Monday, May 7, 2018

Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly in my Yard

Butterfly garden in my backyard around a fig tree. It all began here.
In late March the Monarchs returned from their migration. They found the new milkweed right away.
 And set about laying eggs on the backs of the milkweed leaves.

Monarch butterfly egg on a milkweed leaf. The egg stage lasts 4 to 6 days.
In about five days I could see the head of a new caterpillar about to emerge from an egg.
The new caterpillar eats the egg case.
 Day 2...the caterpillar has already grown, but is still tiny at only a few mm long.
April 5, Day 3, Monarch larva is busy eating the milkweed leaf. Measures 4 mm long. The "1" on the ruler is one centimeter.
Day 4: April 6, 2018. A hungry, hungry caterpillar. 
One week, April 9, about 7 mm long.
Eating a flower bud.
 One centimeter long, April 11.
April 13, growing faster every day.
Still eating at two weeks.
Two weeks, 2 1/2 cm long. The caterpillar (larval) stage lasts 2 to 3 weeks.
The caterpillar has stopped eating and ventured off the milkweed to find a suitable place to form its chrysalis. It started up the fig tree in this photo.
This one chose a spot on the electric post. It attached itself under a wooden board and made this J shape. I watched it doing crunches for a long time, then left to go to dinner. When I came back...
Voila! The caterpillar is now inside its chrysalis. So sorry I missed watching that happen.
I also found another chrysalis on the underside of the bird bath,
Butterfly watch had begun. When the sun is shining on them, you can see the wings inside.
The chrysalis on the bird bath was ready to emerge first. The chrysalis (pupal) stage lasts 5 to 15 days.
It looked like this on Sunday morning, May 6, at 9:30 when I left for church. I knew it would be soon.
After church, at noon, we have a butterfly still drying its wings on the side of the bird bath!
The two black dots on the yellow part of the secondary wings tells me this one is a male. So his name is Archie.
Archie the Monarch flew to the top of the fig tree until he was ready to eat.
Archie's empty chrysalis.
On Monday morning the other chrysalis was showing the same changes. In this picture you can see that the chrysalis is cracking.
And voila! A new creation! God's creations are awesome and this metamorphosis is a marvelous mystery.
The butterfly hangs for one to two hours to allow its wings to expand and dry out.
Wings fanning out. 

Do you see the butterfly hanging on the electric meter post?

Crawling off the chrysalis. 
Crawling onto my hand for a ride to the flower garden. 
It's a female, and I named her Mona. 
The adult butterfly stage lasts 2 to 5 weeks in summer, several months for the over-wintering generation in Mexico.
Soon there will be a new generation of butterflies as the females start laying eggs on the milkweed.
Hope you enjoyed.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Ichetucknee River Paddle

The Ichetucknee is one of Florida's most pristine spring-fed rivers. The clear aquamarine waters flow over the silvery bottom, providing views of fish, plants, and today...manatees!

We launched our kayaks at the north end of Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
Friends Shirley, Judy, and Linda start down the river ahead.
Shirley snapping a photo of a large turtle on the log.
Even though it's technically still winter, it was a beautiful Spring day.
Linda checking out that log.
We saw several of these Spider Lilies in bloom.
Redbud blossoms that have fallen on some duckweed.
You can see the Eelgrass flowing in the direction of the current.

Blurry picture of Linda having some fun.
Watching a Great Egret. 
Oh, a cave in the limestone cliff!
That's me, checking out the cave. Judy took all the pictures with me in them.
When you have a small boat, you can fit in tiny places.
But I ran out of water.
There are many small springs along the river.

One of many groups of basking turtles.
Linda floating along. Our paddles were mostly used for steering.
Linda spotted these Cormorants in a tree.
Gliding over the eelgrass.
Shirley let her foot out of captivity!
Testing the 72 degree spring water.
A patch of spider lilies.
The entire six-mile length of the river flows through the state park until it empties into the Sante Fe River. There is no development along the banks.
A small white blossom in the floating vegetation.
The entrance to another large spring, called Devil's Eye.
Shirley watching the water bubble up from the Devil's Eye Spring. An average 233 million gallons of water flows from the springs along the river every day.
The river widens here for a ways.
Judy looking at more turtles.
Shirley and some turtles.
But the best find was manatees! Linda is pointing to one below.
There were two manatees resting on the bottom.
I suspect they were juveniles, as they were both small by manatee standards.
We watched them come up for air.

Continuing down the river.

Our lunch stop. We pulled a little off the river and rested our boats on vegetation to keep from drifting away. This is Shirley.
Judy and Linda
Me and Shirley
After eating, I checked out the tiny things around my boat... like damselflies...
And tiny white spiders...
This one came to visit on my boat.
Voracious caterpillars...

Continuing on...
Fish or a log?
Shirley wanted a wilderness picture...I took a few.
Great Egret
Shirley paddling in the wilderness...

What's up there?
Cypress knees...

The sign says, "No diving or climbing" 
Lots of tubers float down this river in the summer time. Not allowed until Memorial Day. This is the time for kayakers to enjoy it.

This spring is fenced off to protect the habitat of a rare, almost endangered snail.
Coffee Springs, the only home of this rare snail in Florida.

I saw this snail on the eelgrass inside the enclosure.
But from my google search, I don't think it is the rare silt snail because of it's size. The silt snail is said to be very tiny, about the size of a grain of sand.
Shirley enjoying some more turtles.
Looks like a very ambitious beaver has been gnawing on this tree.
Great-blue heron.

Approaching the take out at the south end of the park.
Kayak take-out.
I parked my RV at this location. So we loaded up the 4 kayaks and 4 people and shuttled 5 miles back to the north end to where we left Judy's SUV.
All agreed it was a wonderful day on the water.