Saturday, June 19, 2010

Creature Feature Continued

So I think we may have solved the mystery around "Mike" the Monarch Butterfly caterpillar (I felt I had the right to name him, since he was eating my dill). Seems that Mike is not a Monarch butterfly (nor will he ever be) at all. He looks like a Black Swallowtail, which is interesting because I've seen some flying around the house. I am trying to upload another picture of Mike type caterpillar from a butterfly conservation blog (the program won't let me right now), It's The site describes this caterpillar's life cycle and habits. Sure enough, "Mike" is attracted to dill, fennel and parsley, all three of which I have growing in the herb bed. Also, according to our Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque, Black Swallowtails are common here. I've now got a sneaky suspicion regarding the "bird droppings" that I've been noticing for the last few weeks on the Caserta Squash and wild grapes. They may not be bird droppings at all. Oh boy!

Other creatures are enjoying our farm during these halcyon days of June. Beside the truly amazing number of ant and beetle species(we've had a Ten-lined June Beetle hanging out by the front door lately), several species of birds, lizards, toads and mice quite happily either wander in and out, or have set up shop. The occasional skunk wanders in for a visit now and again. By its web I "think" we have an absolutely amazingly talented orb spider in the west side yard. The east side yard seems to be the preferred environment for a wolf spider or two and some centipedes.

The Western Scrub Jays who built their nest in the cypress trees on the east side of the house are still here, or at least their fledges are. Chuck and I aren't sure, but suspect they may be double clutching this year. Swallows are nesting above my head as I write this and I just watched a kingbird capture and devour a huge bug (it looked like a moth but could be a cicada). The ladder-backed woodpeckers (we’ve had Downy and Northern Flickers too) were here this morning and continue to harvest their stash of acorns out of the Russian Olive snag that Chuck insisted (happily, I gave in) we allow to remain standing.

This snag is a perch for nearly all of our avian visitors; gold finches, white wing and collared dove (arrgggghhh), blue grosbeak, Cooper's hawk and a very occasional oriole. We also receive semi-regular visits from our neighborhood roadrunner who seems to find the hunting successful due to the fecundity of our subsidized house finches and European sparrows :-)

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