Journal for August 29, 2009

MJ came to visit from Iowa this week.  We had a great time – we spent the day doing two long, wandering walks, collecting insects, and admiring the prairie flowers.

MJ on the Big View Prairie bench

And here we are, sorting our bugs after the walk.

I got some interesting caterpillars – this is my favorite

The next day it had changed

Since then it has been sitting quietly on a dead leaf, and doesn’t seem to be progressing.

One of my finds was some tiny snails that were living under the bark of a dying elm tree.  I had fun taking photos of them through the microscope.  I don’t  find many snails here, although there are probably many that I don’t see – I’ll have to start looking for them.  They’re a kind of Disk Snail – in the genus Discus.   The shells are about 5mm in diameter.

Here’s one of the snails crawling on a damp paper towel.

Western Sunflower is blooming in Big View Prairie

Big View Prairie

And there are mushrooms in the woods and on the paths.


I found the wing of a Luna Moth on the driveway.   It’s the first confirmation I’ve had that we actually have Lunas at the farm.  I’d love to find a live one, and I’d especially like to raise one.  This is late in the year for Lunas.  The main population flies in late May and June.  This must be one that hatched late in the year, in a attempt to mate and lay eggs for a second brood.  That strategy is often successful farther south, but not here in Wisconsin.  Our summer just isn’t long enough.

Luna Moth wing

The Monarchs are migrating now – we’re seeing them flying high over the fields towards the southwest.  They nectar on late blooming flowers, and in the evenings we see them swirling around the tops of the trees, searching for a place to rest for the night.  This one was resting on Goldenrod in the Knife Edge Prairie.

Danaus plexippus

And there were a few nectaring on Joe Pye Weed.

Danaus plexippus

We had other visitors this week too.  Bill – a college friend – and his family stopped by for the night.  We took a long walk to see the prairies, and the musicians got to play a little music.

Bill, Lucinda, Leewana, and Loretta

I like seeing the different patterns spiders put into their webs.  They’re especially easy to see in the early mornings, when there’s dew on everything.

This is an Argiope Spider on its web. Argiopes are large garden spiders with colorful body markings.  They make thick jagged lines through the middle of their webs.  No one is sure what the function of these lines is, but I read recently that some experiments have shown that the lines prevent birds from flying through the webs and damaging them.  Unlike many spiders, Argiopes leave their webs up during the middle of the day, when birds might not see them.

Argiope sp.

Here’s a close up of the spider, after it ran away from my camera to the top of a nearby plant.  Its body is covered with dew.


Here are a few dew covered plants –

Wild Rye

Elymus canadensis

And Prairie Cordgrass

Spartina pectinata

And Big Bluestem against the sunset

Andropogon gerardii

We also finally got our boat back – it’s been being refurbished after sitting in the garage for the last 10 years. Here’s Mike story of the boat – he’s so pleased with it’s new look.

We took our maiden voyage from the boat ramp by Rieck’s Lake.

It was a short voyage – the motor needs more work.  But we hope to be back on the water again in a week or so.