THE WONDER OF IT
After all the fishing hoopla, it was back to basics for me. I have been chasing caterpillars and snakes, with a few Sea Slugs thrown into my quizzical forays. The caterpillar is a familiar beauty..that of a Black Swallowtail. I found it munching on my parsley. Sometimes, it is found on carrot foliage too. I love this striped and spotted larva because of its protrudable, forked scent gland. All you have to do to see it, is massage the head end. Out come these orange horns and a foul odor, designed to scare me away (or its natural predators!). This organ has a mouthful of a name, osmeterium. I tried to photograph the caterpillar in his defensive posture, but wasn't quick enough. Maybe you can check your parsley and carrots and find one to experience this feature yourself. One other puzzlement: I haven't not seen these butterflies in my garden. When were the eggs laid? I wonder.
My snake encounters were on a warm sunny hike over to the Spirit Pond Preserve. I stopped to create another Inuksuk, using a pile of stones on the shore of this pond fed by the tidal waters of the Morse River. As I picked over the warm rocks, I uncovered two snakes sharing a space underneath. Both were small, a Milk Snake and a Garter. I puzzled over why two snakes of separate specie were closely huddled. They quickly separated as I kept finding them under other rocks, hoping for a picture. They were not in a posing mode, but I did catch the garter peeking. The Milk snake is much more colorfully marked, but escaped my shutter if not my admiration.
I had one other snake encounter in recent days. Again, it was with a small Garter. I placed it in a clear plastic bag so campers could view it closely. One camper touched it, and the snake's mouth opened wide as if to bite! Then, out came an earthworm, apparently recently eaten by the snake! The earthworm came out whole, and wiggled away to safety. We let the snake go, to find another worm for a meal. Recalling the moment, the worm fit nicely inside the long slender snake! Earthworms represent 80% of this snake's diet.
My writeups have been delayed by some exciting outings with Waldorf School students camping on the island. I have been sharing their adventures in exploring all the tide pool creatures they can find. At this time of year, it is easier to find Sea Slugs feeding on the hydroids growing on the floating docks. They have dissecting microscopes set up in the Kelp Shed which makes for some interesting visual observations. They even found a Sea Squirt! Mind you, when you have 200 eyes exploring the shoreline, you can come up with some fascinating sights. That is the way it has been. The students have assignments to sort the sealife into zones, and write and draw what they see. In addition, they paint scenes and write poetry using our shoreline to stimulate their creativity. Here is the way one camper described the experience:
Now I see that we are all in our own microworlds, like the creatures of this tide pool: interacting, sharing food and space. The anemone, the urchin, the mussels and snails live harmoniously beneath all the turbulence above. We could learn a lot from them about living beneath the turbulence, rather than drowning in it as we do now. We are all anemones who contract and hide their beauty when disturbed. We are all urchins - with spikes ready to protect ourselves at every hint of potential harm. We are mussels, hidden away in our shells of solitude, lonesome hermits closely quartered among many just like ourselves. But we are unlike these animals in that we have individuality and free will. If only we could put way our spikes. learn to bloom fearlessly and cast off the shells restricting our individuality, we could rise about the mollusk in us. (Ariel Henderson, Waldorf student)
9/15/04 Ronnie, in glorious Maine.