Friday, September 06, 2013

Glimpses Into Other Lives....

It's such a busy time of year outside right now.  Oh, not busy for me, the gardener who doesn't like heat, but busy for insects and flowers and birds and so many other living things.  I do a walkabout and come back with dozens of photos of interesting glimpses I've been given into other lives.

Of course, much of the time I'm not sure what I've really seen, so I have to research the animal or plant and try to find out.  Sometimes I'm successful...and sometimes I'm not.  Sometimes what I learn seems worth a share...and sometimes not.

Here are a few glimpses of other lives that I've been privileged to observe recently....

Do you ever wonder where other animals sleep?  No safe bed to curl up into....  No obvious shelter from the elements....  No protection from the many, many predators sharing the world with you, night as well as day....  Well, the evening before last, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a dark shape among the leaves of our green ash tree.  Binoculars showed me a rather tattered black swallowtail butterfly clinging to a leaf about 15 feet above the ground.  It seemed rather exposed from my view in the kitchen, but when I grabbed my camera and went outside to take a photo, I had a hard time getting a clear shot.

Maybe it wasn't so exposed a location after all!

Then yesterday morning, about 9:30 a.m., I started out on a walkabout with the boys.  As I went through the back yard, movement fluttering out of the green ash caught my eye.  A large, black swallowtail came out of the tree, to rest on one of my rose bushes.  I quickly caught the image with my camera.

A well worn, female eastern tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus, black form, is what my research told me.  To paraphrase the meme currently going around, she looks like she's lived a full life and will slide sideways, screaming "Ya-hooooo!" into her grave!

When I pulled up the images of the sleeping butterfly from the evening before, it was also a female, black form, eastern tiger swallowtail.  Is this one I saw yesterday morning the same one I saw sleeping in that green ash the night before?  Probably.  We don't have that many swallowtails around, let alone worn out, black form, female, eastern tiger swallowtails.  Interestingly, as I look outside right now - about the same time I left on my walk yesterday morning - I notice that the spot she chose to rest in overnight is illuminated brightly by the rising sun.  It would have warmed her perfectly to start her day's duties of eating and reproducing.  Did she pick that spot "consciously" so that she would get a good start the next day, or was it just serendipity that she came to rest there?  One of life's tiny mysteries to which I, at least, will probably never know the answer.

Speaking of never knowing, it's common at this time of year to see funnel webs in the grass, but it's uncommon to see the spiders that build and live in them.  Not being the sort to tear a web apart to see who made it and lives in it, I looked for years without being granted the gift of seeing a funnel web spider.  Then, several years ago, my stubbornness paid off and I started catching glimpses of spiders darting back into their vortical holes.  Once or twice, I was cautious enough to even get a photo or two before caution overcame the spider's curiosity and it retreated back into safety.

This year I have several funnel webs in amongst my flower blooms, a foot or two above the ground.  They're not particularly beautiful, binding the swaying blossoms and leaves together while catching debris in their sticky matrix of silk, but I leave them be as part of the (literal) web of life keeping its precarious balance in my gardens.

Two mornings ago, I was rewarded for my forbearance with a grand appearance by one of my funnel web spiders, standing guard at the entrance to its home while displaying its daily catch, neating bound in front of it.

I can't tell what poor, hapless creature served as breakfast, but I appreciate finally getting to see (and share) in this facet of garden life.

My final share in this post, to keep it from getting too long, is both a simple joy and a non-mystery with a mysterious component.  On my walkabout yesterday morning, I found that the dotted gayfeather, Liatris punctata, have started to bloom out back. 

While capturing their luminescent purple spikes, I came across this beautiful bumblebee, busily gorging on fresh nectar or pollen.

I don't recall having seen, around here, a bumblebee with so much rust on it before.  I carefully looked through the bumblebee species on, but found nothing that matched both the rusty hair on the terminal abdominal segments, as well as the patches of rust on the thorax, so I put in an ID request there.   Since I did see an American bumblebee, Bombus pennsylvanicus, on their site with the rusty hair on the terminal abdominal segments (but not on the thorax), and that species is common here, I'm suspecting they'll just tell me it's a different color morph of American bumblebee, but maybe not.  Now I anxiously await their verdict!

So many thousands of other creatures, busily living their lives while sharing our small acreage....  Actually, I guess, I'm phrasing that incorrectly.  In the overall scheme of life on Earth, it's not "our" acreage.  I should be saying that we are sharing the world with all these other creatures, while we have the privilege of caring for the small acreage that we and they, both, live on...for now. 

And I truly feel privileged for getting this opportunity.


tina said...

Your pictures of nature are really great. I can't get over the funnel spider-that is what they are called? I don't even know though I've been seeing the webs a lot lately. Your mantis emerging in a post below is also really neat. What a wonderful life to think about things from the perspective of our tiniest neighbors-the insects!

P.S. I am so working on restoring the native plants starting with our hill. Do you have a prairie or wildflower field? I saw the liatris and what looked to be a native grass. If so, any insight you can share with me would be helpful. I am a researcher and studier of all things but practical experience helps the most. Thanks.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Tina, we have 10 acres (a far cry from your 60!) and are working to restore prairie/native landscape on about 8 of those 10. It's very much a "by the seat of our pants" process! I'd love to discuss more with you, if I could be of help - my e-mail is cynthabbott at yahoo.