Frost in the Forecast

For me, winter starts when I cut the ginger lilies.

So today, even though it was warm enough to open the windows, winter arrived in the yard. Our forecast calls for temperatures near freezing Saturday night, and I didn’t want to risk losing any of the bulbs to frost.

As I worked my way through the tangle of stalks, I recovered three chimes that had broken off of a wind chime and two birdhouses that had fallen during one of the recent storms. Somehow, repairing the wind chime made me feel a little less guilty about the lingering scent of unfinished blooms.

The cats followed my progress, moving from window to window as I moved from bed to bed.

(Please excuse Vanna’s sour expression. She was trying to ignore the fact that there is room for two cats on that perch. Fortunately, a flock of robins arrived shortly after this picture was taken, providing a distraction from the uncomfortable standoff.)

The robins were soon joined by several warblers and a pair of hungry squirrels.

Today’s strangest sighting was this very disheveled red admiral butterfly. It seemed to be heading south, perhaps following the opposite path of spring’s massive red admiral migration.

Wherever it was going, I hope it gets there safely. And I hope it was able to pause, for a moment, and enjoy tonight’s beautiful sunset.

A New Wave of Butterflies

After a chilly lull, action in the yard picked up again last night. I’m somewhat stunned, though I don’t know why. I should be wiser by now. It’s embarrassing, this lingering tendency to be surprised by nature.

Surprise aside, I’m staggered by the caloric cost of this year’s migration. How much has gone into producing so many butterflies? Surely there’s a limit, considering how much a single caterpillar can eat…

The Butterfly Migration Slows

The red admiral flood has slowed to a trickle. Last night there were only three or four on the fence, and daytime traffic is markedly reduced. While earlier waves seldom stopped in the yard before sunset, today’s travelers seem slow and tired. And hungry.

Yesterday also saw a decrease in the number of question mark butterflies. (See the question mark on its wing? That’s how you tell it from a comma…)

As the migration dwindles, painted lady butterflies increase, though I expect their numbers will never rival this week’s surge of red admirals and question marks.

Finally, in case anyone is tired of butterflies, here’s a Yellow-rumped Warbler enjoying a quick bath…

More Butterflies

Yesterday evening butterflies made an encore appearance in they yard. This time the red admirals were joined by several clouded sulfurs, a handful of question marks and commas, and a few individuals that I couldn’t identify. The action was fast and fierce as they defended their favorite perches, which might explain the increasing incidence of wing damage.

I know it can’t go on forever, this butterfly explosion, but I hope it lasts a few more days…

Butterfly Migration

Yesterday a steady parade of red admiral butterflies fluttered through the yard. Apparently, these butterflies are in the midst of an unprecedented early migration. Every few minutes, two or three individuals entered the yard from the south and exited to the north. A few of them paused to inspect the irises and wax myrtle, which almost always led to a brief skirmish with the next butterfly in line.

When sunset neared, as the sun’s rays struck steeper and steeper angles, more and more butterflies stopped to perch in the yard. By the time I took these photos, every southwest-facing surface had been claimed.

Our two ancient benches, painted white, seemed to be highly desirable. They became a focal spot for outbreaks of territorial tempests.

The resulting mid-air duels seemed harmless enough, the butterfly equivalent of arm wrestling. But this individual’s tattered wing made me wonder about the potential for true violence.

The red admiral party ended as the sun sank lower. The yard cooled, wings folded, and aggressions subsided. Once the fence was completely in shadow, the butterflies disappeared. I don’t know where they went, but within a matter of minutes they were gone.

One lone straggler, either a comma or question mark butterfly, crashed on the deck as I was going inside.

It’s hind wings were fouled with a thick snarl of spider web. I managed to remove most of the silk without further damaging the wings. As it flew away, it still seemed a bit impaired, but butterflies always fly as if they are intoxicated. Which isn’t far from how I would feel, given those wings and that lust and such a steady diet of nectar.