This year we have blck swallowtail caterpillars. I witnessed a black swallowtail laying her eggs on the parsley we have planted in pots, and have kept my eye on the development of the four cats. They move from one stage to another in a matter of days, and yesterday I noticed one has reached chrysalis stage. Here are some stages of development:
Fall fast approaches. The wrens are finally done raising young, at least 4 clutches this year!- in the house hanging from the sycamore tree in the back yard. Some large creature, maybe large dog-size, has matted down the tall physotegia at the back of the rain garden and in the shade garden, our guess is to sleep there. But who? Coyote, fox, deer? Wild dog? Dog unlikely, given the feline activity around our house at night, they would’ve tipped us off to danger. The news- I have to take entire days off from reading the news so I can maintain my usual good nature. The soulless nature of it all, the embarrassment of a president who cares for nothing larger than himself. I take refuge in friends, family, home, garden. But then I read again- want to know when it becomes necessary to start protecting myself and my neighbors from the hate that is seeping into the national consciousness. The cardinal flowers are blooming- lots of blooms this year- and lots of hummingbirds moving through. Also blooming: mist flower, joe-pye weed, rose turtle-head. Oh, and Harrison Bader is back with the Cardinals- what fun to watch those guys!
This morning as I sat on the back steps with my coffee, the male wren sang a young fledgling out of the wren house for its first flight. We’d noticed the night before lots of singing and movement by the male wren, and saw little movements back in the house and, occasionally, a little beak and head coming partway out of the entrance hole. That young’un was finally coaxed out this morning. That house has seen 2 clutches of chickadees and 2 of wrens this summer!
Sunday- There was yet another wren to come out of the house. He emerged this morning.
This summer we have not had the numbers of bees or butterflies or caterpillars or butterfly larvae we had last year. Worrisome. But today I did find some lacewing eggs and some ladybug larvae on some tall coneflowers on the west side of our house. Both insect species are there to feast on all the aphids that have taken up residence on the coneflowers.
Last night a big storm moved through St. Louis and weathermen and women on TV pointed at screens full of dire-looking red lines and squares on an area map while Dennis and I drank tea and listened to the sirens. I went to the basement when the worst part passed through, while Dennis, as usual, went outside to watch it. This morning I was grateful to see 3 baby robins in the nest outside our bedroom window still there, mom robin bringing them food. I’d worried they might’ve been washed out of the nest by the heavy rain. Mom Robin does all the raising by herself, apparently, I’ve never seen a partnership with a male, like with the chickadees and wrens. The boy robins are a pugilistic bunch, preferring to stick their red chests out at one another and fight in the street; guess I wouldn’t want them around either if I were mom robin.
Our wren house in the back yard has already housed 2 clutches of chickadees, and now a wren is moving in. The garden is really stunning this spring in particular- perhaps I will take a picture soon.
A few days later: I must apologize to Mr. Robin. I have in fact seen 2 adult robins feeding the young, presumably Mr. and Mrs. All 3 of the baby robins have fledged and flown off somewhere. The wrens are busy preparing a nest in the wren house, and it sounds like there are young in there already.
Mary Isabelle was blanketed by wild geranium
A beautiful spring morning- about 50 degrees, the back yard is greening and filling up with ferns and ginger and lilies-of-the-valley with their delicate smell, celandine poppies, aquilegia, iris, heucera, button bush, ninebark, lots of things we’ve planted over the last few years.
The wren house has this season become a chickadee house. This morning I watched as Mr. Chickadee went to get sunflower seeds from the feeder, break them open, and take the meat in to his mate, inside sitting on their nest, I imagine, made entirely of soft things (“…leaves, moss, grasses, snugly lined with hair, fur from small animals, and feathers.” from Birds of America, ed. Pearson, 1917), unlike the wren, who build their nests of “twigs, grass, feathers, spiders’ webs, and lined with soft strips of bark, down, or feathers.” On the other side of the fence in the neighbor’s driveway, not 15 feet away, robins are tending a nest built on the structure of a portable basketball hoop, decorating it with long strips of white toilet paper they’ve found somewhere, flying like streamers in today’s swift breeze. Mr. Wren would not stand for that proximity, but the chickadees and robins cohabit peacefully.
Not so much to do in the back yard anymore, which affords us leisure to go visit our wild friends at the arboretum, which we did last Easter Sunday, shown below.
Goose on nest, the night after a huge rain. The edge of the island the nest is on was covered by water, but the nest was high enough to escape. A nest onn the other end of the island was not so fortunate.
Papa goose stayed nearby, keeping watch.
A walk at the arboretum today, after weeks of putting it off due to ice, snow, frigid temperatures, flu, colds. Because it’s been so cold, not much has happened, visibly, since last time we were there, but soon there will be lots of wildflowers. The ground is grey and muddy from the recent intentional burns and the heavy rains we had last week. This is the slowest spring in my memory, but I may prove myself wrong when I look back through the records.
We met this fellow, a crawfish, walking along the gravel path. It wasn’t quite 40 degrees out and we wondered what he was doing out. When I knelt down to see him better, he squared off facing me and raised his claws defensively. Dennis reasoned out that he was a burrowing crawfish (Cambarus diogenes aka Devil crawfish) who got hydraulic-ed out of his hole by the heavy rains and was trying to make his way back to the mud before he froze. We carried him down to the pond where the spring peepers were singing- he’d been headed that way- and put him on the muddy bank, where he rapidly burrowed back into the mud. Likely a once-in-a-lifetime sight. He dug with his front claws.