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)
Driving down Henry Avenue from Norristown, Carlos from Colombia saw the horses of the Saul Agricultural School grouped together near the pasture fence. He stopped to admire them as had I. He also thought of inquiring if they might be available for rent. He showed me a photo and video of his Paso Fino, a breed of horse known for its natural lateral gait Sadly, the horse died two months ago at age 16. A longtime horse lover, he doesn't know why more people don't ride. Watch video here.
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/
Clockwise from top left. Teens from Wordsworth Academy, a special needs school assist children in making recycled bottle planters. An activist with Sea Shepherd talks about the group's efforts to save endangered porpoises and whales. From the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, a horseshoe crab. FEMA is ready to assist in disasters, this representative from the flood mitigation unit assures. Evergreen Lane farm sets up aquaponics systems. Photo on web here.
Each day, Lisa Backe, "Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator" of the Goose Squad, LLC travels 100 miles and opens the door to her car at 28 different sites to allow her dog to chase away unwanted Canada geese. Your correspondent ran into Lisa and her small, friendly, rescue dog, Rita, on their second trip that day to the Morris Arboretum in Northwest Philadelphia, zipping around in a small car to the geese hotspots. It's a matter of harnessing the dog's natural instincts to chase the birds, Backe says. Goose Squad owner Joe Rocco estimates that seventy percent of the geese in our area reside here year round. Grazing on plentiful open grassy, areas each bird can leave a pound and a half or more of droppings a day. "We get the flock out of here" is the company's motto. Alas for your correspondent on this particular afternoon, the flock had already gotten out of there so there are no action shots in the video. Watch video interview here.
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.
Some dogs know that if they bark when their owners pull up in the car they're riding in at the drive-through window of the Worthington Northwest Library in Columbus Ohio, a person inside will open up the window and hand them a doggie treat. The window, introduced with construction of a new addition serves busy patrons who coast through to pick up materials they've placed on reserve. Library Manager Jeff Regensburger says about 50-60 people use the drive through each day and more so when the weather is bad/cold. Watch video here.
Bee Boy Ryan Williamson is happy for any technology advancement that raises the profile of beekeeping but has reservations about the so called flow hive with preformed plastic combs. New beekeepers who think all they have to do is turn the handle and out will come honey risk harming the bees. He also believes that comb building is in the bees' genetic coding and something that they are meant to do and is good for them. The Bee Boys are organic beekeepers whose simple mission, according to their website is to support the honeybees! At the right in photo is Bee Boy Kevin O'Connor. Watch Video here.
Marjorie Shoemaker brings her "Paws of the Spirit," to nursing homes and other venues. Her passel of animals include an easygoing white Labrador retriever service dog named Archie who, she says cost $50,000 to train, two rabbits and about a dozen guinea pigs. Shoemaker demonstrated how Archie can retrieve things and assist someone who might be disabled by, for example, gently taking off a person's socks without taking off any toes! Watch video here.
The nursing home residents coo ooh and ahh as they hold and pet the rabbits and the guinea pigs. The guineas, adept vocalizers, "wheek," purr, and chut in return in this video.
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