Points North Ahoy!


I’m on a little getaway with the boo so I’m probably going to keep pretty quiet on the blog front for the next few days. I kept a count in my mind of what I found yesterday, but fell asleep (this time during “Shark Week”–hoorah for airbnb cable!!) before I could jot it down. So a day late:


Even more tiger swallowtails, gliding from one hydrangea to the next.


Cormorants, three deep. “Hunters,” said Matt.

A million gulls. We kept thinking that we were hearing abandoned kids or fighting drunks but, in all but one occasion outside the police station, they were always birds, crying and calling and moaning in that weird, gullish way.

Plenty of common milkweed in parking lots and front yards. Not a monarch to be seen, but plenty of bright orange aphids.

A deer just standing around in the tree trunks on the outskirts of town.

Clam shells everywhere.

Mussels and clams IN MY FACE at the best seafood joint in town, Causeway. Mmm.

A crazy story from Mike, the guy sitting next to us at Causeway, about a right whale in the Marblehead cove that sidles his backyard. The whale was his neighbor for a week.

Also other stuff having little to do with things nonhuman, like the iconic sculpture of the Gloucester fisherman and his eyes that make me want to cry and also make me want to live better and also make me want to write more poems and Finally finish Moby Dick.

fisherman memorial face

See you in a few days!



Today was Summersweet:

Clethra alnifolia, ‘Ruby Spice’,

Sweet Pepperbush,

Abloom like a bottle brush. Pink and white sorbet. The scent, a customer said, like lilacs;

a fragrance so oiled and heavy in its syrup and nectar

that it recalled May, but thicker

than those heady scents that devour the senses in spring

leaving only the shades of twilight that strike the eye sweetly.

Summersweet, Pepperbush: drinking hole of bees and butterflies,

hunting terrain for eastern amberwings.

Summersweet in the weight of August, its fragrance arresting walkers in their paths,

stopped and turning, searching for the scent that brought them honey and brought them


(Often) Urban Invertebrates in the News

As July draws to a blissfully breezy end I offer a collection of the most insectually interesting articles that I’ve come across this month.  moth-er

Elena Tartaglia with some moths of New York and New Jersey. Source: @SciFri.

NPR’S Science Friday did a lovely little story on National Moth Week (which just ended on Saturday). In it Flora Lichtman interviews the adorably awkward Elena Tartaglia on why moths are worth our appreciation (in case you weren’t already aware). She also explains why they are so obsessed with the light over your door. Flora asks Elena about her new favorite moth: the Rosy Maple! Hooray. Also of interest–a Science Friday video that explains how hummingbird moths are able to so resemble their avian counterparts.

Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum)

Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum). Source: http://www.migratorydragonflypartnership.org

Xerces is helping to present a free webinar on dragonfly life and conservation which will take place on August first–tomorrow! There is a possibility of obtaining education credits, too. If you love dragonflies you can also participate in some citizen science for the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership, which is working to better understand their migrational patterns. 


ALB. Source: Wikipedia.

These dog days of summer mean that the Asian Longhorned Beetle is out and about. If you live in New York state and have a pool you can participate in a survey to help control the spread of this destructive insect.

Bees have been big newsmakers lately, primarily due to tragedy. In the wake of the largest poisoning of bumblebees ever, Xerces has called for the end of the cosmetic pesticide that caused it, dinotefuran, aka Safari. There is also a congress-bound petition to stop Safari here

An article from Treehugger sums up new research regarding the increasingly disastrous relationship between chemically-ridden America and honeybees.

The researchers…collected pollen from hives on the east coast, including cranberry and watermelon crops, and fed it to healthy bees. Those bees had a serious decline in their ability to resist a parasite that causes Colony Collapse Disorder. The pollen they were fed had an average of nine different pesticides and fungicides, though one sample of pollen contained a deadly brew of 21 different chemicals. Further, the researchers discovered that bees that ate pollen with fungicides were three times more likely to be infected by the parasite.


Bumblebee all up in a tomato blossom. [Highly fascinating] source: http://pollinator.com/. 

 In less dire news, the Times published a truly fascinating story in which Carl Zimmer artfully describes the bumblebee, the pollen that it feeds upon, and the effect that this culinary act has on pollination. In short, when a bee lands on, for example, a tomato flower (or a blossom from one of the other tens of thousands of plants which rely upon bumblebees for pollination), it immediately starts working to find pollen to eat. “‘It sounds like a bee is giving you a raspberry'” as it is

“in fact…creating resonating vibrations to loosen the pollen grains inside the [flower’s] tubes. ‘The bees are turning themselves into living tuning forks.'”

As the bee holds and shakes the flower, it causes microscopic pollen within to pinball against the tubes’ walls. Eventually they “gain so much energy that they blast out in a cloud that coats the bee.” The insect then gathers the grains to sacks on its legs so that it may feed the hive’s larvae later. Some pollen, however, remains on the bee’s fur and will dust off when the creature alights upon another blossom, hopefully leading to the inception of a brand new Brandywine, Sungold, or other blessedly summery fruit.

monarch drawing

Source: etsy.

Lastly, I have a detailed post cooking on the current state of the monarch butterfly. Until it’s published, however, here’s a link to a board that I’ve put together on Pinterest, Monarch Life Support. It’s a growing resource on monarch education which includes plenty of information on ways that we common folk can help this beloved, yet struggling, creature survive. Please let me know of other resources to add to the board and I’ll pin ’em up.

Queens or Kings Necessary


This. Because last year I was spending a large part of my time at home watching my little puppy of a monarch and its milkweed, and this summer I am looking at sometimes dried up milkweed flowers, hoping and praying for one of those bengal-striped beauties.

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