The Monarch butterfly is truly a thing of beauty all on his own, but sitting on a purple flower he becomes a beautiful jewel atop a crown. I'll remember this summer as the summer of the Monarch. While taking a wildflower walk, I found a small one-foot-tall plant peeking through the grass. With delicate white flowers, the Sweet everlasting caught my eye and gave me a sweet surprise. It's the first one of its kind I've seen in the meadow and I'm hoping there will be more in the years to come.
Anything that is extra colorful always gets my attention and the color red really jumps out at me. This time my eyes focus on a branch of bright red Sumac leaves lying on the ground. As pretty as they were, they gave me a little chill as autumn crossed my mind.
Another bright color caught my eye as I passed through a patch of tall yellow coneflowers. There was yellow all around and the Monarch stood out among them. The pretty orange butterfly seemed to be suspended in mid-air with his wings out as though flying but not moving. I bent down for a closer look and could see the Monarch had flown into the web of a Garden spider. The spider quickly dispatched his prey without doing any damage to his web. As beautiful and precious we may think the Monarch is, he is here for the spider and it's part of his purpose in Nature.
The "Welcome to Viola" sign had a greeter perched on its top this morning. A big black crow greeted folks as they drove by. This special grow does this frequently and isn't as camera shy as most of the other crows in the area.
I love to watch the early morning fog as it slowly rises up out of the river valley. The lazy way it drifts up over the trees and creeps up the sides of the mountains. The sun seems to make the fog move as if looking for a place to hide as it settles in the draws and washes. The heavy fog never gives the same show twice and moves differently with each sunrise. Watching the morning fog is a slow motion way to watch a sunrise and a nice way to slowly enter a new day.
I like the way the morning sun catches the flowering tops of the tall grasses. The light reflects a subtle beauty that often goes unnoticed. The Bottlebrush grass is aptly named and looks like it's ready to go to work. The Big bluestem's top has the look of a turkey foot and you have to look closely to see the tiny flowers on the seed heads. The wispy large heads of the Wild rye nod from side to side as they sway in the light breeze. The Indian grass has a bronze glow in the morning sun and its tiny flowers are small but very showy. These native grasses are blooming early this year, which hopefully will mean a better chance for the seed to mature before the first frost. The first frosts used to come around the second week of September but it's later the past few years—each year it gets harder and harder to make predictions.
The late summer phlox also bloomed a couple of weeks early and is still putting on a lovely lavender show. Each evening I quietly stand next to them and watch the Hummingbird moths come to feed on the phlox's sweet nectar. These colorful large moths are nearly as large as a hummingbird and their rapidly beating wings seem to mimic the tiny birds.
The moths have a long proboscis used for collecting flower nectar that would otherwise be out of reach. Even their tiny feet have long toes that resemble birds' feet. Their wings don't flutter fast enough to make a noticeable humming sound like the hummingbirds, but if you lean in closer to them you can hear a muffled hum. To me, Sphinx moths and Hummingbird moths are the fairies of twilight, quietly drifting from flower to flower, where the bees had been within the hour.
The crane family walks through the fog as they come out of a soybean field. The adult cranes are molted in gray and brown feathers and are heavy in the molt. They haven't flown for several weeks as they wait for their new feathers to grow in. The young cranes are noticeably taller since last week and their new body feathers are taking the place of golden down still covering their necks and heads. Their flight feathers (wing and tail feathers) are about a third of the way grown out and they don't look like little chicks anymore. With each passing day the young cranes grow a little more and increase their chances of surviving to feel the joys of flying with the big birds. Until then, each day is an adventure as they learn and live each moment of their lives.
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