This is the eighth installment in a year-long series of monthly scenes from Claude Moore Park in Sterling, VA. To read from the beginning, please visit the past months:
I love spring and summer, but for sheer visual impact you can’t beat October.
How lucky am I to have this place practically in my backyard?
This month I witnessed a tiny miracle while on a Claude Moore Community Center Preschool field trip to the Visitor’s Center.
Over the summer I documented how I found the first monarch caterpillars of the year, and how park staff gave them a place to reach maturity safe from predators. But despite my frequent visits, I had yet to get a decent photograph of a monarch butterfly, mostly due to bad timing on my part.
But this month I witnessed the entire transformation from chrysalis to butterfly. Normally the chrysalis stays firmly affixed to whatever it is hanging from, but this one fell just as it was beginning to open. Can you see the orange wing with black stripes folded inside the clear outer casing?
The monarch climbed out of the chrysalis,
and then hung in the natural position to begin unfolding the wings.
It pumped fluid into its wings to unfold them,
unfurling its left one first, and then its right.
At this point the butterfly’s left wing was completely straight, while the right one (in the back) was still unfolding.
Preschoolers and teachers were able to watch the whole process.
The lucky person holding the monarch is my mother, Park Manager Merry Breed. In all her years of working at the park and volunteering with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Bringing Back the Monarch Campaign, she’d never seen a monarch emerge from its chrysalis. This day happened to be her birthday, and I think this was the perfect gift.
Bon voyage, monarchs. I hope you have a smooth trip to Mexico!