Endings and Beginnings
This is the 28th monarch I've raised and released this summer and I was lucky enough to be able to sit outside with him during his official debut as a butterfly this morning. I new he was going to emerge today so I checked periodically to see if he was getting close. When I can see the small splits starting to appear in the outer shell of the chrysalis, I know it's almost time. So I sat, camera at the ready, and waited. It was about a half hour later when I saw the lateral split suddenly open as the butterfly slowly pulsed his big body to further loosen the chrysalis. I chose this shot because I don't think I've ever posted one at this stage before.
If you can't quite make out what is going on here - his tiny wings are folded inside the shell and in this shot his head is poking out. At the top of the chrysalis, you can still clearly see his big abdomen. A moment later the wings slid free, followed by the abdomen. At that point, there is a frenzy of movement as the butterfly tries out his legs, his antennae, his wings and his proboscis (which is still forked until he zips the two sides together). With a firm grip on the chrysalis shell, he starts contracting his huge body, pumping the fluid into his wings until they are big and strong and perfect. After a few hours to dry off in the enclosure, I set him out on a small tree in the sun and shortly thereafter, he took off up into the trees. He will spend the night there and most likely join the six other monarchs who are feeding in the garden today when they leave.
Two more shots in Extra - one as his body is slipping out and one after he's fully emerged but with wings still small and shriveled. He flies in memory of Davey, who died way too young and is missed every day by his parents.
In between butterfly peeping, I started doing some fall work on my patio garden. I am removing a bunch of the phlox and and going to replace it with several varieties of milkweed as well as some annual pollen plants. Once the goldenrod is done blooming, I will also pull it from this garden and attempt to relocate it elsewhere. I am also harvesting a bunch of seeds from two of my native milkweeds and getting pots ready to plant them - they require cold stratification so I just put the seeds in pots and leave them out all winter. Works like a charm. Once they are up and hardened off in the spring, I'll move them to permanent spots.
Hoped to get out on the kayak today but I think I probably won't make it. Tomorrow I'm headed out for a walk with some friends, weather permitting. Even if it is drizzling, we will probably go.
Hands are still feeling pretty good so maybe, just maybe, that is a side effect that was temporary. I'm hoping.
Dark with ginger today, I think.
PS: Thank you for all the love on my raptor yesterday. It was really an emotional and special day.