Monday, March 16, 2015


     We are dedicated to encouraging people to help the Monarch butterfly by creating special wildlife-friendly spaces in their yards and at their places of business. When you help out the Monarch butterfly you increase biodiversity and benefit hundreds of other species of flora and fauna! Plus, you give yourself a summertime of entertainment. Got ideas for us? We'd enjoy hearing from you- Contact Us

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Sunday, March 15, 2015
     Hiked the Eagle Point Nature Preserve in Erie County. Its 88 acres of marshland connects to the East Sandusky Bay and is part of the NW portion of 1,200 acres along Lake Erie's coastline known as the East Sandusky Bay MetroPark. A naturalist from the Erie MetroParks, Cheryl Kilmer, took the small group to an observation deck where we could look out into the East Sandusky Bay. The duck, geese and swans are making their way to their northern breeding grounds. On the way home, I stopped at Castalia Pond in Castalia, Ohio and at the Lighthouse Pier bird walk site in Huron, Ohio. Below is a Watch List of the birds seen today, along with a video I made of today's sitings. How many in the list can you identify on the video?

Watch List
  1. Bald Eagle
  2. Trumpeter swans (10)
  3. Tundra swans
  4. Canada geese
  5. Am. Black Ducks- only a few
  6. Mallards
  7. Northern Shovelers
  8. Northern Pintail
  9. Canvasbacks- abundant
  10. Redheads- abundant
  11. Lesser Scaup- abundant
  12. Buffleheads
  13. Barrow's Goldeneye
  14. Hooded Merganser
  15. Common Merganser
  16. Green-winged Teal
  17. Great-blue Heron
  18. American Robin
  19. American Coot
  20. Black-backed Gull
  21. Herring Gull
  22. Ring-billed Gull
  23. Red-winged Blackbird
      On the way home, I spotted a Green-winged Teal in a flooded field off Rt. 250 south of Sandusky. Unfortunately, it is not in the video. The close-up photos I took of the Tundra and Trumpeter swans will help you identify which is which! This Sibley guide site will help you distinguish between them. How many birds on the list can you identify in this video?

Video of Watch List
Create A Wildlife-Friendly Yard (CWFY) is dedicated to saving the Monarch Butterfly, one yard at a time! We enjoy hearing from you! Press HERE to contact us.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Received a neat letter from the Center for Biological Diversity. They emphasize that Monarch butterflies are as American as apple pie, having once been found in backyards across the country. Generations of schoolchildren have reared monarchs in classrooms, watching in wonder as striped caterpillars transform into large orange-and-black adult butterflies. The monarch’s multigenerational migration is legendary — a journey of more than 2,000 miles from Mexico to Canada, undertaken by animals weighing less than a single gram. The monarch plays a unique and prominent role in the imagination of our country, especially considering it’s an insect. These creatures are ambassadors of nature in people’s gardens and symbols of summertime outdoors.

Yet these butterflies, once a familiar sight, are plummeting toward extinction due to landscape-scale threats from pesticides, development and global climate change. In their overwintering groves there were once so many monarchs that the sound of their wings was described as a rippling stream or a summer rain. Early newspaper descriptions described branches breaking under the weight of so many butterflies and depicted the masses of butterflies as “the personification of happiness.” But over the past 20 years monarchs have declined by more than 90 percent — if all monarchs from the population high in the mid-1990s were grouped onto football fields, the area they cover has been reduced from 39 fields to an area barely larger than one field.

The heart of the monarch’s range is the midwestern “Corn Belt,” where most of the world’s monarchs are born on milkweed plants growing in agricultural fields. Because of the ubiquitous spraying of Roundup on corn and soy that have been genetically modified to resist herbicides, the monarch is in bad trouble in the core of its range, where its sole host plant, milkweed, is disappearing. In a one-two punch, climate change is undermining the stable weather conditions and predictable flowering seasons that monarchs need to complete their migration. Climate change also threatens these butterflies’ overwintering habitat in the mountain forests of Mexico. Just as Joshua Tree National Park will soon no longer support Joshua trees, the International Monarch Reserve in Mexico is expected to become climatically unsuitable for monarchs by the end of the century.
Because of all this and more, the Center petitioned to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act in August 2014. In December, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service declared the species may warrant protection.

Monarchs’ decline is a harbinger of widespread environmental change. The plummeting population of this familiar butterfly, along with the decline of many other butterflies and bees, threatens the wellbeing of people as well, because the food security of humans is dependent on the ecological services that pollinators provide.  History shows a tragic record of the unexpected decline of abundant and widespread species. Complacency and false-positive assumptions about the resiliency of once-common species can have tragic consequences when timely action is not undertaken to safeguard their populations. The migration of the monarch butterfly is at risk of being lost unless humans take rapid action to protect it.

Create A Wildlife-Friendly Yard (CWFY) is dedicated to saving the Monarch Butterfly. We want to hear from you! Press HERE to contact us.

Monday, March 2, 2015


     I received a letter from the Center for Food Safety which stated that today (Monday, 3/02/15) is the last day for public comment regarding protecting monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now has nine months to determine whether to propose protections for the iconic orange and black butterfly, which has declined by 90 percent in the last 20 years.
     The agency’s review of the monarch was spurred by a legal petition filed in August by the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Xerces Society and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower, all of whom submitted comments today renewing their call for the agency to list the monarch butterfly as threatened. In December the Service announced a positive initial finding on the petition and determined that Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies may be warranted, triggering a one-year status review.
     The petition has been resoundingly supported by monarch experts, legislators, and the public. Over 40 leading monarch scientists and ecologists and more than 200 organizations and businesses sent letters to the agency urging federal protection for the monarch in November. Support from the general public has also been widespread, with over half a million signatures delivered in person today to FWS. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) has also led a Dear Colleague letter in Congress in support of the ESA petition.
     As detailed in a new report from Center for Food Safety, the butterfly’s dramatic decline is being driven in large part by the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born. The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food. The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in Midwestern corn and soybean fields. In the past 20 years it is estimated that these once-common iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds. 
     The population has declined from a recorded high of approximately 1 billion butterflies in the mid-1990s to only 56.5 million butterflies this winter, the second lowest number ever recorded, after a slight rebound that is likely attributable to favorable weather during their breeding season. The overall population shows a steep and statistically significant decline of 82 percent over the past couple of decades. In addition to herbicide use with genetically engineered crops, monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds.
     Monarchs need a very large population size to be resilient to threats from severe weather events and predation. Nearly half of the overwintering population in Mexico can be eaten by bird and mammal predators in any single winter; a single winter storm in 2002 killed an estimated 500 million monarchs — 8 times the size of the entire current population.
     The Fish and Wildlife Service must next issue a “12-month finding” on the monarch petition that will propose protection under the Endangered Species Act, reject protection under the Act, or add the butterfly to the candidate waiting list for protection.

Create A Wildlife-Friendly Yard (CWFY) is dedicated to saving the Monarch Butterfly. We want to hear from you! Press HERE to contact us.

Monday, January 5, 2015


      The Monarch butterfly may land on the Endangered Species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into the possibility of offering this American icon butterfly federal protection. I hope this happens, for like most who created a Monarch Waystation in their yard, I've grown to appreciate these creatures. Below is a video of the Monarch Waystation operation in my small, suburban yard:

   I raised and released 115 Monarch butterflies in 2014
   It all came about after a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision whether or not the beloved Monarch deserves federal protection will probably be announced this coming August. We must FLOOD the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with letters! We have till March 2, 2015. Here's the address: Tony Sullins, Chief of Endangered Species, Midwest Region, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990 Bloomington, MN 55437; telephone 612-713-5334; or fax 612-713-5292.  ass the word!
     The Monarch butterfly has a wingspan up to just more than 4 inches and weighs less than a gram. It spends much of its life migrating, flying more than 3,000 miles between Canada, the United States and Mexico.
     “This journey has become more dangerous and less successful for many monarchs because of threats in their migratory paths and summer and overwintering habitats, particularly the loss of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s primary food source,” says Vanessa Kauffman, another spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
     The introduction of genetically engineered crops resilient to herbicides has led to more herbicide use on and around crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs hatch. As herbicide use skyrockets, the amount of milkweed plummets and not surprisingly, the number of monarchs has plummeted as well. The Monarch population in North America has dropped 90 percent, and in the West it has dropped 50 percent.

Related Posts:


Create A Wildlife-Friendly Yard (CWFY) is dedicated to saving the Monarch Butterfly. We want to hear from you! Press HERE to contact us.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Doris Nettleman Stifel holds a case with female and male monarchs and, at bottom, a viceroy butterfly.
Toledo's Butterfly Lady
     I ran across this article in the Toledo Blade newspaper about a woman who passed away several years ago. She was a lady who loved monarchs and other butterflies. The article was actually her obituary, but it impressed me. It was written by Mark Zaborney, the Blade's staff writer. This photo is of  Doris Nettleman Stifel, as she holds up a case with female and male monarchs. At the bottom is a viceroy butterfly. She was known locally as Toledo’s Butterfly Lady, but she was recognized internationally as an expert on the migration of monarchs and who single-handedly tagged tens of thousands. The article was written shortly after she died in Swan Creek Care Center at age 89.
     A man named Duke Wheeler opened the Butterfly House near Whitehouse, Ohio in 2001 as a showcase and sanctuary, and he consulted with Mrs. Stifel. She continued to train the staff and Mr. Wheeler said, “She had so much enthusiasm and knowledge. She was our guiding light for years.”
     Mrs. Stifel was a career scientist who’d aspired to be a physician, but her interest in nature dated from childhood summers spent at her family’s Evans Lake cottage in southeast Michigan’s Irish Hills. In the 1970s, she read about a Cleveland Museum of Natural History field trip on how to tag Danaus plexippus — the monarch butterfly. She bought a membership that day and within weeks was teaching field-trip participants.
     It was only in the early 1970s that researchers from the north confirmed wintering sites in Mexico for the eastern North American monarch. A decade later, monarchs that had been tagged on Kelleys Island were found in central Texas and central Mexico, establishing that monarchs fly a Great Lakes-to-Mexico migratory pattern.
     Mrs. Stifel was a dogged tagger of monarchs, roaming the Lake Erie shore with a butterfly net to catch and then affix a numbered bit of paper to a wing. In 1986, she attracted international attention with the recovery in Mexico of two monarchs tagged months earlier, and 1,500 miles away, in an eastern Lucas County clover field. Until then, no other monarch researcher was credited with more than one recovery, even though thousands were tagged every fall. In the next two years, her reputation soared as monarchs she tagged continued to be found elsewhere — in Mexico, but also Indiana and Kentucky. She raised as many as 600 monarchs a summer from eggs, tagged them, and released them.
     “The more we know about nature, the more we should know about our way of living,” Mrs. Stifel told The Blade in 1996. She recruited others to her cause, teaching them about the monarch and how to tag. She campaigned against pesticides and the frequent mowing of ditch and roadside vegetation, which she said contributed to a decline in butterfly activity.
     She also was a birder and a volunteer bald eagle nest watcher for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. She’d been a board and executive committee member of the Nature Conservancy’s Ohio chapter. Not surprisingly, she said in 1995, walking among the milkweed in search of monarch eggs, “I get a kick out of it too. School buses have gone by, and the children stick their head out the window and yell, ‘Hey, Butterfly Lady!’ ”
     She was named naturalist of the year in 1995 by the Toledo Naturalists’ Association. In 2006, a gazebo to house the monarch project at Maumee Bay State Park was named in her honor.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is dedicated to creating wildlife-friendly yards. Click HERE to make your yard wildlife-friendly by creating a Monarch Waystation.  He'd enjoy hearing from you- press HERE to contact him. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


As a member of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), I receive their email newsletter. In the latest one, they shared an easy tip for helping birds in your yard by constructing a brush pile. It is easy to build one and it doesn't require much space, and is maintenance free. The best thing about a brush pile is it helps birds and other little critters by offering shelter from predators and all types of weather conditions.

The BSBO encourages you to build your own brush pile today! It is a great family project and it is so cool to look out the window and see birds utilizing this simple pile of sticks as a shelter.