Now, for something different.  When I was at the rifle range a day or two ago I got a cryptic text from my wife that had me puzzled for a little while.  “I will shut the windows in case he flies” was the message.  Then, after a delay, the second text arrived with a photo attached, and it all made sense.

About a month ago, as I was mowing in close to a hedge line, a small branch got caught and snapped, to be left hanging by a thread of bark.  I could not leave it like that so I grabbed the branch and made a clean break of it.  As I did that I realized that there was a sizeable cocoon hanging under one of the leaves.

I reckoned it was almost certainly the cocoon of the magnificent Cairns Birdwing Butterfly.  In an earlier post I had described how excited we were to find the Dutchman’s Pipe vines infested with big caterpillars.  We had planted those vines a few years earlier to attract the Cairns Birdwing Butterfly and finally it had paid off.

Caterpillar of the Cairns Birdwing Butterfly

Caterpillar of the Cairns Birdwing Butterfly

So anyway, with a broken branch hosting a cocoon, the question was what to do.  We inserted the broken twig into a garden pot filled with sand and angled the branch to replicate the angle that it had been on when still attached to the tree.  The cocoon was hanging from a fine silken harness and we figured it would be important for the development of the butterfly to reproduce the same angle.

An emergent Cairns Birdwing Butterfly and the suspended cocoon it came from

An emergent Cairns Birdwing Butterfly and the suspended cocoon it came from

We sat the pot on the kitchen bench where we could keep an eye on it, figuring that the butterfly would emerge early one morning sometime in the next 1 to 3 months.  Then without any warning the butterfly emerged after I had made an early departure for the range.

As soon as I got home I got out the macro lens and tripod and started to take photos.  The butterfly took a good few hours to pump up its wings and I was able to get a series of photos of that.  We had missed the emergence from the cocoon, but that could not be helped.

As I was photographing the butterfly a neighbouring farmer called in.  He shares a strong interest in nature, like ourselves, and we often discuss what the various birds, bugs and wildlife are doing.  However, he was seeking my help with some wild dogs and so I left Kathy to carry on with the butterfly photography while I paid a visit to another close by farm with him.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the old lady on that property had been alarmed by some close encounters with a big male wild dog so, as a first step, I put up a series of trail cameras to try and find out if there is a pattern to the dog’s visits.

When I got home the butterfly had just been assisted in departing to the outdoors by Kathy.  It had started to beat its wings and, correctly guessing that lift-off was approaching, Kathy carried the pot outside.  Soon after the male flew off, flashing emerald green in the afternoon sunlight, as it went looking for a mate.