30 August 2017

Yellow-Spotted Salamander

I was moving some rocks and dirt in our woods when I uncovered this Yellow-Spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum).

Yellow-Spotted salamanders live in burrows underground, under logs and beneath stones. Adult salamanders keep to within a few yards of their home throughout their lives. They live alone, and rarely venture outside their homes. During a rain or just after rainfall, Yellow-Spotted salamanders are more likely to go out in search of food. They primarily forage at night, hunting in the leaf debris on the forest floor.

Time to let this guy find a nice rotten log to crawl under.

29 August 2017


I was doing some work at our barn when I noticed a bunch of eastern yellowjackets (Vespula maculifrons) clustered on some siding.

I'm not sure what attracted them to the siding but they would return to this spot after "buzzing" me.

Yellowjackets are social wasps living in colonies containing workers, queens, and males (drones).

26 August 2017

Bear Damage

I was checking out one of my wildlife food plots today when I noticed some lower limbs on an apple tree had been damaged.

After a closer inspection of the apple tree I could tell this wasn't storm damage.

I checked a nearby game camera in the same field and just as I thought, a black bear had been in the field within the past couple of days. This is at least the third time that bears had damaged this same apple tree.

25 August 2017

Putting on Winter Coats

The seasons will soon be changing as we work our way through the late days of Summer. Some of the neighborhood whitetail deer are changing from their reddish Summer coats to the darker brown Winter coats. This deer is part way through the molting process and has shed its Summer coat from most of its midsection.

The deer in the foreground has almost completed shedding its Summer coat while the deer in the background hasn't started. This molting is more than a fashion statement, but an exchange of a lightweight Summer coat for a warmer Winter coat.

24 August 2017

Iowa State Fair

As I mentioned in my post on the solar eclipse, we were in Iowa for our granddaughter's second birthday, but also visited the Iowa State Fair.

The Iowa State Fair is one of the largest in the U.S. and this year it had a record attendance.

But our main reason to visit the Fair was the Wine competition where our son and his wife received awards. Here's the ribbon for their Cherry Wine in the "Fruit Dry" category.

Nikki pointing to the ribbon.

They also did well with their "Apple - Sweet" and "Wild Plum - Sweet" wines.

Time for a walk around the fair.

Our granddaughter, Myra, feeding a goat at the petting zoo.

Another type of goat, a four horned goat, was at the petting zoo.

We got to see the Budweiser Clydesdales

Speaking of beer... It was a hot day and there were several tents promoting Iowa Craft Beers. So many brews... So little time.

Of course we had to visit the livestock.

You never know what you'll see at the Iowa State Fair.

23 August 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

We had the good luck of being in Iowa for our granddaughter's second birthday and able to also take in a total eclipse of the sun. On the morning of the eclipse we packed up family members and started heading for an area of Nebraska where we could see the total eclipse of the Sun. We weren't sure of our finial destination since we were working around changing cloud cover, but it helps to have two meteorologists in the family. We found other eclipse watchers in parking lots at Walmart, gas stations, cemeteries and our choice, a church parking lot near Crete, Nebraska.

The clouds moved in and out of the Sun's path as the eclipse started.

As we neared the moment of eclipse totality most of the heavy clouds cleared and we had some thin high level clouds but were able to get some photos and experience the sight of totality. Here's one of my photos of totality.

A close-up view of my photo shows I was able to capture some solar prominences, the bright orange, gaseous features extending outward from the Sun's surface.

Soon after totality the clouds started to return.

My photographic setup. A Meade ETX80 telescope with a Canon G1X camera. I taped some #12 shade welding glass to the telescope.

The welding glass caused my images to have a green tint.

Our son taking photos with his camera.

Traffic jams all over Nebraska after the eclipse.

We took several secondary roads to circumvent the traffic jams.


I was wandering through our woods and found some mushrooms had popped up after the recent rains.

21 August 2017

Two-Striped Grasshopper

While photographing bees in a patch of goldenrod I found this Two-Striped Grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus) in the background of one of my shots. The two-striped grasshopper is easy to identify and gets its name from two yellow strips running along the top of its body from above its eyes to the hind tip of its wings.

19 August 2017


When it comes to identifying butterflies I'm no expert, but there are some butteries that are easy to identify, such as the Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterfly.

A photo of a Monarch, with its wings folded, on a Teasel flower-head.

Another easy to identify butterfly that is common to this area is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). I found this one on some flowering Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum).

Its not as easy to identifying different Fritillary butterflies. There are hundreds of different Fritillary butterflies and many of them look the same at first glance. For example, here is a photo I took of a Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) on a Wild Bergamot flower in our field ...

Here is a photo from the same field, just a few feet away and minutes later, of another Fritillary butterfly, but this is a Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona). While the two butterflies look similar, the markings at the top of the wings are different along with the antenna.

17 August 2017

Bees & Goldenrod

I recently found a colony of wild honey bees in a tree next to a large patch of goldenrod ... Lots of close-up photos of bees on the goldenrod.

It wasn't all honey bees on the goldenrod. I did find some bumble bees.

15 August 2017

Wild Honey Bees

I was walking around a large patch of flowering goldenrod and started to notice large numbers of honey bees on the goldenrod and a content buzzing sound in the area.

Over the past few years beekeepers have been concerned with phenomenon known as Colony collapse disorder (CCD) when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen. I soon found a tree next to the goldenrod that housed a colony of wild honey bees.

I had known of this "bee tree" in the past but the top of this tree had been broken off during the past winter's snow storm. When I checked the tree this spring there wasn't any bees in the area but this colony of bees looks healthy. The bees entrance to the hive is at the bottom of the photo.