Tag Archive | butterfly

This Week in Sunflowers

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This week in sunflowers… and other yellow things. Diverse native bees, including the sunflower bee (Svastra, I think: the males have unusually long antennae) are buzzing and feeding in the sunflowers, and a few goldfinches have come for seeds but fly too fast from me when I come out with the camera. Grasshoppers continue to maraud every living plant, including the gladioli, giving me a window into a bud.Pollinator-9001

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Dahlias are suffering worse than glads from grasshopper predation, though these later blooms are in better shape than those in early summer; enough flower left to provide for this bumblebee. Bumblebees are so complicated, with any one species having so much variety in parts and patterns, queens and workers and males all different sizes with different color sternites, tergites, and corbicular fringes, variable leg part sizes and cheek ratios… It would take more time and focus than I have now to even try to learn them. We have about 13 species in this part of Colorado. But I can’t even remember that many. One, two, or possibly three more species below, on Prince’s Plume, mullein, and Rocky Mountain beeplant respectively.

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Meanwhile, the fernbush, Chamaebateria, has also been blooming, attracting more flies than bees, and a few butterflies as well, including this Painted Lady.

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But who will this adorable, soft creature turn into one day? I rescued it from porch sweepings, and dropped it into some leaf litter, but not before examining it on my breakfast plate. Its antennae surprised me, popping out when I scared it, then sucking back into the top of its round face. Here, they’re halfway back in, after shooting straight out in alarm.

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Dragonfly perched on a radish seedpod.

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Those horrible thunks against the window… I heard one on the west kitchen window last week and saw the body drop. Dashed outside, around the Foresteria loosing masses of purple berries to the ground, beyond the woodpile, and tiptoed through the mess of palettes, hoses, wire cages, and empty pots to find this young yellow warbler out cold on the ground. I carried him around to the south side of the house looking for a good shady perch, and set him in a sturdy crook in the apricot tree. Brought the cats inside and left him there for awhile. When I went back he had flown, so that was one good deed for that day.

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Then, just this afternoon, another smack into the east window. Outside, a tiny hummingbird facedown in a geranium pot. Its beak was a little askew. In my hand it was weightless, but its minuscule heart pounded. Cats secured inside, I set the hummingbird in a shoebox in the shade, putting a twig under its barely perceptible toes, and set a small bowl of water in front of it as it wobbled on its perch. I shut the lid for awhile, then checked, and tipped the water bowl so it could reach without moving. It flicked its threadlike tongue into the water. I dumped the water and filled the bowl with nectar, and it drank again from the tipped bowl.

I shut the lid for another ten minutes; checked again, tipped again, left again. The fact that it was still alive encouraged me, though I was distressed it didn’t fly right off. Half an hour later I returned and opened the lid, tipped the bowl for another drink. I left the lid open and checked again in another half hour, dismayed to see the bird still there. But as I moved toward the bowl, the little bird cocked its little pea-head then zipped out of the box, up and out of sight! Sometimes all they need is a safe space for long enough to get their head on straight.

Not long after that, I caught a goldfinch in the sunflowers.

 

Out Like a Lamb

Orangetip butterflies were out in numbers today feeding on little purple mustards and the first rockrose to bloom.

Orangetip butterflies were out in numbers today feeding on little purple mustards and the first rockrose to bloom.

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March came in like a lion with cold and snow. All the young bucks were grazing at my place.

March came in like a lion with cold and snow. All the young bucks were grazing at my place.

No sooner had I assembled and hung the bluebird house that Jean sent onto the south fence...

No sooner had I assembled the bluebird house that Jean sent, and hung it onto the south fence…

... than a flock of western bluebirds descended.

… than a flock of western bluebirds descended! Whether a pair chooses to occupy the house remains to be seen.

The valley is filled with smoke; everyone is clearing fields with fire. Plumes rise in all directions, some thin, some billowing. At home I bravely burn the ornamental grasses. After years of cutting through the old stalks, usually too late to avoid nipping new growth, I finally realized I could fold the tops in on themselves and light a match.

The valley is filled with smoke; everyone is clearing fields with fire. Plumes rise in all directions, some thin, some billowing. At home I bravely burn the ornamental grasses. After years of cutting through the old stalks, usually too late to avoid nipping new growth, I finally realized I could fold the tops in on themselves and light a match.

Within days this pillow of cinders began to green up again.

Within days this pillow of cinders began to green up again.

Little purple irises came and went without benefit of bees. It took me all month to realize how depressed I am about the loss of the hive.

Little purple irises came and went without benefit of bees. It took me all month to realize how depressed I am about the loss of the hive.

I rescued the first little lizard of the year from inside a friend's house.

I rescued the first little lizard of the year from inside a friend’s house.

And Gabrielle found the first frog of the year while turning a vegetable bed, a western chorus frog.

And Gabrielle found the first frog of the year while turning a vegetable bed, a western chorus frog.

We moved him to the pond...

We moved him to the pond…

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The first tulip opened last week.

The first tulip opened last week.

Then one more, then some more...

Then one more, then some more…

Tiny corner pockets of beauty are emerging as the garden greens this spring, exquisite groupings I couldn’t have planned.

Tiny pockets of beauty are emerging as the garden greens this spring, exquisite groupings I couldn’t have planned.

All the little pockets of pasqueflower growing at different rates, budding blooming expanding.

All the little pockets of pasqueflower growing at different rates, budding blooming expanding.

Honeybees have found the apricot tree, and I look at them differently. They’re not my bees; they’re the bees that preceded and competed with my bees, and they’re the bees that ultimately brought the disease that killed my bees. They’re beautiful, they’re stoic bees, they’re chemically treated bees.

Honeybees have found the apricot tree, and I look at them differently. They’re not my bees; they’re the bees that preceded and competed with my bees, and they’re the bees that ultimately brought the disease that killed my bees. They’re beautiful, they’re stoic bees, they’re chemically treated bees.

I ran into a friend at the grocery store yesterday who told me that the beehives across the canyon have had mites for years. “They’re too close to you,” she said. It was cold comfort, a theory validated that suggested once and for all it wasn’t my fault. It’s been bleak watching flowers open one by one with no honeybees to pollinate them. Until two days ago I’d only seen an occasional bee; finally, a handful in the apricot tree. Then yesterday more, and bumblebees, and tiny wild bees. As they return I feel more and more alive.

I guess I despaired of finding the same joy in photography as I did last year with my bees. And in a strange way, my pleasure is tainted knowing they’re not my bees… still, they’re bees, they’re sturdy hardy bees that are surviving, and that brings with it a more astringent joy than the wallowing I was doing the past three summers, that first inebriated love that lasts a few years before something goes awry and love becomes a choice to share in suffering.

Honeybees back on the sweet smelling almond tree.

Honeybees back on the sweet smelling almond tree.

I remember last year forsythia covered in snow. This spring how it glows brilliant yellow and grows tall in full bloom.

I remember last year forsythia covered in snow. This spring how it glows brilliant yellow and grows tall in full bloom.

The first leaf and flower buds of chokecherries are opening.

The first leaf and flower buds of chokecherries and other trees and shrubs are opening.

Redwing blackbirds sing in symphony around the pond. I sit silent, eyes closed, listening to their beautiful cacophony.

Redwing blackbirds sing in symphony around the pond. I sit silent, eyes closed, losing myself in their beautiful cacophony. 

Each morning for weeks this flicker has greeted me, drumming on the roof cap and shrilling to the sky, calling for a mate, claiming his terrain. Oddly, the first time I heard him drilling on the roof, it put me right to sleep. I'd been tossing and turning, then recognized that startling staccato. It somehow signaled some security, and my body just let go, softened into the sheets, and fell back to sleep.

Each morning for weeks this flicker has greeted me, drumming on the roof cap and shrilling to the sky, calling for a mate, claiming his terrain. Oddly, the first time I heard him drilling on the roof, it put me right to sleep. I’d been tossing and turning, then recognized that startling staccato. It somehow signaled some security, and my body just let go, softened into the sheets, and fell back to sleep.

The Last Hummingbird

Not quite last, this very tired young hummingbird roosted on a broken sunflower stalk a couple of inches above the ground for hours on October second.

Not quite last, this very tired young hummingbird roosted on a broken sunflower stalk a couple of inches above the ground for hours on October 2nd. Intermittently he’d fly up and drink some nectar from the bountiful hummingbird mint, Agastache, that seemed to be a godsend for a lot of late birds. It’s still blooming! I’ve seen two more since this one, the latest last Wednesday, October 8th: a record in my 14 years taking note.

Not only the hummingbirds but bumblebees and wasps are enjoying the long-lasting blossoms of Agastache

Not only the hummingbirds but bumblebees and wasps are enjoying the long-lasting blossoms of this licorice-scented Agastache. 

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Sandhill cranes spiral up and out..

Sandhill cranes spiral and soar overhead on their raucous way south.

A lone monarch was lucky to find some nectar left on late-blooming Gallardia.

A lone monarch was lucky to find some nectar left in late-blooming Gallardia.

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Snapdragons still blooming profusely are also providing late nectar for hummingbirds and bees, their colors and velvety texture keeping some hot spots in the garden’s yellowing autumn palette.

 

 

A honeybee seeking something along the turning leaf of the Amur maple beside the hive.

A honeybee seeking something along the turning leaf of the Amur maple beside the hive.

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For a few weeks, rabbitbrush was buzzing...

For a few weeks, rabbitbrush was buzzing…

Saddlebags

Preparing for a show in spring, we’re naming all the bees again. This one is Saddlebags.

...and in photographing bees, I found this tiny little creature which appears to belong to a group called Micromoths.

…and in photographing bees, I found this tiny little creature which appears to belong to a group called Micromoths.

A honeybee hovered at a single late flax flower at my feet; I ran in to get the camera. In that one minute, the bee flew and its breeze blew four petals off the bloom.

A honeybee hovered at a single late flax flower at my feet; I ran in to get the camera. In that one minute, the bee flew and its breeze blew four petals off the bloom.

Checking on the medicinal herb I found this tiny white spider.

Checking on the medicinal herb I found this tiny white spider.

Garlic chives are the early October "bee-tree," swarming with honeybees, flies, and small wild bees...

Garlic chives are the early October “bee-tree,” swarming with honeybees, flies, and small wild bees…

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...and also appealing to a few moths.

…and also appealing to a few moths.

Words Fail Me

April 11

On April 11, the honeybees finally examined the hybrid tulips.

April 11

And I caught the elusive white butterfly.

April 11

The honeybees also started enjoying the creeping thyme.

April 14

April 14, that sweet snow decorated the forsythia.

Today the wind literally blows bees off the Nanking cherry as another spring snowstorm threatens. Inside for awhile, I catch up with images from the past two weeks.

April 17

April 17, the bumblebees showed up.

April 19

April 19, honeybees were all over the European pasqueflowers.

April 20

April 20. Surprise!

April 20

And a bigger surprise, the broad-tailed hummingbirds showed up five days early.

April 20

As the golden currant blossoms begin to open, the green (or blue?) bottle flies arrive.

April 20

Nanking cherry buds begin to burst open and the little native bees are among the first to partake.

April 21

April 21, dandelions begin to pop open throughout the yard.

April 21

Bumblebees and honeybees continue to sip at the almond blossoms.

April 22

April 22, the Nanking cherry calls all species of bees in the vicinity.

April 22

April 22

And begins to get crowded.

April 23

April 23: Meanwhile, down at the pond, the honeybees have found a sweet place in the reeds to sate their thirst.

April 24

On April 24, the Nanking cherry exploded with bees of all kinds, in clouds, drunk, like me perhaps, on all the pink beauty.

Count the bees and types of bees in this image. Spring wave of the roller-coaster is in full swing. On this day, the Colonel would have been ninety-five years old. I spent the entire day with one of his last gifts to me, my Canon 50D, in a pursuit he might have considered at one time in his life a waste of time; but he introduced me to cameras, and took great pleasure during our last visit looking through his album of special photos, seeking his personal best, a shot of a duck with water dripping off its beak. I think he would have liked these. Meanwhile, my days fly by so full I can’t keep up.

April 24

As the jonquils continue blooming the occasional bee investigates.

April 24

Prunus besseyi “Pawnee Buttes,” a ground-creeping variety of the western sandcherry, begins to draw bees.

April 24

“Pink Chintz” creeping thyme blooms.

April 24

Occasional native bees and honeybees check out this little rock-garden plant whose name I’ve forgotten.

April 24

Buff little bumblebee on the golden currant.

April 24

The frenetic beeflies are everywhere, on the sandcherry…

April 24

…the dandelions…

April 24

…and the omnipresent Nepeta

 

…the day began in cinders

The day began in cinders. All that was left of the morning's drama a few filthy tail feathers on the ground.

The day began in cinders; all that was left of the morning’s drama a few filthy tail feathers on the ground.

Yesterday’s smoke was so thick from neighbors clearing fields with fire that it kept me inside most of the day, even though it warmed up to 75. This morning it wasn’t so bad, just a singed aroma to the air.  So warm last night, fortunately, that I didn’t light a fire in the woodstove for the first time all year. Fortunately, I say! This morning the cat leapt onto the wall by the stovepipe and the dogs jumped barking out of bed all at once. I didn’t understand why at first, then heard the desperate skritching inside the pipe: a bird had somehow fallen in.

I put the dogs out and left the door open. My woodstove has a peculiar double ceiling, which might have made it easier. I lifted the griddle out of the lid to see a pile of creosote ash on top of the false ceiling. I reached my hand up into the chimney and felt feathers, startling both me and the bird, who flapped and scratched in a panic, billowing clouds of ash out the hole. The second time, knowing better, I covered the hole with a dog towel, reached under and into the pipe swiftly, and grabbed a fistful of feathers and a leg, pulled the bird down and out into the towel, and took it outside, letting it flap under the towel to clean itself off a little. In a minute I let go, pulled away the towel, and watched a young starling flap frantically away, leaving a half dozen sooty feathers in my hand.

Watering tools. Time to sort through all the connectors for my flexogen irrigation system. I've got the time, home in April, long cool days. All these accouterments make moving water so much easier.

Watering tools. Time to sort through all the connectors for my flexogen irrigation system. I’ve got the time, home in April, long cool days. All these accouterments make moving water so much easier.

Taking stock of hoses, measuring, assessing. Three hoses out of play this season with both ends bad on each; I'll snip off the ends of these, mail them to Gilmour, and get three free replacements. About the best garden deal I know of.

Taking stock of hoses, measuring, assessing. Three hoses out of play this season with both ends bad on each; I’ll snip off the ends of these, mail them to Gilmour, and get three free replacements. The best garden deal I know of.

It’s been so dry and windy, despite occasional spring snow showers, that it’s time to start watering all around the yard, trees and beds. Time to sort the hoses and lay them out around the garden, make sure all connections are secure and won’t waste water with leaks.

Still no bees in the red tulips, but a passel of blooms.

Still no bees in the red tulips, but a passel of blooms.

Almond blossoms opening against the warm stucco of the house.

Almond blossoms opening against the warm stucco of the house.

The new bee tree is the apricot.

The new bee tree is the apricot.

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A bee fly if I'm not mistaken.

A bee fly if I’m not mistaken.

In quest of the elusive white butterfly, moving too fast for me to get close, flittering through the nepeta.

In quest of the elusive white butterfly, moving too fast for me to get close, flittering through the nepeta.

A tiny wild bee plastered in pollen in the mini yellow tulips.

A tiny wild bee plastered in pollen in the mini yellow tulips.

I love the way the honeybees dive in face first, deep into the corolla.

I love the way the honeybees dive in face first, deep into the corolla.

Keeping up with my goal of photographing bees on each new variety of flower as it blooms. This girl made my day.

Keeping up with my goal of photographing bees on each new variety of flower as it blooms. This girl made my day.

So I spent a pleasant morning, grateful for the one that got away, chasing bees and butterflies through the spring garden, then drove to Eckert to the frame shop to drop off a new print for a show next month in Salida, and to pick up a couple of framed giant bees for the Grand Opening tomorrow night of the Church of Art in downtown Hotchkiss. Slowly gearing up the first rise of summer’s roller coaster.

Tuesday, Two Caterpillars

Katrina finished the caterpillar greenhouse for winter greens this morning, and planted mustard greens to round out the bed of spinach, cilantro, and arugula. The north side of the bed has sprouted carrots and beets already for spring harvest.

 

Greenhouse plastic slides up or down the hoops, held in place by clothesline anchored near the ground.

The other two caterpillars busied themselves on a weed in the trees down near the pond.

 

Who will this turn into? My butterfly field guide is trapped inside iTunes and I can’t open it!

The tail grips the stem…

… while the head eats what? The inflorescence?

Or the nectar? Or the aphids?

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, Up All Night

Stellar resting after up all night

Ironic that my puppy prayer of the whole last year has betrayed me: I give thanks for having two happy healthy dogs. It’s true, they’re still happy, but they haven’t either one been healthy since the last snow, and maybe a lot longer than that. Their tough construction belies their delicate constitutions. Up til 5 a.m., with Stellar out every ten or twenty minutes, finally forcing out only clear brown liquid. I think we’ve all been there, with ourselves or our animals. Poor Stellar! Patience came as I watched him strain. I know how bad it feels. Peristalsis won’t stop, there’s nothing left, but you can’t help it.  A dx of coccidia and a sulfa drug from Doc should solve it.

Biko’s nose

Butterfly’s tongue

I could not have asked for a lovelier day in which to take no obligations. A night of no sleep, a damp garden in cool, moist air, a cloudless sunlight, no I couldn’t ask for anything more. This is my Sunday; as morning rounds don’t always happen in the morning, Sunday sometimes falls in the middle of the week. It’s been a long full week, not a quiet one, its fullness replete with joy and grief.

The song in my head is quite different when I spend enough time outside. Puttering, looking, watching, listening. I’ve watered nothing for three days, nothing since Thursday save the potted plants on Saturday, gave them a good soaking just hours before the downpour. Rocky Mountain beeplants, stunted, few and far between, are opening their fringed purple heads. Blue mist spireas are opening their delicate purple spikes.

“Who is eating my peaches?” said the woman who lived in the woods. “Someone is climbing the tree and gnawing the fruit from the bone, leaving peach pits hanging on the limbs.”