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Archive for the ‘Natural Phenomena’ Category

Walking by a tree in the Rio Grande Valley, my eye is attracted to a two foot long stick with a moving surface.  Going closer I see many insects crawling over a gloppy brown mound. In the middle sit two brilliant butterflies gently waving their wings while their delicate probosis ties them to the glop.

“They are drinking fermented fruit and this is a drunken butterfly party …” a voice behind me says softly. “That is a Red Admiral and that one is a Mexican Bluewing.”

Turning I see a face reflecting the wonder my own face wears. A smile, a wink, and an extended hand introduce me to the Park Naturalist who proceeds to tell me how to make a butterfly feeder. Find a fallen limb of Honey Mesquite, cut it into pieces, gouge a shallow trough in one side, hang it from a  tree, and mix up a batch of “glop” to use as bait and then wait for the crowd to arrive The crowd here is beetles, wasps, flies and butterflies. They are drinking  a fermented mixture of the 3 “B’s”. The friendly man standing next to me, named Huck, informs me that ” Anyone can make this with one third beer, one third over-ripe bananas, and one third brown sugar. It has to sit for a few days and Presto! …you are ready for a drunken party of tropical butterflies.”  As we speak up drifts a third party-goer to land and push his tongue into the fragrant mess. ”

 

Hackberry Butterfly

Hackberry Emperor Butterfly

 

The latest arrival is a Hackberry Emperor who prefers our alcoholic “glop” to the flowers of the Hackberry tree he depends on. Looking at his lacy, almost translucent wings and dainty feet planted in our glop it seems apparent that all creatures desire the thrill of alcohol.  He refuses to leave the feast even when touched with a forefinger … just moves a millimeter over without removing his tongue. The heady ripe-fruit smell wafts over us and more butterflies arrive for a taste. I resolve to make a feeder.

D.L. and his newly made butterfly feeder

D.L. and our newly made butterfly feeder

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We went out to Estero Llano to see the Mexican Bluewing and got caught in thunder, lightning and RAIN ! It was very exhilarating. There we encountered the Mexican Bluewing butterfly.

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Closed

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Closed

What wonderful camouflage.

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Open

Mexican Bluewing Butterfly with Wings Open

And then it spreads its wings and SPLENDOR.

The day before Easter, while writing about these ephemeral creatures, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the history of man has been dropped on Afghanistan. It is hard to imagine that these tiny concerns over what a butterfly might like to eat exist on the same planet as the massive destruction of habitat seen on Ameican TV. Mind-wrenching!

 

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A sweaty-humid day and we seek the shelter of some towering oak trees. Whew!  It’s hot. Then I hear a cracking sound and am instantly alert … is a branch of the tree going to fall on my head? Moving hastily away and looking up, I can see no branch appearing to tilt or fall.  The cracking sound continues as I look around. A man walks by and smiles at us as he remarks “Don’t worry … it is only a Guatemalan Cracker butterfly.”

The cracking sound diminishes and he walks over to the trunk of the tree and points upward. Squinting at the spot I see nothing. He waves me over and says “It is so well camouflaged that it takes a while to see it.”

Guatemalan Cracker Butterfly

Guatemalan Cracker Butterfly

Lifting my binoculars I scan the spot and there it is! Above my head, resting on the bark, is a butterfly the size of an apple. “He is a rare one this far North in Texas. He belongs in Central America,” the man says and bids us goodbye.

D. L. points to the location of the butterfly

Once home I look up this strange gray butterfly and find that the cracking sound is from clapping his wings together to warn other male Crackers that this tree is HIS or to attract any female in the vicinity to his tree. Will wonders never cease … Crack away you marvelous butterfly trying to insure that your species will go on into the future. We wish you success.

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Roadrunner with eye patch clearly visible

Roadrunner with eye patch clearly visible

What do I know about the Roadrunner that I did not know yesterday?  Quite a bit … as seen in these photos this bird has a bare patch of skin behind each eye. I knew that … and usually the bit I have seen is bright blue. In these pic’s you can actually see that the patch is shaded blue anterior to red posterior.  Never saw that before!!

Close up

Close up

We had the treat of varied weather with short spells of pelting rain: light, misty rain, blinding sunshine and foggy horizons as we drove to Falcon Lake in Texas. Once there we saw a dozen or more Roadrunners.  They had their feathers fluffed up because it had rained but were out in full force in the sunshine seeking breakfast. Getting out to get a good shot i noticed the X tracks in the wet sand … with four toes they have two facing forward and two facing backward. It is called zygodactyl … who knew?

Eyepatch is visible even from this view

Eyepatch is visible even from this view

They live in arid scrub land and mate for life which is why we saw them in pairs searching for grasshoppers in the wet grass.

Roadrunner hunting for lunch

Roadrunner hunting for lunch

What a treat they were as they sped away from us. It was a stormy day harking back to my childhood when every day we lived WITH the weather not running indoors to escape it. Blessed rain to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

This may be what the roadrunner will find to munch on! I was hunting an elusive butterfly when touching a leaf caused a strange insect to cautiously climb up a stalk of grass and stop … so I took his picture instead of the splendid butterfly I was chasing.  Then he suddenly hopped … UP! … and OVER! a full 4 feet away. What an incredible distance for such a little guy.  We chased him and every hop was 4 to 6 feet at a hop. WOW!  I looked him up and he is a Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper found in the deep South around ponds and wet areas. He turned out to be a she as males are brown and females are green.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Here my friend holds the blade of grass she was perched on. You can see she’s about as big as a toothpick and shaped just like one!

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Early Morning Risers … dawn blankets the sky with apricot color as I trip, literally, down the steps to our little laundry room. Half asleep, I glance at the floor before I step in and there is a black blob. Catching my foot an instant before it lands on the blob, I lean over, bleary-eyed, and perceive a butterfly? a moth? some creature?  I rush in and wake D.L. who repeats my stumble down the steps and growls “What? What is it?” He stares in astonishment as I wave him back. “Don’t scare it … I want to take a photo of it.”

After a moment he says “But … But … it is dead!” Checking up close we touch the moth and it is dead so we pick it up and take it inside where I find a photo of the Black Witch Moth on the internet. There it says it is the largest moth north of Mexico at 5 to 6 inches. It is often mistaken for a bat.

One site says the Mayans called it Mah-Ha-Na which means “May I borrow your house” since they frequent indoor places. It is also considered a harbinger of death in Caribbean and South American folklore. Regardless, it is a lovely treasure and a remarkable start to our morning.

ENJOY !!

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Here is the 13 mile road between Pardee Lake and Jackson, California which is a little used road in the Sierra foothills.

California Golden Hills

California Golden Hills

On a 93 degree-at-noon day the golden hills rest in silence and so do the horses.

Resting Horses

Resting Horses

 

The Oaks spread their majestic limbs and the native Buckeye trees have begun shedding their leaves and developing the green balls which hold their seeds.  They will soon be bare which is an evolutionary strategy to cope with dry California summers and minimize their need for water.

Majestic Oaks

Majestic Oaks

California Buckeyes

California Buckeyes

California Buckeye Seed Pods

California Buckeye Seed Pods

The thistles are dried and ready to fling their seeds to the wind.

Thistle Seed Heads

Thistle Seed Heads

It is August … warmth … lazy long days …

Along this road are stone fences built by the Chinese laborers brought to the gold mines in the late 1800’s … they still stand and define each farm.

Stone Fence built by Chinese laborers

Stone Fence built by Chinese laborers

And at the end of the peaceful, old road there is ICE CREAM!!

D.L. and end of the road ice cream

D.L. and end of the road ice cream

The golden hills of California … always in my dreams …

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New Planet

New Planet by Mary P Williams

Out and about in the universe we see a new planet beginning to cool and tiny green plants pop up to colonize and soften the sere surface.

Eruption

Eruption by Mary P Williams

This is after the eruptions, which form the planet, finish their dynamic processes.

Nanobots

Nanobots by Mary P Williams

Some creative soul mentioned that it might be best not to send massive spaceships out to explore the arms of our galaxy but to send tiny, thimble sized nanobots out in fleets of millions. Scatter them 360 degrees, wait for them to land on various planets, replicate themselves, explore, and send back all the information we need. This captivated my imagination so here is a fleet speeding out to visit the universe.

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