A Polyphemus Moth Grows Up

Three Polyphemus Eggs hatched on June 13th.

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My oh my how the time has flown, because just yesterday the first emerged from her cocoon! Here is the tiny caterpillar that almost escaped but that I finally found, after a lot of searching, clinging to my own hair.

IMG_7005.JPGSo furry! So big! How can those two photos be of the same creature sitting on my hand? Continue reading

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Another Way

Just experimenting.

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How do you Measure?

I haven’t posted all summer and here I am posting photos from winter… I thought these photos were lost forever… There are many more but I am starting at the beginning.

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From Winter to Spring in 2015. If you’d like to watch the seasons progress I think you can also click on a photo and move forward like a slideshow by clicking the forward arrow. Continue reading

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Mooning Around

E-Vo-Lu-Tion. 64. Category is: Rainy Spring.

Evolution is the name of the game. And we all play, whether to win or lose I am not so sure. We all fall down. We are all being played.

Have you read The Beak of the Finch? I read it freshman year of college (a year so long ago now that I am like all the other old people who talked to me about things that happened to them in college and I wondered what sort of unearthly world that took place in). It was a good book, required for honours Biology 2 (which was the one about zoology and evolution). I liked my professor and my TA. One day in lab we went to catch things in the stream, and the professor came too, and he praised me because I was so enthusiastic. His name was Dr. Kent and he specialized in fossils. Continue reading

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What Kind of Times Are These

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do

I tell you

anything? Because you still listen, because

in times like these

to have you listen at all, it’s necessary

to talk about trees.

 

-Adrienne Rich

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Sometimes we all need a forest fire

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The Next Day Was Much Warmer

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Food for Thought

I recently encountered Wood Frog tadpoles. Last year I thought I had seen them: a clump of loose greenish eggs around a stick in mid-April. But that clump was solitary, it would have fit (dripping) between two hands. This year, an early spring, I saw Wood Frog eggs twice in mid-March. They were so green with algae (to help the eggs absorb oxygen) that they looked like an actual film of algae over the pond surface. They were also in clustered groups, covering easily 10 square feet of the surface of each pond- all together and nowhere else in that body of water. Oddly, shallow areas were chosen both times, and some of the tadpoles were already dead on the surface of their still moist but no longer underwater eggs. Why did the frogs choose a shallow part of the pond instead of a deeper one? A question for another day.

I could not resist scooping up some tadpoles for a better look, and of course I encountered many a mysterious invertebrate larva. How I would love to see what they all turn into. Some were almost certainly going to be mosquitos, so that love might be tempered. But it only occurred to me yesterday when I was writing about insects that I do not think that mosquitos were flying around laying their eggs in February. I do not think the aquatic larvae were hatching and finding lots of yummy food and temperatures conducive to growth in early March. So. All those lovelies must have been overwintering in their larval state! That means, if I am guessing correctly, that every single mosquito in Maryland right now is a little larva in a pond, waiting to mature and suck some mammal blood and lay some more larval eggs to grow up and bite all the summer campers in July to then lay some more eggs to turn into larvae in the fall and hang out over the winter all over again. Am I right? I don’t know, but I never tire of thinking about overwintering. In the insect world, I have said it before and I’ll say it again, with the exception of our glorious migratory Monarchs, every single insect you have ever met is also here in the winter, unseen and unmoving, suspended in one life stage or another. Walk around outside in a blizzard and think of that one day: they are all here, beneath snow and ice and mud and bark, waiting, like us, for spring to come again. Try not to gloat, but you are pretty lucky to be enjoying that long awaited season right now.

 

 

 

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A Day in Plants

Even before March ends…

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Well, people have been saying that this spring is so wildly early. Other springs I remember them complaining it was late. Usually those were springs when I spent March and April working outside, practicing being fun AND safe, rain soaking through my rain gear at temperatures that wouldn’t quite dip below freezing. And I sometimes still long for those times.

Somehow this most magical and fleeting spring of 2016, a spring I am happy to experience on this good Earth, has started to seem perfectly normal to me, early or not. Perhaps that is because the momentum has shifted, there is no stopping it now. Everything is only speeding up, I can no longer revel in one small discovery at a time because each thing is followed by another, and each thing is a part of every other. This rhyme applies to everything I can think of: the spring ephemeral wildflowers and the baby leaves being birthed can hardly be separated from the insects that are coming out of them. Indeed, many insects lay their eggs in and around tree buds so that the larvae can be born right along with their food source. And all of those spring ephemerals exist precisely to be pollinated. Some, as a second choice, might self-pollinate before the flower dies, but given their druthers they will take advantage of the genetic mixing offered by the many specialized species of native bees and flies spreading that DNA around. And indeed when I was out today I couldn’t stop watching the insects, wondering what they were, and where they were going. They didn’t want me to watch them. They were good at losing me. And that makes sense too. My other friends, the birds, are avid insect watchers, the better to eat them. And indeed most of the birds that are currently plotting their migration to the North from their warm winter homes left precisely because they require insects to eat. The insects have got to be good at escaping those beautiful predators. And the birds have got to pay attention, and get their return timing right. So this particular moment is really just a wild and uncontrollable escalation, like an nuclear reaction. No stopping it now, but instead of destruction it is a bringer of life.

Of course this would not be an everycreepingthing post if I didn’t mention to you that I am very busy and have not had all the time my heart desires. Today that means that I have not looked up sweet or confirmatory details about the Hop Tree or the Ironwood or the other lovely plants that I would like to share with you now. I meant to, as it has now been a couple years since I took a plant class. Perhaps I will update this post tomorrow. But tomorrow will almost certainly bring so many more exciting new things.

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Hop Tree Fruits on my old mystery ID Tree

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Toad Shade, a Trillium, growing in the same spot as last year! But 24 days earlier.

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An Ironwood Tree covered with what I am calling catkins until I look it up.

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Spring Beauty blossoming and getting some love from an early season pollinator of unknown identity. Honey Bees are not great at pollinating many of our native species- in fact many plants have insects that specialize in pollinating only their particular flowers. One Trout Lily leaf growing in the background. To bloom, a Trout Lily is said to require two leaves. Perhaps another one will grow here, or maybe this plant will store energy created by that leaf and grow a second leaf next spring.

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I cannot resist a Redbud in bloom. I kept a branch in water in my office last week and it bloomed already. Today I took the dying branch outside in a paper bag which I brought upstairs to my kitchen to re-use for lunch tomorrow. Inside were a hundred little pink presents! I love having a North-South lifestyle that takes me over an hour North on a very regular basis. As the Redbuds near me are finishing, those at a house I dearly love are peaking, and those near the Farmer are just getting started- unless this warm year accelerates even that usual timing

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Baby leaves in the Maple Family, I believe Red Maple. Always something Red on this very adaptable friend.

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Big Night

If you have seen the cover photo on this blog, you know what I am into. If you have ever met me and taken a look at my wrist, you know what I am about.

So it should come as no surprise that Big Night is basically my own personal witch’s New Year. The world is getting renewed. Get your life.

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For the record, I haven’t actually witnessed Big Night the biggest way. On the first warm wet night in early spring the Spotted Salamanders, and many other amphibians, make their way into Vernal Pools and ponds for fellowship and f…reproduction. I only saw my first Spotted Salamander last year (a bit later into April) in the daytime, hiding under a log next to a pond full of male spermatophores and eggs. This year I was knocked flat out by the flu for a week when the rains started, and I could do nothing but lie in bed and gaze at the pills that were not successfully lowering my fever. I got better but did not make it out Sunday night when conditions were perfect. The Big Night is when the salamanders can be seen crawling through the woods toward the water. I understand that sometimes there are so many of them that they seem to cover the forest floor. Want a shot at seeing some one day? Protect our lovely eastern forests! Embrace a leaf litter layer in your yard. Let fallen logs lay. That is the habitat they require 360 days of the year, and even during the week or so they spend mating in the water. They return to the woods during the daytime- and that is when I have had luck finding them.

Monday, on my way back from work, as the rain started up again, I returned to the pond that was so popular with my spotted friends last year. The spermatophores were present. A huge area was jam packed with Wood Frog eggs near hatching. The Spotted Salamanders had not laid eggs yet though! Most likely the ladies were waiting to make their way to the pond last night. I will return and report back.

There was a lot of action! Mating Red Spotted Newts, many Red Backed Salamanders, and multiple Spotteds unearthed from their hiding spots. The approved method is to quickly and fully lift a log and scan. If there are salamanders or any other animals there, gently move them out from under the log before replacing it. They will wiggle right back under there I assure you. At least until nightfall. When touching make sure your hands are wet. Placing the salamander on a damp leaf is ideal, as a 98 degree hand could shock their only barely thawed system. Happy New Year!

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