Rhino Records compilation of their favorite Cars videos and live performances: The Cars Music Videos & Live Performances | RIP Ric Ocasek 1944-2019

Ric at Syncro Sound, Newbury Street

Heartbeat City directed by our friend Luis Aira


Friday the 13th full moon through the masts of the Schooner Liberty Clipper

A flock of birds flew by…

and then a butterfly flew by (not really, but doesn’t this bird look like it could be a butterfly?).


Monarchs were on the move over the weekend, not only on Cape Ann, but all over northern and northeastern regions of the country* very solid numbers of migrating Monarchs are being shared, from Ontario, to upstate New York, Michigan, and Maine.

Lets keep our hopes up for good weather for the Monarchs on the next leg of their journey southward!

*Ninety percent of the Monarch Butterfly migration takes place east of the Rocky Mountains.

If you would like to help support the Monarchs, think about creating a milkweed patch in your garden. The best and most highly productive milkweed for Monarch caterpillars is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the milkweed we see growing in our local marshes and dunes. The seed heads are ripe for plucking when they have split open and you can see the brown seeds and beautiful floss.

For several of my readers who have expressed difficulty in germinating milkweed seeds, the following is a foolproof method from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

How to Germinate Milkweeds

MILKWEEDS (ASCLEPIAS SPP.) ARE NOTORIOUSLY DIFFICULT TO GERMINATE. But don’t despair. The Wildflower Center has developed and tested a protocol that results in good germination rates for a number of our native milkweed species. Follow this process and you’ll soon be on your way to supporting monarchs, bumblebees and tons of other insects that depend on milkweed plants. READ the complete article here.


Darin Murphy and Jill

Visionary iartcolony gallerists Bob Armstrong and Jill Whitney Armstrong created an outstanding opening for their new show “be present.” Evocative and thought provoking, the lineup included visual work by artists David Robinson and Jane Hudson (currently exhibiting at iartcolony), Ken Brown video from Psychedelic Cinema,* an oration given by Darin Murphy, and live drawing and painting demonstrations given by Will Pappenheimer and Michael Talbot.

Brian King (What Time is it Mr. Fox) performed his Dionysian piece from his newest play Medusa: Reclaiming the Myth, which premiered this summer at the Museum of Science.


Artist and drummer for the Cars, David Robinson, and cult filmmaker Ken Brown.

David Robinson and photos


be present runs through November 22, 2019. For more information, call 978-764-5495.

*Psychedelic Cinema revives Brown’s Super 8 films, which were shot at the Boston Tea Party, one of Boston’s legendary live rock and blues music venues. The artists he created light shows and films for include Jimi Hendrix, the Velvet Underground, Sly Stone, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Muddy Waters, and many, many more.



Please join me for the Monarch Migration Celebration at the Stevens Coolidge Place in Andover on Saturday October 5th at 10:30am. I am cosponsoring the event and giving my slide presentation and talk “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.” The presentation is part of a day long event celebrating the Monarch migration. This promises to be a wonderfully fun day for kids and adults!

Monarch Migration Celebration

You spent the summer watching them flit about your gardens, now it’s time to wish them well on their trip down to Mexico – it’s the Monarch Migration Celebration at Stevens-Coolidge Place!

This celebration will kick off with a children’s pollinator parade around the property (costumes encouraged!) bringing all visitors to an afternoon of demos, crafts & stories, seed bomb making and gardening tips to bring these orange friends to your yard in the spring. Want to join in the butterfly tagging? Bring your flying friends with you and we’ll be happy to show you how! Butterfly release at 2:30PM

Trustees Member: $3
Trustees Member Child: $5
Trustees Family: $15

Nonmember: $6
Nonmember Child: $10
Nonmember Family: $25
Please help us plan for the day. Pre-registration is encouraged.

Stevens Coolidge Place

137 Andover Street

North Andover


Autumn migration is full underway and wildlife is on the move through Cape Ann. With gorgeous weather, blue skies and a sprightly breeze, Sunday was a spectacular day for observing dozens of species on the wing — A juvenile Red-tailed Hawk and Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Cormorants symbiotically feeding with the herons, thousands of Tree Swallows, Mockingbirds chasing Red-tailed Hawk, Painted Ladies, Yellow Sulphurs, Buckeyes, and beautiful, beautiful freshly emerged Monarchs.

Lots of photo bombing on Sunday–a Great Blue Heron appeared unexpectedly from the marsh edge, flying over a flock of Snowy Egrets.

Later in the day, a second Great Blue Heron flew over a flock of Starlings that were trying to keep one step ahead of the Red-tailed Hawk.

A juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron flew on the scene for a brief moment.

Red-tailed Hawk hunting in the marsh – he gave up on songbirds and decided to go for a member of the rodent family.

Tree Swallows are continuing to mass and migrate along our shores.

Snowy Egret and Great Egret 

Beautiful Monarchs on the move (more about the Monarchs tomorrow when I hopefully have time to go through the butterfly photos from Sunday) 🙂



Schooner Columbia departing Gloucester Friday morning with the Captain waving bye to Charlotte 🙂

How majestic to see the towering masts of the Columbia in our harbor during Schooner Fest!

Columbia: How the classic Fisherman’s Cup schooner was reborn

Fall 2019 Youth Acting Workshop Program for Ages 5 to 19 Set to Begin at Gloucester Stage Company

Gloucester Stage Youth Acting Workshops is accepting students 5-19 for the Fall Session 2019.  The six week Youth Acting Workshop Fall Session meets for a total of four hours per week for six weeks from September 13  through October 19. The Fall 2019 Session features Acting Instruction taught by award winning actress, Harvard graduate and Gloucester native Heidi Dallin; a Master Acting Class with Academy Award nominee Lindsay Crouse; Stage Combat/ SwordPlay with Tom Kee from Showtime’s City on a Hilland GSC’s To Kill A Mockingbird; Acting for the Camera, Performing Shakespeare and Movement/Action Theatre with 2019 Education Apprentice Liana Genoud and the Improv Olympics with Ryan Cannister. 

Gloucester Stage Youth Acting Workshops are designed to provide young people an outlet to nurture their creative potential through developing self-confidence, communication and teamwork skills to use in their daily life as well as introducing them to the skills necessary for professional theatre.

Registration is open for the FALL 2019 Session. Students are divided in classes according to age.  The Children’s Class (ages 5-10) meets Fridays, 4:30-6:30pm and Saturdays, 9-11am. The Advanced Teen Class (age 14-19) meets Fridays, 2:30-4:30 pm and Saturdays, 11-1 pm.  The Teen Class (ages 11-13) meets Saturdays, 9-1pm.  Class size is limited and registration is on a first come basis. For class times and schedules and to register, call 978-283-6688 or visit www.gloucesterstage.com.

The young actors of Gloucester Stage Youth Acting Workshop in action.

Photo Credit: Gary Ng



The brilliant red-orange Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) is a beneficial pollinator magnet. Plant and they will come! Grow a patch of milkweed next to your Mexican Sunflowers and you will not only attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and an array of bee species, but every Monarch Butterfly in the neighborhood will be in your garden.

Its many common names include Red Torch Mexican Sunflower, Bolivian Sunflower, Japanese Sunflower, but one of the loveliest is ‘Golden Flower of the Aztecs.’ Tithonia rotundifolia grows wild in the mountains of Central Mexico and Central America.

Mexican Sunflower is one of my top ten favorites for supporting Monarchs, is extremely easy to grow, and deer do not care for its soft, velvety leaves. Plant in average garden soil, water, and dead head often to extend the blooming period. Ours flower from July through the first frost. Collect the seedheads after the petals have fallen off, but before they dry completely and the songbirds have eaten all the seeds.






Grant helps plovers have record year on Crane Beach, featuring Jeff Denoncour

Rotary Club paid for three solar-powered electric fences

IPSWICH — Those little birds you see running around the beach don’t have it easy.

Although they have wings, they won’t fly to trees to build their nests. Instead, they scoop holes, or “scrapes,” in the sand and lay their eggs there.

And that’s an invitation for all kinds of trouble: predators, rogue waves, dogs, or clumsy or malicious humans.

Combined with widespread loss of habitat, piping plovers are now on the federal government’s threatened species list. One estimate says there are just 8,400 left worldwide.

But along with lease terns, which are protected in Massachusetts, the plovers are well taken care of on Crane Beach.

In fact, they were so well taken care of in 2019 that a record number of chicks fledged and are now ready for the next perilous phase of their lives — a migration to the Bahamas.

This year, 49 pairs of plovers raised 96 chicks, said Jeff Denoncour, coastal ecologist with The Trustees of Reservations.

The last year that good for the birds was in 1999, when 44 pairs produced 89 fledglings, he added.

To show how precarious the species’ existence can be, Denoncour said the year 2000 was disastrous. Just 12 fledglings survived despite the efforts of 49 pairs. “That was due to a major storm,” he explained.

Jeff Denoncour and Courtney Richardson last year at Jeff’s program on coastal ecology held at the Cape Ann Museum


Thanks so much to Len Burgess for sharing his beauitiul, beautiful photos from Schooner Fest!