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Posts Tagged ‘Grass Flowers’

1. Virginia Ctenucha aka Ctenucha virginica moth

The Virginia ctenucha moth (Ctenucha virginica) is a pollinating wasp moth that feeds on nectar and flies during the day rather than at night. It’s the largest and most broad-winged of wasp moths in North America, with a wing span of up to two inches. It’s also a pretty moth with its orange head, metallic blue body, and grayish brown wings. There is another moth called the yellow-collared scape moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) that looks very similar but its wings are a darker bluish brown and sometimes black.

2. Unknown Shorebird

Maybe this is a juvenile spotted sandpiper or an adult that has already put on its winter feathers, or maybe it isn’t a spotted sandpiper at all. To be honest I’ve looked at bird pictures in books and online long enough for my eyes to cross and I’m close to being beyond caring what its name is. Whatever it is it’s a cute little thing, about the size of a robin maybe, which I saw at a local pond recently. It constantly wiggled its tail feathers up and down as it walked, which is something I’ve never seen a bird do.

3. Unknown Shorebird

Here is another shot of the same shore bird showing its back and wing feathers better. Its tail feathers came out blurred from its wiggling them up and down.

4. Otter

I’ve been watching this otter play in the same pond for over a year now. He’s a smart critter that always stays far out of camera range, but on this day he popped up just off shore to eat the pond weeds. He knew I was close and that I was watching him but he didn’t seem to mind. I never knew that otters ate pond weeds, so he taught me something.

Note: This could be a muskrat but otters (or one otter) have been seen many times in this pond, and further research shows that river otters do indeed eat aquatic plants. Who knew?

5. 12 Spotted Skimmer

Right after I saw the otter I saw this female 12 spotted skimmer resting in the shade on a fence post. At least I think it’s a female 12 spotted skimmer; I’m never 100% certain when it comes to insect identification. It was a large dragonfly with eyes that looked like pearls and there was some white on its wings but it was very hard to see it in this light. It let me get closer than dragonflies usually do and since it was a very hot day and I wondered if it was trying to get out of the sunshine.

Note: Mike Powell says this is a juvenile male twelve spotted skimmer. Thanks Mike! If you like dragonflies Mike takes some great photos of them and they can be seen at https://michaelqpowell.wordpress.com/

6. Great Blue Heron

This heron was just standing on some lily pads with its mouth open, which really doesn’t make for a very exciting photo. I thought I might get a shot of him doing something interesting if I waited around, so I waited and waited and waited. I had almost convinced myself that he was really just a statue of a heron when off he flew without ever doing anything interesting. Of course by that time the camera was hanging from my neck and I really wasn’t paying attention anyway, so I didn’t even get a shot of him flying away. If you need lessons in patience herons are always happy to teach.

7. Garter Snake

I was kneeling down taking some photos of flowers and when I looked to the side I saw this garter snake eyeing me. He stayed absolutely frozen still as I switched cameras and took some photos of him. This was the biggest garter snake I’ve seen in a long time.  He must have been a foot and a half long and I’d bet that the heron in the previous photo would have loved being as close to him as I was.

8. Tachinid Fly

What I think is a tachina fly was also eyeing me one day from atop a small Queen Anne’s lace flower head. He was very hairy and willing to pose, so I snapped a few photos. Some species of tachinids attack moths that are responsible for cut worms, peach twig borers, and others that do damage to our fruit and vegetable crops.

9. Yellow Coral Fungus

Yellow club coral fungi (Clavaria amoena) have just started appearing in the well packed and always damp earth along the sides of woodland paths. I haven’t seen many coral fungi this summer though, in spite of weekly rain and plenty of heat and humidity.

10. Yellow Coral Fungus

I remembered to put a penny down by some yellow coral fungi so you could see just how small they are. This example would easily fit on the penny with room to spare. They look like tiny yellow flames coming up out of the earth.

11. Pinwheel Mushrooms

These tiny pinwheel mushrooms (Marasmius rotula) reminded me of parachutes with the light from above coming through their pea size caps. I find these mushrooms growing in clusters on hardwood logs or leaves; often on oak leaves, but never on soil. The stem starts out light colored and darkens as it ages, so these examples had some age. They are able to withstand dry spells by shriveling up and all but disappearing, and when it rains they re-hydrate.

12. Eyelash Fungus

Though I saw some eyelash fungi (Scutellinia scutellata) at Distant Hill Gardens I never really thought I’d find them again because of their small size and because I have such trouble seeing red and orange, but I looked down at a wet twig lying in a seep and there they were. They were easy to see against the dark colored wood. It seems to prove once again that once you see a thing in nature you soon start seeing it everywhere. It’s all a matter of knowing where to look and the size of what you’re looking for.

13. Eyelash Fungi

I must have taken 20 shots of these tiny things before discovering that a side view was the best way to show the “eyelashes.” Eyelash fungi are considered cup fungi. The hairs can move and curl in towards the center of the disc shaped body but I can’t find a bit of information about what they’re for.

14. Flowering Grass

Grasses are still flowering. I’m not sure which one this is but I’ve learned enough from other grasses to know that the yellow parts at the ends of the whitish filaments are the pollen bearing male (staminate) flowers and the white feathery parts are the female (pistillate) flowers. One way grasses and trees protect against self-fertilization is by having the male flowers release their pollen before the female flowers become receptive to pollen blown on the wind from another plant.

15. Shack in a Hayfield

Speaking of grasses, the first cutting of hay in this field revealed a little screen house off in the distance. There wouldn’t be anything unusual about that if I hadn’t driven by this field almost every day for over twenty years without ever seeing it. I’m often as amazed by discovering what I’ve missed as I am by what I’ve seen.

What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the coloring, sportsmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not always follow that we should see them.  ~John Lubbock

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1. Ashuelot River on 5-23-15

The month of May has been very warm and dry so far in this part of the state and we are now officially in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rainfall was down by 5.17 inches since March first at last look. It seems odd since we had record breaking snowfall last winter, but they say all of the water from winter has now dried up. To illustrate the dryness, this view of the Ashuelot River in Swanzey shows the many stones that aren’t usually visible until July. The water in this spot is shallow enough to allow walking across the river without getting your knees wet right now, but normally attempting that at this time of year would be foolish.

2. False Hellebore

Even tough plants like false hellebore (Veratrum viride) are slowing down. I was struck by the lack of insect damage on the beautiful pleated leaves of these plants. Though very toxic their leaves usually look like they’ve been shot through by buckshot at this time of year.  I’ve read that the roots of this plant can be ground and used in a spray form to keep insects away from garden plants so I can’t imagine what insect actually eats it, but whatever it is doesn’t appear to be very hungry this year.

A word of warning: if you think you might want to grind the roots of false hellebore and make a spray for your own garden you should be aware that this plant is extremely toxic. Native Americans once made poison arrows from its sap, and knowing that is enough to make me stay away from damaging it in any way.

3. Ginko Leaves

I don’t see many ginkgo leaves (Ginkgo biloba) so I have to take photos of them when I do. The order ginkgoales first appeared around 270 million years ago but almost all of its species had become extinct by the end of the Pliocene; wiped out during the ice ages by advancing ice. Ginkgo biloba, which is only found in the wild in China, is the single surviving species. The tree is an actual living fossil; fossilized leaves look much like those in the photo. Extracts made from this tree have been used medicinally for over 3000 years.

4. Grass Flowering

Grasses are starting to flower. Many grasses are beautiful and interesting when they flower, but it’s an event that most of us miss. If only we had the time to slow down a little and look a little closer at the things around us, how much more interesting this world might be.

5. Dandelion Seed Head

Dandelions aren’t wasting any time in their quest for world domination, though they do seem to be blooming later in spring here each year. Dandelions are apomictic plants, meaning they can produce seeds without being pollinated. They produce somewhere between 54 to 172 seeds per seed head and a single plant can produce more than 2000 seeds per season, all without the help of insects.

6. Haircap Moss

Common hair-cap moss (Polytrichum commune) is tending to perpetuation of the species which, if you know anything about the way this moss reproduces, is odd, considering the lack of rain.

7. Haircap Moss Splash Cup

Male and female plants of common hair cap moss grow in separate colonies but the colonies are usually quite close together. Male plants have splash cups like that shown in the above photo where sperm are produced. In spring, raindrops splash the sperm from the male shoots to the female plants where they then swim to the eggs.

8. Haircap Moss Spore Capsule

Common hair cap moss gets its name from the hairs that cover, or cap, the calyptra where each spore case is held, and which can just be seen in the above photo. Once the male sperm reaches the eggs and fertilizes them spores are produced in the capsules. Later on in the summer the capsules will open and the wind will carry the spores to new locations where they will germinate so the process can begin again. But none of this can happen without rain; rain to splash the sperm out of the splash cups and moisture on the plants for them to swim in to reach the eggs.  Maybe they know it’s going to rain.

9. New Oak Leaves

The gall insects aren’t wasting any time, as these new oak leaves show; hardly unfurled and already galled. Oak apple galls are usually found on the midrib of an oak leaf so these might be them just beginning to form. Galls can be unsightly but don’t hurt the tree and the best thing to do about them is to just let nature take its course.

10. Japanese Andromeda Leaves

The new leaves on this Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) were a startling shade of red. Chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light and reflects green so leaves look green, but most plants also have other pigments present. Carotenoids are usually yellow to orange and anthocyanins are red to purple. Only one pigment usually dominates, so a plant with red leaves probably has higher than usual amounts of anthocyanins. Chlorophyll is still present even in leaves that aren’t green, and if a plant like this Andromeda normally has green leaves chlorophyll will eventually dominate and its new red leaves will soon turn green. Thanks go to Susan K. Pell, director of science at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for explaining that so well.

11. Poison Ivy

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) also starts out life in spring with its leaves colored red or bronze and people are often fooled by it at this stage. It is a plant that anyone who spends time in the woods should get to know well, but even then you can still occasionally be caught by it. It doesn’t need to have leaves on it to produce a reaction; I got a blistering rash on my lower leg this spring from kneeling on the leafless vines to take photos of spring beauties. Even burning the plants and inhaling the smoke can be dangerous; having the rash inside your body can lead to a hospital stay.

12. Robin Eggs

Friends of mine have robins nesting in their holly bush again this year, so they must have had success there last year. It might have something to do with their little dog Minnie, who spends much of her time just a few feet from the nest and keeps the cats away.

13. Snapping Turtle

I asked this snapping turtle to smile for the camera but this was the best he could do. He doesn’t have to worry about me dangling my toes in his pond. I think the yellowish string like objects are floating pine needles that somehow came out looking vertical.

14. Spring Peeper aka Pseudacris crucifer

This tiny little spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) was hopping through the dry forest litter and I wondered if he was looking for water. Most of the smaller forest pools and brooks have dried up, so he might have a hard time finding it. They say that we might see thundershowers every afternoon this week but showers don’t usually help much.

Man – despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments – owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. ~Anonymous

Thanks for coming by.

 

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