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A Monarch Emerges and gives me Respite

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1KQulW4OIs

During the week, I worry.
I worry about the usual: my job, my mortgage, my future.
I worry about my blood pressure!
I’m waiting.
And then it happens.
For a brief moment I am transported to another world,
Where breath is so much more important than thought.
Where simple and awesome live together.
Where the present is always a flower,
leading,
unknowingly,
to a vacation in Mexico.

John

And Mary Oliver writes:

Don’t bother me.
I’ve just
been born.
The butterfly’s loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves…
for long delicious moments it is perfect
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.

excerpted from the book,
“Blue Pastures”, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995.

Double click on an image to enlarge:

The Amazing Monarch

To   

A friend who is a 1st grade school teacher was collecting monarch butterfly caterpillars to show her class and she was very generous in giving me a couple to video for my blog.  They were high energy, eating lots of the milkweed (chemicals in the milkweed are toxic to most animals and make the caterpillars toxic to most predators).  Then the caterpillar crawled under a leaf and went completely still for a couple of hours (double click on any pic for a larger view):

Then it created a white silk button at the tip of its tail, and hung from it upside down.  It would hang like this for upwards to 12 hours!

The caterpillar then began to contract and expand, flexing its muscles up and down its body, its color turning greener and greener. It looked like it was doing crunches… for over an hour!  How it had the energy to keep flexing is beyond me.  Finally from the head it started to turn green.  This green capsule flowed totally over its body until it had encased itself in this green, hard chrysalis.  The chrysalis is a work of art!  The video shows this incredible transformation:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAbsjWVIrYg

I will try to get some video of the emerging butterfly in 10 days, stay tuned!

What is this?

Give Up?

Keeping with the Berry theme,  this is the bloom of the cranberry (Genus: Vaccinium).  Legend has it that early european settlers saw the blooms and thought it resembled the head and neck of a crane (double click on the above photo for a larger image).  Over time, it went from craneberry to cranberry.  Native Americans used it in their pemmican, while it is said that early settlers survived their first Thanksgiving by being shown by Native Americans how to harvest and prepare them.

Just like low bush blueberries, cranberry bushes are a very low shrub.  They thrive in cool, damp to wet locations.  Although they’re best known for being cultivated on the south shore of Massachusetts and Cape Cod,  there are wild cranberries growing in many locales in Massachusetts, especially in bogs.  One such bog is Burt’s Pit Bog (Brookwood Marsh Conservation Area) at the end of Ellington Road in Florence, Mass.  The bog itself has been preserved by the city but the essential important land around it has not.  The cranberries grow on a floating peat mat, drawing nutrients from the sunlight and bog.  In the fall and winter, animals travel to the bog for a great treat.  To learn more about the bog, take a look at the video I made:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz3syASnT4M

A Wild Blueberry Preserve

I was expecting tall blueberry bushes when I showed up for a tour of the Benson Place Wild Blueberry Farm in Heath, Mass., sponsored by Valley Land Fund (VLF).  What I saw were beautiful fields of low bush blueberries, only ankle deep!  We may have come for the blueberries but we stayed for views, they were just incredible!  Turkey, blackbear, moose, and coyote share the blueberries with their human visitors, but they don’t have to pay the nominal fee for the berries.  They just come and go as they please.

Dave Gott and Ted Watt, co-owners, gave us the grand tour of the farm they have put into agricultural preservation (in collaboration with Franklin Land Trust and the State of Massachusetts; VLF provided some of the funding).  Their hospitality will keep me coming back for more.  Check out the videos of the history of the farm on Burnt Hill (reaching back to the Native Americans) and how low bush blueberries are actually harvested, as well as some pictures (click on the thumbnails to get a bigger image).  You can visit their website at:  The Benson Place

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLv498R8H98

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCudi5jDzKY

Some pictures:

Some views of the fields, Ted and Dave, and Indian Hawkweed.

The group, a view of Mt. Greylock, an more views across the fields.

I have fallen in love…with the American Oystercatcher!

After watching a couple of Oystercatcher families, I am smitten!  An Audubon guide described them as a hefty bird wearing a tuxedo and smoking a carrot.  Wonderful.  From what it looks like the fledglings have black eye bands but the parents have the striking orange eye bands.
They were once plentiful in the northeast but by the middle 1800’s their numbers were low and they didn’t extend past the southern states.  With the Migratory Act they once again claimed the northeast as their home range but it sounds like their numbers are once again going down due to habitat loss.  For info on the Oystercatcher in Massachusetts, go to the fantastic blog, The Turtle Journal.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSaqcR7UvWg

Off to Cape May

Well, I know that I said I live in Western Massachusetts, so you’d expect a lot of wildlife from there but I’ve been traveling this summer so here are some pics and video of an incredible Nature Conservancy preserve in Cape May.  They’ve rehabilitated a phragmites wetland into a highly productive catty nine tail wetland plus they’ve roped off much of the shoreline for shore birds.  Yesterday I tagged along with an Audubon Society hike, it was pretty foggy but the leader was great.  Today, my mother and I hiked the mile path and saw American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus), a Halloween pennant dragon fly (Celithemis eponina) terns, and even a deer!

Oystercatcher                                                             Halloween Pennant

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ClO-AJ-Mpo

Scarlet Tananger in Robert’s Hill Conservation Area

Ah, a scarlet tananger in Robert’s Hill Conservation Area.  I have a bird book app on my iphone that I used to call him in.  He was a bit agitated with me because he thought another male was hanging around trying to take away his mate.  Sometimes his red almost looked orange!  Here’s alittle bit of a movie, watch how he shakes, he’s just so worried:

Barred Owl in Robert’s Hill Conservation Area

I ran into this Barred Owl in Robert’s Hill Conservation Area (Leeds, Massachusetts)  What a beauty!  It was first hard to see because it was high up on a dead snag (pics below) but then it flew right up to me and posed.

Here he is hooting at me.  Sorry the image is on its side, I just bought a new camera and didn’t have time to read the instructions, oops.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNbuwhFfDVY

You can click on the images below to make them bigger.