20 August 2014

Wildflower - Smallflower Hairy Willowherb

As the name Smallflower Hairy Willowherb (Epilobium parviflorum) would imply, this is a very small flower. The four petal blossom is about 1/4 inch in diameter.

Epilobium is a genus in the family Onagraceae, containing over 160 species of flowering plants including fireweeds. The name "parviflorum" comes from Latin meaning “small flowers”.



Smallflower Hairy Willowherb prefers marshes and moist open areas. This form of Willowherb is found in larger numbers in the wetland area of the natural gas pipeline right-of-way on our property.



The plant can reach a height of 3 feet and tiny flowers that are pale pink or pale purple.

19 August 2014

Fairy Rings

As the dry conditions of late summer cause lawns to turn light green (before changing to brown) I've noticed dark green circles, some with mushrooms, start to appear in the lawn at our barn. Unlike the crop circles of England, these are fairy rings, also known as fairy circle, elf circle, elf rings or pixie rings.




Fairy rings are caused by soil-inhabiting fungi breaking down organic matter, such as old tree stumps and roots, in the soil. As the fungus feeds on the decomposing organic material nitrogen is released which the grass uses, causing it to grow and develop a contrasting green ring. A ring or arc is caused by the fungus feeding on the organic material until it consumes the material. To continue growing, the fungus must spread outward from the a central starting point and towards nutrients. As the fungus moves outward from the central starting point, a ring is formed.



Multiple rings can be formed, but the ring will stop and not cross another ring because nutrients have been consumed in the inside of the ring.



Sometimes the mushrooms are visible on the outside edge of the ring and the dark green grass on the inside of the ring,

Several dead trees had been removed from this area of the lawn a few years ago and the fungus is feeding on the old tree roots.

18 August 2014

Wildflower - Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) is native to temperate regions of Europe and has been naturalized in North America. One of its common names is wild carrot and domesticated carrots are a subspecies. The flower's name is derived from its resembles lace.




The flower head is composed of multiple branches that reach outward with clusters of small flowers to form and umbrella shaped head.



Queen Anne's lace is used in grade school demonstrations to show how freshly cut flowers will change color by placing them in colored water. A close-up view of a flower cluster.



Many farm fields turn white with Queen Anne's lace in late summer and the USDA has listed it as a noxious weed.

16 August 2014

Wildflower - Teasel

The Common Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) is a flowering plant that has a unique shape and structure. An egg-shaped flower head is located on top of a stiff, tall prickly stem that can reach 8 feet tall. This non-native plant from Eurasia and North Africa looks like a thistle, but is in a class by itself, the family class Dipsacaceae (Teasel Family).




A view of the thorny stem and spike covered flower head (with a bumble bee).



A close-up view of a bumble bee collecting nectar from the many small four petal flowers on the flower head.



There were 3 or 4 bees on some of the flower heads working to collect nectar from the flowers as soon as they opened. While the bees and other insects like the flowers for the nectar, many birds feed on the seeds during the winter.

15 August 2014

Butterflies - Monarch

The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is one of the most recognized butterflies in North America due to its distinct orange and black markings, and the fact it migrates with the seasons like birds. Large masses of the eastern North American Monarchs winter over in Mexico and migrate to the northeast during the summer. The Monarch butterflies born after mid-August will be the generation that starts the southward migration to Mexico.



The Monarch butterfly is tightly linked to milkweed plants. They lay their eggs on the milkweed leaves and their caterpillar is able to eat the toxic milkweed leaves.



This Monarch butterfly fuels up on nectar from a milkweed  flower as it prepares to start its return migration to Mexico.

14 August 2014

Fawns

This year's fawns are starting to fill out as they put on weight in preparation for the lean winter months.Their diet is mostly grass as their mother weans them off milk. 



While the fawns become more independent, they are now able to travel more and forage with their mother.

12 August 2014

Butterflies - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Photographing butterflies is always a challenge, but sometimes you get lucky. I found an Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that was more interested in the nectar of a purple coneflower than escaping from the view of my camera.

This butterfly can be identified by the yellow with black markings which resemble tiger stripes. This butterfly is identified as a female by the blue spots on its tail.



An Eastern tiger swallowtail feeding on a purple coneflower.



A close-up view of an Eastern tiger swallowtail gathering nectar from a purple coneflower with its proboscis which is the butterfly’s mouth and is used like a straw to suck up liquids.

11 August 2014

Japanese Beetles

It didn't take long to find Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica) on our property this year. In fact, the Japanese Beetles found me. We've had a couple of years of low populations of Japanese Beetles, but they have returned in large numbers this year. As the name suggests, the Japanese Beetle is native to Japan. This insect was first found in the United States in 1916 in New Jersey and has spread to most of the Northeast states and continues to move west.



A couple of Japanese Beetles and an example of their leaf damage in the background.

09 August 2014

Dragonfly - Blue Dasher

The Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is one of the best known North American skimmers (family Libellulidae). The males are easily recognized due to the yellow-striped thorax, metallic-green eyes, and pale blue abdomen. While it is one of the better known skimmers, I have found only a few Blue Dashers at our pond.

08 August 2014

Wildflower - Hedge Bindweed

Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium) is a member of the Morning Glory family (Convolvulaceae). This plant has been classified as a noxious weed because of its quick growth and clinging vines which can overwhelm and pull down cultivated plants.



The trumpet-shaped, 1.5" to 3" diameter flowers, are white or pale pink with white stripes.





The Hedge Bindweed flowers are a favorite of bees and butterflies.

07 August 2014

Wildflower - Steeplebush

Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa), also known as meadowsweet or hardhack, is a member of the Spiraea family and prefers moist to wet soil and full sun. I found several Steeplebush growing near our pond.



Individual Steeplebush flowers are about 1/16 of an inch wide and are arranged in narrow, pyramid-shaped clusters that can be up to eight inches long. Butterflies and other nectar-feeding insects are attracted to the flowers.



06 August 2014

Dragonfly - Widow Skimmer

The Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) is one of the group of dragonflies known as King Skimmers.  Adults have a steely blue body area but juveniles are yellow with brown stripes. Wings of both sexes are marked with prominent black basal bands. Adult males develop broad white spots at midwing.

05 August 2014

Dragonfly - Common Whitetail

The Common Whitetail or Long-tailed Skimmer (Plathemis lydia) is a common dragonfly at our pond. The males have chunky white bodys  with the brownish-black bands on its  translucent wings. Females have  shorter bodies, and white zigzag abdominal stripes that are straight and yellow.



Males Common Whitetails are territorial and often rest on objects near the water. The males patrol their are to drive off other males. I have been "buzz bombed" by Common Whitetails and had them land on my shoulder several times.



04 August 2014

Milkweed Leaf Beetle

As I walked around our pond looking for flowers and dragonflies to photograph I found this brightly colored bug on some milkweed. I first thought this was one of the 5,000 ladybugs (ladybird beetles). After drawing a blank as a lady bug, farther research identified the bug as a Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis).

03 August 2014

Wildflower - Chicory

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a common roadside flower along Joyce Road in the summer. Chicory is known by other names, such as: blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffeeweed, common chicory, cornflower, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor's buttons, wild endive, witloof. Chicory originated in the Mediterranean and cultivation in North America began in the 1700's.

A view of a recently bloomed Chicory flower where the stamens haven't opened to release the pollen.



A Chicory flower with open stamens and white dots of pollen.



Many insects, such as bees, are attracted to the Chicory flower.