Saturday, July 03, 2004

Cheryl Flies the Coop! (Part 1)

Today's Top Story:
At the time of this posting, 864 US soldiers have died in Iraq.

(Why is this "The Top Story"?
1. Each of these soldiers died in a war that was initiated by a President who intentionally misled the American people to serve his own ends, and
2. Like Gen. Anthony Zinni, I believe that this has got to be more important than "American Idol").

Today's Feature: Cheryl Flies the Coop!

It's been a busy summer here in paradise. Mary and I have spent entire weekends working around the house on small projects and regular maintenance. We've spent most evenings on the screen porch, enjoying the cool breeze, watching the finches and hummingbirds visit the feeders, and usually sharing a nice dinner, a bottle of wine and background music from the outdoor speakers we finally wired up and placed in the corners. (We brought them from Memphis 6 years ago...) I've made two business trips in the last 3 weeks. All of that activity means blog posting takes a back seat, and the telling of some good stories has had to wait.

One of the most amazing moments we've had this summer was the day the polyphemous moth finally hatched.

Last fall, Mary found several large, green caterpillars on the bushes in our front yard.

Polypheomous moth caterpillar Posted by Hello
(Photo source: Stratford Landing, VA elementary school. )
A friend told her that they would spin cocoons and hatch into moths in the spring. We made a "caterpillar house" out of some plywood disks and cloth mesh. Mary brought in three of the caterpillars and clipped a bunch of branches off the bush so they'd have food. Since all the animals in our home need names, Mary (known to our kids as "Dr. Doolittle") christened them. The smallest she named "Mary". The biggest she named "Mike". The middle-sized one she named "Cheryl", after our next door neighbor. (Cheryl is marreid to Bill. I gave Bill credit in my initial posting for my attitude about living in paradise.) We hung the caterpillar house in the garage and checked on Mary, Mike and Cheryl every day.

After several days we saw one cocoon. Then another appeared. Then a third. Fall turned to winter, and the coccons hung in the garage waiting for spring. I had nearly forgotten about them during the winter. As we got engaged in lawn mowing and gardening this spring, I saw the house regularly - it hung between the wheelbarrow and the weed eater.

Then, during the long Memorial Day weekend, it happened - Cheryl hatched! I was indoors, doing something, when Mary raced in yelling "Mike, hurry! Come quick!" I thought there had been an accident outside, and raced out into the garage. Mary pointed at the caterpillar house, and said "Look! One of them has hatched!"

We quickly hung the house outside and I grabbed the digital camera. The new moth was clinging to a stick at the top of the house. We weren't sure how long she had been out of the cocoon, and wanted to get her out so she wouldn't hurt herself in the house.

Cheryl stretches her wings. Posted by Hello

What stunning colors! Posted by Hello

It took a bit of coaxing (for me and Mary, as well as for the moth). We wanted to be very careful not to hurt it as we tried to get it out of the house. I pulled some of the cloth mesh away to make a bigger opening. Mary nudged the moth with a branch.

Mary coaxes Cheryl out of the caterpillar house. Posted by Hello

After a few tries, "Cheryl" flew from the house to the ground, then sat there sunning herself for a few minutes. Her flight was a bit wobbly, and we realized at this point that she had only hatched minutes earlier. We figured her wings weren't dry...or something.

Cheryl makes a safe landing. Posted by Hello

We stood and watched in quiet amazement for a few minutes. Then "Cheryl" wiggled her wings and flew off into the garden. I grabbed the big film camera and hustled after her. The film is being processed this weekend, and I'll have a digital cd made. More pictures in Part 2 later.

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