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Zebra swallowtails on bear scat.


Waiting For Dinner

On a lone blade of grass, in the middle of the trail, the ticks line up to wait for take-out. You don't want to be on the menu but you can't let the little suckers scare you out of the woods -- there's too much to see out there. Just be diligent about checking yourself for the bothersome little beasts.

I carry a small vial when I'm out and about. The one I use at work is filled with 90% ethyl alcohol and any ticks that are crawling on my clothes or on me get to go swimming in it. Any that I find attached go into a separate vial, also filled with alcohol. Periodically I package up the vials and their attendant paperwork and mail them off to the folks at Environmental Health as part of a continuing tick study.

While in the home swamp I carry a little container of soapy water for the crawlers and any that sneak past me and attach get taped to the calendar as soon as I find them and pull them out. A simple reminder to check for any signs of tick-borne illness.

Is it a pain? Absolutely. Am I gonna let them keep me trapped inside? Absolutely not.
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How Does Your Garden Grow?

The squash are blooming,
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The tomatoes are coming along,
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New potatoes are ready to dig,
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And the raised beds are keeping us supplied with salad essentials.
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Plus, we've begun harvesting a few blueberries -- and we weren't even expecting them to bear this year!

Life is good.


Under the Boardwalk

Low light + macro zoom = fuzzy pictures. Oh well, I've never claimed to be a photographer!

Our recent heavy rain showers have the male southern toads (Bufo terrestris) out singing again. There were two under the boardwalk on Monday trying as hard as they could to attract females.

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While they weren't having too much luck with the lady toads, they were proving very attractive to the female mosquitoes. If you look closely at the second toad you will see at least seven of the little suckers on his back.

They were also attracting the attention of several red-bellied water snakes (Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster). One snake had a couple of nice lumps in its mid-section.

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But it, too, was being annoyed by mosquitoes.

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That Tendril Has Eyes

Three snapshots of the cutest little northern rough green snake that was hanging out in a grape vine along the boardwalk at the work swamp yesterday. Treebeard happened upon it while he was trying to get a better look at an insect. Luckily for me, the little fellow stayed put while Treebeard fetched me from the office. I included the last shot so you could appreciate how small the snake was and how well it blended in with its surroundings.

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The Leprechaun Lied

And so the dream is shattered...

A double rainbow should equal two pots of gold, right?
No such luck -- even though one of the rainbows ended in our side yard.
There weren't even any Skittles!
We got ripped off :(

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Cool Dragon

Green Darner, Anax junius
You have to watch your step around here on these cool mornings lest you step on a dragon.
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Never have I learned the fine art of keying out daddy longlegs (AKA harvestman). Sure, I know they belong to the order Opiliones, but beyond that I'm clueless as to genus and species.
Still, that doesn't stop me from appreciating the little beasties and their habits.
And NO! They are not venomous and yes, they can bite if they want to -- which they usually do not.


Head Above Water - Barely

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It certainly has been nice to have rain this spring.


The Sometimes Underappreciated

As I have indicated in the past, I love the little things. Even if those things are ones that some might find less than lovable.

Snails fascinate me, but I am lousy at trying to ID them. Anyone know of a book or a website that might help quell my ignorance?
I can tell you that the little girl/guy was on a pawpaw leaf...

And then there are the spiders. I do love 'em. Great big hairy ones or little bitty shiny ones...it doesn't matter 'cause they are all cool. This is one of two wolf spiders that popped out of the mulch that another ranger and I were spreading in the butterfly garden. We had to take a moment to examine it -- my colleague is as crazy as I am!
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This was another of our finds, a very dark American toad. He was the same color as the soil of the area and fabulously warty. The other ranger, we'll call him Scranton from now on, spotted him just off the boardwalk and jumped down to scoop him up.
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And speaking of the boardwalk...I was out this morning listening to birds and frogs and such when I got a very pleasant surprize. Seems I was sharing the walkway with a nice big ole' bobcat. I don't know who was more startled, me or the cat! He jumped off the boardwalk before I could get my camera up and that's a shame. He was quite close.


Life Can Be (in) The Pits

Check out the little blue-gray lumps in this skink's "armpit" ... those are ticks.
He had them on the other side as well.

Okay, all together now --- EEEWWW

Click the photo to fully appreciate the infestation.
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May Apples

May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum
In April you would have found flowers beneath these umbrella-like leaves.
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Now, underneath the foliage, the fruit ripens.
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Supposedly, Eastern Box Turtles find the fruit quite tasty. They are said to be one of the main distributors of the seeds of the May Apple.


Under Composting Corrugated Cardboard

When we are out and about in the yard we can't resist the urge to look under things. One never knows what lurks beneath objects lying flat on the ground. Looking under a sheet of corrugated cardboard peacefully composting in the side yard proved to be quite productive. Below are just a few of the things making themselves at home in this dark, moist habitat.

An interesting looking species of ant...what big heads some of the individuals had! Guards, perhaps? E. O. Wilson would know ;)

A nice, BIG wolf spider. Probably a Carolina wolf.

Three Eastern narrow-mouthed toads (Gastrophryne carolinensis) were hanging out under here. This one was the most handsome one. Narrow-mouthed toads are such interesting little amphibians -- hard to get hold of though.
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All the creatures were probably relieved when we put the cardboard back down.
It is only right to replace after you flip...after all, it's home to something.