Archive for July 27th, 2010

It remains to be seen what the final outcome of this morning’s walk will be.

I left the house a little later than I had planned, largely due to the influence of the World Wide Web, which sucked me into its by-ways through the gate of Facebook, where I happened across a very inspiring link, World Wide Tipping Point. I was seduced into watching a couple of videos, and ultimately decided to add my small piece of energy to the counter.   I invite others to do the same.

I got out to the place where I generally walk Ruby while it was still a very misty morning.   The rain yesterday afternoon had evaporated some during the evening hours.   Then during the night the temperature dropped below the dew point, and in the morning the whole world was spangled in water droplets.   The whole area was shrouded with mist, making things mysterious and wet.

As I walked, I listened to the ecstatic song of a bird sitting in one of those old oak trees, trying unsuccessfully to identify it by its song, since I certainly could not pick it out.   Off in the distance I heard a pileated woodpecker call, and interspersed with that I picked out the hooting calls of the nuthatches.  Some tufted titmouses (timice?) and chickadees joined in the chorus eventually.   I saw a Cooper’s hawk narrowly miss catching a small bird, pursuing it out of the forest edge and over the meadow, where the desperate jinking and diving of the pursued finally threw off the pursuer.

I spied a butterfly warming itself several feet off the path.

I wanted to get a closer shot of it, and thought I could probably creep up on it as it rested in the meadow.  I was wrong.  As I began to walk towards it, it flew up and away from me, deeper into the grasses of the field.   I looked at the field, wet with dew, in many places as tall as my waist and wrapped in blackberry briars.   I thought of the thousands of ticks and millions of chiggers that were all no doubt out there awaiting the blood meal that was essential for their development.

I followed the butterfly.

That is about as close as I ever got to it, after traversing several acres of this overgrown field.   I managed to get a sort of decent close-up.

That’s probably a spice bush swallowtail.  It is sitting on ironweed, and in the foreground are the rounded leaves of milkweed.

I finally gave up on getting close to that insect.   I’m not sure how well butterflies see with their compound eyes, or whether their sensitive pheromone receptors are what alert them to the presence of others in their vicinity, but that butterfly never let me get closer to it than about 15 feet.    All the while I was following it, I kept thinking about the chiggers in that field.

This was by far Ruby’s favorite section of the walk.  She pushed busily through the wet grass, totally soaked, happily chuffing and whuffing a commentary on all the scents she came across.    Lots of trails went along at ground level, highways for the rabbits, meadow voles, possums and who knows what else.  Ruby was ecstatically in Doggie Disney World, as my dear friend Jeri is wont to describe the wet wild woods.

After I was sure I wasn’t going to catch up with that butterfly, I crossed the field and got back onto the path.  I swear I could hear the blue jays and the cardinals laughing at me as I squelched along in my soaked cross trainers.   “No wonder my shoes never live very long,” I thought as I squished down the path.   “What with wild butterfly chases like this through the soaking grass and digging holes in the mud to plant trees or trying to unplant bermuda grass, they have a pretty tough life.”   I mused on the failure of the athletic shoe manufacturers of the world to address the needs of my demographic.

After a while the sun came out and started to burn off the dew.   At first, the meadow was absolutely spangled with water droplets.   I wasted some time and some electrons in my camera battery trying to capture that phenomenon.  It really looked like the whole world had been doused with glitter.

Sorry, I don’t have the photographic skills or the camera to truly capture the vision that so entranced me.   But I did get one rather nice image of a head of grass with dew.

I walked  past the pond at the edge of the woods, and saw where a large turtle (probably a snapper) had swum through the wild lily pads during the night.

At this point in my walk, my mind turned naturally to the new garden I am planning for out in front.   Inspired by all the different wonderful grasses I had just been wading through, I started trying to visualize what I wanted the new front yard to look like.   I spent a good half mile musing on just exactly what sort of water feature I could incorporate into the new rain garden, and spent a large portion of that time trying to visualize how to work this spiral sink design of my friend Doug Feakes into a beautiful waterfall bird bath.  I did not see any of my surroundings during that period of time, I was sunk deep into my own dream.

As I broke out of the woods into the short section of path that follows the edge of another field, I saw another butterfly sunning itself at the edge of the path, this one a tiger swallowtail.

It was just as elusive and alert as the previous swallowtail, so I left it to its own devices, flitting and fluttering enticingly across another tract of thick grass, this one laced with passionflower vines.  In my mind, I was pretty sure that verdant stretch had just as much bloodsucker potential as the previous field.  I followed the walking path back into the woods.

Meanwhile, I started keeping an eye out for a spider web that was oriented correctly to catch the morning light and break it into rainbows.  This is another phenomenon that is remarkably difficult to photograph.   But I am mesmerized by it when I come across it.

As I was angling about trying to get the best view, I was painfully reminded to look down by thorns raking my thigh.   While I was edging about the forest floor, entranced by and focused on the web above my head, somehow I had managed to meander into the middle of a wild currant bush, one which was liberally enlaced with blackberry canes to boot.   I finished up my photoshoot, then extricated myself from the briars.   The thought of Bre’r Rabbit begging Bre’r Fox not to throw him into the briar patch flitted through my mind as I once again regained the safety of the path.

I decided I had best hurry along home so I could scrub myself all over with lye soap and hopefully remove any chiggers and ticks before they attached themselves to my admittedly somewhat less than young and tender skin.   I had almost gotten to the spur of path that led to the parking area when I noticed another butterfly, teasing me from the meadow verge.  This one proved to be much more cooperative.  It appears to be a Pearl Crescent,  Phyciodes tharos.

Finally satisfied, I bustled off to the truck, loaded up the dog and hurried home, to strip down and shower off.   My clothes went straight into the washing machine in hopes of foiling any hitchhikers I picked up during the morning’s mad pursuit of Lepidoptera.

Only time will tell if I was completely successful.

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