Everything moves so incredibly fast. I see some interesting things, I take some nice pictures, I think, This could make a blog. But by then I've seen some more interesting things, taken some more interesting pictures...
Just a short time ago the Common Milkweed plants down our driveway were in full bloom. The Monarch caterpillars were chewing them up as quickly as they could, nice butterflies, like this Great Spangled Fritillary (they deserve the fancy name), were visiting them, and now already the caterpillars have gone off to make their chrysalises, and the flowers are over with.
In fact the butterfly-attracting flora has shifted to the Pickerelweed now in full bloom in our pond at the back of the yard. Lately the rather rare Dukes's Skipper has been visiting them. It normally stays in wetlands where its caterpillars feed on sedges, but the wetlands near us are now bone dry, so it's coming to us (to be sure I have to refill the pond every few days, as the surrounding trees suck it dry).
My sister came out from California for a visit, and we took her up to Crystal Bridges, which we wanted to see ourselves. The museum architecture and the painting collection were as good as everyone has been saying, but of course we made it a point to go early, a few hours before the museum opened, in order to walk the equally famous trails. They were beautifully and naturally planted. Here's a prairie section:
Best of all, the trails were alive with birds and butterflies and other interesting creatures. In a previous post I showed a picture of a tan-colored damselfly which was the female of the Springwater Dancer. On the trails here, we found the brilliantly colored male of that species. And then a little later we found another colorful insect, a day-flying moth, the Eight-spotted Forester.
But my sister, who is only politely interested in the tiny things I have been dragging home since I was big enough to walk, nevertheless found the most exciting thing of the day: an Underwing caterpillar. Underwings are a very popular group of moths. There are dozens of them, and they share these traits: The are largeish in size, they spend the day clinging to the side of treetrunks, where the cryptic coloring of their wings makes them virtually invisible against the bark. But if they want to startle an approaching predator that seems to have spotted them, they suddenly open their wings, revealing dramatically colored red or black underwings. Most of the species are very similar to each other, differing in only fine details of pattern, and part of the fun is trying to sort out what species you are looking at. Here's a picture I took of one last year (it's a live moth, by the way; that gray thing on its back, whatever it is, is not a pin).
Well, we're very fond of caterpillars, photographing them, sometimes raising them (we have a Picasa Web Album of them