Why I Love Dragonflies

We went out for a brief walk this morning, taking advantage of the relative cool. The biting flies were, as usual, out in force. Such aggravating critters. Seems like they get some sort of perverse joy out of biting you while you are trying to remain still enough to take a picture. Luckily, this morning I had a winged escort -- and a hungry one, at that.

Take a look at this dragonfly's breakfast. It is a small horse fly, plucked from my back as I stooped to take a picture of some fungi. Yes, I do love dragonflies!!


Over in the Work Swamp

Another busy week and yet another week without home phone service -- well, not the whole week, just Monday morning through Thursday night :)

I don't have anything ready to share from the home swamp so I am posting a few pictures from the work swamp.

An inconspicuous wildflower from the work swamp...

You have to look closely to appreciate this one. Common anglepod - Gonolobus gonocarpus.

Not so inconspicuous fruit of the coral honeysuckle - Lonicera sempervirens.

I love this road. In fact, it's one of my favorites. What you can't see in this picture are the blackwater ditches on either side and the teeth-rattling holes hidden by the grass. I always drive slowly when I am patrolling this particular stretch. It would be embarrassing to end up in one of the ditches and besides, the bears like this road, too. Wouldn't want to hit one.

A well-used trail beside an enthusiastically marked tree. There's nothing subtle about a black bear :)


Swamp's Excuses

Sorry to have been neglecting those of you who drop by to see what's shaking in the swamp. July has proven to be a very busy, very hot, very unpredictable month. Work has kept me hopping, family has required attention, the phone line has been giving us fits (plus one lightning hit that took it out completely for a few days) and my back has been out, rendering me incapable of sitting at the computer for any length of time. Most of my pictures have been taken in the work swamp and have been of insects and plants yet to be IDed. (Can I stop now or shall I continue to list excuses...)

Anyway, I will try to be a little better this week. Of course, I have training on Tuesday - won't be home until after midnight, I'll be deep in the work swamp on Wednesday attempting to locate some damaged trees that were spotted during a flyover by forestry, Thursday I'll be in a workshop, and Friday I have meetings all day...and y'all thought all I did was run around taking pictures :)

To tide you over, I have posted three pictures taken down in Wilmington, NC. Treebeard and I went there last weekend to visit Son 1. (The cat in the previous post belongs to our son, so I guess you could say she is my grandcat. Her name is Izzy and she is awesome! Yes, FC, there is such a thing as a great cat -- and don't worry, she is strictly indoors.) The pictures were taken at Greenfield Lake, a city park with a four mile trail that follows along the shoreline of the little lake.

Live oak, Quercus virginiana
Wouldn't it be great to grab a book, climb up into those branches and read for a few hours. Live oaks are one of my favorite trees.

Great egret, Ardea alba
If I had pulled out just a bit, you would have seen the very busy street that runs by this spot. The noise and movement didn't seem to bother this egret though. It just concentrated on hunting up some lunch.

Anhinga, Anhinga anhinga
We watched this anhinga for a while. It is fun to watch one hunt - all you can see is the long skinny neck and head above the water, the rest of the body is submerged. They have sharp bills that they use to spear fish. Unlike most other waterfowl, anhingas have no oil glands to keep the water from soaking into their feathers so they must spread their wings to dry when they come up out of the water.


Where Is She?

Uh, has anybody seen Swamp? I know she's out there somewhere...


Pennywort Forest

Pennywort, Hydrocotyle verticillata

Sometimes, if you lay down on your belly on the boat dock and stick your head over the side, you get a different view of things. Small plants look bigger somehow and you start to notice the little things...

...like spiders carrying eggcases...

...or an anonymous damselfly, resting for a bit...

...possibly a male velvet ant, looking for love in all the wrong places...

...or a cryptic message left by some sort of leaf miner.

Or, you could just end up with a dirty shirt and dried duckweed in your hair.


Wandering The Edge

It's true what they say, you know, the best laid plans do often go awry. For instance, this morning I had planned to go along on Treebeard's monthly Saturday morning paddle on the pond. He had five canoes signed up and I figured I'd go along for the ride -- afterall, I wasn't on duty at my park this weekend. When I go on these paddles I usually act as look-out, scanning ahead as Treebeard talks to the participants. That way I can alert him to any wildlife or plants of interest and he can concentrate on answering the questions of the visitors without worrying about missing something. My plan was to paddle as little as possible, do a lot of looking, and take some pictures to share with you. Alas, twas not to be.

Since these Saturday morning adventures are conducted at a leisurely pace on flatwater, Treebeard does not require that the participants have any prior paddling experience. Still, it is rare that he gets a boat that is occupied by two absolute novices, but even when he does it is usually not a problem. He will just spend a few minutes going over the basics and offering tips before the boats head out. We are both certified canoe instructors and can usually size up a paddler pretty quickly once we are on the water. It didn't take us long to determine that this particular boat was not going to be able to keep up with the group.

I like for everyone who ventures out onto the pond to have a good experience. I also like for everyone to feel like a successful paddler since, for me, canoeing is such a rewarding and pleasurable activity. It is particularly important to me that first-time female paddlers feel successful because I want them to feel secure and confident on the water. Sexist? I don't think so. ;) Anyway, after a brief conference with Treebeard, I offered to "drive" the canoe that was having a problem. The boat's occupants readily agreed and got a quick lesson in musical chairs, canoe-style. The young man got into Treebeard's canoe and I got into the stern of the other boat, shifting the young woman to the bow seat.

The point of my rambling? Just to let you know that even though I was unable to take pictures on the pond as planned, I did spend a short while wanderering along the edge of a little peninsula that juts out into the pond. So here are some pictures from the edge...

A bed of netted chain fern, Woodwardia virginica.

Flowers of the Beauty-berry, Callicarpa americana, also known as French Mulberry.

Grape tube gall, Cecidomyia viticola. So what makes these impressive looking tubes? A little gall fly, known as a midge, lays an egg in the grape leaf. The grape leaf responds by producing this growth and the midge larva develops inside.

Sawfly boogie! These aren't caterpillars, they are sawfly larvae. Sawflies are in the same order (Hymenoptera) as ants, bees, and wasps. One distinction: sawflies don't sting. I'm not sure which sawfly this is -- still working on a positive ID.

Everybody dance now...
The sawfly larvae assumed defensive positions when I got too close. If you look closely you will note that they have 6 pairs of prolegs - the little stumpy legs behind the 3 pairs of true legs near the front. Caterpillars have 2 to 5 pairs of prolegs and each bears a little hook that is absent from the sawfly's prolegs.

Paper wasp (Polistes sp.) hard at work gathering wood fibers for nest material. It will make a little pulpy spit-ball, carry it back to the nest, and use it to build a new cell or add to an existing cell.

As I reached the end of the trail I spied a little brown eye peering at me from the underbrush -- one of the many rabbits inhabiting the point this season. With all the great horned owls, barred owls, bobcats, and grey foxes we have around here this little rabbit better watch its step!


Track Maker

Here's the little fellow that made the tracks in the post before last. I needed some toad tracks for an exhibit, but I couldn't find any "wild" ones. No problem. I mixed up a mud pie and added one toad. Unfortunately, the mud had a calming effect on the toad -- it just sat there. Guess it thought it was at a toad spa or something :)

After I gave it a little nudge,it hopped and I got my tracks. Toad returned to the wild and I saved my mud for future use.

Sorry I can't give you a complete scientific name on this fine amphibian. It belongs to the genus Bufo, but as to species...I just don't know. It has the characteristics of several species, so perhaps it is a hybrid.

You can lead a toad to mud, but you can't make it hop...unless you goose it.



Sweet blackberries, sun-warmed and freshly picked -- just the way I like 'em. I never have understood why some folks want to put sugar on them and chill them or bake them up in a cobbler. Why would you want to mess with something that is perfect just the way it is?

Berries from Rubus argutus.


He went that-a-way! The question is: Who is he?

Do you know?

Would it help if I mentioned that if he had wings he wouldn't bump his butt when he hops?

(Blogger hates me lately. I have been trying to post this silly thing since June 26th. I was seriously considering just deleting both blogs and hanging up my blogging hat. But, since Blogger let me post to SwampStuff earlier today I figured I give SwampThings one last try. Guess I just need to learn to be more patient with the virtual world.)