Background Switcher (Hidden)

Not-so-Crazy Caterpillar Lady

Tuesday, August 30, 2022


 Year in, year out, I fight it, that urge to take in all the little caterpillars and keep them safe from harm. 

Usually, things go well for the monarchs and I see them hatch, eat, grow, thrive, pupate and flutter away in the wild. This year is different. Very different. 

For one, monarchs have been declared endangered. Not by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, no...that takes for-freakin'-ever. The change in status was announced, rather, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature a few weeks ago. Essentially they're yelling at the USFWS that somebody's got to say something about this disappearing insect. Monarchs are big and charismatic and people notice them, which makes it all the more dispiriting that we are letting them slip away before our eyes. 

Here on a micro-scale, it's a very wet year in Ohio (like almost nowhere else in the country). I don't know if that is why there are so many predatory stinkbugs, but every monarch caterpillar I've found on my yard "ranch" in the first part of the season was eventually killed by stinkbugs. It really bothers me to see a great fat fourth instar monarch that I've been watching since it was a tiny hatchling, hanging limply from the sucking beak of a stinkbug. If there's anything that bothers me, it's seeing a young thing die.

So, reluctantly, I've climbed aboard the Crazy Caterpillar Lady Train again. But I'm only bringing them inside while they're tiny, and then again when they turn into chrysalides. I'm researching and experimenting with ways to keep them outside in the sun and wind and rain, chewing away on live milkweed, with fine mesh sleeves to protect them from parasites and predators. It's been a thing. I just don't think they were meant to grow up in an air conditioned house, or jammed together in a plastic box.

Outdoors is the thing. They've got three species of Asclepius to choose from in my yard. 

My obsession with watching the caterpillars in transition has pushed me to learn some things about time lapses and video editing. I'm proud to present my latest effort: five hours of caterpillar to chrysalis transition, condensed to a very satisfying minute and a half. Made the video today, August 30, 2022. 

 I hope you enjoy it.


WarblerFall Joy

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


It's that time of year when I sit at my drawing table and write with my head turned all the way to the left.

Out the window is my WarblerFall. I have the window open no matter the weather so I can hear the relaxing burble of trickling water. I can also hear the flllltttttpp! of little bird wings as they bathe, and can grab my camera to record the action! 

 Mourning dove family (baby is atop the fountain).

August and September are the prime months for the WarblerFall,  up here on my usually dry ridge. Gobs of birds are passing through, largely unnoticed, until they hear its siren call! 

A female American redstart graces the WarblerFall 20Aug2022

See how I have flat stones covering the entire bottom of the basin? You want water no more than an inch deep for the small birds you're trying to attract. Give them a variety of depths using flat rocks to adjust.

I've found no better way to keep track of what fall warblers, vireos, thrushes, finches, buntings, sparrows, and tanagers are slipping through my sanctuary than the WarblerFall. Its trickle draws them into my yard and down to drink and bathe. That gentle burble is an irresistible come-hither to a wonderful array of birds.

Mourning doves have an adorable habit of holding one wing up when they're bathing.

Sprinkle me there. Right there. 

As a little recap, I spent the last 30 or so years thinking about it, and then spent last summer figuring out how to economically construct the best bird bath possible--where to get the right components and how to put it all together. I made an instructional video and a set of detailed pictorial instructions. Both are available at 


If you haven't visited yet, there's a fun 2-minute promotional video that ought to give you a laugh at the very least. Zick as Bobby Flay. But I'm dead serious about the product. Since its official launch in the pages of BWD Magazine's inaugural issue July 1, this little bird bath has blown me and a LOT of others away. People have fun building it. They set it up and get wonderful bird action, often from species they wouldn't expect to see in their yards. Then they share their photos and videos on social media. I have been delighted with what I've seen from all over the country. And it's a gas to see how others interpret my instructions and use the materials at hand.

Cardinals are in the WarblerFall all the time, proving that it's not just for warblers!

Just a note: In the instructional video, I talk about placement of your WarblerFall, and make a point about why placing it on the ground is important. However I would love to do this, I can't, though. That's because I have a pack of murderous eastern chipmunks, who, over the past year, developed the habit of trying to pounce on birds as they bathed. They never caught one, but they got close. After much cussing and thought, I solved the problem by elevating the WarblerFall about 16" on an overturned ceramic planter. The chipmunks don't even try to get up there, and the birds bathe in peace. The elevation doesn't seem to deter anyone but those flat-footed 'munks.

Here's a common yellowthroat enjoying a good soak. 

 I think the most compelling thing about this fountain is the way it draws the completely unexpected. Watching it is kind of like playing the slots. You get these intermittent rewards that keep you watching. And then you hit the jackpot! 

Did my dear friend Laura ever think a yellow-billed cuckoo would come down to her backyard to bathe? No, and neither did I!! I didn't even know they bathed in water! 

That is WarblerFall Magic, right there. Laura told me that she quit feeding birds in summer because she thinks it's better for them not to have supplemental food. But the WarblerFall more than made up for it. She's had an absolute blast with it, as you'll see in subsequent posts. 

I'm posting this to remind you that NOW, August and especially September, is prime WarblerFall time. Birds are migrating. Flying so far and for so long builds up a powerful thirst. They just can't resist
a drink and a cool bath. Welcome them to your yard! Visit

and thank you so much for supporting me by investing in my invention--the little bird fountain that could! 

Reaching Out from Beyond

Monday, August 1, 2022


 In order to grasp what I'm talking about, you'll have to read the previous post, so please scroll down if you haven't visited my blog in awhile. I just have to tell you a bit more. 

Phoebe and I continue to be deeply affected by the late-night ride she made, and especially the completely unanticipated aftermath--Bill's old phone number sending out a 911 hangup that caused an officer to drive all the way from Marietta (a 35 mile round trip) to wake us up pounding on the door, thinking there was a 911 emergency at our home. What the what?? 

If that number has been reassigned, why did the old address still carry with it? My daughter, lionheart that she is, called her dad's old phone number last night, and put it on speaker so I could hear. It rang and rang. We stood, tense, listening. Then an automated voice picked up, saying, "The person you are trying to reach has not set up their inbox yet." Or something like that. Phoebe's eyes got wide. Mine, too. 

Maybe, it being three years from his death, the number has just been reassigned, and a new address hasn't been attached to it yet. But why would it send out a 911 hangup? Why would a policeman drive that far at 2 in the morning, to pound on our door and tell us Bill's old number had rung in? B. always had a flair for the dramatic.

I am mulling it over, and was still thinking about it this morning,  text-chatting with my friends who are open to communications from beyond. Tim commented, "So BT3 called 911!" then asked, "What are the odds of that happening on the same evening (as the crazy dark tunnel bike ride)?" I told Tim that nobody would have freaked out bigger or harder than Bill on seeing her ride off into the night. He'd have insisted to be the one to do it, not realizing that she truly was the best candidate; that it was our only recourse, really. Anyone who might have come to pick us up for the night was more than an hour away, and it was late...Lucy thinks that Bill is in the afterlife process of learning, of seeing the bigger picture, and perhaps some truths that he couldn't see before are hitting home. I do have to wonder what he's thinking of BWD's rebirth, and I've felt his spirit near me as I work to make it the best possible reincarnation. "It's all very sweet," Lucy commented, "as he knows Phoebe and Liam are moving forward with their lives in big ways and to the best of his ability he is still at your side (move over, Cur.)"

I was driving slowly and happily down my favorite roads this morning, checking my bluebird boxes, always a bittersweet thing in early August, as this is one of the very last box checks I'll do. They're winding down. Still have some babies as young as 8 days old, but they will be the last of the season. I take my time with these late-summer checks. I love them, love seeing the babies ready to fledge, love cleaning the boxes as best I can, to be ready for next spring.

Peter Frampton's "Show Me the Way" came on the radio. That song always makes me smile and think of lanky high-school aged Bill--Frampton was his top favorite artist then, and stayed in the upper echelons of his favorite musicians. Funny that should happen while I'm thinking of him, and the feat of outreach he may have pulled off the other night.  I checked another nest box, turned on the car, and the Electric Light Orchestra struck up "Telephone Line," a song I love but haven't heard in years upon years. 

"Oh, telephone line, show me a sign. I'm living in twilight." 

At that, I had to talk with him.  Tears streaming, I said, "B, honey, I get it, I get it, Phoebe gets it, you got through! You got through."

[Back to Top]