BOBCATS SPOTTED IN DOGTOWN AND IPSWICH

Lynx rufus

Recently I read that Bobcats are expanding their range in Massachusetts, to include our Northeast region. I asked if anyone had seen a Bobcat locally and two readers responded. One was spotted in Dogtown and another in Ipswich. Coincidentally I came upon this video of Bobcats in Love, so even if you don’t see one, you may hear one calling for its Love 🙂 To view the video, click on the Vimeo link.

The gray one is the female and the rufous colored cat is the male.

Images courtesy USFWS

LAUGHING FOX!

Good morning beautiful Red Fox of the marsh!

Driving along the Great Marsh at dawn, off in the distance a Red Fox caught my eye. I quickly reversed direction and was able to take a few snapshots. The Fox was vigorously digging in the snow and when he looked up, a small furry creature was clenched between its jaws.

He trotted closer to the edge of the scrubby shrubs with his breakfast held firmly. A brief pause and several chomps later, the unlucky one was devoured.

The Fox gave a toss of his head and while glancing around appeared to be laughing with delight, before then slipping into the wooded margins of the field.

As you can see from the map, the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is widely distributed across the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, Red Fox thrive in Australia too, where they are not native and considered an invasive species.

The Red Fox’s success is due largely to its ability to adapt to human habitats and to its extraordinary sense of hearing. A Red Fox can hear a mouse in snow from 42 feet away!

Because the Coyote has expanded its range so greatly, competing with Red Fox for food and habitat, the Fox are reportedly denning closer to homes. Most likely because human habitats are a safer choice for their kits than Coyote territory.

Oh how I wish a Foxy mama would call our yard home!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY AND THANK YOU SO MUCH MONARCH FRIENDS!

Thank you so much dear butterfly friends for sharing Beauty on the Wing trailer. As I am writing this post, the new trailer just hit 600 views. That is quite wonderful as it has only been three days since we first shared the trailer and because unlike YouTube where if you watch only a few moments of a video it counts as a hit, with Vimeo, you have to watch it all the way through to be counted. By sharing the trailer and generating many views, you are truly helping when festival judges are viewing our submission.

So thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing!!! 

I couldn’t resist sharing the above photo from Alisa Marie, a member of the terrific group “The Beautiful Monarch,” administered by the very knowledgeable Holli Hearn.

Monarch Heart

MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM UPDATE!

Dear Friends,

You are receiving this note because you donated generously or because you have been a friend and supporter in one manner or another to my documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.

I am beyond excited to share that we will be picking up the masters this week from the color and sound editing studio, Modulus, which I have been working with these many months. The film has come together beautifully. I think you will love the soundtrack by Jesse Cook and the new mix and voiceover recording. Because of several delays over the course of editing, I was able to include footage from the butterfly’s spectacular late winter exodus at Cerro Pelon, Mexico, and from the exquisite Monarch migration that took place along the shores of Cape Ann this past fall.

Currently I am submitting Beauty on the Wing to film festivals. Over the weekend I sent in no less than 18 submissions. Some festivals we’ll hear back from within a few weeks, others it may take several months. In the meantime, I am learning about film distribution and am working on scheduling a sneak peek preview screening for all my donors and will keep you posted about that.

Here is a link to the new short trailer. Beauty on the Wing Trailer

I hope you will have two minutes to view and also, if you could, please share. The old trailer has thousands of views and believe it or not, number of views is important to festival organizers and film distributors So please share. Also, I am creating a longer, more detailed trailer and will send that along later this week.

A most heartfelt thank you for your generosity and your kind support. I am so grateful.

Sincerely,

Kim

P.S. See below very rough draft of a poster because I needed one quickly for the festival applications- I am looking for a graphic designer who can help with some ideas I have for posters, postcards, and other promotional materials. Please let me know if you have someone you love to work with. Thank you!

MUSKRAT LOVE!

This little guy gave me a start while out for a walk this afternoon. I was expecting to see a few cute ducks, not an adorable member of the rodent order.

Muskrats do not hibernate in winter. In a year with the more usual colder temperatures, when waterways are frozen over, the muskrat’s activity typically happens underwater and in their shacks, dens, and ice houses, where we are less likely to catch a glimpse.

Muskrats don’t store food in their lodges like Beavers do; they must forage everyday. A Muskrat dives for aquatic plants and can hold its breath for fifteen minutes underwater. Its feet work like paddles and its long tail propels and steers. They also eat fish, frogs, clams, and snails. Muskrats are eaten by minks, weasels, foxes, and hawks.

The AIDS quilt comes home: the Names Project | special public art display at City Hall

aids quilts on display november december 2019 Kyrouz Auditorium City Hall Gloucester MA ©c ryan

 

Thank you for bringing this display Gloucester Health Project

Read more about the project: “On December 1st, the Health Project is unveiling Cape Ann portions of the AIDS Quilt in the Kyrouz Auditorium at Gloucester City Hall. Please join us at 2PM as we read names and share stories, and refreshments will be served. The 3 squares will be on display for the month of December whenever City Hall is open. Please check the city website for a calendar of meeting times and visit the quilt when the auditorium is not being used. This is an important and historic art installation and we are grateful for the support of the Mayor of Gloucester and for the financial support of Awesome Gloucester and The Boston Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.” – Gloucester Health Project

NATURE RARER USES YELLOW

Day three of the October nor’easter so rather than post more photos of dreary gray skies and wind and waves, here’s a sunny yellow photo to lift your spirits. The photo was taken during this year’s historic Monarch migration. Loving this weather because it’s providing an opportunity to sort through the multitude of butterfly photos shot in September and October 🙂

Monarch Butterflies Seaside Goldenrod

CHASING BUTTERFLIES!

I spent the weekend chasing butterflies and will post more about the historical migration we are currently experiencing, along with the fantastic Monarch celebration at The Stevens Coolidge Place in Andover, when I have more than a few moments to write a post.

And I discovered several more of the magical butterfly trees that the migrating Monarchs roost in on cooler nights, and figured out how to find them!!! More about that in a future post, too 🙂

Butterfly tree at day’s end.

YOUR DAILY MONARCH PHOTO :)

Please join me Saturdy, October 5th, for a fun day of Monarch programs at The Stevens Coolidge Place, Andover.

Monarch nectaring at Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia)

KIM SMITH MONARCH BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION PROGRAM SATURDAY OCTOBER 5TH AT THE STEVENS COOLIDGE PLACE ANDOVER

These magical creatures never cease to amaze and surprise. Early one morning I went looking in the butterfly trees for an overnight roost. Instead I found them sleeping like a dream in a golden field.

The light was pure rose gold for a few brief moments, casting a pearly pink glow over the butterflies, too.

I’ve seen a small cluster of sleeping Monarchs on a wildflower branch before, but never a field full. The wind was strong; perhaps they felt safer roosting closer to the ground.

It was funny to watch them awaken. Some flew off, but most stayed in place and began drinking nectar. Bees do this, they sleep in flowers, but it was a first to see Monarchs sleeping in their breakfast.

Come join me Saturday morning at The Stevens Coolidge Place in Andover for all things Monarch. I will be giving my Monarch conservation program at 10:30. For more information go here.

Male (left) and Female Monarch Waking Up in Goldenrod Field

SAY WHAT! MONARCHS MATING IN SEPTEMBER???

This pair of Monarchs did not get the 411 that they are supposed to wait until next spring to mate!

Beginning in early spring, Monarchs depart Mexico. They lay eggs of the next generation and then perish. This next generation moves northward depositing their eggs on emerging milkweed. It takes four to five generations to reach the Monarch’s northern breeding grounds, of which Cape Ann is a part. The Monarchs that we see in the early summer only live for about four weeks.

The Monarchs that eclose at the end of the summer are a super generation of Monarchs. Another way to think about them is that they are also referred to as the ‘Methuselah’ Monarchs. This last brood of the summer lives for a very long time for a Monarch, about seven to eight months. The Methuselah Monarchs that we see migrating today will travel south all the way to the trans-volcanic forested mountains of central Mexico. They sleep through the winter in butterfly trees in a state of sexually immaturity known as diapause, then awaken in spring to move northward and deposit eggs of the next generation, thus completing the circle of the Monarch’s life.

So that brings us back to this atypical pair mating in the marshy meadow in September. Every year during the annual southward migration I see at least one pair of Monarchs mating. I wonder, will the pair survive and continue to migrate? Will their offspring survive and travel further south?

Please join me Saturday, October 5th, at 10:30 at The Stevens Coolidge Reservation in Andover for a Monarch Migration Celebration and for my conservation talk about the Monarchs. For more information, see here.

WILDLY BEAUTIFUL AND HISTORIC MONARCH MIGRATION OF 2019

Multitudes of silently beautiful brilliant orange flakes swirl overhead. Ontario, Chicago, the Great Lakes, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas–the list goes on and on–reports of record numbers of Eastern Monarchs are being shared throughout the country.

Monarchs are building their fat reserves by drinking nectar from wildflowers and garden flowers all along their migratory route. These migration pathways occur in urban areas such as Toronto, Chicago, Atlanta, and Kansas City; the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and Virginia; the fields and prairies of Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska; and along the coastlines of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes.

The Atlantic Coast travelers are typically a week or two behind the Monarchs that migrate through the central part of the U.S. There are still large numbers of Monarchs in the Northeast waiting for the right conditions to journey on.

Here on Cape Ann I have been following the migration and checking hotspots several times daily. Beginning September 8th, the migration along our shores really began to pick up steam. We have had a steady stream with many overnight roosts. The last wave that came through migrated during the morning hours, but rather than staying overnight, continued on their journey, helped by a strong northeasterly wind.

Many thousands of photos were taken this past month and I will share them in upcoming posts, along with helpful answers to some Monarch questions that I am frequently asked. In addition to the photos, I have of course been filming. While my Monarch documentary, Beauty on the Wing, is in the final stages of post production, some of the footage from this year’s historic migration will make it into the film.

Please join me this coming Saturday, October 5th, at 10:30am at The Stevens Coolidge Place in Andover where I will be giving a talk and slide presentation on Monarch Butterfly conservation. A whole wonderful day of activities is planned for the 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.

The STEVENS COOLIDGE PLACE

137 ANDOVER STREET

Monarchs, Common Buckeye, and Painted Lady

THE DANCE OF COLOR AND LIGHT – MONARCHS ON THE MOVE!

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.

TEETERING SPOTTED SANDPIPER

On our shores today you may find the charming teetering tip-tailed Spotted Sandpiper. They are a medium sized-shorebird, larger than the Semipalmated Sandpiper you see in the photos, but not as large as the Ruddy Turnstones they are currently migrating alongside. Spotted Sandpipers have a characteristic bobbing-teetering movement when foraging, which has earned the bird its many common names including including Tip-tail, Teeter-bob, Teeter-peep,and Perk Bird.

Fun fact: During breeding season the females may be monogamous, or they may also lay up to four different clutches of eggs, with a different male assigned to each nest. Remarkable!

Although considered common, I don’t often see the Tip-tail on our locaL beaches so it was a joy to spot several this past week, in vary stages of fading breeding plumage.


The Spotted Sandpiper in the above photo has retained some of its spots. The spots give way to a pure white breast during the winter months.

Spotted Sandpiper in non-breeding plumage.

 

The Spotted Sandpiper often forages in a crouched manner.

 

NORTHERN GANNET MYSTERIOUS DIESEASE STRIKES AGAIN

Reposting this from 2017 as another Northern Gannet is struggling  on the Backshore.

A second Northern Gannet, in little over a week, has come ashore to die on a Cape Ann Beach. A friend messaged from the Backshore that the Gannet was resting on the rocks and was not walking well.

Heartbreaking to see, the usually majestic Northern Gannet is struggling to survive.

This beautiful Northern Gannet appears to have the same neurological symptoms of the mysterious disease that has caused over one hundred Gannets to wash ashore on Cape Cod beaches. Veterinarians are sending samples of the dead and dying birds to the USDA to see if federal experts can find the cause. A harmful algae bloom (often referred to as Red Tide) is suspect.

 

The Gannet tried and tried to take flight, but to no avail, wobbling instead and repeatedly tipping over.

The first dying Northern Gannet seen on a Cape Ann beach was shared by Ann Rittenburg. On July 12th, she discovered the bird struggling at Good Harbor Beach. Dianne Corliss, Gloucester’s Animal Control Officer, rescued the seabird. Dianne tried to help, but the Gannet was eventually put to sleep. She warns that the bills of Northern Gannets are extremely powerful. If you come across a Gannet on the beach, do not go near it as they are known to go for the eyes and necks of people. 

What makes the deaths even more troubling is that Northern Gannets are winter migrants through our area, and most months are spent at sea. During the summer season they are typically at their North American breeding grounds, which are six well-established colonies, three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Newfoundland.

My husband Tom and I saw  these magnificent seabirds from the shores of Provincetown last spring. They were feeding along with the Right Whales. The Northern Gannets soared high above the whales and then plunged straight down with a powerful ferocity. It was dramatic and gorgeous to see. I hope the same illness or Red Tide that is killing the Gannets will not affect whales.

 

Lanesville: Cape Ann Finns Literary History featuring Univ. Helsinki Prof. Kirsti Salmi Niklander

Lanesville community center_20181018_©c ryan.jpg

Great programming at Lanesville Community Center  like this special event next week with a visiting scholar. You can help with research! Check your family libraries:

Cape Ann Finns:   A Literary History
Tuesday, July 23rd, 3-5:00 p.m.

Prof. Kirsti Salmi-Niklander of the University of Helsinki will lecture on newly-discovered materials in the rich Finnish-American literary history of Lanesville and Rockport, where Finn Halls and families shared books, newspapers, political broadsheets, poems, and songbooks in Finnish.    Salmi-Niklander’s research has uncovered the 1903-1925 issues of the hand-written newspaper Walotar, which would have been read aloud at meetings of the Salon Leimu Temperance Society in Rockport.   Also found are an 1899 children’s primary reader and other books reflecting both the immigrants’s strong ties to Finland and their evolving assimilation in America, including the development of “Finglish”, a unique blend of Finnish and English languages.   Prof. Salmi-Niklander would also be delighted to see other Finnish-American literature from Cape Ann, so if you have inherited some old books or newspapers and can find them in your attic or on your bookshelf, please bring these along to the lecture.  All to be enjoyed with the traditional afternoon coffee and Nisu.

Summer 2019

☀☀🌻🌻🌻HAPPY SUMMERTIME LANESVILLE🌻🌻🌻☀☀
🍦🍦🍦🍦August 4th ICE CREAM SOCIAL🍦🍦🍦🍦
and Childrens Program 4-6pm
Come Enjoy Ice Cream and selected readings from “Life Story” by Virginia Lee Burton
Check out your local weekly classes at the Community Center
☯Power Yoga with Paige Amaral☯
Monday Nights 7-8:15pm
☯Karate with Matt Natti☯
Tuesday and Thursday Nights 7:00-8:30pm
All are Welcome

GRAND STATUESQUE HERON OF THE FROG POND

Migrating Great Blue Herons have arrived to Cape Ann, where they join the small number of Great Blues that overwinter in New England. Look for them in marsh, pond, and along the shoreline.

American Bullfrog hunting insects, Great Blue Heron hunting frogs

GMG reader asks: Where have all the foghorns gone?

Annisquam Light_20190502_Gloucester MA_ © c ryan.jpg

Question

“I’ve been living in Gloucester now since 2013 (and love it of course!). When we first moved to the city, we could hear the foghorns during inclement weather. However, about a year ago, I noticed that I no longer hear them. I loved this soothing sound on a gray day and am wondering what happened? Have the foghorns been turned off? Thanks!” –Patricia

Answer

Sort of. The foghorn sound has not changed but their frequency has dropped significantly because the systems are no longer automated in situ on light house grounds. Instead, foghorns are on demand now, manually kicked in by vessel operators. They are VHF automated to frequency 83 Alpha.  Five or more consecutive clicks sets the foghorn off for 30, 45 and 60 minutes depending upon the lighthouse.

The USCG in Gloucester explained that the USCGNortheast out of Boston tends the Cape Ann Lighthouses, albeit Thacher Island North Light which is private. The USCG  division responsible for all technology elements is called the “Aids to Navigation Team”, aka the USCGNortheast ANT unit.

Since 2010, slowly but surely the USCG has been replacing the automated VM-100 fog detector systems with  “Marine Radio Activated Sound Signal” or MRASS systems. VM-100 were problematic as parts were no longer fabricated and the systems were deemed less reliable and obsolete. Boaters rely on common knowledge. Many access USCG light list, GPS on their cellphones, chartplotters, and radar. When the weather hedges to the odds of even one boater being confused by fog, evidence suggests crowdsourcing engages the signal. Expect frequency to increase in summer when more boats are on the water.

The change was not without controversy. See the history of transition in Maine. Locally, a 2013 Gloucester Daily Times editorial expressed support of the Rockport Harbormasters’ opposition. Because of broad push back, the roll out was slowed down for better outreach and acceptance.  The “drop date” requiring all foghorns nationwide to be in compliance was May 1, 2019.

“The upkeep of the MRASS foghorns is so much easier,” explains Petty Officer ONeal of the USCG ANT in Boston. “All the foghorns from Plymouth to Newburyport have been converted. Eastern Point was switched over yesterday.”

I sympathize with this lament for the foghorn. And I appreciate the challenge of maintenance and adaptation. Understandably safety, navigation, cost and care were essential topics of discussion, less so audible texture, mood, sense of place & culture. (Never mind the challenge of mastering dead reckoning when vision fails.) The allure of the sound from shores, often traveling great distance, is in the ear of the listener. Beguiling. Haunting. Soothing. Despondent. Scary. Annoying [see bestselling author Elizabeth Stuart Phelps LTE complaints ca.1880 about the whistling buoy off Mother Ann and that’s no foghorn] What do you think, GMG readers, and vessel experts?

Like train engineers blowing the whistle obliging ogling toddlers, maybe a few boaters will queue the sound in dreary weather for pining landlubbers. Technology changes that’s certain. Perhaps the poetic qualities will be baked into future foghorn design despite obsolescence.

The MRASS system is robust and here now. Thanks to USCG Gloucester and Petty Officer ONeal USCGNortheast ANT unit Boston for confirming details and to GMG reader Patricia for a great inquiry!