Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Hour's Window

        Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes July 2011
            “An Hour’s Window” By Diane Shapiro

    Yards and gardens keep us busy.  Weeding, watering, planting, pruning, mulching, mowing, deadheading- repeat!  One day I decided I would just sit in my garden and watch what was going on there.  I forced myself to sit still and not jump up to pluck a weed or two or three.  I soon saw a couple of Cabbage White Butterflies fly into the garden zigging and zagging over the flowers.  They are white with one black dot on each wing for males and two black dots on each wing for females.  They quickly spiraled up in the air and were gone.  Cabbage Whites are one of the most numerous species of butterflies in the country.  The day before I had seen a Monarch butterfly calmly floating through the yard and drifting from one Milkweed plant to the next.  The Monarch’s flight pattern was in direct contrast to the frantic flight of the Cabbage Whites.  It turns out that each species of butterfly has a unique and instinctive flight pattern.  A butterfly, the size of my thumb, landed on the Meadow Rue a foot away from me.  It took off so fast I couldn’t get a good look at its markings.  One the size of my hand had been on the purple Coneflower a few days before.  Gazing around the garden I saw the thumb-sized butterfly now on the Coreopsis.  It stayed there for about five minutes giving me enough time to get pictures with my digital camera.  I later matched the pictures to a butterfly from an identification guide and believe it was a Variegated Fritillary!  It was orange with numerous black lines, spots and “ V” shapes.
    Back sitting on the porch of my garden shed, I realized the Butterfly bushes in the garden were beginning to flower.  They’re a great nectar source for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.  The one we planted at the Library, on Earth Day, is already in full bloom with beautiful purple flowers.  A Ruby-throated Hummingbird came to drink the sugar water from the tube feeder hanging from the garden shed porch.  I could hear its wings humming as it drank for about twenty seconds.   It then flew to a dead tree limb and perched for a few minutes.  I saw a Dragonfly land on a dead flower head.  I quietly and slowly walked towards it hoping to get a close-up picture.  It cooperated and really had a fierce look when I zoomed in on it.  Later on, I read up on Dragonfly behavior.  It turns out that they catch a variety of insects and chew them into pieces with their strong jaws.  Wow!  I didn’t know that was happening in the garden.   I have to say I really enjoyed the time spent in the garden and I didn’t even pull a single weed.

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