Journal for March 26, 2020

Spring is really coming now – the air is warmer and the snow has disappeared everywhere except some patches on the north-facing slopes.   There are still nights when we get dustings of snow, but they melt away as soon as the temperature rises the next day.

 

This was when the snow was just starting to disappear, but it was still warm enough to sit on our bench and look at the view.

 

Snowy morning

 

Pine Point with snow

 

One of the nice things about these little bits of snow is that the solar panels clean themselves.

 

Spring birds are returning – Red-winged Blackbirds are usually the first.  This was the very first arrival – on March 8.

Now the wetland is full of singing blackbirds, Song Sparrows, and cardinals.  We’re also hearing American Woodcocks, huge flocks of American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds, and flocks of Sandhill Cranes.  Wild Turkeys are gobbling, and yesterday we saw our first of the spring flock of Turkey Vultures.

The snow has melted so slowly that the creek hasn’t been flooding.  This is as high as it’s gotten – just slightly higher than normal.

 

Two spring caterpillar species are starting to emerge from their winter hiding places.   This is a Virginia Ctenucha caterpillar.   The adult it will turn into is a common day-flying moth with black wings, an iridescent blue body and orange head.

 

And the Woolly Bears are out.  This summer I’ll see the adults at my lights.  They have ochre colored wings and are called Isabella Moths.

 

My favorite moth of the spring is another day-flying moth – the Infant Moth.  There were dozens of males on the driveway yesterday, probably sucking up salts to use in mating.

 

This is the time of year when mosses and lichens show off their colors.  Here are several species of lichens on a dead branch.

 

A moss with hundreds of sporophytes – the parts of the plant which produce the spores.

 

A detail of the sporophytes – looking like a miniature forest

 

One of our first spring projects has been building steps into the path up the hill behind the house.     We’re hoping they’ll slow the erosion, and maybe make the path easier to climb.

 

Erik, from ‘Ku-le Region Forestry did some work for us this spring, cutting brush on Pine Point below Big View Prairie.  The pines have been spreading from a pine plantation that we had logged in 2003.  They’ve been slowly taking over the woods below the prairie along with thick brush and small trees.  Once the brush and pines are gone, and the other small trees are cut, the hillside will turn back into the rocky savanna that would have been there many years ago.

 

Mink crossing the driveway

 

Wild Turkeys are gathering in big flocks now, and we’ve seen several males displaying.

 

Bobcat – unusual to see in the daytime.

 

A few more spring scenes…

Looking south along the Knife Edge

 

The Narrows Prairie

 

The wetland with Sumac Prairie Bluff

It’s wonderful, in this time when the world is so difficult for so many of us, to hear birds singing, see plants turning green, and enjoy the spring arriving.   Stay safe and healthy everyone.

 

Journal for March 2, 2020

Days are longer now, and we’re seeing more sunshine, but the air has been cold and we still have plenty of snow.

We’re starting to see – and hear – signs of spring.  Cardinals are singing their spring song, flocks of Robins have been foraging in the woods, and a Bluebird checked out one of our nest boxes.

The last two days have been warmer – moth watching season has begun!  3 moths came to my  bait last night.   All the same kind:  Morrison’s Sallows.

 

The beavers don’t work as hard in the winter, but the nibbled debarked sticks from their winter food supply float down and collect just below our culvert.  Over a week or so they gradually form the beginnings of a dam – it’s hard to tell how intentional it is.  But once it gets to this stage, we take it out.

They’re building several dams farther downstream – hopefully the sticks we dislodge will get used in those other projects.

 

One of my big projects this winter has been to learn more about the insects we see here.  I’ve been photographing insects for years, but except for moths, haven’t spent much time trying to identify them.  This winter I’ve been trying to organize and identify as many as I can.

Here’s the link to my main page of insects on my web site.  I’m still building it, so there aren’t pages behind all the links yet.  And it’s changing all the time as I find more photos and identify more insects.

Here are a few of my favorite non-moth insect photos.

6/19/2013  Elm Borer – a long-horned beetle

 

6/14/2017  Green Immigrant Leaf Weevil – not native

 

8/18/2011  Two-striped Planthopper – These normally have green wings, but once in a while I see pink ones.

 

9/30/2019  Candy-striped Leafhopper

 

8/5/2013   Spotted Winged Antlion

 

And here’s one nice moth that I finally figured out – a Large Clover Casebearer.  It’s actually quite small – 7 or 8 mm long – with a shiny gold sheen.  There are several similar species,  both native and non-native.  This one is not native.  Its caterpillars build cases around themselves and live on their food plant: (non-native) Sweet Clover.

 

Another getting ready for spring project is cleaning out our bluebird nest boxes.  Our friend Charley Eiseman, in Massachusetts, has been doing the same thing, and he reported finding all kinds of interesting things in the debris inside the boxes.  So I looked more closely at the old nests inside our boxes.  Many of the boxes have old wren nests, and nearly all have spider egg sacs fastened to the twigs.

This one – thanks to Charley for the ID – is probably the egg sac of a Cobweb Spider (genus Euryopis)

 

I think these are also egg sacs, but from a different spider – I don’t know which one.

 

Here are two recent bobcat photos from the trail cameras.

 

 

One cold days there’s often mist over the creek, which coats the willow branches with hoarfrost.

 

The round balls on the willow branches are galls, made by the Willow Pinecone Gall Midge (Rabdophaga strobiloides).  We see them on almost all our willows.