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NEW FILM: A FLIGHT OF MONARCHS

When watching, know that the first two minutes of the film were shot in Gloucester. I think you will be dazzled by the sheer numbers of Monarchs that travel through Cape Ann’s backyards and meadows during the peak of migration.

I began photographing the Monarchs in 2006, which was a year when we had an extraordinary number of Monarchs visiting our shores. At that time, I became determined that if ever again this phenomenon were to occur on Cape Ann, I was going to have the ability to document on film, rather than only through still images, this beautiful event for my community. It’s hard to imagine without observing and here you can see what I have wanted to share.

A Flight of Monarchs begins on a September day as first one and then passels of Monarchs begin to arrive to the fields and meadows of Cape Ann, carried across Massachusetts Bay on a tailwind. By the early evening light they begin to pour into the surrounding trees, clustering to stay warm in the branches furthest away from the prevailing breezes. The following morning as the sun begins to touch their wings, they alight from the trees, seeking the freshest wildflowers from which to drink nectar to help build their lipid reserves for the several thousand mile journey south. They drink and drink until the last of the sun’s rays dip below the tree line. As they arrived on a tailwind, they again depart, and are carried to the next gathering area. For coastal Monarchs, Allens Pond, which is located in Westport, Massachusetts is often the next stop.

In the next scene, the butterflies have arrived to the sacred oyamel fir forests of Angangueo, Michoacán, deep in the heart of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. It’s early morning and the butterflies are suspended in great primordial branched clusters that may become so heavy from the weight of so many butterflies the boughs of the trees bend to the breaking point. Later in the day, as the sun begins to warm their wings, the butterflies begin to stir. During the winter, it is imperative that the Monarch’s body temperature remains relatively low. They leave the sunniest branches in search of shade and a drink of water from nearby mountain streams. Occasionally in late February, as the air temperatures begin to warm with the coming springtime, for a short period during the day, the butterflies leave the trees all at once. This phenomenon is called a butterfly “explosion,” and is a truly magnificent event to observe.

A Flight of Monarchs is set to the evocative and tender “Fields of Blue,” written and performed by composer and guitarist Jesse Cook and his band, to which permission was granted by the artist for the purpose of this short film. Here is a link to Cook’s website. I highly, highly recommend attending a live performance of Jesse Cook and Company. As was I, you will be completely taken by their gorgeous music, exquisite artistry, and with Cook’s songwriting, will travel in beautiful melodies inspired from around the world.

I am currently editing my feature length documentary, Beauty on the Wing, which after months and months of organizing and editing three years of footage, is currently running at approximately twelve hours in length. At eleven hours too long, I have a great deal of editing to accomplish in the coming winter months!

A Flight of Monarchs presented here is the shorter version of the film that I created for the Berkshire Museum’s “Butterflies” exhibit. The first version is six minutes long and played on a continuous loop in the main gallery of the exhibit hall. The longer version will soon be posted on Vimeo.

BABY TURKEY MINI VIDEO and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

What a beautiful (and entertaining) surprise I experienced this past summer when filming B-roll and the milkweed patch at Waring Field in Rockport. From a distance the elusive hen was observed and I was delighted to see, upon coming closer to film her, that she had four little babies in tow (turkey babies are called poults).

Happy Thanksgiving! 

“Turkey in the Straw” Recorded by Fiddle, Fiddle, Fiddle

See previous post: Baby Turkey Encounter

Dreaming of Spring Ephemerals at the Mary Prentiss Inn!

Spring Tulips Mary Prentiss Inn Cambridge MA. ©Kim Smith 2014JPGLoads of earth-moving in the fall equals a world of beauty in the spring. Thanks to my awesome crew, Patrick from the Mary Prentiss Inn and Jackson from the Kendall Hotel!

Jackson and Patrick Mary Prentiss Inn ©Kim Smith 2014jpg copy

The Mary Prentiss Inn is truly the most welcoming of guest houses and yesterday while there planting the smell of the cook’s apple muffins baking wafted through the garden. A bit later, plates of warm muffins greeted guests; I couldn’t resist when offered. They were divine and are without a doubt the best muffins I’ve ever tasted! I’ve been promised the recipe and can’t wait to give it a go and to share!

mary-prentiss-inn-c2a9kim-smith-2013

For more information on the project, visit my Design Projects page here.

Link to The Mary Prentiss Inn here.

Checkout Rainforest Publications!

Rainforest Publications recently licensed one of my Monarch photos, which was shot on Eastern Point, for the cover of their newest pocket field guide, Butterflies of Mexico. You can get a preview of the new field guide by clicking here; look towards the bottom of the page.

Monarchs Gloucester MA ©Kim Smith 2012 -1269 copy

I requested their field guide on Mexican Flowers, which Larry, the publisher, kindly sent along. I love it–the guide is beautifully illustrated, and well, just so pocketable! I wished I had it on my trip last winter to Agangueo to film the Monarchs and especially appreciate how the guide is organized by plant family as opposed to alphabetically.

If any my world-traveling readers are planning a trip to Costa Rica, Mexico, Florida, Hawaii, Panama, Peru, California, Nicaragua, Belize, or the Pacific Northwest I recommend checking out their website, Rainforest Publications. Specific to each region, they offer field guides on marine animals, birds, orchids, wildflowers, butterflies, trees, reptiles, amphibians, and more. They even have a field guide for marine mammals of the North Atlantic. At only $5.95. I think this would be ideal for whale watchers (and for whale watching companies like Seven Seas to carry the guides).

Ann Margaret Ferrante Wins All in Her Re-election to the State House

Ann Margaret Ferrante was victorious in every district and in every ward in Gloucester and won both Essex and Rockport as well.  

Ann Margaret Ferrante ©Kim Smith 2014jpg

Congratulations Ann! Our family is so proud to call you our State Representative.

All photos from Ann Margaret’s victory party at the Gloucester House Restaurant.

Ann Margaret Ferrant Shelia Loomis ©Kim Smith 2014

State Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante and Sheila Lummis

Ann Margaret Ferrante Rebecca Jim Dowd ©Kim Smith 2014Ann Margaret with Rebecca and Jim Dowd

Paul Catherine McGeary Carolyn Stewart ©Kim Smith 2014Paul McGeary, Catherine McGeary, and Carolyn Stewart

Catherine Bayliss ©Kim Smith 2014Catherine Bayliss

Joan Kimberley Bill Fonvielle ©Kim Smith 2014Joan Kimberley with Bill Fonvielle

©Kim Smith 2014Jim Rebecca Dowd ©Kim Smith 2014Rebecca and Jim Dowd Checking Results

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 2014Black-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 2014American 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