Sunday, February 24, 2013

Flower Hill Farm Butterflies of 2012 ~ Swallowtails

The second installment of Butterflies of 2012 features three members of the Papilionidae family. 
Swallowtails regularly make their home in our gardens and fields and seeing their wings lit up like stained glass floating about the plants is always a delight.

Last year was very exciting for a rare sighting of a Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes here at Flower Hill Farm. Butterfly enthusiasts from all over Massachusetts were reporting first time ever sightings of the magnificent giants. Climate change will no doubt bring about more joyous encounters with these beauties to our northern gardens. Though a few sightings had been reported since 2009, last years sightings were record breaking.

The giant was difficult to photograph as it rarely stops fluttering.

It is surprising to see the Giant Swallowtail's brown and yellow coloring when the wings are wide open. At a glance a giant might be mistaken for a male Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes or Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus. Upon closer observation you can see the Giant Swallowtail is quite different in color and pattern. I had never seen one before and did not identify the giant immediately but knew it was different from any butterfly I had ever seen here at Flower Hill Farm. The Giant Swallowtail's larger size is very obvious, though size is not clearly illustrated in the photo above due to the Black Swallowtail and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail below being zoomed in on. 

A male Black Swallowtail from 2011.

A female Black Swallowtail from 2012. 

 Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail from 2011 to show full pattern for comparison.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails flit about the gardens in numbers especially when the lilacs are in bloom. Unfortunately for them, it is a peak feeding time for baby birds too. Luckily tigers are in abundance so birds are not a great threat, but it is hard to see them being persistently pursued by Catbirds and Chickadees. Often tiger wings are tattered, so to find a fresh and perfect butterfly is a lucky sighting in our gardens.

Folded wings offer other patterns and colors to help identify these three Swallowtail cousins.

A quiet second from fluttering for this gorgeous backlit Giant Swallowtail.

In twenty-twelve I had the joy of raising and releasing this Black Swallowtail into the gardens. I have raised hundreds of Monarch Butterflies over the years but this was only my second experience raising a Black Swallowtail.

Strikingly patterned Swallowtail butterflies grace our world throughout the summer months and add another dimension of enchantment to the gardens and fields. Of course, beyond human enjoyment, all butterflies are important pollinators, and being near the bottom of the food chain, they are, sadly, important food for birds.

By clicking on the words highlighted in red above you can learn more about these Swallowtails.

Now, in the middle of a snowstorm, I so look forward to another year of enjoying the gardens and butterflies.

In honor of my fourth anniversary of blogging, I have given the blog a facelift and added a search bar so that readers can now type in an item of interest and articles will appear at the top of the screen.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Flower Hill Farm Butterflies of 2012 ~ Mating Pearl Crescents

As with last winter, it is fun to look back over the vibrant colors and fragile beauties of the past season's flora and fauna. I have shared a bit of the gardens and now for a bit of romance amongst butterflies just a day after Valentine's Day. 
I begin 'Butterflies of 2012' with the strikingly patterned Pearl Crescent, Phyciodes tharos, and share a warm summer afternoon of observing these tiny butterflies as they flit about the north field mating.

 This particular sighting was interesting as a third Pearl Crescent would tag along with the mating couple. . . I suppose wishful thinking is at play . . . a standby . . . but rather voyeuristic, much like the way I feel. I would love to know what is going on in that minuscule brain for the pair seem quite attached.

Last year in my Butterfly Review I wrote a bit extensively about these small butterflies in a piece here and also here. The second link takes us back to a day in 2010 when I was enchanted by hundreds of Pearl Crescents darting about the middle meadow garden.

There is a good deal of love about and I feel acres of it for my new fifteen day old grandson that I held for the first time tonight . . . after a nine hour drive from Massachusetts. What a joy and miracle life is.

Wishing you all flowering fields of love. 

The rose is red, the violet's blue.
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love, and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast, and then I drew,
And fortune said it should be you.

 Gammer Gurton's Garland or The Nursery Parnassus
A Choice Collection of Pretty Songs and Verses for
the Amusement of all Little Good Children
who can neither read nor run.

London, 1810

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Recalling Landscape Tapestries of Summer Twenty-Twelve

While many are shoveling out from deep blankets of snow-drifts, I would like to escape our white wintry hillside by recalling landscape tapestries of summer twenty-twelve. Storms of blossoms unfurl throughout the spring and summer here at Flower Hill Farm attracting pollinators, birds and other beasts to our gardens, fields and forest. It is this living tapestry of color, texture, fragrance and sounds that inspired me to create this blog four years ago . . . February 6, 2009.

Over the last four years I feel I have grown as a photographer, writer and gardener from sharing the virtual world of gardens and nature with all of you. Lovely and brilliant fellow blogger Sarah of Sarah expressed it so perfectly in her sixth anniversary post when she wrote . . .  "What I see, I want to share with you. I do not walk alone in the snowy fields thanks to your company."

It is a joy to see the snowy fields of Maine through Sarah's eyes, as it is to see the opulent world of fellow bloggers and now dearest of friends Jane and Lance of the acclaimed Hattatt Budapest and Brighton blog. Blogging builds bridges to worlds we might never have known. It connects kindred spirits and activists for wildlife and I am so honored to know and be a co-author with so many talented gardeners and photographers on Carole Sevilla Brown's Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens blog and Ken Billington's  Focusing on Wildlife blog. I have just published the fifteenth installment of 'A Bestiary' which is a compilation of many tales regarding the wildlife that share Flower Hill Farm.

I want especially to thank all those of you who continue to visit and grace this blog with your thoughtful words even though I am not able to reciprocate as I once did. To gracious Eva, who has been with me since the beginning, who has no blog or link to share, please know that I am so deeply appreciative of your words of wisdom and endless support that always touches me to the core and inspire so much more.

The riot of life in these image memories is in such contrast to the cold and raw world that actually barricades me inside right now. I do have one door that opens inside but would have to trek through hip high drifts to get to other doors to shovel . . . and shoveling is not something I can do anymore either. Someone will arrive today or tomorrow to clear doorways and pathways, as well as, uncovering my little car. Having this medium to reach out to the world is fabulous anytime, but now, being literally 'snowed in', I appreciate it all the more. I am so grateful for not losing power and feel so for those who have. May it be restored quickly.


Friday, February 1, 2013

More Wintry Wonders: Fern Frost

Winter can be a remarkable painter and engraver too. 

January's frigid temperatures merging with just the right amount of moisture and 'surface texture' . . . I would not dare refer to smudged glass here . . .  often creates crystalline forms on our simple farmhouse windowpanes, inspiring joy and awe for winter's icy mysteries. When outdoor degrees dip into the teens, single digits and minuses, these 'fern frost' etchings are more likely to be viewed from within a warm but not overly warm environment. Vibrant sunrises offer a lovely back-lighting effect for observing and photographing tiny water droplets frozen into frosty leaf-like forms. 

Surely a frozen link to nature's ancient, green, fern frond formations. 

During winter's freezing days and nights many of us dream of verdant landscapes, yet only this time of year produces such delicate and ephemeral wonders. Rather like the sand and wave engravings created along the ocean's edge . . . it is an art form of nature most impermanent. Perhaps another lesson in learning how to live and let go.

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