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Nature Walk – Of Butterflies and Labradors

We set out to look for signs of mammals but good intentions were set aside when we spotted some wonderful butterflies along our hiking trail. I reminded myself that the best advice I always give is to follow interest and to be flexible if a nature study topic comes along that you can’t pass up.

We have long past our winter season anyway so last week’s Winter Mammal study not really a perfect fit. We had plenty of winter mammal observations when we saw the signs of beavers at our creek. We see scat all winter long just beside or in the middle of our walking trail. I have stopped sharing scat photos because it seems a little weird. I don’t want to be the “weird nature lady”.

So, our first subject of the day is this Mourning Cloak butterfly. We looked it up when we got home in our insect field guide and online. It seems the host plant for the caterpillars is the Black willow. I am going to check and see if what I remember observing in this area is a willow.I also read in my field guide that the edges can look a little “tattered” and that was the case with this particular butterfly.

We hiked down to the river, which was extremely low from lack of rain and snow melt, and we threw the ball in for our Kona dog. She never tires of retrieving the ball even when the water is cold. The sun was warm though and I sat on a big rock and felt the refreshing air and sunshine.

So how did this violet arrive here below the normal water line, in among
the river rocks? What a surprise to see its pretty purple blossoms!

Taking a break from swimming…love the pink tongue. She is one happy dog.

On the way back up to trail, I was able to capture another butterfly that we saw as we hiked. There were many, many of these flying around the area but managed to get a really good close-up of this one to share. This is a Pipevine Swallowtail. I did some research and found that this butterfly only lays its eggs on the Dutchman’s Pipe plant. I found after digging on the CalFlora website that this particular plant is found in the area we live in but I have never seen it. I am now adding it to my list of plants to look for during our travels.

Can you see his proboscis?

One last image from our hike today. The dog went off the trail and disturbed some leaves…my husband spotted this snake all coiled up underneath. We came home and looked it up on California Herps and it appears to be a Sharp-tailed Snake. It was very small but bright red on top and black underneath. I am not a big fan of snakes but we will keep this one in mind when our spring snake study comes along.

Although we set out to look for signs of mammals and we didn’t find any to note, we feel like we were a success in keeping our eyes open for interesting things to learn about as we hiked.

I hope you get outside this week to look for something to share alongside your children.


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