Monday, July 21, 2014

Callosamia Promethea

Uh... whazzhat?
"Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life."
- Marcus Aurelius

Observation is a funny thing. No, not "funny, ha ha" more like funny strange.  Most of the time people think they are being quite observant, and most of the time they are wrong.  Humans seem to have an incredible capacity for self deception which is really only underscored by the fact that we seem to think we are observing anything while rifling through a purse, driving down the road, or playing on a cellphone.  (continued)

Sunday night Mrs Farmer, both kids and both dogs walked right past a dramatically colored male Promethea Silkmoth.  How this is possible I am still not entirely sure of.  Sure, Mrs. Farmer was thinking about the peepers, the evening chores and probably some task I never got done.  The kids were running, excited (and focused) in that way that seems unique to young children off to their next discovery.  The dogs... well I expected better of the dogs but if they HAD seen him I probably would not have seen him (and Geordi would have eaten him).  So there's that to be thankful for, I guess.

I did see him though, and after a few tentative photos to ensure I had proof before I opened my mouth and he flew away I called everyone back over to the spot they had run passed to get a good look.  

This little guy, sadly, seemed spent. Not unusual I suppose in a moth that does not feed after hitting the adult stage and who's main job is to complete a single June-July mating before he misses his window just so that a handful of the species can survive to repeat the dance next year.  So much for dinner and a movie.  Doesn't really seem that romantic at all.  I hope he got the job done at least.  Callosamia Promethea mate in the afternoon through early evening and it was right about "prime time" that I found him.  If you look closely in some of the photos you'll see on his wings a bit of damage.  I suspect something made a grab at him and barely missed.

Near miss or not I suspect this is enough damage to put him out of the action.  He did not seem inclined to run from me and my hamfisted attempts to photograph him but he also did not show any inclination to leave when I set him down again afterwards either.  I believe this experience (like so many others) can be filed under the category of "awesome experience made possible by my choice to farm".  I've seen many "strange" and "exotic" creatures here the likes of which cannot be seen in dirty urban or sterile suburban lives.  Of course many people would argue that garter snakes, tree frogs, toads, and the like are hardly strange or exotic, but then 4" butterflies and 4" moths are delicate as lace, fleeting as Fae, and rare as diamonds, so I still believe my assessment is fair.

Observing lepidoptera may be a lot more fun than watching flies or carpenter ants, and isn't as pragmatic as dumping water out of potential mosquito breeding sites but I have found that it is often the rarer event which leads to insights into the mundane.  Remembering to be aware of where I step is an invaluable lesson (one that the dogs do their part to remind me also, if in a different fashion).  Teaching that lesson to others and being able to point out what they missed right under their nose is probably more important than the lesson itself.  

Given half the chance you might be amazed by what you notice.  The human brain is hard wired to notice patterns and to draw connections between things we observe even if we aren't consciously aware of seeing it.  That means you can start with just a few minutes seeing.  Not weeding, not walking, not mowing.  Just sitting and really trying to see.  Taking the opportunity to sit and be still, to take a deep breath, to let the world around you actually interact with the holes in your face.  The more you practice it the easier it gets and the easier it gets the more you'll enjoy it and the more you enjoy it the more you'll realize it is more entertaining than ANYTHING you've seen on TV or looked up online or read about or, or, or... anything, in a long time.

Branched antennae, bright red fuzzy legs.
My hens react when a hawk is nearby (even a small one).  The hawk is performing a wide tree-top level patrol, he used to come by every 2 hours.  The songbirds dislike the hawk even more than the chickens, and since they began nesting his visits are rarer and briefer since the song birds will mob and harass him until he leaves.  I have since seen raptors harassed like this while driving, by birds as small as wrens to as large as crows.  This is a pattern that plays out over and over again between the predator and prey.  One that, at least it seems to me, the prey enjoy the upper hand, go figure.

I opened today's post with a quote of a roman emperor, a rather appropriate (if academic) quote at that.  I found another quote that suits me (if not my message) better and felt I should close with that.  I hope dear readers that none of you fall into the latter category.

"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."
- Will Rogers

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