31 May 2019

Tale of Two Turtles

Question - Why did the turtle cross the road
Answer - To lay some eggs

It's egg laying time for turtles, and with two ponds in the neighborhood it's not unusual to find turtles crossing a road. This morning I found this Eastern Painted Turtle preparing to cross Joyce Road. After taking a few pictures I picked the turtle up and placed it on the other side of the road.

A couple hours after finding the Eastern Painted Turtle I found this guy on the road to our cabin. Don't mistake the face of this Snapping Turtle as having a smile. The beak of this turtle is like a powerful can opener and a Snapping Turtle will use it if given a chance.

Unlike the Eastern Painted Turtle which let me pick it up, this Snapping Turtle was in full defense mode when I approached and started to charge me. Snapping Turtles have very long necks which they keep retracted until they need to strike. Also note the rows of spike-like scales on each leg.

Not only did this Snapping Turtle have spikes on its legs, there are spikes on its tail.

30 May 2019

Wildflower - Buttercup

Buttercups are a common wildflower with a small, 1/2 inch, bright yellow blossom on tall stems. Buttercups have an acrid foliage that is usually avoided by grazing animals because it is toxic and can cause irritation of the mouth and digestive tract. As a result, Buttercups are often found in pastures used by grazing farm animals. The toxic foliage of the buttercup becomes inactive once the plant is dried and therefore safe in hay used by livestock.

What the buttercup flower lacks in size, it can make up with numbers. This is the hay field next to our barn.

A view of the field from my drone. Our barn is in the upper left of the photo.

29 May 2019

The Curse of Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive is a deciduous shrub native to China, Japan and Korea that made its way to the United States in 1830 as an ornamental. In the 1970s it was promoted by our local conservation office as a way to provide wildlife habitat and plants were sold by the conservation office in "Rural Landscaping" packages.

Its cream to pale yellow fragrant flowers bloom in early spring and bring on an abundance of pink to red berries. Each Autumn Olive shrub can produce up to 200,000 seeds each year which are eaten by birds and scatter throughout pastures and along roadsides.

While one or two of these flowering shrubs would be welcomed, Autumn olive is an invasive species with a goal of total world domination.

Autumn Olive can quickly grow to 20 feet tall creating a dense shade that hinders the growth of plants that need lots of sun.

While the fragrant flowers of other spring time trees and shrubs would be welcomed, the pollen and smell from hundreds and thousands of Autumn Olive plants in our neighborhood can be sickening (much worse than being trapped in a small room with an over-user of perfume).

28 May 2019

Wildflower - Dame's Rocket

The Dame's Rocket is coming into full bloom in our neighborhood and large colonies have developed in areas of moist ground.

Habitats for Dame's Rocket include moist meadows, woodland edges and openings, thickets, semi-shaded fence rows, banks of drainage ditches and vacant lots.

Flower coloration varies, from different shades of lavender and purple to white and pink.

Dame's rocket is native to Eurasia and was brought to North America in the 17th century and has since become naturalized here.

It is considered an invasive species in some areas of the U.S. In Colorado it's listed as a noxious weed with plans for eradication or management. In Connecticut it is listed as invasive and banned to move, sell, purchase, transplant, cultivate, or distribute. It is prohibited in Massachusetts. In Wisconsin it is Restricted.

26 May 2019

Tree Frog

We were visiting our grandson Reed this holiday weekend and while I was helping his dad cut down a tall tree, found this Eastern Gray Treefrog near the top of the tree. As I was showing the treefrog to Reed it jumped from my hand to Reed's shirt and climbed up to his shoulder.

Eastern Gray Treefrogs rarely descend from high treetops except for breeding. This treefrog was found clinging to this branch after the tree crashed to the ground and the branch had been 45 to 50 feet in the air.

Eastern Gray Treefrogs have specialized toe pads with a combination of mucous glands and surface moisture creates enough surface tension to support their weight when climbing on tree bark or smooth surfaces.

24 May 2019

Rhododendron in Bloom

The rhododendron bush at our house is in full bloom, unfortunately this won't last too long.

The insects are busy checking every blossom.

23 May 2019


There was a light rain overnight and I decided to explore behind our house for wildflowers. In the rotting leaf litter I spotted this brightly colored millipede. Millipedes can be distinguished from centipedes by the number of legs per body segment. Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment, while millipedes have two pairs.

Millipedes, unlike centipedes, are not venomous and are predominantly considered to be non-poisonous. However, this millipede (Apheloria virginiensis) is reported to secrete cyanide compounds as a defense. It is recommended to wash hands after handling this millipede.

22 May 2019

Wildflower - Starflower

I was walking through the wooded area of our West Hill property and found a large area covered with Starflowers plants. This is a very low plant with an erect stem about 2-8" tall that has a whorl of 5-9 leaves at its apex. One to three 1/2 inch white flowers develop from the center of the whorled leaves.

The Starflower is unusual because it typically has 7-petaled flowers and 7 leaves to the plant. While 7 petals are the most common, the plant can have 5 to 9 petals. The top two flowers in this photo both have 8 petals. While the Starflower is one of the more common spring wildflowers in eastern North America, it is listed as Endangered in Georgia and Kentucky, and listed as Threatened in Tennessee and Illinois.

21 May 2019

Wildflower - Wild Geranium

The Wild Geranium is a wildflower that likes damp/partially shaded ground and I found this example growing at the edge of our lawn (next to the spot where I got the lawn mower stuck). I was lucky to catch this Twelve-spotted Lady Beetle (Coleomegilla maculata) on a Wild Geranium flower.

The Wild Geranium flowers are only 1 to 1½ inches across, with 5 rounded pink to lavender petals.

This wild flower can easily be used in a shade garden.

20 May 2019

Toad Invasion

When I went to our pond today to feed the geese there was something strange ... Toads all over the place!

Most of the time I'm lucky if I find one or two toads, but there were hundreds and hundreds of toads. Light colored toads. Dark colored toads.

When I've photographed toads before, they just won't stand still, but these toads seemed to be stunned and didn't move ...

Until another toad got close and then it was like drunken speed dating or a toad version of a co-ed rugby scrum.

The chorus of mating calls from hundreds of toads was deafening. The shock wave of the mating call is visible in the water.

I'm not sure if this one was able to call in any ladies, but he was fun to watch.

19 May 2019

Bird's Nest

I was feeding the Canada geese at our pond this morning when this sparrow kept scolding me. It didn't take long to find the cause of the bird aggravation ...

I was standing too close to the birds nest in the tall grass next to the water. I will keep checking the nest for baby birds.

18 May 2019

Wildflower - Fringed Polygala

I found a small patch of Fringed Polygala in the woods on our cabin property. This native wildflower is one of my favorites and also goes by the names Bird-on-the-Wing, Flowering Wintergreen, Fringed Milkwort, Gay Wings and Gaywings. This small, 1 to 1.5 inch, strangely shaped flower might fool someone into thinking this is a member of the orchid family, but is part of the Milkwort family.

There are three petals. Two of them are outstretched, like wings. The third forms a sort of cylinder around the stamens.

A close up view of the fringed crest.

The Fringed Polygala is an endangered species in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.

17 May 2019

Wildflower - Hawthorn

I started out turkey hunting this morning, but since the turkeys didn't get the memo on this morning's meeting, and were a "no show", I took my camera for a walk in the woods. From my turkey blind I could see a large hawthorn tree was starting to bloom.

The hawthorn trees, also known as a thornapple, are small shrub-like trees that produce a berry-like fruit that is a source of winter food for wildlife.

The hawthorn flowers are important for many nectar-feeding insects and may explain the hummingbird I saw at my turkey blind.

16 May 2019

Wildflower - Mustard

The wildlife food plot of winter wheat I planted last summer was washed out/rotted from last year's rain. The rain caused water from a neighboring wetland to overflow into my food plot and deposit weed seeds such as wild mustard.

Wild mustard is an invasive plant that is native to Eurasia and brought to North America in the 1700s as a weed seed mixed in with grain seed brought by the early settlers.

Each mustard plant has many small flowers, less than 3/8 inches across, that produce nectar for bees and other insects. A hover fly, also known as a corn fly or flower fly, stops for a meal. It looks like a two headed hover fly ...

Turns out to be a double-decker hover fly.

The ants are having a picnic in the mustard flowers.

15 May 2019

Wild Honeysuckle

I found some wild honeysuckle starting to bloom. Honeysuckle is native to Europe, eastern Asia, and Japan, and were introduced in the 1800's as ornamentals. Birds feed on honeysuckle berries, spreading the seeds. Honeysuckles quickly naturalized and spread to become very invasive.

There are two varieties of wild honeysuckle on our property. Tartarian honeysuckle produces pink flowers, while Morrow's honeysuckle has yellowish white flowers.

14 May 2019

Chokecherry Blossoms

It was cold and rainy today but I did find a chokecherry bush starting to bloom. While the chokecherry fruit is tart to eat raw, it does makes good jam and jelly.

10 May 2019


Since I can't always find the varieties of plants I want at the local garden centers, I planted some tomato and pepper seeds in our solarium on the first of April. It's at least another 3 weeks before I can plant my garden and the tomatoes are ready now and the peppers need more time. I only need 15 of the tomato plants and will be giving away the rest.