Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes August-September 2012

            Back in the middle of August I could not stop watching and taking pictures of the Painted Lady butterflies that covered the butterfly bush in my garden.  Although I've had this white flowering shrub for a number of years, I have never had these visitors.  The Painted Lady butterfly is orange with black and white markings.  It has a wingspan of about two inches.  I read about them and learned that they are migratory, wintering in the south and flying north and throughout the country in spring.  Some years their population reaches great numbers and we see an influx of them.  Other years there are very few seen in New York and New England.  Weather conditions can also affect their arrival.  Perhaps our mild winter and early spring enticed them up here this summer.
            The Painted Lady caterpillars feed on plants such as mallows, hollyhocks, and thistles.  The butterflies get their nectar from many plant sources.  They not only loved my butterfly bush but also covered Theo and Laurie's, Jean Sweet's, the bush by Alumni Hall, and the one at the library.  Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Clear-wing Hummingbird moths, and Ruby-throated hummingbirds all vied for nectar on the bushes.  A small Brown Elfin butterfly enjoyed the overripe banana I put out on my butterfly feeder.  The Painted Lady show lasted for a couple of weeks and then they were gone.  Hummingbirds stayed through the first week of September.  Monarchs continue to drift by, taking nectar from the now blooming asters and butterfly bush.
            I've paddled down Round Lake's outlet several times in the last month.  Two out of three times I've seen a Bald Eagle perched in a treetop on the eastern shore.  I have spotted half a dozen Great Blue Herons either fishing quietly or flying low over the marshy areas.  Belted Kingfishers are on the outlet too.  Last week, Judy Selig and I paddled around a bend and came across one sitting atop a small dead tree next to the water.  We quietly paddled toward it.  I suddenly noticed a hawk flying fast up behind the kingfisher.  At that exact moment our paddling disturbed the kingfisher. In the nick of time he left his post, gave his rattle call and just avoided being attacked by the hawk.  The hawk flew on and the kingfisher flew low into the vegetation.  Wow!  Better than the nature channel. 
            A dozen three to five year olds successfully prepared the ground, planted, tended, and picked vegetables at the Round Lake library this summer.  We called it our Pizza Garden: dirt to pizza in four months.  We grew tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, and lettuce.  The young gardeners especially liked watering and picking the giant cherry tomatoes.  We enjoyed a tomato buffet and zucchini bread tasting.  Everyone loved the zucchini bread but not so much the tomatoes.  We learned how to make sauce with our roma tomatoes.  We tasted salsa made from our big boy tomatoes.  We ended with a homemade pizza party.  The sauce for the pies had herbs and garlic from the garden.  The adult pie had garden pepper, zucchini, and the roma tomato sauce.  Delicious!  Great job gardeners!!
            Lastly, my husband called while on his way to work last week, to tell me of a pig sighting.  By now I'm sure many of you heard and/or saw the news about the huge pig on the exit 11 entrance ramp.  Dan and I had fun wondering if it was a wild boar living in the woods on top of the hill, disturbed by construction workers.  But it was just a sauntering swine from a Sweet Road farm.  You really never know what you'll see out and about!