Below is the double exposure from several days ago, where you can see the sunrise is to the left of Salt Island, which is not possible in September. For the explanation, see post What is Mysterious About This Sunrise?
Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife
Next Monday afternoon at the Community House I will be presenting my “Pollinator Garden” program to the Rockport Garden Club. I am looking forward to meeting with this great group of civic-minded gardeners. I see their signs all around town at the various gardens they maintain and they do a simply outstanding job! The program begins at 1:15 and the doors open to the public at 1:00.
The Pollinator Garden
Following the rhythm of the seasons, celebrated landscape designer Kim Smith presents a stunning slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates.
Gaura is not a only a fabulous drought tolerant plant for the water-wise garden, it is also a caterpillar food plant for the beautiful day-flying White-lined Sphinx Moth.
The Rockport Community House is located at 58 Broadway, Rockport.
Sista Felicia taped this short clip outside her house last night. Turn up the volume
Tip ~ This morning I ran into my friend Maggie and her husband who had just rescued a Monarch from the middle of the road. Butterfly wings don’t work very well in cool temperatures. If you find a Monarch in a seemingly quiet and weakened state, it could quite possibly simply be cold. Place the butterfly in a sheltered and sunny spot and it may very well revive!
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In 1975, in Angangueo, at the time when the butterflies winter grounds were first located by Mexican citizen Catalina Aguado and her American husband Ken Brugger, they not only discovered billions roosting on the limbs of the oyamel fir trees but also millions quietly at rest on the forest floor. Thinking that the butterflies were dead, some members of the discovery group brought the butterflies back to their homes. Later in the day, after the butterfly’s flight muscles had warmed, they awoke and began to fly. Today at the butterfly biosphere reserves it is against the rules to pick up or touch a sleeping butterfly.
In Sunday’s podcast, Joey made the super suggestion to create a place where GMG readers can report their Monarch butterfly sightings. I’ll repost this post every night for the next week or so. Please report any sightings to the comment section of this post, that way we can keep all sightings in one collective spot. You can send in a photo capture if you’d like, too.
Today as I was leaving our home, around noon time, I spotted a Monarch in our garden in East Gloucester. Let us know what you see. Thank you!
In the dim light of daybreak at first glance I thought the diminutive duck was somehow related to the female mallard. Both were inconspicuous and camouflaged amongst the cattails. Mrs. Mallard was preening and standing on one leg, a thing birds do to regulate their body temperature, and Mystery Duck was actively diving all around her. As the light grew brighter with the rising sun it was easy to see that they weren’t at all akin; Mystery Duck’s bill was shorter and chunkier when compared to the Mallard’s bill, Mystery was half her size, and its perky cotton white tail feathers were unmissable. The Mallard flew off eventually and our Mystery then traveled away, deeply diving and then reemerging some distance further, staying close to the shoreline and always well hidden.
Side-by-side comparison: Pied-billed Grebe, left, female Mallard, right.
The Pied-billed Grebe is rarely seen breeding in Massachusetts any longer and is listed as endangered in nearly every New England state. Rhode Island considers the Pied-billed extirpated (locally extinct). The reason for their decline is low breeding numbers and wetland degradation. Their feathers are thick and soft and were used to make hats and earmuffs during the 19th century. Wantonly hunted to near extinction, Pied-billed Grebes never fully recovered in our region. As wetlands have given way to development, the Pied-billed Grebe’s numbers continue to decline dramatically. They are extremely sensitive to human disturbances, and, too, are less likely to be seen as it is a nocturnal bird, traveling mostly during the night.
A fun fact about the marsh-nesting Pie-billed is that both male and female contribute to building what at first appears to be a floating nest in vegetation, near open water. The nest is actually a platform anchored to plant stalks.
I wonder if this Pied-billed is a fall migrant or if on Niles Pond, Pied-billed Grebes were nesting this season. Has anyone else documented or seen a Pied-billed Grebe at Niles Pond during the past few months?
Niles Pond is Ideal Pied-billed Grebe Habitat
See more photos and audio links here ~
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The Ukeladies are learning Harvest Moon–I’d forgotten about this beautiful song and the fairly recent video, released by Neil Young in 2012, is so very sweet.
Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at the Gloucester HarborWalk
Reader Gia Vento writes the following:
I recall our meeting and so good to hear from you Gia. No, its not too late. Many species of butterflies are on the wing during the late summer and early autumn months, as long as the warm weather holds up. Hopefully, too, the monarch migration will be more successful this year than last. I find the best time of day to see the most species of butterflies is from about 10:30 to about 3ish (generally the warmest and sunniest hours of the day).
The Massachusetts Butterfly Club offers a great publication, The Massachusetts Butterfly Club Guide to Good Butterfly Sites. Several of the best places featured are right here on Cape Ann! Follow this link to purchase the guide from their site (scroll down the webpage about half way): Massachusetts Butterfly Club Guide to Good Butterfly Sites.
Painted Lady Butterfly Nectaring at New York Ironweed, Gloucester HarborWalk
GMG FOB Allen Sloane writes with the subject line White, Floppy, and Big:
It was a pleasure to meet and talk with you on Saturday.
Thanks for all the info on poke weeds. My dog doesn’t seem to have any interest in the berries so some day I’ll get around to removing it.
Last night I went to look at it and right next to it is this plant which has decided to blossom. I have seen a couple of other plants in the neighborhood so I don’t know if they are from seed or it is a cultural decision to grow them. Be my guest if you want to answer via your daily post.
The gorgeous flower in the photo that you sent is the North American native Hibiscus moscheutos, also known by many common names, including rose mallow, swamp mallow, eastern rosemallow, and crimson-eyed rose mallow. Crimson-eyed rose mallow blooms in shades of pure white to cheery pink and deepest rose red.
To answer your question, the seeds are dispersed by birds, and they are also readily available in nurseries. Locally, Wolf Hill always has a lovely selection. I plant rose mallows widely in my client’s native plants gardens as well as in Arts and Crafts period gardens because they are beautiful, easily tended, and are a terrific source of nectar for ruby-throated hummingbirds. H. moscheutos grow beautifully along marsh edges as well as in gardens. There’s a sweet patch growing at Niles Pond, and I am sure we would see many more if phragmites weren’t supplanting all our marsh wildflowers.
We planted a patch at the HarborWalk, but sadly they were stolen. Next year I am hoping we can replace the lost plants!
The following is an excerpt from an article that I wrote awhile back, titled “Growing Native:”
“…Throughout the American Arts and Crafts movement, and well into the 1930’s, home and garden magazines, among the most influential sources of ideas for the homeowner, espoused the use of native plants in the landscape. Perhaps the most notable was Gustav Stickley’s The Craftsman, which was published for fifteen years, beginning in 1901. Stickley revered the North American white oak (Quercus alba), admiring it for its majestic role in the eastern forest and for its unique strength and figuring of the wood for furniture making. A sense of connectedness to nature is at the heart of the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement and the popular writing of the era reflects how to create this relationship.
I am reminded of a lovely and memorable cover of Country Living for the September 1905 issue featuring a drift of rose mallows (Hibiscus moscheutos), which resemble and are closely related to hollyhocks (Alcea rosea). Both are members of the Malvaceae or Mallow Family. Hibiscus moscheutos are commonly referred to as crimson-eyed rose mallow and also marsh mallow, because the roots were used to make marshmallows. Rose mallows are a practical and economical native perennial as they reliably return year after year, unlike hollyhocks, although charming and beautiful, are short-lived (with the exception of Alcea rugosa). Rose mallows bloom in shades of pale pink to deeper rosey pink, from July through the first frost. Although found growing in marshy areas along stream and river banks, rose mallows will flourish in the garden when provided with rich moist soil and planted in a sunny location. New growth is slow to emerge in the spring. When cutting back the expired stalks after the first hard frost of autumn, leave a bit of the woody stalk to mark its spot for the following year. The leavesof Hibiscus moscheutos are a host plant for the Gray Hairstreak butterfly and the flowers provide nectar for Ruby-throated hummingbirds.”
The charming note posted below was in my inbox today. I thought Fred would enjoy, as would our GMG readers find interesting.
Dear Madame Butterfly,
(You may recognize my name as an infrequent commenter on
GMG. More importantly, I am an FOF, Friend of Fred Bodin, although he NEVER invited me to his gallery soires !!!!!)
I always read your GMG posts and enjoy and learn from them.
I have a plant that comes up in my back yard and grows to a height of 5 or 6 feet. This week it fell down. Do you know what it is? Can I cut it up safely and dispose of it? Should I throw it over the fence in the back and let wildlife eat the berries?
Any help, thanks,
Allen, as an FOF and FOB, of course you are invited to ALL GMG soirées. I hope you’ll come to the mug-up this Saturday morning at E.J.’s new summer gallery on Rocky Neck. I am planning to go, but will not get there until closer to 11:00. I look forward to meeting you!
American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is what you have growing in your backyard. Pokeweed possesses nearly as many common names as the birds that find nourishment from its fruit, including pokeberry, Virginia poke, inkberry, ink weed, bear’s grape, American spinach, and American nightshade. The American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, European Starling, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, and Pileated Woodpeckers are some of the birds that dine on the fruits of pokeberry. Many mammals such as Red Fox, Virginia Opossum, Raccoon, White-footed Mouse, and Black Bear eat the berries, too.
Pokeweed can grow to ten feet, with an equally as long taproot as is it is tall in height. It typically grows in disturbed areas, pastures, roadsides, fencerows, open woods, and woodland borders. All parts of the plant are toxic to people and livestock, and especially to children. The root is the most toxic and the berries the least. It is not recommended to add to you compost. If you have children visiting your garden, I would suggest that you talk to them about the plant’s toxicity, and only throw it over you fence if beyond your fence is part of your property. To control a plant, cut below the root crown. An older plant may have a ten foot taproot, which would be very difficult to dig up.
Images courtesy wiki commons.
Once established, native Common Milkweed grows vigorously and rambunctiously, making itself known even in the thinnest of sidewalk cracks. Here’s a patch growing along East Main Street. I think it beautiful! What do you think?
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If you caught Tom Ashbrook’s On Point broadcast on NPR this morning you heard Doctor Lincoln Brower, Karen Oberhausser, and Rick Mikula, three of the world’s leading butterfly experts, speaking about the disappearance of the Monarch and the main reason why–most notably because of the sterilization of the American landscape through the use Monsanto’s Roundup and GMO corn and soybean crops. The episode is airing again tonight at 8pm.
The following is a list of a few suggestions on ways in which we can all help turn the tide:
Plant milkweed and wildflowers. Teach members of your family and friends what milkweed looks like and why we don’t want to weed it out of the garden. The above patch of milkweed is growing next to a shop on East Main Street. About a month ago, I went into the store and, very, very politely inquired as to whether or not they knew that the plant growing outside their doorway was a terrific patch of milkweed. They had no idea. I explained what the benefits were to the Monarchs and have since noticed that the milkweed patch is still growing beautifully!
Ban GMO crops. Genetically modified seeds have been altered to withstand megadoses of Roundup. Millions and millions of tons of herbicides are poured onto Roundup Ready fields of crops, preventing any other plant that has not been genetically altered from growing (in other words, wildflowers). The application of Monsanto’s deadly destructive herbicide Roundup is creating vast sterilized agricultural wastelands, which will, over time, only need heavier and heavier does of their lethal chemicals to continue to be viable.
Don’t apply herbicides and pesticides in your own gardens.
Create wildflower corridors in backyards and highways.
Reduce salt wherever possible (and where it wouldn’t cause harm to human life). Large amounts of road salt, as was needed during this past snowiest of winters, is detrimental to wildlife habitats.
A little known secret about me is that I am full blown obsessed with the shows House Hunters and House Hunters International on HGTV. And then there’s Island Hunters! Did you know there are actually people out there shopping for islands?!
I’ve been watching them both for years and they never get old…
I LOVE living here…that comes as no surprise…but, I’d be lying if I didn’t find myself watching episodes of couples picking up everything and moving to some beachfront location on some tropical island paradise. I live vicariously through them for 30 or 60 minutes whenever possible. Dork, I know.
So, yesterday, upon finding a vulnerable little hermit crab at Cape Hedge Beach who was “between houses,” my boys suggested we conduct our own beachfront version of House Hunters. We found several shell options for the squishy little guy, placed him and them under a clump of seaweed as much protected from hungry seagulls and bigger crabs as possible, and let him do his thing.
We watched him for a bit, but he was shy so we left him alone to take a look around his potential new residences. We weren’t sure what he was looking for…striped, solid, beach chic, room to grow, open floor plan, comfy cozy, etc.
When we went back later to check, he was gone. The boys were thrilled….even though there was no commission to be gained.
This morning the dedication of the new butterfly garden at Pathway’s for Children was celebrated with speeches of thanks, and a song and poem performed by the Pathways children. The sun was shining, the bees and butterflies were on the wing, and there were lots of smiles of joy on the faces of the children and attendees. My most heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation to all who have given so much to make the garden a success!
Just some of the wonderful people who made the garden possible: Andrew, Bernie Romanowski, Beth Graham, and Peter Van Demark
Before Photo Pathways for Children
See previous GMG post on the new butterfly garden at Pathways here: HOORAY FOR PATHWAYS FOR CHILDREN’S BRAND SPANKING NEW BUTTERFLY GARDEN
Recently at one of my landscape design project sites, which is located within a public space, a very distraught woman approached exclaiming that there was a wasp nest in a tree down the road aways. She was sure it needed to be destroyed, despite that it was at least 30 feet high up in the tree and not any where near where guests might wander. I calmly explained to her that the tree was not in my jurisdiction and even if it was, my first impulse would not be to destroy the nest. I thought it best to learn more about wasps in case there were more calls for its annihilation and after she left, I photographed the nest. I was glad she had pointed it out because it was so interesting to observe the rhythms of the comings and goings of the wasps, which after looking at the images through my camera’s lens, determined that it was the nest of the Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria).
Aerial Yellowjackets are often confused with honey bees (Apis mellifera) becasue of their similar color. In contrast, the body of the yellow and black striped wasp is less hairy and thinner than that of a honey bee’s, and yellowjackets do not transport pollen.
Side-by-side comparison of an Aerial Yellowjacket and honeybee:
The native Aerial Yellowjacket is considered beneficial because it preys on many insect crop pests. It is also serves as food for a variety of animals including frogs, skunks, birds, and other insects (I can’t imagine eating a wasp!). Yellowjackets typically sting in defense of their colony and can also be a pest at picnics, especially in late summer and fall when they switch their diet from that of a protein-based diet rich of the meat of chewed up caterpillars and insects, to a sugar-based diet.
The nest is is a papery-like material constructed from the worker yellowjacket’s chewed wood and saliva pulp and is typically only used for one year in our region. The Aerial Yellowjacket is so named because it builds its nest high up, as opposed to underground.
We left the nest alone, and so far, no more calls have gone out for its destruction.
This little turkey family seemed so vulnerable. Although blending well with the surrounding vegetation, the hen was disabled. She was only able to half walk, half hop. Despite her injury, she kept close watch over the babies as they foraged. I was especially surprised that no Tom came charging to protect the flock, which has been my experience with past turkey encounters.
From: Seven Seas Whale Watch
“Man has long been envious of the bird’s ability to fly, the cheetah’s ability to run, and the shark’s ability to eat both birds and cheetahs. Get an inside look at nature with this Groupon.
Choose Between Two Options
- $29 for a morning whale-watching trip for one ($48 value)
- $55 for a morning whale-watching trip for two ($96 value)
- Morning trips depart daily at 8:30 a.m.
7 Seas Whale Watch
As many as 15 species of whales populate the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The mission of 7 Seas Whale Watch is to bring passengers within eyeshot of these enormous sea creatures as they thrash about, breaking the water’s surface with their enormous heft and diving gracefully back below.”
Also Check out their Facebook Page CLICK HERE
All Photos from The Seven Seas Whale Watch Facebook page.
This past week while I am home enjoying a staycation (why would anyone ever want to leave Gloucester during the summer?), I have been working on HarborWalk butterfly garden improvements, alongside some outstandingly helpful volunteers. Imagine our delight when a beautiful Mama Monarch flew on the secene. After nectaring from the zinnias, I was hoping she would deposit her eggs on the Marsh Milkweed, strategically planted next to the nectar-rich zinnias, but no, not on her day’s agenda.
Many Hands Make Light Work ~ If you would like to join the Friends of the HarborWalk volunteers, please email me at email@example.com. You don’t need to be an expert gardener to join us; on the job-training is provided. We also need sweepers, trash-picker-uppers, and weedwhackers!
I understand from Matt Coogan, Gloucester’s Community Development Senior Planner, that there were over 800 people attending the free Summer Cinema on Wednesday night!! This coming Wednesday, a showing of Goonines is scheduled. I hope to see you there!