Saturday, April 24, 2010
Meanwhile, I had been out in our yard seeing everything but birds. Such is the frustration of migration-watching. One day is an eight-warbler day (here's a post about that day) and the next two are windy and warblerless.
this post about a surprise Queen caterpillar eating the frozen-back milkweed plants in January), but the Monarchs seem to visit only briefly and lay their eggs on the milkweed. (I say "seem to" because I really don't know; I need to start observing more closely and recording dates.)
I am curious to know if the butterflies from these caterpillars' metamorphoses will continue migrating north. I suspect they will. That is, afterall, how they are able to go so far north every year. It's not the same butterflies that arrive at their northern range, but later generations.
Every year we go to Missouri to plant a butterfly garden for our twin granddaughters. We started the garden when they were only two years old, helping them "raise" caterpillars so that they could observe the entire lifecycle. They learned that butterflies lay eggs on a specific plant (the host plant) that will be food for the caterpillars. They saw how voracious the little caterpillars are, how fast they grow, and how they form the beautiful chrysalis from which an adult butterfly emerges.
One morning after breakfast, we looked in the case and there, where the chrysalis had been, was a Black Swallowtail butterfly! One of the girls danced and clapped, cheering for the new life. The other leaned toward the case, observed it closely, and solemnly stepped back. With her hands together she began spontaneously to sing the sweetest rendition of "Happy Birthday" that I have ever heard.
Monarch caterpillars are not the only creatures enjoying the milkweed (also called "butterfly weed"). The appropriately named Milkweed bugs and Milkweed Tussock caterpillars are also there. Both bug photos here are of the Milkweed bug. It's a "true bug" or hemipteran. (That's about the extent of my knowledge of bugs, but I'm wanting to learn more. I need to find a good field guide.)
Speaking of books, I'll recommend a wonderful one (not a field guide but a narrative) about Monarch butterflies: Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly, by Sue Halpern. I've already read it twice and am thinking about reading it again--if I can find it, and if there are no warblers out there to chase down the driveway. (Just kidding. As a backyard birder, I neither twitch nor chase.)
Walking back across the road and into my bird garden, I found a Funereal Duskywing butterfly lounging on the hammock pillow. Don't you love the names of butterflies?
Yesterday was also another day to spot the "narrow fellow in the grass" that I've blogged about before. This was a small Texas Indigo snake that wriggled through the grass by the neighbor's fishing dock. If you look closely (and click to enlarge) you can see the really neat forked tongue. Does anyone know why snakes have forked tongues and why they flick them in and out of their mouths? (I'd look it up myself but I really like to get comments at the end of my blog!)
And finally, for my Not-Warbler discoveries, here is a beautiful example of an often-overlooked creature I found in the yard. I don't know its name, being a birder not a fly-er, but I think it is lovely (if not buzzing around my head). This one was resting not far from the hammock. Look at those colors!
So yesterday there were no migrating warblers and no new yard birds, but the yard was filled with wonders. I started writing this post before I knew what kind of day today would be.
Living on the Arroyo Colorado is like a birthday gift that you can open everyday of the year.