Whoop tay yai-yay

When Sharon took off on her trip, she left behind one of the cameras she uses for digiscoping, a Nikon CoolPix 4500. It's got two very interesting things about it: one, it's capable of taking absolutely stunning close-up ("macro") shots, and two, it was forged in the fires of Hell by Lucifer himself.

They don't talk much about that second one in the promotional material.

I'm trying to explain why this post, about caterpillars, will only have two pictures in it. No matter how hard I tried, I simply could not get this camera to focus on what was right in front of it. But the CoolPix and I have bad blood between us, ever since I tried to shut off its time-delay function, which was apparently near and dear to its cold, black heart. The manual was less than useful: "To counteract time-delay function: Do not. Will cause universe implosion. If such effect is desired, please shift yourself into a parallel dimension first, and speak to the Vortex Warlock for further guidance."

So, then, caterpillars!

As you probably know, every year, Sharon "ranches" Monarch caterpillars, growing them inside a mesh container until they're become full-fledged butterflies and be set free.

This year she's ranching Black Swallowtails as well, which are a lot harder to break to the saddle, let me tell you. Also, they come from darker eggs, which means Mrs. Olson won't give us as much for them.


Anyway, the swallowtails are interesting: as Sharon pointed out earlier, in their initial form they're colored to look like bird poo, then look more or less like Monarchs, but when they cocoon, their chrysalis looks more like a Metapod.

Note the two silk strings attached, and the funky wood-like coloration. The other Swallowtail is green like a Monarch chrysalis, however. I'm not sure if this a natural variation, someting to do with age, or health. At any rate, it looks pretty cool, don't you think?

And it is chrysalis city in the Monarch ranch, here. We've already got about eight in cocoons, two more about to assume the J position and get started metamorphosizin', and a couple more big fat cats munching down milkweed as we speak. Soon I'll have to rope 'n' brand 'em, which is much harder than you think, seeing as the branding iron is so small.

In fact, in the time I spent off yesterday, bee-tending, they had eaten the milkweed down to the stalk and were subsisting on dead leaves on the bottom of the container. Eep! I'm sorry guys! I didn't know you'd be so voracious. I'd think you had a tapeworm, except that, well, you're a lot smaller than tapeworms.

Prowling through the street looking to feed the cats hungry for an angry fix, I left the house first thing this morning looking for milkweed, which like Scotch tape and a corkscrew, is something you trip over constantly until you need it. What must I have looked like at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, walking the streets, my eyes glued to the edges of lawns and medians? A burglar? A drunk, staggering home? Or worst, a birder?

Ah well, I found what I was looking for, stuffed it in the container, and rustled up the cats onto the leaves, where, after a lot of exploration, they started happily munching away. I could tell that one stalk wasn't going to be enough, so later in the day I walked the Greenway for a bit, making myself a menace to the bikers as I scanned the wild growth.

Bikers, I apologize. I had hungry insects to feed, and, frankly, "On the left!" really confuses me, which I recognize is a personal problem. See, if you just ring a bell, I can generate a Pavlovian response that tells me I should dodge to the curve nearest the side I'm on. But when you say "On the Left!" First there's a shock of hearing someone bark at me, then I realize there's a person on a bike closing on me, then I have to think "Do they mean they're coming on my left, or that I should move to the left," which is really stupid, I know, because you're not saying "to the left," but there you are.

Plus, in that split second of minor panic, it takes me a second to remember which side the left is. So my natural instinct is, deerlike, to freeze in the middle of the path just so I can be certain I'll get creamed.

Anyway, some green, sluglike creatures get to stuff themselves, so that's okay.


Dearest Heart,

Glad to hear that you're enjoying your trip, however I find it distressing that you won't tell me where you are or when you're coming back. And why do I hear laughter and Mariachi music in the background?

I miss you. The birds do, too, apparently, because just today I saw a flock of Goshawks fly right by our window.

Warmest regards,