Saturday, November 23, 2013

Recap-- I'm back!

Hi again all, it's been a long time since I had the time/energy to post. But I haven't been completely neglecting my nature explorations over the past several months. Here are a few photos and stories for you. Enjoy, and hopefully I'll get back on a regular posting track soon!

A not-very clear shot of the first ever Rose-breasted Grosbeak to visit my yard feeder, back in May. Yay! I was so excited I hauled my husband over to the window to show him. He's not as bird-crazy as I am but he politely admired the bird with me. Awww. :-)

We found this spotted turtle at Huntley Meadows, sunbathing on a moss-covered log in the woods rather far from the water. I snapped several photos of the less-than-impressed turtle, as I have only ever seen one spotted turtle before (and that was injured on the road, so hardly counts). Eventually the turtle got sick of the paparazzi, however, and scuttled off into the underbrush.

 I take a walk at lunchtime every day at Brookside Gardens, and much of the summer I watched hummingbird clearwing moths (exact species unidentified). One day in July, however, I discovered something completely new to me: that the moths actually mate while flying, and continue to fly around in tandem for quite a while! I knew dragonflies & damselflies did this, but had never realized any moths did. This was the best shot I managed to get of the mating pair-- look about a third of the way down from the center top of the image.  Pretty cool.

 Here's a clearwing moth a bit closer, since you can't make out much detail in the paired shot above. They're really fun to watch as they hover and zip around. I spent many of my lunch hours trying to get good photos of them.

 I continued raising several generations of Black Swallowtails at my house, allowing dill (their larval foodplant) to practically take over my vegetable garden. Here's a shot of a chrysalis mere hours before the butterfly ecloses. You can really see the spots and stripes on the wing through the newly transparent chrysalis shell.

 Here's the butterfly an hour or two after eclosure. Behind it you can see a more recent chrysalis that's not yet transparent (so not eclosing anytime soon) and a caterpillar that's about to pupate as well. I invested in cheesecloth butterfly cages this summer, which are much easier to use than the tupperware, paper towel, and rubber band set-up I used last summer.

 Getting ready to free a butterfly. I bring the cage outside, still zipped up, then when we're safely out of doors I open it and reach in to coax the butterfly onto my fingers. If my husband is home to share the experience with me, sometimes he photographs the occasion, like for these shots.

A closer view of the butterfly being released. This one is a female-- you can tell by the extensive blue on the hindwings. Male Black Swallowtails have more yellow there. 

Dill wasn't the only thing I grew in my garden, even if it sometimes seemed that way. I planted the zucchini on purpose, but the delicata squash and other winter squash in this picture were actually volunteers from the home-made compost I added to the soil. So was the tomato; I planted a few tomatoes on purpose but none of them did as well as the volunteers did. Go figure! The delicata squash was delicious, by the way, especially sliced and roasted with a bit of salt. I'm definitely growing some on purpose next year!

 Another photo from my lunchtime walks at Brookside Gardens. I like to take photos of interesting and/or beautiful sights and share them in the evenings with my husband. Sort of like show and tell, I guess! His grandmother is in a nursing home at the moment, and can't get outside very much let alone see anything beautiful from her window. So I also like to share my Brookside Gardens pictures and stories with her when we visit.

I'm not a very strict weeder in the garden, I tend to let a lot of plants remain that technically shouldn't be there. Violets, shown here, are very hard to eradicate once they've moved in. However, several fritillary butterflies' caterpillars eat violets, so I always keep way too many violets in the garden. I've done this for years with no evidence that it was working, but this summer I finally found the spiky little caterpillar of a Variegated Fritillary. Woo-hoo! My lackadaisical weeding has been vindicated.

 This last picture isn't exactly in the way of nature studies, but it's too funny not to share. Earlier this fall my cat, Caleb, developed some sores that he kept biting and scratching. So the vet decreed he needed to be in this e-collar for a few weeks. Boy, did Caleb hate it! He did manage to figure out how to eat, drink, sleep, and use the litterbox successfully (the fact that it was a floppy collar, not one of the hard plastic ones, helped). But he despised the experience and thoroughly resented us for putting him through it, as you can see above. Poor kitty!

So that's some of what I've been up to since my last post. I hope you enjoyed the trip through my memories! I'll try to post again soon.

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