Last week I started noticing that the three high hummingbird feeders by my east living room windows weren't getting the attention they're used to. There have been five to nine hummers around these feeders almost constantly since the young ones left their nests. I left only two up when I cleaned and refilled them the last time because the hummers are no longer emptying them every other day. The other morning I only had to refill one and I noticed only three different hummers visiting them. A check on the two feeders on the west side didn't show much activity either.
Well, it's that time of the year, so some hummers probably have started to move south.
Some think it is the cooler temperatures that start them moving and others think that maybe they are not finding much nectar. I think it's neither of those things. I have been spending a lot of time photographing wildflowers lately because there are a ton of them out there right now — so there is nectar. And hummers can tolerate cooler temperatures. The decrease in daylight hours is what triggers them to start moving south for their 500-mile trip across the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, those little guys fly 500 miles non-stop in one day across that big body of water.
I will keep a few partly-filled feeders up for the ones that are still here, and for any that may be passing through. The feeders will still be cleaned on a regular basis and taken down when the threat of freezing is present.
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The fourth generation of Monarch butterflies are now in the making. Fourth generation.
The beautiful Monarch butterfly starts by returning from Mexico (flying across that Gulf) where it hibernated in fir trees for the winter. Monarchs actually go through four stages during one life cycle and through four generations in one year. The four life stages are the egg, the caterpillar, the pupa and the adult butterfly. The four generations are actually four different butterflies going through these four stages during one year until it is time to start over again with stage one and generation one.
Here's the sequence for the four stages of one life cycle:
— Eggs are laid on the milkweed plant, which is the Monarch's sole food source, on the undersides of the leaves.
— About four to six days later the eggs hatch into very small caterpillars that can hardly be seen, but in 10 to 14 days they have grown to about 2-1/2 inches. They shed their skins four times during this growing period because they grow very rapidly.
— They then leave the plant to find a safe place to pupate (transform from immature to mature) by attaching themselves to some protected object and hanging by the tail end for a day. They shed their skin for a fifth time to form a jade green casing about an inch long. As the process of changing into a butterfly proceeds, you can actually see the black-and-orange creature developing inside as the outer shell becomes transparent.
— In 10 to 14 days the caterpillar is transformed into a beautiful butterfly, which breaks out of the shell and, after about an hour of drying and expanding, it is ready to fly. In less than a week this butterfly is old enough to mate and start another life cycle.
There are four of these life cycles (generations) per season, but the last cycle is different. Usually each generation lives only about three weeks, but not so with the fourth. These don't become reproductive, and they're the ones that migrate to Mexico to overwinter. Then in February and March they begin to move north, laying eggs as they progress and with each generation traveling a bit farther north than the last. Some of these butterflies can live as long as nine months.
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So, hummers and Monarchs will be leaving us soon, but the good news is we are now starting to see the migration of waterfowl into our area. Last week I spotted a pair of trumpeter swans, and more ducks are starting to show up. Some song birds have moved south and there have been some chilly nights. The fall migration is not as exciting as the spring migration, but it's still worth the time to check out all the changes.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or email@example.com .