Posts Tagged ‘Tiger Swallowtail butterfly’

That revolutionary rascal, Benjamin Franklin, is the most recognizable “citizen scientist”; someone who volunteers his or her time in the IMG_2400pursuit/study of science, often assisting professional scientists with day-to-day observances. A citizen scientist may gather data, monitor bees or dragonflies, note migration patterns of birds bats, chase tornadoes or measure water depth, reporting to a specific site or merely taking a photo and recording where they saw in a journal. We know a great deal about climate year’s ago from the daily weather journals farmers recorded.

If you have been tagging Monarch butterflies for Monarch Watch or photographing bees for university extensive services, you are a citizen scientist. Even if you are posting a slow moving turtle on Facebook, you are such a scientist.

Last week, while our Minnesota branch of the family tree was visiting, I noticed a caterpillar on the meadow rue during my early morning walk. I believe it to be a Tiger Swallowtail as they have chosen this plant to eat and grow in the past. You might imagine my glee at this discovery, for these little occurrences in life are really rather grand for me.

I hurried inside to announce my discovery, especially to our Keziah, who had already spent a considerable amount of time chasing after Monarchs and moths in our garden. We slipped on sandals and scurried out faster than a Beatrix Potter rabbit. Still in our pajamas, we snaked around the peony bush, tip toed through the ferns, the Echinacea and the brown-eyed Susans.

There it was, a very hungry caterpillar with yellow and black stripes, stripping a leaf in the slow and steady fashion of a caterpillar.

IMG_2330We talked and talked about caterpillars and cocoons and such, then I mentioned that we could watch this one while she was here. She was now a scientist. A citizen scientist, to be exact. We would watch the insect and I would take pictures and we would see what happens. Each morning, she queried “how are the caterpillars, Yia Yia?” and out we would go to check on their progress.

Kezzie was excited to receive such a distinction. Such things are important to children employed in the occupation of learning about life. Papa showed her how to use his magnifying glass and, as the days wore on as August days do, she and I frequented the meadow rue. We found a second, then a third caterpillar, which allowed us to observe how much and how fast a caterpillar grows and eats and to see them in a few different sizes. I made a promise that I would take more photos to share with her, and so I have.

It is such grand fun to experience nature with children and to see such things as caterpillars inch along from a child’s point of view. For your own point of view, remember to click onto the photos to see the caterpillar a little better.


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After the misty morning fogs, the recent rains, and the August heat, the weeds have been advancing aggressively  into the flower beds, chasing me around the garden like a snake slinking in search of supper.  My nails are split and my ankles are ringed in mosquito bites. A sense of accomplishment reigns, however, each time I bring order to the jungle of overgrowth here.

I found refuge in the tall  grasses, camouflaged.  Can you find me hiding? I top 5’3″. These tall grasses, divisions from my friend Jan, are twice as tall as me – and they have not as yet showed their plumes!

It has been a most pleasant summer here on the  Cutoff.  We have had more nights than not with the windows opened., breezes wafting in; the tree toads and crickets crooning and strumming in late night chorus along with it.  The daisies have been resplendent, showing off from before the Fourth of DSCN5409July, just now starting to fade. The Echinacea and Rudbeckia have been proudly wearing their seasonal crowns of glory and the finch are finding their seeds; a sign of summer’s long farewell at hand.

Just a few feet away from the grasses, Joe Pye Weed,  divisions from the Wilder herb garden last year, have been prolific, with a host of flitting and buzzing visitors enjoying their sweet, sweet nectar.

I am encouraged by the emergence of more bees this summer, and the return of monarchs. While their numbers are low, there is marked resurgence in our winged friends, and I choose to take hope from their presence, especially since I only saw one Monarch on our property last summer.  I was not quick enough, nor was my camera, at capturing the Monarchs on the Joe Pye Weed, but, did catch in the lens a few other butterflies, just before I posed again for Sports Illustrated. DSCN5484



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Earlier in the month, when the grands were visiting, Kezzie and I were looking out the wide expanse of the living room window before we had breakfast. This view is the best view from our house, especially on summer mornings, when the birds are visiting the  birdbaths, splashing and drinking and socializing, as birds are wont to do.

I noticed the bowls were empty. Now, that can’t be allowed, can it? Of course not, so, clandestinely,  Kezzie and I, still in our pajamas (but, who would know?), scurried out to fill them up. (The bird baths, not our pajamas.)

As I was tugging the hose, I felt a slight lightening of my load. “Pull, Yia Yia. Pull some more. Pull harder” and so, I did, all the way up to the bird bath closest to the window, where  Papa was watching us, and took this picture.

We finished filling all six of the watering holes, and slipped inside before Mommy and Daddy knew what we were up to. Well, we didn’t go in right away. First, we checked a few flowers and discovered  these hungry, hungry caterpillars on the meadow rue.


Over the next several weeks, I watched these munching machines, hard at work, growing fatter and fatter, decimating my rue. Sure they were tiger swallowtails, I took pictures on many-a-day. The neighbors must surely wonder about me. I wonder about me.


As time went on, the caterpillars munched their way away from the rue; somewhere they roamed to spin their cocoons and morph into swallowtails, while I morphed into a traveler, and wandered up to Minnesota, hauling a seesaw, a bird bath, and a loaf of zucchini bread, compliments of our community garden plot.

DSCN2905DSCN2981We read and we played,  Kezzie and I. Ezra crawled and grabbed everything he could reach, clapping and learning to wave bye-bye. The time went too fast and the way home was long, but finding one’s way back home comes eventually, and that is where I needed to go.


So, up early I was, and packed when Ezra awoke. This little charmer played nicely in his Pack and Play as I lugged my belongings out to the car.  As I shoved the last vessels of my journey into the trunk, trying harder than hard not to be sad, I noticed something yellow on the walkway up to the house. Getting closer, I saw it was a butterfly. What looked to be a tiger swallowtail,. Flattened. Had I stepped on it, unknowingly? Son-in-law, Tom, when he left earlier? Had it been injured?


Now I did feel very sad. Sadder than sad, and went into the house to look for something to scoop it up with, Ezra smiling and muttering baby sounds. I grabbed the camera and a piece of paper, and went back out, bent down, and slowly touched a wing. It moved. The wind? My touch? Another move, then a quiver of one one wing. A tremble. An antenna groped, then the other wing moved, then both, shuttering, all in a few seconds,. As suddenly as sudden can be, the butterfly flapped it wings, and flew; up, past the window, the door. Up and away into the new morning sky, warmed, I surmised, by the sun.


“Wait. Come back, No, fly, fly away” – and it did, reminding me that my time to leave was at hand.

How wondrous it was to find this swallowtail, four hundred miles and four weeks after Kezzie and I discovered those caterpillars. I needed to see it just when I did, preparing myself to fly away home, connecting the moments of my life, but, first, Ezra and I hugged and Kezzie and I gave each other a butterfly kiss.


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I needed to turn on the garden hose. My potted plants were thirsty, drooping, begging for some water. Instead, I stood, for twenty minutes, and watched in wonder at my afternoon visitor. He was flying slowly around and then resting on the leaves of the snowball bush, which sits right outside one of the windows in the library. The spigot for the water is right next to the bush. How could I possibly disturb the peaceful rest of this lovely butterfly?

He continued flitting about and making short swoops, soaring a bit, circling around and casting a shadow on the driveway. The sun was starting its descent toward the east, shining its angel rays on the bush. There the butterfly landed and spread his golden wings, warming himself, basking in the late afternoon glow.

I moved a bit with the camera and he flew; round and round and round until he landed again on a leaf.

These stunning Tiger Swallowtail butterflies are not unusual around here. I see them often soaring high up in the trees, where they lay their eggs. I just love to watch them fly – and I enjoyed watching this one resting in the sun for such a long time this afternoon. I am grateful for his visit and that he felt comfortable sitting for a while here on the cutoff.

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