Sunday Morning

Big, beautiful, and brilliant green, these beetles make quite an impression. Fiery Searcher is one of the common names for this beetle. It makes its living hunting caterpillars and if you try to catch it, it will live up to the "Fiery" part of its name by letting loose with a caustic blast from its southern end. Woe to the predator that catches the blast in the eye -- it burns!
(Calosoma scrutator)

Green treefroglets (Hyla cinerea) are all over the place now. This one was about three-quarters of an inch long -- too cute.

The flower of the jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) looks like a little pixie cap to me. Another name for this plant is spotted touch-me-not.

Hey! A butterfly actually sat still long enough for me to get a picture -- Pearl crescent (Phyciodes tharos).


Keeping an Eye on Things

Okay, so they aren't really eyes. But they make you think twice about what you're seeing, don't they? If you were a bird, you might think you were dealing with a snake instead of a fat and tasty insect. Since some snakes eat birds, you might think twice about attacking and fly off in search of less threatening prey.

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar, Papilio troilus
When it feels threatened, this caterpillar tucks its head under making it look more like a snake than a caterpillar.

Here's the same caterpillar in a more relaxed position instead of its scary snake mode.

Io Moth, Automeris io
We cheated a little on this one. Io moths tend to sit with their wings closed so you don't see the "eyes" until the moth flashes them, making it difficult to get a picture. This was a very fresh moth so Mr. Swamp was able to push the forewings open ever-so gently, allowing me to snap a photo of the hindwings.

Eyed Click Beetle, Alaus oculatus
Had I touched this beetle, or if it had seen me coming, it would have pulled its legs in and tucked its antennae away making it look even more "dangerous" to a potential predator. Had I picked it up and placed it on its back it would have flexed its body with a loud click and launched itself a couple of inches into the air in order to right itself.


A Sunday Walk

Some things we saw today

Shame on me, I failed to ID the things in the picture. Let me correct that.

Top row, left to right:
Chantrelle sp., an edible mushroom
Coreopsis sp.
Helenium sp., common name "sneeze-weed"

Middle row, left to right:
Polygala lutea, Yellow milkwort
Platanthera cristata, Yellow-crested orchis
Fungus noideaii (Yep, that's right, I have no idea which fungus this is)

Bottom row, left to right:
Polygala sp.
Woodwardia areolata, Netted chainfern and W. virginica, Virginia chainfern
wild turkey feather


Be a Nature Detective

Here's the scenerio: You are walking along a mowed trail. To your right there is field that is being allowed to grow up and to your left there is a woodland with mixed hardwoods and loblolly pines. You happen upon a mushroom growing in the middle of the trail. You notice that there appear to be bite marks along one edge of the cap.

Now, you are a savy outdoors-person. You know that many animals use mushrooms as a food source. So, can you figure out which of those animals munched out on this particular 'shroom?

Take a look at the height of the mushroom -- remember, the trail is mowed.
Check out the shape of the bite marks -- are those multiple bites or does this animal just have giant teeth? :)

Ready to take a guess?

Yet Another Toad

After work yesterday we went for a short walk -- short because it is so humid here you need gills to breathe!

There weren't too many critters out and about, but we did stumble (literally) across this very chubby toad along the way. It appeared to be a Southern toad, Bufo terrestris, but it is hard to be positive. Toads have an inconvenient tendency to hybridize.

This toad was fat and looked even fatter in my hand because it was puffed up in defensive mode. Toads try to make themselves too big to swallow by puffing up with air.

He eventually decided that I wasn't going to swallow him and raised his head to look around. He must not have been too afraid of me because he didn't pee on my hand when I picked him up. And no, you will not get warts from picking up toads!

After snapping a few pictures I set him back down and he hopped off into the woods.

(Oh, and in case you haven't figured it out yet, I love toads!)



Again, I find myself with little time to blog. What a bummer! I felt the need to post though, so I pulled a couple of last year's pictures and added a little commentary...

We've been having afternoon thunderstorms nearly every day, making the narrowmouth toads very happy. They have an interesting call -- sounds sort of like the bleating of sheep.

Eastern Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis)

Such a pretty face.

Conflict on the carport!

Two toads (Bufo sp.) facing off over a tasty Japanese beetle.


Last Week...

...was a very busy one at work. Even us outdoor types have paperwork to do and mine caught up with me big time this past week. Since I was stuck inside most of the week, Mr. Swamp took the camera to work with him. I foresee a new camera in our future ;)

In addition to work and camera tug-o-war, we experienced thunderstorms, power outages, and phone line difficulties. Sometimes everything happens at once. At any rate, I simply couldn't find the time to blog. Hopefully this week won't prove to be so trying.

I did manage to get out and about a little bit after work one day and Mr. Swamp joined me on a short jaunt along one of the trails near the house.

We found this woolly aphid with mites -- that's my watch band it's sitting on.

And we noticed that there seemed to be some sort of millipede convention going on. There were hundreds of millipedes clumped among the mossy patches on the trunks of the beech trees. When I have the time, I intend to research this curious behavior -- we haven't noticed it before. Have to think it is somehow, you know, sexual in nature.

The cricket frogs are out in force, making their "castenet" calls. This little fellow was hiding in plain sight. Never did manage to get a sharp picture.

This clump of fungi measured over sixteen inches across. There were five such clumps around the base of a dead American beech (Fagus grandifolia).

Here's an up-close shot

Conflict of Interest??

So what happens when you teach someone to use the camera and the computer? They hog both! (Not really.)

Mr. Swamp and I work for two separate, uh, places. This was never a problem before because he didn't know how to use the camera and he doesn't like computers. The result was that I had nearly exclusive use of both pieces of equipment. Alas, he has at least partially overcome his aversion to electronic devices and now I must share.

Oh well, at least he likes the same things I do! Here are a few of his pictures from a recent walk.

A male Ebony Jewelwing.

Nearly mature female katydid.

Young, pointy-nosed Brimley's Chorus Frog.

Colorful Critter

A bright flash of orange had us in chase and capture mode. The grasshopper had eluded us once before, but this time we were ready -- armed with a butterfly net!

Orange-winged Grasshopper, Pardalophora phoenicoptera

This grasshopper is beautiful in shades of green and gray, but it's hiding some colorful secrets.

Bright orange underwings....

and bright blue inner thighs.

Many thanks to Mr. Swamp for holding the hopper and making it reveal its secrets! He has a gentle touch and the critter was released unharmed.


Variation, Hyla Style

Behind the concession shed door, all within a couple of feet of each other, we found four little green treefrogs, Hyla cinerea. Each had its own interpretation of "green."

Variation One

Variation Two

Variation Three

Variation Four

Each was fat and sassy thanks to the fact that a light stays on all night in the shed. These frogs take advantage of the abundance of insects attracted to the light at night, then during the day they just chill in the shade behind the door.


Today, In the Woods

Yellowflies are still out in droves, the ticks are plentiful, and the humidity is ridiculous -- must be the perfect day to check on the orchids we have been waiting to bloom!

It really wasn't so bad. There was so much to see we hardly even noticed the flies...yeah, right. :)

This red-bellied water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster) was a tad out of place. We saw him in the beech woods on the high side of the trail. Must have been looking for a tasty toad to munch.

This is the flower that had us out and about today. It is the Small Green Woodland Orchid, Platanthera clavellata. We have been watching and waiting for it to bloom for well over a month now. We weren't sure of the species until we saw the flowers.

We were quite excited to find this butterfly today. While worn and weary-looking, it's special because it is a species we hadn't seen before, Feniseca tarquinius, common name Harvester. The caterpillars of this species feed on woolly aphids -- that's right, carnivorous caterpillars!

Don't know, don't wanna know. :)

A splash of color in the woods caught my eye so I went off-trail to investigate (people can be so creative with their litter). What I found was this blob of...what? Fungus? Protist? Not too sure about this stuff.

I had to open a locked gate on the fire road. A rather large family of black widows had set up house-keeping on the post -- these are a few of the babies. Mama widow was tucked away alongside a counter-sunk bolt. She was really pretty, but I couldn't get a picture of her.

I did manage to get several pictures of this beauty, though. Too bad I couldn't get the shot of her running up my arm -- I couldn't believe how heavy she was. No clue as to what type of spider this is, but I'll keep looking.

Meanwhile, take another look at her big, beautiful spider butt. Outstanding!

Probable ID on the spider: Giant Lichen Orbweaver, Araneus bicentenarius


Yesterday, On the Pond

Yesterday, we took advantage of the break in the heat and headed out on the pond for a little recreational paddling. It was beautiful and once we were out on the pond, away from the shore line, we weren't bothered by any biting flies or mosquitoes -- luxurious!

This female yellow-bellied slider, Chrysemys scripta, was quite tolerant of our approach. Normally the turtles are very shy and dive into the water long before we get close enough for a photo.

The size of the turtle, the relatively short length of the claws on the front feet, and the short tail shown in the photo below all indicate this turtle was female.

She was tolerant of our presence, but even she had her limits. At least she was kind enough to go off the opposite side of the log so I could get a shot of her yellow-striped britches!

Other turtle species observed yesterday: Eastern Musk, Eastern Mud, Eastern Painted, and assorted "Cooters."

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the millpond is dotted with the stumps of bald cypress trees that were logged years ago. Cypress stumps take a long time to decay so they provide wonderful little islands that are colonized by a variety of plants. It isn't unusual to find a dozen or more species of plants growing on any given stump.

This Eastern tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus, was nectaring on a button bush (Cephalanthis occidentalis) that is growing on such a stump out in the middle of the upper end of the pond.

Other butterflies seen yesterday: Spicebush swallowtail, Red-spotted purple, Red Admiral, Eastern tailed blue, and Pearl crescent.
Dragonfly sex is a complicated affair. If you have never studied up on it, I recommend that you do a little reading on the subject. I'm not even going to try to address the whole process here.

These Prince Baskettails (Epitheca princeps) were perched in a bush, trying to be discreet, but I intruded into their "private" time anyway. :)

This particular configuration is the wheel position. The male grasps the female by the head with his abdominal appendages while she sort of docks her reproductive organ with his "accessory genitalia" and sperm is transferred. Different species stay in this configuration for varying lengths of time -- some species even fly while in this position. The mere thought gives me a headache ;)

Our dragonfly list from yesterday: Great blue skimmer, Slaty skimmer, Eastern pond hawk, Blue dasher (a gazillion of these!), Harlequin darner, Swamp darner, Eastern amberwing, Halloween pennant, Carolina saddlebags, and Black saddlebags. We also saw a variety of damselflies, but didn't take the time to ID them.
The little red plant in the middle of this pond glop is called mosquito fern, Azolla caroliniana. It is a true fern and the only aquatic one we have.

The other plants with the little leaves are various species of duckweed -- I'll have to devote a whole post to those one of these days. The barely submerged, darker green gunk is some type of algae.

Our hot, dry June has left us with more algae than we like to see this time of year. As it dies and begins to decay, the algae will take up a good bit of the dissolved oxygen in the water. What we need is a nice soaking rain that will cause the pond to rise and move some of the floating mats of algae out and areate the pond at the same time.
The green frogs, Rana clamitans, were quite talkative yesterday. They usually aren't too keen on being caught out in the open and tend to dive into the water with a warning squawk.

This male was quite cooperative, however. He sat still while my husband manuvered the canoe in as I leaned out over the bow. Had a log not been in the way I may have gotten close enough to this particular frog to have used my macro setting...as it was I had to settle for a "regular" shot.

Green frogs are highly variable. This one was sporting a festive green upper lip.

(The large tympanum, or ear, behind the eye of this frog tells us it is a male. We also saw it calling.)
As usual, there was no shortage of green treefrogs, Hyla cinerea, on the pond yesterday.

They ranged in size from this itty bitty, newly transformed one (about two thirds of an inch, or 1.5 cm)...

To this adult (about 2.5 inches, or 6.4 cm).

Other frogs we saw or heard: Bullfrogs, Carpenter frogs, Gray treefrogs, Squirrel treefrogs, Cricket frogs, and Southern leopard frogs.

GBH doing the Funky Chicken...well, not really.

This juvenile great blue was sunning the underside of its wings. In order to keep from overheating while it soaked up the rays, this bird was doing a little gular fluttering (sort of vibrating its neck pouch) with its beak open. The whole process looked a little strange, but it helps to keep the bird healthy.

We had to laugh at this particular bird -- its voice hadn't changed yet so it had a sort of high pitched squawk.
Great blue herons never let me get close enough to take a picture without using my digital zoom. As a result, all of my heron pictures are grainy. Despite their nervous ways, they remain one of my all-time favorite birds.

It never ceases to amaze me when I watch these great, gangly birds maneuver through the trees and land on those long skinny legs. How can something be so elegant and yet so awkward at the same time?

For those of you interested in such things, here's our pond bird list from yesterday:
Green Heron, Great Egret
Osprey, Red-shouldered hawk, Barred owl
Fish crow, Turkey vulture, Black vulture, Blue jay
Wood duck, Belted kingfisher
Yellow-billed cuckoo, Common grackle, Red-winged blackbird
Prothonotary warbler, Yellow-throated warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Pine warbler, Parula, Hooded warbler
Mockingbird, Catbird
Carolina wren
Blue-gray gnatcatcher
Red-eyed vireo, Yellow-throated vireo
Eastern wood peewee, Acadian flycatcher, Great crested flycatcher, Eastern kingbird
Summer tanager
Chimney swift, Purple martin
Carolina chickadee, Tufted titmouse, White-breasted nuthatch
Ruby-throated hummingbird
Pileated woodpecker, Red-bellied woodpecker, Red-headed woodpecker, Downy woodpecker, Hairy woodpecker, Flicker
Cedar Waxwing
Orchard oriole
Chipping sparrow, Gold finch, Cardinal, Rufus-sided towhee
Wood thrush, Robin, Eastern bluebird
Mourning dove

Shed exoskeleton of a fishing spider, Dolomedes triton


A Few Flowers in Bloom

Button bush flower (Cephalathanus occidentalis)