Magnetic North: Flutterbys Are Us

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Welcome back to Magnetic North where the air is filled with winged things, and not the kind with feathers!

No, I speak not of the dread mosquito, or black fly or no-seeum, but of butterflies. For some reason, the population of Monarch and Swallowtails is way, way up this season. With the first blossoming of dandelions on our backyard lawn, the burnt orange Monarchs literally swarmed above the ocean of yellow fuzz balls.

My granddaughter, Jane, stood in the cloud of Monarchs with her arms literally cutting through the waves of the jeweled insects above and around her. A photo op if ever there was one!

A few days later, the Swallowtails appeared. These are the mustardy gold butterflies with black tipping on their wings. As if being beautiful weren’t enough, the Swallowtails show off by grouping on a patch of ground, usually a sunny patch of gravel. Once a critical mass forms, the little darlings appear to vibrate in unison. Makes me wonder what’s going on.

Probably innocent enough. But even bugs have their kinky side, I suppose.

On the darker side, literally, we have the creatures of the night; the stunning moths gyrating around every porch light. For sheer over-the-topness, I choose the Cecropia moth--one of the biggies, only with more than size setting it apart from the pack.

This season, I inadvertently trapped a female Cecropia inside a screen window one night. Come morning, the outside of the screen was plastered top to bottom with males, half her size but all aflutter with hormones.

Only the Luna moth outdoes the Cecropia for loveliness. Every year at least one clings to our siding for the night, pausing until the noon sun hits her sea-green wings, allowing admirers to Ohhhh and Ahhhh over her long, droopy teardrop-shape wings.

Green, yellow, orange - it’s like fireworks without the hiss and bang. Tender awe.

Memorable. Even now, weeks later, I can look out on the back lawn, where dandelions are gone to seed and nothing fills the air but raindrops and a clear picture appears: my darling towheaded Janey, pirouetting midst the monarchs.

And while I would like to see only such pleasant scenes out my window, I am sad to report that my groundhogs are still with me. Not only are they tougher to trap than I’ve been told, but they too have been inspired by our early spring. Where there were two, there are now FIVE! And the little ones are even cuter than the parents.

Time to call my neighborhood trapper. Perhaps he can catch and release them where I so pitifully failed.

Other than that, I am in baby bird heaven right now. The turkey poults are a month old and my two are so tame already that they jump out of the brooder to be cuddled.

Add to that joy, I now have two just-hatched Buff goslings that miraculously arrived on the mail truck from Duluth on Wednesday. I give the Post Office mega-high fives for navigating the flooded roads and getting the birds here in time to get the food and water they so desperately need in those first few days. Of course, being geese, they stuck their scrawny little necks out and assumed a don’t-mess-with-me attitude right out of the carton. But after a few nights of watching TV in my lap, I’ll socialize them. With geese, that is even more important than making a dog people-friendly. Geese live 20-plus years.

How’s that for optimism on my part, huh?

Now if only I can train the little buggers to trim around flower beds and fence lines, I’ll be set for the next two decades!

Airdate: July 23, 2012


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