Monthly Archives: September 2009

A Greeting Card For Every (Ridiculous) Occasion!

As a fledgling greeting card designer, I thought this was an hilarious video. The end was particularly silly!

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Filed under Entertainment, Humor, Life, Personal, Shopping

Butterfly School at Monarch Watch Fall 2009 Open House

Chip Taylor, right, director of Monarch Watch, shows how to hold a monarch butterfly for tagging.

Chip Taylor, right, director of Monarch Watch, shows how to hold a Monarch butterfly for tagging.

One of the highlights of the annual fall open house at Monarch Watch is Butterfly School, in which Chip Taylor, founder and director of Monarch Watch, demonstrates how to catch, hold, tag and release a Monarch butterfly before it begins its migration to its winter home in Mexico.

CHip Taylor shows the students in "Butterfly School" where to place the tag on the butterfly's wing.

Chip Taylor shows the students in "Butterfly School" where to place the tag on the butterfly's wing.

The weather for this fall’s event (Sept. 12) was warm and sunny, so the butterflies were very active but with the right technique (wait until they stop to refuel on a flower, don’t chase them!) they were easily captured in a net so that a small tag could be placed on a wing to help to track the butterfly’s migration patterns.  Monarch Watch is on the west campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Soon these tagged Monarchs will be joining hundreds of millions of other Monarchs in one of nature’s greatest natural wonders.  

In North America the Monarchs migrate south starting in August until the first frost. A northward migration takes place in the spring. The Monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south, although no single individual makes the entire round trip.  The Monarchs tagged east of the Rocky Mountains spend the winter in Mexico and start to breed on their trip back home as soon as they encounter milkweed along the route.  This is why it’s so important for people to plant milkweed in their gardens to help the Monarchs along the way. Find out about starting a Monarch Butterfly Waystation by visiting Monarch Watch’s website.  Because of development and agriculture, milkweed is being destroyed in the areas Monarchs have used in the past. Drought and cold weather also reduces the amount of milkweed available.

Chip Taylor shows how to sneak up on a butterfly to catch it with a net. Captured butterflies are tagged so that when they are found, the data on the tag can tell researchers about the butterfly's migration.

Chip Taylor shows how to sneak up on a butterfly to catch it with a net. Captured butterflies are tagged before being released so that when they are found, the data on the tag can tell researchers about the butterfly's migration.

The tagging students were preparing for the  Jayhawk Audubon Society and Monarch Watch annual tagging event for the public at the Baker University Wetlands along 31st Street between Haskell and Louisiana in Lawrence, Kansas. The annual tagging event is open to everyone, with instructions given at the site.  The 2009 event is scheduled for 7:30 AM until 11:30 AM on Saturday, September 19, 2009.  More information can be found by clicking on the Monarch Watch website in my blogroll at the right.

In 2001, 325 participants tagged nearly 3000 of the estimated 20,000 Monarchs present, and at least 85 of those tagged were recovered at the winter roost sites in Mexico, according to Monarch Watch.  Almost as many were tagged in 2008.  You can view all of the recoveries tagged at these events by searching for Lawrence-tagged Monarchs on the Monarch Watch searchable recovery database on its website.  Click on this to find out more about the tagging process and why it’s done.

Getting ready to release a buttterfly

A group gathers in Monarch Watch's biohouse to hear about how to tag Monarch butterflies.

Every year, up to hundreds of thousands of Monarchs stop on their way south to refuel on the nectar from the ocean of yellow Bidens flowers at the wetlands, which is an amazing sight.

Monarch Watch is dedicated to the education about, conservation of and research about Monarch butterflies.  It works closely with schools and with researchers.  Research into Monarch migration is providing extensive information about genetics, for example.

Taylor and others went to the wintering site in Mexico in March 2009.  Here’s part of what Taylor had to say about a new Disney film, taken from the Monarch Watch blog.  It’s very exciting.  “While I enjoyed the entire trip, and this agreeable bunch, I had a side adventure: I spent 4 extraordinary days working with a film crew funded by Disney at El Rosario. It was total monarch immersion, all day every day, from 6AM to 7PM. The film crew was the largest I’ve worked with and there were three cameras going most of the time. The footage will be spectacular and like no other on monarchs to date.Disney has commissioned a series of nature films, and this film about pollination and pollinators is scheduled for theaters in 2010-2011. The working title for the film is “Naked Beauty” – but the bets are the title will be changed in time to something like “Nature’s Beauty: A love story that feeds the world”. The film’s message is important and timely. Nature’s beauty, as represented by numerous pollinators and the fruits, nuts, berries, and seeds that are the products of their efforts, will be skillfully and dramatically presented through the masterful direction and loving eye of the film’s director, Louie Schwartzberg.”

A Monarch butterfly is a beautiful hair ornament -- but just for a few minutes.

A Monarch butterfly is a beautiful hair ornament -- but just for a few minutes. Photo by Evan Jorn.

I’ve posted several other articles about Monarch Watch and butterflies, which you can find through my search button.  The Monarch Watch site has many articles on the butterfly’s biology, reproductive needs and the The Top Ten Butterfly Facts.  You can also find out how you can raise your own Monarchs.

Wikipedia has links, charts and photographs about the Monarch Butterfly.  Monarchs have spread widely and can even be found in New Zealand.  There’s a white version in Hawaii.

Monarch butterflies harden their wings on CHip Taylor's beard.

Newly emerged Monarch butterflies harden their wings on Chip Taylor's beard.

 

Children received a free Monarch pupa so that they could raise a butterfly at home.

Children received a free Monarch pupa so that they could raise a butterfly at home.

 

Monarch Watch provides information about other pollinators, such as honey bees.  Visitors to Monarch Watch's fall 2009 open house watched honey bees at work in this hive.

Monarch Watch provides information about other pollinators, such as honey bees. Visitors to Monarch Watch's fall 2009 open house watched honey bees at work in this hive.

 

Children and their parents found plenty of fun and educational activities to do at the fall 2009 Monarch Watch open house.

Children and their parents found plenty of fun and educational activities to do at the fall 2009 Monarch Watch open house.

 

Chip Taylor discusses research into Monarch butterfly migration, which provides insights in a lot of areas of science, including genetics.

Chip Taylor discusses research into Monarch butterfly migration, which provides insights in a lot of areas of science, including genetics.

 

Monarch Watch raises Monarchs for educationa and research.

Monarch Watch raises Monarch butterflies for education and research.

 

Monarch butterflies are fascinating creatures scientifically, but it doesn't hurt that they are also gorgeous and like to visit beautiful flowers on a lovely late summer afternoon.

Monarch butterflies are fascinating creatures scientifically, but it doesn't hurt that they are also gorgeous and like to visit beautiful flowers on a lovely late summer afternoon.

 

A male Monarch butterfly shows of its beautiful wings while perched on a scarlet milkweed in front of the Monarch Watch headquarters in Foley Hall at the University of Kansas.

A male Monarch butterfly shows off its beautiful wings while perched on a scarlet milkweed in front of the Monarch Watch headquarters in Foley Hall at the University of Kansas.

 

People gets close to Monarch caterpillars at the Monarch watch fall 2009 open house.

People get close to Monarch caterpillars at the Monarch Watch fall 2009 open house.

 

A Monarch caterpillar feeds on a South African Milkweed.  There are more than 140 known species of milkweed, which is the only kind of plant Monarch caterpillars eat.

A Monarch caterpillar feeds on a South African Milkweed. There are more than 140 known species of milkweed, which is the only kind of plant Monarch caterpillars eat.

A Monarch butterfly finds nectar in the blossom of a scarlet milkweed, a tropical species.  I planted four kinds of milkweed, but the Monarchs by far preferred my scarlet milkweed.

A Monarch butterfly finds nectar in the blossom of a scarlet milkweed, a tropical species. I planted four kinds of milkweed, but the Monarchs by far preferred my scarlet milkweed. The other milkweeds in my garden are perennials, but I'll need to replace my scarlet milkweed next spring. I could save the seeds or, more likely, just buy a new one at the Monarch Watch spring open house. This butterfly is one of the many that greeted visitors to the Monarch Watch fall 2009 open house.

Chip Taylor shows the tagging students what the tag says. Monarch watch pays for the retrieval of dead Monarch bearing these tags, most of which are found in Mexico near where they spend the winter.

Chip Taylor shows the tagging students what the tag says. Monarch Watch pays for the retrieval of dead Monarch bearing these tags, most of which are found in Mexico near where they spend the winter.

 

A newly emerged Monarch butterfly hardens its wings before taking its first flight.  The process takes a few hours.

A newly emerged Monarch butterfly hardens its wings before taking its first flight. The process takes a few hours. In the leaf above, you can see the hole made by a caterpillar when it hatched from its egg and ate its first milkweed meal.

 

Children could get a little exercise playing tossing games while learning about butterlies at the Monarch watch open house.

Children could get a little exercise playing tossing games while learning about butterflies at the Monarch Watch open house.

 

Here's where the cycle begins -- the butterfly mating cage at Monarch Watch.

Here's where the cycle begins -- the butterfly mating cage at Monarch Watch.

 

The pollination garden at Foley Hall, the home to Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

The pollination garden at Foley Hall, the home to Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

 

Here is a Monarch butterfly just minutes from emerging from its chrysalis.

Here is a Monarch butterfly just minutes from emerging from its chrysalis.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Butterflies, Conservation, Entomology, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, New Zealand, Personal, Science, University of Kansas

Spiritual Rez

Spiritual Rez performed at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, Kansas, July 21, 2009.

Spiritual Rez performed at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, Kansas, July 21, 2009.

I could hardly hear my daughter on the phone over the music.

She was at a concert, listening to friends in a touring reggae band.  Finally I made out what she was repeating.  “Can the band spend the night at your house?”

I swallowed hard.   “Uh, uh.  Sure.”  Where would we put them? We’d just had some rooms remodeled in the basement, and everything was messier and junkier than usual.  The band members were friends of my daughter and her boyfriend from their alma mater, the Berklee College of Music.  Had I been thinking ahead, I would have known they’d be sleeping in our basement.  Another touring band — friends of theirs — crashed in our basement earlier in the summer.  (Do people still use the word crash for camping out in someone’s house at the last minute?) 

Spiritual Rez and friends.

Spiritual Rez and friends.

I made my daughter promise they’d be quiet. My husband and I are old fogies, and we need our beauty rest.  I never heard a thing, and in the morning I wondered whether they’d even come.  I looked out the front window and saw a van and equipment trailer parked out front.  Later, I found out that they’d played music on the driveway, and I’d slept through that.

I got out the boxes of cereal, bowls and made coffee, and one by one they appeared.   They introduced themselves and settled in, happy, they said, to be in an actual home rather than a hotel or a motel, some of which weren’t the homiest of places.

Ian “Meat” Miller,  who is the band’s manager, its drummer and one of the two van’s two drivers, fired up his laptop to look for the next places to stay as they continued on the road.  He uses priceline.com, which sometimes produced great places at reasonable rates.  (This isn’t a paid product placement, ha, ha.) The band has a lot of expenses.  It’s not cheap fueling a van pulling a trailer and feeding and housing six people across the country.  The bandmembers describe themselves as “a reggae horn funk dance party energetically touring the country.”

Spiritual Rez at the Bottleneck, Lawrence, Kansas, on July 21, 2009.

Spiritual Rez at the Bottleneck, Lawrence, Kansas, on July 21, 2009.

   

They were such a cheerful, fun crew, that my husband and I invited them to return after their show that night in Kearney, Nebraska, about a five-hour drive north.  They’d stay the night in Kearney and return to Kansas City before their next stop in Lawrence, Kansas.   

When they returned on Sunday, they greeted me with “Hi, Mom.”  I did want to adopt them all.  They were full of stories about their evening in Kearney, where they played in a bar. A fight broke out.  As bystanders but too close for comfort, they dodged punches.  The police came. Kind of like the old west. 

As they talked, I thought about what it would be like to always be on the road, performing in new places all of the time.  They seemed to love it.  They were different personalities, but somehow made it work.  They read a lot and talked about some of the books they were reading.  One said he was reading “Dante’s Inferno,” which he said was written as a poem. I confess I never read it myself.  Coincidentally, a question about Dante was the Final Jeopardy question that afternoon.  Would I have gotten the answer without Spiritual Rez’ guidance?

Miller and Toft Willingham, the lead singer, recognized Mt. Cook in one of my New Zealand photographs, which both had seen on a tour of New Zealand visiting Willingham’s brother James who was working at Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital on James Cameron’s “Avatar”.  They made the trip on their annual winter break, when they stop touring for a short while.

More Spiritual Rez.

More Spiritual Rez.

The band was happy that Lawrence was barely an hour away.  They set out on a Monday on a rare day off, which they spent exploring the city and the University of Kansas campus, they said.  Their concert was on Tuesday night (July 21) at the Bottleneck.  Willingham told the crowd that Kansas was the 32nd state they’d performed in.

They really were an energetic reggae horn funk dance party.  It was a beautiful night.  Even my old creaky bones were moving.

After Lawrence, they set out for Colorado.  Miller said he loved watching the Rocky Mountains rise out of the plains.  At this writing, they’re in New York state. They post their activities and schedule on MySpace and facebook, for those who want to find out when they’ll be in your neighborhood.   

The band was formed in 2003 at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where the band is based, although the core members come from Hawaii, Rhode Island, Chicago and Florida. Others have joined the group on and off.   The band members we saw: Toft Willingham – Vocals; Van Gordon Martin – Lead Guitar; Jesse Shaternick – Bass; Ian “Meat” Miller – Drums; Bryan House – Trombone; Nick Romer – Trumpet.

You can buy and hear more music on their website Spiritual Rez and MySpace.com/SpiritualRez.  You can also find their music on archive.org, which is a great site.  Below is a slide show I made of their performance at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, including their jam session with the Rubblebucket Orchestra.  The music ran out out before the photographs.  Oops!  It’s my first time adding music.  I don’t have the audio editing talent in the family. That belongs to my awesome daughter.  So listen and prepare to get up and dance!  Check out the dozens of videos of Spiritual Rez videos on You Tube.

 

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Filed under Entertainment, Music

Saving Bees

These honey bees are finding nectar on wildflowers in a park.  Bess find fewer places to find food as more areas are developed and mowed.  These wildflowers were mowed a few days later, leaving no flowers for the bees.

These honey bees are foraging for nectar on wildflowers in a park. Bees are finding fewer flowers for food as more areas are developed and mowed. These wildflowers were mowed a few days later, leaving no flowers for the bees.

My garden is a hang-out for bees of all kinds — honey bees, native bees, carpenter bees.  I love watching them going about their business and am glad to help out keeping them fed.  Bees are important pollinators.  Pollination is essential for most of our food crops. 

The honey bee population has dropped dramatically in recent years, and scientists are trying to find the causes.   They’ve discovered a number of reasons.  Below is a link to a New York Times article with comments about the bee situation from entomologists and beekeepers.   (There haven’t been many butterflies this year in the Midwest, which I’ll write about later. )

Room for Debate: Saving Bees: What We Know Now. — Lessons from the battle against colony collapse disorder, which is still decimating hives. Also check out Monarch Watch and Pollinator Partnership in my blogroll.

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Filed under Agriculture, Biology, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Insects, Life, Nature, Science