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

TREMENDOUS COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

On Tuesday I attended the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, which took place at the Harwich Community Center on Cape Cod. The meeting is held annually to bring together people and organizations that are involved with population monitoring and conservation efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds. Threatened and endangered species such as Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Roseate Terns, and American Oystercatchers are given the greatest attention.

I was invited by Carolyn Mostello, event organizer, to create a short film, Gloucester Plovers Go Swimming, for the “Strange and Unusual” section. The film features our three little chicks SWIMMING in the tidal creek (see next post). I also provided a group of photos of the late hatching chicks for DCR. The film and the photos were well-received, which was gratifying to me, to be of help in documenting and sharing these wonderful stories.

Conservationists from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby states, including representatives from Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the organizations presenting at the meeting-Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Essex Greenbelt, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Mass Audubon, and US Fish and Wildlife.

In the morning, each region gave the 2019 population census report for nesting birds as well as providing information about problems and solutions. We all share similar challenges with predation from crows and gulls, uncontrolled dogs, enforcement, and habitat loss and it was very interesting to learn about how neighboring communities are managing problems and issues.

Trustees of Reservations Coastal Ecologist Jeff Denoncour presented on behalf of the north of Boston region, of which Gloucester is a part. Essex Greenbelt’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer and intern Fionna were in attendance as well. Both Crane Beach and Parker River are having a fantastic year and the numbers are up across Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. There are still many young chicks yet to fledge on Massachusetts beaches so the final count has not been determined.

The afternoon session was filled with outstanding lectures presented by conservation biologists and all the programs were tremendously informative.

I met Beth Howard from Mass Audubon, who has been involved with care taking the L Street Piping Plovers and Paige Hebert from Mass Wildlife who has been helping manage Roseate Terns. The DCR staff managing the shorebirds at Nahant, Salisbury, Winthrop, and Revere Beach were all there and they are just a stellar group of young people.

It was a great day! Many attendees expressed congratulations for Gloucester fledging three chicks. Last year after attending the meeting I wrote the following and it’s wonderful that our hope for Gloucester’s Plovers was realized this year: “After attending the cooperators meeting, I am more hopeful than ever that our community can come together and solve the problems that are preventing our PiPl from successfully nesting and fledging chicks. What we have going in our favor is the sheer number of amazing super volunteers along with strong community-wide support.”  

DUELING SNOWY OWLS SOARING THROUGH THE DUNES

On a recent hike looking for Redpolls and Snow Buntings, I encountered a pair of Snowy Owls intently battling over territory. Positioned low on a dune trail, half kneeling and partially hidden while photographing a Black-capped Chickadee, when a Snowy flew right in front of my path, twenty feet away. Rats! It all happened so quickly I didn’t capture even a moment. Suddenly out of nowhere a second Snowy appeared, hot on his trail. This one landed on the path I was traveling, not ten feet away. We both looked at each other in utter amazement but this time I had my movie camera turned on! He/she didn’t wait to see what I was doing and off he flew in the direction of the female Snowy. The two flew through the dunes, landing and taking off several times. I lost sight of the pair for a few moments when way, way out over the ocean the two were spied in an aerial duel.

I am going to try to post the close-up Snowy clip before Christmas. It’s been several weeks since that day and I have not seen either–hopefully they did not discourage one another from wintering over in the dunes and are still in the vicinity.

The sweet flock of Redpolls was found, but as with the owls, neither species has been seen since that beautiful day watching Snowies soar through the dunes. Will post the Redpoll photos later this week 🙂

watching the Snowies soaring through the dunes. Will post the Redpoll photos later this week 🙂

Greening of Gloucester, Tonno, Beauport, Trustees of Reservations featured in North Shore magazine

North Shore Magazine October issue. The Greening of Gloucester illustration is by Julie McLaughlin.

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Greening of Gloucester: This seacoast town is recognized as one of the leading clean energy communities in the state. ” By Sarah Shemkus

“Enlightened Italian- Chef Anthony Caturano has a boat moored in Gloucester Harbor named Tonno-– Italian for tuna. So it’s not surprise that when the talented Boston chef opted to open a second seafood restaurant  focused on coastal Italian cuisine, Gloucester was on his mind.” Tonno Restaurant review by Jeanne O’Brien Coffey

“Gilded Age: The new Beauport Hotel recalls the glamour of old-school seaside resorts.” by Jeanne O’Brien Coffey

“Celebrating Preservation: One woman honors the Trustees of Reservations’ 125th anniversary through her personal story of the organization” by Victoria Abbott Riccardi. Her father was its executive director from 1966-84. Ravenswood Park was the 77th property, added in 1993. The Trustees second acquisition,  Mount Ann Park Gloucester, happened in 1897. Magnolia Shore was acquired in 1936 but deeded back to Gloucester in 1959. Two stories to look into there.

Read more North Shore magazine

websites for Trustees of Reservation, Tonno Restaurant, Beauport Hotel

Piping Plovers Found Dead in CT. MA conservation plans eased and peaceful

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Massachusetts Wildlife, announced a new statewide piping plover conservation plan last Friday.

Thank you to the GMG reader who saw the news on TV, and wrote a comment on the Disney-Pixar post. Massachusetts may be the model for North America. The MA Wildlife report includes the conservation approach implemented in Cape Cod last year, home to 60+% of MA piping plover population.  I don’t have the tv station’s coverage, but I included the WBUR wire pick, and piping plover reports from CT, NH, and ME. Kim Smith is covering the pair on Good Harbor Beach. Nesting Piping Plovers have been seen on Coffins Beach and Revere Beach.

Currently, the Atlantic coast population (North Carolina to Eastern Canada) of piping plovers continues to hold steady just under 2,000 pairs. The Massachusetts State Department of Fish and Wildlife targets maintaining 625 pairs with greater intervention should the population fall below 500 pairs.

Boston Globe
YR 2013, State Department Fish and Wildlife

 

Piping plovers were not rare enough to be described as a ‘wild’ species in 1895 in Daniel Giraud Elliot’s North American Shore Birds. He wrote that where the species had been formerly ‘most abundant’ the piping plover was “found chiefly on the more retired parts of the cost where it was free from molestation…its acquaintance with man has caused it to be at the present time, in most places where it is found, a rather wary bird.” The fattened birds were “palatable, yet sometimes sedgy in flavor.” Skunks and other predators, influx in summer population, and loss of habitat were concerns. Plastic trash is a striking difference now. At least we don’t eat them.

CONNECTICUT

Three Piping Plovers were recently killed in their nesting habitat at Griswold Point in Old Lyme CT. It’s believed a fourth was intentionally stepped on in Bluff Point State Park in Groton, CT. “People ignore the signs.”

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2 minute video

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Conservation monitors the piping plovers.  The Connecticut Audubon Society doesn’t maintain piping plover information, however they do have an incredible osprey project to report. Tom Andersen told me that the CT Audubon Society has built up a network of more than 300 volunteers to find and monitor osprey. An intern has plotted the work of these citizen scientists on this Osprey Nation map. Nests have grown from 200 to 500. I think I’m inspired to do a map of the piping plovers if someone in MA or in the state office hasn’t done it already!

MASSACHUSETTS – CAPE COD

Massachusetts may be the national model.

Read WBUR on the MA Wildlife press release with a focus on Nauset New Plan Allows Beachgoers More Room While Protecting Piping Plovers

David Abel wrote about it back in January for the Boston Globe (January 21, 2016)  Beachgoers may get break as plovers rebound:  

“In Orleans, after years of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in fees for stickers to drive on town beaches, local officials independently sought and obtained a federal waiver last year to allow a limited number of vehicles back on the beach.” 

“For Russ Hopping, who oversees about 27 miles of beaches from Ipswich to Nantucket for the Trustees of Reservations, a federal waiver would mean more than getting rid of some fences on their beaches. It would mean fewer headaches. With some 60 plover pairs on their beaches last summer, Hopping hopes new flexibility would translate into fewer complaints and greater protection for the birds. 

“That we’ve reached the point that this opportunity even exists represents a conservation success story for Massachusetts,” he said.

Nauset WBUR
photograph Jesse Costa/WBUR

South shore and Plum Island stories have been contentious (e.g. WBZ’s 2010 story in Plymouth Are they protecting the plovers or their view? )

The town of Duxbury canceled their annual 4th of July beach bonfire because piping plover pairs returned and were nesting year after year. “Most Duxbury residents said they understand the need to cancel the bonfire for the bird. Since the birds return every year, the committee said next year they’ll consider a new tradition of having the beach bonfire at another time.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE

There are 7 pairs  reported in NH right now in Seabrook and Hampton.Since protection efforts began in New Hampshire in 1997 through 2015, 99 nesting pairs of plovers have fledged 127 chicks on the state’s seacoast.”

MAINE

The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and Maine Audubon  report Piping Plovers first sightings in 2016 on beaches at Kennebunkport, Kennebunk and Old Orchard Beach. They’re sending an estimate about nests.

MASSACHUSETTS- CAPE ANN- Gloucester

search for Kim Smith’s exceptional documentation and photographs on Good Morning Gloucester about the one nesting pair on Good Harbor Beach

more on GMG: