Birds and Bugs


DSCN0702Black Swallowtails aren’t as discriminating as monarchs are when it comes to building their chrysalises. This one made his on some butterfly weed I had planted for the monarchs.



4-29-16This year’s first crop is beginning a lot earlier than last year’s. Hope that’s symbolic of things to come.



While trying to hide from a 20-knot nor’easter along a bay’s protected shoreline, we came across this little beauty! Kind of blurry, what with everything moving in the breeze, but it is recognizable – a scarlet tanager. Made my day!

tanager 1



This ol boy (Girl?) has resided in our backyard for some time now. He (It) might be pretty plain-Jane, but he gets around with an attitude, and I do like that, especially from a rather small bird – hermit thrush.






The Bluebird Coopers have been pretty busy this year. Four babies are now in the house – the year’s third clutch. This is the proud but assuredly overworked Poppa.BB 32



Some amazing stuff has transpired today.

After a HEAVY frost three mornings ago and a fairly stout norther yesterday – but still no freezes, we have discovered ten monarch caterpillars on our butterfly weeds! Although they appeared to be a bit sluggish after we removed them, once we brought them into the house on one of my potted weeds, they perked up nicely.

I feel they will do well until chrysillas time – then, I don’t know. And if, by some small miracle they would emerge, they might have some trouble either finding any nectar or flying to warmer climes. But all that remains to be seen. Now, we are just trying to help them get through their first stage.

And I gotta say again it’s some pretty amazing stuff.



A male cardinal has been showing some interest recently in the area around the BB-house/feeder. He doesn’t appear to be threatening, and I don’t believe cardinals will eat meal-worms, but since there are now five very recently-hatched chicks in the house, yesterday I chased it away.

This AM while the BB’s were feeding m-worms to the chicks, the cardinal flew into the area and lit on the ground between the feeder and the house and some 10 feet distant from each. At the time, one BB was on the feeder and the other was perched atop the house. As if on signal, both of them attacked the cardinal – and I mean ATTACKED! I couldn’t believe a bluebird would be that violent, and the violence rapidly turned into a veritable melee! They ended up driving the cardinal into a crepe myrtle where they lit a VERY short distance from it, apparently reinforcing their attitudes of “Keep out of our space!” Whatever, it was quite an enlightening experience.

Those must be some really bad-ass bluebirds!




The second clutch of BB-eggs ended up totaling five, but only three hatched and fledged. That momentous occasion occurred on 23 May, “momentous” being that those bluebirds had then contributed eight others to the glory of the ‘hood this Spring.

But they were apparently FAR from being through!

Yesterday AM there were again five eggs in the BB-house! Man, that pair is working overtime! Wonder how long the female can last, putting out eggs like that over such a short period…

Whatever, we sure appreciate her effort. She is still, by the way, a pretty little thing!



So far, 45 of the surviving monarch butterflies have emerged. Perhaps a dozen others have a chance. Not bad, but it sure could have been a lot better.

And 12 days after the first crop of bluebirds left their nest, Momma BB has begun her second brood – two eggs now and assuredly more to come.

Happy Earth Day.



Early this AM our first monarch butterfly emerged – after a lot of monetary expense, blood, sweat, and tears.

This year’s first crop was two-staged, and by the time the first stage had reached the point where they were in the process of beginning their next cycle, the plants – all 15 of them – that we had grown for them had been stripped. Very little was left for the second stage of the caterpillars to eat.

So Barb and I headed to the plant shop where we purchased 14 more plants, then placed roughly half of them among the stripped plants in one of our “butterfly beds”. The second stage of caterpillars responded immediately, and within three days well over half of them were dead.

It is pretty obvious that somewhere along the line a pesticide found its way into the dirt holding the new plants or into the plants themselves, but everyone involved swears none was applied. After all, the only purpose those plants serve is to feed monarch caterpillars and butterflies – sure wouldn’t want to put any insecticide on them. Nevertheless, an investigation continues, and that includes what to do with the contaminated plants and their dirt , for those are surely contaminated.

In the meantime, all the initial crop of caterpillars – and there were a LOT of them – are presently either dead or near emerging. We bought and planted six new plants from another place, and those, in combination with the new leaves that are now appearing on our bedded plants, should offer a place for future egg-laying and subsequent larval development. Good. But one of the saddest things I have ever seen was all those dead monarch caterpillars.





            My sweetie-pie oldest sister has informed me that some new stuff is due on this page. So…

The five bb-eggs all hatched, and the babies have done well and are within a very few days of fledging. Momma-BB and Poppa-BB are doing well, though probably getting pretty tired of stuffing their babies gaping maws with the meal worms we’ve been providing. Will try to get a pic or two tomorrow.

I am also proud to say that we may have had a hand in expanding the monarch butterfly population hereabouts noticeably. At last count (Before they began their next stage) we accounted for around 60 – and they have almost stripped bare our 17 butterfly-weed plants! So, in preparation for the next batch – which should evolve in less than a month – we went out and purchased 15 more! Don’t know where we will plant them, but I fear we are well into an exponentially-increasing situation. Whatever, you can’t have too many monarchs.


The caterpillar (R) will shortly become a crysalis (L), and then after a week or so, a butterfly. Really neat stuff!




Early this month I discovered a new nest in the BB-House. Shortly thereafter Momma BB began to appear on a regular basis, and soon there were five pale-blue eggs in the nest.


Unfortunately, they have not yet hatched, and I am becoming a little concerned. Nevertheless, it has been a bit cool at night, and Momma BB has been attending them, so hopefully all is still well. In any case, here are the hopefully-proud parents to-be.






At least seven more monarchs joined the flock (?) today. Four should emerge tomorrow, and then a few stragglers over the next couple of days. And that will be it for 2011 – hereabouts, anyway.

And I must honestly declare that it was almost enough. Almost! In any case, I sure hope I’m blessed with the chance to witness it all again next fall. It’s really something else.




All but two hummingbirds left en masse with the last stout front, and they are missed already. On the other hand, within the past three days at least 16 newly-emerged monarchs are now flitting around western St. Martin Parish, and there are more to come!

And I must say that while hummingbird toes on the fingertips create a feeling that is as sensual as it gets, there is nothing in nature that is better than personally following the evolution of a monarch butterfly. Absolutely awesome.


Much has been happening lately in the “Bugs and Birds Department” hereabouts. On 7 September a Monarch butterfly made an appearance – only the second one of the year – and on the 10th and 11th it was quite busy laying eggs on our butterfly weeds. By the 26th 33 caterpillars had hatched and grown to near maturity, and by the next day they were beginning to make their moves to the chrysalis stage. I’d imagine that within a week we should have a bunch of Monarchs flitting about, ready to catch a strong norther to help carry them south.

And on that note, the hummingbirds are staging for their similar journey. It’s a bit difficult to count them, but I’d imagine we’ve had as many as 20 around our feeders at one time. And I’ll tell you this: if you’ve never felt hummingbird toes on the tips of your fingers, you’ve really missed something! It is definitely food for the soul.

Enjoy fall.



Through all the recent darkness, there has been a small but broadening ray of light.

Barb phoned me on one of my trips to Shreveport to inform me that what appeared to be our resident pair of bluebirds were showing a lot of interest in the bluebird house where, she had discovered, they had built a new nest. Then, upon returning home for a short while, an inspection led to the discovery of four eggs.

So with some decent weather and a bit of good fortune, our yard will once again be graced with a new crop of bluebirds. Add them to the present profusion of blossoming azaleas and the promise of the irises, and the color should almost be tangible.

And now, Mom will be able to experience it.



Winter Cheer

Last spring a pair of bluebirds took a liking to our nesting box and over the summer raised three (Four?) broods in it. And we got a real kick out of having them around.

Then they disappeared – well, “scattered”, and lost interest in the feeder we had made for them.

Yesterday I saw a few in a neighbor’s yard, set out a dish of mealy worms by their old eating spot – thinking they surely would no longer associate the place with food, but lo and behold, they did.

And this PM they came again – five of ’em! Little beggars!  But they sure bring some cheer on a cold winter day!




A Guardian Angel?

After Barb, Christi, and I got established in our newly-built home in Buras back in 1985, we developed part of the backyard into an aviary of sorts. In season we had lots of visitors, including an early-spring influx of neotropical migratory songbirds – some fairly rare color in the lower Delta!

In February 2005 some even rarer color appeared in the form of a black-headed grosbeak. It was the first any of us had ever seen, and after checking with the Natural Science Center at LSU, we discovered that it was a western/southwestern bird, and less than a meager handful of them are reported in Louisiana every winter. And that’s not many, considering how many folks keep tabs on birds, especially during winter! Anyway, it stayed around for a few days, we got a few grainy pics of it, and then it went its way.

And I’d assume most of you know what happened the following August.

Having a really good idea what was in store for us, Barb and I (And the dogs) packed up and left early for our daughter’s home in Acadiana. There we learned the worst, but at least we had a friendly place to stay, and we did just that for over three months while we were deciding what we were going to do. That finally done, we found a nice little rural ranch-style home on an acre lot that was perhaps 15 minutes from the young ‘uns home and settled in. And one of the first things we did after that was to create an “aviary of sorts” in the backyard!

And within two months a black-headed grosbeak appeared at one of the feeders just like it was checking on us, stayed for a while (To see if we were okay?), and then left.

Same one? Very, VERY doubtful. Coincidence? Very, VERY likely.

But we have not seen another one since. You figure it out.

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