This fall what would otherwise have been a small, dull brown whatever was revealed to be an intricately patterned, white-spotted moth, with weird tufts of fuzz standing up straight behind its head and on its back. Its wings are a blur as it flutters and hovers from aster to aster, like the “hummingbird moth” which is also wonderful to watch close up. It is probably just a Common Looper Moth, but google it to see what it looks like close up.

I was able to focus on two spectacular monarch butterflies in the last few weeks, but very few made it this far north this year. It takes four generations to get here — eggs laid, caterpillars maturing into butterflies, which lay eggs farther north, etc. — but starting with ever fewer monarchs overwintering in Mexico, then the heavy rains all summer, and the lack of enough milkweed in the Midwest to feed the caterpillars, they just couldn’t complete their eon-old migration to the Adirondacks. Corn and other field crops which are genetically bred to resist herbicide damage means that the spray used for weeds on the crops also kills the milkweeds on the edges of the fields. Too much mowing of roads and lawn and gardens too free of weeds do not help everyone’s favorite butterfly either.

During a trip to Colorado for a wedding recently, I took a three mile hike to the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and used my close-up binos to see western birds, butterflies, lizards, and a “bee fly” — big, fuzzy and hovering like a bumble bee. We needed to have a telescope to better see the golden eagle eating on a snag on a distant ridge. And a weird, fuzzy red insect flew around wildly, then would land and run around too quickly for me to be able to focus on it. It folded back its two very black wings while on the ground so I think it was a fly, but I guess it will have to remain a mystery until next time.

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