Wednesday, April 11, 2007

So, what furry creature was born in our house recently?

On our big hike last summer, among other interesting creatures, we found a monster of a caterpillar - the size of a grown man's thumb, with spikes and hair, bright yellow with neon blue. This alien-looking creature was crawling across a rocky slope, where it was spotted by Roxy and, after posing in front of my camera, duly boxed and delivered to the city. I knew that if a caterpillar leaves the feeding site (plant) and starts crawling around looking for shelter, that means it's going to turn into a pupa soon, so I wasn't worried about getting food for it.

Here it is getting acquainted with Roxy's arm.

Soon after we returned to the city, the caterpillar started weaving a cocoon. In three days it produced enough silky thread to clothe the people of China! Finally, the cocoon was ready and the caterpillar disappeared from the view behind the fuzzy walls.

This is all we could see from outside.

What happened inside was that the yellow caterpillar turned into a brown pupa - the strangest of all stages in insect's life.

Here's the pupa which we discovered later inside the cocoon.

In this motionless state the caterpillar spent the entire winter. So that the conditions would be close to natural, we kept it out on a balcony - where the temperature was below freezing. If I didn't have a balcony, I would have to put it in the fridge.

In April, we brought it back inside and I warned everyone to keep an eye on it - it was time for it to come back to life. Whatever was hiding inside the cocoon was ready to emerge from it any minute.

Sure enough, on April 3rd Roxy called me at work and told me that there is a moth with folded wings sitting on the cocoon. Just as we expected, the monster caterpillar turned into the largest moth in Europe - a Giant Emperor (otherwise known as Giant Peacock) Moth. It was a female, with not-too-large antennae and a very large belly.

Here she is - a headshot. Fuzzy, isn't she?

It took a while for the wings to unfold completely. For several hours the moth was sitting motionless and upside down, letting the blood flow through the little veins inside the wings. We took advantage of it and shot as many pictures of it as we could.

Here is a perfect example of protective coloring - with wings folded as they are the moth resembles a face of a large animal. Stay away!

Roxy admiring the gorgeous creature perched on a wooden spoon handle.

Finally, the wings spread out and the moth was getting ready to fly. The only problem- she was in the middle of a big city, and all other moths of the same kind were 50 kilometers away, in a river gorge by Garni village. I am sure she would have no problem flying that far if only she knew she should - but she wouldn't know. Besides, there are too many dangers for such a large moth in an urban setting.

So, Roxy and I took a bus to Garni, which is about an hour away from Yerevan. It was really cold, and actually snowing there - but we hoped that our newborn will survive a few days until the weather gets better. Here is the moth's home as it looked that evening.
We out her in a tree by the gorge, where she could hide away until it stops snowing. I took one last picture of the moth and we returned to the city. I hope to go back next summer and see those magnificent creatures flying around at night. maybe, we will find another caterpillar, too.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Zoo in the winter

I didn't even know our Zoo is open in the winter. Turns out it is, and most animals feel pretty good surrounded by snow. Plus, we got to see many of them in their winter coats, which was quite a treat. It's usually much lighter in color, thick and lush and very pretty.

The lynx, for one, is reddish-yellow in the summer. Now it's napping wrapped in beautiful silver fur.

This wild cat (serval) definitely had something to say! Something hissy.

You know the friendly young people in khaki shorts and colorful animal-themed shirts that run around the LA Zoo and answer your questions? Well, we got them too! There!

Can't help but calling this one "a hog on ice". I know, I know, it's too obvious...

And this one - "Hoot".

Wanna sit down?

This deer didn't like us, I think. Otherwise, why would it be sticking his tongue at us?

There were no monkeys, no hippo, the elephant was away and the bears were semi-hibernating. But we still had a good time.