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CassieBash's Critters Summer 2017 edition

Gardens & Books

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Edited: Jun 19, 2017, 8:57am Top

I'll be posting pictures later; I've had quite the exciting Lepidoptera moments over the weekend! Several of Team Monarch's members are now in chrysalises, Team Swallowtail now has a total of 10 members (2 tigers, 2 black, 6 spicebush), and I acquired an unknown caterpillar that eats milkweed. Plus, in regards to emergences, I had the biggest female white marked tussock moth I've ever raised, plus a gorgeous Cecropia!

Since I had the Cecropia hatch, I've decided that the Cecropia moth is the new Critter of the Week! More on Cecropia moths later....

Jun 19, 2017, 12:20pm Top

I'll be waiting...

Jun 19, 2017, 1:23pm Top

These are select pictures from the weekend; I'll focus on some of the Leps instead of the garden for the moment. Better start with our Critter of the Week, the Cecropia moth!

If you have followed my threads for awhile, you may remember the caterpillar Ouch and his friend. They were Cecropia caterpillars, and while despite a hopeful several weeks when I thought Ouch might survive, he passed away. But his companion, Ahh, survived, and she hatched out Saturday (or perhaps overnight Friday). Cecropia caterpillars are large, fat, and colorful--just like their adult stages! They eat a variety of trees; Ouch and Ahh were on wild cherry, but they also eat locust (where I released Ahh after dark on Saturday night, to increase her chances of survival, at least regarding birds), birch, apple, and many other trees. I even found one on an elderberry bush one year. Difficult for me to find as caterpillars or eggs due to their arboreal nature, they are unfortunately easy for parasites to find and the tachinid fly in particular seems to like them as a host. (There is an interesting web page about the non-native tachinid fly introduction to control gypsy moths and the subsequent issues with them preying on silkworms instead). If you find a Cecropia or any silkworm caterpillar with tiny white oblong eggs that seem embedded into the skin, then the caterpillar is going to play host to some sort of parasite, whether it's a tachinid or something else. The caterpillar should have smooth skin broken only by the spiny, multicolored knobs in rows along its body. Because of the bright blues, red/orange, and yellow knobs, this caterpillar is sometimes nicknamed the "Christmas tree" caterpillar.

The cocoon is woven silk, with sometimes leaves from the trees (the cocoon may hang or end up on the ground) plastered to it. They are large and quite tough; silkworm silk is strong. The adults have a huge wingspan when unfurled and dry and are among the largest moths in North America (right up there with their kissing cousin, the Polyphemus). Females have particularly large bodies, like Ahh, that are just full of eggs. Silkworms, be they Luna or Polyphemus or Cecropia, don't have mouth parts once they're adults. Their entire purpose becomes reproduction.

So that's our Critter of the Week.

Other Lep pics, very quickly....

The adult female of the white marked tussock moth, just hatched Saturday. You know it's a female because it's wingless.

Black swallowtail caterpillars:

One of the tiger swallowtail babies:

I'll post more pics tomorrow.

Jun 19, 2017, 3:59pm Top

Is that Ahh? She is GORGEOUS!

And the third photo is magnificent!

What does a wingless moth do, wait for the boys to show up?

Jun 19, 2017, 4:44pm Top

>4 fuzzi: Yes, that is Ahh. She was the only Cecropia I had other than Ouch last year, and I didn't find any other cocoons over the winter. I moved her cocoon into the big tank where I had the monarch cats living, which is why it looks like she's got a few feet perched on a monarch caterpillar--because she does! I only included the 5th pic to give everyone an idea of the size of her body, which proportionately is probably about as big with eggs as the wingless moth who, yes, does just wait for the boys to show up. They often make their cocoons on the same tree that they lived on (frequently at our house, elm or hackberry) so that they can then climb up and lay eggs on the same tree on which she grew up. On the one hand, it limits her abilities to spread her offspring out. On the other, it makes it darn easy for me to tell if the moth is a female or a male, which can be tricky with some of the smaller species like hers! :)

I released Ahh after sundown on Saturday, while it was just light enough for me to see where I was putting my feet without a light, but dark enough that the birds had roosted. I put her on a branch just over my head (so over 5'2'' off the ground). I saw no sign that she had been nabbed by a predator overnight, nor did I see her the following morning, so I'm assuming that she went her merry way, hopefully after laying eggs somewhere nearby, if not on that tree itself. I'd heard that if you leave a silkworm moth in a tank, that the males can mate with her through the screen and you can collect eggs easily, as she will eventually lay them all over the inside of the tank. However, with the number of raccoons we have visiting our yard just now, I didn't want to offer them a moth buffet when the pheromones started flying. Plus, I'm not sure that even if she'd mated successfully, that a raccoon wouldn't figure out how to pop the lid off the tank and devour her. So I played it safe (for her) and will take the chance that I might not find even one of her offspring. But knowing that there's a good chance that she laid her eggs somewhere gives me hope.

Jun 20, 2017, 8:57am Top

Thanks for the info, I like learning more about nature.

I'll say it again, the photos of the moth are GORGEOUS.

Jun 20, 2017, 4:37pm Top

Don't have much time but I did promise pics, so here is a quick picture of a monarch butterfly that I managed to get while it was flying around the pasture milkweed--an ideal place for monarchs, with all the milkweed.

And a picture of a small portion of "all the milkweed":

I've kept my promise, however brief and mediocre. I'll try to post a few each day; no promises, though! :)

Jun 21, 2017, 9:00am Top

This morning's big news was the rescue of a huge eastern painted turtle, very similar to this one, (picture taken by by Jmalik at en.wikipedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license). I'd have taken my own picture, but where I stopped wasn't the safest place to be long-term. The road where the turtle was crossing is very hilly and curvy; the only reason I stopped was because I knew that no one was immediately behind me and I was pretty sure that anyone coming from the other direction would be unable to see the turtle, due to the curve. I put on my hazard lights to play it safe and to alert the truck that was coming to slow down. When I held up my hand to stop the lady in the truck, she had the most perplexed expression on her face--until I picked up the turtle to move it. Then she was all smiles! So I'm pretty sure that my thought about people being unable to see the turtle from the other side, due to the curve of the road there, was probably correct, even though it was a pretty good-sized painted (about the size of an American football).

Just an FYI--experts say to always move a turtle to the side of the road that it's facing; otherwise, they'll just turn around and come right back, because there's a reason they want to cross (even if we don't know what it is).

Jun 21, 2017, 10:59am Top

>8 CassieBash: lovely turtle, thank you for helping it.

Jun 21, 2017, 4:33pm Top

Anyone care to play "Spot the Turkeys"?

Jun 22, 2017, 1:02pm Top

Good hide and seek abilities!

Jun 22, 2017, 4:22pm Top

>11 fuzzi: I was fairly close to them, though not as close as I was to the very young fawn I startled when I was further back in the pasture. I found its hiding place by almost stepping on it; it jumped and ran off into the tall grass before I could even recover from the moment, so I missed taking its picture, alas! I do hope the little thing reunited with its mom quickly.

Today's pictures will be of my garden as of last weekend. I plan on working in said garden again this weekend and probably will have still more pictures, so whatever doesn't get posted from last weekend will be superseded by any pictures I post next week. However, it at least gives you an idea of how things are thriving now that we have had some rain (with more expected tonight and tomorrow).

Pentas flower pot:



Yellow butterfly weed, budded:

Jerusalem artichoke patch:

West side story: this part of my garden is getting some expansion; you can see on the left where I've cleared some ground. This year, the patch will remain barren, and I am going to take some of the good, rich dirt from under the bird feeder area and work it in to this area to enrich it. You can see the shadow of our crappy wisteria on the far left; I've dug right up under it. You can do everything all the experts say to do (and we have!) to that next-to-worthless wisteria and never have it bloom (the only reason it's only "next-to-worthless" is because the wisteria, being a legume, has helped feed my silver spotted skipper caterpillars, and therefore has some value to me). I'm keeping my eye on it, because it does have a tendency to send up offshoots into my garden in an attempt to take over. The fence pieces are not yet in their permanent placements, so eventually I need to go to Lowe's and get more fencing panels to enclose the entire garden.

Milkweed tire:

Ye olde Queen Anne's lace patch; this is where I found the two black swallowtails:

The coneflowers are budded:

The morning glories on this end of the bird station are extremely happy; they get more sun than the other end. If you look closely, you can see the new varieties I've planted right under the metal trellis, with their funky "fingered" leaves. A better picture of them, and the needle-leaved cyprus vine growing with them, is in the second picture.

Jun 26, 2017, 4:17pm Top

Team Monarch had its first emergence; many of the rest of its members are now also in their chrysalises. Team Swallowtail had some additions; a black swallowtail and a few more spicebush swallowtails. Team Tiger Moth has a lovely reddish-orange furry member that's probably a garden tiger, and I also have a hitched arches for Team Cutworm/Dart Moth, which I picked up just this morning as I was on my way to the garage. Usually, I find the hitched arches caterpillar on our mums, but this one was nibbling a lamb's quarter, of which I have plenty.

Now for the Critter of the Week:

In honor of South Bend's newest members to the Potawatomi Zoo, may I present the okapi, or forest giraffe:

An Okapi. Taken at Disney's Animal Kingdom by Raul654 on January 16, 2005, Wikipedia.

This endangered species looks somewhat like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra (though it's more giraffe genetically than zebra). It's an African species native now only to the Congo; it's considered extinct in Uganda, and according to The Red List, it's been on a steep decline for some time, partly due to habitat loss and lack of conservation efforts. A pity for the Congonese, since this disappearing animal is a national symbol. Shy and generally elusive in the wild, the okapi is a ruminant (4 chambered stomach) that relies solely on the vegetation of the understory of its forest home. It's considered a living fossil by some, since it's been virtually unchanged for thousands of years. Like giraffes, they have a prehensile tongue that allows them to grip or wrap around twigs and branches or bunches of leaves. Supposedly, the tongue is so long it is one of only a few animals able to lick their own ears. Also weird about this animal: apparently, it can secrete a sticky substance that resembles tar from glands in its feet to leave a scent trail to mark territory. The zoo obtained its two critters from a breeding program.

Jun 27, 2017, 5:29pm Top

Not really much to report; one black swallowtail--the smallest--has died, as did one monarch prepping for the chrysalis stage. The monarch, at least, I'm pretty sure was a disease, but I'm not sure what caused the black swallowtail's death. But "John", a black swallowtail caterpillar that was given to me by a person who works at the Culver Ace Hardware store, has made a chrysalis, so I have two black swallowtails in chrysalis form. I keep seeing damage in the Queen Anne's lace "grove" here and there but can't for the life of me find any more cats. I did have a monarch emerge, too--can't seem to see that I mentioned that--my bad. Since news is so scarce, here are a few pictures:

John the black swallowtail:

The monarch, a male:

Remember that inchworm on the barn door latch? Here it is as an adult:

Jun 29, 2017, 4:37pm Top

More pics:

Found this dead and faded hackberry emperor under the hackberry tree (appropriately), right outside the barn door. I have no idea how it managed to stay so pristine (except for the color fade) when it died.

Team Swallowtail's tigers:

And their first chrysalis-in-the-making, a spicebush:

Indiana is home to several species of squirrel, but here in the northwest corner (at least in my section of it), the most common are the pine squirrels and fox squirrels. This one is a fox squirrel, living across the road from the college. In fact, I took these pictures sitting in my car when I got to work one morning.

While the plum tree has dropped several of its fruit, we still have plenty of possible plums:

I swear that the heliotrope just gets more and more magnificent:

Jul 1, 2017, 11:15pm Top

Quick numbers update:

The garden tiger died, either disease or parasites, unsure. As did one of the last of the monarch cats, though the rest successfully pupated. Plus, in the past 2 days, a total of 5 monarchs emerged. Fuzzi, I've asked a couple to fly south to North Carolina for you, but I'm not sure they've paid attention. I also had the last of last year's Sphinx moths--this one a Carolina (aka the dreaded hornworm) Sphinx moth. The only team to gain new members recently has been Team Swallowtail, with about 8-10 new members, all spicebush. Four of the spicebush swallowtails are in or making chrysalises.

Pictures will return on Wednesday when I have access again to a real computer and not just a phone.

Jul 2, 2017, 12:03pm Top

Thanks for the pictures, and the updates. I love the Okapi, have seen pictures of the species but never a live one.

Still no Monarchs here, though my milkweed is covered in baby Milkweed bugs, ack. All the blossoms have gone to seed.

I have seen very few butterflies here, no swallowtails on the carrots, though I've seen a few Clouded skippers and White-spotted skippers, and a yellow (Sleepy Orange?) or two have flitted through the yard this week. I seem to recall that my best butterfly season is in late July and into August.

I do have lots of dragonflies and damselflies, probably due to the two small ponds being an attractant!

Jul 3, 2017, 10:20am Top

>17 fuzzi: I've never seen a live okapi, either. If I get a chance to visit the boys, I'll take my own pictures to post. Sorry to hear about your lack of butterflies; ours are early--I also usually don't see Monarchs until July, and I already have hatched several (I had another emerge yesterday--another male). After last year's poor monarch numbers, I'm hoping for a bumper crop later this month and into August and September.

We have seen a drop in adult butterflies right now, too. I'm hoping we're between generations.

Team Skipper has one sootywing caterpillar. Due to the unpleasant combination of heat, humidity, and mosquitos, I've been unable to do much hunting, except for an impromptu bullfrog hunt, which culminated in the frog's relocation to a deep ditch along a dirt road. In a way, I hated to see him go because he was quite good about being handled, and I'm sure I could have easily trained him to eat from my hand. But a bullfrog among the green frogs isn't good; he was big enough to have eaten one of last year's adults, and he'll go through the tadpole population fast. I just hope "he" wasn't a "she" and is responsible for the eggs I think we have in the bog.

Jul 3, 2017, 11:07am Top

>18 CassieBash: will the other frogs eat the eggs?

I have a thing against Bullfrogs, after they ate all my Shubunkins, and Killifish.

I like going to the zoo, might check out one we have here just a couple hours' drive away, in Asheboro/Goldsboro: http://www.nczoo.org/

Jul 4, 2017, 7:44pm Top

>19 fuzzi: Not sure if frogs eat eggs; I think they tend to target moving things more. But once the eggs hatch, the tadpoles (of which I saw a couple today!) would possibly be on the menu. I don't know if they're frog or toad tadpoles yet; the taddies are as small as sharpened pencil ends right now, and I couldn't tell if the eggs were in clumps (toads) or strings (frogs) that were wrapped up in the plant roots.

If the eggs were in the pond instead of the bog, the goldfish would eat them, if they could find and get to them.

Today's big news is that my freebie rescue hyssop from the native plant sale is blooming, and the lead plant I got from the same place three years ago is finally budded!

Jul 6, 2017, 8:01pm Top

So like I've said before, I live in the city. The houses aren't terribly close together, and the lots are one to one-and-half acres. There are lots of trees, some of which are probably 50+ years old. Still, it's the city. We're 20 minutes from downtown Indianapolis and two minutes from the interstate.

So last week my mom saw a fawn beside the road while she was out for a walk. We've lived here 27 years come September and we've seen deer once.

Tonight we saw a female turkey and two babies in the yard next door. That house is on the market and the owner has already moved and hasn't been mowing the back half-acre (lots in my neighborhood are rather longer than they are wide), so the grass is nearly a foot tall back there.

We've also had bluebirds again this year.

Oh and funny story: We have a hummingbird feeder with perches and there's a red admiral that sits on top of the feeder and whenever a hummingbird lands to eat, the butterfly tries to land on the bird's head. He's been out there for a couple days now, assuming it's the same one.

Jul 9, 2017, 11:37am Top

>21 casvelyn: Yeah, admirals are the most brazen species of butterfly I know. Glad you've had some wildlife sightings, though I suppose if someone buys the place and mows the yard, you'll lose them.

Friday was an early closing, due to a power failure. Transformer got hit by lightning, I heard. Storms and rain for the first half of the day, and flood warnings everywhere. We're not very close to any rivers or lakes, so our house, sitting on its hill, doesn't tend to flood, but the bottom part of the bank barn tends to get flooding in the open stall, as it sits in a low spot and the runoff from the top of the hill pools in that area.

Team Monarch had a female emerge but one of her hind wings was crumpled. While she could still fly, unfortunately she couldn't fly far. She may still mate and lay eggs, I suppose; she's in the pasture where there is plenty of milkweed. Two more look like they might emerge. Despite the early start, Team Monarch doesn't look like it's got much chance of catching up with Team Admiral or even Team Swallowtail, which doesn't have many caterpillar members at a time but are gathering members slowly; I keep finding new spicebush swallowtails every time I go to get food for the existing team members. Team Skipper has two sootywing caterpillars, and I believe I have two eggs for Team Hornworm, from a couple of Jimsonweed leaves.

John the black swallowtail emerged last night and flew off, though not far. John may have been a Joanna and I'm hoping if it was, she sticks around and lays eggs on my Queen Anne's lace.

I'll return to posting the Critter of the Week and pictures tomorrow.

Jul 10, 2017, 8:32am Top

>22 CassieBash: Although the housing market is hot around here, the house itself isn't in great shape, so we're hoping no one buys it at least until the babies are grown.

Jul 10, 2017, 5:27pm Top

>23 casvelyn: That would be good; here's hoping!

This week, I've been noticing them everywhere--the new Critter of the Week. When in flight, they sound like angry bees, but their jewel-like shells make them one of the most attractive beetles in Indiana. Yes, I'm talking about the insect with the misnomer (at least in Indiana): the green June beetle.

Why a misnomer? Because at least in this area, they aren't swarming around until July. But when those hot days in July hit you, you're sure to see these gems of the scarab family flying around, particularly about the big, bushy weeds in the more manure-packed areas of our paddock. Why? Because these guys love dung--just like the famous dung beetles of ancient Egypt, once thought to spring out fully formed as adults from the balls of dung that these cousins of our June beetle scarabs rolled around. But what those beetles were actually doing were creating nurseries for their babies, commonly known as grubs. Yes, like butterflies and moths come from caterpillars, beetles also go through metamorphosis and start as grubs. (Well, OK, they actually start as eggs if you want to get technical.) And those white grubs that infest lawns and attract moles will become beetles. Maybe not June beetles, but they may become one of their close cousins, another scarab by the name of Japanese beetle (sometimes Japanese rose beetle). So what makes the June bug's babies different from the Japanese beetle (aside from the fact that one is an invasive species from another country)?

Mainly diet--while baby Japanese beetles like to eat the tender roots of plants, the June beetle babies like mold and humus best (though they will eat roots and a bad infestation can damage plants, lawns, even crops, especially if mulched). And as adults, Japanese beetles do far more damage as a general rule than June beetles. Can I tell the difference between the larva? Heck, no! Except....

Well, it's like this: size may mean everything. Both take a full year to mature, but the Japanese beetle is at least half the size of the June beetle. So very large grubs are more likely to be a larger beetle. Problem is, we have so many large beetle species, including other scarab beetles (there are 30,000 scarabs worldwide, after all), that I'm not even going to try telling them apart. When I come across them as I garden, I simply toss each and every one either into the horse pasture or into a bucket of weeds and other compost to go on the manure pile. I figure if they're June beetles, they'll love it there, and if not...hey, they take their chances.

Beetles, like many other insect, like to be clean and spend a good deal of time grooming. This one I fished from the horse tank and he promptly fell to cleaning his front foot and leg.

Back in the Victorian period, when ancient Egypt was a hot topic of interest, jewelers began making jewelry with real scarab beetles. Yes, they would kill the beetles and make brooches, bracelets, earrings, etc. It was a bad time to be a bug. But when you're one of the most successful families of the animal kingdom--it's estimated that one in every three species existing today is a beetle--it's hard not to attract attention.

Saturday morning was spent working on garden projects; considering how little time I spent--maybe 2 hours--I got a lot done. The first thing I did was to use Bladeclaw, my combo garden claw and chopper, to loosen the soil around the edge of the garden, tearing up small bits of grass and newly-growing weeds to help define the edge again--except where the Queen Anne's lace is. I keep hoping for a lot more black swallowtail caterpillars. Then I finished putting up the rest of my sections of fence; I'm short by maybe 5 or so before I'll have my whole garden enclosed. Lowe's suppliers need to get off their backsides and ship more of that fence style!

That was the relatively fast and easy part. Then I went back to leveling the ground underneath the bird feeders. First, I started by turning Bladeclaw on its side and using it to scrape the top layer of stuff--mostly wet, rotting seed and casings--onto Digger, the trowel. (Do I read too much high fantasy, where every weapon and tool gets a name, perhaps?) This top layer ended up in the big buckets and the contents dumped onto the compost heap. The minions are responsible for helping carry all my garden tools, including Snips the hand pruners, as well as Bladeclaw and Digger.

Then came the shovel--not mine, the family shovel, so as far as I know, it has no name. Sorry to disappoint. But I began breaking up the next layers of dirt, good rich dirt, and chopping it with Bladeclaw's blade side. Once I had nice, loose soil, I flipped Bladeclaw on its side again, and began to drag it along, so that it mounded up the dirt just like it did with the old, rotting seed. I got a very nice, even ground, packing it down with my feet. All excess dirt was carried away on the shovel to my garden. While this is only a small section of the area to be done, in less than 2 hours I had a very noticeable patch of ground leveled and cleaned. I thought the raccoons would dig through it but they left it alone--even though I heard them out there that night. As the ground was full of grubs (rather large--probably June beetles or other large beetles interested in the mold and rot) and worms, it was rather surprising. That's a raccoon feast if ever there was one.

And that was how I spent Saturday morning. This upcoming Saturday, I'll be running in to town to drop off my homemade pumpkin bread to the Open Exhibit building in the 4H fair, if all goes according to plan. Mmmmm...pumpkin bread.....

Jul 12, 2017, 9:36pm Top

Love reading your gardening diary, and seeing your photos.

I occasionally see the scarabs here, not yet this year.

And I like how you name your tools. :)

Jul 13, 2017, 5:37pm Top

>25 fuzzi: It's odd about the scarabs, because June beetles are listed as being more numerous in the southern states, and I just assumed that perhaps they did come out and swarm farther south in the month of June, and that our colder climate delayed this for a few weeks. Apparently they are a misnomer everywhere! :)

I'm glad you like the diary. I do hope to have some more updates from this weekend, though I haven't posted everything from last weekend regarding pictures. I always take more than I have time to post now, it seems. It was so much easier doing it through LT, where the code for the picture isn't surrounded by gobblygook.

The tool thing reminds me of a British sci-fi series called Red Dwarf. One of the characters is a robot (technically, a "mechanoid") and he names the various appliances because he feels that they perform better with an identity. :)


I'm having some more feminine problems; I'm having what seems to be a period despite not having the ovaries. Except that this period doesn't have the cramping. Called the nursing triage at the place where the surgeon who did my operation worked, and they are pretty sure that it's just the old uterine lining sloughing off. They said they're going to call back early next week, after the "period" should have stopped, to set up an ultrasound just to check things out. They said it could also be an old internal fibroid (I did have some external ones that were removed with the endo, tubes, and ovaries) breaking down with the lining. Since there's no pain and everything looked good as far as the surgical pathology, my previous exams and tests, and lack of family history with sexual cancers, they're pretty certain that things will get back to normal soon, which is a relief. It feels weird to have to wear protection again, but I'm glad I still had a stockpile from the surgery, when I knew there would be bloody drainage. Prayers are still appreciated, of course!

Jul 13, 2017, 7:04pm Top


>26 CassieBash: I don't miss that at all. I will pray about it. I have a prayer app called PrayerMate which is simple to use, and I'll add your request to it.

No pictures today, it's too hot to stand out there. Even the frogs were at the bottom of the pond..how do I know? I was feeling around for a hose clamp that had fallen off the pump and put my hand ON a frog, lol!

Jul 15, 2017, 9:20pm Top

>27 fuzzi: Frogs are just cool. Glad you have them to liven up your pond! And thanks for the prayers; I'll feel better after I get an all-clear after the ultrasound. I know they told me it's very slim that there's really an issue, but there's still a chance and they obviously want to be absolutely sure or they wouldn't insist on the test. Although things are looking good; it seems like things are winding down, so to speak, and if they have, this immediate issue may even be over a day or two ahead of schedule. That would be so nice.

The weather wasn't too bad here. We dropped off the stuff for the open exhibit at the fair rather early, and then I had just decided to work more under the bird feeders when I caught sight of a monarch investigating milkweed leaves. And you can bet if they're into the leaves rather than the flowers, they're a female laying eggs. So I abandoned the big paint buckets and garden tools and got the second minion bucket (gotta love those big theater popcorn buckets), and went hunting. And what a successful hunt it was, too! Team Monarch has probably around 15-20 caterpillars and dozens of eggs now! (Plus, Team Swallowtail has another spicebush member.) In addition, I took lots of pictures of a couple of lovely jumping spiders of some sort, plus a stunning beetle that I first thought was a June bug, and may be a scarab--I have to ID it yet.

Afterwards, I did return to the feeder project and have cleared out and leveled under the remains of the seesaw, which had suffered from such a buildup of dirt and seed that the bottom was just getting covered up and it barely moved. It now swings freely. But because of the monarch hunt, I didn't clear any more than that immediate area.

Tomorrow, I have decided to focus on inside work, and to stay out of the sun. While I did use block and don't seem to have burned, I was out pretty much all day and I'm not used to that. I'm tired and a little achy, so I think a change in the type of work I'm doing will be good.

Pictures will be shared some on Monday, if there's time. Next week is our library's book sale, which means we might be pretty busy...or pretty quiet. It seems to be feast or famine for us regarding sales.

Jul 17, 2017, 12:22pm Top

I still have not seen ONE Monarch... :sniff:

It's been horrifically humid and hot here, heat indices in the 110s and above, ew. I did a little puttering around the pond early in the am, but mainly stayed inside: the humidity makes me feel sick if I stay out too long.

I have two different types of frogs, but I am not sure of the second. I've tried IDing online, no luck. Maybe it's a young Green frog. It has the ridge down the side, no eye ridge, so it's not a young Bullfrog.

Jul 17, 2017, 5:01pm Top

>29 fuzzi: Maybe it's a young Green frog. Could be. My observations of green frog coloration is that they're highly variable, some with a lot of brown and very little green, others that are almost completely green. To complicate things further, I've also noticed a variation of the green colors--anything from the yellowish dill pickle color to the cooler, bluer jade green that Emerald is (or was--haven't seen Emerald lately, and I fear he or she may have fallen prey to either coons or the heron).

I've been trying to convince the adult monarchs to head down your way, but I fear that they aren't listening to me. My more thorough Team Monarch count (though admittedly I lost track of the exact numbers) for the past two days is 30+ caterpillars and 80+ eggs. If this keeps up, Team Admiral's early (and once thought comfortable) lead may be in jeopardy. Team Swallowtail did have two spicebush members emerge yesterday, so perhaps I'll see an upswing of their caterpillar numbers in a few weeks, too.

I worked some more on my bird feeder project Friday and Saturday, with Saturday, as noted above, the shorter of the two sessions due to the need to hunt for monarch offspring. In >24 CassieBash:, if you look down at the picture that has the remains of what was once the seesaw, you can see that the foot rests (those little bars at ground level) are resting on the dirt. After Saturday's session, it now looks like this:

Note the shadows of the foot rests; I've now taken enough out that it swings again, and probably has at least three or four inches clearance now.

Another big thing from over the weekend: we went to the fair and put some stuff into the open exhibit. Three of us--my sisters and me--won blue ribbons, but Mom's pig planter of petunias (what a tongue twister!) got grand champion.

A view of part of our fairground buildings:

My pumpkin bread:

Kerri's desert rose:

Laura's decoupage Christmas ornaments:

And last, but certainly not least, Mom's pig planter:

Now for the Critter of the Week:

Normally, I wouldn't choose another beetle, let alone another scarab, but this fellow just seemed perfect to go back-to-back with his cousin, the green June beetle. Besides, I happened to spot him in the pasture while searching for monarch eggs and cats, and I thought at first it was another June bug. But he's very different; he's armed and dangerous (well, maybe not so dangerous). There's a whole family of these guys, called Rainbow Scarabs (genus Phanaeus), and unfortunately, there are two very close in appearance, so I'm not sure which I found here. It could be Phanaeus vindex or igneus, but based on my research, I'm going with igneus. Why? Because size is everything. Check out the horn. Impressive, right? Not so much when you compare it to Phanaeus vindex on this page. And while they do say that there are individual males with smaller horns (females lack them entirely; the horn is probably used to fight other males), it's not as common, and we have both vindex and igneus in our part of North America.

Unlike June beetles, these are truly dung eaters and are considered beneficial for their breakdown of animal waste into good, rich soil. Therefore, if you see one of these guys in your garden, you're blessed! This picture I feel is a good example of the classic "leg" of the Egyptian scarab--perfect for rolling balls of animal waste into balls for its larvae to devour. Yum!

And this is the classic Egyptian scarab pose (more or less):

Like many metallic or shiny animals, it all depends on the light as to what color is seen at any given angle--note how the green area changes in intensity, and than only the angle differs:

I promise that next week I won't post a beetle as the Critter. Maybe a nice spider, eh? I took pictures of a couple of different jumping spiders on milkweed, too....

Jul 17, 2017, 8:06pm Top

>30 CassieBash: congratulations on all the blue ribbons!

I love the coloring of that beetle.

You post another beetle picture if you like.

Jul 21, 2017, 5:26pm Top

>31 fuzzi: Thanks. We pick up the exhibits tomorrow. You can see why they call it a rainbow scarab. And I didn't really say, technically, that I wouldn't post another beetle picture. I just promised I wouldn't make another beetle the featured Critter.

It's been much too hot and humid to garden, and tomorrow will add rain to the mix. I've been feeding animals, doing dishes, and doing some small caterpillar hunts here and there, but very little else, at least until this afternoon, when my sisters and I went into town and stopped by the Argos Public Library's book sale before heading to the county fair (also in Argos) to look at the 4H exhibits and the horses. We also ate lunch there and I just can't resist the dairy bar's mint ice cream shakes--all my food sales were with locally-operated vendors, rather than outsourced booths. Argos Schools got the lion's share for lunch, while I believe FFA (Future Farmers of America) got the cost of the shake (which happened to be soy free--thanks for checking your ingredients list for me, ladies!). And at the commercial building, we got a free LED lantern from our rural electric co-op, REMC, for being a "member" (read "customer"). I had wanted to say hi to whoever might have been at the Ancilla College booth but no one was there. I'd have sat down and taken a shift myself if we hadn't been on a schedule; my sisters are helping the civic theatre group, Maxinkuckee Players, with makeup for this year's musical, "Mary Poppins".

Well, it's still too hot to do much of anything outside, so I'm going to post a book in my 75 Challenge and then read some. After all, I have plenty of reading material. Thanks, Argos Library!

Jul 23, 2017, 8:46pm Top

I have to do a recount of Team Monarch; it gains members every day! While Team Admiral still has a pretty comfy lead, the Monarchs are narrowing the lead. Every day for the past week, I've found at least a few eggs or caterpillars, and sometimes (like today) I find both. Unlike the admirals, though, I raise more from eggs, so I have a special "incubator" container (a Kroger frozen whipped cream container) and a cottage cheese container (the nursery) for the newly hatched babies, who will eat the other eggs if not removed. Then there is the preschool for those big enough to be more easily seen--a small plastic terrarium. I now have two large glass tanks for the larger ones; there's one for the K-5 ones (those that are a couple inches long and are unable to squeeze through the fine mesh), and a second for the Jr. High/High School ones that are getting ready to make their chrysalises. This is much more like the numbers we're supposed to have--not like last year when I had maybe 30, tops.

Tomorrow is the ultrasound; wish me luck!

Jul 23, 2017, 10:19pm Top

>>33 CassieBash: I do (wish you luck). I believe we all do. :-}

Jul 25, 2017, 9:20pm Top

>33 CassieBash: how did it go?

Jul 26, 2017, 9:58am Top

>35 fuzzi: I won't know the results until next Tuesday. They did the scan though they were a little surprised I think to see me, since I'd had an ultrasound in November and then a surgery in January. They wanted to know if there was something specific the doctor had told me they were looking for; I said I didn't think so--at least, they hadn't told me they were. I said I think they were just doing it as a precaution. And, of course, when you go to these procedures and they're doing the scans, you're thinking, "Did they spend a little more time in this area than any other? Did they find something?" But of course the techs can't tell you anything. So I figure that as long as the doctor's office doesn't call and bump my appointment up, I'm probably OK. In the medical world, my experience with tests has been "No news is good news."

So I did a full count of the current Team Swallowtail and Team Monarch members, and the breakdown is as follows:


15 in chrysalis
7 as caterpillars
22 total

Team Monarch:

17 eggs (the incubator)
29 tiny caterpillars (the nursery)
41 small caterpillars (the preschool)
81 medium caterpillars (the elementary)
18 large caterpillars (the jr. high/high school)
22 in chrysalis or J form
208 total

As you can see, this is a number that might give the Admirals a run for their money, particularly if they have a very high survival rate. I have yet to total the number of emergences in the Admirals this year, as I have several chrysalises from the spring that must be dead by now. (I need to clean out that tank, especially if Team Monarch or Team Swallowtail continues to grow.) I also need to go back and factor in Round 1 of Team Monarch from earlier this year, in June, for the grand total so far.

Next year, I don't think I'll track numbers so much; it's a bit overwhelming. But next year I want to document for you another insect, one that I haven't raised in several years but used to when I was a kid, side by side with the caterpillars--grasshoppers. While most gardeners grumble about them, they really do very little damage compared to other garden pests--unless they go through the life stage known as the "locust". While some species we have can become locusts (there's even one called the Carolina locust, but we've never seen them actually in locust form). Indiana (at least northwest Indiana) doesn't seem to get swarms of grasshoppers. But they are fascinating, and they undergo what's known as incomplete metamorphosis, since the babies do look slightly different from the adults (usually, in incomplete metamorphosis, the growth of wings distinguishes the stages). I thought I would raise a few different species and do a photo analysis of their growth, showing the development of the wings. Should be a fascinating thing.

Jul 27, 2017, 2:11pm Top

Tiger swallowtail emergence yesterday!

And about 10 more members of Team Monarch gathered: 7 eggs and 3 or 4 caterpillars.

Jul 28, 2017, 4:25pm Top

Yesterday the second tiger swallowtail and a spicebush swallowtail emerged. There were a few monarch deaths, maybe 4 or 5.

Jul 30, 2017, 9:28am Top

>37 CassieBash: oh, gorgeous!

Sorry to hear of the losses.

Yesterday we stopped at our local farmer's market while doing some errands. A gentleman who has herbs and flowers for sale had some celery plants that each sported a swallowtail caterpillar! I wanted to get them, but as we would have had to leave them in a (hot) car for a couple hours, it just wasn't feasible. The seller said he'd bring caterpillar-populated plants with him again next Saturday...smart businessman.

Jul 30, 2017, 9:29pm Top

>39 fuzzi: Well, the finds are outnumbering the deaths still; this happened with the admirals earlier and looking back at their numbers, they did quite a respectable showing. Most of the deaths seem to be parasites, rather than disease, so I don't think that it's catching. I've read about parasites that can lay their eggs in eggs so that their larvae develop in the caterpillars right from the beginning.

I like the way that man does business! What kind of swallowtails were they?

Today I had a female monarch emerge. I'll have to try getting around to posting the pictures of the 5 hornworms munching on Jimsonweed. I haven't yet had them for a week and they're growing in leaps and bounds. Jimsonweed must be highly nutritious.

Jul 31, 2017, 9:17pm Top

>40 CassieBash: the common black swallowtail, I think.

Aug 2, 2017, 4:43pm Top

>41 fuzzi: Cool! Celery doesn't do well for us, so we've not raised it in years, and thus cannot tell you what may (or may not) eat it.

FEMALE HEALTH UPDATE--for those interested just in the outcome and don't want to read all the details, things are OK

I didn't even get to see the gynecologist himself, so that already should tell you it's good news! One of the nurses told me that my ultrasound showed nothing she would find unusual, so the period was just a normal flushing after all. She said I may get some spotting for a few more months during my normal time to have a period as my body will still try to purge monthly, but said it won't be anything like that last one, which was likely a buildup of tissue from before the surgery (I was supposed to start the day after the surgery). There was a fibroid but it was tiny (7 mm) and she said she was surprised the ultrasound tech caught it and bothered to try measuring it; it'll probably break down and come out, and she said I may not even notice when it happens. The only potential issue--and I have to get another ultrasound/pelvic scan at the end of October--is a small bulge on the left side where the tube had been. She said such things are common after this surgery and it's likely a natural thing, but they want to make sure it stays the same size in that 3 month time. She looked at the incision sites and said they looked good, and she felt my belly to see if she could find anything of concern, but said everything feels fine. I told her that the only discomfort I feel is when I've been working hard and doing things that stretch the muscles in the belly, and she said that's normal, too. I told her I've been rubbing the area, especially at the big incision where they really took out a lot of the extra endometrial tissue, to keep the adhesions (subcutaneous scar tissue) stretched so they don't tighten and get hard, and she said that was a good idea, too. She said chocolate once a week shouldn't be a concern (as long as I don't binge heavily) and that my soy limit must be working OK for me, as my uterine lining looked like she would expect it to after the surgery.

Aug 2, 2017, 8:48pm Top

Great report, thank you!

Aug 2, 2017, 10:00pm Top

>42 CassieBash: This is good news, and I'm so very happy to hear it! Live long, and may your life be filled with Monarchs (in all their stages).

Aug 3, 2017, 4:23pm Top

>43 fuzzi: & >44 Lyndatrue: Thanks, all. This year does seem to be filled with monarchs. I probably have an adult to release tonight; I was seeing at least one transparent chrysalis yesterday. I've been finding more members of Team Monarch and with no deaths for the past couple of days, acquisition of new team members has definitely exceeded losses. I've had to use two more smaller tanks (5 gallon?) because the number of chrysalises on the lids are reaching such large numbers that I had one poor fellow make a chrysalis on one of the leaves. It also spreads out the eating so while I still gather enough food to feed everyone and then some, it spreads out the eating so that I know no one tank will strip everything in 24 hours. My biggest news now is Team Swallowtail's 5 new members--black swallowtails found on Queen Anne's lace!

I'm amassing photos of various things; we've been very busy at work and thus the short and photo-deficient posts. There's an orientation tomorrow so depending on the numbers and how the students' paces and when they decide to come for an ID, I may or may not have a break long enough to post pictures. We'll see. I do want to show you all the pictures of the bookshelves my staff and I are repainting, from what I've been calling "60s Orange" to "Deep Space Blue". It makes quite a difference! To see the orange shelves, check out our banner picture on our library's home page. All I can say is "ugh"!

Aug 3, 2017, 9:47pm Top

>45 CassieBash: must have been an institutional color a few years back. I've got a bookcase at work (state university) that's the same color. I don't care for white, as it shows dirt...I like any color that hides dust...

Aug 4, 2017, 4:29pm Top

>46 fuzzi:: Crazy busy day! Yesterday had a monarch emerge, all healthy and happy. More should be out today or tomorrow. Tomorrow is the Humane Society's local fundraiser, "Dash and Splash", where dogs and their owners can enjoy Lake Maxinkuckee's (in Culver, Indiana) beach and hiking trails. Poop bags and leashes are required, of course.

Just a couple of pictures to spice up the page, then I must dash.

An inchworm that's been eating the milkweed; he's making a cocoon right now. In the second picture, I'd touched him so he would move out of his stick impersonation.

Guessing game! Do you know what these are? (They're dying back a little, but here's a hint: There's a fungus among us!)

Edited: Aug 5, 2017, 6:18am Top

>47 CassieBash: some sort of mushroom. I see them growing on the mulched beds at work.

Have fun!

Aug 6, 2017, 9:43pm Top

>48 fuzzi: They're stinkhorns, and they live up to their name! We sometimes mistake them for skunks when they're fresh; these were dying back and lacked the distinctive odor.

This weekend saw many emergences: 7 monarch ladies, 9 monarch gents, and two spicebush swallowtails.

Not many larvae are dying; I had a couple of monarchs succumb to parasites. However, I did an extensive hunt Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in different locations and brought back dozens of eggs and caterpillars of varying sizes. Once more, Team Monarch's numbers need to be re-tallied, but it's keeping me busy just making sure they all have food. It's like Team Admiral all over again, except that the Monarchs aren't as quick to try to get away.

Aug 7, 2017, 4:47pm Top

A very quick update; just wanted to get back to The Critter of the Week. This week's critter is a friend to gardeners everywhere: the robber fly!

The robber fly is carnivorous and like the praying mantis, it actively hunts. However, while it starts with a similar, wait-and-see tactic, once it finds its prey, it chases it down, rather than stalking it. This is probably because robber flies prefer to hunt flying insects such as bees, wasps, grasshoppers, and other flies. Once a flying insect catches the eye (or eyes, rather--in addition to their two large compound eyes, they have three smaller simple eyes, too) of a robber fly, the chase begins! It's a strong and agile flier but it does have a territory that it will use as "home base". You may see it resting on a favorite plant or a hoop frame, or anything in your garden that gives it a vantage point. Robber flies have been known to catch their prey and then return to the vantage point to feed, and that's when you might notice the pile of "bodies" right underneath its perch!

They are a family within the true flies, and there are thousands of varieties, but I've only ever seen two. They have a unique shape, with the hunched-like back, the extremely thick and hairy legs, and what I must assume is their straw-like mouth--a needle-like point coming out from about where a mouth should be. I've been bitten by one once; in fairness, I didn't know it was there and it bit me in self defense (in its mind, no doubt). They don't tend to be aggressive if you leave them alone, but they can stab you with that mouth piece, and it does hurt. But overall, they are curious and the one pictured on the fence rail in these three pictures had been fished out of the horse tank, where it had likely targeted an insect, dove for it, and couldn't get out of the water when it got its wings wet. It dried itself off, preening and cleaning in that way that insects do, and then flew off.

So as long as you leave these guys alone, they'll gladly help control the flying insects that can be such a pain when you're gardening: deer flies, house flies, sweat bees, wasps, hornets, etc. Of course, like praying mantises, they don't understand the difference between good insects and bad insects which, in all fairness, is a human bias, as in nature there is no good or evil--there simply is.

Aug 7, 2017, 10:46pm Top

Thanks for the insect of the week, and all that information. I like reading about different species of animals, insects, etc.

Aug 8, 2017, 1:14pm Top

6 monarch butterflies yesterday: 4 males and 2 females. Found a few monarch caterpillars and eggs, too. This weekend, I'll try to do a head count again.

Aug 9, 2017, 1:21pm Top

Monarchs: 3 males, 1 female.

Aug 9, 2017, 10:04pm Top

Lady monarchs won the daily count today, 4 to 1.

Team Swallowtail is up to 6 black swallowtails now; just found another tiny caterpillar today.

Aug 10, 2017, 8:09am Top

I looked at the leaf undersides in my milkweed patch, but didn't see any tiny caterpillars yet.

Aug 10, 2017, 8:24am Top

>55 fuzzi: I'm rooting for you (and the monarchs)! Any sign of eggs?

Aug 10, 2017, 9:40am Top

>56 CassieBash: no, but I did not go through the entire patch, it's a jumble/jungle.

Aug 11, 2017, 8:18am Top

>57 fuzzi: Yeah, that sounds like milkweed! :)

3 female monarchs, 1 male. Will take another head count of the caterpillars tomorrow or Sunday to see how Team Monarch is stacking up. They're slowly but steadily catching up to the Admirals, with the eggs that are hatching and the fact that I'm still finding eggs and caterpillars.

Aug 14, 2017, 4:43pm Top

I did a count, but unfortunately, my notebook is at home. I'm a bit preoccupied with my health (read below if you dare--still more female concerns), so I won't be posting regularly most likely, and I'm putting the Critter of the Week on a temporary hiatus. Prayers, as always, are appreciated.

So my newest medical concern:

The return of my period. I had high hopes after talking with the nurse last month about my ultrasound/pelvic exam, and she warned me about possible spotting. So Friday when I started spotting, I didn't think much about it. Then came Saturday, and I started having my usual 2nd day of the period flow. And then Sunday, and then today. So I've contacted my gynecologist and I've got an appointment tomorrow. (He said tomorrow or Friday, but I'd like to get going on fixing this, whatever "this" is.) So I'll keep you all posted as best I can, but I'm not sure how easy it is going to be to figure out and fix whatever is going on.

Aug 14, 2017, 5:01pm Top

>59 CassieBash: Sorry. :-{

Aug 14, 2017, 8:54pm Top

>59 CassieBash: I'll keep it in my prayers.

Here's something to make you smile: I came by your thread to tell you that I saw TWO MONARCH CATERPILLARS this afternoon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There might be more, but the mosquitoes were too numerous for me to spend a lot of time outside after work.

Check in when you can, friend. :)

Aug 15, 2017, 8:45pm Top

>60 Lyndatrue: & >61 fuzzi: and others who may be concerned but don't comment: thanks for your positive support and prayers. There's little to report right now until test results are in (tissue samples), which will take about a week. They are tentatively positive that it won't be cancer but at this point all involved are scratching their heads in confusion. See more below.

And congrats, fuzzi! I'm very excited for you, and this leads right in to my butterfly emergence count for today:

1 spicebush swallowtail
3 male monarchs
12 female monarchs
1 unknown gender monarch (it flew before I got to see it well enough to gender it)

Female medical stuff now; feel free to skip if you want:

So because I'm having (and have had for some time) hot flashes, the doctor doesn't think he's missed a piece of ovary. The nurse said she's known some women who have had some spotting for a few months after that final purge, but never another full period (though this one was shorter than the last one, which lasted 6 days, while this one was just ending today--day 5). They took a Pap smear and a uterine biopsy sample, both of which hurt a lot (I've got a sensitive cervix and have nerve endings where I shouldn't have them, apparently). So we play the waiting game for a week while things are analyzed. The NP said if they don't find anything abnormal or malignant, then we'll discuss options. Apparently there's an oral drug that I might be able to take that works on the uterine wall and prevents it from growing back every month, and there's ablation of the uterus as a possible option, too. There may be others, of course, that the NP didn't mention but I'm not going to worry about anything until the results are in. I'd just like to get past the next two weeks right now--next week is the first of fall semester so my body's timing for acting up is about as inconvenient as possible (like there's ever a good time, right?).

Aug 15, 2017, 8:47pm Top

Don't worry, it doesn't change a thing, and it makes you miserable.

Go enjoy your critters. :)

Aug 15, 2017, 9:16pm Top

>63 fuzzi: True. I've been cuddling Peppa on and off all day.

Aug 16, 2017, 6:57am Top

Cats can be great for that.

Aug 17, 2017, 8:03am Top

Yesterday saw 11 male monarchs and 9 female monarchs emerge. This morning I released an additional 13 males and 8 females. Since we're supposed to get rain and potential severe storms, I thought I'd give those who had already emerged a head start. I have other monarch chrysalises that are transparent--clear indications that they'll emerge soon--but they'll have to wait until after I get home from work.

Aug 17, 2017, 8:37pm Top

>66 CassieBash: how's the competition coming along? Monarchs winning?

Aug 18, 2017, 3:15pm Top

Not sure anymore, but it's definitely going to either be the monarchs or the admirals. I keep finding monarch eggs and cats, so every time I do a count, it's behind again. It was the same with the admirals.

I did clean out the old chrysalis tank, removing the last of the unhatched admirals--those that made their chrysalises but for some reason (disease, parasites, humidity issues--your guess is as good as mine) didn't emerge. There weren't many that didn't make it, but so far, the same can be said for the monarchs. I've had a few parasite deaths and some predator ones, but they've been few and far between. As yesterday's numbers of emergences shows: you can add another 10 to the total count, bringing yesterday's total up to a whopping 31.

The poor swallowtail team has had few showings; I'm not sure I'll have many chrysalises wintering over this year, which may be just as well. One of the six black swallowtails is working on making its chrysalis, and the other 5 are doing well, but I only have maybe half a dozen of the spicebush swallowtails. I've been looking for them when gathering food for both the swallowtails and the monarchs (I'm harvesting milkweed from the horse pasture now, having run through the expendable supplies in the gardens), and every time I use some around the sassafras saplings, I take a look. Perhaps our extended dry spell has impacted their eggs, because the adults, while not exactly plentiful, have been around.

I do have either a hackberry emperor or a tawny emperor (I can never tell them apart) that's made its chrysalis. I had found it a couple of weeks back (I think I forgot to report this), lying on its side under the hackberry tree. I didn't give it much hope for survival but it's done well--it must have been stunned.

Garden news: we've been eating plums from the tree, and the morning glories are...well, glorious. Oddly, the mix of colors I had last year has diminished. Maybe. Or maybe the mix has just changed, I'm not sure. I don't have any of the blues--though they're thriving in another part of the yard--and only one of the whites. All the others are the dark pink and dark purple, with one possible exception. I can't tell if it's sun fade of older blooms, or if I have a light purple color now. Pictures are below:

Some of the plums; they aren't the dark purple ones you see in the grocery store, nor are they as big, but they're really good!

Here's most of the mix; note the lighter purple blooms in front, and the darker purple and pink:

This is the darker purple (with a friendly pink):

This is the lighter purple; see what I mean when I say I can't tell if it's just fade or a whole new color?

A double-header:

A solitary white; you can barely see the purple streaks that were so prominent last year. Fade, or a color change?

And just for the heck of it, here's a volunteer black-oil sunflower--the seed came from the nearby bird feeder project, probably accidentally mixed in with the black dirt I moved from under the feeders to my garden area--growing on the edge of my garden. Technically, it's outside the fence, but early on I decided it was under my protection, and it got the same spicy treatment against deer and other pests that my official plants did. It now is taller than I am and is loaded with buds and blooms. These are the top blooms. They grow up so fast!

Enjoy! I'll try to re-count the monarchs this weekend and give you a better idea of the "winner" of the contest. Depending on what happens with my test results, though, I may call the contest off, as I may need to release all team members. It takes over an hour some days for me to clean, feed, and release these guys, so if I require any sort of treatment that's going to mean I can't care for them, I will probably release them into the wild, rather than ask my sisters, who already spend over an hour on other chores, to add to their work load. (They'll release butterflies for me, though, so those in chrysalises will be OK--no worries there!)

Aug 18, 2017, 9:55pm Top

Love the photos!

When we lived in SC, the fields next to our home were full of wild morning glories. I noticed that they seemed to change colors from morning to evening, white, pink, purple. I've never researched it, but thought it was interesting.

Aug 20, 2017, 6:06pm Top

>69 fuzzi: Morning glories crossbreed like crazy, I've read, so I'm not sure who's been mixed with whom, and therefore have no idea how true each of the plants are to what I had last year.

Monarch emergence count for this weekend:
Friday: 14 males, 9 females
Saturday: 8 males, 5 females
Sunday: 5 males, 3 females

There was also one parasitic wasp on Friday from a swallowtail chrysalis.

Now onto the bad news regarding the caterpillars:

Friday I noticed that a couple of the swallowtails and a few of the Monarchs were stretched out on their sides, clearly not doing well. In the swallowtail tank, I found a small crab spider and thought that predators had gotten in--it's happened before. Yesterday, however, more were down--a lot more--and there is no sign of predators so now I'm thinking disease. I'm no longer actively collecting either monarchs or swallowtails until I see what happens with the rest. I've removed the obviously sick ones and cleaned the cages but until I know that there are no more carriers I don't want to bring in new ones. I suspect transmission by touch but can't rule out other modes, either. The good news seems to be that it doesn't seem to infect chrysalises or adults. Since Team Swallowtail had such a poor showing this year, I'll announce the winner of this year's caterpillar competition based on successful emergences, so as long as Team Monarch continues to have viable chrysalises, I won't declare an official winner. In the meantime, I'll go back through my notes and see how many successful (healthy and capable of flight) admirals I had.

One very interesting thing I saw today was a parasitic wasp in action. Some species sting and paralyze the victims before laying eggs, often making an underground cache of food for their larvae. The prey may be caterpillars, beetles, or in this case, spiders. One big spider, probably almost twice as heavy as the wasp, was lying on its back, legs tucked in the typical dead spider way, with a wasp hanging around it. When I noticed it, the wasp was grooming itself calmly, like a cat after a kill, and then it walked all around and upon the spider. Then--I kid you not--the wasp seized a spider leg and quickly dragged the spider off the cement garage apron where I'd first seen them to the sandy dirt under the snowball bushes planted to the side of the garage. And she moved quickly, too, even with the weight of the spider. It was probably the coolest thing I've seen this week.

Edited: Aug 20, 2017, 8:09pm Top

So sorry to hear about the caterpillars. I know you must be sad about it.

On a bright note, I have been looking daily for Monarch caterpillars, not seeing any, and wondering if somehow something ate them despite their taste...and then yesterday I saw several, not tiny, but BIG. Either there were eggs laid before I saw a Monarch, or some of them are growing fast. I have pictures, just not yet uploaded.

Edited: Aug 21, 2017, 4:30pm Top

>71 fuzzi: Yes, it's disheartening, but on the other hand, the population of the monarchs is up a lot from last year, and I'm glad that you're finding them, too. I still find big ones and I always think, "how did I miss you two days ago?". They do grow fast--but it's also possible a momma monarch slipped by you, too. :)

Critter of the Week:

I've yet to do a bird, so I've chosen one of my favorites. I see them periodically throughout the spring--fall, though not much this year. I hope nothing bad has happened to our population. They do love to sit on electric lines out our way, though like most birds, they seem to have mastered perching on lines and poles without getting electrocuted. I think one of the things I really love about this bird of prey is the coloration and markings, which remind me of an Egyptian hawk, the kind that Ra and Horus seem patterned after. I think it's the markings around the eyes. Yes, some of you may have guessed that I'm talking about the American Kestrel, otherwise known as the American Sparrow Hawk, since they tend to hunt small birds, though they also eat mice, lizards, and insects. Small but mighty is their motto.

Since I have yet to get my own photo of this bird, I'm using the Creative Commons picture available in Wikipedia; this photo is by Greg Hume.

Studies suggest that mating bonds are strong and often permanent with this bird, and mated pairs will return to the same area as before to nest, reusing territory from year to year. (This is probably why I see them on the same poles and lines year after year--and may explain why I haven't seen one recently, if my old pair has died.) The males help raise the young and they will nest in boxes if they find them suitable enough, the female laying up to seven eggs (four or five is average). Juvenile birds look very much like the adults when fledged. Like Peregrine falcons, the American kestrel has a wide distribution range throughout the Americas.

I've yet to count the monarchs; I'll report on them either later tonight or tomorrow.

Aug 21, 2017, 9:35pm Top

More disease, though I still have some caterpillars, and hopefully some at least survive. I had 7 male and 5 female monarchs emerge today.

Aug 22, 2017, 12:31pm Top

Kestrels are gorgeous. One flew into the window at work, a few years ago, and we put it in a box and hoped it was just stunned, but it was dead. It was so small, beautiful, and I mourned its loss.

Aug 23, 2017, 8:14am Top

>74 fuzzi: Poor thing.

9 female monarchs and 8 male ones emerged. The black, bristly leopard moth caterpillar that's been eating milkweed with the monarchs molted yesterday; I thought he'd died when I saw what looked like a flat caterpillar, then I picked it up and was even more horrified at first, since the skin was still damp. He must have just done it, because when I did find him, his bristles were soft and his head--usually a dark, shiny black, was gray and soft-looking. I'm cautiously optimistic that he is immune to the disease, as he's been exposed for some time (he's been living with the monarchs since the outbreak) and shows no sign of weakness or illness--in fact, if the shed skin is any indication, he seems to be thriving! I may try to feed him on leaf lettuce or other greens I can get at a grocery store a little later to see if he'd accept a food plant that I could feed him over the winter. If he does, I may try to keep him around in the barn or garage where it does stay warmer but keeps him out of the rain, snow, and other elements. If that doesn't work, there's always the basement, of course. His close cousins the woolly bears already use the barn naturally; we find them curled up in between hay bales or, on warmer days, crawling on the floor of the barn, so the barn should be OK.

At this point in time, it's likely that I'll have few pupae overwintering; I have yet to check on the five hornworms that went to ground some time ago, but with a no-show of swallowtails and no silkworms, the likelihood of having much more than the hornworms is slim.

Aug 24, 2017, 7:37am Top

Monarch emergence: 11 females and 4 males.

I'm cautiously optimistic about the tank with the largest monarchs in it; there were no deaths for the past 2 days in that tank. My bristly leopard moth friend looks good--though his bristles are stiff and sharp-ish again, so his new skin has toughened up. This weekend I plan on unearthing the hornworms to see if they successfully pupated; none showed parasites--unusual for so large a group found on one host plant--so again, cautiously optimistic.

Aug 25, 2017, 8:09am Top

One male monarch released; cooler temperatures both in the daytime and the overnight hours have slowed development. This is how the people who provide monarchs for wedding and other event releases time these things. But no more deaths again, so I'm not going to complain. I may start collecting eggs and small caterpillars this weekend; I plan on scrubbing and disinfecting tanks, since tomorrow is supposed to be a mild 75 degrees with sun.

Aug 26, 2017, 11:47am Top

Yesterday saw 4 ladies and 2 gents as far as monarchs go. Today started with 6 gents to 1 gal, with one so freshly emerged that I don't dare try to get a good enough look to gender--I'll come back to that one. And I have at least one more likely to emerge today--the chrysalis is as transparent as it can get.

My to do list on this mild, breezy, sunny day is to finish fencing my garden, controlling the Queen Anne's lace, working more on the bird feeder project, disinfecting caterpillar tanks, and giving the horses' water tank a good scrub before refilling it. Wow, that's a lot of work! I'd better get started!

Aug 26, 2017, 7:32pm Top

>78 CassieBash: I bet you sleep well tonight!

Aug 26, 2017, 10:01pm Top

>79 fuzzi: I hope so. While I didn't have exact goals for a few things on the list (x amount under bird feeder, x number of tanks cleaned), I did get a little of everything done. I did complete my garden goals of fencing and clearing out the Queen Anne's lace, and of course you either scrub the tank or you don't, but I didn't get every tank clean, nor is the bird feeder project completed. In fact, until the morning glories are done, I can't make much more headway on that project.

Tomorrow I will take it a bit more easy. I may clean another tank or two but I think most of the day will be crafting. I need to make more dog and cat toys for our local Humane Society craft bazaar, their big fall fundraiser. I think the dog toys tomorrow--I have done several catnip toys so it's time to get out the squeakers.

I saw a neat thing today and unlike the moment with the wasp and spider, it wasn't over so quickly that I couldn't get pictures of it. Remember when the June beetles were swarming? Today it was a swarm of wasps--blue winged wasps, to be exact (and next week's Critter--I'll have pictures!). My sisters and I were discussing what they were and I walked right out amongst them and finally found one sitting in a leaf. The others were flying in wavy paths. I commented that they were flying over the place where the beetles had been and hypothesized that they were parasitic and looking for the beetles' grubs. Sure enough, a quick Google search later and I not only learned their name, but also that they are indeed parasitic and their main prey are June and Japanese beetle larvae. Their wavy flight (either in S or 8 patterns) are typical of their mating flights.

I did have one more monarch emergence--a female.

Aug 27, 2017, 4:33pm Top

>80 CassieBash: how fascinating, re: the swarms!

We occasionally get dragonfly swarms here, and I try to video them.

Aug 27, 2017, 4:35pm Top

2 male monarchs emerged.

Due to lack of sun--a vital part of my disinfection process, since several viruses are sensitive to sunlight--I didn't clean any more tanks. The Monarchs seem to be winding down though I'm still finding more than a few eggs or cats.

Edited: Aug 29, 2017, 9:16am Top

First, my prayers to everyone, people and animals, effected by Harvey.

2 more male monarchs emerged. I did have a couple of other monarch caterpillar deaths--I've tried isolating suspected sick ones from those I believe to be healthy. I don't have many more left so we'll see how that goes.

I'm going to call the Admirals the winners, by a little less than 100 successful emergences. Right now my monarch emergences total 204, the admirals 303. By the time the last of my monarchs, provided they all survive and successfully become healthy adults, the gap will have closed by maybe 15-20, but not nearly enough to make up the difference. It would have been a lot closer without the disease, but it still might not have made enough of a difference. Red admirals are quite prolific during their good years--and this was a good year--and then factor in the number of generations they have (can you imagine the total numbers I'd have had if I'd collected gen 2?). However, over 200 successful emergences is quite a respectable number for Team Monarch--and certainly much better than last year's! Congratulations to both teams, and may I have good luck with them both next year.

I did promise a Critter of the Week picture; it's not the greatest, but if you want to learn a lot more about the blue winged wasp and see more pictures, you can go to this site that talks about how they were imported to help control Japanese beetles, Penn State's page about how generally docile they are--the author of the page has also walked within a swarm, or BugGuide's page of pictures. They definitely match what I saw:

On Sunday, I'd been hoping to get another shot at more, well...shots of the wasps, but they'd finished their swarm by then and I saw not even one.

Anyway, onto the gardening: I did get quite a bit of gardening done this weekend. After slathering on the sun block and foregoing the insect repellent (which it turned out I didn't need anyway--a nice cool day coupled with a nice cool breeze kept the little blighters from being a problem), I decided to tackle the Queen Anne's lace first, so that I could finish putting up the fence. The lace was just flattened by the weight of their own seed heads, and they were hanging in the way of where I needed to put the fence pieces, anyway. Here's what I had when I started:

While taking out these plants, I came across a few neat things, including signs that my own milkweed had hidden a monarch caterpillar. This was one of the emergences on Sunday. It had made a chrysalis on a lace plant stem and I didn't notice it until after I'd uprooted the plant. I cut the stem long enough so that I could hook each end of the stem through the mesh on a tank, so that the chrysalis continued to hang properly (straight up and down) for the easiest emergence. You can easily see, despite the blurriness of the picture, the butterfly's wings inside the chrysalis.

This is what I ended up composting:

And this is the end result:

I had some extra fencing pieces, so these went to help support some of my heavier, larger plants like the aster, the downy sunflowers, and the lead plant:

I love this fencing; I may have to go back to Lowe's and get more for next year. I find they're great for making "cages" around newly-planted areas to discourage the raccoons; if you put the pieces close enough together in tight squares or triangles, the raccoons don't seem to like trying to crawl over the pieces (which they do when it's just one piece in their way). But we haven't seen the raccoons very much recently, and we think we might know the reason why. We think there's too much new competition for under the bird feeders in the early evenings, anyway. In fact, these guys show up all over our yard, at any time of the day, so we never know when we'll practically run right into their company. Fortunately, they're good neighbors and hardly aggressive, and they're just so cool to have around. Yes, I'm talking turkey--a whole flock of 'em!

I'd just started working under the bird feeders, taking out the sunflowers that had started to sprout, and removing the old seed husks from the small area I leveled. By the time I got back from dumping just two buckets of compost, they had made themselves at home. I'm guessing I was gone no longer than 10 minutes. And as you can see, they're wary and cautious around me, but hardly terrified, so I got some good pictures and some video.

The next day, I went out to the horse pasture to get milkweed, and found one of their wing or tail feathers. I put my women's size 6 (American) beside it to give you an idea of scale. Turkeys are some pretty big birds, even the more slender wild ones like ours:

To finish, here's a full shot of the sunflower volunteer from >68 CassieBash:. It thrived under my protection and care; technically, it was outside my garden but it reaped the benefits of my watering and, because it wasn't in my way, I went ahead and sprinkled it with seasonings to protect it from deer. We've never had a volunteer sunflower that got this big or had this many bloom heads. The birds are going to go nuts when they go to seed. I may need to let one out-of-the-way volunteer flourish every year. It certainly attracted small butterflies, moths, bees, and other pollinators.

Aug 29, 2017, 11:44am Top

>83 CassieBash: You always leave me open-mouthed with amazement. The Monarch still in the chrysalis, with visible wings, is amazing. Turkeys! I have no idea why they fill me with such joy, but they do. Perhaps it's because the domesticated ones are so pointless (and dumb), and the wild ones are so interesting. Sitting on your fence in a row, gazing out at their domain, watching the horse graze in the field; it's a memorable shot.

Aug 29, 2017, 12:31pm Top

>84 Lyndatrue: Yes, Pewter and Star are quite used to the turkeys, who sometimes perch in the trees growing along the fence row. (After all, wild turkeys, unburdened by the unusually large breasts that domestic turkeys are bred for, can fly fairly well.) I must admit, they have been surprisingly popular with my regular readers (I believe fuzzi also loves them, and there are probably more) and so I try to get some good pictures of them when I can. They happened to be cooperative that Saturday; while not really terrified or truly frightened of us, whenever we are in close proximity, they shuffle off slowly and with at least one of them keeping an eye on us. The flock consists of two mothers and the rest of the brood--I believe at last count there was a total of 16 or 17 in the entire flock--are literally their brood. They had a good year and managed to keep most of their babies alive. Considering how many times we see them cross the road, it's rather a miracle, and we always lose a few to motor vehicles. Add to that foxes, hawks, cats, dogs, and other wild and domestic carnivores in our area, and it's an impressive success rate. Eventually, the babies seem to disperse to find their own territories; at least, we think the pair of females that we've seen every year, jointly raising their offspring, are the same ones.

I think part of their popularity is, in part, how calm our flock is and how well we can photograph or film them; the other part I believe is that there are many parts of the country where wild turkeys are still a rarity. Indiana worked hard to re-establish them (and river otters, also doing well)--albeit mostly for hunters, I suspect--and we're reaping the benefits by getting to see them up close and personal.

Edited: Aug 30, 2017, 7:14pm Top

4 monarchs took flight yesterday; an even split between boys and girls. Today's count favored the girls: 6 to 3. But in all fairness, the count may be more like 5 to 3, as one of the females was undersized and probably not going to make it to Mexico. This actually may be a good thing, as one of the possible diseases that may have been the culprit in my die-off is OE, which is commonly spread when the adults lay eggs. If she's infected, she won't be spreading the disease to her offspring if she can't get to Mexico. Our monarchs are no longer likely to lay eggs and are bulking up for their famous journey.

A turkey story or two to make you smile: apparently, the sandy, sparsely-turfed areas in our orchards, where the dense shade of the apple trees keeps grass and weeds from growing. The turkeys have decided this is a great place to have dust baths, and there are turkey-sized pits all over back there. I'll have to get pictures. Also, our collie mix has decided that gently guiding turkeys (in a calm, move it along manner) to more acceptable parts of our yard is one of her duties. She's never tried hurting them but this is at least the second time she's done this that mom knows of. Later, the birds must have been in an area she felt was appropriate for them, since mom said she was watching them intently but wasn't trying to herd them. I so want video of Serenity herding turkeys!

Sep 1, 2017, 3:48pm Top

1 female monarch yesterday.

Everyone have a safe holiday!

Sep 4, 2017, 9:54pm Top

Quick monarch update:

Friday: 3 females, 2 males
Saturday: 2 females, 1 male
Sunday: none
Today: 1 male

Health update:

Both the Pap and uterine biopsy came back normal. Now I'm not the only one who's confused! I'm not saying that they were expecting anything malignant or cancerous necessarily, but I do think, judging by the sound of the NP as we talked, that they had expected to find something unusual. I'm to monitor the situation and if I do anything more than some spotting, I'm to call. The NP thinks either I had an extra thick lining that didn't all slough off the first time, or that perhaps I've still got some residual hormones--she said it's not like a faucet that you can just shut off, things take awhile to settle. So I'm hoping it was just a fluke. I have had just the tiniest spotting this afternoon and so far no more since my bath, so here's hoping that's it for the month. At least we know nothing bad is going on in there.

Sep 8, 2017, 8:59am Top

1 male monarch, the first emergence in days. I may bring my monarchs inside, with the cool temps we've been having. It's slowing down their development, and I'm torn between seeing them grow quickly so that they still have nectar sources for their trip south, and letting them develop as this year's natural cycle dictates, and having them take their chances as any other wild monarch would have to.

We had a turkey killed in the road yesterday; this is at least the third this season. It was a good-sized bird; it might have been one of the old hens, but then again, the children are pretty much grown, so it's hard to say.

Health update:

I do need to contact my doctor and report another full period. Other than maybe testing my hormone levels, I'm not sure what other tests they may want to run. I will say that these are still an improvement over my old periods, where I used to have a full week with 3-4 days of moderate-heavy flow, and with such bad cramping that I would get nauseous and vomit if I didn't take ibuprofen. This one, my heavy flow seemed to last about 24 hours; I'm down to a light-moderate flow now and will probably be only spotting by tomorrow, if not later today. Cramping has been present but minimal. Maybe my body is trying to go through the perimenopause it never had the chance to have due to the surgery? I'll call later and see what they say.

Sep 8, 2017, 4:05pm Top

Prayers to all who have been, are, or will be in the path of Irma. Prayers also to those effected by the earthquake in Mexico.

Health update:

Going to go with the original plan of having an ultrasound on Halloween and a follow-up visit with the gynecologist office to discuss results and options. He did offer to let me bump my ultrasound up though he wasn't too concerned about it; since the first one showed nothing amiss, and with the clear Pap and uterine biopsy, I'm not sure the results will be any different. If they're not pushing me to take the test, I figure their concern is low. It's annoying and inconvenient to have a period again but it's not the end of the world and I can certainly live with a little inconvenience for a bit. I'm just feeling lucky that all the tests were normal--not feeling like I should complain when so many others have it far worse.

Sep 10, 2017, 3:58pm Top

1 male monarch on Friday, 1 female on Saturday.

Sep 11, 2017, 8:59am Top

Critter of the Week:

I have a hard time taking pictures of this critter, because they're nocturnal and the flash just reflects off their round bodies and webs (yes, it's a spider) and makes it all look silver. They're very noticeable this time of year, since they're getting large enough to see (and their webs are getting larger, too), and they love to make their webs attached to man-made structures. It's quite common to see them in our barn, on our garden shed, and this year, there was even a big, beautiful gal that liked to spin her web from our blue spruce to the end of our porch, across a distance of about 3-4 feet. I'm talking about the Cross Orb Weaver, so named because of the white spots that form a vague cross shape across its abdomen.

Introduced, whether on purpose or accidentally, its original home was the gardens and no doubt houses of Europe (another name for it is the European garden spider), but it has spread out across much of the U.S. and Canada. Quiet and more likely to hide than bite, it rarely bites unless cornered and provoked. However, if bitten, a reaction can be light and include pain and swelling at the site for a couple of days, or can be as bad as nausea, muscle cramps, and headaches and can last for 3 weeks. (In other words, please don't risk a bite.) In fact, these gentle creatures are more than content to sit in their webs and let you watch them if you're careful about staying your distance and not shining bright lights on them. (Red lights work well, in most instances, for observing nocturnal creatures.) Like all orb weaver spiders (there are a lot of them; it's the third largest family of spiders), their webs are patterned on circles (orbs) or spirals, though all start the frame on a "Y" shape. Like many arthropods, the females are bigger than the males, with some assuming that the size difference may be because larger females = more eggs (and thus more offspring); some speculate that at least in the case of spiders (and possibly other species with similar habits, like praying mantises), the male's chances of escape are greater if he's smaller and (presumably) faster and more agile--though this doesn't account for the size difference in other, non-cannibal species, like green frogs. The lady spiders can lay anywhere from 300-900 eggs (that's a lot of babies) in a silken cocoon-like sac that acts as an egg case. These are usually strung up in small nooks and crannies, and can be under a loose piece of bark or in an eave or other crevice or cranny of a building.

The webs are natural works of art and look exceptionally beautiful with heavy dew or a frost coating the surface.

Sep 11, 2017, 6:49pm Top

What an exciting read: turkeys, Monarchs, spiders, sunflowers!

I have read that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the symbol of the new country, the united states of America, but lost to the choice of the Bald eagle.

What were the turkeys after, the rotting seeds?

Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers for your health issues, which sound like NO fun. My sympathies

Sep 12, 2017, 12:19pm Top

>93 fuzzi: Yes, I've heard Franklin thought that the turkey, as a truly native bird and one not used by another country, should have been the symbol. Since the feeders lose fresh seeds daily, they were probably after fresh seeds, or perhaps insects I uncovered in my digging. I've read that turkeys like freshly-harvested fields because it takes away much of the cover that the insects had and leaves them easy pickings.

Had a male and a female monarch emerge. The male's wings were crippled; sadly, it won't be making it out of our yard, much less to Mexico. The female was off and away as soon as I released her. I still have about 20 or so caterpillars and about a dozen chrysalises. Our temps are rising so hopefully this will mean faster development again. Our lows are supposed to be in the 50s and 60s, highs in the 70s and 80s for the next several days. Thanks to Irma, we may actually see the first rain in over a week tomorrow. We could certainly use it. Unfortunately, they're talking about less than a quarter of an inch, but I guess we'll take what we can get.

Health issues are what they are. Being a woman, I've had to deal with this most of my life so my continued once a month visits, while odd now, don't seem to be serious as far as threatening my life goes. So while it means extra hassle from what I'd been expecting back in January, it's no worse (and really quite a bit better) than it was before the surgery. At least I'm not having continual spotting (which I think was caused by the endometriosis, in retrospect) and the periods themselves are a lot more bearable, being overall lighter. I suspect ablation may be in my future, but if I can put it off until after this semester ends, I'll be happy. Since they haven't found anything truly concerning, I think they'll be pretty flexible regarding this problem. And hey, if we have a rough winter this December, I'll have an excuse to take some extra time off around the holidays, won't I? :)

Sep 13, 2017, 10:46am Top

Another pair of monarchs, both healthy, one of each gender.

This time as I was pulling up to our drive, I saw another vehicle stop to let the turkeys cross. It's good to see that there are some drivers who still brake for animals out our way.

Our praying mantis population in the spirea bushes along the south side of the house is healthy. There are at least two females (and another female around the corner in the rose of Sharon on the west side) and at least two or three males. I've been watching the guys watching the girls and can almost picture them calculating their chances of escape after mating....

The heron is back; I've not seen him yet myself, but my mom and older sister have. We think he may have solved the bullfrog issue that resurfaced a couple of weeks back--but he may also have eaten the green frogs, too. The goldfish are scared to come to the surface to eat now. He seems to be ignoring the decoy, too, and he's not exactly too stressed about us, as my sister said he just flew into a nearby tree when she scared him. Our only secret weapon is Serenity the collie, who doesn't care much for him, at least when he's in the air. Her herding instincts kick in with the turkeys, and she just guides them into areas of the yard that she sees as "acceptable" places for them to be. Not sure what she'll think of the heron, or what he'll think of her.

Sep 14, 2017, 7:55am Top

One more female monarch. Unfortunately, it was a cool and rainy day, so I had to put her in a sheltered spot and hope she didn't try to fly before Irma's remnants cleared out. This morning we have a heavy fog, but it's supposed to clear out and give us a sunny, mid-70 degree day.

For those in the Indianapolis area, I'll be doing some costumed storytelling at the Indy Irish Fest on Saturday. I'll be children's entertainment, so look for my sisters and me wherever the kids are!

Fishers Renaissance Faire is October 7 & 8 this year; again, more storytelling!

Edited: Sep 14, 2017, 9:22pm Top

>95 CassieBash: oh no, not the Green frogs! ::crying::

I saw a Southern Leopard frog in the pond this afternoon, and the Green frog earlier, so there's at least two frogs the Black Racer snake hasn't eaten. Good news is also that there are LOTS of pollywogs in the pond.

Sorry I won't be able to check out the fair. We'll be heading north again the week after.

Sep 15, 2017, 9:13am Top

>97 fuzzi: Yes, and I finally saw the heron, standing last night bold as brass on the skimmer. I tried to get a picture but between his flight and my trying to trail him, all I got was a bluish blur in a vague large bird outline. Mom has been having to sit at the pond to feed the fish; otherwise, they stay at the bottom. Fortunately, the green frog population at the little pond by the barn (remember that one from the 70s that we've been meaning to redo? yeah, haven't done it but it's full of water and thus frogs). So, hopefully, if the heron doesn't stick around through the winter, we will get a few migrants from the other pond. We think that's what happened originally, though of course we can't be sure. Unlike the fish, the frogs moved in on their own accord.

Another female monarch emerged. I also found 3 more monarch caterpillars on milkweed that had escaped, at least in part, the mower. (We had the horse pasture mowed to control the saplings.) Many of the remaining ones are making their J stage or have made it into chrysalises.

Sep 18, 2017, 2:46pm Top

Well, I had another female monarch Friday night, but nothing for the past couple of days, as far as butterfly or moth emergence goes. I did, however, get some really good pictures of some animals, so over the next few weeks, I'll be posting pics and Critters of the Week based on these. Let's start with our beautiful pain in the rear, the Great Blue Heron, as this week's critter.

Now normally, I love these guys and find them beautiful, graceful birds, but this one has, true to his species' nature, developed a taste for fish and frogs. Our fish and frogs! I've been seeing him on a regular basis now in the early mornings, just around sunrise, on the weekends (I leave to get to work while it's still dark) and a bit before sunset in the evenings. The above pic was from yesterday morning, about 8 AM. He flew shortly after I took the picture; I had the window up a bit for a breath of cool air, and between my movement at the window and my cat's meows as she sought attention from me (I don't think she noticed him, even though she was perched on the bed's headboard, even with the windowsill), I think he was a bit nervous. He certainly was when I tried to go outside to get a picture of him the first time:

While we think of them as eating fish and frogs, the great blue heron will eat anything it can catch and get down its narrow throat, including snakes, small mammals, and insects. Small prey is grabbed, larger prey stabbed, dagger-style, with the beak. Herons will often shake a large fish they impale to break up bones and spines for easier ingestion and digestion.

If our heron is male, he may have gathered sticks as nesting material for his mate. If its female, she might have received nesting material and woven it together to form the nest's frame, and then gathered and lined the nest with moss, grasses, and other natural fibers. They aren't so picky about where they nest, and while it's usually up in trees, nests can be found on the ground or on man-made structures. Nests may be reused from season to season and can get quite big as each year may see an expansion. Herons often nest in colonies as well, so it's also possible for one tree to host many nests.

Despite the colony nesting behavior, herons hunt alone and will defend prime hunting territory from other herons, thus making it possible (theoretically) to protect your fish and frog pond from real herons with a decoy, if you move it around frequently. Our heron seems to have seen through that, though, and will stand fairly close to our decoy and completely ignore it. We either have a very smart heron, or we have one who doesn't seem to mind sharing his territory.

In flight, it's easy to tell a heron from any other wading bird, as their size and long, trailing legs can only be confused with a crane (at least in Indiana)--but the distinctive tucked head as they fly, rather than the way a crane flies with neck fully extended, means that it is a great blue heron.

So that's this week's critter. If I get another chance to get some more good shots of the stinker, I will--right before I scare him off.

Now, with the extremely dry weather we've been having, my garden isn't looking its best, but I do have some small splashes of color, most notably the sunflower and the New England aster.

And the praying mantises have been around, too, the males waiting to try their luck with the females, like this fellow:

While the females keep getting bigger, egg-heavy abdomens:


Edited: Sep 18, 2017, 8:29pm Top

I did enjoy, thanks!

Is that Rose of Sharon leaves I see in the last photo?

Sep 19, 2017, 7:26pm Top

>100 fuzzi: Yep, that's where that particular mantis momma-to-be has taken up residence. There's at least one more female in the spirea bushes.

Finally, another monarch emergence: a female.

Sep 20, 2017, 8:53pm Top

>101 CassieBash: aha! I just recalled that our Rose of Sharon bushes are aphid-attractants. It's not for a long period, just in the Spring when the leaves first emerge. Perhaps your bushes have similar pests.

Sep 21, 2017, 7:54am Top

>102 fuzzi: Don't really recall. Aphids are a favorite food for newly hatched mantis babies, I have heard. Perhaps that's why I haven't seen any on those plants, since I counted several small mantis babies in that area this spring. Now there's just one big one....

Yesterday saw an upswing in monarch emergence: 2 females and 1 male, all healthy and more than ready to fly when I got home.

Edited: Sep 22, 2017, 7:58pm Top

This gorgeous butterfly visited the Indiana State Government Center today:

Sep 25, 2017, 9:26am Top

>104 casvelyn: Looks like a pipevine swallowtail. I've debated about whether to plant some pipevine, in the hopes of attracting them (the caterpillars eat the plant), but since I don't see them up in the northwest corner of the state where I am, I've not yet committed. I'd love to plant a pawpaw tree to lure in zebra swallowtails, but pawpaws don't do well up here so again, there may not be a point to it. Thanks for sharing!

>97 fuzzi: This weekend, I scared a couple of frogs--at least one green one--into the bog, so there are at least a couple of frogs that have evaded the heron, who's still hanging around but is a little more reluctant to hang out. We moved the plastic heron decoy onto the skimmer, weighted down the feet with a rock, and that so far has kept our old friend at bay. (He loved perching on the skimmer to watch the fish.) Every so often, I move him slightly--mostly change the angle so that it looks as if he maybe moved off it and got back on at some point. He's so realistic-looking for a distance that this Friday when I came home, I saw it from the car and had a moment when I thought it was the real heron and I almost honked to see if it would fly!

I had 2 male monarchs emerge, one each, on Friday and Saturday, and 2 females emerge on Sunday. I have a solitary monarch caterpillar but I now have 2 giant leopard moth larvae, 3 banded woolly bears, a solitary banded tussock moth (three others have already cocooned), and several tiger moths--either the standard garden tigers, yellow bears, or Virginian (I haven't tried an official ID yet).

Critter of the Week:

Next month is National Adopt-a-Dog month, but as I have plans for the Critter of the Week to have a Halloween flavor next month, and since the "dog days" of summer tend to be in September (we're certainly having them now here in Indiana, where this week we had our first 90 degree day in the northwest corner since June), it seems fitting to give this week over to celebration of canis familiaris, the household dog. Available in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and temperaments, dogs share our households, sometimes as the solitary "fur baby", sometimes in a pack or even, as in the case of our household, a mixed group of pets that can include cats, rabbits, birds, lizards, and other small animals. Generally, if you can get the dog to accept another animal as part of the pack, they will learn how to behave properly and you can have a relatively quiet household.

Descended from wolves, we've bred them to fit our needs, whether it was to help herding and guarding livestock, as a hunting companion, or just simply as a companion, dogs have long remained the most popular pet in America*. There are 89.7 million dogs in American households.**

While there are some doubts as to exactly when and where domestication of wild wolves or wolf-like dogs happened, it's generally believed to have taken place while we were still hunting and gathering food, and that the less aggressive members of packs got acclimated to being close to humans, scavenging leftovers our ancestors left behind, or perhaps tossing the scraps to favorite wolves that overcame their fear and grew confident around us. As we began to discover how to train these animals, we probably began to think about other useful animals that might be capable of domestication. While there was no doubt that these tame wolf-dog hybrids began interbreeding, true man-made breeds are relatively new to the scene.

Dogs have been popularized in books and movies, and while I, personally, am just as happy with my mutts, many people insist on having a specific breed. Mom, for instance, has always wanted a collie, partly due to her growing up watching Lassie movies and TV shows. My younger sister Kerri likes cocker spaniels ever since she saw Lady and the Tramp. My preferred breeds are either the fleethounds (like greyhounds or pharaoh hounds, with their Egyptian hunting dog look), or the wolfhounds (Russian or Irish)--neither of which would be practical in our household, as fleethounds often don't have cold-tolerant coats, and our house is too small for either group. Our current dogs are Serenity, Mom's collie mix, and Fauna, Kerri's cocker spaniel.

Feel free to share pictures and stories of your dog(s), and starting next week, the Critter of the Week will be a creature we associate with Halloween.

*This is based purely on the number of households claiming a dog; cats, by strict numbers (94.2 million), outnumber dogs as pets in households. But if you go strictly by numbers, freshwater fish top the charts, beating out both cats and dogs with a total number of 139.3 million owned.**

**APPA. (n.d.). Number of pets in the United States in 2017/2018, by species (in millions). In Statista - The Statistics Portal. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/198095/pets-in-the-united-states-by-type-in-2008/.

Sep 27, 2017, 8:06am Top

3 male monarchs emerged yesterday.

Sep 28, 2017, 8:15pm Top

>104 casvelyn: oh, oh, oh!!! Such fleeting beauty.

>105 CassieBash: my Green frog appears to be missing from the pond. It was the most "friendly", least wary of me frog, so not seeing it for about a week brings me to the sad conclusion that it probably fed one of the snakes. :(

I still see at least two Southern Leopard frogs, and one is becoming a HUGE girl!

Regarding our canine friends and their origins: one of my favorite books from childhood was a prehistoric tale, Firehunter by Jim Kjelgaard. The author tells the story of two outcasts from a hunting tribe, and how they use their wits to survive...and in telling the tale we learn of how certain advances could have occurred, including the taming of wolves. It's also a decent adult read.

Sep 28, 2017, 8:54pm Top

I have had three dogs in my lifetime, starting with Pooh who we adopted as a puppy when I was 14. Pooh was a Sheltie/Black Lab cross, and looked like a fat black collie on short legs. Her name originally was Nicole, but evolved to Nikki, Nikki Pooh, Pooh Bear, and finally just Pooh. She followed me into marriage and motherhood, guarding my babies as if they were the puppies she had never bore. She lived to 15 1/2 years, when we came home to find her collapsed, with her nose in a bag of potato chips she'd taken off the table. She loved to eat, and probably died happy.

Kyrie was dog #2, and we got her within a year of losing Pooh. Kyrie was a Boston terrier cross with who-knows-what, but there probably was some Whippet in her heritage based upon some physical characteristics, and her ability to run like the wind every time she was let loose! She looked a little like a small Pitbull, with a gorgeous brown/black brindle coat, but with a loooong whip-like tail. The kids loved her, and would call her Kyrie-eerie-eerie in a chant. She took care of rodents in the yard and house, and for her small size (25#), was fearless except for fire. However, one Fourth of July she overcame her fear when she saw her human family outside with Roman candles: she burst through the screendoor barking madly, and then FLUNG herself in the air, repeatedly, trying to bite the balls of fire that were being shot skyward, fire that threatened us. She lived to 15 1/2 years as well.

My current love is Tirzah, a German Shepherd/Black Lab cross. She is 8 years old, and suffers from hip displasia, though you'd never guess it if you saw her run after a squirrel! She's a huge (100#) dog, as was her GSD mother, and the smartest of the three dogs I have owned. She does not clean up after the cats leave "messes", never takes food that has not been offered to her, and lets us know if she needs to vomit, so she can do it outside (I did not teach her that!). She likes to lick cat food cans, and puts them in the trash can once they are clean (I did teach her that, ha!).

She is also the most obedient dog I have owned, though I never would have guessed that before she turned 2, as she was incredibly difficult to train, SHE had to be boss. I give some credit to finally overcoming her resistance to obey to Cesar, the Dog Whisper, whose book and shows gave me some insight into Tirzah's thought processes, and taught me how to lead, eventually teaching her to follow. I call her my Moose, and often sing to her "Do you have fleas, my Tirzah Louise?" She has been a wonderful companion, and when the cruel displasia makes her life too painful and difficult, I will be there for her.

Now I need to find the tissues...

Sep 28, 2017, 10:22pm Top

>108 fuzzi: Here, you can have some of my tissues (which I just needed, after reading about Tirzah). Give her a bit of love from me; she sounds like a wonder!

Sep 29, 2017, 9:09am Top

>108 fuzzi: Argh! I was not supposed to cry this morning! I *heart* doggies.

We've had lots of dogs and cats over the years. Only one dog has ever really been minemineallmine. That's my current furkid, Crickett (who was originally named Pepper...and just proves to me she was supposed to be my baby since both of my surviving grandparents had dogs named Cricket and Pepper). I'm about 99% sure she earned "Crickett" because of her funny puppy hop. She turned 10 at the beginning of Sept. I now live with this low-grade dread that she's showing her age and I'm not going to be strong enough to let her go.

She's mostly MinPin with a little Yorkie, Schnauzer, and Pomeranian thrown in. She's got a little of everything personality wise. She's NEVER not curious. And she's NEVER not hungry. I can teach her just about anything so long as treats are involved. In fact, I have given up on calling her in with "Crickett, come." Now I just call, "time for treats" and she bolts through the door. In fact, she thinks she's wicked smart. She will beg to go outside. Wait five minutes. Scratch at the door. Amble over to the far corner of the patio and wait. When I open the door, she just stands there and waits. And waits. And waits. Sometimes, I give in and ask her if she wants treats. Usually, though, I shut the door, walk into the kitchen, and crinkle a bag. That dog has no resistance. None. She bolts into the house the second I reopen the door. Some might say this is cruel; but I've worked to train her that tasty bits only happen with the word treats. And I'm 100% compliant with that, even when I screw up and don't mean to say the word.

Sep 29, 2017, 1:47pm Top

First, thanks to all for sharing! I love pet stories, even the sad ones, as long as the pet was loved and well-cared-for. Abuse cases of any animal breaks my heart.

>108 fuzzi: We had a German shepherd/malamute/wolf cross (1/2 + 1/4 + 1/4), Willow, who looked just like any white German shepherd except for her curled tail, which got even curlier whenever she was excited. Like Tirzah, she started off pretty willful but settled with proper training and became on of the best dogs we ever had (along with a German shepherd/border collie cross named September--Ember for short). Willow was a shelter dog and we found out from a friend that her previous name had been Queenie, and that she'd lived in a car with her owner and lived off whatever scraps she could scavenge from fast-food bags--which explained her underweight issues when we first got her, and why we named her Willow--she was such a svelt, thin dog then. But with good care, she soon became Willow the White Whale, and is easily the biggest dog we've had, even without her occasional weight issues. She, too, had the start of hip dysplasia (a common thing among shepherds), but what really made us have to make the decision was her diagnosis of bone cancer at the age of (if I remember right) 10. Wish I had pictures of her to share but this was before digital cameras and phones in our house; I'll see if I can get a good picture of a picture to post up. I'd scan it, but none of the scanners I have (free) access to does color.

Everyone give your dogs (and your cats, if applicable) a pet from me, please!

Sep 30, 2017, 7:11pm Top

>109 Lyndatrue: thank you, she's my sweetheart. I took her for a ride today, the weather was deliciously cool, low 70s. I don't take her for rides as often as I could, as I once got yelled at by an overzealous type because I left Tirzah in the car for 5 minutes while I checked out a yard sale. I'm sure he meant well, but the only reason she was panting was because she always pants during rides, she gets so excited.

>110 lesmel: sounds like she's got YOU trained.

>11 fuzzi: I would love to see a picture of Willow, even if in black & white. I've loved wolves since I first read an abridged version of The Call of the Wild at age 6.

I thought that only purebred dogs get hip displasia, but my vet said that both the GSD and Black Lab breeds are prone to hip displasia, so Tirzah must have gotten the gene from both her mother and father.

Edited: Oct 2, 2017, 9:09am Top

>112 fuzzi: I believe it's a large-dog thing; certain breeds are more prone but any dog can develop it, particularly if a parent had it. But I don't think it's just a pure-bred thing, and I've read that even some small dogs may have it, but it's less common and they're less likely to show symptoms.

I believe that I may have released my last monarch in post 106. Most if not all of my remaining chrysalises have turned the murky brown of the dead. Except for one fuzzy and the two giant leopard moths, I have no more caterpillars and need to prep the cocoons and chrysalises for the winter. Out of 5 hornworms, 4 had successfully pupated. I have a handful of swallowtail chrysalises that may be viable, and of course the tiger caterpillar and tussock moth cocoons. I'm about ready to test the giant leopard moths on salad greens to decide whether to release or try to keep through the winter.

Now for the Critter of the Week, Halloween 2017 edition:

Perhaps not the first creature I find scary, but a lot of people do. In fact, it's an annual top 10 most common phobia--and it's usually in slot one. My older sister, though better about it than many, has this phobia. Yes, it's arachnophobia, the fear of spiders.

For my sister, a large part of the fear is the way they move and the way they seem to turn up unexpectedly. She's good with arachnids like daddy longlegs (not, strictly speaking, true spiders, as they have one body part and spiders have two: a head and abdomen) and has gotten good with the jumping spiders, as long as she sees them first and, if sharing a space with them, can always see where they are. As long as they don't come too close to her, she's OK with them. Like many people, she knows the good they do in keeping pest insect populations down--and in some cases, by doing so, they help keep disease down (think of spiders eating malaria-carrying mosquitoes). They are also prey in turn, providing food for other animals that we value or enjoy. Engineers are trying to simulate spider silk, as it's the strongest natural substance in nature. And some spider venom is being studied as a way to treat diseases and conditions like arthritis. We have a bug catcher like the one shown here that my younger sister or I use to capture and safely release spiders from the house to the field, so that these creatures can do their part for nature in the appropriate environment.

My favorite spider family is a tossup between the orb weavers--a large family that covers all spiders that make their webs in a circular fashion--and the jumping spiders. Since I live in Indiana and we don't have tarantulas, probably the first species that comes to mind when planning a Halloween party or horror film (under the pretext, I suppose, that bigger is better--plus tarantulas are, despite their size and fearsome appearance, rather docile and harmless), I took pictures of a jumping spider instead. Many scientists in this field believe the hunting spiders in general, and the jumpers in particular, are quite intelligent (well, for spiders) and curious. My observations of the "killers", as we call them due to their prowess hunting flies, ladybugs, and other household insects, back up this last point at least. In fact, the pictures I'll be showing soon showcase that curiosity pretty well. Or, I suppose, I could be projecting a personification onto them. Still, it's been relatively recent that scientists have acknowledged that many species of bird are smarter than we've given them credit for in the past, and that octopi are very smart problem solvers, so maybe it's not such a projection after all.

For those arachnophobes out there, I'm going to provide a bit of space as a buffer between the text and the pictures, so hopefully I don't give anyone too much of a fright. My intention here isn't to scare but to educate and perhaps instill a sense of wonder in regards to these creatures. Since LT doesn't recognize the spaces I put in with the enter key, I've put a short filler message for several lines. If you want to see the spider pictures, just keep going until you get past the filler.

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This bold, sometimes also known as daring, jumping spider was outside my older sister's window; I let her know immediately in case she noticed him unexpectedly and got a fright. The window is screened but there was a hole big enough that he might have squeezed through, but he seemed content to remain outside and, in fact, took a big interest in me and my iPhone as I took pictures. You can clearly see his eyes in the shot where he looked directly at me. He did seem curious but not afraid as he seemed to study me, studying him.

Oct 4, 2017, 9:55pm Top

>113 CassieBash: love the pictures!

Oct 10, 2017, 2:07pm Top

Critter of the Week: This week's critter is another much-maligned one (well, to be honest, almost all of these Halloween critters are), feared throughout history as being man-killers. Since this animal has been extirpated in Indiana, I have no personal pictures to share, so this picture is from Wikipedia, with photo attribution below. This week's critter is the gray wolf.

By (1) - https://www.flickr.com/photos/kachnch/16364273038, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38480628

While healthy wolves have been known to attack humans, there seems to be a little difficulty in classifying why. There are those who say that a healthy wolf will never attack a human unprovoked, others who claim wolves are bloodthirsty creatures who, if given an opportunity, will kill people. Some scientists maintain that only those who have had the human come too close for comfort to either their personal space or to their dens or cubs, while others say that while rare, it is possible some hunt people for food. And apparently, just like in real estate, it depends on "location". In modern times, while our North American wolves seem to be generally shy and elusive when it comes to people, in India, wolves are more aggressive and are more likely to take people--especially children--who wander into the forests. Regardless of whether wolves are timid and shy, remember that they are wild creatures and I believe any wild creature will attack if they feel cornered, trapped, or in imminent danger. After all, wouldn't we do the same? So if you do happen to be in an area where these animals live, please give them there space.

The association between wolves and Halloween, of course, starts with the wolf attacks that were common in the Dark Ages and possibly before that. After all, most primitive societies have "were" animals--people who could turn not only into wolves but also, depending on the part of the world you were in, foxes, leopards, dogs, cats, coyotes, jaguars, hyenas, tigers, and even (I kid you not) turkeys. Most of these animals (turkeys aside) are capable of killing people either directly through powerful bites or indirectly through diseases like rabies. Many probably prowled the edges of human habitations looking for easy scavenging, and some have suggested that animals like jackals, hyenas, and wolves frequented cemeteries for that purpose. With wolves linked in men's minds with graveyards, it was only a matter of time before they would be added to the list of animals associated with Halloween.

Wolves are, in fact, a wonderfully devoted and social animal, with a complex hierarchy in the pack that determines each animals' lot in life. The top pair, the alpha male and female, are the leaders and the fertile pair, mating each year and enlarging the pack until members decide to break out on their own to form their own pack (usually because they're mature enough to want to find their own mate) or are driven off because there isn't enough food for everyone in the pack. Unlike solitary carnivorous animals, wolves in packs use their great collective stamina to tire out their prey, rather than going for the surprise attack.

And, of course, there's the famous wolf howl, used to communicate from distances between other pack members and other packs. That howl is also made famous every Halloween, for it's a good mood sound effect--lonely and eerie, it makes us think of desolated places.

Two weeks ago, I said I had some old 35 mm camera pics of our German shepherd/malamute/wolf cross and I promised I'd make an effort to take digital pictures of the photos for sharing. I may be slow, but I get there in the end. And besides, since she's the closest thing I have in my own files to a wolf, this seems like a fitting time to share. So now, for the first time on LT, I present pictures of "Willow the Great White Whale".

OK, she wasn't so much whale as willow in her youth:

She would open her Christmas and birthday presents if you wrapped small treats in with the toys.

She wasn't camera shy and she loved wearing "clothes"--bandanas were great things to her because they usually meant we were going somewhere or doing something special.

She was probably my favorite dog out of all the ones we've had. She was always good with other dogs and with cats, and she was good with people of all ages and genders--unless you wore a uniform. She didn't like the trash men, our meter reader or gas person, or the package delivery men but was OK with our "plainclothes" mail lady or the guy who delivered papers or the farmers who brought us hay for the horses. Except for the uniform thing, we considered her a good judge of human character, as she could meet a stranger and seemed to know who was OK and who maybe needed watching. She liked learning new tricks and was very smart, and if one of the other dogs got out of hand with the other, she would literally sit on the offender in a sort of "time out"--and as she was top dog, neither of the other two that we had at that time put up a fuss about it. Now that's a good dog.

Oct 10, 2017, 3:32pm Top

>115 CassieBash: I'm in love with her, and am sorry she's not around to tell her so. Look at that sweet face in the last photo; who could resist?

Oct 10, 2017, 4:08pm Top

>116 Lyndatrue: I know! Her tongue always seemed a little too large for her mouth when it was open--see the way a bit of it seems to be hanging out the side? She would have loved to have you hug her round her neck and tell her how sweet she was, I'm sure. She loved hugs!

Oct 11, 2017, 10:04pm Top

>115 CassieBash: lovely pictures, thank you so much for sharing them.

Have you been to Wolf Park in Battleground, Indiana? We stopped there on our trip to Chicago last year, and loved it. I've been a lover of wolves since I first read an abridged version of Jack London's The Call of the Wild, at age six. I've done a lot of nonfiction reading about them as well, and believe that there are no cases in North America of a healthy wolf attacking a human, at least not documented in modern times.

Oct 16, 2017, 10:01am Top

>118 fuzzi: Have not been there, but hope to go sometime. It'd be a nice day trip.

This week's critter is much less maligned than the wolf, but it's still associated with Halloween due to its eerie call and past association with witchcraft. Its silent nocturnal flights make it a fearsome predator of small mammals, reptiles, and birds. Yes, it's the owl--in this case, I'm going with the iconic Great Horned Owl.

Nowadays, most people (and especially bird lovers) don't fear or hate owls (unless they have a fear of birds) because they recognize, in these more enlightened, scientific times, that owls are important in pest control. Mice, rats, and other rodents, which may harbor diseases that impact man and his livestock, are kept in check partly through the effects of these creatures and their kin. Bird enthusiasts will get quite excited over owl pellets--regurgitated stuff that contains bones, hairs, feathers, and other parts of animals that the owls can't eat. So why is it that these animals, so harmless and even beneficial to humans, came to be associated with witches, evil, and Halloween?

Owls have long been associated with wisdom; Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, chose the owl as her symbol and is frequently seen with one perched on her arm, shoulder, or hand. Many believe it's because their huge eyes make them look wise (now we know it's because the large eyes help gather light at night to allow them to see their prey when hunting). The Greeks revered owls; all that changed when the Romans came to power, because they believed that owls were creatures of evil. Mixing the two beliefs together, owls became the symbol of alchemists and wise women, who were seen more and more as wizards and witches and were accused of worshipping Satan. Since many species of owls have tufts of feathers on the sides of their heads, these "horns" also helped fix in people's minds the ideas that owls were part demons. Owls also have an unusual ability to turn their heads almost completely around, and their eerie calls probably also didn't help their PR. Like wolves, in some cultures, witches could turn themselves into owls, and owls were used (and still are, in the fantasy world of Harry Potter) as the messengers of sorcerers, wizards, and witches. Like a lot of nocturnal animals, they were assumed to be evil creatures up to no good. People still believe in some of the superstitions regarding owls: their calls bring storms, predict death, or at least bring bad luck. Though, really, the worst luck it brings is to the small animals it's going to eat tonight.

Wish I had my own picture to post, but unfortunately, I'm not outside looking for them much at night, and unless I knew of a nest where I could hang out until the owl left to hunt or returned at daybreak, I probably wouldn't stumble across one too easily. So, instead, I must once again rely on the Creative Commons pictures at Wikipedia; thanks, Greg!

Attribution required: Photo by Greg Hume

Oct 18, 2017, 5:39pm Top

>119 CassieBash: such a LOVELY photo!

Oct 19, 2017, 8:07am Top

>120 fuzzi: Yes, Mr. Hume does some wonderful bird pictures; he's responsible for the picture of the sparrow hawk on >72 CassieBash:. He's obviously quite a photo contributor to Wikipedia. Wonder if he does anything other than birds?

Oct 20, 2017, 3:51pm Top

*Sigh.* I'm saying goodbye to summer and officially moving on to fall. Parting is such sweet sorrow...especially when the sorrow is eased somewhat by pumpkin and apple desserts!

Here's the Fall/Winter 2017-2018 thread link.

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