Saturday, June 5, 2010


If I am still around the house come mid-morning Little Honey will go to the closet and bring me his bike helmet asking about the ducks. It doesn't matter where we go on our daily ride or what we see, if we turn back onto our street before seeing ducks I get into trouble. Today we rode to our favorite pond, where the Mallards breed like rabbits, and found this momma and brood among four other hens with ducklings. We even found a group of adolescents being herded by their mother.

Once Mallard eggs hatch the Drake moves on from the Hen, and after the mating season has passed his distinctive feathers will change to the point that he looks much like her. Little Honey seems to have innate respect for the hens and ducklings. Maybe with Honey Pot constantly nursing Honey Bee and Bit-O-Honey he has sympathy for them. But he shows no mercy to the Drakes. "Gemmim!" he cries and toddles after them, his little-man's body top-heavy under the weight of his helmet. The ducks will scatter and squack, and although he can't even run fast enough for them to really have need to run, he's relentless. He'll follow them in circles and up and down hills until they "go swimming". Then we can get back on the bike and go home. "Bye-bye ducks." Until tomorrow.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Across the street from where we live is an undeveloped field four feet high and dense with milkweed, grass, and wild mustard, and underneath it all live droves of these guys in individual nests spread out like a rural-suburban community. When the sun begins to set we know that if we pass by on the bike we are likely to see a few of them grazing on the cultivated lawns that border the wild brush. Little Honey is aware that they are Hares and not Rabbits because of a small bedtime book we read together nightly. "Hi Hare" he says after we stop to get a better look, and "Bye-bye Hare" when they bound away from us and dash into the cover of  grassy tunnels. The size of small dogs, they can run up to 45 miles an hour and leap 19 feet in a single bound. Yup, super bunnies.

Caterpillar Update: We woke up this morning to find both of our summer guests attached to the sides of twigs we'd placed inside their glass rooms. Soon each will shed its skin one last time and reveal itself as a bright green Chrysalis.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar

We found this fiesty little fella crossing the bike path ready to take on anyone and anything that got in his way. When I bent down to pick him up he reared back and two orange horn-like features shot out of the top of his head. These look threatening but their actual function is to give off an odor that repels birds and other predators.

We put him in our camera bag and were speeding home to find an empty peach jar for him to summer in when we spotted another, even more defensive, fat little guy further down the path.

Caterpillars typically only eat one or two types of plants and for our friends here it's the Dutchman's Pipevine, a common vine clinging inconspicuously to the insides of larger plants and trees. We set off on the bike again to find some and came across a fluttering adult Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly which led us to the plant. However, our buddies are most likely no longer hungry. Caterpillars start out about 2mm long when born and shed their skin, changing colors with each shedding, in stages called instars. Beause these guys are so long, plump, and rich in color, and beause they were rambling out in dangerous places far from home, they are both likely to build their Chrysalis at any moment. We are taking them with us so that Little Honey can see the change.

Domesticated Horse

Down the far end of a long dirt road, we pulled the bike up against a wooden fence to watch a foal still in her downy coat nurse from her silver haired mother. When she'd had enough, she danced our way and poked her head through the fence for Little Honey to pet. He was more interested in the ducks eating seeds in the hay.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Snowy Egret

We stopped the bike to watched him catch three fish in the creek. Admirably patient and suddenly explosive, the S-curve of his neck allows him to dart his bill at fish in the water like a teathered spear. Little Honey jumped with surprise each time. During mating season the top of his bill turns from yellow to red and his feathers gain a flamboyantly frilly plumage. It was these feathers that almost made his kind a forever fatal victim of 19th Century ladies hat fashions. When the nest is full of light blue eggs, male and female take turns tending them__much like Big Honey and Honey Pot.