Tuesday, May 8, 2018

We Know How To Make An Entrance!

After three weeks of wandering slowly through FLA and soaking in some rail trail nature it was time to make tracks a bit.  So, we packed up Hop-a-long and Boneless and told them to get some rest.  Then, onward we pushed at a pace that is not in our normal character to visit with family in Alabama before finally landing at Darlene's folks' place in GA. 

We arrived a day earlier than we had planned and so her folks were still out of town. 

The grass looked like it needed mowing so we didn't go in the house.  Instead Darlene opened the side door to the garage.  At the same time an alarm went off in the distance. 

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The backyard lake's resident Solitary Sandpiper was undeterred.

Darlene looked at Nicole and said, "Wow, wasn't that a coincidence.  That alarm started right when I opened the door!"   Um.... "I don't think it is a coincidence", says Nicole.

Into the house, to shut down the alarm.  Several phone calls later to the folks and the alarm company and here come the police up the driveway.  Darlene walks out of the house and says, "I'm the daughter, I set the alarm off by accident."  The police are satisfied with this and drive away without even checking ID or anything.  Later we all joked that since the police were obviously not concerned she should have finished her sentence with 'now please leave so we can continue robbing the place.'

And with that we had definitely arrived in GA!

We've been here a few weeks now and have been keeping busy helping out with projects around the house.  One of the biggest ones that Darlene's father needed help with was figuring out what was wrong with his boat motor once he put the new water pump in it.

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Of course, Nicole jumped right in on that one and after much discussion and contemplation the two of them set out to get 'er done.  A short bit of diagnostics later and all we had was a clogged water outlet tube.  Good ole GA clay.  However, we also discovered that when Darlene's father put the foot back on that he missed setting the gears and so the boat was not shifting.  So, off came the foot a little adjustment was made and then back on it went and all was good as new.  During our testing we discovered that the thermostats were leaking around their seals so we ordered some new ones and threw them in too just to round out the service.

While working on the motor, Nicole discovered there was a cocoon hanging from it.  She did her best to ignore it and thought she'd just keep an eye on it now and then.  When Darlene came out to help with the foot however she thought it might be prudent to remove the cocoon from it's position on the motor and find a safer location for it.  That's the story she says she's sticking to but we're pretty sure she was just wanting to encourage what she calls Nicole's 'new addiction'.

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This was one of the neatest shaped cocoons we have ever seen.  (TOP VIEW)

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What to do.  What to do?  Nicole did some research and then had a pretty good idea what this mystery was to become.

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Based on that, she selected a good sized container, put a paper towel over the top and used a safety pin to attach the cocoon to the paper towel via the cremaster (part at the tail that it attaches to a branch or in this case boat motor with).

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The end result...

Research had revealed about a 10-14 day pupa phase and we had no idea how long it had been on the motor so the wait began.

Meanwhile, many other projects got done.  One night something looked different so we examined it closer with a flashlight.  Nicole thought that there were different colorations showing up but couldn't be sure until she checked her photos in the morning. 

Morning came and we got involved in projects once again.  Nicole's activity for the day had her going between the woodshop and the van.  Each time she'd go to the van she'd peek back and see if anything had changed.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Then, while sitting the front seat, she glanced back and thought she saw something different.  So, she rushed back there and...

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sure enough a Red-spotted Purple Butterfly had emerged!

It takes several hours of hanging around for the butterflies wings to fully expand and dry.  So, after a few hours, we headed out to where the boat was parked an prepared to release our new baby.

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Hard to believe that this big, beautiful creature came out of that little cocoon?

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On this beauty, the underside of the wings has the most character.

Interesting Fact:  The Red-spotted Purple Butterfly rarely visit flowers for nectar, instead they drink from puddles and feed on flowing tree sap and rotting fruit.

During some of our downtime we'd walk the yard and look for critters of the small and crawling kind.  Here's a bit of what we found minus the two ticks that Nicole brought home.

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While photographing this beautiful specimen with her face right next to his Nicole thought "Gee what an aggressive little spider."
He kept rearing up and trying to grab the camera lens with those long front legs.  It wasn't until she discovered its ID that it made sense.
The above creature is a Male Southern Black Widow Spider - Latrodectus mactans.

The male Black Widow is quite the competitor when it comes to mating.  Females will build an elaborate web which is covered in pheromones and meant to attract a mate.  When a male arrives he begins destroying the web by bundling it into a ball and covering it with his own silk.  He does this to decrease the scent and thus decrease the chance that he'll have much competition.  Male black widows can detect the females scent from 200 feet away.

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This well camouflaged critter was difficult to spot. 

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Here's a different angle and better view of this Assassin Bug Nymph (zelus luridus).  We had seen the adults before but never spotted a young one like this.

When Nicole was researching the Red-spotted Purple Butterfly she learned that their caterpillars often over-winter in the middle of their larvae stage.  To do so they create a hibernaculum and they hole up there until it is safe to come out and eat and continue as a growing caterpillar.  So...... of course, she had to go out and try to find a hibernaculum.

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Not sure that this is an actual hibernaculum but it was neat.  This was a tiny little one at about 1/2" in length at the most.

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She had thought it would be empty but unfortunately it was not and she had disturbed this cute little crawler which is the caterpillar for a Twirler Moth - Coleotechnites eryngiella.  Still, it was really neat to have found such a small structure.

We're going to leave you there because we are going to leave GA and resume our travels.  So, we've got to get packed up. 

More to come as we continue our travels and explorations.