Journal for June 29, 2014

It’s really summer now – everything is lush and thick and growing.  It’s an especially good year for butterflies – we’ve been seeing hundreds of them everywhere. (Also – a snake alert for this post – for those who don’t like looking at snakes.  They come right after the butterflies.)

This is Butterfly Weed in front of the house.  The butterflies are Silvery Checkerspots, Northern Crescents, and Great Spangled Fritillaries.

butterflies on butterflyweed 6-28-14 2


A closer look at some of the butterflies

butterflies on butterflyweed 6-28-14


I’m seeing more Silvery Checkerspots than any other species – hundreds on the driveway and flying up from all the paths.

Silvery Checkerspot 6-21-14 1


Silver-bordered Fritillaries are the most common butterfly in the wetland right now – I’ve never seen so many.

Silver-bordered Fritillary 6-10-14 1


A Bronze Copper – another wetland butterfly.

Bronze Copper 6-23-14 1


Baltimore Checkerspot

Baltimore Checkerspot 6-22-14 1


Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma 6-22-14 1


There are amazing numbers of butterflies on the driveway – more than I can count.  They fly up in clouds as we walk by.  This one little group has Hackberry Emperors, Silvery Checkerspots, Red-spotted Purples, Baltimore Checkerspots and a Northern Crescent.

Butterflies on driveway 6-22-14 1


We found a beautiful Eastern Milk Snake on the driveway one day.

Eastern Milk Snake 6-22-14 2


Eastern Milk Snake 6-22-14 1


And another day I found a Smooth Green Snake on the hill behind the house.  This one wasn’t so interested in being photographed.  I managed to get one photo of it’s beautiful green scales – but it wouldn’t hold still for any more.

smooth green snake 6-4-14


Some folks came to visit us from Public Lab – an organization that tries to find inexpensive techniques to investigate environmental concerns.  We had a great time with them – taking them on a long walking tour of the farm, introducing them to my moth project, and connecting them up with friends who are working on frac sand mining issues in Buffalo County.

Here’s the bench photo – Mathew, Mike and Stevie

on the bench 1


Here they’re inspecting some beetles that are eating our White Wild Indigo.

stevie and mathew 1


They’re Blister Beetles – native beetles that eat flowers and buds of some plants.  There are so many that they’re on almost every White Wild Indigo plant – it looks like the plants won’t produce many seeds this year.

Lytta sayi 6-21-14 1


I’ve been pulling Wild Parsnip for the last few weeks – it’s my main summer project.  It’s very encouraging to realize that there aren’t nearly as many plants as there were a few years ago.  I have hopes that someday I’ll be able to get rid of most of it.  If only I could do that with all the invasives!

Mike finally fulfilled one of his dreams and bought a drone.   His plan is to use it to document our work on the farm.   Here are two aerial views of the farm from the drone.

This is looking south, down Center Valley, over our wetland, and down Praag Valley.

drone photo 1


This is looking southwest, but from the northern edge of our land – down the Knife Edge, across 3 Finger Valley, with Western Prairie in the distance.

drone photo 3

He’s started a page called Aerial Favorites where he’ll post drone adventures, photos and videos.  Click here to check it out – including one of his first videos.

Another summer project was to lower the level of the beaver pond in the creek.  We like having the pond there – it’s very attractive to wildlife – but it was collecting scum and algae from farther up the creek.  We lowered the dam by about a foot, and it’s much cleaner now.

beaver pond - after


We found this creature in the mud inside the dam.  It’s the larva of a cranefly – clearly one of the larger craneflies!  Another name for the larva is ‘Leatherjackets’.

cranefly larva - leatherjacket


Here are some of the other cool creatures we’ve been seeing.

Female Widow Skimmer

Widow Skimmer Libellula luctuosa


A very large caterpillar – I think it could be one of the Catocalas – Underwing Moths.

unknown caterpillar 6-18-14 1


This is a robber fly eating its prey.  Some robber flies look like flies, but some mimic other insects – this one is a bumblebee mimic.

Laphria thoracica


Gray Tree Frog at my moth lights – hoping for a meal

gray tree frog


American Toad

American Toad


Spiderworts are blooming in all our planted prairies.  The blossoms are only open in the mornings, so morning walks are wonderfully colorful.

This is the prairie that covers our septic system.

house prairie


Pat’s Prairie

pats prairie


Pine Point Prairie – the white flowers are Northern Bedstraw

pine point prairie

Here are a few more flowers…

Wild Rose

Rosa sp.



Rock Rose


Canada Goldenrod is a very aggressive native, especially in our planted prairies and old hay fields.  I used to worry about it taking over, but now we have a huge population of beetles whose larvae eat Canada Goldenrod leaves.  Many of the plants I see now have gnawed leaves, and they seldom flower.

Beetle larvae on goldenrod 2


It’s been great mothing weather in the last few weeks – here’s a selection of my favorites.


Antheraea polyphemus 6-11-14 3


Harnessed Tiger Moth

Apantesis phalerata T 6-9-14 1


Pearly Wood-nymph

Eudryas unio 6-1-14 1


Little Virgin Tiger Moth

Grammia virguncula 6-9-14 1


Harris’s Three Spot

Harrisimemna trisignata 6-10-14 1


Giant Leopard Moth

Hypercompe scribonia 6-10-14 1


Small-eyed Sphinx

Paonias myops 6-11-14 1



Sideridis rosea 6-4-14 1


Scallop Moth

Cepphis armataria 6-13-14 1


American Bird’s Wing

Dypterygia rozmani 6-27-14 1


Raspberry Pyrausta

Pyrausta signatalis 6-15-14 1