Monday, June 29, 2009

my fave...

During the past two years, I have started leading more and more bird walks for little kids. At almost every walk, I am asked, "What is your favorite animal?" I usually answer by saying I don't have one, but then the little four year olds pester me until I give an answer. I usually end up saying something like Red-tailed Hawk or Monarch, although neither of those really strike my fancy.

But recently I have been pondering over that question; what is my favorite animal? I came to the answer two days ago, while photographing some dragonflies in a meadow near my house:

Calico Pennant

Wow, ain't she a beauty...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Banded Hairstreak

With the temperatures as warm as they are, more and more butterflies are emerging. I recently found one of my favorite butterflies, a Banded Hairstreak at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.

Banded Hairstreak

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Damsels and Coral

As the temperatures have gotten warmer and warmer, I no longer hear the incredible dawn chorus of Alder, Willow, and Great Crested Flycatchers, multiple warbler species, Purple Finches, orioles, and my wake-up call, the Pileated Woodpeckers. The dawn chorus has diminished to only a select group of singers, mostly wrens and Song Sparrows. But the drought of birdsong marks the beginning of a new time of year, "almost summer". This time of year is punctuated by the first humid air, although the temperatures stay in the 70s. This is when many wildflowers bloom, the butterflies emerge, and the dragonflies begin to patrol the skies above the abandoned fields.

Today, the vegetation surrounding my pond (mostly meadowsweet, gray birch, and random sedges, rushes, and grasses) was filled with damselflies. Most of the damsels today were bluets, but there was also several spread-wing damselflies.

Bluet sp.

Eastern Forktail

And the best part about damselflies, their eyes!

Bluet eyes

Before today, we had a good amount of precipitation, which means that the butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies have stayed hunkered down and out of the rain. But the mushrooms and wildflowers seem to enjoy it!

Whorled Loosetrife

Coral Fungus

Blue-eyed Grass

Last April, the forests and a meadow on my property were burned by a brush fire of unknown origin. At first it appeared that the only thing that would grow back was greenbrier (Smilax glauca and S. rotundifolia). But as 2008 rolled along, the entire meadow was filled with meadowsweet (Spirea sp.), a shrub and Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), a grass. This year, the grass is still very evident, but the meadow is beginning to fill in with native forbs. The most common are Rough-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), Whorled Loosetrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) as well as shrubs such as meadowsweet (Spirea sp.) and Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina), which is actually a shrub, not a fern.

Today, as I was walking through the burned forest (which is now mostly Greenbrier (Smilax) and Hay-scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula), both of which outcompete other plants) I came across an Ovenbird nest, which had three or four babies inside. As I was walking away from the nest, I found some Indian Cucumber-Root (Medeola virginiana). Indian Cucumber-Root is a common understory plant in Pennsylvania, but my property, which is devastated by deer overbrowsing, has almost no undergrowth. In the woods here in Kunkletown, the only plants that grow (other than greenbrier, ferns, and trees) are Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) and False Soloman's-Seal, also known as Soloman's Plume (Maianthemum racemosum). As a result of this little diversity, I was extremely excited to find this plant!

Indian Cucumber-Root

Well, I guess after what I found today, the lack of bird life is not necessarily a bad thing; it is just a sign of Mother Nature opening the doors to a new season. A sign of a change where the smaller, often unnoticed beauties can shine.

Happy almost summer!