Posts Tagged ‘Bumblebees’

As I said in my last post, it rained here every day for a week. The mushrooms are almost jumping up out of the ground and I hope to find enough for a full fungus post in the near future. Meanwhile here is what I think are yellow patches (Amanita flavoconia,) but since my fungi identifying skills aren’t what they should be I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Yellow patches gets its common name from the yellow bits of universal veil on its cap. You can just see them on the smaller example. The universal veil is made of tissue and completely covers the young mushroom. As it grows it eventually breaks the veil and pieces of it are left on the cap. Rain can wash them off and I’m guessing that’s what happened on the larger example. The rains have been torrential.

Without any human intervention trees get wounded in the forest. It can happen when one tree falls and hits another or sometimes when a large branch falls. Squirrels chew bark, woodpeckers drill holes. In any event a wounded tree is not that unusual, even when it is black and weeping like the wound on this oak was, but what caught my eye were those tiny yellow-orange dots in the upper center of this photo.

I was very surprised to find that the tiny dots were eyelash fungi (Scutellinia scutellata.) This is only the third time I’ve seen them and I don’t know much about them, but I thought they only lived on dead wood. Very well soaked dead wood, in fact; the two previous examples I saw were growing on twigs lying in the standing water of a seep. Eyelash fungi are in the cup fungus family. The hairs on them can move and curl in towards the center of the disc shaped body.

I walked through a field of milkweed looking for monarch butterflies or their caterpillars. I never did see the monarchs but I saw an amazing amount of other insects, including hundreds of bumblebees.

An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly was on a milkweed plant but flew off to a Queen Anne’s lace blossom before I could get a photo. These butterflies have been skittish all summer and have hardly sat still at all for me, so I was a bit befuddled when this one finally let me take as many shots as I wanted.

I’ve had quite a time trying to identify what I thought was a common butterfly. It was a small one; much smaller than a swallowtail, maybe about the size of a cabbage white. It liked hawkweed and flew from blossom to blossom in a patch of panicled hawkweed. I think it was a silvery checker spot; at least, that’s the closest I could come by looking at similar examples. It was a pretty little thing, whatever its name.

A Japanese beetle looked like a shiny jewel on a milkweed leaf. These beetles do a lot of damage here but this year they don’t seem to have the staggering numbers they’ve had in the past.

Red spotted milkweed beetles hid on the underside of a milkweed leaf. The scientific name of this beetle, Tetraopes, means “four eyes” in Greek. This longhorn beetle is unusual because of the way the base of its long antennae bisect its eyes. The antennae actually splits each eye in two, so they do indeed have four eyes. It is thought that these beetles ingest toxins from milkweed plants to protect them from predators, just like monarch butterflies do. The red and black colors are also there to warn predators.

I thought a milkweed leaf had a tiny gall on it, but when I tapped on it with my fingernail it started to move.

And it moved pretty fast. That’s because it was a snail and not a gall. I’ve never seen snails on milkweed before but we’ve had snail-ish weather this summer with very high humidity, so maybe that has something to do with it. I believe these are called blunt amber snails. They were almost translucent and quite small.

A fly was on the same milkweed plant that the snails were on and it agreed to sit for a photo shoot. I think it was a tachinid fly. From what I’ve read there are over 1300 species of tachinid fly, so I’m not even going to try to come up with an identification. It reminded me of that movie The Fly with Vincent Price.

What I think was a slaty skimmer dragonfly showed signs of age with pieces missing from its wings, but it was still a beautiful blue. It let me get just one shot before it flew off.  I’ve read that mature males are dark blue with black heads, so I’d guess that this is an example of a mature male.

A beautiful blue river of pickerel weed flowed through a ditch next to a cornfield. When I see things like this I have no choice; I have to stop and admire them because they are so unexpected. It’s as if they were put there specifically to be admired. These are the things that can take you outside of yourself and let you walk in a higher place for a time. As Amit Ray once said: Beauty is the moment when time vanishes.

A great blue heron wanted to be a statue in its own hidden patch of pickerel weed, and it made a good one. I didn’t have time to wait for it to move; that can sometimes take quite a while.

A yellow bellied sapsucker left its neat rows of holes in a hawthorn. Many other birds, bats, insects and animals sip the sap that runs from these holes and they are an important part of the workings of the forest.  But why does the pattern have to be so neat? I wonder.

The berries of false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) are speckled green and red for a short time before becoming brilliant red. The plant is called treacle berry because the fruit is said to taste like bitter molasses, which is also known as treacle. They’re rich in vitamins and have been used to prevent scurvy. They have also been known to act as a laxative to those who aren’t used to eating them. Native Americans used the leaves and roots in medicinal teas and also inhaled the fumes from burning roots to treat headaches and body pain.

Though I don’t see a banner year for blueberries this year the crop doesn’t look too bad. I think there will be enough to keep both bears and humans happy. One of the best places to pick blueberries that I’ve seen is from a boat, canoe or kayak, because blueberries grow on the shores of our lakes and ponds in great profusion and the bushes often hang out over the water. You can fill a small bucket in no time.

Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) berries start out green and then turn orange before finally ripening to red. They are pretty things but they can be mildly toxic to adults and more so to children, though I’ve never heard of anyone eating them. Tatarian honeysuckle is considered an invasive shrub. Birds eat the berries and the plant spreads quickly, with an estimated seedling density of 459,000 per acre. Once grown their dense canopy shades the forest floor enough so native plants can’t grow, so the land around dense colonies is often barren.

The seeds of curly dock (Rumex crispus) start out looking like tiny seed pearls before ripening to the pretty things seen here. Curly dock is in the rhubarb family and is originally from Europe. The small seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, and the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. They are rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A and C and were used by many as a green vegetable during the depression. Its common name comes from the wavy edges on the leaves.

What does all this ripening mean? I don’t want to be the one to say it but I shouldn’t have to; just looking around will tell the story.

So many hues in nature and yet nothing remains the same, every day, every season a work of genius, a free gift from the Artist of artists. ~E.A. Bucchianeri

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I decided to take a walk through my neighborhood recently. I do this now and then when I don’t feel like driving anywhere, but also because it’s a good way to learn about everything that grows in my area. As I’ve said before if someone knocked on my door and asked where to find any one of a hundred different plants, there’s a good chance that I could lead them right to it. That’s when you know that you know a place well. The old road in the above photo cuts through a mixed hard and softwood forest of the kind that is so common here. It makes a pleasant place to walk and look.

There is a small pond nearby which over the years has gotten smaller and smaller due to the rampant growth of American burr reed (Sparganium americanum.) The plant has now cut the pond in half and I expect the far half to be completely filled in a few more years.  I’ve seen many ducks, geese, and great blue heron here in the past but they don’t seem to come very often anymore. I’ve also seen this small pond grow to 3 or 4 times its size after a heavy rain, so full that it overran its banks. That can get a little scary, because that means the one road in and out of the neighborhood can be under water.

There is a small grove of gray birch (Betula populifolia) near the pond and I often search their branches to see if any new lichens have moved in. Gray birch doesn’t have the same bright white bark that paper birches do, but lichens seem to love growing on their limbs.

Black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) bloomed near the pond. This is one of our longest blooming wildflowers. It usually blooms from June right up until a hard October frost.

Flat topped white aster (Doellingeria umbellata) also bloomed near the pond. This aster can get 5 feet tall and has smallish white flowers. Its common name comes from the large, flat flower heads. Butterflies and other pollinators love it and I often wander down to where it blooms to see if there are any butterflies on it. It likes moist, sandy soil and plenty of sun, and it often droops under its own weight as it did here.

Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) winds itself among the tall stems of the flat topped white asters. It is said that bindweed purifies and cleanses the body and calms the mind. Native Americans used the plant medicinally for several ailments, including as an antidote to spider bites.

The small pond that I showed a photo of previously eventually empties into a large swamp, which is called a wetland these days. I’m guessing that beavers and muskrats keep the water way open through it; it has been this way for as long as I’ve lived in the area.

I’ve seen two odd things on staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) this year that I’ve never seen before. First, when the berries were ripening they went from green to pinkish purple to red instead of from green to red, and now they are a dark purple, which from a distance looks black. I wonder what is going on with these plants. I’ve never seen this before.

A bumblebee worked hard on Joe Pye weed blossoms. Soon the cooler nights will mean that bumblebees will be found sleeping in flowers in the morning.

Native rough hawkweed (Hieracium scabrum) is one of the last of our many hawkweeds to bloom. An unbranched single stem rises about knee high before ending in a terminal cluster of small yellow flowers. The plant blooms in full sun in late summer into early fall for about 3-4 weeks. Many species of hawkweed, both native and introduced, grow in the United States and I’d guess that we must have at least a dozen here in New Hampshire. Some of our native hawkweeds bleed a bitter white latex sap and Native Americans used to use it for chewing gum. I’m guessing that they had a way to remove the bitterness and probably found ways to flavor it too.

There is a lot of sand in this area and it is one of only two places that I know of where sand jointweed (Polygonum articulatum) grows. I didn’t see any of the tiny white flowers on this walk but I did see the plants. They should be blooming any time now and will appear in a future flower post.

I’ve found that it is close to impossible to get a photo of a forest while you’re in it. I’ve tried many times but it never seems to work. There’s just too much going on.

So since I can’t get a good photo of the forest itself instead I take photos of the things that live there, like this purple cort mushroom (Cortinarius iodeoides.) Purple corts are having an extended fruiting time which is now in its fourth week, I think. I’ve never seen so many and I’ve never seen them fruiting over such a long period of time.

Something else that’s is strange in the fungi kingdom this year is how jelly fungi like this witch’s butter (Tremella mesenterica) has fruited all summer long. I usually only see it in early spring, late fall and winter when it is colder. It could be because of all the rain I suppose; jelly fungi are almost all water. I almost always find them on stumps and logs; often on oak. After a rain is always the best time to look for them because they’re at their best when well hydrated.

We’ve had at least a day of rain each week all summer but it’s been on the dry side over the past couple weeks, so I was surprised to see this white finger slime mold (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, variety fruticulosa) growing on a log. The log was very rotten and held water like a sponge, so maybe that’s why.

There is a small glade of lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) out here and I like to stop and admire the lacy patterns they produce and how they wave in the breeze like they were on this day.

Bracken ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) are starting to show some fall color. Bracken is one of the oldest ferns; fossils date it to over 55 million years old. The plant releases chemicals which inhibit the growth of other plants and that is why large colonies of nothing but bracken fern are found. Some Native American tribes cooked and peeled the roots of bracken fern to use as food but modern science has found that all parts of the plant contain carcinogens.

Wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) is also starting to turn. These plants sometimes turn a deep purplish maroon in fall but more often than not they go to yellow. Native Americans used the root of this plant as emergency food and it was also once used to make root beer.

Giant foxtail grass (Setaria faberi) grew in a sunny spot at the edge of the forest. This is a big annual grass that can form large colonies. Its nodding, bristly, spike like flower heads (panicles) and wide leaves make it easy to identify. The flower heads go from light green to straw colored as they age.

This walk ends in a meadow full of little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium,) which is one of my favorite grasses. I hoped to show you its flowers but it was a little early for it to be blooming. Little bluestem is a pretty native grass that is grown in gardens throughout the country. It’s very easy to grow and is drought resistant. Purplish-bronze flowers appear usually in August but they’re a little late this year here.

This was one of those perfect New England days in late summer where the spirit of autumn takes a first stealing flight, like a spy, through the ripening country-side, and, with feigned sympathy for those who droop with August heat, puts her cool cloak of bracing air about leaf and flower and human shoulders. ~Sarah Orne Jewett

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1. Ashuelot North

The leaves are starting to turn in this part of New Hampshire so I thought I’d take a walk or two (or three) along my favorite river, the Ashuelot. I grew up on its banks and have been walking them since I was a small boy because there is so much to see.

The word Ashuelot is pronounced either ash-wee-lot or ash-will-ot, and is supposed to mean “place between” in Native American language. Between what, I don’t know; possibly between the hills that surround the Connecticut River valley that it flows through.

2. Ferns

In some places ferns are just starting to take on their fall color and in others they’ve all but gone by.

3. Goose Feather

Canada geese seem to use the river as a navigation aid and can often be seen following it in the spring and fall. They also have a few favorite places where they stop and rest.

 4. Cocklebur

Plants grow along the Ashuelot that I’ve never found growing anywhere else. This cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) is a good example. The small oval burs aren’t quite as sticky as burdock burs but they will catch on clothing. Cocklebur leaves require long nights to trigger production of the chemicals needed to produce flowers, so they are considered “short day” plants. Their leaves are so sensitive that any light shining on them at night can keep the plant from flowering.

5. Virginia Creeper

Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) climb high in the trees along the river bank to reach as much sunshine as they can. They aren’t noticed for most of the year but when their leaves start to turn they can’t be ignored.

6. Virginia Creeper Berries

Virginia creeper berries are poisonous to humans but many birds and small animals eat them.

7. Ashuelot on 9-24..jpg

This is one of my favorite views found along this particular stretch of river.

8. Heron on a Log

One late afternoon the wind was blowing hard enough to make the trees creek and groan, and this great blue heron decided to wait it out on a log rather than be blown out of the sky. It was too cloudy for anything but a soft shot of him across the river.

 9. Heron

A few days later he was in the shade so I took another soft shot. We haven’t had much rain throughout September and this photo shows how much riverbank has been exposed due to the dryness. The water level is a good three feet lower than it was at the end of August. It’s amazing how fast it can drop, but even more amazing to think that it can gain back what it lost with one good rain storm. .

 10. Water

At the spot where I often take photos of curling waves the flow has been reduced to little more than a trickle.

11. Mallards

The mallards don’t seem to mind the low water. I think it makes their finding food a little easier.

 12. Bee on Aster

Bumblebees have felt the cooler weather and their flights from aster to aster have slowed enough to make it seem like they will simply drop to the ground in mid flight.

13. Smartweed aka Polygonum hydropiperoides

Nodding smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia) gets its common name from its drooping flower heads and the very sharp, peppery taste of the stems, which makes the tongue smart. It doesn’t seem to bother ducks, geese, and all of the other animals that eat it.

14. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is the last native shrub to flower in our forests and it has just started blooming along the Ashuelot. The flowers are below the leaves so you have to look closely to find them if you are searching before the leaves fall.  There isn’t another flower that I can think of that is quite like them, so searching is worth the effort.

 15. River View

I love to come to this spot in the late afternoon at this time of year to just sit and watch what the setting sun does to the trees. They burn with a blaze of color that becomes more intense as the sun slowly sets, and it is an amazingly beautiful thing to see.

The first act of awe, when man was struck with the beauty or wonder of nature, was the first spiritual experience. ~Henryk Skolimowski

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Another post full of things that don’t fit in other posts.

 1. Deformed Chanterelle Mushroom

I’ve noticed that something is causing chanterelle mushroom deformation this year. I’ve seen this happening in several different places so I was curious as to what might be causing it. After doing some reading on mushroom deformation I found that large amounts of water will cause deformation in chanterelles. That makes sense since we’ve had rain nearly every day for the last 3 weeks. This will not make mushroom hunters happy because chanterelles are considered a great delicacy.

 2. Chanterelle Mushroom

This is what a chanterelle should look like. This one was growing very near to several deformed ones. Why some were deformed and others were not depends on their water intake, I suppose. It seems odd to see mushrooms taking in enough moisture to hurt themselves.

 3. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

I stopped by a local tree to check on an old friend. This poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza hasseana) hasn’t gotten much bigger since the last time I saw it, but it’s still every bit as beautiful. The white material is new though, and I’m hoping it’s another lichen rather than some kind of disease.

 4. Eastern Spruce Adelgid Gall on Blue Spruce

Years ago when my son and daughter were little I planted a small Colorado blue spruce so we could have an outdoor lighted Christmas tree. I was looking at it the other day and noticed these strange growths on some branches that turned out to be galls, which are caused by a tiny insect called the eastern spruce gall Adelgid (Adelges abietis.) Thankfully the adelgids won’t kill the tree but if I prune the galls off before the eggs hatch it will interrupt their life cycle and put an end to the galls. I hope.

5. Moth Wing

I used to work at a place with overhead lights that stayed on all night and in the morning the pavement under the lights would be covered with moth and other insect’s wings. The wings were all that was left after the bats had fed. I found this wing on a leaf. It looked like its owner had tangled with a spider web before becoming a snack.

6. Black Locust Thorns

Earlier in the season I posted some honey locust flowers that several people thought were black locust flowers. I didn’t have the above photo of black locust thorns or the one below of honey locust thorns to illustrate my explanation, but the thorns are the easiest way to tell the two plants apart. Black locust thorns always grow in pairs where the leaf petioles meet the stem and are relatively short.

7. Honey Locust Thorn

Honey locust thorns grow singly and appear right out of the bark on branches and trunk. They can be 3 to 6 inches long and sometimes branch like the example in the photo. These are thorns that you don’t want to run into accidentally.

8. Canada Goose

Canada geese usually turn their backs and walk away but this one seemed as interested in me as I was in him. (Or her.) Maybe it was the designated decoy, keeping me busy while the flock waddled off. There were probably thirty geese in this pasture, including goslings.

9. Deep Blue Dragonfly

This dragonfly (or damsel fly) was deep indigo blue, including its wings, and was a very beautiful insect. I’ve looked online for it but can’t even find anything similar. I suppose that I should get an insect ID guide.

10. Japanese Beetle

No need for a guide for Japanese beetles-I’ve known them for years. I have to say though, that I’ve never noticed the white dots like this one has. After doing some searching I found that these dots are the eggs of the tachinid fly, and once they hatch the larva will burrow into the beetle and eat it. Then they will become flies and lay eggs on even more Japanese beetles. This fly has been found to parasitize 20 percent of the Japanese beetles in Connecticut alone, so if you see a Japanese beetle with white spots, let it be. Biological control of a pest is a good thing.

11. Bee on Knapweed

Butterflies and bumblebees love knapweed, I’ve discovered. They seem to be so engrossed in the flowers that they ignore me completely and let me snap away as long as I want.

12. Ox-Eye daisy

The yellow center of a common ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is made up of tiny yellow disk florets that bloom from the edge of the disk to the center. These florets are perfect, meaning they have both male and female parts, while the white ray flowers, commonly called petals, are female. It is said that when these “petals” are pulled in the classic loves me / loves me not way the results are almost always favorable, because over 90 percent of ox-eye daisy flowers have an uneven number of petals.

13. Thunderheads

Strong afternoon thunderstorms have plagued this part of the state for 3 weeks now, causing flash flooding in some areas and swelling rivers to bank-full conditions. The air is so saturated it feels like you’re swimming through it. Couple that with hot afternoon sunshine and you have the two things a thunderstorm needs to form. On almost any afternoon the thunderheads grow to tens of thousands of feet and then the downpours start at between 4 and 5 pm. I hope it is a lot drier wherever you are.

 14. Ashuelot River on 7-4-13

This is a recent view of the Ashuelot River, showing how close it is to the top of its banks. It’s also very muddy, meaning that it is carrying tons of New Hampshire soil to the Atlantic.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.  ~John Lubbock

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