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Unexpected Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

This was not our unexpected visitor, but it bears a close resemblance. Harry and I were surprised to look out our window last week to see a Great Blue Heron. We’ve recently added a water feature to our backyard, and apparently the heron was checking on the possibility of fish. Finding none, it soon took flight.  It was exciting to see, and we have a new entry for our backyard bird list.

This image was taken at Warriors Path State Park in Kingsport, Tennessee .  Will I get one in our backyard?  Time will tell.  Some fish may help my chances.

Domineering Mockingbird

Mockingbird

I enjoy mockingbirds – especially their singing. However, this past week I was not happy with the one pictured above.  It decided to take over the yard as its personal domain. For three days it chased all other birds from the feeders and wouldn’t even let them get close.

We finally used my homemade peanut butter suet, one of its favorite foods, to entice it into a live trap. Harry released it at the Lexington Arboretum. So far, the mockingbird hasn’t come back and the birds are at the feeders again. The male cardinals are also acting a bit territorial recently and I’m wondering if these are signs that spring is on the way.

Blue Jay (the peanut bandit)

Blue Jay with peanut
We enjoy our backyard birds year around, especially in winter when the rest of the plants are dormant.  We’ve recently discovered that blue jays like raw unshelled peanuts – a lot.  When I put them out, the blue jays soon appear. They swoosh in, grab a peanut, and immediately fly out of the yard where I can’t see them.  I don’t know where they go, but I’m guessing they hide the nuts for later. At any rate, they immediately come back for more until all the peanuts are gone. It makes for great entertainment. This image is a close-up of one that came to the feeder next to our dining room window.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly life cycle

Zebra swallowtail butterfly

The Zebra swallowtail is one of my favorite butterflies. I’ve often seen this butterfly while hiking woodland streams and watching for spring wildflowers. And I have seen it in our Lexington, Kentucky, backyard twice in the last two years. This photograph is special to me, because the butterfly is one I raised, and it was made shortly after the butterfly emerged from its chrysalis.

Zebra swallowtail butterfly caterpillar
Zebra swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

This is the zebra swallowtail caterpillar, which my friend, Connie brought to me. At this stage it is about one-half inch long and feeding on paw-paw leaves, the only leaves it will eat.

Zebra swallowtail chrysalis
Zebra swallowtail chrysalis

One week later it was about one inch long, and it then made this chrysalis.

Zebra swallowtail butterfly and chrysalis
Zebra swallowtail butterfly and chrysalis

Two weeks later it emerged from its chrysalis at the left of this image and became a mature buttefly. After a couple of hours, it’s wings were hardened,  it took flight and was gone. I’m ever amazed at the wonders of nature,  which certainly include the life cycles of butterflies and I thoroughly enjoyed observing this one.