We live on a canyon in Southern California, which is incredibly awesome, except for the few weeks of the year when the dry Santa Ana winds blow and everyone worries (not unreasonably) about wildfire. I love the up close view I get of nature. Hawks, quail, crows, owls, and many other types of birds, rattlesnakes (!), lizards, racoons, opossums, coyotes, bobcats (we found entrails deposited by our front door just after moving in), rats (my cat killed one and tried to bring it in the house) and all kinds of insects. Little did I know what I was missing though, until I got a milkweed plant a few years ago.
Monarch caterpillars are like koalas and pandas, in that they eat only one thing. And for monarchs that one thing is milkweed. There used to be fields and fields of milkweed, but because of herbicide use and habitat loss, the number of plants across the nation has dwindled. If you love monarchs and want a show that lasts for months (at least in Southern CA), put some milkweed plants in your yard or in a big pot on your patio!
I was amazed at how many butterflies visited. They came in and out over hours as I worked in my yard. Hundreds of small, white eggs were laid, and hatched into loads of caterpillars. At one point I had so many caterpillars that they ate my plant down to sticks and stems (not one leaf was left), and I had to load caterpillars up in a box and drive around Tierrasanta looking for other milkweed plants to transfer them onto so they could have food to eat.
Needless to say, all this action was a photographer’s bonanza. I have nearly 700 photos I have taken over the past 2 years. I know that this is excessive, possibly crossing the line into obsessive. There, I admitted my problem, which is one of those 12 steps. Because of all those photos, I have been putting off writing this because how was I supposed to winnow them down to fit in a blog post? Ah Ha!! (I thought to myself), the ALPHABET. Only 26 letters!! That’s how!
Well, sort of. I put in two or three photos for some letters, because I couldn’t control myself. So my alphabet has 52 entries instead of 26. I know it is a lot (actually 2 times what I planned), but I guarantee that each and every one of them is super cool. Check them out, be amazed at the beauty of nature, the cycle of life, and one woman’s inability to stop taking photos, no matter how many pics of these little fellas she already had. And be grateful that she did.
(Click on the images for a better view)