HAPPY FATHER’S DAY – BROUGHT TO YOU BY PIPING PLOVER DADS!

Fifteen-day-old Piping Plover chicks

Last year I posted a similarly titled post, Happy Father’s Day! Brought to You By Papa Plover,with a photo of Papa PiPl snuggling our one remaining chick, Pip.

This year we have a sweet photo from yesterday of our Papa PiPl snuggling all three chicks, not just one chick as was the case last year on Father’s Day. I wrote, “Whenever folks stop by to ask questions at the nesting area and they see the little chicks snuggling under the adult PiPl, they almost automatically assume it is the Mama Plover. Half the time it is the female, and the other half, the male. Mom and Dad share equally in caring for the chicks, generally in twenty minute to half hour intervals. They are always within ear shot and while one is minding the chicks, the other is either feeding itself, grooming, or patrolling for predators. Last year, as is often the case, the Mama Plover departed Good Harbor Beach several weeks before the chick fledged, leaving Little Chick entirely under Papa’s care.”

But there is more to the story about what makes Piping Plover males Super Dads. Papa is not only an excellent Dad in that he is a fifty/fifty caretaker of the chicks, but male Plovers are also fierce defenders of their family. Our Papa is no exception. He is always on high alert, especially when it comes to the Bachelor and his antics. Between gulls, crows, other avian predators, human caused disturbances, and even danger from one of their own kind, it’s not easy being a Plover Dad.

Papa Plover warming the three chicks. They were fifteen days old on Saturday morning.

The Bachelor tries to camp out in the protected area. Papa is having none of it and leaps up to give chase to the Bachelor.

Papa and the Bachelor smack down over command of the protected area.

Male Piping Plovers fight, and even bite, competing males for mates and for nesting territory.

 

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER CHICKS ARE TWO WEEKS OLD TODAY!

Two weeks ago today, four tiny Piping Plover chicks hatched at Good Harbor Beach. Nesting got off to a rocky start, with the mated pair first attempting to nest at the beach, then at the parking lot, but then thankfully, returning to their original nest site.

The relative peace on the beach, excellent parenting by Mama and Papa PiPl, cooler than average temperatures, vigilant monitoring by a corps of dedicated volunteers, outpouring of consideration by beach goers, as well as support from the DPW, City administration, and City Councilors has allowed the chicks to attain the two-week-old stage of maturity. With each passing day, we can see the chicks are gaining in strength and fortitude and listening more attentively to their parent’s voice commands. Adhering to Mama and Papa’s piping calls is an important milestone in their development. The parents continuously pipe commands and directions, warning of danger and directing the chicks to come to a stand still. The tiny shorebird’s best defense is its ability to blend with its surroundings when motionless.

The chicks spent the early morning warming up and foraging at the protected area. Afternoon found them camped out at the creek.

Snapshots from the morning

 

There was a group of young people stationed near the PiPl protected area enjoying the beach on this fine sunny afternoon. All was good though as the chicks were perfectly safe, foraging far down the creek. With gratitude and thanks to everyone who is helping to keep our PiPl family safe.

Snapshots from the afternoon

MONARCH EGGS UPDATE

Dear Friends,

There has been more interest than anticipated in Monarch eggs. Thank you to everyone for writing!

At present, Jane has over 100 caterpillars in her kitchen terrariums. These will become butterflies within the month, and each female that emerges will lay between 300 to 700 eggs. I’ve compiled a list of everyone who left a comment. We are thrilled and grateful readers are so interested in helping raise Monarchs this summer. I will contact all as soon as Jane has a new batch of freshly laid Monarch eggs.

In the meantime, I am going to type up some FAQs. I also suggest using a glass rectangular fish tank/terrarium, with a fitted screen top, for rearing the caterpillars. If you don’t have one, they are available at our local pet stores. Also, a package of cheese cloth. Along with a plentiful supply of milkweed, that’s all you will need.

Thank you again and we’ll be in touch. ❤

 

 

MONARCH EGGS FREE FOR THE TAKING

A friend with a lovely garden just loaded with milkweed would like help this summer raising Monarchs. She is located in the Annisquam area. Last year Jane had so many eggs and caterpillars, she had a real time of it trying to take care of all. This year promises to be as good as, if not better than, last year.

If you would like Monarch eggs and information on how to take care of the eggs and caterpillars, please comment in the comment section, and we will provide you with Monarch babies!

Raising Monarchs with kids is the best!

Quick snapshot of Jane’s garden

MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM UPDATE

A very brief update to let all our Friends know that work is progressing on my documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. The new footage from this year’s magnificent migration in Mexico has been added. My amazing team, Eric and Kristen, are plugging in the newly recorded voice over.

For the next several weeks, I’ll be planting my client’s pollinator gardens and getting them underway for the summer. After mid-June, we’ll be back in the editing studio with Eric and Kristen finessing the color correction and audio, with plans for a mid-summer release.

Happy Butterfly Days!

Tree top view – standing at the top of the mountain looking down into the valley below. All the orange bits and flakes in the trees are Monarchs.

In early March, the native wildflower White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) was in full bloom at Cerro Pelon and the Monarchs couldn’t get enough of it!

So many Monarchs this early in the season portends a possibly great summer for butterflies in our meadows and gardens. Monarchs have already arrived to the Great Lakes region. This is the perfect time of year to plant Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seeds and many of our local nurseries carry Marsh Milkweed  (Asclepias incarnata) plants. These two species are the most productive for Monarch eggs and caterpillars in our region.

Monarchs mating in a patch of Common Milkweed.

Monarch drinking nectar from Common Milkweed florets.

Female depositing egg on Marsh Milkweed foliage.


The milkweed we grow in the north supports spectacular migrations such as the one that took place this past winter of 2018-2019.

MORE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES SPIED AROUND CAPE ANN!

Monarch Butterfly on native Buttonbush blossoms

David Rhinelander had one two days in a row at his garden on Pine Street, Heather Hall spotted a Monarch at the Hamilton Library, Jennie Meyer had one in her garden and sent along some photos, Donna Soodalter-Toman had one in her yard, Jen in Rockport has them, and Susan Donelan Burke saw a Monarch in Magnolia. This is very early and thank you so much to Everyone for writing!

Keep your eyes peeled for Red Admirals and Painted Ladies, too.

Red Admirals nectaring at lilacs. The last time we had so many Red Admirals in our garden in May was in 2012 and that was a banner year for butterflies of many species.

Painted Ladies

In the above photo compare the Monarch to the Painted Lady. If you see a “small” Monarch, it may be a Painted Lady or a Red Admiral.

 

AMAZING!!! MONARCH BUTTERFLIES HAVE ALREADY ARRIVED TO CAPE ANN

There are Monarchs on Cape Ann, and they are laying eggs!!! Check your milkweed Friends! This is nearly a month earlier than usual.

Jane Danekis had a female several days ago in her garden on Revere Street and she deposited over 100 eggs on shoots of newly emerging milkweed.

Michele Del Vecchio saw a Monarch at Good Harbor Beach today, too!

Please let us know if you have seen a Monarch recently, and take a snapshot if you can. Thank you 🙂

A Monarch egg is pale golden yellow in color and shaped like a tiny ridged dome. The egg is no larger than a pinhead.

Morgan Faulds Pike spotted a female Monarch nectaring on her lilacs. Photo courtesy Morgan

BEST MILKWEED TO PLANT FOR MASSACHUSETTS GARDENS, MEADOWS, FIELDS, AND DUNE RESTORATION

Friends often ask, and I cover this topic extensively in my Monarch programs, “What is the best milkweed to plant in our region?” Without a doubt, the two most important and productive are Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

Marsh Milkweed also goes by the name Swamp Milkweed, but Marsh sounds so much more appealing, don’t you think? Milkweeds already have the suffix weed attached to their names. To some folks, any wildflower that includes the word weed seems invasive, and we don’t want to frighten people from planting our sweet native wildflowers by inferring they are a swamp dweller, too.

Gallery of Marsh Milkweed

When a weed is not a weed  – It’s unfortunate that so many of our native beauties end in “weed.” Ironweed, Joe-pye Weed, Sneezeweed, Thimbleweed, Butterfly Weed, and Milkweed are just some examples. Why were these native wildflowers at one time long ago named “weed.” Because the earliest colonists brought from their home countries flowering plants that were beloved and familiar to them, delphiniums and larkspurs, for example. In their new American home gardens, these treasured European plants would have been easily overtaken by our more vigorous American wildflowers.

To return to the topic of milkweed, Common Milkweed spreads both underground and by seed. It’s ideal for dunes, meadows, and fields. Marsh Milkweed is more clump forming and stays relatively close to where you plant it. You can control how much it spreads by deadheading, or not, before the seed heads turn to fluff and sail away. I grow both Marsh Milkweed and Common Milkweed side-by-side. In our garden, the female Monarch does not discern the difference between the two species of milkweeds, she will flit from one to the other, and back again, depositing her eggs all along the way.

Gallery of Common Milkweed

By the way, both A. syriaca and A. incarnata are also the easiest milkweeds to grow in Massachusetts.

A ten-year nation-wide study was recently published. Across the country, Marsh and Common proved to be the most productive, in other words, more eggs were laid on these two species than on any other species of milkweed.

The map provided below is somewhat helpful; I write somewhat with a word of advice. If you click on Massachusetts, for example, not only are Common and Marsh Milkweeds listed but also Purple Milkweed (A. pupurascens), Fourleaf Milkweed (A. quadrifolia), Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa), Poke Milkweed (A. exaltata), Whorled Milkweed (A. verticillata), and Clasping Milkweed (A. amplexicaulis). We grow a nice patch of Whorled Milkweed and I have never, ever seen a Monarch once visit the foliage or flowers. Purple Milkweed can be very challenging to get started, and Butterfly Weed is not as hardy in our region as are Common and Marsh.

Milkweeds are the only food plant for Monarch caterpillars and also provide nectar to a host of pollinators including many, many species of butterflies, bees, beetles, and even hummingbirds. Plant for the pollinators and they will come.


This is an image from my recent adventure to Cerro Pelon. I am dying to write about the trip, but have had a very full schedule finishing up my film, organizing landscape jobs for the season, and hoping to get the PiPls settled in. The Monarchs in the photo are mud-puddling. Tens of thousands leave the butterfly trees during the heat of the day, sucking up water and much needed nutrients from the mud at nearby mountain streams

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2018: A YEAR IN PICTURES AND STORIES Part Three: Summer

Go here to read Part One: Winter

Go here to read Part Two: Spring

PART THREE: SUMMER

The most joyous story about Cape Ann wildlife during the summer months of 2018 is the story of the high number of Monarch butterflies and caterpillars in gardens and meadows, seen not only in strong numbers along the Massachusetts coastline, but throughout the butterfly’s breeding range–all around New England, the Great Lakes region, Midwest, and Southern Canada.

Three days after celebrating the two week milestone of our one remaining Piping Plover chick, Little Pip, he disappeared from Good Harbor Beach. It was clear there had been a bonfire in the Plover’s nesting area, and the area was overrun with dog and human tracks. The chick’s death was heartbreaking to all who had cared so tenderly, and so vigilantly, for all those many weeks.

Our Mama and Papa were driven off the beach and forced to build a nest in the parking lot because of dogs running through the nesting area. Despite these terrible odds, the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair hatched four adorable, healthy chicks, in the parking lot. Without the help of Gloucester’s DPW, the Piping Plover volunteer monitors, Ken Whittaker, Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, and the AAC, the parking lot nest would have been destroyed.

These brave little birds are incredibly resilient, but as we have learned over the past three years, they need our help to survive. It has been shown time and time again throughout the Commonwealth (and wherever chicks are fledging), that when communities come together to monitor the Piping Plovers, educate beach goers, put in place common sense pet ordinances, and reduce trash, the PiPl have at least a fighting chance to survive.

Little Pip at twelve- through seventeen-days-old

All four chicks were killed either by crows, gulls, dogs, or uneducated beach goers, and in each instance, these human-created issues can be remedied. Ignoring, disregarding, dismissing, or diminishing the following Piping Plover volunteer monitor recommendations for the upcoming 2019 shorebird season at Good Harbor Beach will most assuredly result in the deaths of more Piping Plover chicks.

FOUR WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN HELP THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS SUCCESSFULLY FLEDGE CHICKS: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE MAYOR

 

Piping Plover chick testing its wings.

Not one, but at least two, healthy and very hungry North American River Otters families are dwelling at local ponds, with a total of seven kits spotted. We can thank the fact that our waterways are much cleaner, which has led to the re-establishment of Beavers, and they in turn have created ideal habitat in which these beautiful, social mammals can thrive.

Several species of herons are breeding on our fresh water ponds and the smaller islands off the Cape Ann coastline. By midsummer, the adults and juveniles are seen wading and feeding heartily at nearly every body of water of the main island.

In order to better understand and learn how and why other Massachusetts coastal communities are so much more successful at fledging chicks than is Gloucester, I spent many hours studying and following Piping Plover families with chicks at several north of Boston beaches.

In my travels, I watched Least Terns (also a threatened species) mating and courting, then a week later, discovered a singular nest with two Least Tern eggs and began following this little family, too.

Least Tern Family Life Cycle

Maine had a banner year fledging chicks, as did Cranes Beach, locally. Most exciting of all, we learned at the Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird meeting that Massachusetts is at the fore of Piping Plover recovery, and our state has had the greatest success of all in fledging chicks! This is a wonderful testament to Massachusetts Piping Plover conservation programs and the partnerships between volunteers, DCR, Mass Wildlife, the Trustees, Greenbelt, Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.

Fledged chick

Cape Ann Museum

Monarch Madness

Friends Jan Crandall and Patti Papows allowed me to raid their gardens for caterpillars for our Cape Ann Museum Kids Saturday. The Museum staff was tremendously helpful and we had a wonderfully interested audience of both kids and adults!

In August I was contacted by the BBC and asked to help write the story about Monarchs in New England for the TV show “Autumnwatch: New England,. Through the course of writing, the producers asked if I would like to be interviewed and if footage from my forthcoming film, Beauty on the Wing, could be borrowed for the show. We filmed the episode at my friend Patti’s beautiful habitat garden in East Gloucester on the drizzliest of days, which was also the last  day of summer.

 

 

Happy Two-week Birthday to Our Little Pip

Common Eider Ducklings at Captain Joes

Little Pip Zing Zanging Around the Beach

Our Little Pip is Missing

Piping Plover Update – Where Are They Now?

FOUR WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN HELP THE GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS SUCCESSFULLY FLEDGE CHICKS: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE MAYOR

What’s For Breakfast Mama?

42 Pairs of Piping Plovers Nesting at Cranes Beach!

Fishing for Sex

Welcome to Good Harbor Beach Mama Hummingbird!

Least Tern One Day Old Chicks!

Welcome to the Mary Prentiss Inn Pollinator Paradise

Piping Plover Symbolic Fencing Recomendations

Good Morning! Brought to You By Great Blue Herons Strolling on the Beach

Two-day Old Least Tern Chicks

OUTSTANDING COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Grow Native Buttonbush for the Pollinators

A Fine Froggy Lunch for a Little Blue Heron

Snowy Owls in Massachusetts in August!?!

Monarch Butterfly Eggs and Caterpillars Alert

Learning to Fly!

Snapshots from Patti Papows Magical Butterfly Garden

Keep Those Monarch Babies Coming!

A Chittering, Chattering, Chetamnon Chipmunk Good Morning to You, Too!

Butterflies and Bird Pooh, Say What?

Caterpillar Condo

Monarch Madness!

Thank You To Courtney Richardson and the Cape Ann Museum Kids

A Banner Year for Maine’s Piping Plovers

Snowy Egret Synchronized Bathing

Good Harbor Beach Super High Tide

Otter Kit Steals Frog From Mom

Monarch Butterfly Ovipositing Egg on Marsh Milkweed: NINETEEN SIBLINGS READYING TO EMERGE

Monarch Butterfly Rescue

FILMING WITH THE BBC FOR THE MONARCHS!

MONARCH PROTECTOR LINCOLN BROWER DIES

By Matt Schudel WASHINGTON POST JULY 23, 2018
WASHINGTON — Lincoln Brower, one of the foremost experts on the monarch butterfly, who spent six decades studying the life cycle of the delicate orange-and-black insect and later led efforts to preserve its winter habitat in a mountainous region of Mexico, died July 17 at his home in Nelson County, Va. He was 86.

He had Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Linda Fink.

Dr. Brower, who taught at Amherst College in Massachusetts and the University of Florida before becoming a research professor at Virginia’s Sweet Briar College in 1997, began studying the monarch butterfly in the 1950s.

He made key discoveries about how it protected itself by converting a toxic compound from its sole food source, the milkweed plant, into a chemical compound that sickened its predators, primarily birds.

Dr. Brower’s famous “Barfing Bluejay” photo of a bird wretching after eating Monarchs, proved Monarchs don’t tast good. Dr. Lincoln Brower photo.

In the 1970s, other scientists discovered that monarchs had extraordinary migratory powers, more like birds or whales than insects. Each fall, monarchs from east of the Rocky Mountains travel thousands of miles to a Mexican forest, where they spend the winters. Monarchs from western North America migrate to California.

‘‘It has the most complicated migration of any insect known,’’ Dr. Brower told the Chicago Tribune in 1998. ‘‘Somehow they know how to get to the same trees every year. It’s a highly specific behavior that is unique to the monarch butterfly.’’

It takes three to four generations of monarchs to complete the one-year life cycle. After the migration to Mexico, the butterflies begin their return trip to North America, and a new generation is born en route, growing from larvae to caterpillars before taking flight.

With the arrival of cooler weather in the fall, the great-grandchildren of the monarchs that flew south the previous year will make the same trip, returning to the mountainsides visited by their ancestors.

‘‘It’s an inherited pattern of behavior and a system of navigation that we don’t really understand,’’ Dr. Brower said in 2007. ‘‘We don’t know exactly how they find their way. We don’t know how they know where to stop.’’

Dr. Brower first visited the monarchs’ winter quarters in a Mexican forest, about 80 to 100 miles west of Mexico City, in 1977. At an elevation of 9,500 to 11,000 feet, tall fir trees were entirely covered by hundreds of millions of butterflies.

When they stir their wings, ‘‘it sort of sounds like leaves blowing in the fall,’’ said Dr. Brower’s son, Andrew Brower, a biologist and butterfly expert at Middle Tennessee State University, in an interview. ‘‘It’s remarkable. You look up, and the sky is blue, but then it’s orange. It’s like an orange stained-glass window above your head.’’

During more than 50 trips to Mexico to study monarchs, Dr. Brower began to see that their numbers were shrinking.

In North America, Dr. Brower also pointed out, the monarchs face a further problem from the growing use of herbicide, which has eradicated much of their food source, the once-abundant milkweed.

There are still millions of monarchs in North America, but their numbers fluctuate from year to year, in an ever-downward trend. By some counts, the population has fallen by as much as 90 percent since the 1980s.

Dr. Brower joined efforts by environmental groups to have the monarch recognized as a ‘‘threatened’’ species.

Lincoln Pierson Brower was born Sept. 10, 1931, in Madison, N.J. His parents had a nursery and rose-growing business. He was 5 when he took notice of an American copper butterfly landing on a clover bloom. ‘‘I just stared at that tiny butterfly, and it was so beautiful to me,’’ he told NPR. ‘‘And that was the beginning.’’

He graduated from Princeton University in 1952, then received a doctorate in zoology from Yale University in 1957. Some of his early scientific papers were written with his first wife, the former Jane Van Zandt. That marriage ended in divorce, as did a second, to Christine Moffitt.

Mr. Brower leaves his wife of 27 years, Linda Fink, a professor of ecology at Sweet Briar College and a frequent scientific collaborator; two children from his first marriage, Andrew Brower of Christiana, Tenn., and Tamsin Barrett of Salem, N.H.; a brother; and two grandchildren.

With President Jimmy Carter

READ MORE HERE:

https://texasbutterflyranch.com/2015/02/16/q-a-dr-lincoln-brower-talks-ethics-endangered-species-milkweed-and-monarchs/

https://monarchjointventure.org/news-events/news/remembering-lincoln-brower-a-world-renowned-monarch-conservation-leader

Dr. Lincoln

#POLLINATORHERO

Bees and butterflies, as we all know, pollinate flowers, but did you know that bats, songbirds, hummingbirds, wasps, beetles, moths, flies, midges, and even nasty mosquitoes also deliver pollen from plant to plant?

Flower pollinating Green-eyed Wasp drinking nectar from Common Milkweed florets.

The eyes of the male Green-eyed Wasp are larger than the females, all the better to see her, and predators. Green-eyed Wasps are also known as sand wasps because females excavate burrowing nests in sand (as well as soil).

Male Monarch Butterfly flitting about our garden and drinking nectar from the Marsh Milkweed florets. Notice the mass of orange Milkweed Aphids in the background. Lady Beetles are another pollinator super hero because they help milkweed plants by eating aphids.

PLEASE DON’T PURCHASE POISONED MILKWEED PLANTS FROM BIG BOX STORES!

THE FOLLOWING NOTICE ABOUT MILKWEEDS TREATED WITH NEONICOTINOIDS WAS SHARED BY TWO FRIENDS, MEGAN FROM PRIDES CROSSING AND CHERYL MCKEOUGH

FROM: Sandy Robinson, President, National Garden Clubs, Inc.
SUBJECT: Milkweed

It has been brought to my attention that some “Big Stores” have been selling milkweed plants that have been treated with systemic Neonicotinoids. This will kill caterpillars! Please, be aware and be on the lookout for these tags placed in plants. Please pass this information along to your garden club members!

Garden Club member Mary Writes, I purchased a Milkweed plant from Home Depot near my home and it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the little information stick hidden behind the identification information that the plant had been treated with systemic Neonicotinoids. The container boasted how desirable the plant is for birds and butterflies. Yesterday I went to a different Home Depot and they had just put out an entire rolling cart of these plants, maybe about 100, all poisoned. I contacted the store manager and told him that it is the same as giving poison candy to kids on Halloween. This is THE host plant for the Monarch. My club, Shady Oaks and our junior club, Little Shadows have worked so hard to establish a Monarch Waystation and to educate people on the decline of the Monarch. I hate to think of the millions of poison Milkweed being distributed nationwide by Home Depot.

The container says distributed by Home Depot, 2455 Paces Ferry Rd N. W., Atlanta , Georgia.

I contacted the LSU Ag Agent for New Orleans, Dr Joe Willis. He said the Neonicotinoids will dilute as the plants grow but that only a very small amount will kill the larva of the Monarch. He is contacting the Master Gardeners of the area. I contacted the newsletters of garden clubs to ask that they send a notice to members. I contacted a local GOA club and the president said she would inform her members. I contacted our LGCF President and our Environmental School Chairman with the information.
We need a notice to Home Depot from a national source.

I contacted the Monarch Watch organization www.MonarchWatch.org/waystations at the University of Kansas (1200 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence, KS 66045) .
It needs to be sent soon as these plants are being sold now to well meaning people who are wanting to help the Monarch and not kill them. I hate to think of the billions of plants being sold nationwide and how that will cancel the efforts of so many to stop the demise of the Monarch. Could you please help?

GMG Readers, Wednesday I am planning to check to see if our local Home Depots are also selling milkweeds with pesticide. I don’t purchase plants from Home Depot as they are generally of a much poorer quality, however I have in a pinch. 

Milkweed can be purchased from these local sources:

Cedar Rock Gardens

Wolf Hill

Northeast Nursery

Male and Female Monarch Butterfly on Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

 

Butterfly Expert Doug Savich to Lead Butterfly Tour of Halibut Point State Park!

Butterfly expert Doug Savich is sure to inform on this exploration of Halibut Point State Park. Doug wrote the chapter on “Waring Field and Cranberry Marsh” for the Massachusetts Butterfly Club Guide to Good Butterfly Sites. 

buttahfliesimgres
The Massachusetts Butterfly Guide to Good Butterfly Sites is an indispensable guide for butterfly hunting around Massachusetts.

Pearl Crescent Butterfly Female Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2015Pearl Crescent Nectaring at Milkweed Waring Field Rockport

 

CAPE ANN WILDFLOWERS BLOOMING TODAY!

Summersweet (Clethra alnifoloa( ©Kim Smith 2015

Summersweet

There is an exuberant abundance of wildflowers blooming in marsh and meadow all along the shores of Cape Ann and here are just a few snapshots. When out and about on a wooded walk, you may notice a wonderful sweet spicy fragrance. What you are smelling is more than likely our native summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), which also goes by the common name sweet pepperbush; perhaps a more apt description of its potent and zippy honey-spice scent.

Sweet pepperbush ©Kim Smith 2015Plant summersweet for pollinators–bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies love the nectar-rich florets.

Jewelweed ©Kim Smith 2015Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), also loved by hummingbirds

Cattail flowers ©Kim Smith 2015 copy

Catinninetails

Northern Crescent ©Kim Smith 2015

Male Northern Crescent Butterfly Basking
Pearl Cresent nectaring at Marsh Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2015Female Pearl Crescent Nectaring at Milkweed

Milkweed Fever!

Reader Suzanne Kramer  from North Reading sends along this wonderful photo ~

Hi Kim,

I was up in Jackson NH today and saw this display and thought of you and your efforts.

Sue Kramer, NR Garden Club.

IMG_20141011_145442705_HDR (1)

New Film: Monarch Migration Interview with Tom Emmel

Horses neigh, bugs crawl across the lens, and Monarchs flutter in the background —interview on the mountaintop and it was all beautiful! Video includes footage from my forthcoming film, Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.

Monarch Migration Interview with Tom Emmel, filmed at the summit of the Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Angangueo, Mexico.

This was Tom’s 40th trip to Angangueo to study the Monarchs. In this interview, he provides some historical perspective from those very first trips to the remote Oyamel fir forests atop the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Mountains. We learn how scientists count millions of Monarchs. Tom discusses the state of the Monarch migration today and why it is in crisis.

Tom Emmel is the Director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florida, Gainesville. Additional footage shot at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve and at the base of Sierra Chincua.

A Huge Thank You to Everyone for Your Milkweed and Aster Orders!!!

Monarch Butterfly Explosion El Rosario Mexico ©Kim Smith 2014 finalMy Deepest Thanks to Everyone 

The above is a favorite photo from my trip in February to film the Monarchs. This week we will be bringing you the short interview film with Tom Emmel at the summit of the Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve!

*    *    *

WOW and DOUBLE WOW!!! Today we totaled the excel spread sheet and placed the order for our wildflower seeds. I hope everything is fully in stock, and if all is, the seeds should be arriving by early next week! I thought everyone would be interested to know our amazing grand totals:

Marsh Milkweed Packets: 36 Marsh Milkweed 1 Ounce Quantity: 21 Common Milkweed Packets: 74 Common Milkweed 1 Ounce Quantity: 11 Pink New England Asters: 58 Purple New England Asters: 44

A HUGE THANK YOU to EVERYONE participating in the Cape Ann Milkweed Project!

Below are several GMG posts with lots more information about the Cape Ann Milkweed Project. For more posts, type in the search word milkweed or Monarch Butterfly.

ORDER YOUR MILKWEED SEEDS TODAY!

Cape Ann Milkweed Project Continues ~ Plant Milkweed Seeds to Save the Monarchs

Setting the Table for a Regal Butterfly Comeback, With Milkweed

Setting the Table for a Regal Butterfly Comeback, With Milkweed

Monarch Caterpillar Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2013Monarch Caterpillar Eating Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Foliage

Thank you GMG readers and Monarch Butterfly friends for forwarding the following article from the NY Times!

By Michael Wines

Published December 20th, 2013

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Bounding out of a silver Ford pickup into the single-digit wind-flogged flatness that is Iowa in December, Laura Jackson strode to a thicket of desiccated sticks and plucked a paisley-shaped prize.

It was a pod that, after a gentle squeeze, burst with chocolate brown buttons: seeds of milkweed, the favored — indeed, the only — food of the monarch butterfly caterpillar.

Once wild and common, milkweed has diminished as cropland expansion has drastically cut grasslands and conservation lands. Diminished too is the iconic monarch.

Dr. Jackson, a University of Northern Iowa biologist and director of its Tallgrass Prairie Center, is part of a growing effort to rescue the monarch. Her prairie center not only grows milkweed seeds for the state’s natural resources department, which spreads them in parks and other government lands, but has helped seed thousands of acres statewide with milkweed and other native plants in a broader effort to revive the flora and fauna that once blanketed more than four-fifths of the state.

Monarch Caterpillar milkweed -2 © Kim Smith 2012Monarch caterpillar hanging from a Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) leaf rib, in the characteristic J-shape, readying to pupate.

Nationwide, organizations are working to increase the monarchs’ flagging numbers. At the University of Minnesota, a coalition of nonprofits and government agencies called Monarch Joint Venture is funding research and conservation efforts. At the University of Kansas, Monarch Watch has enlisted supporters to create nearly 7,450 so-called way stations, milkweed-rich backyards and other feeding and breeding spots along migration routes on the East and West Coasts and the Midwest.

But it remains an uphill struggle. The number of monarchs that completed the largest and most arduous migration this fall, from the northern United States and Canada to a mountainside forest in Mexico, dropped precipitously, apparently to the lowest level yet recorded. In 2010 at the University of Northern Iowa, a summertime count in some 100 acres of prairie grasses and flowers turned up 176 monarchs; this year, there were 11.

Read the story here

The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear

Many, many readers have forwarded the following article from the New York Times, “The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear.” 

Female Monarch Egg Marsh Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2013JPGFemale Monarch Depositing an Egg

In the above photo, the female Monarch Butterfly is curling her abdomen around to the underside of the Marsh Milkweed plant. She chooses the most tender foliage toward the top of the plant on which to deposit her eggs.

Begin New York Times article, published November 22, 2013 ~

ON the first of November, when Mexicans celebrate a holiday called the Day of the Dead, some also celebrate the millions of monarch butterflies that, without fail, fly to the mountainous fir forests of central Mexico on that day. They are believed to be souls of the dead, returned.

This year, for or the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.

“It does not look good,” said Lincoln P. Brower, a monarch expert at Sweet Briar College.

It is only the latest bad news about the dramatic decline of insect populations.

Another insect in serious trouble is the wild bee, which has thousands of species. Nicotine-based pesticides called neonicotinoids are implicated in their decline, but even if they were no longer used, experts say, bees, monarchs and many other species of insect would still be in serious trouble.

That’s because of another major factor that has not been widely recognized: the precipitous loss of native vegetation across the United States.

“There’s no question that the loss of habitat is huge,” said Douglas Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, who has long warned of the perils of disappearing insects. “We notice the monarch and bees because they are iconic insects,” he said. “But what do you think is happening to everything else?”

A big part of it is the way the United States farms. As the price of corn has soared in recent years, driven by federal subsidies for biofuels, farmers have expanded their fields. That has meant plowing every scrap of earth that can grow a corn plant, including millions of acres of land once reserved in a federal program for conservation purposes.

Another major cause is farming with Roundup, a herbicide that kills virtually all plants except crops that are genetically modified to survive it.

As a result, millions of acres of native plants, especially milkweed, an important source of nectar for many species, and vital for monarch butterfly larvae, have been wiped out. One study showed that Iowa has lost almost 60 percent of its milkweed, and another found 90 percent was gone. “The agricultural landscape has been sterilized,” said Dr. Brower.

The loss of bugs is no small matter. Insects help stitch together the web of life with essential services, breaking plants down into organic matter, for example, and dispersing seeds. They are a prime source of food for birds. Critically, some 80 percent of our food crops are pollinated by insects, primarily the 4,000 or so species of the flying dust mops called bees. “All of them are in trouble,” said Marla Spivak, a professor of apiculture at the University of Minnesota.

Farm fields are not the only problem. Around the world people have replaced diverse natural habitat with the biological deserts that are roads, parking lots and bluegrass lawns. Meanwhile, the plants people choose for their yards are appealing for showy colors or shapes, not for their ecological role. Studies show that native oak trees in the mid-Atlantic states host as many as 537 species of caterpillars, which are important food for birds and other insects. Willows come in second with 456 species. Ginkgo, on the other hand, which is not native, supports three species, and zelkova, an exotic plant used to replace elm trees that died from disease, supports none. So the shelves are nearly bare for bugs and birds.

Native trees are not only grocery stores, but insect pharmacies as well. Trees and other plants have beneficial chemicals essential to the health of bugs. Some monarchs, when afflicted with parasites, seek out more toxic types of milkweed because they kill the parasites. Bees use medicinal resins from aspen and willow trees that are antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral, to line their nests and to fight infection and diseases. “Bees scrape off the resins from the leaves, which is kind of awesome, stick them on their back legs and take them home,” said Dr. Spivak.

Besides pesticides and lack of habitat, the other big problem bees face is disease. But these problems are not separate. “Say you have a bee with viruses,” and they are run-down, Dr. Spivak said. “And they are in a food desert and have to fly a long distance, and when you find food it has complicated neurotoxins and the immune system just goes ‘uh-uh.’ Or they become disoriented and can’t find their way home. It’s too many stressors all at once.”

There are numerous organizations and individuals dedicated to rebuilding native plant communities one sterile lawn and farm field at a time. Dr. Tallamy, a longtime evangelizer for native plants, and the author of one of the movement’s manuals, “Bringing Nature Home,” says it’s a cause everyone with a garden or yard can serve. And he says it needs to happen quickly to slow down the worsening crisis in biodiversity.

When the Florida Department of Transportation last year mowed down roadside wildflowers where monarch butterflies fed on their epic migratory journey, “there was a huge outcry,” said Eleanor Dietrich, a wildflower activist in Florida. So much so, transportation officials created a new policy that left critical insect habitat un-mowed.

That means reversing the hegemony of chemically green lawns. “If you’ve got just lawn grass, you’ve got nothing,” said Mace Vaughan of the Xerces Society, a leading organization in insect conservation. “But as soon as you create a front yard wildflower meadow you go from an occasional honeybee to a lawn that might be full of 20 or 30 species of bees and butterflies and monarchs.”

First and foremost, said Dr. Tallamy, a home for bugs is a matter of food security. “If the bees were to truly disappear, we would lose 80 percent of the plants,” he said. “That is not an option. That’s a huge problem for mankind.”

Jim Robbins is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and the author of “The Man Who Planted Trees.”
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My note about milkweeds ~

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is the milkweed we see most typically growing in our dunes, meadows, roadsides, and fields. It grows quickly and spreads vigorously by underground runners. This is a great plant if you have an area of your garden that you want to devote entirely to milkweed. It prefers full sun, will tolerate some shade, and will grow in nearly any type of soil. The flowers are dusty mauve pink and have a wonderful honey-hay sweet scent.

Marsh Milkweed (Aclepias incarnata) is more commonly found in marshy areas, but it grows beautifully in gardens. It does not care for dry conditions. These plants are very well-behaved and are more clump forming, rather than spreading by underground roots. The flowers are typically a brighter pink than Common Milkweed.