Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Awakening -- Giant Swallowtail

I belong to the Florida Native Plant Society. Last fall we did an outreach program at one of the many events our chapter covers in our home county of Osceola. I bring various live insects to draw attention of the importance of the relation of native plants and bugs in a biodiverse world. Children and adults alike are often mesmerized by the critters I bring. One of my friends in this quest is Kattya who seems to have the magic touch in getting my caterpillars to move on to the next step of metamorphosis. This was the second caterpillar that under her guidance turned. This one changed to a chrysalis since it is a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly the other is a moth that we are still waiting on and I'll post when the happy event occurs. Be sure to check out Kattya's blog which is full of fun and useful information!

I don't believe in containerizing insects beyond the couple of hours at our outreach programs for the education purposes. Upon return home, I always take a few moments to set the critters back on the branches from which I snatched them in the morning. In these two cases, though, the caterpillars chose their own destiny. I check on them daily as I have since our November event.

Today, I checked in the morning, per usual. I went about my business trying to identify fungi that appeared in some mulch last week. I posted a photo of my mushroom on Facebook to the "Florida Fungi" page and got a prompt response that more details are needed. I went outside to take an additional photo and also to attempt to make a spore print (a subject for a future blog post). When I was looking for a place to protect my mushroom, out of the corner of my eye I saw a flutter of bright yellow. A butterfly is BORN!

Since I had my camera in hand, I snapped a few shots of the poor thing cooped up in a beanie baby container equipped with a screen roof. I undid the screening and snapped another picture before heading out to the closest flowers, which are the coral honeysuckle just feet away. The butterfly seemed a bit disoriented so I reached in and gently removed it and placed it on the flowers, snapping a couple of last shots as it drank some nectar and before it gracefully flew off into the sunset...well, the direction of what will be the sunset when it gets to be that time today.

I always say that I have a guardian angel on my shoulder and my Giant Swallowtail had one on its wing too. On a different day I may not have checked a second time, which is why I generally don't keep critters cooped up for my own amusements. This was a special event that I will hold in my memory....and I'll be checking on the moth 3 times a day from this point forward.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Swallows Passing Through

Dozens of swallows were giving an aerial show over my property today. I think they are tree swallows...they don't stay still long enough for a true ID. Here's a short video of their acrobatics. Collectively they are known as a "stand" of swallows. Spring is definitely in the air! The bluebirds began bringing nesting materials to the nest box. Get ready for my Bluebirds Twigs2Fledge™ 2011...coming soon!
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