Discovering Nature

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Fall Marsh

Creekside

There is a creek that runs along the edge of the church grounds where our homeschool co-op meets. I used my free period today to sit in the colorful, multitextured world of the stream. I wasn’t feeling antisocial — just quiet. It was a lovely diversion in an otherwise busy day.

Even Better than Monarchs in the House

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When I took a picture of this trail in the spring, I never would have guessed that it would bless me with a wonder in the fall:  my first ever glimpse of a chrysalis in the wild.

First ever

I was so excited I came back later with my daughter, and we discovered another… sadly, it had been robbed. Monarchs are poisonous to birds, so the culprit must have regretted it. Robbed

But our spirits lifted at the sight of another. Ultimately we saw eight healthy ones!

#2

#2

#3 & #4

#3 & #4

#6

#5

#7

#6

#8

#7

#9

#8

Not a single one was on a milkweed plant. Several chose goldenrod; #8 was on a stalk fallen nearly flat across the trail, and must have been that way almost the whole time. A few chose other plants that I didn’t recognize. One — #7 — chose a stalk of grass!

Several of them looked ready to hatch, so after lunch I went back. #5 had hatched!

#6 emerged

#5 emerged

I had been a little worried about #7. Rain was predicted, and that stalk of grass looked so fragile… But the chrysalis was looking ready to pop, so I set up my tripod to try and video its emergence. Amazingly, it came out just as a very gentle shower began.

#8 Emerged

#7 Emerged

Growing

Growing

Hanging around

Hanging around

Larger still

Larger still

Wings ready

Wings almost ready

I did video its emergence, and it’s amazing to watch! If I figure out how to make the file smaller I’ll post it. But these pictures tell the story of transformation.

It was a gift. I’ve looked before for chrysalises, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen any in the great outdoors, and it was a jackpot sighting. I woke this morning heavy-hearted over various things going on in our often messed up and confusing world, but this was a glimpse of something working marvelously right.

Latest Monarchs

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Only two chrysalises left. Today’s hatchling was the first to be greeted by a cool, rainy day. I hope he will make out all right!

Yesterday’s fluttered immediately up into a tall tree and spent the day there.

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So far we’ve had 5 males and a female.

 

Ted

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Caterpillar #2 took flight yesterday. Adios, friend!

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Metamorphosis

It’s an amazing thing to watch this process of caterpillar to butterfly. First they’re tiny…

Even little ones need to hide now and then...

Even little ones need to hide now and then…

...snug as a bug in a rug.

…snug as a bug in a rug.

They eat, sleep, shed several times, and grow restless for the heights…

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Mirror, mirror on the wall

Caterpillar Pilates

Caterpillar Pilates

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…then fasten themselves to a good, secure spot.

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Next comes the most amazing part. As a child when we did this, I never saw the chrysalis formation happen. I pictured the process as being similar to the moth that spins a cocoon around itself. But the chrysalis is within the caterpillar, waiting to neatly trim away all the stuff the butterfly will no longer need.

Monarch Metamorphosis from Snaphappy on Vimeo.

It takes perhaps a half an hour before the process is really complete.

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The old skin, discarded, lies on the ground beneath the finished chrysalis. Now it’s a matter of waiting for a week or 10 days till a butterfly emerges. We have 4 chrysalises and 4 caterpillars at the moment. Hopefully all 8 will emerge as healthy butterflies ready for their trip to Mexico.

Pathway ponderings

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Older Daughter and I took a walk down a familiar trail the other day. It was midafternoon and there wasn’t much wildlife to be seen. But this woodpecker tree was one of several reminders that the woodland inhabitants were alive and well.

IMG_0662The trail wound invitingly among ferns and trees. We’ll have a few months of color, then the winter monchromatic palette will be back in play.

"Green thoughts in a green shade"

“Green thoughts in a green shade”

I thought this fuzzy fungus was a mouse at first.

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We descended to a favorite spot along the creek, a small waterfall that always invites us for a picnic (though we never have one packed).

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The picturesque scene hides a tragedy. The water was low enough that we walked up the creekbed instead of returning to the trail. At the base of the falls, hidden here by the pile of flood debris, was a dead rabbit, soaked with mud, eyes still open in panic. Somehow it had been washed down the creek and killed.

It was a disturbing sight. I’ve often noticed the waste of roadkill — animals hit by cars by accident. Nature is usually more purposeful, and a favorite mantra of nature writers is “the economy of nature.” But this was an example of pure accident. I couldn’t help brooding over it as we walked on.

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Looking back downstream

Looking back downstream

Raccoons had left their prints along the edge, attracted by the crayfish and frogs.

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Did someone say "frogs"?

Did someone say “frogs”?

It was a nice walk, though we were out at the wrong time of day to see any early warblers coming through on their way back south. The almanac predicts another harsh winter, and I saw some warblers on the move when we vacationed north of here a few weeks ago. Hopefully we’ll see a few in the days to come.

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