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

In the woods we return to reason and faith-Emerson


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.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In my neighborhood, several fledgling Cooper's Hawks have been feeding on insects and making awkward attempts at catching the songbirds that will make up the bulk of their adult diet. Young Cooper's hawks can be distinguished by their brown backs, adults are a steely blue-gray, and by the incessant long, drawn out, raspy, shrill begging calls
they make.
Pine Cone Willow Galls, looking for all the world like pine cones, result when a gall gnat lays an egg in the tip of a willow twig. Each pine cone gall feeds and shelters on
gnat grub. I saw this one on a recent walk along the West River.
The first migrating Nighthawks are moving through the area. A Brattleboro birdwatcher reported several recently. Keep an eye on the sky.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Northern Walkingsticks - frozen in place on tree trunks or birdhouse posts - are starting to appear around my property. Walkingsticks are a bi-annual phenomenon, I see them almost exclusively on even numbered years. The insect shown is a female, heavier bodied and less stick-like than the males which will soon seek her out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Today I have two more Dummerston wildflowers to report: Golden Hedge-Hyssop and Marsh Skullcap. I actually noticed these plants three days ago, but was unable to determine if they were in Dummerston or one step over the line into Marlboro. Finally - with the help of some tax maps - I learned that both are indeed dummerston residents!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Three Birds orchids strut their stuff after a rain.

Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint's purple-speckled flowers take their turns instead of all blossoming at once. Discovering this wildflower was a highlight of my day .

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Perseid Meteor showers which peak on the 12th fave me a heads up Wednesday when a single meteor blazed overhead. The Perseids can be a good late night show - if the night is clear. find a site with a good view to the North, spread out a blanket to lie on and watch the show.
Swallows are flocked and can be seen feeding over ponds and still stretches along the rivers. They have finished nesting and abandoned their nesting territories.
Pigeon Horntails use their ovipositor to bore through bark and lay an egg on the wood of deciduous trees. The egg is covered by fungal spores carried in a special pocket in the
female's abdomen. The grub which hatches from the horntail egg feeds on the wood softened by the fungus deposited by its then long-dead parent. The Pigeon Horntail pictured was depositing eggs -and fungus- on a downed beech on Black Mtn.