LIFE ON THE WING......
I'll open this mid July report with a photo of one of my favorite roadside flowers. There is something about the blue of this flower that speaks to me! It is Chicory, and I think I will try to pick up some spent flowers and shower its seeds in my garden. These were growing, without help, in Bath on the edge of an abandoned parking area. They were attracting more attention than mine with bees humming in for a snack. Note the edges of the petals that have tiny notches on them. This plant is a Dandelion relative and its leaves are also edible. The thick, deep, root is used to flavor coffee, or used alone in brewing that drink. I just like the flowers that mirror the blue sky.
My Milkweed patch is taking over the small garden in West Point. Yesterday, I found my first Monarch caterpillar on a leaf, nearing 2 inches in length. It came home with me along with some tasty leaves for it to chew and grow on. There were several visiting Monarch butterflies on the flowers, but a host of other flying insects were enjoying the taste of Milkweed. There were large Fritillaries and small Pearl Crescents. Large Tiger Swallowtails cruised in for space, and darting Hummingbird Moths kept sticking their tongues into the pink flowers.
Here to the left you see the Fritillary on the Milkweed flower. You may also notice I caught a small Ladybug beetle near the flower cluster. I do love the Hummingbird Moth that hovers as it inserts its tongue down these beautifully shaped flowers. The wings are "clear", having lost most of their scales after its first flight. They are very numerous and busy.
Come to think of it as I gaze at that flower, why don't we see a bunch of seed pods..one for each of those flowers? I should look and watch more closely as the pods develop. My memory tells me that only one big pod of seeds is produced.
The other thing that comes to mind, is why don't we find the caterpillars of these butterflies and moths? The Hummingbird moth lays its eggs on plants of the Honeysuckle family. We should look there for its yellow-green larvae with darker green lines and red-brown spots on its abdomen. As for the Fritillary, its caterpillar feeds on the foliage of Violets. Its caterpillar is black with 6 rows of orange-red and black spines!
I will close with this magnificent butterfly, the Tiger Swallowtail. It flies wildly through the skies and only sits still for a picture while feeding. In this case, the Milkweed flowers caught its eye. I have found the caterpillar of this butterfly, and it is one of my favorite. You may find it on leaves of wild Cherry, of which there are an abundance. The caterpillars are forever imprinted in my mind because they are green and have eyespots on the front eating end. What is more, those eyespots have the number 10 inscribed on them. I did not make this up. See for yourself when you are out caterpillar hunting!
The week just passed was another hot and dry one, though winds on Wednesday canceled the sailboat races. We had another interesting snorkel that produced the usual and unusual sea creatures. The only drawback was the fact that the water has turned cold again, and I for one, was slightly hypothermic! You do need to be careful how long you stay in the cold water. Sea creatures are too much of a distraction for me.
The fields on the north end of the island have been mowed and now the deer are eating hay. Turkey have also been spotted this year, including several families. So there are plenty of animals enjoying life, including the butterflies.
7/13/08 Ronnie, flying high!