Thursday, October 30, 2008

Selah Moments

If you are regular reader of this blog you have undoubtedly read of Selah Moments before now. However, I think I should define them again for those of you who are perhaps reading this journal for the first time, or who have forgotten what it means.

I think that it probably started when a really special thing happened and one of the kids called it a "National Geographic moment". Colleen, our executive director, and one of our wonderful teachers liked the idea of focusing on special moments, but wanted them to be anything, no matter how simple or seemingly insignificant, that moved the viewer and made them feel closer to nature. A Selah Moment can be something as simple as a breeze on your skin, or a bird chirping in a nearby tree, or as thrilling as looking into a tree and seeing thousands of monarch butterflies together during their fall migration to their winter grounds in the mountains of Mexico.

During the Grasses Workshop when the participants were looking at grasses in the open area to the west of the Madrone Lake patio, someone noticed movements in the bald cypress in front of them. When they focused on the masses of Monarch Butterflies on the slender branches, some of which were actually bending from the weight of the butterflies, they ran over to where I was sitting, yelling, "Bring your camera, we have a 'Selah Moment'"!

Usually the underside of their wings look flat, but when the sunlight is at a certain angle, you can see that the wing in not flat, but has shape to it, and you can see shadows on the surface. (Click to see the large version).

When we were first seeing the Monarchs, they seemed to be resting. It was still fairly cool in the morning.

Across the trail from the Monarchs on the bald cypress trees, the Queens were enjoying the Greg's Blue Mist flowers. The underside of the wings of Queen butterflies looks a lot like the underside of the Monarch's wings.

The dorsal or upper wings look very different from the underwing, and different too from the upperwings of the Monarchs which are shown in the photograph below.

Monarchs warmed up in the sun and became animated. Amanda Fulton took this photograph and the one below during the afternoon of the next day.

When sufficiently warmed up the Monarchs were very active, and each time a new butterfly would arrive on the branch, the others that were already there would exercise their wings, or fly away a short distance and return to settle down. Amanda caught them in the midst of a period of activity.

While watching the Monarchs, I noticed some activity on the Frost Weed blooms, (Verbesina virginica) and took some pictures, which was not easy because they were moving so fast. I managed to catch this very small native green bee which I believe is a Green Sweat Bee of the Family Halictidae, (Augochloropsis metallica). They are quite small, only 9 mm long (3/8 of an inch), and they are the  most brilliant metallic green imaginable.

This Honey Bee is enjoying a drink of nectar and perhaps some pollen from the Frost Weed flowers.

There is a lot of interesting activity around the flowers, trees and grasses at this time of the year. Take a child, spouse, friend or grandchild out to investigate, or go by yourself, -- and have fun! Before long we'll have cold weather, and the insects and spiders will be less active.

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