Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars on the Passionflower Vine

There are currently three Gulf Fritillary Agraulis vanillae caterpillars on the Oaklandia Passionflower Passiflora parritae x tarminiana‘Oaklandia’ ! This is an awesome event because we saw none on the vine for the past three years, although we often observed a female Gulf Fritillary laying eggs on the vine. I suspect that spiders got to the tiny larvae. Sadly, two summers ago I spotted several tiny dead larvae stuck in spider webs next to the pot where the vine is growing. These three are each longer than 3/4 of an inch, and seem to be growing fairly rapidly. I keep brushing away spider web filaments from the vine, hoping for a better chance of survival for the caterpillars. They definitely

Hungry Northern Mockingbird Fledgling, Mama and the Blueberries

Yesterday I observed this fascinating and humorous interaction between a hungry Northern Mockingbird fledgling and its mother. First I saw the fledgling land in one of the plant beds, and then it flew to a nearby large pot containing a Blue Blossom Ceanothus Ceanothus thyrsiflorus. As the fledgling quietly perched on the rim of the pot, its mother appeared with a blueberry in her beak. The fledgling quickly devoured the berry. We have a small Sunshine Blueberry shrub a few feet away from the ceanothus pot, and it is now full of ripening berries. It's providing fruit for the mockingbirds and towhees. After mama mockingbird fed the fledgling several blueberries, she flew away. The fledgling pa

Another Mama Monarch visit

We were honored again with a visit from a mama monarch yesterday. After resting on the Chiapas salvia for a while, she made her rounds of the milkweed plants, laying eggs on them. Although our days have been very cloudy for almost a week, we usually have sunny breezy afternoons. And that's when the butterflies appear, at least one monarch per day. Usually there are also Cabbage Whites, Umber Skippers and the occasional, elusive Anise Swallowtail. How wonderful to be blessed with these visits.

The Long-Horned Bees are back

And... they're back! At first I thought this was a digger bee, but the antennae are so long. I didn't dare to hope, but sure enough, this is indeed a male Summer Long-horned Bee Melissodes robustior. See the yellow marking on the lower part of his face. And such long antennae. Their preferred flowers for pollen are sunflowers, cosmos, and tickseed such as this Coreopsis Big Bang Cosmic Evolution.

Gray Hairstreak visiting

It's always such a treat to spot native butterflies in the garden. Most of them are so small and blend in with the plants, that the only way you'll notice them is by patiently waiting and spotting movement. Such was the case with this Gray Hairstreak butterfly Strymon melinus pudica. I was observing bees on the Seacliff buckwheat Eriogonum parvifolium flower heads, when the hairstreak fluttered by, landing on the buckwheat. The hairstreak stayed a while on the buckwheat for its nectar break.

Monarch visiting today

What a wonderful surprise to discover this male monarch visiting our garden! We first noticed him sipping the nectar from several flower heads of red valerian plants growing near our kitchen door. By the time I got my camera, he was happily flying in the breeze. And then he landed on the stalk of a naked buckwheat plant. You can see that his left wing isn't perfect, a little crumpled on the bottom third of it. Fortunately it doesn't affect his ability to fly or balance.

Another Generation of Monarch Caterpillars

Some of the milkweed plants have had a chance to produce new leaves after the onslaught of monarch caterpillars last month. Mama monarch's efforts are once again rewarded. These two little ones are now munching away on the narrow leaf milkweed Asclepias fascicularis. As you can see, the ever present pesky aphids are on the milkweed as well. I try to carefully squish them between my fingers and wipe them off the plants.

Happy Bees

Now that it's in the middle of the summer, and days are hot, bees are all over the garden, sipping nectar and collecting pollen. The little sweat bees seem to be particularly fond of the buckwheat blossoms. Here is a sweat bee dwarfed by a Sea Cliff Buckwheat Eriogonum parvifolium flower head. The flower heads are about an inch in circumference. A yellow-faced bumble bee Bombus vosnesenskii drinks nectar from a flower head of the Russian River Coyote Mint Monardella villosa 'Russian River'.

Ooh, it's Monarch Number Three

The day after the second monarch, a male, emerged and flew away, the third chrysalis was in a hurry to eclose. In the late morning, this chrysalis was a dark green, but not dark enough to indicate signs of eclosing the same day. Imagine our surprise when we checked on it in the late afternoon and saw it like this! The chrysalis is clear and waxy looking, with a few cracks in it. This is the same butterfly that pupated on the tip of a showy milkweed leaf. Since other caterpillars were still munching on the same plant, we knew that the leaf would be eaten and the chrysalis would have fallen. We cut the leaf the chrysalis was on and taped the leaf to the outer rim of the container. You see the

Presenting Mr Monarch Butterfly

This male monarch pupated beneath the lip of a large pot containing a rose plant. He is number two of our emerged monarchs and eclosed a couple of days ago. You can see his empty chrysalis shell in the background. After he dried his wings it was time to find a good place to perch to absorb the warmth of the afternoon sun. A closer look at his head. He climbed up into the pot where the rose plant is growing. Nasturtiums are growing in the same pot. He decided that perching on a dried nasturtium vine was the perfect spot to absorb the heat of the sun. And suddenly he was on a stake supporting the plant, gradually climbing to the top. Before I could take a photo of him flexing his wings for one

Another Monarch Chrysalis getting ready

How exciting to see the chrysalides preparing to eclose! This is chrysalis number two. We check them several times a day, just to try to estimate when the happy event would happen. Are they turning dark green, or is it a trick of the light? And then the question is if the dark green is turning black. And finally, is the outer layer looking clear and waxy? And just how is it possible for them to fit in that small capsule...

Another monarch chrysalis in the shrubbery

Aha! Another monarch chrysalis. This one is on the same shrub as another chrysalis that I observed last week. When you're patient and persistent enough, with a trained eye you'll discover so many wonders of nature. Since at least twenty monarch caterpillars ate their way through milkweed leaves to adulthood, I am convinced that there must be more around the patio in the shrubs, on stalks of grass, and who knows where else. So far I only know of the five chrysalides, including the female monarch that emerged the other day. I wrote about this chrysalis last week. It is on a lower branch on the shrub.

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