Saturday, September 25, 2010


A few weeks ago we found signs that something was munching on the leaves of the Meyer Lemon tree in our backyard. The culprit, it turned out, was a strange-looking caterpillar called an "Orange Dog" (because of their appetite for citrus tree leaves) that would one day make a marvelous transformation into a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly.

In my screened-in porch, I created a habitat of leaves and sticks in a tray for the caterpillar and a few days later it formed a chrysalis on one of the sticks. Within the chrysalis, which looked just like a dead branch, the caterpillar would make its metamorphosis over the next 14 days.

One morning I walked out on my porch and there it was, a stunning Giant Swallowtail Butterfly! At some point earlier that morning, it had emerged from the chrysalis and flew up onto my screen, where it was drying its delicate wings in the sunlight. The next day, it flew out into the world, landing on our bougainvillea blooms before fluttering off into the bright blue sky.

Empty Giant Swallowtail chrysalis

Giant Swallowtail chrysalis Day 4

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly chrysalis Day 1

Orange Dog caterpillar turning into a chrysalis

Orange Dog caterpillar

Orange Dog caterpillar

Evidence of the "Orange Dog" caterpillar eating the leaves of the tree.

Our Meyer Lemon Tree

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rare sighting: Cuban Pewee in the Everglades

This Saturday I saw a rare Cuban Pewee at Everglades National Park, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will be able to treasure for years with beautiful photos and video thanks to Jeff Bouton, my guide and photography expert. The Pewee was spotted about a week ago, the first sighting in the park ever and only the third sighting of this species in North America.

The Cuban Pewee, a resident of northern Bahamas and Cuba that lives in pine forests, mangroves, and swamp edges, is a small gray flycatcher with a dark head, orange bill and telltale white crescent behind the eye. The one that I saw in the Long Pine Key forest in the Everglades flitted about from branch to branch in the same area for a good part of the afternoon, enchanting a group of a dozen or so birders staking it out, with its distinctive call "dee, dee, dee, dee." Its wings looked a bit ragged and worn but it was a very active little thing!

The bird was first discovered in the Everglades by birding guide Larry Manfredi. There was a story in the Miami Herald about the sighting: link here.

I was at Everglades National Park with a group of birders from the Tropical Audubon Society. The group was led by Jeff Bouton, an expert in digiscoping, a photography technique that combines the use of a digital camera with a scope. With Jeff's help, I was able to take some amazing photos of the Pewee as well as other birds in the South Dade area that morning. I posted some photos here. Not all of them are digiscoped, some are regular photos off my digital camera.

What an amazing day!

Digiscoped Video of Cuban Pewee at Everglades National Park

Eastern Kingbird

Baltimore Oriole

Cardinal (digiscoped)

European Starling (digiscoped)

Tree Snail

Everglades Anhinga Trail


Red-shouldered Hawk

Baltimore Oriole (digiscoped)

Everglades National Park, Coe Visitor Center

Wildlife Wonders out West

Our trip out West in August was packed with wildlife adventures. We visited Wyoming and South Dakota, with stops at Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Tetons, as well as Jackson Hole.

We saw Elk, Buffalo, Bighorn Sheep, Coyote, Black Wolf, Antelope, Prairie Dogs and Moose. We also saw lots of birds, including rare Trumpeter Swans as well as Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Osprey, Western Grebes, Mountain Bluebirds, Pine Siskin, Sora, American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Red-naped Sapsucker, and Black-billed Magpies among many others. The butterflies and wildflowers were abundant!

Bighorn Sheep, Badlands National Park, SD

Chipmunk in the Black Hills, SD

Coyote near Jackson Hole, WY

American White Pelican, Grand Tetons, WY

Wildflower, Grand Tetons, WY

Elk in Yellowstone National Park, WY

Herd of Buffalo in Custer State Park, SD

Moose in Wyoming

Antelope in Custer State Park, SD

Black-billed Magpie, Jackson Hole, WY

Prairie Dog in Badlands National Park, SD