Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Season For All Things

Black Swallowtail Butterfly & Wild Iris
Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
April 2010

"Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress."
--Charles Dickens

I love the way seasons and weather have a private dance they do; forever changing, always interesting, unpredictable and new. Much like our own lives, change is often the only constant.

It was an unusually wet and cold winter and spring where I live. I marveled at the high water levels at Corkscrew Swamp recently. This is usually fire season in Florida, and the swamp is often dry and brittle. Not this year. I watched a fawn, new spots glowing like soft dots on its amber back, splash through knee-deep water and pass under the boardwalk, nibbling new leaves just an arm's length away.

And then, a few curves of the boardwalk later, wild irises blooming with great abandon! This black swallowtail flitted along their deep blue/purple blooms in the dappled sunlight, finally lighting long enough for a few shots. What a pose! What a gift.

Black swallowtail butterflies seem a perfect match for irises. Those blue tail spots are a sweet complement to the sky hues of the wild irises. And yet, this butterfly much perfers dill and fennel and tops of carrots. As a caterpillar, it has a defense gland right behind its head, called an "osmeterium". The caterpillar ingests oils from carrots, dill, parsley and fennel, and then emits a strong odor through the osmeterium which repels predators.

Male adult butterflies have a broader swath of yellow than females, so I suspect this is a male. Gorgeous and graceful, it seems Oklahoma loves them as much as I do, having made them the state butterfly in 1996.

Back in Florida, Corkscrew Swamp is a critical nesting habitat to wood storks, the only stork in North America. Because of this year's high water, not a single mated pair have nested there this season. Wading birds were largely absent this spring and on my walk, finding food in other areas with less water. I'd hoped to show them off to a friend visiting from Alaska, but all we saw was one little blue heron, wading through thick aquatic plants in Lettuce Lake.

And yet, high water brings other gifts: fawns and butterflies and irises - and even ghost orchids blooming in March, a very rare event, indeed! Even when what you wish for is not what you get, there is often something lovely and amazing in its place, if we just turn around and look.

Turn, turn, turn. For everything, there is a season.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400VR

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