Friday, August 17, 2012

Monarch rearing season is here!!!

I have been busy hunting for monarch eggs and caterpillars on any milkweed I can find. Most of them have been found on the road I live on. Here are some of the photos of my experiences so far ~

This was an exciting find for me ~ and a first! 
And so it begins  ~

Next ~ the egg hunt
I can't walk by or drive by a milkweed plant without wondering what might be hiding underneath those leaves.  Many times, I will stop and check each individual leaf to see what suprizes are hidden.  Sometimes I luck out and find a caterpillar, which gives me a better chance of having a butterfly in the end, as many of the eggs never hatch.

The caterpillars start out very tiny (about 1mm)  ~ someday I will get a good, clear photo.  I actually was able to watch a little caterpillar crawl out of it's egg just yesterday for the first time.  They eat part of the egg shortly after hatching and then start munching on the milkweed leaf.

After about a week and a half, the caterpillar is now large (about 2.5") and ready to make it's chrysalis.  I have witnessed this many times now and still am amazed at the process.  The final result is as beautiful as a jewel.

Shortly before it's ready to hatch, the chrysalis looks dark. 
You can see the monarchs wings through the clear shell of the chrysalis.
Usually within 24 hours, the butterfly will emerge.

The monarch emerges with it's wings all crinkled up and pumps fluid from it's abdomen into it's wings to inflate them.  It will then hang for several hours, allowing it's wings to dry out for flight.

Once it is ready to go, I place a tag on it's wing and release it into my garden.  Sometimes it will hang around for awhile, other times it will take flight immediately towards the tree tops to rest.

I get my tags from the "Monarch Watch" out of Kansas City University.  The tag has a phone number and a "tag" number on them.  The tags come with a log sheet that is sent back to Monarch Watch, where the information is loaded into a database.
The form asks for the date the monarch hatched, the tag #, the sex, whether it was reared or tag in the wild, and where it was released.

This was a lucky shot taken as the female monarch took flight. 
You can see the tag through her wing if you look closely.

This chrysalis was very small ~ only about 2/3 the normal size.
I didn't think it was going to make it, but it finally hatched.
When it did, he was much smaller than the other ones that had hatched.
It also had a crinkled up left hind-wing and it's left antenna was only half the normal size. 
Unfortunately, "Flutter" as I named him, won't be making the trip to Mexico, since he can't fly.
I will take care of him for as long as he lives.  Last year , I had two hatch with defective wings and took care of them until they died around Thanksgiving.  I fed them fresh fruit, applesauce, and a honey/water mix on a sponge once all the flowers stopped blooming. 
Flutter has already been feeding on butterfly bush blossoms.

This next photo captures the tail end of a caterpillar shedding it's skin.

 This female hatched today.  Her front wings seem a little darker than normal ~ but she is very beautiful.  She hung out on the sedum for an hour or so before flying off.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Zebra Swallowtails

Recently, I was invited to a friends house for a pool party and was excited to see my first Zebra Swallowtail!  These butterflies are just amazing ~ their colors and their long tails are incredible.  The host plant for Zebra Swallowtails is the Paw Paw tree, so unless you have them near-by, your chance of having them is slim.  I shared my excitement with my first patient the next day, while cleaning his teeth =)  He told me he had hundreds of Paw Paw trees on his property and lots of Zebra Swallowtails!  He graciously offered to give me some to try to transplant.  So ~ after work, still in my scrubs, we road around his property in his golf cart, hunting for the perfect specimens.  I also had my eyes out for butterfly eggs or caterpillars, but was unsuccessful.  I planted the trees as soon as I got home.  I looked on-line to see how to take care of them, so I am hopeful that at least a few of them will make it.  Here are a few photos I took of the Zebra Swallowtails ~
This first one was a little tattered ~ it actually lost it's long tails :(

This female was drinking water that had splashed into the crack in the sidewalk.

Just beautiful~ I'm hoping to have a few of them in my yard next year.  If the Paw Paw trees make it, I will probably order some of their eggs or caterpillars on-line to get them started in my area.
Wish me luck and as always ~ thanks for visiting!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Even birds have good Daddy's!

Recently I have noticed quite a few immature birds around my feeders. This evening I found it to be especially cute, with Father's Day just a few days ago ~ to find a male Cardinal feeding his little one with safflower seeds that fell from the feeder.  I think the little one is a female.
 Check it out ~ I think you'll think it's cute too!

This next one looks as if the little one is pleading with it's Dad to have some more ~ Pwease !!!

See you next time!


Hummingbirds and more backyard birds ~

It's been awhile since I've updated ~ life's been crazy with my parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and my son graduating high school!  Things are finally starting to slow down a little.  I've been taking lots of photos of the birds eating from my feeders and a couple hummingbirds that have been hanging around.  So far, I have seen two different males and one female ruby-throated hummingbirds.  The female hasn't been around much, which hopefully means that she is sitting on a nest somewhere up in the trees!  I've also been experimenting with different settings on my camera to catch these speedy little birds.  Hope you enjoy the photos!
Gray Catbird


Piliated Woodpecker

Brown Thrasher

Female Ruby-throated hummingbird
Gray Catbird


The following photos are of the male Ruby-throated hummingbird.
I tried shooting with a flash to get clearer shots of his wings.  They seem to be most active between 8-8:30 in the evening.  They are getting used to me being out there and don't seem to fly away as quickly!

Immature male Cardinal

Blue Jay  doing a little acrobatics to get a snack!

Immature female Cardinal

A few more hummingbird shots ~

Thanks for stopping by ~ come back again soon!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Some new faces in my backyard ~

I have seen a few new birds in my yard this spring ~ maybe I just wasn't paying attention before but I can't believe that I missed noticing the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I was in my kitchen eating breakfast when I noticed a new bird at the feeder. I grabbed my camera and was lucky that he decided to hang out awhile. I read that they are common to woodlands but somehow they have eluded me ~ til now.

The next two photos are of the Yellow-rumped "Myrtle" Warbler.
The funny thing is that they are sitting on my Crep Myrtle!
The first one is the female ~ the male has a yellow spot on the top of it's head.

Now for a few more common wings in my garden ~ 

 I purchased a bag of 1500 ladybugs  to help control the number of aphids attacking my herb garden ~ I don't think they have all hung around but the one who did have been mating!

 This Northern Flicker pretty far away, still I wanted to add it to my list!

The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird common to our area.  Occasionally a Rufous hummingbird has been spotted on the east coast ~

This next photo shows the hummingbirds eye-lid/membrane closed~

More to come soon~ thanks for visiting !