Possumhaw: Of birds and butterflies

Possumhaw: Of birds and butterflies

Shannon Bardwell

Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer, poet (1900-1944)

I come here every day, say hello to the butterflies, and talk about things with them. – Haruki Murakami, Japanese novelist, short stories, essayist (1949-)

Awh, and then came the rain after what seemed like months without a drop of rain anywhere. The fields around the Prairie had begun to look parched and withered. I do hope the hard rain has revived them. As for our place it’s been necessary to haul buckets of water around to all the plants at least twice a day. A few flowerbeds could be watered with the garden hose but it wouldn’t reach everywhere. Even the birds were suffering for water. Two birdbaths attracted birds in the late afternoon. They sat cautiously on the edge of the birdbath then venture into the water where they madly flutter their wings. Fortunately, I had filled the bath after seeing five bluebirds sitting on the edge of a dry birdbath. I also added two saucers from a clay pot and filled it with water. In the middle of the saucer, I put a flat rock so the birds would have something to stand on. It worked. 

The bluebirds returned after the baths were full of water but were soon run off by a female tanager, the tanager we rescued and named her Olive. We don’t know of course that it was Olive but we’d like to think so. While Olive was bathing, another Olive showed up. She was more tentative about the water saucer than the first Olive. She stayed on the edge, then hopped down to the ground. Eventually the first Olive flew away and the second Olive enjoyed fully water from the tray.    

Birds were not the only ones suffering from lack of water. Also, the butterflies and we have had many. Frequently I would see the butterflies land on a plant I had just watered. It became apparent butterflies also needed a watering place. As usual, I went to Google to learn water is essential to butterflies. It could be by ponds, fountains, misters or birdbaths. Waiting for rain and the morning dew would not be enough. Butterflies do not drink like birds do but rather by their proboscis that acts like a straw. Butterflies do not chew but can only draw liquids through their “straw.”

For the butterflies I took an empty and washed chicken salad container and cut the bottom off leaving about a quarter of an inch of the side. I put it outside on a side table near the flower baskets. Then added water and a small flat rock where the butterflies could light. Sure enough within minutes I had the first swallowtail and a few minutes later a second swallowtail joined in. This made me particularly pleased as I could observe the butterflies from the front window. Based on my Audubon butterfly book, I believe these beautiful black and blue butterflies to be the Giant Swallowtail. They also seem to be rather social with humans. They will flutter all around you. It feels utterly magical.      

Shannon Bardwell is a writer living quietly in the Prairie. Email reaches her at [email protected].

Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *