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

In the woods we return to reason and faith-Emerson


Friday, June 29, 2012

This handsome, jewel-like, 1/2 inch long creature - perhaps a sub-adult as it appears to be wingless - made a brief appearance on a plant that I have long hoped to identify.
Shortly after I took the picture the bug disappeared perhaps ever to remain a mystery.
However, if the deer don't eat the plant and it flowers next spring I may yet figure out its identity.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Early summer blooms

6.28.12      American Brooklime, with its little blue blossoms looking like other speedwell species, was in bloom in standing water.  It was intriguing to see the smooth leaves bearing water droplets at the toothed indentations outlining the margins.
       Venus' Looking-glass's deep blue blossoms, cradled in  shell-shaped leaf axles, made their way up through grass on narrow stalks. 

       The leaves of Wild Leeks, a member of the onion family, come up in early spring with the ephemerals.   The leaves have disappeared by now, and bare stalks support a multi-flowered globe of white blossoms.  Pinching a bud releases the fragrance of onion, confirming its identity. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012


The Covered Bridge swimming hole was a popular place this afternoon.  Northern Green Orchis hid among grasses along the edge of a wet area.  Pipsissewa, high and dry on a bank,  is at the beginning of its bloom period.  The pink parasols dangle from a stalk, and like many of the wintergreens, shelter their blossoms from the elements this way. 

Hot, humid nights are perfect for Sphinx Moths.
A very leaf-like Walnut Sphinx (Smerinthus jamaicensis) and a bigger Waved Sphinx (Ceratomia undulosa) are just two of the many spectacular Sphinx moths that might be seen at this time of year.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Interesting flora finds

6.22.12    Summer is here; the heat and the variety of flowers in bloom reinforced the calendar's denoting the season's change.   New to me is the Yellow Avens (Geum aleppicum): when newly open and unpollinated, the stamens are yellow; as the seed capsule starts to enlarge, indicating pollination has occurred, the stamens turn brown, perhaps serving as a visual reminder to insects to seek out the new flowers.  
     Allegheny Vine (Adlumia fungosa) drapes over other vegetation; its dangling white-to-pale pink flowers remind us of Squirrel corn, and the lacy leaves contrast with the robust foliage of the young beech tree that supports it.
     Spreading Dogbane, a close relative of milkweeds, is pollinated by butterflies; flies and other insects are attracted to its blossoms, but often are trapped and die if they get too close to the nectar source.  As are most plants with "bane" in the name,  it's not a good idea to ingest it. 

     Finally, we came across several Sassafras (S. albidum) young trees.  Unlike most trees that can be identified by a single leaf shape, Sassafras has 3 different-shaped leaves.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Turtles and flowers of canadense variety

6.21.12      This Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) was crossing a road at great peril when I first noticed her; I parked the car and became her crossing guard while she plodded along, half-dragging her feet, and finally moved off into the underbrush across the road.   She completed each stride with the front feet inverted.    Turtles seek out sandy terrain in June and July to dig a hole and bury their eggs.  The eggs will hatch in 9 - 18 days, depending on weather. 
       Canadian St.Johnswort (Hypericum canadense) has tiny, 5-petalled deep yellow flowers atop a slender stalk with sparse, narrow leaves.  I found the flowers fully opened around 11:30 this morning; when I returned at 1:15, the petals had rolled inward, and were barely visible around the stamens.

       Canada Lilies (Lilium canadense) were dancing in the breeze, looking like bells with their flared petals.  This one is about 3 feet tall, making it to stand out above the surrounding vegetation.  

First day of summer 2012

6.21.12     I'd seen the trails in the heavy dew where this doe made the rounds picking up June drops underneath apple trees, but I thought she'd moved on.  We were both surprised to see each other; she paused, a long blade of greenery hanging from her mouth, before bolting back into the woods. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

These orchids, tentatively identified as Tubercled Orchis AKA Pale Green Orchis (Platanathera flava) were in flower today. About 60 stems at one site, 25 at another.
The mink was one of four young cavorting on the shore of Sunset Lake.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kits at play 6.18.12

Near the end of my woodland journey this afternoon, movement attracted my attention:  three raccoon kits were playing around near a Black Cherry tree about 25 yards away.  They didn't seem aware of my presence, so I stayed to watch them for quite a while.  Their coloration varied: two were similarly-colored; the third was so dark that for some time, I thought it was a porcupine!  (Not a good day to have left binoculars at home!)  Their waddle is just like that of the porcupine; although I've seen raccoons on my deck or front porch, finding them at their home was much more entertaining.  Only the two lighter-colored kits climbed the tree; they pivoted around and came down head first;  the dark one persisted on digging around the base of the cherry tree. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Greater Bladderwort (Ulticularia vulgaris) is flowering in nearby ponds. This species floats on modified, inflated, submerged leaves. It is not rooted.
Bladderworts trap microscopic underwater invertebrates with their dangling bladder-like traps and "digest " them to obtain needed nutrients.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This tiny shrew - perhaps not full grown? - was killed by my cats in the basement … and left for me.
The moth is an aptly named Pepper-and-Salt Geometer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

6.13.12 Beetles and a Moth

6.13.12    This Six-spotted tiger beetle seemed to be chasing ants on a sandy path this sunny afternoon.  Usually, these beetles taunt me with their emerald brilliance and fly off to land a few feet away before I can get near.  This one let me observe for a minute or two before it flew off. 

The Large lace-border  (Scopula limboundata) is a Geometrid moth; its larvae are inch-worms, "measuring the earth".   Though named "large", the measure across its wings is about one inch.

When I got home to take in the laundry, a White-spotted pine sawyer was checking out a blue sheet. (Note the single white spot).   The larvae of this beetle tunnel into dead pine trees.  Sometimes they can be heard chomping away.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Amphibian and Butterfly

6.08.12    There's always something of interest among all the flora and fauna in Dummerston.  Today a Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris) hopped out of tall, wet grass and splashed into a stream so shallow it barely came to his middle.  Shining wetly, it posed patiently for me.    Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies have eluded my camera until today when two of them made a colorful contrast among the Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum)  they were visiting. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

This male Luna Moth was hanging on a roadside fern, waiting for dark and for the scent of a female.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Flowers, beavers, and insects

6.05.12    Tall Meadow-Rue (Thalictrum polygamum) is starting to light up wet ditches with its airy sprays of white.  The blue of True Forget-me-Nots (Myosotis scorpiodes) is unusual and eye-catching along streams - these were growing near the base of a waterfall. 

 It looked like recent rains have incited beavers to dredge up mud and leaves to reinforce their dam and put their logging on hold.    

I came upon the Harvestman working on its lunch on top of a Daisy Fleabane; flowers attract insect pollinators and make good hunting ground for predatory insects. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Looking for identification help

6.04.12     The cool, wet weather we've had recently certainly has been perfect for the proliferation of fungi.  Today, on a trip up The Nature Conservancy trail, I encountered this pink glob growing along with moss on what appears to be a pine tree in late stages of decay.  This growth may be Lycogala epidendrum, a mold.  If you have information about this, I'd love to hear from  you.  Enlarged, it looks like a collection of pink beads or bubbles of fairly uniform size.  Regardless, this pink and green combination was the brightest colored find on today's soggy ambles!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dummerston Town Trail 6.03.12

6.03.12   Numerous Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) plants in a thicket of raspberry bushes make a colorful scene at the base of Prospect Hill.
    The little round buds of One-Flowered Wintergreen (Moneses uniflora) are just starting to open.  True to its name, each 2-inch stem bears only one umbrella-shaped flower. 
 The clouds parted allowing a gleam of sunlight to filter through the trees onto the vernal pool lying dark and still between two steep, treed embankments.  
    Two fronds of an Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron) stand stiffly erect at the base of a rock beside the trail.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Pleasing Fungus Beetle (Megalodacne Fasciata), resplendent in orange and black and close to 3/4 th of an inch long, see,s designed to be noticed. And a smaller Horned Fungus Beetle (Bolitotherus carnutus?) tries its best to pass as a bit of rotten wood and remain unnoticed.
Both were seen on a Hemlock Varnish Shelf fungus.
6.01.12     Many insects use specific plants for foraging and other life-sustaining activities.  The mite Eriophyes tiliae overwinters in the bark of American Basswood trees; in spring they migrate to young leaves where they lay their eggs.  Chemical response to the mite's saliva stimulates a growth on the leaf where the larvae will mature.  This activity does not seem to impact the tree's health. 

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana) is a colorful find in sunny spots of a moist, mossy streambank. 

Chartreuse-colored Narrow Beech Ferns produce new fronds all summer creating a look of spring freshness all season; their lower pinnae angle downward; and the whole frond grows more horizontally than most other ferns.