Monday, June 29, 2015

Caterpillar Season - Update

Less than two weeks ago we had caterpillars.

Now we have ...

... Butterflies!

Black swallowtail butterflies to be precise.

We discovered the first two had emerged from their cocoons one morning when we awoke (you can see the cocoon below the wings above).

While this one is well on its way to flying off, its wings are not fully pumped out, as can be seen by the twisting of the "tails".

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
Here is another one still pumping its wings up ...

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
... and later out in our garden. All six of our caterpillars emerged as butterflies.

I'm continually amazed and astonished at this transformation of caterpillar to butterfly. Fascinating how the parts of the caterpillar are complete disassembled and then reassembled into a butterfly. Utterly astounding. And far beyond our technology. Perhaps setting a goal for the budding scientists and engineers of tomorrow ...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tiny Toad

While working in the garden Patty discovered this little guy.

The red warts on its back, several grouped together in each black spot, give it away as a fowler's toad.

Adult toads can be up to 3.75 inches (~9.5 cm) in length.

The babies are a bit smaller (the coin is 0.705 in/1.79 cm in diameter). Like I said, tiny.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Aurora ...

... or light pollution?

On June 22nd a CME hit Earth's magnetic field and triggered a geomagnetic storm, with auroras seen as far south as New Mexico, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

I set my alarm for midnight and went out to take a look. There was a diffuse glow to the north, with no color to the naked eye. I set my camera on a tripod and took a series of third second exposures of which the above image is representative.

We do have a military base north of us so this could very well be light pollution. But maybe I saw some aurora. And that would be pretty cool.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Caterpillar Season

Hi Caterpillar Fans,

I was busy this morning with my camera.

This first picture is of one of the back swallowtail caterpillars I am rearing in my living room.  : )  It think it is in its 4th and final instar.   It will gorge on plants from the carrot family for 10 - 30 days. Here it is eating the stem of a dill plant.

After gorging itself, it will expel its waste and then go in search of the underside of a suitable branch or twig to affix itself to in order to pupate.  You can see the silk threads that attach it to the twig.  

Also notice the spots or eyes on each of its sections (click any image to bigafy it).

It takes about a day for the caterpillar to go from the above photo to this photo.  Notice the eyes on the now hard pupa.  According to wikipedia, the pupal stage lasts about 18 days….  

You will have to stay tuned to see if the metamorphosis was successful.

There are 5 caterpillars on this dill plant.  You can only see 4 presently.

This is what 6 caterpillars did to another of my dill plants.  A few days ago it looked like the above plant.  You can see there is one caterpillar left on this plant.  i am waiting for it find its pupal branch.  

Look for me and them in 18 days!!!


Thanks to Patty Rehn for guest blogging. All words and images copyright Patty Rehn.

Mini Meadow

It's growing. In more ways than one.

It is much bigger. The original plot as highlighted in this post was 95 square feet. It is now approximately six times that size.

Compare this:

To this:

And note the position of the weeping cherry tree in the front right corner. That was a lot of digging. And a lot of sweating. Done in under two weeks.

And the plants are settling in nicely. Some purchased, some gifts. Some we grew from seed, (again store bought and gifted). Some we transplanted from around our property. And some we are awaiting delivery of.

We can still use more ...

And we've started a Micro-Meadow in our side yard.

An small island anchored by one of our winterberry hollies. Eventually we want to turn most of this side yard into a wildlife garden.  And replace those small windows with great picture windows so we can enjoy the view.

If you have a spot in your yard that you only visit when you mow, why not create a small wildlife friendly garden?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Goldilocks Bird

This past Memorial Day weekend we took a quick trip to find a bird.

It is a rare bird, although not the rarest I've seen (a topic for another day).

The Kirkland's Warbler.

Today, thanks to an active recovery program, there are 2000 breeding pairs.

One of the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act, in 1987 there were but 187 breeding pairs.

This species is very particular about it's breeding habit. It needs pine forest. The trees need to be tall but not too tall. The area needs to be large, 160 or more acres. The spacing between the trees just right, dense. Almost the entire breeding area is in north - central Michigan. We saw these in Grayling, MI.

They were not hard to find. We met at Hartwick Pines State Park, where our guide Kara, after a short video about the bird and its habitat needs, led us on a car pool to an area in the Grayling State Forest, where habitat is maintained for the birds. Before I could get my camera on my tripod we had the bird. We heard it singing as soon as we got out of the car.

When we got to the visitors center at the state park we found two fellow members of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Society, Phil and Bonnie Witmer, already there. This happens to Patty all the time. We went to Hawaii and meet a friend of Patty's. We go to Honduras and meet someone who lives down the street from Patty. We go to Utah and meet someone who works with Patty's sister. We go to Vermont and meet someone we met in Trinidad ... the list goes on ...

Like the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, our neck of the woods, the Jack Pine forests of Michigan were shaped by fire. And the habitat needed by these warblers was created anew every 20 years or so. But humans don't like large wildfires. And that fire suppression had the unintended consequence of limiting breeding habitat.

Despite the success so far of bringing this bird back from the brink of extinction, there are no guarantees of continued success. The corporate shills in the US Congress continue to introduce legislation that would gut the Endangered Species Act. Selling out our future for short term gains. If you can please help support local, national, and international conservation organizations.

A good start would be Michigan Audubon, which is leading the fight to save this bird.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Feathers ...

.. are all that is left.

Seeds are not the only food available at our feeders.