Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cat and Mouse Games

Even with temperatures still in the 90s, there are definite signs of fall. I've seen a few leaves with deep, rich autumn colors.

My Autumn Sedum burst into bloom, right on time.

Orb weaver spiderwebs are appearing everywhere.

There are some benefits from this unusually long and hot summer. My tomatoes keep producing, and producing, and producing!

I had a "National Geographic" moment recently when I caught this caterpillar preparing to pupate. He carefully attached himself to a fence board with a sticky, silky substance. Within 2 hours, he'd gone from this...

...to this!

Caterpillars shed their skin, or molt, once they are securely attached in their chosen location.

Underneath is the hard shell that will protect them from the elements while they mature.

I decided to hatch one for myself! I put some leaves in a clean jar and covered the opening with plastic wrap, perforated in several areas to allow air flow.

After about a week, the chrysalis turned black, and I worried that the butterfly had died. However, just a few hours later, he emerged...

...leaving behind a dry, empty shell.

It was another buckeye, once of the most common (and beautiful!) butterflies around here. After he'd rested and gathered strength, he was ready for his (her?) maiden flight.

It was truly remarkable to watch this process from beginning to end.

Speaking of butterflies, I saw a strange sight in the garden earlier this week...piles of butterfly wings scattered around the base of a marigold patch.

It wasn't long before I discovered the culprit...a large female mantis, who'd taken refuge amid the tall stalks. It was an ideal location, really...protected on all sides, and with a virtual buffet of bees, butterflies, and moths to feed from.

I spent a lot of time watching her. Mantises are perfectly suited, anatomically speaking, for the task at hand...killing. They have baggy folds beneath their arms, which allow remarkable mobility. They can flash out at lightning speed to capture prey. Excess skin on their long necks...

...allow the twisting motion needed to consume prey efficiently.

Their grasping forearms can hold a bee in place easily. Lacking "fingers," they utilize their ridges and spikes. This bee didn't have a chance.

They really are remarkably efficient, peeling off legs and wings and devouring everything else.

I was really pleased to see this assassin bug in a neighboring marigold patch. They're such interesting creatures.

This Cabbage Looper moth (Trichoplusia ni) rests comfortably on a split tomato.

The Cabbage Looper caterpillar is a nice green color with white stripes. They don't crawl like most caterpillars but move with the scooting, jerky movements of the inchworm.

They are terrible for gardens, but I don't have a lot of vegetables for them to damage. Besides, the moths, close up, are awfully pretty.

This small field mouse found a new friend (ahem) in Clarence.

Not sensing the danger, he burrowed beneath Clarence, whose impassive, half-lidded expression didn't change. Out of the frying pan, into the fire!

I sat silently, and the mouse eventually felt safe enough to venture out. However, he didn't get far.

Still casual, Clarence scooped him up and headed for a more comfortable location, where he could feed at leisure.

He was a little too casual, lazily batting the mouse until, warmed by the sun, he fell asleep. The mouse crept away and hid in a small deposit nearby, briefly, until he felt well enough to make his escape.

All's well that ends well!

I finished a knitting project this week that I really wanted to complete before fall...Hawthorne.

I'm pleased with it. I used Rowan Felted Tweed, which complemented the pattern perfectly.

Now I really can't wait for cooler weather to come!

Because of the heat, I haven't done much baking lately...just some french bread loaves.

They turned out perfectly. There's nothing like a warm slice of bread with a little butter and honey!

Another brief blog hiatus for me...we'll be out of town until the first week of October. Goodbye, blazing sun, and hello, ocean breezes!

Quick disclaimer: In case any criminals are reading...yes, there will be someone in the house while we're gone! :)

We're headed west, for a leisurely road trip down the Oregon and California coasts. This is a trip I've made many times, but I never get tired of it. Plus, we'll get a preview of our new home! Stay tuned for details...and lots of pictures!

1 comment:

  1. Amazing pictures. I love the collar - not so much the poor pitiful mouse :(