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Despite the fact that it is dry around here, there have been a few mushrooms out. We spotted this one on the side of the road yesterday. We think it is Ruffles, Sparassis crispa.

Treebeard and I are on the road today - we need some new furniture for the new house so we are hitting the Labor Day sales. Wish us luck.


Inching Toward Completion

Work continues on the house. Currently we are waiting for the septic tank to be installed, the power line to be laid, the hardwood floor to be put in, the gutters to go up, and the back porch to be screened-in. Then, of course, there are all the little things that need to be finished or tweaked. At least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel...
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While we wait for the house to be completed, Treebeard and I are spending some time planning the landscaping. We are not fans of conventional lawns - monocultures hold little appeal for us. We will have a small bit of lawn in front of the house and maybe a bit off the side porch.
As for the rest of the property, we are planning on having a vegetable garden, a blueberry patch, a grape arbor, and some nut and apple trees. The rest will be left to go native.

I conferred for a bit this afternoon with this Carolina mantis. She pondered for a bit and then agreed that native was the way to go. We communed a tad more and then I put her back on the side of the house where I found her. She had important business to tend to - there are insects to catch you know.
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With apologies to SIL and Florida Cracker...
I also checked in briefly with one of the black widows living in the brick pile. She's getting ready to lay eggs again. We will be re-locating her to new digs out in the woods whenever we move into the house. Meanwhile, she's not bothering anyone where she is.
You've got to admit, she is a fine specimen - beautiful and classic with her complete hourglass and posterior red spot.

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Anybody Home?

Yo, Swampy, you in there?
Look out here - it's raining! That's right, I said R*A*I*N*I*N*G.
You remember what that is, right? That's when water actually falls out of the sky.
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Okay, HC. I see that it's raining but I'm not getting my hopes up.
Could be just a sprinkle. I'll come out if real puddles form.
Until then I'm staying inside and sorting through stuff -- tons of stuff.
How did we end up with so much stuff?


Down By The Pond

It's been a while since we've wandered down to the pond.
We've got a few minutes now, why don't we go have a little look-see?

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Ah, a little pishing yields great rewards!
A faster focusing camera would yield even greater ones :>
Did you see the other species? If not, here's a list for you:
In addition to the black and white warbler up there, there are a couple of hooded warblers (looking spiffy for this time of year), several redstarts, a prairie warbler, white-eyed vireos, a yellow-throated warbler, a few northern parulas, yellow-throated vireos, red-eyed vireos, an acadian flycatcher, a couple of pileated woodpeckers, two hairy woodpeckers, a red-bellied woodpecker, a green heron, a bunch of Carolina wrens and a few northern cardinals.
Not bad for standing in one spot, eh?

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What's that way out in the pond, perched on that reed? It's too far to focus, but I think it's a green treefrog...yep, it's a youngster. How about an artsy-fartsy fuzzy shot?

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And look, down there just off the boardwalk. A cricket frog perched on the duckweed...right there between those pennywort leaves.

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Did you check out that 'shroom by the trail on the way down? Looks like it might be some sort of polypore. Hardly ever see them so nice and round, though.

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Man, something's been munching out on these beech leaves. Do you see the critters that did this? Me neither. They must have moved on.
But look down there on the ground. Have you ever seen so much frass in one place? And what a pretty color it is, too. Nothing like caterpillar poo to add a little textural interest.

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Well, time to get back to the house. There is soooo much left to do -- how did we ever end up with so much stuff anyway? Maybe we can take another walk later this week.

Note to self: One must spray each and every time one goes to walk in the woods this time of year. No exceptions, period! You are experienced in the outdoors - you should know this.
(Now, wonder where I put that lotion -- these seed tick bites are itching something fierce.)



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Beneath the house a moonscape of desperation and death awaits the unsuspecting...

Nah, not really. There are just a bunch of antlion larvae hanging out, waiting for insects to fall into their little pitfall traps. A trap is shaped so that as an insect struggles to climb out, it instead slides in - the proverbial slippery slope ;) If it doesn't slide in fast enough, the "doodlebug" flings sand at it with its jaws.

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If you look closely, in the center of the picture you will see the head and jaws of a larva. It is most likely in the genus Myrmeleon. Afraid I don't know the species...



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Yeah, you're looking at the picture thinking, "Such a cute bunny...chewing on some grass."

I'm thinking, "Wow, I wish I could get a better look at the fat ole tick on that cottontail's neck. Wonder if it's a rabbit tick?" Don't see the tick? Look closely at the lower edge of that cinnamon patch -- you'll see a little gray lump with a dark spot in its center.

Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus

Blue Skies and Black Widows

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I figured I'd better post a little something for the faithful few who visit here so I took a couple of pictures yesterday while we were at the new house. The sky shot was taken from the side porch as we sat and pondered where the new vegetable garden would go. The black widow (Latrodectus mactans) is one of six we found a few days ago as we moved piles of wood, bricks, and cinder blocks. I chose to leave her cinder block where it was just to see if she would stay or move on to someplace more secluded. Apparently, she likes it where she is and stayed put.

Treebeard and I have been very busy of late with preparations for our impending move. There are lots of other things I have seen that I would have loved to have been able to share with you, but it's hard to take pictures while driving a tractor or digging with a shovel, or stacking wood :) But, we have discovered a wealth of critters on the new property, from turkeys to cottonmouths so I know I will have plenty of blog fodder for future posts.


Hey, Girl!

Rainbow Scarab Beetle - Phanaeus vindex

Back in May of '05 I posted a picture of the male of this species. I also caused Rurality to almost expel coffee through her nose when I referred to the pretty fellow by the common name of tumble turd :) Sorry about that!


Invertebrate Art

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Secret symbols in the sand - wonder what invert drew these?
The top one looks like a dancer leaping, albeit a headless dancer...
The next one is a bungee jumper...again, headless.
Perhaps the last is the artist's signature.
Of course, it's all in the eye of the beholder :)


Drat, Ticked Again!

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Yes, that is my boot and, yes, those little brown specks are ticks.
Now, multiply what you see by about 7 times and you will have an idea of the number of these precious little critters I came in contact with today in a remarkably short period of time.
Click to enlarge the photo.
Shall we all have a collective shudder?
Larval stage of the lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum, a.k.a. seed ticks.

(Relax, I got them off before they even thought about attaching. Vigilance pays.)

SS Sweetgum

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While standing on the bascule of the bridge, I spied a tiny, intrepid sailor guiding his vessel south down the canal. Sail on.
(Eastern amberwing, Perithemis tenera, on sweetgum leaf, Liquidambar styraciflua)


My Kind Of Housework

We had a few heavy things we needed to get out of the woods near the house we live in now so we can move them to our new place. Treebeard borrowed a tractor from a friend of ours and we got to work. I have limited tractor experience, but Treebeard is a pro. He is also a generous teacher, he let me do most of the tractor work so I could sharpen my skills. Backing into tight spaces, moving heavy objects with the front-end loader, and getting un-stuck were all lessons learned today. Fun, fun, fun -- definitely my kind of housework!
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Stake Out

Treebeard and I make regular visits to the new house to keep an eye on things during construction. During these tight economic times you can't be too careful. After we check the house, we check the yard. Actually, we spend a lot of time checking the yard -- there is some pretty cool stuff out there.

On Friday afternoon, as we were scanning the yard in front of the porch we heard an interesting buzzing coming from a couple of dime-sized holes. Hmmm, some sort of solitary wasps, perhaps? Having inquiring minds, we settled down on the bumper of our truck and waited to see what might emerge. While we watched one of the holes, a set of antennae attached to a head with a yellow face peeked out but then quickly scooted back in out of sight. Not enough of a look to allow an ID. Shazbot!

It was hot and we both were sweating in the late afternoon sun, but we had to know so we continued to wait and watch. Finally, our persistence was rewarded. The builder of the second hole appeared, a katydid clutched to her belly. Aha! A golden reined wasp, Sphex habenus. By the time my camera focused, she was already abdomen-first down in the hole, ready to add the paralyzed katydid to her offspring's larder.

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After she dragged her prize down into the hole we heard the familiar buzzing again. Apparently it is necessary to do a little adjusting down there when a new tidbit is brought in.

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When she was satisfied with the placement, she re-emerged from the hole. We watched as she first walked around the opening tapping her antennae against the ground, and then flew around in circles above the opening before taking off to continue her hunt. Cool.