To all those interested in the natural world. Please add your sightings.

In the woods we return to reason and faith-Emerson


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Today for the first time this winter I had a Redpoll at my feeders.
Redpolls are arctic birds that move south in times of seed shortages. Often they arrive in large restless flocks, but so far I've seen just the one.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A heron was at a frozen pond this morning in East Dummerston. I think he wanted food. He flew off toward the Retreat Meadows after about thirty minutes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

This morning a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker visited my suet feeder. For at least the last 3 winters sapsuckers have overwintered here, although range maps show Conn. to be the northern limit of their winter range.
Last winter we also had a Northern Flicker overwinter with us, and frequent our feeders. Range maps show the northern limit of their range to be south of Vermont.
And while these sitings might be the result of the ongoing global warming episode, I suspect that bird feeders were also a factor in the decision of each species to overwinter.
A consistent supply of high energy foods - normally lacking during the winter months - probably made migration an unnecessary risk for them!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This morning a Northern Harrier was hunting over nearby fields.
The migration of northern harriers is often described as "protracted." Spring migration happens over the three months from early March through late May. Fall migration starts in mid-August and ends four and a half months later in late December.
Therefore, it's possible to see migrating harriers during at least 7 if not 8 months of the year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gray fox tracks-Coyote tracks heading to Miller's Orchard. Hmmm rotten apples to eat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bush Honeysuckles show their alien invasive eagerness to leaf before native species, unfurling new growth in sheltered spots around my neighborhood this week. Twenty eight degrees with a brisk NW wind apparently feels like spring to them.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Horse-nettle (Solanum Carolinense), a relative of the Tomato, brightens an otherwise drab field with its abundant yellow-orange berries.
Meanwhile, this dandelion is making one last futile effort at reproduction in a world stripped of pollinators.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

As of this afternoon, Creeping Buttercups still have healthy green leaves and one fresh faced flower in one damp but absolutely optimal micro-climate in my neighborhood.

Monday, November 29, 2010

These Camel Crickets (AKA Cave Crickets) are among the 75 or so individuals that will overwinter safely in the confines of my spring house. They will endure about 7 months of the 'house arrest' as leaving before spring would be fatal.
These crickets are deaf, wingless, nocturnal and they have no mechanism with which to produce sound. Usually they are found under rocks and rotten logs, or in basements or caves. They have extremely long feelers with which to explore the world.
Camel Crickets are genus Ceuthophilus but according to the Audubon Society Field Guide to No. Amer. Insects and Spiders, "Only a specialist can reliably identify species."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Common Periwinkle (vinca minor) can be uncommonly hardy, as these flowering today in a sheltered Hague Rd. yard can attest. A few years ago during an unusually warm January we had some flowering in our woods.
Periwinkles are an introduced species; a garden escape growing wild. They are also known as Running Myrtle.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Red Clover, asters and goldenrod can all still be found flowering in sheltered locations.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Black alder (Ilex verticillata) also known as Winterberry and as Christmas Berry brightens the bank of the West River on a recent gray November day.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

With the leaves off the trees it's easier to spot barred owls ... and for the owls to spot us. This one was perched roadside up on the west side of town, watching me intently.
Witch hazel is starting to flower. The flowers will often hold their weirdly twisted petals well into the winter. Seeds will form next spring and the seed capsules will hang on late into next summer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the morning of 10-23 both Evening Primrose and Wild Geranium could still be found flowering along the roadsides despite several below freezing nights and heavy frosts, while Thimble Weed had gone to seed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

If ever a caterpillar could be considered beautiful, I think this Cecropia moth specimen would qualify.
When young, cecropia caterpillars are black and bristly; later they are orange; next they turn greenish; this is their final color phase.
Soon this one will spin a cocoon attached to a twig in which it will overwinter as a pupa.
This one was feeding voraciously on steeplebush. It didn't seem to mind having its picture taken.
Fisher scat was found on our road, and only plant vegetation was in it.
Raccoon scat was filled with cherry pits. There were plenty of cherries around and I enjoyed eating them.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

9-19 Ants farming aphids under a milkweed leaf. The aphids produce 'honeydew' that the ants crave.

Monday, September 6, 2010

9.05.10 Wetland wandering (or wandering in former wetland) demonstrated their importance to wildlife. The receding water has left a slate upon which animals leave their inscriptions.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A moss gall which has its own strange beauty and elusive astringent/green appleish odor turns this multiflora rose into a fascinating exotic.
Moss gall is caused when a 4 mm long wasp (Diplolepus rosae) lays up to 60 eggs in the terminal bud of the rose.
I rather like the results!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

8.31.10 The bull thistle is well-protected by pronounced spines on each point of the leaf. The carpenter bee (note the circular black spot surrounded by yellow in the segment behind the head) was not deterred from approaching it as I was this morning.

Short-winged Blister Beetles - looking like large blue ants with bent beaded antennae - are active at this time of year and I see them on paths and on infrequently traveled gravel roads.
This beetle lays eggs that hatch into long legged larvae in the ground near bees' nests. Each larvae climbs up a plant and hitches a ride to the nest on a bee. There it changes into a grub which attacks the bee's larvae. Adult blister beetles eat herbaceous foliage.
When disturbed blister beetles fall on their sides and feign death. If handled they exude a liquid from their leg joints that causes blisters.

Monday, August 30, 2010

8.30.10 - This morning my time was limited, so my goal was to visit a wetland nearby. What frustration I met: the invasives, particularly barberry and bittersweet have become so thick that it was impossible to get near the wetland in many areas; I had to give the area quite a wide berth, and view it from the woods whose shady environs haven't been taken over (yet).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I have known from books, articles, etc. that beech sprouts from its roots, but I didn't know it for myself until yesterday. I was clearing the Part Ridge Nature Trail (which everyone is welcome to come to) and I tried pulling out beech about 4 inches high. When I tried to pull it out I saw it was attached to a root from a dying tree.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some Monarch Butterflies are starting their long, long journey to Mexico. I saw a total of 8 today all wafting steadily to the south west.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

8.26.10 A flash of brilliant red in early morning sunlight caught my attention, which I followed up with binocular assistance. A juvenile scarlet tanager, in plumage that resembled a painted bunting or unusual parrot: the olive-yellow feathers of youth remained like a waistcoat revealing the adult male plumage on the breast, paused high in the branches of a tree and pruned for a long while. Perhaps like many teenagers, it seemed intent on ridding itself of youthful reminders and hastening its adult appearance.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This morning's adventures took a different turn with the company of my grandson after yesterday's welcome rain: wood frogs and efts that were out in good numbers led us on an amphibian hunt.
Later I went in search of the blue-stemmed goldenrod. I looked at a lot of yellow flowers and was about to turn back when I found some of them in their usual stance, leaning nearly horizontally, with little clusters of blossoms in the leaf axils along much of the bluish-colored stem . Along the way, a purple-headed sneezeweed detained me. The stem of this 3+ foot plant is 'winged', giving it a very sturdy, angular appearance.

Young Gray Squirrels, the second litter of the year, have their eyes open and are venturing out of their natal dens. While a bit tentative at first, these little squirrels embrace the world with absolute enthusiasm.
Beech-drops are at their peak. The upper white flowers are male. The smaller, lower flowers are females. Beech-drops are parasitic on beech tree roots.
And Hops - which I did not realize could grow wild - is draping an apple tree along Camp Arden Road; an escape, the domestic gone back to the wild. That seems right and sensible to me.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

8.22.10 - The drought has made wandering about in wet places a bit easier. I reached these Bur-reeds, often partially immersed, without getting muddy just as it started to rain this morning. Moving on to a wooded hillside, I found a fern which I've tentatively identified as a Rattlesnake fern (suggestions welcome!) Finally, the raindrops brightened the Canada Hawkweed's yellow face. Such treasures we can savor in this town!
8-22 Pictures of Great Lobelia, Groundnut and Closed Gentian. John

8-22 Overcast skies and the absence of any breeze made this morning a perfect time to take some pictures of riverside wildflowers.
Great Lobelia, the biggest and showiest of these flowers, is possibly a garden escape. It now grows in a willow, milkweed, goldenrod thicket and I can never find it until it flowers.
Groundnut has been in flower for a week or more but all my previous attempts at capturing its image were blurred by breezes.
And Closed Gentian was a bonus - a lucky and unexpected find.
The first of the rain caught me afoot on the cobble bars of the West River. The rain was warm, and gloriously soothing... but the rocks were slick and treacherous within minutes after the rain started. Nevertheless, as every living thing seems to revel in this warm, moist, dimly lit moment I believe that I should do no less!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This morning my daily ramble yielded a plant I had long sought. Not a rare plant, just one that had mostly eluded me: Pipsissewa. And, not only did I find one, I found a dense patch containing perhaps 200 stems. The flowers had gone by, but the seed heads remained.
Fifteen or twenty years ago I saw a few stems of pipsissewa in the nearby woods - and was never again able to locate them. This patch I've documented a bit more carefully!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

These are three caterpillars I've found on recent walks. The yellow hairy one is probably the caterpillar of the White-marked Tussock Moth. The orange, yellow and black one is probably the caterpillar of the Brown-hooded Owlet Moth. And the white bird-dropping mimic is probably the caterpillar of the White-spotted Sable Moth.
The white-marked tussock moth and the Brown-hooded owlet are smallish drab brown or gray moths. The white-spotted sable moth is glossy black with bold white spots.
Thus the drabbest of these caterpillars becomes the most boldly marked moth!
8.17.10 - The August sun was intense as we walked the power line east of Route 30, but the rewards were great: Bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum), a member of the mint family, is usually found in dry soils such as these.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mixed warbler flocks are drifting south, foraging as they go. One group had Blackburnean Warblers, Black and White Warblers and American Redstarts. Ospreys have left their nesting areas. I've had two fly over recently. The Bald Eagles that will nest this coming winter in Florida are moving through. And three Nighthawks went over this evening.
The season is starting to wind down.

Blooming season is NOT over! A recent walk along the cobble shoreline of West River entertained us with Canada Burnett, Ladies' Tresses, and Wild Mint( pictured here), Turtlehead, and many more plants of interest.