Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It is a Boy!

Paused for a moment on the way into the kitchen and WOW! Big difference from last night. Now we can see the spots through the chrysalis. Better yet, as I watch, it is doing what one of my favorite bands, XTC, sings: "Pulsing, Pulsing"!

Every couple of minutes it convulses. I can't take my eyes off of it as I do the morning dishes.

Black Swallowtail

I have to head to work, though. I have a feeling it is going to emerge while I am away. That is all I need. A long set of blogs with no payoff. Thing might take off into a ceiling fan and I will have no good ending. I go over many thoughts of how to contain it safely and finally opt for covering the entire plant with a grocery bag.

Should provide plenty of space for the butterfly to expand the wings, at least. Off to work I go...still pacing in my head. Hoping I can get home before the magic happens.

Instead, I get home to this:

Black Swallowtail

Way too late. The rest of the family got home to see the dark shape of the emerged butterfly against the grocery bag walls. Once the bag was removed, I am told that the Swallowtail took flight and had to be trapped into a waiting plastic jug. There, a nice photo was taken just in case I couldn't see it.

Black Swallowtail

I got it into a different position before we gave it a chance to see the world. We could tell it was a male by the color markings. Female Black Swallowtails are primarily black and blue compared to the generous yellow shown here.

Black Swallowtail

The oldest decided he would help us release the butterfly into the wild. It was getting dark but not too much. I figured the birds would be out of the picture. I didn't mention the chance of bats finding it.

Black Swallowtail

It flew up into the overhead branches of our oak trees and rested. We returned inside knowing we did our best to help this new butterfly make it into the world. It was fun to observe.

Now I will have so much less to do...until meteors in a couple of weeks. Swear I heard warblers, too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cocoon Watch. Day 10.

Literature states a 10-15 day time period until the butterfly emerges. This is evening 10.

Black Swallowtail

Something definitely turning color here. If you scroll down to the last entry you can easily see the difference.

Starting to pace like an expectant father...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cocoon Watch. Day 7.

One week on.

Decided to try a new angle to show the yellow markings on the back of the chrysalis.

Black Swallowtail

A few more days to go. Hopefully it will emerge when one of us is here next week.

House Finch

Finally! A fairly good shot of these House Finches.

House Finch

Since the young birds have stopped begging, the females are getting more bold when I walk outside if they are at the front feeder. The males are still jumpy but I hope that will change someday.

Saw a small flock of them at a nearby park this morning so they are definitely spreading around.

Brown Thrasher Child

I was taking bird feeders apart in order to clean out all the spoiled seed after the heavy rains of the past few days. While I was sitting out back I noticed a baby lizard on a leaf next to me. Decided I should try a macro shot. The light was nice.

By the time I returned, however, the lizard was gone but I sat for a break.

Suddenly, up popped our most recent addition to the Brown Thrasher family.

Brown Thrasher

This brave young bird has been very visible in the past couple of months. I am guessing that it is this year's addition to the pair I banded in the yard last Fall. They come out less often but I can make out the bands on them so they are still here.

Thrashers rule.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Black Swallowtail. What the...!?!

We must have blinked.

Black Swallowtail

We were watching for signs of change all day. I am sure we checked it just before dinner. There were no indications of the skin splitting or anything. But as I took my dishes to the sink I noticed that it transformed!

Sorry I missed it. Now we wait for the next stage.

Return of the Screech Owl!

It has been quite a while since I have seen our resident Screech Owl. By a total fluke, I walked out back and there it was!

Eastern Screech Owl

In other news, I have been proven correct. I have speculated for years that the sounds I have heard in the tree on many nights were those of Flying Squirrels. When I went out with the tripod to look for the owl I saw a small head peeking around the edge of the oak tree right next to the squirrel feeder.

Then it squeaked! Yes! Flying Squirrel sighting!!

I zig-zagged back up the tree, stopping to check that I wasn't following as it scurried and vocalized. I bet it is something that the owl is after.

But...Flying Squirrel confirmed!!!! Whoo-hoo!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

My wife received a potted Parsley plant a while back. The other day I noticed a caterpillar heading up a tender stalk. Soon, it was munching away like crazy. After another couple of days there was only one set of leaves remaining and they did not look too good.

I bought some parsley from the store and grabbed a small branch from the yard and made a quick feeding station. It fed and rested for the next day and a half.

This morning it was just hanging out at the top end of the stick I fastened the parsley to. Stayed there for most of the day before moving out of the flower pot. I returned it to try and get it to eat. It was having none of it. I let it roam and it seemed to really want to be over on our Christmas Cactus sitting right next door.

By early evening, it had settled in on one leaf and seemed to compress. We could tell it was pupa time! The night progressed and soon the caterpillar was starting to fasten itself to the leaf.

Black Swallowtail

Once it appeared secured, it let go of the leaf and safety harness it had fashioned to connect to each side of its body and began to ease into a back-leaning posture.

Black Swallowtail

It will be fun to watch the progress of the caterpillar into a butterfly. A simple free gift of a plant has led to a family science encounter! Since the birds are fewer, seems I have something else to add to the blog, after all.

Even though it has been a 3 blog day!

Time to take more photos...

Wood Duck Babies

Headed home from the store by circling a couple of lakes. Seems that a lot of ducks have been raising young quite well this year.

I couldn't get a shot of the Mallards I saw at one spot but I did manage a quick shot of a Wood Duck brood before they hurried away.

Wood Duck

Been a while since I have seen young Wood Ducks. Rainy year probably helps.

Playing (with) Possum

I was looking out of the kitchen window to see what might be at the feeders. House Finch? Mourning Dove? Cardinal?

Nope. Possum.

It was a fairly small possum and it was climbing pretty quickly up the tree just outside. What is a boy with a camera to do? Head outside, of course!


Just stared at me, it did. Stared and dripped snot from that extra wet nose.


I felt for sure that it was going to just drop out of the tree and land on me and start going for my throat. I mean look at those fangs!


No high adventure today. It just stared. I was moving to get a better view when I glanced behind me. There was Mom!


She was creeping through the fence from the backyard. Seemed to be tracking junior by scent. Once she figured out I was there (possums have poor eyesight) she took off under the house.

I left the little one be and headed inside. It was gone before long. Sure I will see it again in the near future.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Great Blue Heron. Juvenile?

A co-worker called me over today to say there was some kind of crane over in the retention pond. Really?

I came over and saw this Great-blue Heron. Picture taken from our 2nd story window.

Great-blue Heron

I informed him that is was a Great-blue Heron. "Doesn't look very blue.", he said. I figured it must be a juvenile. Note the grey overall appearance and the interesting white tail feathers.

There are other older herons around the complex but this one was a nice change of color.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th!

Not much else was flying until the Sun went down.

Happy Birthday, America! All images shot near Orlando.

July 4th 2008

July 4th 2008

July 4th 2008

July 4th 2008

July 4th 2008

July 4th 2008