Category Archives: Danaus plexippus

OUTSTANDING WORK IN PROGRESS BY LOCAL LAND STEWARDS ORGANIZATION CREATING COMMONS COLLECTIVE

Xavier, Lucas, Mark, Nick, Kim, Molly, and Sarah

What a joy to meet these members of Creating Commons Collective, a grassroots organization passionate about developing beautiful, native plants landscapes for our community.

The project at Blackburn traffic circle began last spring.The soli was tilled (with the help of Mass DOT) and the first batch of plants were introduced. The group is selectively adding native flowering plants with the long term goal of creating a self-sustaining, pollinator friendly, native plants meadow.

Sarah mentioned Creating Commons Collective native plants project at Burnham’s Field, which I am very eager to go check out, and Nick shared a recent article “Improvised Landscapes” that he wrote for Arnoldia, the quarterly publication of the Arnold Arboretum. It’s a great read and you can find the link to the article below.

Improvised Landscapes

By Nicholas Anderson April 4, 2023

OVER THE YEARS I have abandoned and inverted my horticultural training, and today, I struggle to describe what I do. When time is short, I simply say that I make meadows with native plants; sometimes I use the term “ecological maximalism.” But definitions don’t really matter when it’s late September, and I’m stopping off at a patch of dirt in Gloucester, Massachusetts, sandwiched between a new housing development and a Market Basket on the edge of a woodland remnant. Just now I don’t particularly need any new plants, as I have a dozen or so ongoing meadow projects that double as plant nurseries, but I can’t resist a salvage mission before going grocery shopping. I walk past orange-painted surveyors’ stakes through one of the spots where I scattered seeds the previous winter. Most of the seedlings have succumbed to the drought, but a few anemic partridge-pea plants (Chamaecrista fasciculata) are visible amidst the tire tracks. This space is used as a parking lot for little league games in the summer and the city deposits untold tons of salty snow here every winter. Remarkably, whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) and sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) insist on colonizing into the very spot that gets savaged by the plows year after year. I pull up four rhizomes of the sweet fern and grab two tiny volunteers of winged sumac (Rhus copallinum) before heading over to the other side of the lot, where frost aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum) and oldfield goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) are in bloom amidst mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and tendrils of asian bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). Out of the midst of these introduced species, I yank up twenty-odd plants with tender violence and put them in a wet, plastic bag.

READ more here

Buckeye and Painted Lady Butterflies drinking nectar at Seaside Goldenrod

EASTERN MONARCH POPULATION COUNT DOWN FOR OVERWINTERING BUTTERFLIES 2022-2O23

The presence of the Eastern Monarch population in Mexico’s transvolcanic mountain forests was 22 percent less this winter compared to last winter, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) annual count.

Rather than counting individual butterflies, the Monarchs are counted by the number of hectares they occupy. This past winter, the Monarchs occupied 2.21 hectares, down from 2.84 hectares in 2021-2022. A hectare is approximately 2.47 acres. A threshold of at least 6 hectares is recommended to sustain the eastern population.

 

For more precise information on how the Monarchs are counted read more from Monarch Joint Venture –

Estimating the Number of Overwintering Monarchs in Mexico

Contributors: Gail Morris, Karen Oberhauser, Lincoln Brower

Every year we anxiously await news of the monarch overwintering population count from Mexico. When are they done and how are the monarchs counted?

Monarchs go through four phases while overwintering in Mexico: their arrival, the establishment of an overwintering colony, colony movement and finally the spring dispersal.

The first fall migrating monarchs usually arrive at the overwintering sites in late October through mid-November. In this early phase, the monarchs are largely scattered and diffuse in their flight, moving frequently through an area and eventually creating small clusters at night, while still continuing to move through the forest. During the day, their movement is common and widespread, as they search for the perfect sheltered location to spend the winter.

As temperatures dip colder, monarchs begin to form larger and denser clusters, settling into smaller and protected areas at elevations of 2900-3300 meters (9,500 to 10,800 feet.) This usually occurs from mid-December through early February and the monarchs principally roost in oyamel trees although they use pines and other trees as well. This is the coldest time of the year where monarchs are most compact and stationary in their clusters, a time of winter survival with little movement.

By mid-February, temperatures are gradually climbing and the monarchs begin expanding their clusters. They slowly begin to move down the mountain on warm, sunny days searching for water to drink in nearby creeks. They return to the safety of the nearby forest as temperatures drop. The final phase is the monarch dispersal as the population gradually begins its movement north.

The traditional time of the annual overwintering count in Mexico is in late December when the clusters are most compact and movement is minimal. So how are the estimates done? How do you estimate how many monarchs there are in an area?

The World Wildlife Fund and the MBBR have measured the monarch population each year since the winter of 2004-2005. The occupied trees are mapped in each colony. Beginning with the highest tree in the periphery, the counters use a measuring tape or distance meter and compass to measure the perimeter using a series of lines connecting trees along the boundary. The enclosed area is then calculated in hectares.

Researchers have estimated that there are approximately 21.1 million butterflies per hectare, although this number most certainly varies with the time of the winter as the colonies contract, expand, and move. It also varies with the density and size of the trees in the colony. Based on this estimate the largest population of monarchs occurred in 1996-1997 when the colonies covered over 18 hectares and contained an estimated 380 million butterflies. To date the lowest population recorded was in 2013-2014 with 0.67 hectares and approximately 14 million monarchs.

While population estimates are recorded back to the winter of 1976-1977, long term counts of monarchs previously occupying the overwintering sites for comparison are limited due to a lack of complete data.

Keep in mind that the monarch overwintering estimates in Mexico are done when the monarchs are most compact in the trees. While counts continue biweekly during the time the monarchs are in the area, the end of December counts are used for comparison from year to year.

MONARCH BUTTERFLY POPULATION STATUS UPDATE AND LOOKING FORWARD TO SCREENING ‘BEAUTY ON THE WING’ IN NEW JERSEY ON SUNDAY!

A very brief Monarch population status update – For the second year in a row, the Western Monarch population is seeing an uptick in numbers. The population is at roughly at 335,000, up from the historic low of only 2,000 counted in 2020.  Two years of relatively good numbers gives us all hope the Western population can be saved.

It appears as though the Eastern Monarch population is not doing quite as well as last year. The final count for the winter of 2022- 2023 is not yet in. We’ll check back in on that count as soon as the graph becomes available.

Sunday afternoon, I’ll be screening Beauty on the Wing at the New Providence Memorial Library in New Jersey. New Providence is only about 20 minutes from my Mom and Aunt’s childhood home and it was at my Grandmother’s gardens where I first fell in love with the natural world.

I am also super excited to share that we will be screening Beauty on the Wing for school children (and grownups) across Prince Edward County on June 23rd.  Prince Edward County in on Lake Ontario and is a late summer gathering point for Monarchs before crossing the Lake into the US. The entire long point peninsula on the South Shore of Prince Edward County is a designated International Monarch Butterfly Reserve (established in1995).

“The land area of the IBA (editor’s note- Canadian acronym for Important Bird Areas)  is comprised of shallow soil over limestone bedrock with areas of alvar habitat. Much of the habitat consists of old field (savannah) and shrub thickets, with small deciduous and coniferous forests being present. In addition to several natural wetlands, the IBA contains two large wetland areas created after berm construction by Ducks Unlimited. The IBA is important for concentrations of migrating birds, bats and butterflies and also supports several rare vascular plants including Four-leaved Milkweed, Butternut, Bicknell’s Sedge, Short-stalked Chickweed, Brainerd’s Hawthorn, Limestone Hedge-hyssop, Green Arrow-arum, White-tinged Sedge, Eastern Few-fruited Sedge, Ram’s-head Lady’s-slipper, and Carolina Whitlow-grass. Largely undisturbed sites are important to ensure survival of these plants.”

The PEC south shore is also home to the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, where a diverse and extraordinary number of birds concentrate during migration.

LINK TO WCVB CHRONICLE PIPING PLOVER AND MONARCH EPISODE! #ploverjoyed #sharetheshore #plantandtheywillcome

New England residents and nonprofits work to save threatened species

https://www.wcvb.com/article/new-england-residents-and-nonprofits-work-to-save-threatened-species/41915984

Climate concerns growing for the future of many migratory species.

We travel all over coastal Massachusetts to learn about a few local “indicator species,” which can help explain the impact of climate change. Award-winning documentarian Kim Smith tells us the story of piping plovers breeding in Massachusetts.

The City of Cambridge raises monarch butterflies for release.

Every year, hundreds of sea turtles are stranded on the Cape. The New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital comes to the rescue.

Meanwhile, terrapin turtles on the Cape are struggling to survive.

In Plymouth at Manomet, researchers monitor coastal health, tag songbirds, and study the presence of a mighty migratory shorebird – the whimbrel.

And scientists at Nature and students at Bristol Aggie examine the health of river herring in the Taunton River watershed.

THE MARVELOUS MAGNIFICENT MIGRATING MONARCH AT THE ESSEX LIBRARY!

Please join me Thursday, August 18th, at 10am at Essex’s T.O.H.P. Burnham Library for a free  all ages (5 plus) Monarch Butterfly event, The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch. To register, please GO HERE

I hope to see you there!

BEE PART OF POLLINATOR WEEK!

HAPPY POLLINATOR WEEK!

We can all lend a hand helping pollinators. 

The three best practices –

1) Plant a habitat garden for bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, and songbirds.

2) Keep your home and garden free from pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides.

3) Support local farmers and beekeepers by purchasing locally produced food.

Please join me tonight at the Salem Regional Visitor Center for a free screening of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

A wonderfully early-in-the-season for our region batch of Monarch caterpillars feeding on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), June 11.

PLEASE JOIN ME FOR A SPECIAL LIVE SCREENING OF BEAUTY ON THE WING!

TO REGISTER, GO HERE

For more about the Essex National Heritage Pollinator Week programs, go here.

SAVE THE DATE FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING FREE SCREENING EVENT!

Hello Butterfly Friends,

Super fun news to share and please save the date – Essex National Heritage is hosting a week of events for National Pollinator Week, which takes place June 20th through June 26th. We have been invited to present a LIVE screening and Q and A of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly on June 22, from 7pm to 9pm at the Salem Visitor Center.

This is a free event.

You can pre-register HERE, which is recommended as there is limited seating.

Essex National Heritage has planned many events for National Pollinator Week. As soon as I have more information from organizer Ryan Conary, I will post the complete schedule.

The Salem Armory Visitor Center is located at 2 New Liberty Street, Salem, MA.

HAPPY MAY!

xxKim

 

BEAUTY ON THE WING OFFICIAL SELECTION TO THE SANTA BARBARA FILM AWARDS!

Happy news to share – Beauty on the Wing is nominated for an award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival And we saw our first Monarchs this week, one at Good Harbor Beach flitting through the dunes and a second at Cox Reservation. There is TONS of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) emerging at Good Harbor Beach currently ❤


Milkweed emerging in May at Good Harbor Beach

At GHB, later in the summer

BEAUTY ON THE WING IS ROCKIN’ THE PUBLIC TELEVISION WORLD!

Super great news update from my friend and American Public Television Vice President Judy. She shares that since our documentary premiered a month ago, Beauty on the Wing has been broadcast 276 times, reaching 48.95 percent of the UStv households. She thinks we will have even greater activity in April because of programming centered around Earth Day! We have received emails and messages from viewers around the country, many inspired to create a Monarch habitat.

With thanks and gratitude to our many generous contributors, without whose help this film would not have been possible.

To the lovely woman in Idaho whose name I think is Shelly – if you are reading this – I accidentally deleted your note but would be happy to advise you on how to establish a Monarch habitat at your field. Please feel free to email so we can connect. Thank you!