Journal for July 31, 2023

The weather has been very hot, but now that we’ve had rain the plants are looking happier, and the prairies are full of flowers.

Buffalo Ridge Prairie


Western Prairie


In spite of the heat, we’ve been working at various projects – mostly in the mornings when it’s cooler.

Sheep Hill Meadow is one of our newest plantings – this is its second summer.   There are lots of prairie plants coming up and even blooming, but also lots of weeds – especially Mullein and Queen Anne’s Lace.


Mike mowed it – that shouldn’t hurt the prairie plants, but it will keep the weeds from going to seed.


We’ll check again later in the summer to see how the weeds are doing, and if it needs to be mowed again.


I finally finished my Wild Parsnip project for the year – pulling nearly all the Parsnip that was growing in the wetland.   It was fun spending so much time in the wetland and near – and in – the creek.  This is  a wide part of the creek  behind an old beaver dam.  It has a firm sandy bottom, making it easy to walk on – a good place to be on a hot day.


This is a small stream that comes from one of the many springs that feed the creek.


The stream flowing into the creek


A big branch of an old willow tree fallen across the creek


This is Parsnip Field – a part of the wetland that used to be nearly all Wild Parsnip.  After many years of mowing and pulling and planting, the dominant plant blooming here now is Cup Plant.


This is another nice part of the wetland – we call it Farmyard Meadow.  It’s the field below the old farmhouse and along the creek.  I’ve planted it with wet prairie seeds but it’s got so many weeds that they’re not doing very well.  Our plan is to have it sprayed this fall and try again.


It’s wonderful to have humidity again.  Yesterday, when I drove up to the top to work, I drove through a cloud.


Sunrise on a smoky, misty morning


I’ve been seeing interesting bugs….

The best new moth was an Imperial Moth – one of the Giant Silkmoths.  It was huge – almost as big as my spread hand.


This is a tiny one – a Virginia Creeper Clearwing moth – on Fleabane.


I’ve been watching the caterpillars of Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies –  these are just hatching from eggs laid on the underside of a Turtlehead leaf.  The tiny caterpillars build a nest of silk and feed communally on, in and around it.


Here they’re just starting to build a nest.


The nest on a Turtlehead plant


Some of the caterpillars on top of and inside the nest


Silvery Checkerspot butterfly caterpillars also feed together when they’re young, but they don’t build nests.  Here’s a group of them feeding on Yellow Coneflower.


This is an odd little moth that I think is fairly common, but I don’t see it often because it’s so small.  It’s about the size of a house fly, and quite well camouflaged.  This one was sitting on a flowering stalk of Leadplant in the morning when it was still cool so it wasn’t moving much.  It’s called a Spotted Thyris.


The white spot on this Japanese Beetle is the egg of a Winsome Fly – a fly that parasitizes Japanese Beetles.  Once the egg hatches, the fly larva will kill the beetle within a few days.  I’m hoping we’ll be seeing more of these eggs and fewer Japanese Beetles.


A Dogwood Spittlebug – a tiny bug whose nymphs eat dogwood leaves


We did our annual NABA butterfly count on July 15 – here’s a link to our results.

Here are a few summer butterflies…



Black Swallowtail


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail


Mated pair of Monarchs


Mulberry Wing – a small wetland skipper butterfly



We don’t see as many butterflies on the driveway these days, but there are lots of other creatures….

A very curious doe and her fawn


American Woodcock – one of a family of Woodcocks that watched until I got too close and then scuttled away into the plants along the edge.


An American Toad that didn’t want to move.  I had to shoo it away so I could drive by.


A few years ago we had a retaining wall rebuilt and I planted prairie seeds in the dirt behind the wall.  Many of the plants that are flowering there this year are Evening Primroses – favorite nectar plants of sphinx moths.


For a little while at dusk and dawn – when it’s still quite dark – sphinx moths have been coming to nectar on the flowers.  It’s hard to see them because it’s so dark. Here are two not very good photos of two of the moths.

Pandorus Sphinx


Hermit Sphinx


A few more flower and prairie scenes….

Michigan Lily


Illinois Tick-trefoil


Sweet Joe Pye Weed


Very few of our Wood Lilies bloomed this year – I suspect because it was so dry in June.  This one was able to bloom – it grows behind the house just where a puddle forms whenever it rains.


Smoky view from Hidden Oaks Point