Sunday, August 30, 2015

Yakking about monarchs

I know that monarch butterflies don't overwinter in Minnesota, or at least so I've read. We've got a field with lots of common milkweed and no eggs or caterpillars this Summer, at least none that I noticed, although I have noticed that the neighbor's yaks don't eat the milkweed in their pasture. It's getting to be time for monarchs to head south again, but I still don't know where the yaks overwinter. I'm still seeing a few monarchs, and the yaks, around the area from time to time, but I have no idea if the butterflies are migrating through or locals. The yaks I consider locals although definitely not indigenous. If a saw large flocks(?) of monarchs, I'd suspect migration but ones and twos make it impossible for me to judge. I'm pretty sure the yaks would have to be transported by truck. Time for some more research to see if I can find some clues about the monarchs. I might just break down and ask the neighbor about the yaks.

monarch on day lily
monarch on day lily
Photo by J. Harrington

As long as we're talking about butterflies, I'll share a suspicion that I'm starting to develop. I think some of the folks that get great close-up picture of butterflies and bees may be drugging their subjects. I've spent an unreasonable amount of time this Summer trying for some nice "macro" photos and, whether I'm using autofocus or manually focusing, each time I get one of the little critters in really good focus, it moves. Sometimes, I admit, it's probably because I've moved in too close and spooked whatever it is I'm trying to photograph. Other times, though, I think it's just because of a general level of twitchyness in insects. I started out thinking that the "Stalking" skills, such as they are, that I'd acquired over years of hunting and fishing would be good enough. I was wrong. Of course, I was never trying to get within macro photography range of a trout or a duck or a grouse or deer. Plus, once an animal has been "reduced to possession" as the hunter-gatherer crowd says, it's much easier to get a close-up.

milkweed close-up
milkweed close-up
Photo by J. Harrington


Milkweed

Charles O. Hartman

for Howard Nemerov
Milkweed is pertinent now, so in the air
That everyone is thinking in its terms.
The housewife doesn't dare hang out the wash
Without considering milkweed; engineers
Decide today to redesign the air
Filters they thought perfected. It's a fact:
Milkweed has come to live and be lived with.

Reprieved, the birds have ceased to pluck their breasts
To line their nests -- though few enough are still
Fixing for eggs when milkweed begins to hatch
Exploding from the brown sun-brittled pods.
Occasional nestlings get mistaken meals,
Beakfuls of milkweed someone took for bugs:
Like anything in the air, it seems all things

Eventually: a faery's shuttlecock
As soon as seeds blown from the plainest plant.
Step in a cataract of light on a day
Like this, look up and see another race
Cast from its place and looking for its place;
Riding the wind toward distant, solid ground,
They scatter golden light on their scattered way. 


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