Filming for Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project is continuing throughout the novena and on Saint Joseph’s Day. Visit the film’s blog for latest scenes!
Recently brochures from Rain Forest Publications arrived. Don’t you love pocket guides, for the very reason the name infers–so easy to tuck along when traveling and hiking. That’s my photo on the cover of “Mexico Butterflies.” The photo was taken not in Mexico, but in Gloucester!
Be on the lookout for the first butterfly of spring, which will most likely be the Mourning Cloak Butterfly. Mourning Cloaks do not spend the winter in the cool volcanic mountains of Mexico as do the Monarchs, or as a chrysalis in our gardens, like the Black Swallowtail, or as a caterpillar rolled up in a tight little ball under a leaf, as does the Wooly Bear, but as an adult butterfly!
During the winter months Mourning Cloaks live tucked away in cracks and crevices, between chinks of tree bark, for example. At the first warm breath of spring they begin to take flight, searching for a mate. You’ll often see them on the wing around Pussy Willows, one of the Mourning Cloak caterpillar’s food plants.
Outside my office window is a pair of stately hollies, our “Dragon Ladies;” aptly named for their prickly foliage, and adjacent to the hollies is a sweet scented flowering crabapple. The autumn fruits of this particular crabapple are chunkier than most and, I simply assumed, must bear the worst tasting crabapples imaginable because year in and year out, the fruit is never, ever eaten by the birds. When flocks of robins arrive in our garden in late January, the winterberry and hollies are stripped bare of their fruits in a day, or two, at the most, after which the robins head to our neighbor’s sumac and then further down Plum Street to our other neighbor’s smaller and much better tasting crabapples.
Not this year! A pair of robins is setting up house along the garden path and they vigorously defend the crabapples from other robins. In late winter, robins typically switch over to worms, but with the ground still frozen solid, they are continuing to look for tree fruits. Unfortunately, much of it has been consumed.
Repeatedly, I noticed that our robin couple was struggling to eat the crabapples. They would snip off a stem and then drop it onto the brick path below and peck and peck and peck. A robin’s bill did not evolve to crack open grains and as it seems in this case, nor for penetrating our unusually hard crabapples. A great deal of energy was being spent to get a morsel of food, which is never a good thing because it can leave a creature weakened and at risk of freezing to death.
I picked a few berries and made a crabapple mash, placed it under the tree and, within hours, all the fruits were devoured! Now when feeding the pets and filling the bird feeders each morning I pluck a small handful of crabapples, mash, and place in the pie tin below the tree. I’ve experimented with adding blueberries and raspberries to the dish, but they prefer the crabapples.
If we move very slowly when walking down the path, they now allow us to come quite close—and what a treat to observe from this distance—beautiful, beautiful robins!