A Monarch Christmas – Part 1

Stacks of multicoloured Christmas gifts C.C. lic

Eleven days before Christmas / and all through the town / shoppers aim for the store lights / none notice the ground.

Except one.

Every December Woodland, CA bustles with people, preparing for the holidays. Sunday the 14th was no exception, as my friends Marcail and her mom, Marjie, finished their shopping at a local mall.

Marjie crossed the parking lot toward her car to wait for Marcail. A flicker of color ~ not Christmas green or red, but true orange ~ caught her attention in a nearby flowerbed. A Monarch butterfly, wings spread, lay motionless on the dirt. She bent and lifted it off the cold ground, first searching its wings for a tiny identification tag. A Santa Barbara native familiar with Monarchs, she once found a tagged butterfly and retrieved information for a group tracking its migration. This downed migrant was tagless.

Behind the wheel, she cupped her palms and blew warm air over the lifeless body. One antenna moved. Marcail opened the car door, sliding into her seat. Marjie handed her daughter the butterfly. It would be up to her to figure out how to care for their new family member ~ if it survived.

Monarch rescue copyright Marcail McWilliamsIn the following days, Marcail’s friends and I fell in love with the “girl and her butterfly” story unfolding on her Facebook page. I realized how little I know about Monarchs, much less how to nurse one back to health. I thought others might benefit from her journey, so Marcail agreed to this interview. The multi-post series combines updates on the butterfly’s progress, Marcail’s photos (used with permission), information on Monarchs, and ways we all can help.

glass christmas ball-rs

TRIAL AND ERROR FEEDING

Katy: I’ve really enjoyed following the story, Marcail. I know your mom found the butterfly, but you’ve had to take care of it since. Let’s start with what you did when you got the butterfly home.

Marcail:  Somehow we knew about keeping it warm and putting sugar water on a cotton ball and letting it drink from it, which it did. This kind of care lasted for a few days, then you and our friend Greg (who knows a lot about butterflies) sent me links about getting other nutrition into it through juice or a mixture of soy sauce and juice. At first it didn’t care for this new concoction, but if I made it much more on the sweet side I could usually get it to drink some.

Katy: You had a few concerns the first couple of days. 

Marcail:  A couple of hours after we got home, it was barely moving its wings. The antennae were moving much more, but it still wasn’t standing. The wings would move when I picked it up, but stopped when I put it down. I was worried about the missing chunk from her underwing, but Greg said it wouldn’t hurt its flying.  Franco with chunk out of wing adj MMc arrow flat

I was also worried because it’s an insect, but I only saw four legs. I found out the other two are tiny and are usually tucked under the head.

I think this video shows it using the front legs to clean its proboscis.

Katy: I see there’s an apple core, maybe a piece of other fruit, in the picture above. What’s that about?

Marcail:  I’m trying to incorporate other natural fruits that could give the butterfly more vitamins and minerals than just sugar and water. I give it the juice that oozes out of overripe fruit mixed with sugar water and fruit syrup from jam. I usually put a raisin in it that gets soft as it soaks up the liquids and syrup. I’m hoping the raisins add iron because I’ve heard and read that raisins are high in iron. 

12/19: "Well, just when I think "she's not interested in eating anymore" I find something to perk her up. Some persimmon!" Marcail

12/19: “Well, just when I think “she’s not interested in eating anymore” I find something to perk her up. Some persimmon!” Marcail

Marcail’s Monarch was lucky to be found. A strong, cold storm hit a wide area three days before she crash-landed. Monarchs can’t fly if their body heat is below 86 degrees F.

12/17 "Well, I only fed her in the morning, didn't have time after work and my next thing, now I can't get her to eat. feeling frustrated. She probably needs to eat! She does like hanging out near a warm mug of tea though."

12/17 “Well, I only fed her in the morning, didn’t have time after work and my next thing, now I can’t get her to eat. feeling frustrated. She probably needs to eat! She does like hanging out near a warm mug of tea though.”

They won’t survive freezing temperatures, especially if they are alone. This butterfly is part of the smaller, Western group whose members live, reproduce, and travel west of the Rockies. They can be found as far north as British Columbia, but they don’t migrate into Mexico, rather only as far south as San Diego. That’s what happens when you leave your passports at home.

Fall Migration Map." Monarch Butterfly. US Forest Service, 3 May 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2014.

Fall Migration Map.” Monarch Butterfly. US Forest Service

The butterfly would have hatched in the late summer or early fall, like its cousins in the Eastern migration group that move from Eastern Canada, through Texas, to Mexico each fall. A small number of the Eastern group fly to Florida where they stay for the winter. The large, Mexico-bound group over-winters in the oyamel fir trees of Michoacan, Mexico. In the spring, all groups start the search for nectar to eat and milkweed plants on which to lay eggs and nourish the caterpillars when they hatch.

One of Marcail’s original concerns was the butterfly was not standing. It took a awhile, but on Day 6 it was ready for Strength Training! Can sprint flights be far behind?

12/20 "Practicing our grip this morning. She did her first official (small) flutter of her wings last night. Very exciting. I'm glad for a weekend so I can spend more time with her and feed her more often." Marcail

12/20 “Practicing our grip this morning. She did her first official (small) flutter of her wings last night. Very exciting. I’m glad for a weekend so I can spend more time with her and feed her more often.”  Marcail

Marcail (on her Facebook page): I think I’ve got a name for her: Franken Flutter (Franca for short) because I keep thinking, “She’s alive!” 

Katy: How did you figure out she’s a female, or did you just decide to make her a “sista?”

Marcail: Our friend Greg told me the females have thicker veins in their wings. I compared her to pictures online, and her veins are definitely bigger.

The other main differences are the males tend to be slightly larger and they have a black spot (the “androconium,” a scent gland used to attract girl Monarchs) on each hindwing. Can you see them in these comparison pictures?

Female Monarch Photo: Creative Commons

Female Monarch
Photo: Creative Commons

CC male Monarch

Male Monarch Photo: Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

Marcail and her mom are both fabric artists. Here’s a collage Marcail put together showing the butterfly wing skirt she made in high school. I think Franca (can you see her?) approves.

Marcail's butterfly skirt

Marcail’s butterfly skirt

My interview with Marcail and Franca continues in Part 2, along with some unusual, fun Monarch facts. I‘m off to make a Monarch paper airplane. (see update below)

Monarch rescue resource sites

I haven’t cross-checked all the information on the sites I visited for this series. I suggest looking at more than one site, particularly ones backed by universities and researchers studying butterflies. A serious Monarch health issue is linked to the increased use of “tropical milkweed.” For now, don’t plant it or spread the seeds, only use plants native to your area. If you already have it, consider replacing with natives or cut it back in the fall.

Wing repair ~ Live Monarch Hospital   Marcail used info on this site to keep her butterfly’s legs from sticking together when it got carried away in its food dish.

Feeding ~ Butterfly Rescue International   Butterflies smell with their antennae and taste with special receptors, called tarsi, on the bottoms of their feet (who knew?).

12/25 – Christmas flutters! Marcail (on her Facebook page): Here’s a video of Franca doing some pretty rapid wing flutters. Of course right after I take this she does one 10x more impressive. I was telling some friends tonight about her personality, how she’s not much of a morning girl and I’ll be like, “hurry up and eat so I can go to work!” But she just farts around with her food like she’s not hungry.

I don’t know for sure, but this looks like the kind of wing “shivers” butterflies do to warm up.

glass christmas ball-rsUpdate: My Monarch paper airplane. Flew pretty well, considering I accidentally tore off what would be the short tail. Helps to follow the instructions.

UPDATE: Finished the airplane. Printed on both sides of the paper. It didn’t quite match up, but worked okay. I accidentally tore off the short tail the instructions say to leave. Flew pretty well anyway, but I’ll try again with the tail intact.

Monarch paper air plane top Katypye.com http://wp.me/p2dkY1-Nj

Monarch paper air plane top
Katypye.com http://wp.me/p2dkY1-Nj

Monarch paper air plane underneath Katypye.com http://wp.me/p2dkY1-Nj

Monarch paper air plane underneath
Katypye.com http://wp.me/p2dkY1-Nj

 

PAY IT FORWARD DAY~Moving Beyond Gestures

Today is “International Pay It Forward Day.”

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

The concept started with author Catherine Ryan Hyde and her book, Pay It Forward. A kindness paid to another in reciprocation of a kindness done to you is the heart of the story and the movement that’s lifted and challenged millions world-wide.

Paying it forward isn’t about paying back the giver. It’s moving the kindness out, like wind breathing through pines. In some ways, it’s no different from any other form of altruism, but the original P.I.F. idea activates a basic truth: “we live today and into the future as one.” I gift my gratitude by helping or giving to another with the gentle caveat the receiver does the same for someone else. Pay It Forward has moved me beyond making gestures or just doing something nice. It has taken my hand and walked me through the feel-good gate into a garden of true connection. 

I’m gifting a copy of my novel to a 13 year-old boy whose Mom wrote to tell me how excited he was about the first pages of the e-book version. Why? Because he loves turtles.wiki cc 640px-Tortoise_(PSF)

He rescued a land turtle and a tortoise from owners who didn’t know how to care for them. His animal friends are now healthy and happy. He and I have had a great e-mail exchange, and he and his mom will be looking for ways to pay it forward, too.

Thank you, Catherine for creating, and living on, the pay it forward path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Georgian-age 9-Challenges State: Save Turtles From Deadly Balloons

Activist, author, and $1,000 Kohl’s Cares Scholarship winner, Cameron (Amie) Koporc has done more for sea turtles than most people think of doing in half a lifetime. Now she’s started a petition at Change.org to get legislators to make Georgia the 7th state to protect wildlife and reduce pollution by outlawing mass balloon releases.

Balloons and ribbons--beautiful killers.

Balloons and ribbons–beautiful killers.

A former resident of Florida, now living in the Atlanta Georgia suburb of Roswell, Amie’s learned a lot about sea turtles since her family adopted a sea turtle nest in her name as a 7th birthday present. She recently told the Roswell Neighbor news journal, “When I grow up I want to work in a rescue center for ocean animals. I just hope it isn’t too late by then.” So do I, but she’s working hard to make sure turtles and other animals remain part of the planet’s ecosystems forever.

This Blaire Wirthington photo on my website page Threats to Sea Turtles illustrates what can happen when a balloon ends up at sea. This little Kemp’s ridley was lucky someone spotted him. The ribbon or string can be as deadly as the balloons.

Kemp's ridley juvenile from 65 NM west of Sarasota FL. The turtle had ingested the latex end of a toy balloon.

Ribbon trail of the balloon swallowed by a Kemp’s ridley juvenile off the Sarasota, FL coast. Photo: Blair Wirthington
photo, Blair Witherington (http://myd.as/p6429)

While Amie’s petition is directed at influencing Georgia politicians, sea turtles, birds, and people everywhere are impacted by balloon trash. All states should get the message, so each one added works to tip permanent change in the right direction. As of this writing, Amie has upped her signature goal to 2500 and is 408 signatures shy. Help by adding yours.

Still think balloons are harmless? Take a look at Balloons Blow’s photo gallery of what can happen when balloons are enjoyed without thought to what happens when they come down, pop, and no longer fun. Take a minute to look at all these ideas for celebrating, memorializing, and getting attention WITHOUT balloons. Most add to the planet or the animals and people on it, they don’t just decorate. This “follow me” balloon was left behind in my neighborhood today after a weekend open house.
open house balloon left behind
Thanks to Amie and her family for all they are doing to take a stand for sea turtles and the planet! I hope to find her book Juno’s Journey in print someday!
 *******************************

Praise for novel, Elizabeth’s Landing

Diane Wilson book jacketThis was too long for FB, but I HAD to share.

I just received this endorsement from Diane Wilson, the most compassionate, courageous, and powerful woman I have the privilege to know. After being blown away by her book, I drove to a 1 day writer’s conference in Santa Barbara several years ago just to see her talk. I’d written the first “solid” draft of all the shrimping sections, having spent hours and days reading about the issues, the history of conflict over the turtles, and regulations shrimpers are under. I’d watched many YouTube videos to see how the fishing is done and described what I saw. 

I cornered Diane on a break and told her about the book and asked if she knew a shrimper I could talk to, who might help me make sure I’d gotten it right. After hesitantly saying she’d be glad to help, the first thing she asked was, “Is Grandpa a Gulf shrimper or a bay shrimper.” Uhhh, embarrassing. I had no clue; didn’t know there was a difference. I’m surprised she didn’t walk out right then.

Shrimping rewrite support-2-rs-1_edited-1

My desk during the rewrites. Diane’s book for courage, her photos for inspiration, and the sweetpeas as a reminder there is a garden and world beyond my computer screen.

But she stuck with me, read, corrected, re-read my fixes, and when she said Grandpa was real, I knew I could relax. Some of my favorite parts of Elizabeth’s Landing are there thanks to Diane’s own doggedness. Thank you, Diane. Your praise, and all you do and stand for, touch my heart. And give me strength!

If you haven’t read her books on her own environmental and social justice work, please do. Amazing stuff, read like novels, but all true.

“I can vouch for Ms. Pye’s dedication to the truth and her compassion for sea turtles.  I’m a shrimper from the Gulf Coast of Texas, and when Katy Pye asked me to make sure her depictions of shrimpers and shrimp boats in her book was accurate, I was a bit hesitant.  I am a fifth generation shrimper and despite our faults, funny and hard nosed ways, these are my people.  I love them.  I think many people don’t understand them so I’m a bit protective. But Katy was dogged about seeking me out!  Wow, Katy! You are as bull-headed as any shrimper I know.  So Katy’s narrator, Elizabeth, is pretty close to Katy.  Same stubbornness.  Same feistiness. I admire Katy for tackling this difficult subject and taking such care and thoughtfulness in her characters.  Katy is as much the heroine of her life as her character Elizabeth is of this book.  A wonderful read!”

Find Diane’s first book here at Chelsea Green or the usual online stores.

seagulls on cable-adj_edited-1

A photo Diane shared with me, which inspired an image in the book. These are wires connecting the boat to the net during a shrimp drag.

Elizabeth’s Landing-Nook e-book!

FOR AGES 11 TO THE AGELESS

It’s true! It’s a miracle! Okay, that’s overstating it, but how it feels after six years. An e-book version of Elizabeth’s story is available through Barnes and Noble’s Nook site. If you don’t have a Nook device, don’t worry, you can download the app for free and read on your computer or other mobile devices. Go to B&N’s Mobile Apps webpage to sign in, sign up, and connect to the right download.

If you’re the something soft and flexible, tree-based-book type person, the Print-on-Demand version will be out by June through Amazon. A Kindle version will go up about the same time, maybe sooner if I’m successful formatting it myself, as I did the Nook. Watch my Facebook Author site, Follow me here, or leave your e-mail on the Contact Me page above for updates.

PLEASE, once you’ve finished the book, leave feedback and ratings at these sites, Goodreads, Facebook it, blog it, etc., because…

single turtle fleuronA portion of all my book sale profits support worldwide sea turtle conservation and education programs. B&N has e-book gift cards. Bookstores do, too. I’m just sayin’ . . .  shrimp fleuron

Gull patrol

MENDO LAUNCH

Flags are flying–get out your calendar. The revised book launch date at Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, CA. is June 30th, 6:30 p.m. Tux, tails, and formals optional, but my tiara’s getting steam-blasted and the side seams of my Senior Prom dress are sprung WAY out for the event.

I’m working on Grandma Linnie to do some of the catering.975 Apple, pear, blberry pie 2010_edited-1

Deepest thanks to everyone who has given writing help, an ear to moments of pain and joy, celebrations at key steps, and for believing all these years I really was writing a novel.

Photo by Katy PyeIndie publishers and indie bookstores are trying hard to work together so each can survive and grow. I’m publishing with the “big houses” (interpret at will) because it is the most direct, profitable way for me to get books into readers’ hands. Please support your local, or any independent bookstore, and encourage them to carry books you want to read. I’m working to collaborate with them, too.

Book Blurb

Port Winston—home to sun, sand, and shopping. What’s not to like? Everything, to 14 year-old Elizabeth Barker, uprooted mid-school year to the Texas coast. When Grandpa, with more judgments than the Old Testament, pronounces her 10¢ shy of worthless and headed for trouble, Elizabeth bolts for Wayward Landing beach—the county’s last wild haven.

A chance encounter with an endangered, nesting sea turtle ignites new purpose, friendships, and trouble even Grandpa couldn’t predict. Her fight to save the Landing unearths complex family ties to the powerful developer and catapults her against those she loves. When the Deepwater Horizon oil slick threatens the turtles’ Louisiana feeding grounds, Elizabeth’s journalist mom hits the front lines. And Elizabeth’s fears and plans hit overdrive.

Elizabeth’s Landing, a compelling environmental and family saga, bridges risk and loss to hope and hearts —human to human, human to animal, human to world.

single turtle flip fleuron

Ages 10 and up.

P.S. Turtle nesting season has begun along the Gulf coast. Info under Elizabeth’s Sea Turtles tells you the best places to visit to see turtles or hatchling releases. Donations are always welcome.

Kids, Wildlife, and Winter

“The bottom-line at the end of the day, when the kids and their parents share the excitement of being outdoors, it changes the heartbeat of a family.”  Tom Rusert, Sonoma Birding

Winter has come to our Northern California Coast

Storm of headlands

Mid-sea rain
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

My docent days at the lighthouse are quieter. Fewer guests come to visit when it rains and now that summer vacations are over.

PCLH winter

Winter – Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
Mendocino, CA
Photo: Katy Pye

But stormy days are followed by calm seas, sunshine, and now . . .

After rain photo by Katy Pye

After Rain
Point Cabrillo Lightstation Historic State Park
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

GREY WHALES!

Grey whale spouts-Katy Pye

Migrating Grey Whales
photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

The Greys make the world’s longest mammal migration – over 6,000 miles, Alaska to Baja, Mexico – where females give birth, nurse their young, and gather with males to breed. In early spring, they repeat the trip, babes in tow, moving slowly past us again.

Whales — one of my “winter’s here” wildlife markers.

Wildlife and Winter — Kids at Work and Wonder

Like whales here, when northern waters cool, immature sea turtles in the Atlantic migrate south, following food. Often these days, nature’s signal comes too late, or is too brief. The water turns cold too fast, leaving hundreds of sea turtles stunned on the surface. Their bodies, as if in a giant deep freeze, float almost lifeless, sometimes for months; if not rescued, these turtles will die of hunger, dehydration, or hyperthermia. Likely all three. Incoming tides and surges “strand” many, barely alive, on beaches along the coastline.

Godfrey-cold-stunned turtles

Cold-stunned sea turtles
photo: Matthew Godfrey-used with permission
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Kids are helping save them. Nine year-old Skyler Lach is a four-year veteran sea turtle spotter. “Living on Earth,” (Public Radio International) aired a wonderful story about Skyler (you HAVE to see his picture with the turtles) and his dad, Michael, volunteers in the New England Aquarium and MA Audubon Society cold-stranding rescue program. The turtles spend a minimum of several months “thawing” and rehabing at the Aquarium, then are transported and released in warmer waters off Florida or Georgia. Listen to Skyler talk about his experience and more about the project. Know what a “wrackline” is? I didn’t.

No Sea Turtles to Find?

Take heart, there’s a lot you can do for wildlife in your neighborhood and backyard.

Check the web pages linked below for details. Here are the basics:

Hermit Thrush Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Hermit Thrush
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Food — Leave dead flowers and plants in the garden as seed sources for birds. Keep bird feeders full. Make your own food sources.

Hummingbird gets food & water Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Hummingbird at food & water
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Water — keep an unfrozen source around, even if all you have is an apartment patio.

♥  Shelter — Brush piles, stacked firewood, your discarded Christmas tree. Not just birds, but creatures like frogs, bugs, butterflies, and reptiles can use these piles for shelter and food, too.

Pacific Treefrog Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Pacific Treefrog
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

Mule deer buck Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Mule deer buck-not a rack for holiday lights
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Holiday safety — Know how your holiday decorations may affect wildlife in your area, especially if you live in a rural area.

Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Beach litter
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Clean up — Litter that can injure wildlife, that’s anything they can get stuck in or they might eat, but shouldn’t.

♥  Write — a politician, supporting your favorite place or wildlife.

♥  Volunteer — at a wildlife organization or your local animal shelter. Dogs and cats need love, too!

♥  Donate — Every nickel makes a difference to your favorite cause. An amazing example of what one child, backed by energized, hard-working adults, can do, is Vivienne Harr and her “Make-a-Stand” campaign against child slavery. The point isn’t how much she made, but that she cared, had an idea, and said, “Let’s go!”

♥  Learn — Spend time outside. See if you can discover one new thing about the wildness in your backyard or neighborhood. Birds are everywhere. Which species do you see often? Audubon Society now has Christmas Bird Counts for Kids (CBC4Kids), thanks to Sonoma County, CA birders, Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie. Listen to a short interview on the recent “Bird Note” podcast. National Christmas bird counts begin mid December and end the 3rd week in January. Check your local Audubon Society to see if it sponsors CBC4Kids. If not, help start one!

All of Us Together

I love what Tom Rusert said about kids and parents birding together. What about kids who don’t live with their parents? Or parents unable or unwilling to share their kid’s interests? Author and environmentalist Rachael Carson addresses this beautifully.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”  

It’s true for all aspects of life. While not every child will respond if we step up to give, no child can respond if we don’t. Nothing adds perspective to how we grownups see the world — on our brightest and darkest days — than a child’s wonder.

Help a child, find an adult, change a heartbeat.

Peace.

Thanks to the following organizations and sites for the tips and podcasts used here.

PRI; “Living on Earth” podcastThe Humane Society; The Bump: Preschooler; Sonoma Birding; Earthkids.com; Sonoma Birding; Bird Note

“Whatever special nests we make–leaves, moss or tents or piled stone–we all dwell in a house of one room.” John Muir