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Posts Tagged ‘Grasshopper’

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

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1. Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar

The folks over at Bug gide.net tell me that this is a brown hooded owlet moth caterpillar (Cucullia convexipennis.) They feed on asters and goldenrod and this one was perched on a slender fragrant goldenrod leaf (Euthamia tenuifolia.) I thought he was a real snappy dresser.

2. Broad Winged Wasp Moth Caterpillar-

This is another one I needed help with. I’m told that this little caterpillar will become the largest and most broad winged wasp moth (Ctenucha virginica) in North America. That’s surprising, since the small caterpillar was less than an inch long. They feed on grass, which is just what this one was doing when I found it. The bluish hairs on each end are supposed to be white and I’m not really sure why they look blue unless it was the low light. Or maybe it’s a new kind of Ctenucha virginica.

3. Cabbage White

What I think was a cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) was on the damp sand at the edge of a river. There aren’t many plants in the cabbage family there, so I’m not sure what it was looking for. Moisture maybe?

4. Golden Pholiota Mushrooms

Golden pholiota (Pholiota limonella) mushrooms grow in clusters on living or dead wood, in this case a dead but still standing birch. The caps are yellow to orange yellow and slimy and always look wet. The stems are often covered with yellow to reddish brown scales like those in the photo. These examples were small but they can get quite large. They are said to be inedible.

5. October Indian Pipes

I was really surprised to see these Indian pipes blooming in October. They were just turning their nodding flowers to the sky, which means they’ve been pollinated and are ready to set seed.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them growing this late in the year.

6. Aspen Bolete aka Leccinum insigne

Aspen boletes (Leccinum insigne) are very similar to birch boletes (Leccinum scabrum) but the aspen bolete has an orange cap and the birch bolete’s cap is reddish brown. Both have rough looking stems which are caused by dark brown, wooly scales. Boletes have pores on the underside of their cap so if you look there it’s impossible to confuse them with any gilled mushroom. It is however easy to mistake one bolete for another and since some of them are toxic, it’s always wise to know your mushrooms well before taking even one bite. Even experts have been poisoned by them.

7. Pear Shaped Puffballs

It’s the time of year when puffballs appear and I’m starting to see quite a few. These examples are pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme). Inhaling certain puffball spores can lead to a respiratory disease known as Lycoperdonosis, where yeast like structures actually grow in lung tissue, so it shouldn’t ever be done. There are several recorded instances of children, usually teens, inhaling large amounts of spores under the false belief that they could get high, only to get very sick and end up in hospitals instead. It’s fine for children to “puff” a puffball as we all have, but they should never inhale the spores.

8. Solomon's Seal Berries

The small blue berries of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) look a lot like blueberries, with the same powdery bloom. Native Americans used the dried potato-like roots of this plant to grind into flour for breads and soups. Young shoots are also edible, but the berries are not. The plant also has many medicinal uses.

9. Green Stink Bug

The folks at bug guide.net might be getting tired of hearing from me, because I had to ask their help in identifying this insect too. They say that it’s a green stink bug nymph (Chinavia hilaris.) He looked very platy and had a dragon’s face, complete with fangs, on his back.

 10. Green Stink Bug

After I watched him for a while and took a couple of photos he turned and started doing what looked like push-ups. Of course, he could have been gearing up to release his stink from the stink glands on the underside of his thorax, I don’t know. I’ve read that it is a very foul odor so I’m glad that I didn’t have to smell it. These bugs can cause a lot of damage in gardens and orchards.

11. Grasshopper

This grasshopper appeared to have gotten himself stuck in a crack between two pieces of railing. I tried to get him out using a key but he wanted none of it and fought my help, so I let him be.  He didn’t seem to mind having his picture taken.

 12. Oak Apple Gall

I was surprised to find a fresh oak apple gall this late in the season because they usually develop in the spring. Theses galls are caused by a gall wasp known as Biorhiza pallida laying an egg inside a leaf bud. Tissue swells around the egg and a gall is formed. You can see the gall wasp larva in the center of the gall section on the right. Once they develop into an adult wasp they make a hole through the side of the gall and fly (or crawl) off to begin the cycle again. I’ve read that some gall wasps can hatch in winter but I’m not sure how that would work.

 13. Leaves on Water

The leaves are falling fast now but I might get in another foliage post or two before they’re all down.

 14. Vinca Blossom

I found a large patch of vinca (Vinca minor) in the woods and one plant seemed to think that spring was here already. I’m hoping that it knows something I don’t.  Quite often when you find this plant growing in the woods it’s a sure sign that there is an old cellar hole nearby because this was a plant that was often passed from neighbor to neighbor, even though it isn’t native. Lilacs and peonies are other plants that were shared in the same way and when found in the woods they also signal a cellar hole. I’ve found remarkable examples of all three blooming beautifully out in the middle of nowhere, as they must have been for 100 years or more.

A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life. ~Lewis Mumford

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 1. Feather on Fern

I’m forever finding feathers in strange places out there in the woods. In the past I’ve stumbled through the undergrowth to see what I thought was a beautiful solitary flower, only to find that it was instead a colorful feather. This one landed on a fern frond.

2. Poplar Starburst Lichen

I stopped in to visit one of my favorite lichens recently. This poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthoria hasseana) always seems to be producing spores. The little round cups are its fruiting bodies (apothecia) and they have been there since the day I found this lichen-probably 3 years ago now. It’s a beautiful thing.

3. Dry Dragonfly Husk

Dragonflies start life as an egg in the water. Once they hatch they live for a time as a water nymph until climbing out to shed their exoskeleton and begin life as a winged adult. The photo shows the shed dragon-hunter dragonfly nymph exoskeleton (exuvia) that clung to a rope while it was being shed. The rope it clung to was about half to three quarters of an inch in diameter, I’d guess. I can’t explain the blue “eyes” but they could just be a trick of the light. Dragon hunters are large dragonflies that live up to their name by hunting and eating other dragonflies. They also eat butterflies and other large insects.

4. Bee on Knapweed

I went to a place where hundreds of knapweeds grow to see if they were blooming. They were and they were covered with bees of all kinds. I think this must be a honeybee because of its bead like pollen baskets, but I could be wrong because I’m not a bee expert. In any event we can see the color of knapweed pollen.

 5. Grasshopper

I think this metallic green grasshopper thought that he was invisible because he let me take as many photos as I wanted. He was right out in the open so it’s a good thing for him that I wasn’t a hungry bird. I never knew that they were so pretty until I saw them in a photograph, even though I caught many as a boy. Photography has taught me a good lesson in how seeing with different eyes can sometimes change our viewpoint about things we once thought that we knew well.

6. Baby Spiders Hatching

I saw a nest of hundreds of tiny spider hatchlings in a curled leaf one day. I don’t know what variety of spider they will grow up to be, but watching them was fascinating. They seemed very busy but I couldn’t see that they were actually accomplishing anything.

7. Japanese Beetles

One of these Japanese beetles wore a white dot. Such dots are the eggs of a tachinid fly, and once they hatch the larva will burrow into the beetle and eat it. The beetle will of course die and the fly larva will become adult flies and lay eggs on even more Japanese beetles. Nature finding a balance.

8. Black Raspberry

Our blueberries and black raspberries are starting to ripen. Many berry bushes grow in the sunshine along the edges of trails, and their ripening increases the chances of meeting up with a black bear.  Heightened senses are required in the woods at this time of year.

9. Super Moon on 7-12-2

Though it didn’t seem any bigger the “super moon” was certainly colorful on the night of July 12th.

A Native American myth says that the sun and moon are a chieftain and his wife and that the stars are their children. The sun loves to catch and eat his children, so they flee from the sky whenever he appears. The moon plays happily with the stars while the sun is sleeping but each month, she turns her face to one side and darkens it (as the moon wanes) to mourn the children that the sun succeeded in catching.

10. Unknown Fungi

These hook shaped mushrooms seem to be defying all of the mushroom guides that I have. I’ve never seen any others like them and haven’t been able to identify them.

11. Bent Cattail Leaf

In every stand of cattails there seems to be at least one leaf that dares to be different.

 12. Skeletonized Oak Leaf

This skelotinized oak leaf taught me that there is a caterpillar called the oak-ribbed skeletonizer (Bucculatrix albertiella). It lives on the undersides of leaves and eats the soft tissue, leaving just the veins behind. The tiny blue insect in the photo isn’t the culprit but it’s so small that, even by zooming in on the photo, I can’t tell what it is.

 13. Curly Dock Seeds

When the seeds of curly dock are forming they look like tiny tear drop shaped pearls that shine in the sun. They are beautiful little things that always deserve a second look.

14 Tendril

Was does a tendril do when it can’t find anything to curl around? It curls anyway. This might not seem earth shaking unless you know that a tendril curls in response to touch. Through a process called Thigmotropism, the side away from the point of contact grows faster than the side that makes contact, and that is why it coils around any object that it touches. So why and how does it curl when it hasn’t made contact with anything?

15. Timothy Grass Blooming

Timothy grass (Phleum pretense) gets its common name by way of Timothy Hanson, a farmer who began to cultivate it in 1720, a few years after its introduction into colonial America in 1711. It’s an important hay crop and is also quite beautiful when it blossoms.

The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first; be not discouraged – keep on – there are divine things, well envelop’d; I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.  ~Walt Whitman

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