Thursday, September 29, 2016

Morning Metamorphosis

monarch chrysalis on geranium

It had been about eight days since two monarch caterpillars had attached to the geranium in a pot on our front porch and formed chrysalises. I checked them first thing every morning, and Monday, in the dim predawn light, one of them had changed from its lima bean green to black as my cell phone. Little by little, the unique black and orange wing pattern became visible through the translucent case.

monarch butterfly on chrysalis

By mid-morning, a new female butterfly was suspended on an empty chrysalis, her wings not fully extended. 

She climbed on uncertain legs to a nearby stem, where she hung to dry.

A couple of hours later, she was ready. She climbed to the top of a leaf, pumped her wings, and flew off, high above the trees.

That day, there was a bonus. 
All week, I had searched the geranium in vain for other chrysalises, but there, hanging out to dry, was another new butterfly.

monarch butterfly on red geranium

She perched on a blossom brighter than a stoplight in the city. 
The sisters are headed for Mexico, and we hope they'll be back next spring. 
We'll keep the light on for them. 

Linking with Saturday's Critters

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Caterpillar Trek

I've been looking at bugs again lately, specifically monarch larva. The caterpillars have devoured every green sprig on the large butterfly milkweed plant in my flowerbed where they were hatched, and they are on the move, searching for the perfect place to form a chrysalis. Imagine having to buy your groceries blindfolded at Walmart, and you have the idea.

I kneel down to observe the journey, and it's maddening to watch, like a thriller in slow motion. 
The small creature before me crawls to the end of a long leaf that leads nowhere, 
grips the end of the leaf with his back legs and flails back and forth, groping in the air for any new purchase...

...before turning around and heading back to where where he started. 

At the bottom, a thin blade of grass presents itself, and from the sidelines I call out "No! Bad move! Turn back!", but he is not listening. Half way up the frail stem, the grass doubles over under the weight of the the caterpillar and dumps him to the ground. Then he's up again, walking toward the nearest stem that will take him to a frail leaf and another setback, and, like Serena Williams' father during a tense tennis match, I have to walk away.

One way or another, they all manage to find their places without my help. With thin silken strands, they attach their back end to some stem or leaf. 
Falling limp, they dangle upside down, curled into a J shape. Then they wait. 

When the moment is right, a transformation takes place and a chrysalis is formed, an exquisite jewel studded with fine gold. 
In the next ten days, more or less, a butterfly will develop inside the shelter of this bright green package, 
and for the time being, at least, I can exhale.

Linking with Saturday's Critters

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Looking Up

A slight breeze ripples the surface of the lake this morning and it's quiet 
except for the hum of insects and the sound of small waves lapping against the rocks.

The sun rises and everything—clouds, mist, and and a ribbon of light on the lake's surface—turns to gold. 

As the light grows, a boat is made ready...

...and a solitary fisherman takes his hopes with him out on the water.

What will this day bring?
There will be treasures, if we look for them, and some will show themselves even when aren't looking. 
There may be rain, but after all, we know where rainbows come from.

One thing is certain; God's mercies will be here for the taking.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22, 23 (ESV)

Linking with Skywatch Friday

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Two Birds

Roadrunner came for a visit the other day, stopping near the front of the house. 
He found a dead hummingbird, and catlike, played with his food.

It tasted like old shoe leather and he spit it out on the rocks.

"Am I really that hungry?"

"Nah! I'm outta here!"

Linking with Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Two chilly nights and southbound geese overhead have me thinking about seasonal changes. Hummingbirds are tanking up for their trip to the Yucatan. Early in the morning, and just before dark, their activity around the feeders is intense.

The sun has warmed the rocks on the south side of the house, and I lean against them, facing the feeders, which are only a few inches away. It's an excellent place to observe the small winged warriors. Supper is over, and while Don watches a spy movie, I spend the pleasant part of an hour there, absorbed by their acrobatics, their chirps and the hum of their wings. Occasionally one of them hovers just in front of my face, trying to ascertain what kind of a creature is sharing their space, and I steel myself not to flinch. Their battles over the sugar water are swift and fierce. 

They fly back and forth between the feeders and the geraniums.

In a flowerpot at my side is Firecracker Cuphea, a plant the little birds also love. They light on the springy stems, riding them down almost to the ground, then up, pendulum like, all the while pumping nectar out of the sweet purple and red blossoms. 

As the sky darkens, the chirps of the hummingbirds give way to the sounds of the night. I head inside, refreshed by the ambience of the evening. And in the spy movie, the good guys win.