Finding the Open Door

So, an introductory story, I had nothing. I usually turn an upcoming talk's topic over in my head again and again. I think of related stories and experiences. I think about painting images of places, of people, of plants, because my talks are about wild plants and people.

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Insect Paparazzi

My husband photographs tiger swallowtails collecting minerals along Dry Brook Road on the way to Seager Trailhead. Impossible to photograph, several hundred tiger swallowtails gathered on the roadside. 

My son observes tiger swallowtails.

Our Memorial Day weekend trip to the family land in the Catskills ended with a discussion about how to break up the trip home, for all of our sanity(ies?): Minnewaska or Fox Hollow?

We headed down the road unsure. "How about the Seager trail?" my husband suggested as he fed our son in the backseat. We bypassed our usual turn.

A deer ambled from a hedgerow towards the road, and my husband shouted "Deer. DEER! STOP!" A basket of snacks flew off the front seat and landed on a couple potted plants carefully stashed on the floor. One of the stems nearly broke and remained sadly bent downward.

"F*cking deer. Always trashing the native plants," my husband said angrily.

"Sorry," I said.

Our son was silent.

Just a few days ago, I, the sailor of the family, had announced for the thousandth time since my son had been born, that we really shouldn't curse in front of our son anymore. He knows what we're saying. I had asked our son if he would "bring Momma the small green container." Damned if he didn't grab the small pouch of baby wipes and hand them to me. (I meant to say darned.) My husband gaped, "He's a genius. I would have had no idea what you were talking about. He understands everything."

Fifteen minutes down the road, our son had had it with the car. Luckily for this child, his determined parents agreed to stop along the dirt road and chase swallowtails. I had been cruising dreamily and avoided hitting the butterflies because my husband shouted for the backseat, "STOP!"

"Now the things with butterflies, is you have to be gentle," my husband tells our son. He slowed his pace and watched. As he approached a group, they took flight. Our son was startled. I think he found the butterflies interesting, but soon plopped down in the road and attended to the gravel along the road.


In the parking lot of the trailhead, I observed a few Canadian owlets feeding on a meadow rue species.

 Early instar of Canadian owlet.

 Defoliated meadow rue further down the trail had more caterpillars feeding on it.


Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) 

The red stigmas of this uncommon woodland herb remind me of the osmeterium (sort of like faux antennae that protrude when the caterpillar is disturbed) of the giant swallowtail. Accidental? The butterfly occurs on citrus in the south (very commonly found) and toothache tree in the north (very uncommonly found). 

Good friends provide good food

A clouded sulphur on the top bloom of a blazing star (Liatris spicata) on July 31.

We had visited this site a week before - the flowers were not yet open. We returned a week later and again, they seemed not yet in bloom. Or, maybe we missed them, I wondered. We wandered among the stems. Jared exclaimed, "I think they are opening as we stand here!" We stood in the blazing sun, the blazing stars began to open, and the pollinators arrived.

Spiked blazing star (Liatris spicata) with an approaching northern cloudywing

The northern cloudywing pauses for a moment, and I am able to make this photograph. Both Jared and I use Canon Elph 'point & shoot' cameras, requiring us to stalk close and quiet. No powerful zoom lens...just lots of patience (sometimes), luck (sometimes), and a steady hand (sometimes, and not so easy with the macro lens showing every tremble of the hand and hint of a breeze).

Two skippers. I've been told the skippers are the winter plumaged warblers of the butterfly world. Beautiful and they all look so similar...

Red admiral & wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Hummingbird clearwing, very patient until the camera was taken out.


Tiger swallowtails

The radiant and threatened northern blazing star (Liatris scariosa) at Kennebunk Plains, Maine

northern blazing star visited by two pollinators