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

In the woods we return to reason and faith-Emerson


Sunday, May 30, 2010

The showy flowers of Purple-flowering Raspberry dotted the thickets this morning, clusters of small yellowish-green flowers festooned the Poison Ivy, and the first flowers of Meadow Rue were opening.
Over the fields, Red-spotted Purple butterflies circled and danced. Southern Red-spotted Purples hybridize with Northern White Admirals in this area producing different degrees of white banding on their offspring.

Friday, May 28, 2010

It has become extremely rare to find a Phoebe's nest anywhere except in a man-made structure, but this morning I located just such a nest in the root ball of an ice storm toppled pine. It was as nicely sheltered by the overhanging upper root edge as any nest I've ever seen under a human roof.
In the field, orange Hawkweed opened its first few blossoms of the year, and along the road Ragged Robin with its skeletal pink petals and thin wiry stems appeared very aptly named. And Yellow Goat's Beard tipped its face to the early sun before closing at midday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Today the clean white petals and the sunny yellow central discs of Ox-Eye Daisies spangle the roadsides. In the ditches Bittersweet Nightshade with its swept-back violet petals and its yellow "beak" of anthers climbs toward the sun. In one marshy weed patch Muskflower is in full flower. Muskflower is found in only this one spot in Dummerston.
Growing from a crack in a steep crumbly ledge I found Maidenhair Spleenwort looking much like a miniature fern. Maidenhair spleenwort is not rare, but - since I had never noticed it before - it was a true rarity for me.
And in a shrubby maple sapling I found a half grown Barred Owl, still downy and tailless but solidly perched and very alert. Probably it was blown from its nest tree by last night's powerful wind. An adult owl hovered nearby. I snapped a few quick pictures and then moved quietly out of the little owl's life.
On the way home from fallen trees making roads impassable, I saw a pair of scarlet tanagers fly by.
A delight

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This morning the pink veined white flowers of Common Wood Sorrel were open, as the pumpkin-gold flowers of Golden Ragwort, and the globular brownish-purple flowers of Purple Avens AKA Water Avens.
Overhead Chimney Swifts could be seen powering sleekly back and forth across the skies.
Closer to earth, two male Luna Moths hung on the side of a weathered shed in total, stark and dangerous contrast.
Overall, the heavy sweet scent of Russian Olive - an alien invasive tree species - came and went with every shift of moist morning air.
Tuesday May 25 The golden fox and his partner who have made a den on the southwest edge of my property have managed to grab and eat 3 hens over the past 14 days. Last week, while on the phone, I heard the rooster's alert call and the hens frantic sqawking. When I got to the porch I could see the fox, with hen's neck in his mouth just entering the woods. I screamed. The fox dropped the hen, remarkably unharmed, and he ran into the woods. Sunday early morning the fox was lying at the edge of the lawn in wait. We have clipped the hens' wings, fortified and heightened the pen fence, and poured used cat litter close to where we believe the fox den is. Any other suggestions are very welcome.

Monday, May 24, 2010

On 5.23.10 a female Baltimore Oriole distracted me from my gardening as she worked to harvest a piece of fibrous stalk from last year's goldenrod - she worked and worked, and finally succeeded in pulling the stalk so she could stand on a large rock as she worked. Finally, she flew off, a two-foot ribbon trailing up into the apple tree overhead.
As sun was setting last evening, her mate caught the last rays of sun as he flitted in the tops of white pines nearby, landing on the new candles, demonstrating his acrobatic prowess.
Welcome to the neighborhood, and best wishes on your new home!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yellow Wood-Sorrel and Yarrow both picked today to start flowering in my neighborhood. Bristly Locust - an introduced shrub - opened its large pink pea-like flowers along the roadside. A Silver-Spotted Skipper, new to the world this morning, flitted back and forth across the road. And, in a nearby field, male Bobolinks flew up and over the grass, circled and dropped back to the ground, over, and over, and over again.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My field was alive today with the drab, weak-flying butterflies called Prairie Ringlets. Also flying was the first orange folded-winged Skipper of the year. Skippers are rather moth-like butterflies which populate the fields with such variety and such profusion that I have yet to tackle the challenge of learning them all. Easily identified Hawkweed opened its annual floral assault on the neighborhood, and the aptly named Indigo Bunting male could be seen, along the brushy margins that it loves, but not yet heard.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The spiderlings I saw yesterday turned out to be Cross Spiders AKA Garden Spiders (Araneus Diadematus) and scientists think that they cluster in response to humidity - a single drop of water could be a fatal trap to a tiny spiderling.
Today Wild Geranium is in flower as is Red Clover and White Clover and a Milbert's Tortoiseshell butterfly flitted and zigzagged over the meadow as if its energy was absolutely boundless.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

5-20 Today in my mowing, two clusters of several hundred minute spiderlings each mimicked seed heads on stalks of grass so convincingly that I nearly overlooked them. Only the fact that they were straw colored in a field where the grass seed heads were still green gave them away.
The spiderlings had tied off the grass stalks with silk, bowing their tips down to just below horizontal. Tight under the outer tip they clustered tightly in a nearly invisible web, abdomens out, heads in, legs tight to bodies. Each tiny straw colored seedlike abdomen marked with a black blotch near its tip. Several hundred of them formed a very convincing 'seed head' perhaps one-and-a-quarter inches long and three-eighths of an inch wide.
I tried to get a picture of them and in doing so I carelessly snagged a wispy strand of web. Instantly the spiderlings scattered to all points of the compass. An hour later they were once again clustered tightly where I first observed them.
I was unable to identify them...I was barely able to see any one individual. But I'm going to refer to them as Straw Colored Grass Seed Mimics. That name seems to capture their essence, and who can argue that?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blue-eyed grass had one"eye" open this afternoon as if to watch the first white Admiral butterfly of the season waft overhead. Along the brook, Herb Robert displayed a few small pink flowers and in the thickets a Mockingbird stuttered and skipped as it mimicked half-a-dozen pirated songs. On many sunny banks and road shoulders Blackberries splashed stark white 5 petaled blossoms across the year's still fresh yellow-green foliage.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Clouds of yellow pollen exploded from the male cones on our Red Pine trees with every hint of breeze today. Meanwhile some Sycamores and Mulberries began producing new leaves to replace those touched by last week's frosts and here and there a Royal Fern showed shriveled brown where it should have sported a half developed crown. In the kitchen garden a House Wren scampered and flitted beneath the Hosta. And flowers on the south side of the Rhododendron bush began unfolding their magenta petaled splendor.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

This morning Starry False Solomon's Seal, Common (AKA Tall) Buttercup and Bulbous Buttercup chose to start flowering and a House Wren moved back into the neighborhood and announced itself endlessly.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The black and white warbler with its see-saw high pitched call followed us along our walk on Partridge Road along with the veery. I love the rich downward spiraling sound interwoven with the wood thrush.
For the first time this season, a female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird joined the male at our nectar feeder. Along the West River, a Catbird worked at mimicking five or six different songs somehow selected from the ongoing chorus.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Brown Thrasher quietly arrived in my yard today, while somewhere in the treetops a Great Crested Flycatcher endlessly announced its presence. Some of the new Locust leaves and the upper leaves on the Dog Bane plants were blackened by recent frosts, yet the season moves forward.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Today Bunchberry AKA Dwarf Cornel is in flower as is Pennsylvania bittercress. In midafternoon a smallish (perhaps young of the year) red fox carrying a large bird crossed Rte. 30 in front of my car. The fox struggled to keep the bird from dragging on the ground, a very small fox hauling a very large bird as best it could.
5/11/10 Every morning as I pass the East Dummerston School, I survey the trees a group of us have planted; today I got an extra visual treat: a small acer griseum (paperbark maple) provided a perch for an Eastern bluebird!

It was a cold day and I just poked my head outside the door and then I heard the burry sing-song or the robin; the scarlet tanager was back.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Late this afternoon I did a survey of the nearby woods and fields looking for any wildflowers that were newly in bloom and found only Sweet White Violet... and a coyote. The coyote did not seem even mildly surprised to see me, and trotted off only when I got within seventy or eighty feet.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Despite the chill winds today, Robin's Plantain and Marsh Blue Violets decided to open flowers. Most of the sedges are now also in flower, notably Carex Lupulina with its clusters of large sac-like female flowers topped by a single narrow spike of small male flowers.

Friday, May 7, 2010

On Black Mountain today fiercely predaceous and beautifully iridescent Six-Spotted Green Tiger Beetles scurried along the trail until my feet threatened and then they darted into the air more like wasps than the beetles they are.
Low on the mountain Common Yellowthroats called. Near the summit Pine Warblers took over the airwaves. In the thickets Ovenbirds made their presence known.
Starflowers were the botanical story of the day. On the summit a few Mountain Laurel blossoms were open. Solomon's Seal was also flowering.
Back at home, the first American Copper butterflies of the season added glitter to the back lawn blanket of green.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird made 6 or 8 early morning visits to the nectar feeder outside my kitchen window this AM. By 7:00 it was gone - perhaps moving further north - but it's good to know that within days that nectar feeder will once again be jealously guarded by a resident hummer!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In the woods today, Indian Cucumber root was in flower. The small greenish-yellow, dangling flowers have - when you tip them skyward - rather startling red stamens. In the fields the first Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies teetered on the breezes while searching for their host plants, members of the carrot family including Queen Anne's Lace.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It was a day of "probables". a smallish orange and black checkered butterfly flitting across our field I tentatively identified as a Pearly Cresentspot. The first of the year here. An unimpressive little yellow-flowered plant I decided was Hooked Buttercup (Ranunculus recurvatus). Probably. Some sightings just don't lend themselves to absolute certainty.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A few Kingbirds and Baltimore Orioles have found their way back to Vermont, and Oven birds are calling from the woods behind my house.
Common Sulphur butterflies (medium sized, yellow bordered with black) seem to be dividing the fields into Lepidoteran fiefdoms, and the first of the Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (large, yellow with black stripes, tailed) can be found in warmer locations.
Bugle (an alien member of the mint family) in putting out powder blue flowers in stark contrast to its leaves which are often bronze or deep purple.
This gay wings, swaying in the breeze, was a delight to watch in the woods of Brattleboro.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Today a Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) found its way to Dummerston. Painted Ladies are long distance migrants originating in the Southwest - often in the Sonora Desert. No Painted Ladies overwinter here: no adults, no eggs, no larvae and no pupae. Cold would kill any that tried. This butterfly had to come a long way to get here.
Until recently scientists thought that the Painted Lady migration was one way, and that these wondrous genetic lines would end with the first hard frost of next fall. Now, however, a reverse migration is believed to occur with at least some of the Painted Ladies born in the North and the East making the trip back to the Southwest.
Hopefully not for a while!
Did I prevent a murder?

On Wednesday around 9 PM I drove from Route 5 up East-West Road. My headlights picked out a small animal that raced across the road in front of me. Far enough in front that I wasn't in danger of hitting it. What was it? From the outline, a cat. The cat headed through the grass towards one of the homes. Just as I was taking this in, I saw another outline of an animal, more or less where the cat had been. This animal bounded onto the edge of the road and then into the grass of the shoulder and then bounded back out. At first I thought it was a fox. Maybe it was a fisher? Maybe I came just at the right time to give the cat a chance to escape.

Who knows?