Naturalists at the Wissahickon Environmental Center Treehouse are raising and launching monarch butterflies. In the Andorra meadow a short distance above the Trreehouse, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation staffers Christina Moresi and Maris Harmon harvest milk weed leaves on which monarch butterflies have laid their small white eggs. They bring the leaves down to the Treehouse where the eggs hatch into caterpillars. They demand an abundant supply of milkweed leaves to munch on and grow. Moresi has filmed the whole metamorphosis. The grown caterpillars will climb to the top of a screen mesh and spin into milky green colored pupae. As the pupae mature, their casings become translucent and the butterflies' distinctive orange markings become visible. Finally the encapsulated butterflies emerge out of the bottom and pump blood to stretch out their new wings.
The naturalists place a small round tag on each newborn's wing and register it in an online database so if it is found in Mexico or en route, it can be identified. Moresi (right in photo) explains that the butterflies which lay their eggs in the Andorra are the fourth generation of butterflies migrating from hibernation in Mexico. Before they are released, the young monarchs are fed a rich diet of nectar and become flight worthy in a tall netted enclosure. The Center announces when they are about to release a group of monarchs. They are bound for Mexico, an extraordinary 2000 mile journey.
(Interviewer's Note: Conservationists have been actively engaged in combating a severe long term decline in the population of the monarch butterfly, a beautiful and important pollinator, that has been attributed to habitat loss from logging and pesticide use)
Wanna hear a cool story? a vendor at the Art for the Cash Poor fair in Northern Liberties asked me as I walked by. Sure! Two friends in a bar are talking about what kind of animals they would be were they to have animal form. One said a wolf because he's fierce; the other, a pig because he's big. Beer spilled on the bar counter and when they looked down at the suds they saw a wolf and a pig. "Wolfpig!" they exclaimed.
The brother of the guy who identifies as a wolf is an art teacher and he knew they wanted to go into some kind of business with the "WolfPig" theme. Along with another art teacher friend they settled on a t-shirt business because "wearable art" is an economical and effective way of making their art accessible to the public. At the fair they were selling exquisitely drawn t-shirts which they had made on a fine mesh screen using a process called discharge. The technique selectively removes the color from the black and grey t/shirts and bandannas they use. Themes draw on Aztec, Hindu and other mythologies and employ the wolf and pig motif, indicative of the yin and yang balance of nature and life. On some shirts the pig is more simply a commentary on the piggishness of the current administration.
"Based on the premise that everyone can be an art collector, AftCP is one of the longest running art festivals in the Kensington/Fishtown area. The best part: all works, by both emerging and established artists alike, are priced at $199 and under."
For more information see wolfpigbrand.com/
At our neighborhood train station my son and I heard lots of frantic chirping then saw a baby bird on the concrete ground. It appeared to have fallen from the wooden eaves high above. I started a live Periscope stream and solicited suggestions from tuners-in :"put it back in nest", "give it worms", "call 911". Someone encouraged me to take it I to the wildlife rehabilitation I had mentioned. And so I did after my son boarded the train. At the center, the receiving rehabilitator examined the bird, identified it as a plump baby sparrow, said that it was a little splayed but its wing were not broken, and that it would have lots of brothers and sisters for company because people had brought in about 20 some such babies in recent days. It will be cared for until it can fly and be released back into nature. Two days later I called back with the case number I had been given and learned from the woman who accepted the patient, that baby bird 2540 was doing just fine. Watch shorter video here. Watch longer video here.
"You bring a plant or garden-related item and you get an item that you like" explains Diane Olesik who has been coming to the Northwest (Philadelphia) Gardeners Association plant swap for several years. After attendees get a paper ticket for each plant they've brought and stage their plants at the designated tables - annuals, sun perennials, shade perennials etc - they hover by the plants they want to take home. Then they spring into some elbowy action when the countdown teaches "...zero- Go!" Cathedral Village, Roxborough, Philadelphia, Pa. Watch video here
Your correspondent volunteered in the kitchen for two weeks this summer at the Audubon Society's nature camps on Hog Island, some skipping stones length off of Bremen, Maine in Muscongus Bay and shares some highlights - and wisecracks - with you!
--With many thanks to those on the other side of your correspondent's lens!
On Hog Island, Maine , raptor biologist Rob Bierregaard and a guest expert demonstrate how a juvenile osprey is measured, blood-sampled and banded for scientific study purposes. Just minutes before, they had climbed a ladder to snatch and secret the chick away and worked quickly so as to reduce stress to it and return it as soon as possible to its likely fretting parents. Watch video here.
Biology professor Jerry Skinner holds a black capped chickadee in a photographer's grip as he discusses how to identify species of chickadees and the art and science of banding birds. Watch video here.
On a boat trip, to Harbor Island, Skinner demonstrates how to sample plankton using a net trailing the boat. Watch video here. [Sorry for wind noise.]
Snow Goose III Captain Bill Chapman and First Mate Meghan Kennedy bring up cages with lobsters and talk about lobsters and lobstering in Muscongus Bay
Built in Bath, Maine in 1902 to carry coal. this three thousand ton 273 foot long 5 masted schooner was refitted to become a nightclub in 1929, gutted in 1938 to become- unsuccessfully- storage for lobsters. The Cora was then scuttled near the shore to serve as a breakwater. According to an older gentleman at a nearby dock, attempts to remove the ship by burning failed and break away debris poses a threat to sea-goers. Watch video here.
EDUCATORS WEEK EVENING POTPOURRI
The Audubon Society's Sue Shubel trains a powerful microscope on a small bunch of barnacles and describes how they open up to use their filaments to feed on plankton. Watch video here.
By keeping the moon on one side of them as they fly, moths are able to navigate and fly straight-ish. But they also keep a nearby artificial light at night to the same side and end up going around in circles. Moth student extraordinaire Paul shares his recently acquired knowledge of moths indigenous to Hog Island. He appears to be on his on his way to becoming acquainted with nearly all the 160,000 known species and has a growing collection. By identifying moths temporarily captured on a lit up vertical white sheet, he was able to deduce what flora were nearby because some moths in their caterpillar stage feed only on the leaves of one plant or tree species. Watch video here.
And last but not least, a glimpse of what life was really like from a kitchen volunteer's view and the volunteers put on some plays:
The Story of the Ladlebird inspired by the newly commissioned play about Mabel Loomis Todd and
When you have three kinds of clouds coming together and catch the "rat's end" of the storm, you have a good chance of catching a rainbow she says. We ran into this couple at a rest stop on the PA Turnpike. They were coming from a music fest and headed towards another and had paused to see an awesome rainbow. Watch video here.
Elizabeth Fink has been using the new composting toilets near the Wissahickon Environmental Center (formerly Andorra Tree House) at the northwestern edge of Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. It never smells, she says and there's Purell for hand sanitizing. She thinks it's a big improvement over the old "Johnn(ies) on the Spot". She's careful that her cell phone is in a zipped pocket, however, lest it inadvertently fall into the pit! She and a companion had been taking a walk in the woods and recommended I check out the toads mating in the pond above the tree house. Watch video here.
A thousand little legs locomote along the slender hands of an Academy of Natural Sciences educator. Her painted fingernails are brown and shiny just like the six-inch-long and pinky-wide African chocolate millipede snaking around her fingers. She has seen even larger ones crawling up mango trees in Puerto Rico. She trades off the millipede for two black darkling beetles, a striped and a stripeless, native to arid regions of the southwest United States. These grew up at the Academy, she explains, as she fondly strokes their backs. Watch video here.
Your correspondent volunteered for a week cleaning dishes and bathhouses at the Audubon Society Camp on Hog Island off of Bremen, Maine. He collected an old glass bottle encrusted with barnacles and these stories. See photo slideshow here.
A large aquarium in the lab building of Hog Island affords a micro view of aquatic life in coastal Maine’s tidal pools. Off the pier, swaying mats of seaweed. Watch video here.
“Puffin” Pete Salmansohn, Project Puffin outreach coordinator and director of Hog Island Educators week, describes how puffins were saved from near extermination from the Maine Coast on a boat trip out to Eastern Egg Rock Island where island sitters carefully monitor and study them. Along the way, seals sunning themselves on a small island, produce whoops and hollers among the day-trippers as they dive into the water toward the boat to investigate or perhaps be fed? Watch video here.
On Hog Island, early morning guided birding, a photographer and his camera level with the osprey nest, an osprey parent guarding two fledglings and later the same day foraying out and back. Watch video montage here.
“Seabird” Sue Schubel, Project Puffin Outreach Instructor and Hog Island Camp Coordinator, puts the finishing touches on a large batch of cream “puffins.” They will be served to oohs and ahs and camera flashes at the conclusion of the farewell lobster dinner for Educators week. The confectionary puffins, like their living counterparts, Schubel says, could be either male or female, as they look the same. Their breeding plumage, bright orange bills, mark them as mature adults. Watch video here.
Susan Spitzer Williams, a career guidance specialist participating in Educators Week on Hog Island, seen here rushing to get her camera to the photogapher and back in place for a group shot. In the video, she pauses before swimming to share one of the many ways in which she is superior to her dear older brother, Nick Spitzer, host of the widely syndicated, public radio program, “American Routes.” For one, she met and played pool with Muddy Waters and he didn’t. Watch video here.
A short, live action, instructional video for kitchen volunteers at the Hog Island camp on how to use the Hobart 4 sided, hood mounted, pass through, commercial dishwasher. Watch video here.
She’s been skinning road kill, preparing pelts, skull specimens and mounts for museums for some time but this was Carolyn Zaino’s first beaver. Discovered by a couple Hog Island staffers, the road kill became the object of Zaino’s artistry and industry in between stints in the Hog Island kitchen. Zaino is nonplussed by the gore and gruesomeness of her vocation as befits the pathologist’s daughter for whom, as a child, the hearts, lungs and brains in her father’s lab were naturally things of wonder. Her work lets her give these animals “another life” and educate people about them. Watch short video here. Watch full-length video here.
Weavers Way Food Coop has introduced a new line of energy bars - ones made with crickets.
On Tuesday, staff members at the Chestnut Hill store sampled Chapul’s Thai Cricket Bar.
Jon Roesser and Lara Cantu- Hertzler appeared pleased with the bar’s coconut-ty, gingery taste. Roesser noted that cricket flour was listed as the fourth ingredient and figured (correctly) that it served as the bar’s protein source. Cantu-Herztler was a little queasy about eating insects but thought it was a good idea.
Rick Neth hadn’t seen the product before but reported that in his native Cambodia, insects are sometimes eaten in certain regions. Farm raised crickets might be baked, used in stuffed, roasted peanuts, or fire-roasted.
On its website, the Chapul company is asking people to join the other 80% of the world’s population who, it says, regularly consume protein-rich insects as part of their diet, and effect a revolution against traditional land-and-water intensive, polluting agriculture.
At the conclusion of the accompanying video, staffer Joe Stanton is mulling over a mouthful.