Caterpillar watching, that is. Yep, I'm at it again. Don't know if you recall the hours I spent last September, watching a tomato hornworm meander back and forth across our back yard. But I did. That study ended in a big question mark. That fat green thing just stopped in the grass. I tend to believe it later burrowed into the ground after dark.
This time, I followed a pipevine swallowtail baby around because I was hoping I'd see it choose a chrysalis location. My vigil started around 5:20 p.m.
In the Meadow, beneath our live oaks, we have a patch of non-native pipevine (Aristolochia fimbriata) that is (or now was) covered up with pipevine swallowtail caterpillars. Yesterday late afternoon, I stopped to shoot some photos of the gang and noticed that not one but two had taken off from the roost. So I kept an eye on both for awhile.
Like I said, I was hoping to see where they might end up. A day or two earlier, I had looked up photos of a pipevine swallowtail chrysalis and found this great photo. I wanted to see what they look like so I'd better know what to look for in our gardens. While I watched, both caterpillars circled around a mountain laurel. One went right back to the roost! I was rather relieved that I only had one to tail.
In the meantime, a mama swallowtail showed up. She was persistent. "No, no!" I fussed. "There isn't any more vine left! Go somewhere else to lay eggs!" She fluttered away.
While my cat friend kept crawling through the grass, I sat on a rock. I checked on the rest of the brood. I looked up at the sky. I listened to the bird calls. I shot a photo. I shot another photo. I sat back down on another rock. I stood up and followed the cat. Go up the chain length fence, caterpillar, I thought. I want to see you pick a place. Go go go. But the caterpillar had a mind of its own (or something to that effect in its tiny head), and it just keep crawling here, back there and over yonder. I figured James must be wondering where I was. But I couldn't leave or I'd lose my cat.
I also photographed a medium-sized pipevine cat on the underside of an agarita leaf (above). I plan to go back and check on it.
Meanwhile, my little pipevine friend kept crawling through the grass.
I also photographed a smaller pipevine cat that clung to live oak bark. I'll check on it, too, later on.
James finally came out and found me. He hung out with us for a little while, but, yes, it's true, tailing a caterpillar gets to be a bit boring after a while. So he went back inside the house.
After a half hour, I kept hoping and hoping the caterpillar would make a decision (above). Then I noticed ANOTHER caterpillar nearby in the grass (can you find it in the photo below?).
And then, my cat friend vanished. I lost it in the thicker grass and weedy plants (above). Mission ended. Heavy sigh. Nothing accomplished. Other than learning (again) that caterpillars can travel for many, many miles in the quest for whatever they're seeking. Time: 7:15 p.m.