Journal for August 30, 2011

It’s been a perfect August – comfortable weather, blue skies with beautiful clouds, just enough rain – and the prairies are loving it.

This is a patch of Western Sunflower in Buffalo Ridge Prairie.  (Also Field Thistle, Monarda, Indian Grass, and Prairie Brome.)


I took this photo of Buffalo Ridge prairie a few days ago, and was remembering back to when I planted it.


I planted this end of the prairie on a sunny, cold, snowy January day in 2005.  Here’s the photo – almost the same view – from that day.  Those are my snowshoe tracks in the snow.



Here are a few more prairie scenes.

This is the season for Goldenrods – Canada Goldenrod has just finished blooming, this is Stiff Goldenrod, and soon we’ll see Showy Goldenrod.  Goldenrod flowers are good sources of nectar for late bees and butterflies.


White Gentian


Flowering Spurge


Sumac Prairie is the remnant that The Prairie Enthusiasts have been helping us with.  I haven’t been there all summer – it’s steep and faces south so it gets very hot in hot weather.  When I went to inspect this week I discovered that some areas that we cleared last fall and this spring look pretty good, but in others, the sumac is growing back.

This is looking across the bottom of the slope – an area that I worked on by myself last spring.  The center is pretty clear, but there’s sumac coming back at the edges.


This is one of the areas that The Prairie Enthusiasts worked on – cutting and clearing brush.  I cut and removed the Burdock, but the other weeds will just have to stay until the prairie plants – hopefully – come back.  Most of the weedy plants here are natives, so they should give way to prairie species if there’s more light and less disturbance.


A migrating Monarch resting in the prairie


I found a few Rough False Foxgloves on the steepest, sandiest part of Sumac Prairie.  It’s a delicate annual that I had seen here years ago, when we first came, but hadn’t seen since.  It’s wonderful to find out that it’s still here.


I also found several dozen Unexpected Cycnia caterpillars eating milkweed plants.  The caterpillars are bright colored and easy to see.  Like Monarchs, which also eat milkweed – they probably use some of the toxins from the plants to make themselves distasteful to birds.  That’s usually what’s going on when caterpillars are bright colored – they’re warning birds to beware – that they’re not good to eat.

The adult moths are white with a yellow head and yellow edges on their wings.

I also found a Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed leaf.


Yellow Flax – another dry prairie flower blooming on Sumac Prairie


The slope next to the house has hundreds of blooming Partridge Peas – small native annuals that like sandy, open soil.  Bees love these plants – the larger bees visit the flowers, and ants and smaller bees visit the nectaries along the stems.  (Nectaries are small glands that produce nectar.  Probably it’s an advantage for the plant to have these small insects visiting – they may provide some protection from animals that would like to eat the plants.)  The Partridge Peas attract so many bees that there’s a constant buzzing sound around the porch on sunny days.  The Partridge Peas are the yellow flowers – the purple ones are Hoary Vervain.


A rotting log in the woods, covered with tiny mushrooms


This spider showed up at my moth lights one night.  It’s a Wolf Spider – probably in the genus Hogna.  Thanks to the folks at the Facebook Spider Identification group for the ID.


I almost always see Tree Frogs as my moth lights at night.  Here are several of them.  This one looked like he was protecting his dinner.











Snout Butterfly – not a common butterfly here at the farm.  This is only the fourth one I’ve seen here.


Blazing Star and Goldenrod are favorite sources of nectar for migrating Monarch Butterflies.


Indian Pipe – a parasitic plant that I find once in a while in the woods here.  This is an old flower – it’s starting to turn black.  It looks much more flower-like when it’s fresh, although the plant has no green coloring at all.


When my friend Emilie was here, she took this wonderful photo of my moth set-up – a moth’s eye view.


Here are a few of the latest moths.  This is the only blue moth I’ve ever found.  Thanks to Ken Childs for help with the ID.  It’s a Black Wedge-spot.


These little tiger moths are difficult to tell apart.  I’m fairly sure this is a Harnessed Tiger Moth.


Mint-loving Pyrausta Moth


Maple Spanworm


Not a moth – but a wonderful little hopper.  Normally these hoppers are green, but once in a while there are pink ones.  It’s a Two-striped Planthopper.

And a few more farm scenes

Center Valley from the Knife Edge bench

Light coming through the trees this morning, along the cabin road