Goodbye for 2022

Our last Monarch for 2022

We successfully raised nine (9) Monarch butterflies this season, leaving us feeling, “Let’s do more in 2023.” Today’s post cover is a portrait of the last. She flew yesterday, September 23rd, forty (40) feet up to the oak tree shading the back yard, lost to us in the leaves.

Her chrysalis is the second from right in the following family photograph.

Here are two videos of our last 2022 Monarch to emerge and the first.

Emergence of a Monarch butterfly from a chrysalis 4K UHD with relaxing music. A caterpillar attached itself with silk to hang by its two rear legs to transform to a green chrysalis. Fourteen days later the chrysalis shell becomes translucent. Inside the chrysalis the Monarch butterfly moves to shed the shell. The released insect’s abdomen pumps fluid, expanding the crumpled wings. The entire process takes twenty minutes, compressed in this video to about six (6) minutes.

A real time film of our first 2022 Monarch Butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, then expanding its wings in 4K UHD with relaxing music. The process takes twenty (20) minutes.

The butterfly emerges from the chrysalis about fourteen (14) days after setting. To the photographer needing to capture the moment a signal is the green, jewel-like chrysalis turns transparent, apparently darkening to reveal the compressed form of the butterfly. It can be hours before the insect breaks free, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr camera is used for this. I set it on a Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod (with ball head), a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens for optics. The Mark IV has WIFI and HD video capabilities, so I connected the camera to an Apple IPhone 7 using Canon software. Monitoring the transparent chrysalis in real time, I continually reset the video from the IPhone until the butterfly emerged. I used AVS video editor software to produce the film for YouTube publication.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Ready to Fly

Five wait off stage for their turn to fly.

This Monarch butterfly emerged from the chrysalis a few moments ago. A minimum of two hours is required for the wings to harden before release to the wild.

Five wait off stage for their turn to fly.

Rainy weather forced us to leave her resting a full 24 hours.

Here are two videos of a Monarch release from 2020.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Caterpillar to Chrysalis II

AKA the sixth moult

In my last series of “Monarch caterpillar transforming to chrysalis” time lapse photographs, the 30-minute time interval missed the moult. For this series, I set the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV to remote from a IPhone 7, tethering me to hanging around the house for an afternoon of waiting for the magic moment of “transformation” (more accurately called “the moult”), thinking through the nature of the moment.

A monarch caterpillar accomplishes seven body transformations shielded from view. Six within its skin: the first five retaining a caterpillar body configuration, the sixth transforming to chrysalis. For all six, an enveloping skin conceals the change. The same holds true for the seventh transformation. The chrysalis remains opaque green with bright gold spots until turning transparent after the transfiguration to butterfly is complete.

The sixth transformation happens when the fifth instar caterpillar, fully sated with milkweed, climbs to a perch, spins silk around a set of prolegs, affixing them from a horizontal surface from which to hang. For this set I captured the moult of two monarchs hanging side by side inside a mesh cage with an east facing window for light. Even though the day was sunny, with the f-stop set to the lens maximum (32) for the deepest field of view, ISO at 32,000 the energetic skin shedding movements of the chrysalis cause blurring.

For 10-12 hours of profound bodily configuration changes the hanging caterpillar hangs without movement. In the last image of this first set, the next caterpillar is blurred by initial moult movement.

My attempt to capture a video of the moult was frustrated by inadequate lighting, the result was too dark to use. I must solve this technical challenge as the motions of the chrysalis as difficult to believe without visual proof. That said, here is the second moult with the first completed moult in background.

An interesting fact is the caterpillar uses silk to attach the skin to a substrate for the first five moults to hold the skin back while it crawls out of the discarded skin. The first meal of the hatched caterpillar (first instar) is the egg, the shed skin is the first meal for instars 2 – 4. The shed skin of instar 5 drops from the chrysalis. This is why you should never remove a Monarch caterpillar from the leaf, as in doing so may hinder a moult in progress.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Caterpillar to Chrysalis

The caterpillar attaches itself to a silk pad from which it hangs.

Here is a photographic Series of a Monarch caterpillar chrysalis transformation, a step in the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. The caterpillar attaches to a silk pad from which it hangs. Underneath the skin, the caterpillar is transforming to the chrysalis. In these photographs the silk pad and chrysalis attachment from a previous transformation are in the foreground.

About 34 minutes transpired between the previous photograph of the caterpillar in “J” formation, attached and hanging upside down to the chrysalis. In this time the outer skin was shed, revealing the chrysalis.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bench Sitting Nature Watch

a monarch in steady progress south

On a sunny autumn morning we set out, my soon to be three grandson Sam and I, to the Lime Hollow Nature Center near Cortland for an adventure.  For the first time I brought a newly purchased iPhone 7 instead of the usual slr camera.  The phone can be carried in a pocket and is simpler to us, to allow me to give full attention to Sam.


At the start is a large, today sunlit, field with an “art trail.”  There are various anthropomorphic transformations on the trees and a very large sculpture of a blue face.  Here is a tree from another place near here, to give you an idea.


I do not point out the tree faces to Sam.  His Mom likes to say he enjoys being frightened and, when the blue face came into view, he turned back and said, “home.”  Sam was mildly anxious, so I carried him and tried to turn him up the trail away from the face.  He turned to keep an eye on it while I assured him it could not move.  This and a climb up a 230 foot hill were the only times he didn’t walk the half mile to a open grassy knoll with a bench.


There we sat for 30 minutes, still and watching, Sam and I talked about our sightings:
1. The sunlit sky of clouds, from a milky blue towards the north to, overhead, a bright robins egg blue.
2. A circling hawk, shadow crossing over us.
3. One blue jay in a maple turning red, loudly calling over and over.
4. A little while after a second jay, landing in a tree turned yellow, drawn in and giving answer.
5. A monarch butterfly’s steady progress south. Such a strong gliding path.
6. A yellow butterfly who did not leave us, fluttering round and round.
7. Four honking Canadian geese flying north east, turned to check out a nearby pond, the returned to the original heading.
8. The sound of wind through the trees, listening to the sound made by each tree.
9. The late season golden rod, now dried gray.
10. A distant chittering red squirrel.
11. Distant peeper frogs in the swamps at the foot of the hill.

Sam did not want to leave the bench, eventually we headed on to the pond the geese checked out.


I used the “panoramic” feature of the iPhone 7 for this shot. On the hill we were sheltered by trees and bushes from the steady northeast wind. Here, on a bench by the pond, that direction was open to the wind. The sun kept us warm. It was clear why the geese did not land, the water surface was deserted, filled only by rippling wind driven waves.

On our walk back we sat on a bench on the edge of the art trail field, the blue face out of sight. A woman, the only other person encountered, emerged from one of the trails cut from the brush, camera in hand. She was collecting images for a Cortland Historical Society publication and asked to take our photograph. “OK,”, I said and gave the story of living here for 25 years in the house on Fall Creek where my son’s family lives now. She replied, “My daughter is in San Francisco. We don’t know who will have our house when we are gone.”

Click me for “Celestial Geese with two haiku by Issa”.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

On My Arm

Settled In

Misjudged by over an hour, I reached into the cage to allow the Monarch butterfly to crawl onto my hand for the first flight. Instead, it crawled up my arm and clung to my cotton shirt sleeve.

Click photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-x to zoom in closer.

Click me for better experience viewing the following video. To do this from WordPress Reader, you need to first click the title of this post to open a new page. Note the replay icon (an arrow circling counter-clockwise.

I used the IPhone 7 for these views..

Thank You for visiting.  Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Monarch Emergence

Our Third Monarch this year

Clinging to my sleeve, this newly emerged Monarch wings dried. It is a process of excreting the fluids pumped into wings, crumpled from folding within the chrysalis, to expand them. The clear drips of water on my arm are this fluid.

Click photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-x to zoom in closer.

Here is a video from this year, a Monarch emerging from the chrysalis, then expanding crumpled wings. Notice, this butterfly has a problem: once emerged the butterfly swings back and forth continually as it clings to the chrysalis. While interesting to us, the movement is caused from a missing front leg. Monarch butterflies have four legs, this butterfly is missing the right front leg, the imbalance causes the swinging movement. Freshly emerged, a large, distended with fluid abdomen is prominent between small, crumpled wings. With time, the abdomen pumps fluid, expanding the wings. Over several hours the fluid runs from the wings and is expelled from the abdomen, as seen in the above photograph.

Click me for better experience viewing the following video. To do this from WordPress Reader, you need to first click the title of this post to open a new page. Note the replay icon (an arrow circling counter-clockwise.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Birds Around the Weigela

an exceptional bloom for our backyard wonder

Sad to say, today, Sunday June 12th, the flowering bush is spent, the blooms withered and falling. Pam took time to document some visitors while the Weigela was in its glory. This is a sample of the species we enjoy while washing the dishes.

These photographs were taken by Pam through our windows with her Iphone 8 plus.

Here is a series of informative signs from Cass Park, just down the hill on the Cayuga Lake Inlet. Pictured are resident birds, most of them visited our backyard feeder.

Click me to find background information on our Weigela bush.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Two Snags

Brock-Harvey Forest Preserve on an early May morning

I found these snags surrounded and, at a distance, hidden by the burgeoning Brock-Harvey forest preserve here in the Finger Lakes.

As with burgeon (see yesterday’s blog post), the word “snag” has a long history from a forested northern region of the planet, though it hales from Scandinavian languages rather than Old English and Old German. As a noun “snag” is something with a point and a body long enough to cause inconvenience, the point catching on anything handy. As a verb “snag” is to become inconvenienced by a projecting body.

In forestry, a snag is any trunk of a dead tree. Commonly, a tree top breaks off leaving a jagged point which possibly can become an inconvenience. For birds, an upright dead tree is a blessing, perfect for homemaking.

Fallen, the snag is still a snag and also a home first for fungus. When the work of the fungus is done, the resulting mound is perfect for growing new trees.

Click me for the next post from this forest preserve, “Grand Views.”

snag definitions are from the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1971

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Feeding Frenzy

Nine videos taken the same morning, February 5, 2022

A multi-day hatch of small fry around the time of a new moon triggered this Black Skimmers (scientific name: Rynchops niger) feeding behavior surf off Cocoa Beach, Brevard County on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved