Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Snapping Turtle’

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.

 

Read Full Post »

1. English Plantains

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) pollen has been found in sites in Norway that date to the early Neolithic period, so it has been around for a very long time. It was introduced into North America from Europe and loves it here. It is a favorite of many butterflies, songbirds, and animals, and is pretty when it flowers like the one in the photo.

2. Turtle in the Grass

Last year I was walking through a forest clearing and almost stepped on a turtle. This year I did the same thing in almost the same spot and wondered if it was the same turtle. Last year it was spotless and looked as if it had come from the local Buff ‘N Shine and, as you can see in the photo, this one looked the same.

3. Snapping Turtle

This snapping turtle was also very clean and I almost stepped on it as well. Luckily I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. It was as big as a soccer ball.

 4. Cows

I went to visit my favorite lone tree one day but the girls were heading to their favorite stream for a drink. For some reason my being there was spooking them away from the stream, so I left. The white around their noses is really striking.

5. Lone Tree

My favorite lone tree was still there the next time I paid a visit. Since it’s in a fenced in pasture and I can’t get near it I’ve been wondering what it was for years. Finally, after scanning the leaves with binoculars, I can see that it is some type of hickory tree. There are a lot of shagbark hickories in this area so it might be one of those. Unfortunately I can’t see the bark well enough to know for sure.

6. Pendulous Sedge

Pendulous sedge (Carex pendula) is living up to its name. It is also called weeping sedge and grows along stream and pond banks. The slightest breeze gets the dangling flower heads swaying, so getting a decent photo of it can be a challenge. It took several tries to get one that didn’t show movement.

7. Unknown Evergreen

There is an unusual evergreen tree with deep green, very long needles growing in a local park and this photo is of some new needles emerging. They look like a bundle of optical fibers. I’ve tried to identify this tree several times with no luck.

8. Tiny White Mushrooms

The largest of these mushrooms was barely the size of a pea. The crisscrossing “sticks” are pine needles. I think they are Mycena osmundicola. I can’t seem to find a common name for them.

9. Tiny Mushroom

This small funnel shaped mushroom grew at the very end of a twig no bigger than a pencil. I think it is one of the Clitocybe group ofmushrooms.

10. Lophocampa caryae aka Hickory Tussock Moth

I thought this was a spotted tussock moth but the helpful folks at Bugguide.net tell me that it’s a hickory tussock moth (Lophocampa caryae.) Its beautiful wings reminded me of stained glass.

11. Viceroy Butterfly

This viceroy butterfly seemed very hairy and I’ve never noticed that before. It wouldn’t let me get closer to see a little better and flew off after one step. I’m also seeing a lot of swallow tails this year but I don’t think I’ve seen a monarch in 2 years now.

12. Leafminer Phytomyza aralivora on Sarsaparilla Leaf

Just imagine something so small it can crawl between the upper and lower surfaces of a leaf and eat the tissues. That’s what made this path in this sarsaparilla leaf; a leaf mining insect called Phytomyza aralivora, according to Bugguide.net. By reading about these leaf trails I’ve learned that leaf miners are very specific about the leaf they chew, so a sarsaparilla leaf miner probably won’t mine an oak leaf. I’ve also learned that their trails start out thin but then become wider as the insect grows, and that can be seen in the above photo.

13. Coral Fungus

Our recent spate of heat and high humidity has brought on many coral fungi. I think this orangey pink one is crown coral (Clavicorona pyxidata.)This is the first one I’ve seen growing on a birch log.

 14. Azalea Leaf Gall

I found this white growth on a native azalea recently. It was about the size of a golf ball, and hard and heavy. Azalea Exobasidium gall is a 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.

15. 12-Spotted Male Skimmer-2

This dragonfly decided to take a break from hunting and pose for a picture. I think it’s an immature male 12 spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella,) but apparently immature males look much like females, so it could be a she. Since it doesn’t really matter to me I didn’t pursue the identification any further. Sometimes just enjoying something for what it is-for its beauty- can be more rewarding than finding out what makes it tick.

No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful? ~Annie Dillard

Thanks for coming by.

 

Read Full Post »

I’ve had enough vision challenges to know that chasing insects and animals for photographs just wasn’t my thing. Still, that doesn’t mean that I won’t grab shots of things that sit still for more than 30 seconds. I don’t know if it’s the heat and humidity or not but lately a lot of things have been sitting still. I think this is the first post I’ve done that is about nothing but moving things.

1. Belvosia borealis Tachinid Fly

This spiny insect was bigger than a bumblebee and flew slowly from blossom to blossom. I had never seen anything like it and couldn’t find it online so I bought an insect guide. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it in there either so I asked the good folks at bug guide.net if they knew what it was. They tell me that it is a Tachinid Fly (Belvosia borealis.) After much searching for information I found that there are 15 known species of Belvosia in North America, all of which are very similar in appearance.

2. Belvosia borealis Tachinid Fly

According to nature search online, this fly reaches its peak numbers in July and August and takes nectar from flowers. The fly is a parasitoid of the larvae and pupae of moths like the sphinx and silk moth. A parasitoid is different from a parasite by the way it eventually kills its host while a parasite does not.

 3. Female Mallard

This female mallard didn’t hear me coming down the river bank toward her because of the roar of the river. When she turned and saw me she gave me some strange looks and quacked loudly, but since Mallards always seem to be smiling it was hard to take her scolding very seriously. I watched her slip all over the rock she was on until she finally nearly fell off it into the river. Apparently embarrassed that I had witnessed such klutzy behavior, she flew off with one last loud quack.

4. Swallowtail in Daylily

What I think is an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly was digging deep into this orange daylily blossom.

 5. Large Snapping Turtle

I found this large snapping turtle in the grass quite far away from the river one evening by almost stepping on it. It was probably two feet long from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail and I was glad I had shoes on because it looked like it could have easily taken a toe or two. It must have been a fast mover because its shell was still wet. It stayed still while I took some photos but when I returned from a walk down the river about ten minutes later it was gone.

Oriental Beetle

This is another bug I had to go to bug guide.net to get identified. I knew it was a beetle but that’s as far as I could go. The experts at bug guide tell me it is an oriental beetle-kind of a cousin of the Japanese beetle. Like its cousins its sole purpose seems to be eating garden plants instead of what it can find in the wild. In this photo it is checking out a coleus.

 7. Peck’s Skipper Butterfly aka Polites peckius

Peck’s skipper (Polites peckius) is supposed to be one of the most common butterflies in New England, but I can’t remember ever seeing it before, even though its brown and tan colors are pretty and it seems like they would be hard to forget. It is said to have black and orange colors on the upper side of its wings.

8. Butterfly on Milkweed

When I bought the insect guide to try and identify the Tachinid fly at the beginning of this post I also bought a butterfly guide to help me with this butterfly. I can get as far as identifying it as a skipper and no further, even with the book. I have also struck out online, so it will probably be the third bug to go to bug guide.net. I wonder if the harsh sunlight has made some of its markings disappear? If so that means that an accurate identification will be difficult. No matter what its name though, I like the look of its green, crushed velvet like wings.

9. Monarch Butterfly

I finally spotted two monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in a meadow that I visit. One of them was kind enough to sit on this boneset flower flexing its wings while I snapped a few photos. I can’t remember seeing a monarch at all last year.

NOTE: Fellow blogger Mike Powell has pointed out that this is actually a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus.) The differences are very subtle and have to do with the horizontal line across the hind wing. Mike sent me a very good link to a website that shows and explains the differences clearly:  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/Viceroy1.html

10 Spider Silhouette

I was on my favorite covered bridge one evening as the sun was setting and I noticed some big spiders repairing their webs in the corners. I took a few photos, not hoping for much because of the poor light, but when I saw this shot it looked like the spider had built a web leading up into the clouds. I don’t know what kind of spider it is, but she’s big and it looks like she’s got a long climb ahead of her.

Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius. ~Edward O. Wilson

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »