Category Archives: Cape Ann Wildlife

Pollinator Gardening Tip: Deadheading

Tufted titmouse Baeolophus bicolor ©Kim Smith 2014Tufted titmouse ~ Baeolophus bicolor

In my garden design practice, the topic of deadheading flowers comes up often, especially at this time of year. The habitat garden is designed for people and for pollinators and the objective is to find a balance between the two. Esthetically speaking, to some, a garden only looks its best when every plant is tidily trimmed and every spent flower blossom removed. But to a hungry bird on the wing, an expiring sunflower or cosmos is bird food. Some plants should be deadheaded and pruned however, the next time you get a jones to neaten a plant, take a moment to look at it from the perspective of a songbird.

Black-capped Chicakdee Poecile articapillus ©Kim Smith 2014

Black-capped Chicakdee ~  Poecile articapillus

I like a bit of unruliness in the garden and don’t even deadhead cosmos any longer. They will continue to flower whether deadheaded or not. A few weeks ago while working with several of our wonderful HarborWalk volunteers, I was explaining what plants to deadhead and what plants not to deadhead, and why, when at the very moment that I was speaking those very words, three brilliant cadmium yellow goldfinches flew on the scene and began devouring the seed heads of a nearby coneflower!

American Goldfinch male Cosmos bipinatus ©Kim Smith 2014

American Goldfinch Eating Cosmos Seeds

And too, a batch of Echinacea not only provides mid-winter sustenance to hungry birds, the seed heads sure look pretty silhouetted by new fallen snow.

Coneflowers in the snow ©Kim Smith 2012Gloucester HarborWalk

Report Monarch Sightings Here!

Monarch Butterfly Gloucester MA ©Kim Smith 2014More Monarch sightings reported on Cape Ann by GMG readers over the past several days, October 14th and 15th!

Monarchs640Maggis Rosa submits this photo from The Scientist Magazine, which was their Image of the Day and was shot by Luna Sin Estrellas at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, where the butterflies are arriving earlier than usual and in greater numbers than last year.

photo (2)To the reader who sent the above photo, I unfortunately accidentally deleted the email. Please forgive and please let us know your name and where the photo was taken. Thank you!

Ed Note: Nancy Dudley writes, “The photo in the post w/o a caption was at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. We are seeing a couple a day this week. Thanks! I am looking for the milkweed seeds I got from you to plant in my marsh soon!”

Monarchs on the Wing ©Kim Smith 2014The Monarchs are back! Cape Ann GMG FOBs are continuing to report their Monarch sightings.

After taking a break during the rain of last week (butterfly’s wings don’t work very well in foul weather), the Monarchs are again moving through our region. Check the comment section to see all the recent sightings in our community. The above photo was taken yesterday, Monday, October 6th on Eastern Point. The photo below was shot last week, before the rain’s onset.

Monarch in flight ©Kim Smith 2014Monarch in Mid-Flight and New England Asters

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.

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring Joe Pye ©Kim Smith 2012Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium)

In Sunday’s podcast (September 21st), 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!

Monarch Butterfly Eastern Point Gloucester ©kim Smith 2012

 

Video: Hawk Attacks Drone

If the weather cooperates we are going to be filming with a drone all around the shoreline of Eastern Point this coming week, capturing Cape Ann from the perspective of a Monarch butterfly’s migratory path.

With so many seen along our local beaches, I hope a hawk attack doesn’t happen to us!

For the Love of all Things Sandy!

No one loves the beach more than me, but after watching this grotesque monster work its way across the beach, it is going to be a long time before I sit my butt down on that same wet sand again.

Blech!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I am by no means a wuss….but, I find this little sucker nauseating.  Over reaction, you say? Maybe to you.  But, I think not.  I’ve helped saw the heads off of bluefin tuna without batting an eye, but this slimy, invasive little creatures has the ability to slither places it simply doesn’t belong and it is simply more than I can handle.

I’ll be shopping for next summer’s super high beach chair…ummm…now.

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Brace Cove Seals Sleeping at Daybreak

Brace Cove seals at sunrise ©Kim Smith 2014While filming B-roll for several projects I caught the sunrise at Brace Cove this October morning. The seals were awakening, as were the swan couple, the cormorants and gulls stretching wide their wings, and the songbirds breaking fast on the abundance of wild berries and seed heads found along the berm at Niles Pond. Click image to see full size.

Brace Cove seals at sunrise -2 ©Kim Smith 2014Brace Cove Seals

Brace Cove at sunrise ©Kim Smith 2014Fledgling juvenile male cardinal ©kim Smith 2014Juvenile Male Cardinal

Niles Pond daybreak ©Kim Smith 2014Niles Pond

Sparrow ©Kim Smith 2014Camouflaged!

GMG Update for Marine Mammal Response From Mendy Garron

Dear Good Morning Gloucester Community:

We know people were concerned and had questions about the harbor seal that was at Good Harbor Beach over the weekend.  I wanted to take this opportunity to remind people of what they should do if they see an animal that may need assistance.

October 4, 2014 injured seal

Donna Ardizzoni Injured Seal photo Oct 4, 2014 Good Harbor Beach Taken With Telephoto Lens

Up until this year, the protocol was to call the New England Aquarium.  The Aquarium served as the NOAA authorized responder for the Northshore area for many years.  On January 1st, the Aquarium refocused their response effort to sea turtle rehabilitation and the study of infectious disease in marine mammals. As a result they had to scale back their response area for stranded marine mammals and now are focusing their efforts on the area from Salem to Plymouth.  

Over the last year, NOAA Fisheries has been seeking an alternate organization to help us fill this void on the Northshore, which includes Cape Ann. Until an alternate organization is identified and authorized to help us, we ask that all stranding calls be reported to our offices.

Our program oversees the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program from Maine to Virginia.  Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to respond to every animal in the field and do not have the legal ability to authorize individual volunteers to respond to these cases.  As a result, marine mammal stranding cases in Gloucester will be handled on a case-by-case basis.  When needed, we will seek help from other authorized stranding response agencies, but their ability to help will be limited and based on their available resources. 

I would like to ask the Gloucester community to spread the word about the current status of response to stranded marine mammals and remind one another to be responsible viewers of wildlife by:

- Staying a safe distance of at least 150 feet from animals on the beach or hauled out;

- Do not let dogs approach seals or other marine wildlife.  Marine mammals do carry diseases that can be transmitted to your pets, and vise versa;

- Do not touch or feed the animal.

Remember, seals are wild animals.  Medical treatment of these animals is significantly different from domestic and terrestrial animals.  We have to consider a variety of factors when making a decision about how best to respond to an animal on the beach including individual animal health and potential risks to humans and pets, the overall health of the species’ population , and how intervening may affect the natural ecosystem. Seals and other marine mammal species are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

I would like to thank the Gloucester Police Department and the Massachusetts Environmental Police for their assistance in maintaining a safe viewing distance for this animal while it was resting on the beach.  The seal did go back into the water on its own Saturday evening and no further reports have been received.

More information about the National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program can be found at the following website:

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/stranding.htm–

Mendy Garron, CVT
Marine Mammal Response Coordinator
Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office

NOAA Fisheries

MARINE ANIMAL HOTLINE: 866-755-NOAA (6622)

Monarchs in the News

Three very interesting articles were shared this past week by friends and GMG FOBs. Thank you!!! I love reading what you send and below are the links to share with readers. Again, thank you!

Monarch Butterfly Butterfly Bush  ©Kim Smith 2014

Frieda from Again and Again forwarded this from Nature:

“The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is famous for its spectacular annual migration across North America, recent worldwide dispersal, and orange warning colouration. Despite decades of study and broad public interest, we know little about the genetic basis of these hallmark traits. Here we uncover the history of the monarch’s evolutionary origin and global dispersal, characterize the genes and pathways associated with migratory behaviour, and identify the discrete genetic basis of warning colouration by sequencing 101 Danaus genomes from around the globe.” Link to Nature article.

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Our Catherine Ryan forwards from the New York Times:

Why Some Monarch Butterflies Are Marathoners”

Monarch butterflies can be found throughout the world, but only in North America do they make a spectacular mass migration, annually flying from as far north as Canada to winter in Mexico.

Now, by sequencing genomes of 90 monarch butterflies from around the world, researchers have discovered a gene that plays a critical role in determining whether monarchs are migratory, along with new details about their origins, migratory behavior and coloring.

Read Full Article Here

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Josh Dickinson from the University of Florida in Gainseville forwarded the following:

“A Strange Cloud Over St. Louis Turns Out to Be an Enormous Swarm of Butterflies”

Late last week, meteorologists in St. Louis noticed a cloud acting peculiarly: It was beating a path toward Mexico while changing into a variety of odd shapes. Was it a radar glitch? The debris signature of a south-moving tornado?

The answer was more heartening—and bizarre. After analyzing the reflections,the National Weather Service concluded they showed an immense swarm of Monarch butterflies migrating to their winter home in the Mexican mountains:

Here’s how it technically arrived at that conclusion, for the weather geeks out there:

Keen observers of our radar data probably noticed some fairly high returns moving south over southern Illinois and central Missouri. High differential reflectivity values as well as low correlation coefficient values indicate these are most likely biological targets. High differential reflectivity indicates these are oblate targets, and low correlation coefficient means the targets are changing shape. We think these targets are Monarch butterflies. A Monarch in flight would look oblate to the radar, and flapping wings would account for the changing shape! NWS St. Louis wishes good luck and a safe journey to these amazing little creatures on their long journey south!

Read Full Article Here

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VIDEO PSA: THE GOOD HARBOR SEAL ~ WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A SEAL ON THE BEACH

The beautiful juvenile Harbor Seal was found on a foggy morning in midsummer. The seal was beached at the high tide line and its breathing was heavy and labored. It had no interest in returning to the water and needed only to remain at rest.

For the next six hours the seal struggled to survive the world of curious humans.

Learn what to do if you find a seal on the beach.

The two agencies listed below have in my experience been helpful:

Massachusetts Environmental Police: 508-753-0603

Northeast Region Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding and Entanglement Hotline: 866-755-6622

Reposted from August 14th. See original post here.

 

“Discovered: The Monarchs Mexican Haven” from National Geographic, August 1976

National GeographicBecause of the current stretch of rainy weather there will be few Monarch sightings at this time. Butterfly’s wings don’t work very well in the cold and rain. We can hope that if the warm weather returns there will be a greater number of butterflies migrating through our region than the passel of last week. In the mean time, I thought I’d share one of my most treasured possessions, which is the August 1976 issue of National Geographic. I purchased this copy when I began doing research for my Monarch film and children’s book. If I remember correctly, it was $2.50 on eBay–lucky me to find a copy!!

The issue tells the story of the “discovery” of the Monarchs by scientists. I have reservations in writing the word discovery because it is difficult to imagine that the native peoples living in the region did not know of their existence long before westerners. As a matter of fact, the woman who led the discovery, Catalina Aguado, was  born in Michoacán, the Mexican state that is home to the butterflies wintering grounds. Catalina is the only living member of the original team featured in the 1976 National Geographic article.

The complete article is available to read online here.

There have been three interesting and noteworthy Monarch stories in the news recently, forwarded to us by our GMG FOBs. Stay tuned for a post tomorrow with summaries and links to all three articles.

 

 

 

The Real Deal ~ Good Harbor Beach September Sunrise

Good Harbor Beach September sunrise SUP ©kim Smith 2014.Good Harbor Beach Sunrise ~ Click to view full size.

Good Harbor Beach September sunrise ©kim Smith 2014

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?

Good Harbor Beach ©Kim Smith 2014JPG

Great Egret Good Harbor Beach September sunrise ©kim Smith 2014.Great Egret at Daybreak, Good Harbor Beach

Kim Smith Guest Speaker at the Rockport Garden Club Monday, October 6th

Rockport Garden Club ©Kim Smith 2014Sign Posted at the Rockport Community Center Garden

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.

Please visit the Programs Page of visit my website for a complete list of program offerings.

Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri) ©Kim Smith 2014Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri) at the Rockport Community House and Senior Center

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.

Hummingbird-Hawk-Moth-Life-CycleGraphic Source: Animalbook.org

White-lined_sphinxAbove White-lined Sphinx Moth image courtesy wiki commons media.

The Rockport Community House is located at 58 Broadway, Rockport.

Endangered Pied-billed Grebe Encounter

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.

Pied-billed Grebe Massachusetts mallard ©kim Smith 2014

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.

Pied-billed Grebe Massachusetts -2 ©kim Smith 2014Fluffy Cottontail

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 Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014

Niles Pond is Ideal Pied-billed Grebe Habitat

See previous GMG post for more information about why birds stand on one leg.

See more photos and audio links here ~
Read more

Best Places to Photograph Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly Gloucester HarborWalk ©Kim Smith 2014

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at the Gloucester HarborWalk

Reader Gia Vento writes the following:

“Dear Kim,
I met you at the Stoneham Garden Club two years ago.
I’d like to take butterfly photos for my own collection.
Is it too late in the year to do so outdoors?
Can you recommend a good outdoor place where I could capture some images–especially monarchs, other butterflies, ladybugs, and hummingbirds?
I appreciate your time.”
Gia Vento”

My response:

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

Happy Photographing!

Warmest wishes,

Kim
guide-cover

American Lady Butterfly New York Ironweed ©Kim Smith 2014

Painted Lady Butterfly Nectaring at New York Ironweed, Gloucester HarborWalk

Crimson-eyed Rose Mallow

Niles Pond Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2014
Niles Pond ~ Rose Mallow Natural Habitat

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Above photo courtesy Allen Sloane

Hi Allen,

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!

Rose Mallow Marsh Mallow ©Kim Smith 2013Rose Mallow Growing at Niles Pond

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.”

Crimson-eyed Rose mallow ©Kim Smith 2010Crimson-eyed Rose Mallow

Provocative Pokeweed

The charming note posted below was in my inbox today. I thought Fred would enjoy, as would our GMG readers find interesting.

Allen writes:

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

Phytolacca_americana_Sugarcreek_Ohio

Hi Allen,

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.

Phytolacca_americana_Clinton_MI_2

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.

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