Christmas Dragons

Working Christmas Day is not so bad when Mother Nature offers up sunny skies, mild temperatures and dragonflies. 

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Christmas.


A Streak of White

Sorry for the poor quality of this photo.  Sadly, it was the best of the 15 I took!  Treebeard and I were taking a walk in the woods this afternoon when he spotted a flash of white.  Being the observant guy that he is, he pretty quickly came to the conclusion that he had seen a white Carolina Wren and the chase was on.  We followed the little flashes of white as the bird made its way through the tangle of undergrowth along a ditch bank.  We got a couple of good looks at it and confirmed that it was a wren.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't sit still long enough for my camera to focus.  At least this shot shows the beak and legs as well as the overall body shape of the Carolina Wren.


American Woodcock

Wow, I can't believe it has been six months since I posted here last.  That's a long time!  I imagine I will become a more regular poster come the end of February. 

In the meantime, please enjoy this hasty photo of a woodcock, a.k.a. timberdoodle, a.k.a. bog sucker, a.k.a. hookem pate...  While on foot patrol, I nearly stepped on this little fellow.  He gave me quite a start when he flushed right beside my boot.  He flew a short distance down the trail and then started his crazy little walk.  Woodcocks are funny birds and if you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend that you watch them.

They tend to hang out in moist areas like woods, swamps, and wet thickets.  They probe the soil with their long bills in search of earthworms and other yummies.  One cool thing about their bills is that they are somewhat flexible.  A woodcock can open the tip of its bill without opening it along its full length.  Pretty remarkable, if you think about it.


Yard Finds

Hiding in plain site down in the corner of the yard this morning. I walked right past without seeing it.  Treebeard saw it and took this picture.

Freshly shed exoskeleton of a blue dasher dragonfly nymph.

A nest with eggs in a dark corner of the shed.  This is the second Prothonotary Warbler nest in the yard this year.

I posted all these on my Facebook page but thought I would share them here as well.  Other yard finds today included an eastern mud turtle in the compost and a black rat snake below the garden.  Tadpoles have colonized all the water in any open container.  Yep, it's a jungle out there.


Leaf-cutter Bee Nest?

Ever wonder what those leaf-cutter bees do with all those leaves they cut?  I think we found out this afternoon.  Treebeard lowered one of the rolled-up shades on the front porch and this fell out...

It is a pretty intricate structure.  We want to see what emerges from this nest so I rolled the structures back up, this time using newspaper.  The roll will go into a screen box and we'll wait to see what comes out.  I'll keep you posted.


Lots of Legs

Yesterday morning, before I headed to work, Treebeard and I took a walk around the yard.  We like to keep up with what's going on out there, you know.  As we passed by one of the red cedars growing on the lower end of the property Treebeard spotted something neither of us had observed before - a molting daddy longlegs.

While we watched this critter wriggling out of its out-grown skin, I looked around and spotted a couple more in various states of molt.  I was surprised to see so many so close together. 

It was a fun find.  You just never know what you're going to see when you take the time to look.


Little Rewards

Sometimes you don't get to do what you want, but if you're lucky, you get little rewards for doing what you have to do.

These are some little things I was rewarded with today...
Eastern Amberwing - our smallest dragonfly

Little Grass Frog -- our smallest frog

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle -- a little predator with a big attitude.


Skink Fest

They have been everywhere lately.

On the bridge...

On the deck...

On trees...

And beside the boardwalk...

Check out that head.  This one is a mature male broad-headed skink.  It's an impressive lizard!


Road Trip

Treebeard and I left the swamp behind this weekend and headed to the Piedmont of NC for the wedding of two of our friends.  The wedding was held outdoors in a beautiful setting and everyone had a wonderful time.  Since it was a four hour drive to the festivities, we opted to spend the night and head back Sunday following a Mother's Day brunch hosted by the happy couple.

We are early risers and the brunch was scheduled for 10 a.m.  What to do with our time???  A hike, of course!  It was quite pleasant to roam around and wander up and down those exotic landforms known as "hills" - we don't have many of those down here in the Coastal Plain.  And, of course, we had to check out the wetland area on the property. 

 I haven't taken the time to ID this fern yet.  It was quite tall though.

 This boardwalk leads to what they call a river in these parts -- it was only about eight feet wide at this point.  It does get much larger as it heads east.

 Again, I haven't taken time to ID...most likely some sort of rodent.

The butterfly is a great spangled fritillary.  We don't have these in the swamp.

 I had to rescue this juvenile ring-neck snake from the road.  It was not an easy task.  The little guy made himself as flat as he could and wiggled like crazy.
Back in the long ago when Treebeard and I lived in the Piedmont, this was one of my favorite wildflowers.  It has the crazy name of fire pink.


He's Back

See the blue berries getting ripe...

You would think we would have plenty of berries to go with our yogurt, waffles, or whatever.
Sadly, you would be wrong because...he's back...

Yes, I know, he is beautiful.  But he's a little devil, too.  Honestly, he will give us dirty looks and just swoop in and help himself to berries.  It wouldn't be so irritating if he ate all the berries he plucked but he's a nibbler.  Pick a berry, take a bite, go in for another.  Plus he has figured out how to go in under the bird netting we put over the bushes.  Like I said, he's a little devil...

Oh well, it won't be so bad once the berries start to ripen in large numbers.  But for now, we'll just have to heave heavy sighs and enjoy the bird instead of the berries.


Non-insect Yard Critters

Last post for today.  I didn't want you to think the yard was devoid of other types of critters besides insects. 

Take a close look at this picture.  Do you see one of my all-time favorite animals?

Yes?  No?  Maybe???  I'll give you a closer look...

If you've visited this blog before, you probably already guessed what was hiding in the tree.  If you haven't stopped by before, then you might not be aware that I am ever-so-slightly obsessed with green treefrogs.

But this is an equal opportunity site -- here's another amphibian that we found this morning.
Right in the middle of the frame is an Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad.  He was hiding under a piece of lumber in the front garden.  I love the sound these little guys make.

One last non-insect and then I'm done for the day.
Treebeard ran across this pretty little worm snake in the compost.  I love these little snakes.  It makes me smile whenever I see one.

Yard Critters, Part Two

A few dragonflies to add to the butterflies posted earlier...

 Blue Dasher - male

Blue Dasher - female

 Common Whitetail - female

Common Whitetail - male

 Eastern Pondhawk - female

Spangled Skimmer - male

Yard Critters

Cool spring mornings often offer up somewhat sleepy butterflies and dragonflies, making them the perfect mornings for a walk in the yard.  Treebeard and I enjoyed our breakfast and then took a ramble through the sunny parts of our property.  We didn't venture into the mature woods, we just ambled along the yard and old field sections.  I thought you might enjoy seeing what we saw.  I don't have time to upload all the photos right now.  We'll just have to settle for the butterflies for the moment.

I wasn't able to get a photo of every species that was out this morning but I did manage to get seven of them.

 Common Buckeye

 Clouded Sulphur (unless, of course, it's an Orange Sulphur -- I didn't get a good look and they appear almost identical to me.)
 The ubiquitous Pearl Crescent.  They have been quite abundant this year.

 Variegated Fritillary

This pesky Question Mark wouldn't sit still despite the coolness of the morning.  I did manage to get both the dorsal and ventral field marks in one shot, though, so I can't be too irritated with it :)

 Another butterfly that is quite abundant in the yard this year, the American Lady.

And lastly, a highly uncooperative Red Admiral.  This guys usually go out of their way to pose, but this one was being obstinate.

I'll try to do a follow-up post later to show you what else we found.


Waking Up

You know what they say about the best laid plans...  Despite my best intentions, I have been rather slack about posting.  It seems that everything I think of to post has already been posted by others who are more eloquent and more skilled with a camera.  Guess I'm just feeling redundant.  But, insecurities aside, I do have a little something to share today --

Things are really starting to wake up around here.  It is not unusual to find the aquatic basking turtles out any time the weather warms for a few days in winter.  You see them sitting on logs, soaking up the rays.  What is unusual is to find the turtles that spend their winters dug in underground or in heavy leaf litter making their way out in late February and early March.  It's a risky venture.  What if the weather turns cold again?

The past couple of days have seen the emergence of some of our "yard" turtles.  The little mud turtle in the picture below almost got itself stepped on by my big ole feet.  She was out by one of the raised beds in the garden.  I have a feeling she spent her winter buried in the soft dirt of the main garden.

We have two species of mud turtle here.  Unfortunately, I was unable to determine which this was because she wouldn't stick her head out - I needed to see if she had stripes on her head or not.

The next turtle to make an appearance was this eastern box turtle.  I recognize this one from last year.  She looked to be in good shape and felt reasonably heavy for this time of year.

Soon after the first box turtle showed up and in the same area, Treebeard found this tiny little boy.

I worry most for this little one.  Life for a young eastern box turtle is fraught with danger.  If he can avoid becoming a tasty little snack for some predator, he has the potential for a long life but that particular "if" is a big one.  They are so vulnerable at this point in their lives.  Their shells are relatively soft and they can't "box" themselves up yet.  Yet, if all goes well, I could be walking in my yard in some far future spring and happen upon him again.  Let's hope that is the case - for both of us  :~)