Journal for June 7, 2020

It’s real summer weather now – the mornings are still cool, but the afternoon temperatures are mostly in the 80s and 90s (F).

Everything is so green these days – the early, fresh green of brand new leaves.


Early summer flowers are blooming.  The planted prairies are full of Golden Alexanders, and this part of the Narrows Prairie also has some of our largest patches of Lupine.


Marsh Marigolds in the wetland


I finally keyed out the Hawthorn we have here – Fireberry Hawthorn.


Jacob’s Ladder blooming in the woods


Yellow Star-grass – not really a grass, but the leaves are narrow so they look like grass leaves


Harebells are just starting to bloom in the bluff prairies.


Spiderwort just starting to bloom in the planted prairies.


Our biggest clump of Lady’s Slippers has 5 blossoms this year.


Walking thorough one of our bluff prairies I spotted a Wood Lily from one of the plants our friend Dean grew from seed.  The next day I found a second blossom – the first time I’ve seen more than one in the same prairie.


Wild Geraniums lining one of our trails through the woods


Hoary Puccoon next to the bench on Indian Grass Point


Last week I came across a muddy spot on the bank above the creek bed in Center Valley.


It’s small – about 2 feet by 3 feet, marked by many animal footprints, and slightly smelly as though something may have died there.  And it was full of buzzing, fluttering, moving insects – flies and beetles and moths and butterflies.  Here are a few of the creatures I saw.

Silver-spotted Skipper, Northern Crescent, Hobomok Skipper


Northern Crescent, Hobomok Skipper


Nessus Sphinx – there were 3 or 4 of these sphinx moths, all moving too fast to get good photos.


Homomok Skippers, Silver-spotted Skipper


Gorgone Checkerspot


Mike has been watching the fish in the creek as he walks by in the mornings.  They are native Brook Trout.


The creek with early summer green


I’m keeping my jars with developing caterpillars on the kitchen counter – it’s easier to keep track of what’s going on inside them.


I’m rearing caterpillars that I don’t recognize, to see if I can figure out what species they are and document stages of their lifecycles.  This one is eating White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima).  Its skin is completely clear, so you can see all the things going on inside.


This is a caterpillar that I reared last year.  It ate Common Knotweed – a weedy plant that grows down the middle of our driveway.


I kept the pupa in the refrigerator over the winter, brought it out this spring, and the adult just emerged.  It’s called a Zebra Caterpillar Moth.


This caterpillar was eating Giant St. John’s Wort leaves.


It made a thin cocoon with the pupa inside, squeezed between the side of the jar and a piece of paper towel.  A few days ago when I checked on it, I realized that the pupa had pushed its way up out of the cocoon, toward the top of the jar – I had no idea pupae could move themselves.  This photo shows the cocoon below, with the pupa above.


I looked away for about a minute, and when I looked back the pupa had pushed its way up to the top of the paper towel, and the adult had emerged.

It’s a Dusky Leafroller Moth


We’re enjoying the June driveway butterflies.  This is a Gorgone Checkerspot  – a prairie species.


Black Swallowtail


Big sections of our planted prairies are dominated by Canada Goldenrod – a weedy native.   Wood Betony is a native flower that’s partly parasitic.  It uses Canada Goldenrod and some of the weedy grasses as host plants.   So having Wood Betony in a prairie seems to help reduce the amount of goldenrod.  In 2016 we mowed a path through this goldenrod patch, and threw out seeds of Wood Betony.


Here’s the way that field looks this year so far.  The Wood Betony is flowering, and so far it looks like there’s less goldenrod – at least along the line of that old mowed path.


Field Sparrow nest – on the ground under a Hoary Puccoon plant on Hidden Oaks Point


Black Bear


Columbine and spider’s web on a misty morning



Another misty morning


Journal for May 18, 2020

We finally got rain after weeks of sunny dry weather – at least 2 inches so far.  Yesterday, the heavy rain day, we had Grosbeaks, Orioles, Indigo Buntings and many others vying for places at the feeders.  I counted 25 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks on and around the feeders at one time.  It’s not raining as hard today, so there aren’t as many, but here are two in the nearby tree, waiting their turns.

Continue reading “Journal for May 18, 2020”

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.