Photos copyright 2013-2016 Regina Rickert. All rights reserved.

I'm going to try firing up the blog again for 2016, especially the nature/landscape side of things. It is in desperate need of a redesign so I will be working on that while shooting for KSTV. Unfortunately the slideshows on older posts have been disabled by flickr. You can find all of my work in my gallery.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spicebush Swallowtail

According to University of Kentucky Entomology, the spicebush swallowtail is one of the most common woodland butterflies seen in Kentucky. The caterpillar usually feeds on spicebush and sassafras. This is our first try at raising spicebush butterflies. So far we have had great success with the monarchs and black swallowtails. This is also our first experience raising one from the egg. 

The caterpillar finally emerged yesterday. He is very tiny.

 Hard to believe that in such a short time, he will become this big guy:

Yesterday this one turned an orange-yellow color and was hanging in his harness. When we checked on him this morning, he was in the chrysalis.

In about 10-14 days we should have a beautiful spicebush swallowtail butterfly.

"How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

DIY Camera Bag

Inspired by some recent posts over at 2Peas and needing a new camera bag, I decided to look around the lunch bag section. Lunch bags are insulated so there is often extra padding, many are made of durable water-resistant fabrics and they come in a variety of sizes and styles.

I usually have my 18-55mm and 50-200mm in my Crumpler 4 mil when I go out shooting. I have a large Targus bag I keep at home with the rest of my gear in it. I recently got the 100mm macro lens and decided it is a must have in my "walk around" bag but there wasn't room. I looked at the Crumpler 5mil and then I saw some of the 2peas posts. I looked several places and finally found a perfect little bag in the lunch bag /kitchen section at Meijer.

The bag is a nice heavy canvas similar to my Crumpler fabric. It is somewhat padded since it is insulated, but I had some dividers from an old camera bag that slipped right in for added protection on the bottom and sides. It has two long pockets on the sides perfect for two of my lenses and a small pocket on the front for batteries, memory cards, etc. Best of all it was only $9.99! They had much cuter fabrics in other bags, but this one had the pockets and stability I was looking for. Most of them were just one open compartment. I even got a free metal water bottle on a clip. :smile:

So here is the bag:

Inside view loaded with my Pentax K100D with 100mm 2.8 macro attached and hood. Side pockets are holding my 50-200mm and 18-55mm lenses. Front pocket has memory cards, lens wipes and some batteries.

The bag comes in other colors, but they only had the one I bought and a bright red at Meijer when I went.

It is called the Subzero Fashion Tote Lunch Kit Model # LK8442

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Growing Native

The largest butterfly I have seen in person was a giant swallowtail in the woods down at Lake Cumberland. This male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was even bigger and more beautiful. He was friendly and seemed unconcerned with me hovering around. He even let me touch him a few times.

I recently went to a seminar on the importance of native plants in the landscape and attracting butterflies and other wildlife to your garden. I have never really thought much about native plants. From Growing Natives:

"Native vegetation evolved to live with the local climate, soil types, and animals. This long process brings us several gardening advantages.
  • Save Water:
    Once established, many native plants need minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall.
  • Low Maintenance:
    Low maintenance landscaping methods are a natural fit with native plants that are already adapted to the local environment. Look forward to using less water, little to no fertilizer, little to no pesticides, less pruning, and less of your time.
  • Pesticide Freedom:
    Native plants have developed their own defenses against many pests and diseases. Since most pesticides kill indiscriminately, beneficial insects become secondary targets in the fight against pests. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use lets natural pest control take over and keeps garden toxins out of our creeks and watersheds.
  • Wildlife Viewing:
    Native plants, birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and interesting critters are “made for each other.” Research shows that native wildlife prefers native plants.
  • Support Local Ecology:
    As development replaces natural habitats, planting gardens, parks, and roadsides with natives can provide a “bridge” to nearby remaining wildlands." 
There is a native plant database you can search to find plants for your area. You can also search by light requirements, soil type, etc. Luckily for me, my new house had very few flowers. I had an empty slate to do whatever I wanted. Not only am I thinking about native plants more, but I am choosing them specifically over other varieties whenever possible. I am also planting more host plants for butterflies.

Many people are also unaware how important host plants are to attracting butterflies to your garden. Some caterpillars only feed on one or two host plants. If we do not grow them in our gardens, the butterflies have nowhere to lay eggs for the caterpillars. No eggs=no butterflies. Here is a nice article from Rose Franklin on why we don't see as many butterflies hovering around as we did years ago.

You can find lists of butterfly host plants on places like The Butterfly Website. It is nice to plant the nectar plants and have butterflies passing through. If you want them to stick around for years to come, you might want to think about adding host plants to your garden.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Macro Monday

A Black Swallowtail butterfly just minutes after emerging from the chrysalis this morning. This one was reared from an egg my neighbor found.

Beauty and the Beast. =) Here is a locust shell I found on a tree in my yard.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


As I mentioned, we went out to Waveland to do some portraits. As we walked up the front steps, we noticed something on the ground. We first thought it was a dead mouse, but it moved as we approached. It was a baby bird. It was shivering even though it was in the hot sun on concrete. It looked pathetic. We weren't sure what to do. We looked around and couldn't find a nest but did see a large ledge above the door. We figured he had fallen from there. We have watched baby bluejays and cardinals in our yard in the past. Compared to them, he looked too small to be a fledgeling and didn't even have all of his feathers yet. Since he wasn't really moving, we thought he was probably injured. We decided we couldn't leave him there on the hot concrete to die. 

We searched our van for something to put him in. We found a ball cap and an undershirt. We gently used a plastic bag to scoop him into the cap. We took him into the shade and went a distance away out of sight to see if a parent returned to care for him. After nearly two hours and no parent in sight, we decided he must have been abandoned. We left and went straight to a local pet store that is good with birds. They told us a bird rehab. specialist would be in in about an hour but they thought he was probably too tiny for much to be done for him. Most birds that are hand-raised do not survive I was told. With the kids getting hot, hungry and tired, I decided to just take the poor thing home and see what we could find on the internet. Before I did, I stopped off at one more pet store near my house. A girl there helps feed baby birds for a rehab. specialist. She said the rehab. person was overwhelmed with the number of birds she was currently caring for and was not taking on new "patients." She told me to feed the bird a mixture of soggy cat or dog food blended with a little applesauce, but to be very careful since it is easy for birds to aspirate.

While all this was happening, the bird began chirping loudly, opening his beak wide and hopping around a little in the cap. We were shocked at the turnaround. The best we could figure is that in those couple of hours, the warmth of the shirt and cap had stabilized his body temperature. When he was on the hot concrete, he had to be frying, but he was shivering uncontrollably like he was cold. I guess he was like a newborn baby and had little way of controlling his body temperature. All we knew was that this little guy was hungry! He started getting very animated. It was pretty cute watching the kids' reaction to him.

We got inside the house. My daughter prepared a shoebox for him and started making him some food. Once it was the right consistency, we put it in a medicine syringe. As soon as we tapped it in front of the bird, he opened his mouth wide and gobbled it up. We repeated this until he lost interest. A few minutes later, he was calm and peaceful. He fell asleep and we placed some extra tissue over him to make sure he was nice and warm. 

While he napped, I did more research online. Apparently it is actually against the law to keep a baby bird. You are supposed to contact a licensed rehab. specialist. I also discovered how long the road to rehab. would be for this little guy-feedings every 15-30 minutes from sun up to sun down for weeks. Oh boy! What was I getting myself into?

After a couple more feedings and careful observation, we noticed the baby bird did not seem to be injured at all like we had first thought. He was hopping a little and moving both wings some. We did more research, went through a couple more feedings and decided it was best to try and reunite him with his parents. We constructed a makeshift nest as instructed by several websites. We returned to where we had found the bird. By this time the kids had named him Peepers. ;D 

Once again we looked around for a nest. My daughter noticed a dark area next to a shutter on the upper window. I used my zoom lens to get a closer look. Sure enough it was a nest directly above where we had found Peepers. We placed the new "nest" in a nearby window and hid quite a distance away in the garden area. We saw one bird approach the "nest", but quickly flew away. After about 20 minutes, we started hearing loud chirping. A mother answered with another chirp from a nearby tree. We discovered the chirping wasn't coming from Peepers, but from the nest high above. Peepers had a sibling still alive and well! We were thrilled because this meant his parents were probably nearby still tending to the other baby. What I didn't tell the kids in my research, was that sometimes mother birds will push a weaker bird out of the nest or will refuse to feed a baby she thinks does not have a good chance of survival. We will never know if he fell or was pushed, but he seemed feisty and unharmed once fed and warm. 

A large percentage of hand-raised birds do not survive and if they do, they are not taught the necessary skills to survive on their own in the wild. I decided being reunited with his parents was the best shot Peepers had at survival. We watched and waited. When we had almost given up, we saw the mother return to feed the bird in the original nest. We were happy to see the birds were not abandoned at least.  After careful consideration, we decided to leave him in his new nest and let Mother Nature do what she does best. We left a note in the new nest with Peepers that informed others that he had fallen from the nest high above and that his mother and sibling were nearby. We didn't want another well-meaning family to go through what we did if they found him. While we never actually saw the mother feed Peepers, she stayed nearby and was probably keeping an eye on us the whole time from what I had read. When we last saw him, he was warm and cozy and resting peacefully. 

It was heartbreaking to just leave him there. My daughter took it the hardest, but I really think we gave him the best possible chance at survival with his mother and sibling. I had to fight the urge to go and check on him the next day. My husband was out of town and I feared walking up and the kids seeing something that would be devastating. They got so attached to that bird in such a short time. We don't know what type of internal injuries he might have had from the fall. We tried covering him the best we could and placed him up high enough to keep cats and other predators away, but a larger bird could have easily found him. 

I really hope he survived. Although it was pretty stressful, it was a valuable lesson for the kids. I was so impressed with their empathy and so proud of how they lovingly cared for such a tiny creature.

Peepers in the ball cap for size comparison

The window Peepers fell from. It is much higher than it looks from this photo.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I went out to Waveland to shoot some portraits. We ended up distracted by a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. That is a story I will share tomorrow. =) We ended up sitting around observing the bird and waiting for his parents to return for a couple of hours. In the meantime, I took out the macro lens and chased a few butterflies and dragonflies around the garden.

This is a Red-Spotted Purple. I feel like the same one is following me these days. ;)


Copyright for these photos belongs solely to Regina Rickert. All rights reserved.