Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Blues ~ Eastern-tailed Blue, Summer Azure and Silvery Blue

Dreaming of Blues fluttering around the garden can shake off the mantle-of-melancholy winter sometimes weaves about our spirits. Today, I gather some delightful, inspiring and tender butterfly encounters, from this past sizzling summer, and toss them on this page of white, that they may bring a ray of light, to warm the inner gardeners folded inside our longing souls. 

Eastern Tailed-Blue Butterflies of 2013

The progeny of these gossamer-wings are now chrysalises, or caterpillars in the Eastern Tailed-Blue's case, tucked away in crevices within mossy mounds, pods of vetches and clover, or along the frozen winter ground. Little fragile beings within their sleepy pupa or larva state, without realizing their fate, without questioning, without knowing, without hoping to survive the onslaught of freeze and thaw, human flaws and sharp bird beaks, simply, sweetly sleep, waiting for transformation. 

Summer Azure Butterflies of 2013

Holding on throughout the bleak winter months, many new Blues will emerge, along with our gladdened hearts, into the warm breath of spring. I hope and imagine hundreds of butterflies surviving the numerous perils that come between them and their completed metamorphosis. Such gossamery treasures tickle emotions and call the caring mind to action in thoughtful ways towards their wellbeing. An added appreciation for subtleties in shades of blues and grays awakens this slothful painter, when gazing upon the pastel Blues.

Silvery Blue Butterflies of 2013

Without snow cover, butterfly chrysalises and caterpillars are more vulnerable. Just beneath the old apple tree, gray birch and blueberry bushes, precious life is quietly in hiding.

I love birds too and they enjoy all the stages of butterflies equally, especially at this lean time of year.  No snow coverage is good news for this little Carolina Wren, who has decided to move in and live year round.

Wren and other bird beaks are perfect for lifting up the leaves and digging for larva nuggets below. Too bad for the butterflies being of the lower food chain, but then, butterflies fasten hundreds and hundreds of eggs to various host plants assuring there will always be trembling gossamer-wings to pollinate and touch our hearts. I say, always, but heedless humans do have a hand in the decline of butterflies of all kinds.

Foggy, frosty, winter morning sunrises are wondrous to behold just outside the windows and doors. I feel blessed to start the day in this inspiring way. A branch of the Mill River runs between the hill where Flower Hill Farm is situated and Carey Hill just due east, making for a great show of mist most every dawn. I am less excited about the sheet of wood smoke that is always more gray.

Millions of unique snowflakes fall, thickening a fleecy snow-blanket, sheltering tiny life. It is heart-warming to know of all the diverse, quiescent wildlife sleeping beneath the surface of snow in layers of detritus deeper below. In the dance of life, all is in limbo, uncertainties abound upon a blanketed earth.

Winter can be beautiful in its frozen snow-blossom way. Creating an ever changing wonderland with a great deal to explore, to ponder and exclaim about. It can soften the mind and loosen binding thoughts of gloom. If its beauty fails to lift our spirits, it may help to remember that the little Blues are placidly waiting too. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Frightfully Frigid Winter Interlude

Winter is becoming a bit freaky across the country creating whirlwinds of bone-chilling chaos and disasters in many states.

Here, icicles dangling like dangerous claws, can be likened to imaginary bars of winter's bitter prison blocking healing warmth. 

Pruning will fill up much of February and March if days warm enough to hold pole clippers and saws.

What was I thinking to plant a climbing hydrangea on the beautiful Shagbark Hickory . . . a good trim here and there will open to view some of the striking textured bark. Still, winter does reveal the beauty of this marriage. It is summer when the groovy Shagbark is lost to me. Lichen alters another tree's bark, as noted in the distance, on a sound and solid oak.

Bearing up to the cold, resident buteos choose cherry and oak, standing tall within the north and easterly fields, as their lookout perches. A juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk eyes the frozen solid ground, and the human not too far away within warm barn-studio walls.

The Red-shouldered Hawk feels uncomfortable with my presence and so takes flight towards the forest and river below.

Our more frequently viewed buteo, sighted just a few minutes after the Red-shouldered flew off, prefers the distance of an oak firmly holding along the eastwardly slope. Red-tailed Hawks are always welcome by this community member but not so appreciated by most birds of our habitat.

Red-tailed Hawk 

I am never surprised to see crows, blue jays and even hummers and tree swallows chasing buteos. New Year's Eve day showed me yet another bird or flock of birds in chase of a hawk. Cedar Waxwings are barely visible in the top tier of the oak the Red-tailed Hawk is also occupying.

A closer look above and their shapes become perceptible but not their mood for only moments after this shot, and too quick for my capture, about twenty or so waxwings were in hot pursuit of the Red-tailed Hawk.

Soon, after the chase, the Cedar Waxwings began doing what waxwings are most often seen in pursuit of . . .  harvesting and gulping down little crabapples. I did not know they had such pluck to chase a hawk away.

I am shooting through a glass pane and still cannot escape the watchful wary eye of at least one of the waxwings. 

The crabapples are delicious and nutritious treats . . . with or without snow cream. 

Another winter surprise is the sighting of a Carolina Wren . . . I had no idea they overwinter here and have been told, by a serious ornithologist, that if it gets too cold the wrens will just die, for they will not think to fly further south. This little fellow already made it through the minus 13 F night a bit ago. It is about 4 degrees Fahrenheit right now, as I write, and I do wonder how this Carolina Wren is keeping warm. I hope homeless folks too are able to find safe shelters in order to stay warm throughout this chilling winter spell. 

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