Country Mouse Takes a Trip

My bag is packed and I am headed out the door to make the five hour trip to Charlotte, NC. For the next week or so I will enjoy the amenities of city life ( yes, I admit that there are a few) and visit with relatives. But, I will miss my woods and swamps and I will miss reading your comments and visiting your blogs. So have a great week and don't do anything too exciting while I'm gone!


Sorting Out My Azaleas

This is Dwarf Azalea, Rhododendron atlanticum. I inadvertantly identified as pinxter flower the other day. My brain was on holiday I guess. The dwarf azalea is a low growing shrub with fragrant flowers...

...Pinxter-flower, Rhododendron periclymenoides, grows as a tall shrub and its flowers have little, if any, fragrance. If this photo looks a bit strange, it is because I had to hold the camera way over my head and use the faith method of focusing :)

Another pink lady's slipper. This one has developed a deeper pink color. Posted by Hello

Making Spore Prints

A reader has requested that I post instructions for making spore prints of mushrooms. I am happy to do so, but I must add a word of caution: Some mushrooms are extremely toxic! They must be handled with care. NEVER eat a wild mushroom unless it has been positively identified. Eating the wrong mushroom can prove to be fatal!!

Here are a couple of spore prints I made last fall. They aren't the best examples, but they are the only pictures I had on hand.

To make your prints you will need a few sheets of sturdy white paper. It is best to use white paper so that you can detect subtle shades of color in the spores. Mushroom spores come in a wide variety of colors, from white to green to pink to black. Sometimes you get quite a surprise!

Next, you will need a bowl or jar large enough to cover the mushroom cap you are printing.

Gather your mushrooms (gilled or spore-bearing caps work best), keeping each separate from the other. Twist or cut the stems off flush with the caps and place your mushrooms, gill- or pore-side down, onto a sheet of paper.

Cover each cap with a bowl or jar and leave everything undisturbed for several hours. If your mushroom is at the right stage of maturity, the spores will drop onto the paper and leave a nice print. This process can take up to twelve hours, so be patient!

Remember, some mushrooms are toxic. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling any species you aren't positively sure of -- better safe than sorry.

If you want to practice, you can use mushrooms you buy from the grocery store. If you can get them before they have thrown all their spores, portobellos make an impressive print.


If I didn't know better, I'd think this little frog was trying to tell me something. (Gray phase of the pine woods treefrog, Hyla femoralis) Posted by Hello

He was much happier after I put him back down. The mating call of the males of this species sounds a lot like "getta, getta, getta" and can be quite loud when there are several calling at the same time.
The pink lady's slippers (Cypripedium acaule) are just beginning to bloom. Posted by Hello

The flower will become more pink as it ages.


Took this just after sunset this evening, hence the need for the flash. The photo captured just some of the hummers coming in for a nightcap. Guess it's time to put out an additional feeder. Posted by Hello

Last summer we fed 147 pounds of sugar to these greedy little creatures. You should see the looks we get at the grocery store...our cart is full of whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, organic this and that, no junk food of any type and then there are the 25 pound bags of sugar!
I can't close the tailgate of my truck because this Daring Jumping Spider keeps ducking into the latch! He has the most beautiful green chelicerae but was unwilling to let me get a mug shot to show them to you.  Posted by Hello


An absolutely beautiful spider. This jumping spider, Phidippus sp. (I think), was busy hunting insects near the ground. He didn't seem too put out by having his picture taken. Posted by Hello

Jumping spiders are among my favorite creatures. They are very entertaining to watch as they stalk their prey. The males of some species will put on quite a display if they see their reflections in a mirror or a camera lens!
This American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) did its best to convince me it was an injured bird. It squawked, fluttered it wings and flew about a foot and a half off the ground -- all the while checking to make sure I was following along. The reason for the show? The bird was attempting to protect its young, a robust little fellow feeding nearby. Such a good mom! Posted by Hello

One interesting little factoid about woodcocks, the tips of their bills are flexible. Comes in handy when they are probing in the forest floor searching for their favorite food - earthworms.


Spadefoot toad looking peeved. Posted by Hello
Killer calves! Posted by Hello
The little black projections are the spades that give the spadefoot toad its name. Posted by Hello


You don't see me... Posted by Hello

I realized I hadn't posted a frog picture recently. Can't have that! Since the only frogs I have seen out and about lately are frogs that I have already posted pictures of, I dug into my files from last August to bring you something new.

This very attractive fellow is an Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrooki). We seldom see spadefoot toads. They spend much of their time underground and come out mainly at night so it was a real treat to find this one following heavy rains last August. I'll post pictures of his "spades" later - if and when I ever figure out how to include more than one photo in a single post. :)
Somebody had a big lunch! This rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta) has lived around our house for several years. She is a tad over five feet long now and apparently is eating quite well. If I had to take a guess, I'd say that large lump in her middle is probably either a couple of cotton rats or a rabbit. Posted by Hello
Morning dispute at the feeder.  Posted by Hello


Male flowers on the loblolly pines...the reason everything has a yellow haze. Posted by Hello
The arugula's gone to seed. Posted by Hello
Spring Azure -- pretty pale blue on dorsal surface, but it wouldn't open its wings for me. Posted by Hello
Honeybee  Posted by Hello


Inside, Looking Out

Wolf spider peeking out of its burrow. Posted by Hello

My favorite place to be is outside. Unfortunately, I cannot do all of my work outdoors. Today I am inside putting the finishing touches on a display for an interpretive program I will be giving tomorrow. Sadly, it's only half past ten and I am already a little stir-crazy, stuck inside but looking out.


Eye to 'eyes' with a wolf spider (Sosippus sp.) Posted by Hello

These wolf spiders are very impressive. This one was unusually cooperative. I guess it was enjoying the warmth of the sun too much to be intimidated by the crazy lady with the camera.
I am turning into a regular pit stop for newly emerged dragonflies. As I stood on the trail near the pond, this dragonfly fought its way through the wind and stopped for a rest on my arm. She stayed long enough for me to snap a picture and make an ID: common basket-tail. Posted by Hello


Lady Bug...This is for You

Seven-spot ladybug. Posted by Hello

Good luck on your exams!
Freed from its nymphal exoskeleton, this dragonfly slowly expands into its new adult form. At this stage it is soft and vulnerable, as yet unable to fly -- easy prey for a passing warbler.  Posted by Hello


Yet another shot of poison ivy...just to prove the point that it is a pretty plant.  Posted by Hello