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Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Cottontail’

An eastern cottontail hiding in the tall grass saw me as soon as I saw it and we both froze. I was able to turn my camera on and slowly raise it up to eye level, and finally get a couple of not so hot shots.

The rabbit was fine with me being there for a while because it munched on grass, but then it turned and hopped off, and I saw its fluffy cotton tail.

What I believe is a band winged meadowhawk dragonfly landed on an old garage door at work early one morning. The light was low and the photos weren’t that good so I was going to discard them, but then I saw something odd going on. This dragonfly had what appeared to be tiny eggs all over it.

Here is a closer look at the “eggs” on the dragonfly. I’ve searched for dragonfly diseases and dragonfly parasites but have had no luck finding anything out. If you happen to know what this is about I’d really love to hear from you. I know dragonflies lay eggs but I’ve never heard of them laying them on each other.

Note: A helpful reader has identified these as immature water mites. What is happening in these photos is called “Phoresy,” which a symbiotic relationship where one organism transports another organism of a different species. The red mites are parasites in the tick family and they do suck the dragonfly’s bodily fluids. When the dragonfly lands or hovers near water they will fall / jump off. Thanks go to Ginger Wells Kay, to the folks at BugGuide.net and to Kathy Keatley Garvey and the bug squad from the University of California for this information.  

This dragonfly looked fine but I haven’t been able to identify it. One of the club tails, maybe?

A grasshopper seemed very interested in what I was doing. In fact as I was taking its photo it turned to get a better look. Or maybe to give me a better look.

I expect to see leaves in colors other than green in the spring or fall but not in summer, so these ash leaves seemed confused to me. It is thought that plants might do this to prevent the leaves getting too much sunlight, but it doesn’t seem like anyone really knows for sure.

I can’t explain why some plants do this but it can often be beautiful, as this Joe Pye weed shows.

For years now I’ve meant to check our native alder bushes in the spring for new tongue gall growth and each year I’ve forgotten. But then I was taking photos of a Deptford pink that grew under an alder and I stood up and there they were. And they really do look like tongues, especially at this stage. Some were even bright red.

I went back on a rainy day and got this shot of another tongue like gall. Instead of being caused by an insect like many galls, alder (Alnus incana) tongue gall is caused by a fungus (Taphrina alni.) The fungus chemically deforms parts of the ovarian tissue of the female cone-like catkins (strobiles) and causes long, tongue shaped galls known as languets to grow from them. These galls seem to like high humidity so are usually found on alders that grow near swamps, ponds and streams. 

Once they’ve reached their limit of growth the tongue galls dry and blacken, and look like this. I think this is something most of us have seen.

Azalea Exobasidium gall is another leaf and flower gall that is caused by a fungus instead of an insect. It can cause swollen shoots, stem galls, witches’ brooms and red leaf spots, but more often than not it causes white galls like that seen in the above photo. The white color comes from the spores of the fungus, which are spread by wind and rain. I found this and many other examples growing on some wild roseshell azaleas.

While I’ve been working on this post we’ve had two days of rain, so I hoped to see some mushrooms. I didn’t have to look too hard; this yellow fly agaric (Amanita muscaria v. formosa) grew in the middle of a trail. I used to do 2 or 3 mushroom posts each year but last year I didn’t find enough to do any, so I was happy to see this one. The name fly agaric comes from the practice of putting pieces of the mushroom in a dish of milk. The story says that when flies drank the milk they died, but it’s something I’ve never tried. Fly agaric is said to have the ability to “turn off” fear in humans and is considered toxic. Some Vikings, called “berserkers”  are said to have used it for that very reason.

I also saw a white slime mold on an oak leaf. Some slime molds can be very small and others quite large. This one in its plasmodium stage was average, I’d say; about as big as the leaf itself. When slime molds are in this state they are usually moving, but very slowly. Slime molds are very sensitive to drying out so they usually move at night, but they can be found on cloudy, humid days as well. I haven’t been able to identify it so for now all I can say is that it is a white slime mold, possibly a Physarum, in the plasmodium stage. Slime molds, even though sometimes covering a large area, are actually made up of hundreds or thousands of single entities. These entities move through the forest looking for food or a suitable place to fruit and eventually come together in a mass. They move with the single mindedness of a school of fish or a flock of birds. So far science can tell us what they aren’t, but not what they are.

And there were Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora,) which are not fungi but often appear at the same time. Each plant has a single flower and each flower nods toward the ground until it is pollinated. Once pollinated they turn and point straight at the sky, and in that position they will turn brown and become hard like wood, and finally the seed pods will split open and release the tiny seeds. They are dust like and are borne on the wind.

Blueberries seem to be having a great year. The bushes I’ve looked at have been loaded with berries, so the bears and birds will eat well.

Invasive Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) berries ripen from green to orange to red and for the first time I caught all the stages in one photo. This shrub is native to Siberia and is very tough. Birds love its berries and that’s why it has been so successful. In this area there are very few places where it doesn’t grow. Tatarian honeysuckle was introduced as an ornamental shrub in the 1750s. It has deep pink, very fragrant flowers in spring. Though it is invasive it has been here so long that it’s hard to imagine life without it.

Black elderberry fruit has just started to form. In this stage the big flower heads always remind me of star charts.

Fern balls are created by an insect called either a fern leaf tier or a leaf roller, depending on who you listen to. They appear at the tip of a fern frond and look like a ball. Inside the ball are caterpillars of a moth, possibly in the herpetogramma family. The caterpillars pull the tip of the fern into a ball shape and tie it up with silk. Once inside the shelter they feed on the leaflets.

These are busy moths; I’m seeing a lot of these balled up leaves this year.

The fern that had the fern balls on it was either an interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana,) shown above, or a cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum,) shown in the next photo. Since it had no spore cases on it, it was hard to tell. Interrupted fern gets its common name from the way the fertile fronds look as if they’ve been “interrupted” by spore cases, which are the dark areas on this fern.

Cinnamon fern spore bearing fronds are reddish and whoever named the fern thought they looked like cinnamon sticks. If you saw both ferns growing side by side and neither was producing spores most of us would think they were identical.

Timothy grass has just started to flower. Each flower head is filled with tiny florets, each with three purple stamens and 2 wispy white stigmas. Timothy grass makes an excellent hay crop and gets its common name from Timothy Hanson, a farmer who began to cultivate and promote it in 1720, a few years after its introduction into colonial America in 1711. It should be cut for hay before it reaches this stage but it’s quite beautiful when it blossoms. When you see someone chewing a stalk of grass in a photo or painting it is usually Timothy. I chewed many myself as a boy, and I just thought of the opening line of Ventura Highway by the band America: Chewing on a piece of grass, walking down the road

The oddest thing I’ve seen lately is this piece of cantaloupe i found on a lawn. I once worked with someone who made pens as a hobby, and he told me that he knew some people who used the netting from cantaloupes to decorate the pens they made. I can’t imagine how it was done but I’d bet they were beautiful pens.

This view says summer to me. I grew up lazing on the banks of a river, seeing views just like this one every day. May every child be so lucky.

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
~Lao Tzu

Thanks for Stopping in.

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New readers of this blog might not know this, but I’m always finding things that never seem to fit into other posts. When I have found enough of these unusual, sometimes bizarre and often beautiful things, I put them all in a post of their own. That’s what this post is.

1. Marasimus Mushrooms

The twig that these mushrooms grew on was less than half the diameter of a pencil, so that should help illustrate just how small these mushrooms were. By the time I found them it hadn’t rained for a few days so they were kind of dry. I think these are one of the Marasimus mushrooms-possibly Marasimus epiphyllus.

2. Bee on Red Clover

I’ve been giving red clover blossoms a closer look this year and have found that they vary greatly in color, sometimes appearing as a washed out pale pink that can look almost white all the way to a deep rose / purple color. I’ve been taking photos of the flower heads and letting my color finding software tell me what it sees. The software tells me that this one with a bee or hoverfly on it is pale violet, thistle, and plum.

3. Red Clover

Compared to the flower head in the previous photo this is very dark. The color finding software sees dark orchid, violet and medium purple. Red clover flower heads are made up of many individual florets, each having 5 petals. One petal is called a banner, 2 petals on either side of the banner are called wings, and 2 more fused petals make up what is called the keel. The keel encloses the reproductive structures.

 4. Bracken Fern

 Bracken ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) climb all over each other, trying to be the one to reach the sun first. These ferns are now almost 4 feet tall. Bracken fern releases chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants, and this gives it the ability to form large colonies with reduced competition from other species.

5. Deer Tracks

A deer (or more than one) went the same way I was going and not too long before, judging by the freshness of its footprints in the damp sand. I was wondering if I scared it off.

6. Goldsmith Beetle aka Cotalpa lanigera

I was walking along the side of a road one day and saw something in the road that didn’t look like it belonged there. It turned out to be this Goldsmith Beetle (Cotalpa lanigera.) This beetle was quite big-at least as long as the diameter of a quarter-and had a metallic shine, as if it had been painted with metallic paint. I wish that I had taken a photo or two of its underside, which is said to shine red-gold like polished copper. I can’t remember ever seeing this one before.

7. Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

I’m so colorblind that if this eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) had of just stayed still I probably never would have seen him. Instead he dashed across the path in front of me and froze. He convinced himself that he was invisible and that gave me time to fumble around with my camera, trying to get a photo. He let me take as many as I wanted but as soon as I took a step he was gone in a gray streak. I chose this shot because you can see his round cottony tail.

 8. Timothy

Timothy is blooming. No that’s not the title of a 60s song about Timothy Leary-it’s about the grass known as Timothy (Phleum pretense.) I’ve been waiting for it to flower because I think it’s the most beautiful of all the grasses. The story of how this grass got its name says that it was unintentionally introduced from Europe in 1711 and in 1720 a farmer named Timothy Hanson began to cultivate it. The grass took on his name and has been called Timothy ever since. It is an excellent hay grass.

 9. English Plantain

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is also blooming. This is another plant with a beautiful flower. This plant is considered a common weed found in lawns and waste places now, but it wasn’t always that way; Anglo-Saxons had nine sacred herbs that they believed protected them from sickness and other evils, and this was one of them. At that time, no other plants had such an elevated status. This plantain was cultivated in Europe and brought here in colonial times to be used medicinally. Native Americans called it “white man’s footprint,” because it grew wherever the colonists went.

10. White Cheese Polypore on Log

White Cheese Polypore (Tyromyces chioneus) grew on the end of a log. The Tyromyces part of the scientific name means “with a cheesy consistency” and chioneus means “snow white,” so both the common and scientific names for this fungus say the same thing. This fungus has a scent that some people say is like cheese cake.

11. Dark Green Bulrush aka Scirpus atrovirens

Many sedges and rushes grow near water and I like to include water in their photo if I can. That isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but this time it worked and I liked the color of the water behind these dark green bulrushes (Scirpus atrovirens.) Bulrushes aren’t true rushes, but are members of the sedge family. In Anglo Saxon times a sedge was any plant that grew near water, but now a sedge is one of nearly 1000 species in the genus Carex.

12. Sunset-2

While waiting for the moon to rise one night I saw this colorful sunset.

13. Full Moon on 6-21-13

The moon I was waiting for was a “super moon,” according to those in the know. This super moon was a moon that was both full and at its closest point to the earth for this year. It will not be as close to the earth again until August of next year. I wanted to get a view of it reflected in water and I drove around to rivers, lakes and ponds but I could never get to the side of the body of water that would have shown its reflection.

I have since found that there is a freeware program called “The Photographers Ephemeris,” which you can get by clicking here. In a nutshell, this program lets you position yourself anywhere on a Google map and see in which direction the sun and moon will rise and set from that position. I could have put myself on the accessible part of the local lake shore and seen beforehand, with a high degree of accuracy, that the moon wouldn’t be reflecting in the lake and saved myself the drive. The program can be used on computers or phones.

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. ~ Henri Poincaré

Thanks for stopping in.

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