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

In the woods we return to reason and faith-Emerson


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Fox and the Skunk

An unlikely pair! But last night as I drove up my driveway I saw a skunk being followed by a fox. The skunk seemed in no particular hurry, and the fox just seemed curious. But not as curious as I was! Not wanting to interfere I turned the car off and waited in silence and darkness for a minute, but when I started up again they were still meandering up the driveway. We continued this way all the way to the top. At one point the fox went over and sniffed the rump of the skunk - a dangerous move! I thought there'd be trouble, but apparently the skunk didn't feel threatened enough to take action. The fox was equally unconcerned and went across the driveway to mark the snow on the other side. The unlikely duo continued up the hill, across the front yard, and down the back bank. A mysterious duo providing some interesting wildlife viewing!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Marsh Skullcap is in flower and a dragonfly - probably a Common Whitetail - patrolled the water's edge today.
Marsh Skullcap

Common Whitetail

Monday, August 22, 2016


The larvae of Sumac Leaf beetles create fecal shields, which provide them with protection from ants. Extracts from the sumac leaves in the feces keep the ants at bay. Larvae fed lettuce create shields, but receive no protection. Some larvae become totally shielded under their own feces.
Sumac Leaf beetle

larvae of Sumac Leaf beetle

fecal shield on Sumac Leaf beetle larva

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Nodding Ladies Tresses are in flower. They are called 'nodding' because the flowers often tip below the horizontal.
Rough Hawkweed is also in flower. There are at least 5 yellow hawkweed species in our area.
Sand Jointweed is putting out its first flowers.
And the seed pods of Blue False Indigo were covered with broad-headed bugs. Perhaps Megalotomus quinqespinosus, a name bigger than the bug itself.
Nodding Ladies Tresses

close up Ladies Tresses

Rough Hawkweed

Sand Jointweed

Blue False Indigo seedpods with broad-headed bugs

notice the white spot on the antennae

Saturday, August 20, 2016


THis morning near the West River a Monarch butterfly nectared on Joe Pye Weed while I took its picture.
Closed Gentians are in flower. The difficulties that pollinators face when trying to enter these flowers is rewarded by large amounts of very sweet nectar. Up to 40% sugar! Flowers with a white 'cross' showing at the tips of the petals are unpollinated, further enticing insects. Many are pollinated by Bumblebees.
And from the casual demeanor of the juvenile hummingbirds at my feeder I have concluded that the very territorial adult male has gone south!
Monarch butterfly on Joe Pye Weed

Closed Gentian

Friday, August 19, 2016


The odd little orchid called Spotted Coralroot is starting to flower. Coralroots are small, saprophytic and, if not rare, at least easily overlooked.
The less glamorous Green Amaranthus, AKA Pigweed, is also in flower.

Coralroot plant

Green Amaranthus

Green Amaranthus close up

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Common Morning Glory and Great Lobelia, two garden escapes, were flowering in a roadside thicket today.
Common Clotbur and Three-seeded Mercury graced damper ditches.
Common Morning Glory

Great Lobelia

Three-seeded Mercury

Common Clotbur

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


A Locust Borer was feeding on Goldenrod nectar or pollen today. Larvae of this species bore through the wood of living locust trees. The adult is well camouflaged on goldenrod and also looks enough like a bee or wasp to gain some protection.
The range of this species is expanding as more and more locusts are planted as ornamentals.
The dozens of tiny insects surrounding the borer are, as yet, unidentified.
Add caption

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Pickerelweed - a plant of shallow water - attracted pollinators before today's rain set in.
A  Hummingbird male jealously guarded our kitchen garden although soon he'll head south leaving all resources to the young of the year.
And a butterfly called the Comma because of the white mark on its underwing probed scat for vital minerals.


Comma butterfly

Monday, August 15, 2016


Beggar Ticks, AKA Sticktight, is starting to flower. Each flower is surrounded by 5 - 9 leaflike bracts. Later it will form barbed achenes (fruit) that cling to clothing - and dogs.
Sweet Everlasting is showing a bit of color. This is about as showy as the flowers get although they expand when they go to seed.
And Hawthorn fruits … haws? … are ripening. The Flora of Vermont lists 50 species and suggests that amateus defer to experts for identification.
Beggar Ticks

Sweet Everlasting

Hawthorn fruits

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Arrow-leaved Tearthumb is in flower. It has small clusters of white or pink flowers and tiny back-curved spines on the mid-rib of the leaves and on its 4 sided stem. Thus any attempt at pulling up this species results in lacerations - torn thumbs.
The closely related Halberd-leaved Tearthumb is equally well armed.
Look for them both sprawling over thickets, often in wet places.
Tearthumb flower

Tearthumb spines

Friday, August 12, 2016


Whorled Milkwort is in flower. I found 150-200 stems along the West River this morning. This is a state listed S1/S2 (rare and unusual) species. A year ago in the same area I found just one stem.
ANd a Yellow BEar caterpillar, the larvae of the Virginian tiger moth, busily consumed a leaf and ignored me as I took its picture. Larval foods for this species are listed as "many low-growing plants, and woody shrubs and trees." Maybe it would have been simpler to list what it doesn't eat?
Whorled Milkwort

Whorled Milkwort close up

Yellow Bear caterpillar

Thursday, August 11, 2016


This Ladder Lichen (Cladonia cervicornis) was found in a dry, sandy area.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Buttonbush, Floating Hearts and Pert are all in flower.
Buttonbush likes wet feet. It grows on shores and besides swamps.
Floating Hearts are  aquatic, growing in several feet of water.
And this patch of Pert grows in a spot which is underwater most of the year, but is damp shoreline in late summer.

Floating Hearts


Monday, August 8, 2016


Hairy Willow Herb is lending a touch of color to damp thickets and marshy areas. This plant can reach six feet in height.
Slender Gerardia is a lover of dry - and often disturbed - areas.
The Bald Eagle fledged recently from the Townshend Dam nest sat obligingly while I snapped its picture. I suspect it was waiting for an adult to bring it a meal.
And a boldly marked Clymene moth flushed its yellow hind wings when I disturbed it. This one is a bit worn and faded.
Hairy Willow Herb

Slender Gerardia

Bald Eagle fledgling

Clymene moth

hind wings open on Clymene moth

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Both Common Arrowhead and Turtlehead are in flower.
Milkweed Tussock moth caterpillars are chewing up milkweed leaves. As they age these caterpillars develop tufts of black, orange and white hairs.
And a Belted Kingfisher posed nicely for a picture. Bird populations are at their peak at this time of year and birdwatching is easy.
Common Arrowhead


Milkweed Tussock moth caterpillars

Belted Kingfisher

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Common, Aka Black, Nightshade is in flower. Look for reflex white petals and yellow stamens bunched into a 'beak.'
Slender Cottonweed is starting to open. This is a salt tolerant species and can be found on roadsides in SE Vermont. It can also be a bit invasive.
And a moth called the Cherry Scallopshell was flying last night. Larval hosts for this species are Azalea, Meadowsweet and Willow … not cherry!?
Common Nightshade

Slender Cottonweed

Cherry Scallopshell moth

Friday, August 5, 2016


A tiny little snake crossed my path today, reacting fearlessly to my presence. I was unable to precisely identify the little maneater.
And the densely packed cylindrical flower spikes of Downy Rattlesnake Plantain tower over rosettes of white veined leaves in shaded woodlots. Rattlesnake Plantains are in the orchid family. There are 3 species in our area but this is the most common.

close up of Rattlesnake Plantain

Rattlesnake Plantain leaves