Friday, July 11, 2008

Flying Things

In early May, I spotted six Black Swallowtail caterpillars on my reseeded dill plants.
The cats were large - at least to the fourth instar, and a couple looked closer to the fifth and ready to pupate. I was surprised at their size since it was so early in the year and I hadn't yet seen a BST anywhere in the yard so they must have been from overwintered eggs. DH and I kept a pretty close eye on them as the dill was just starting to get some growth on it and there was no way it would last through all six to pupation.

Then they started disappearing. Unfortunately, I didn't feel much like raising them inside this year and the wasps took them all. So when I spotted six more cats, all between their first to third instars, on my parsley in June - they promptly hit the old aquarium in the house.

When I've raised them in other years, they've been quite happy with dill, and only dill. When offered parsley, wild carrot and bishop weed, all were ignored but the dill. This year, as the parsley plants were all still very small and not going to make it through all of them, I again tried offering the different host plants. To my surprise, almost the moment that I introduced the bishop weed, all other food sources were completely ignore! Which was perfect since I have tons of that friggin' weed - unfortunately.

So, now all but one have pupated and I'm waiting on the first to eclose any day now. I dunno what the deal is with the smaller cat - he doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to bulk up or pupate. I've never had one be this slow before. Maybe he's just a slacker.

On another note - the Gray Catbirds are back and being nosier than ever. Yeah, noisy too, but these birds are nosey. We have nice conversations every morning as one particular curious male follows me around the yard. He's decided that a ten foot distance between him and I is satisfactory. lol, if the neighbors ever saw me out there first thing in the morning with my hair a mess, a cup of coffee spilling from my hand as I bend to inspect a flower or bug a tad closer and conversing with a tag-along bird who's watching my every move...
He's taken to watching me through the screen door in the mornings if he thinks I'm slacking on the morning walk. The female is much more wary and pays no nevermind to me at all. I think I've figured out where their nest is. The second pair have snubbed me altogether and could care less.

The wasps seem to be really numerous this year compared to other years. Something got into the bumble nest that was under the pond waterfall. Bummer - they were such fun to watch. Maybe they'll build another nest somewhere close enough for me to find. The honey bees; few, and no swarm was seen this year. Very, very unusual as we've had at least one come through the yard every single year for as long as I can remember.

The Monarch count: 1 male.
Also very unusual as we normally have tons flitting through the air by now. And I haven't spotted an egg. Not one. Weird.

The female Redheaded Woodpeckers is feeding twins in the front yard snag. Yay! I spotted carpenter ants at the bottom of the trunk though, so we may have to cut it down after all. I'd rather not, but I don't want it taking out the electric lines when it falls, either. The little ones should be getting close to taking their maiden flight.

I've scared two herons away from the yard and ponds so far this year, and the hubs spotted a White Egret, or it was possibly, I think, a Little Blue Heron (though he insisted not and I wasn't going to argue). He saw the entire bird while all I saw was the shadow, so all I can say is that the sucker was friggin' huge, whatever it was. As long as it stays away, I could really care less what it really was. lol.

The amount of crows hanging around the area this year is amazing! I'm not sure how many this particular murder contains, but they've taken to raiding other birds nests for the eggs and babies. It took them from the time I came inside to grab the laundry until I came outside to hang it on the line to clean out the poor Robin's nest she'd built in the pear tree. I felt so bad for her! They swiped one recently hatched baby and two unhatched eggs. I just caught the last crow flying away with the hatchling in it's beak as I came out the door. Poor Robin! Sometimes, I wish I owned a gun.

Both the Cardinals and Bluebirds are back, so that's good.

The hubs built a large Hummingbird feeder this year with PVC pipe as we had so many last year and I couldn't keep up with filling them all. Strangely, we only have a few this year. Maybe 8?

Our flying wildlife seem to be getting fewer and fewer (well, the good ones) every year. Not good. I wish the neighbors would get with the program and start creating some habitats for them.


Flighty said...

I actually saw a caterpillar yesterday which surprised me as I really can't remember the last time I saw one.
Sadly butterflies are in serious decline over here which is a real shame. I just hope that it doesn't reach the point where their survival is too late.
There are similar problems with some birds and bees, all of which is a real cause for concern.

Windyridge said...

We have lots of PVC pipe. Any chance of a post on the hub made the feeders?
Thanks for the ID on my salamander. What a beauty!

Tina said...

Hiya Flighty!
I ended up with lots of Black Swallotail cats this year. Really surprised me. I raised and released 6, so all in all, a good year.
I sure couldn't imagine if they disappeared. How awful! Nevermind the fact it would pretty much wipe humans off the map if the bees disappeared.

Hey there, Windyridge! Thanks for dropping in.
Yeah, that salamander is awesome looking!
There's a post somewhere on GardenWeb about making the feeders...I'll see if I can find it somewhere. It works great!

Flighty said...

It's been a really bad year for insects here due to the really dismal weather. xx