Monarch migration

Each year, we look forward to the fall migration of Monarch butterflies. In central Arkansas, they generally appear the first week or two of October. This year, we also had a chance to see them on the Floribama gulf coast, those butterflies following a route from the northeastern U.S. Compared to what we saw in Arkansas this year, the ones in Florida were so numerous, you could not go a few minutes without seeing another one southwest bound.

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Migrating Monarch butterfly lapping up nectar in Florida panhandle beach dune blossoms en route to its overwintering site in Mexico.
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Flying over Deer Lake State Park in Florida. 
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This photo, for me, somewhat captures the vastness of a Monarch’s migration from the Midlantic states, along the northern gulf coast and on to Mexico. 

Tarantula transformation

A tarantula is undergoing an involuntary transformation induced by the paralyzing sting of a tarantula hawk wasp. The wasp dragged the limp spider around a corner and up two stories to the eaves of the house, where the unfortunate arachnid became both unwilling nursemaid and pantry to a young wasp.

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Fear in the wind

Saying prayers for all in Florida. We have friends there who are hunkering down in or near Orlando and Melbourne. I think some have already lost power, or are conserving their power for when the lights go out. The number of outages already in Broward and Palm Beach is incredible. (

Despite the days of preparation, you’re never really ready for what a storm can bring.

Slow-moving Frances, 2004, was terrifying. For 36 hours, we waited inside our shuttered home, essentially blind to what was going on outside and unsure if our little house could take the abuse the wind and water were sure to mete out. Would it protect us? Or would it kill us? After all, we’d already suffered Charley. A few weeks later we’d meet Jeanne.

When we lost power, the only constants were the nerve-shredding jet-engine sound of the storm, punctuated by the sharp pings and bangs of wind-borne objects blasting the house. The counterpoint was an eerie creaking of the joists straining as winds lifted and dropped the roof. The weird, regular rhythm made it seem as if the house was breathing.

Brings to mind a line from a Gordon Lightfoot song: Does any one know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

We survived; the roof held.

The house weathered the rest of the 2004 season as well as the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic storm season. And we truly hope that today, the tough little house and its neighbors will keep its current family safe in its arms.

2005’s Hurricane Wilma as she arrived in Florida. 
Wilma’s winds change direction after the eye moves through. 
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As the eye passed over, we popped out from behind our shutters for a peek. The neighbor’s just-finished lanai was in ruins. 

Two hawks, one dead squirrel. High drama at the office.

Sure, the office is in a beautiful setting. Almost peaceful with its trees and wildflowers. Within the canopy,  however, different life-and-death dramas play out every day. Here, a red-tailed hawk, harangued by bluejays and mockingbirds, seeks a moment’s respite in a tree with a squirrel he’d caught for lunch.

The rest did not last long. The smaller birds screamed and even bashed him a time or two and he took off for another hiding spot. Alas, that last flight cost him. As he landed, his squirrel slipped from his talons and crashed through the branches.

A a second hawk, who followed the action and withstood an assault by other small birds, cashed in on the lost lunch.

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Hawk No. 1 with his squirrel lunch, which he carried from tree to tree under attack by bluejays and mockingbirds.
Hawk No. 2, the interloper, withstanding attacks from a pair of mockingbirds who screeched and hit the hawk. The hawk, unusually, was undeterred. Red-tailed hawks tend to be scaredy cats. 
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The interloper, keeping his eyes on the prize, just waiting for a free lunch.
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And the loser, wheeling off sans lunch.