Fall is on its way….the prairies are getting their fall colors, and most of the summer birds have disappeared. The woods are much quieter now.
Western Prairie on a misty morning.
Stiff Goldenrod in a sea of Indian Grass
Unexpected Cycnia – an unusual moth caterpillar that I find every fall eating Whorled Milkweed.
Early fall view from the bench at Hidden Oaks Point
Our friends Susan and Helen came to visit, and we put them to work helping to finish our Surrey so we could take them for a ride.
Sam Jaffe – founder of The Caterpillar Lab – has been posting photos (on The Caterpillar Lab Facebook page) of caterpillars he’s found at night, using a blacklight flashlight. So I had to try it! I don’t know if all caterpillars glow in UV light, but I’ve found a lot that do. They’re much easier to spot using the UV light than with white light.
This is a Blinded Sphinx caterpillar – the way it looks in blacklight.
And the same caterpillar in white light. In white light they have much better camouflage. (It’s more difficult to take photos using the blacklight, so I usually find the caterpillars using it, but then take the photos with my normal camera lights.)
Here are a few more of the caterpillars I’ve found using the blacklight.
Spectacled Nettle Moth
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly
Sometimes I find butterflies with the blacklight. These two were spending the night on some low prairie plants.
One night I found these caterpillar-like creatures eating the leaves of a willow tree. They’re larvae of the Poplar Sawfly. The adults look like small bright colored wasps.
Some mushrooms glow in blacklight too.
Another way I attract moths at night is to paint sugary bait onto trees and tall plants. Tree frogs like to hang out close to the bait – keeping an eye on those moths.
This is a favorite willow tree – every night I put bait there, I find at least 3 frogs on the branches.
Here are a few more daytime caterpillar finds. This is a Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, eating Queen Anne’s Lace. I’ve been pulling a lot of Queen Anne’s Lace, and seeing quite a few of these caterpillars. When I find one, I move it to a place where it can still find food – usually on some first year plants that I won’t be pulling. Black Swallowtails eat plants in the parsley family, and don’t seem to care if the plants aren’t native.
This big fat caterpillar was making its way down into the grass litter to find a place to pupate. It’s a Pandorus Sphinx.
Blue Lobelias are doing well this year. This is the south, wet end of East Center Valley Prairie. When we bought the land this was a soybean field – it was the very first field we planted into prairie.
Fall is a time of yellow flowers – Sunflowers, Goldenrod, Black and Brown-eyed Susans.
Tall Sunflowers – attracting migrating Monarch butterflies
Monarch on Tall Sunflower
More Tall Sunflowers
Sun setting in the wetland – with Swamp Thistle and Tall Sunflowers
Brown-eyed Susans bloom in the shady edge of the woods.
Gray Goldenrod on the Knife Edge Point
Bee nestled into a Sunflower
There are early fall flowers in other colors too.
This one is called Lion’s Foot, and is appearing in some of our restored savannas.
Butterfly Milkweed starts blooming in early summer, and there are still a few plants in bloom now.
This is another flower that signals the coming of fall – Great Plains Lady’s Tresses. It’s a native orchid that grows on dry prairies.
Here’s a closer look at the flowers.
We’re still finding damage from that six inches of rain we had a few weeks ago. This is a wash-out along our Dugway trail. The trail is on the right, and it washed out down the hill to the left.
This is looking over the side, down into the woods. The mud and rocks washed all the way down through the woods, and out onto the prairie hillside below.
Butterflies have been enjoying all the extra mud and puddles on the driveway. These are Eastern Tailed Blues.
Common Buckeye butterflies don’t spend the winter here – they migrate up from the south every summer. This has been an especially good year for them – we’ve been seeing them everywhere. Here’s a mated pair.
And here are a few of my favorite moths from the last few weeks.
Parthenice Tiger Moth