Living On the Edge, Creatures of the Field

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

“WOWSER! There’s a female monarch butterfly
on a milkweed laying eggs. I’ve never seen this phenomenon before!” Such was the exclamation emitted from a young scientist while exploring our forest edge besplendored with the plant, milkweed. The young person was among three who were taking photos of milkweed pod development in late July. The best part of the research was that of a drone doing the heavy work, flying low, back and forth across the big blue-stem tall-grass prairie growth, smattered by other species of grasses and vernal offerings. Trudging through a bumpy 22-year-old prairie is tough even for spry youth, however, the drone with its camera accomplished a two-hour task in fifteen minutes. The milkweed pod survey crew will return again mid-August to decide upon a propitious time to pick the pods, sack them, dry them in bags in the breeze, and take the gems off to be processed. The seeds will eventually be distributed free to citizens seeking to save the elegant butterfly, the monarch. The pod innards will have many other valuable uses.

The discouraging headline and media piece greeting readers on July 21, 2022, generated from the Associated Press and myriad news outlets stated: “Beloved monarch butterflies now listed as endangered!” Everyone ‘in the know’ during the past ten years has been aware that the monarch and so many other species of creatures are either threatened by acts of humankind or extinguished/exterminated altogether. People have pieced that information from direct observation in their own back yards, many are personally acting to slow the process by planting butterfly attracting plants at their doorsteps and in their gardens.

The Associated Press article also states: “The monarch butterfly fluttered a step closer to extinction Thursday, as scientists put the iconic orange-and -black insect on the endangered list because of its fast dwindling numbers.”

Regarding the local drone spying on the prairie and vicinity, the following excerpt from “Monarch Joint Venture” best explains why the drone was flying about the grasses. “The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) initiated in 2008 transitioned from a 10-year history with the University of Minnesota to become a standalone 501©3non-profit organization in 2019. MJV supports monarch and pollinator conservation planning and implementation effort by facilitating information sharing, partnership building, and carry out identified conservation priorities with its plan. With over 100 partners, ranging from federal and state agencies, to none-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs, MJV partners organized to protect monarch migration across the United States. The MJV’s work leverages partnerships and the charisma of the monarch butterfly as a flagship for broader conservation benefit.” And it all begins with individuals picking milkweed pods and planting milkweed seeds.

On a personal note. We spend lots of time in the woodland and on the prairie. We saw few monarchs and other butterflies all spring, and now average perhaps one monarch a day. We’ve seen a single frog….not in the wild…rather, in the fountain in front of the J R Brown Center in Henderson! August 1st, we experienced a common garter snake, and a tiny weensy toad, both were first of the entire year observations. Friends, something is very wrong, we can tell you what it is, but subscriptions to this media could be cancelled as a result.

In other news, rejoicing at Coachlight Pond these last weeks of July finds seven Trumpeter swan cygnets with both parents, pen (female) and (cob.) On their aquatic plant diet (pondweed, cattail roots etc., they show accelerated growth. Once the mud was washed from their exteriors by a sudden shower, they’ve begun to take on a gray tone. Most often the growing young waterfowl are on the southernmost pond following their elegant parents about and ‘chowing down.’

One need not fear for a downward trend of raccoons, as sows produced many kits, raccoon nurseries were full; now rapidly growing ones are out upon the land, and corn is their favorite dish in the absence of frogs and grasshoppers/crickets in roadside ditches.

On one other note, Le Sueur’s Phil Lee discovered whence giant silk moths go to refresh themselves and beat the heat of July/August. Relief is found in Le Sueur’s car wash where, on a dry summer evening, Polyphemus, a giant Hawk moth, plus a gorgeous Cecropia luxuriated in the misty atmosphere. Don’t believe it? Ask Phil to show you the photos. Stay cool if you can!