An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide – maryholland505@gmail.com

WELCOME TO A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY THROUGH THE FIELDS, WOODS, AND MARSHES OF NEW ENGLAND

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my award-winning book NATURALLY CURIOUS

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2023 Naturally Curious Calendars Available

2023 Naturally Curious Calendar orders can be placed starting today through November 10 by writing to me at 505 Wake Robin Drive, Shelburne, VT  05482. The calendars are printed on heavy card stock and measure 11” x 17” when hanging. There is one full-page photograph per month. The calendars are $35.00 each (includes postage). Please specify the number of calendars you would like to order, the mailing address to which they should be sent and your email address (so I can easily let you know I received your order and can quickly contact you if I have any questions). Your check can be made out to Mary Holland.  You will receive your calendars within 1-3 weeks of my receiving your order.

Orders placed before November 10 are guaranteed; those placed after 11/10/22 will be filled as long as my supply of extra calendars lasts. (I have had so many last-minute requests (after the deadline) in past years that I have not been able to fill all of the orders, so if you want to be sure of having your order filled, I encourage you to place your order before November 10th. I hate to disappoint anyone.)  Many thanks.

Monthly photos: Cover-moose; January-horned lark; February-barred owl impression in snow; March-beaver; April-great horned owls; May-showy lady’s slipper; June-black-crowned night heron; July-hummingbird clearwing moth; August-gray treefrog; September-red-eyed vireo; October-porcupine; November-wild turkey; December-black-capped chickadee.

Oak Leaf Seed Galls Releasing Wasps

One of the most unusual looking insect galls, the Oak Leaf Seed Gall, is produced by a tiny gall wasp, Dryocosmus deciduus, on Black and Red Oaks. The leaves of these trees react to a wasp laying an egg on them by creating a unique swelling, or gall, around it. You can find clusters of up to 40 Oak Leaf Seed Galls at this time of year starting to burst open, releasing the adult wasps which have matured inside them.

Few records exist of galls, many of which are homes for developing young insects, being used as food for humans or for domestic animals but Oak Leaf Seed Galls, known as “black oak wheat” in Missouri and Arkansas, have been used to fatten cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens due to their high starch content.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Snapping Turtle Eggs Hatching

For the past three months, Snapping Turtle eggs have been buried roughly five to ten inches deep in sandy soil (depth depends on the size of the female laying them), absorbing  heat from the sun-warmed soil.  Come September, the relatively few Snapping Turtle eggs that have avoided predation are hatching.  The sex of the baby turtles correlates to the temperature of the clutch. Temperatures of 73-80 °F will produce males, slightly above and below will produce both sexes, and more extreme temperatures will produce females.  The miniature snappers crawl their way up through the earth and head for the nearest pond, probably the most perilous journey of their lives. 

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Common Hazelnuts Maturing

There are two species of native hazelnuts that you are likely to come upon in the Northeast – Beaked Hazelnut, Corylus cornuta, (see https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/beaked-hazelnuts-maturing/) and American Hazelnut, Corylus americana. The nuts of both of these species are edible.

The fruit of American Hazelnut is produced in clusters of one to five, with each half-inch brown nut enclosed in a hairy, leaf-like husk with ragged edges. These nuts are maturing now, in September and October.  They are best harvested while the husks are still green, as once they turn brown, there will be stiff competition for them from local wildlife.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Common Green Darners Migrating South

Monarchs aren’t the only insect that are seasonal migrants.  The Common Green Darner dragonfly and a few other dragonfly species are as well.  However, where Monarchs move northward in the spring over several generations, one generation of Common Green Darners flies all the way from southern U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean in the spring to New England and Canada.  Here they lay eggs which give rise to a second generation that migrates south in September and October. Upon reaching their destination they then breed. A third generation emerges around November and lives entirely in the south during winter.  It’s their offspring that start the cycle again by swarming northward as temperatures warm in the spring.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Bumblebees Nectar Robbing

Flowering plants have a mutually beneficial arrangement with pollinators.  Insects and other pollinators that visit flowers inadvertently pollinate them when they retrieve nectar and pollen – a win-win situation for both flower and pollinator. Occasionally, however, creatures opt for a short cut to a flower’s nectaries and instead of entering the flower through its natural opening, they bite “robbing holes” that lead directly to the nectaries, bypassing the flower’s reproductive structures; consequently they do not pollinate the flower.

Charles Darwin refers to bumble bees “stealing” nectar from flowers in this manner in his 1859 book, The Origin of Species. Nectar robbers include species of carpenter bees, bumble bees, solitary bees, wasps, ants, hummingbirds, and some songbirds. In this photograph a bumble bee is chewing a hole at the base of a Cardinal Flower in order to access the flower’s nectaries more directly.

 Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Great Blue Heron “Powder Down”

Hidden beneath the outer breast feathers of Great Blue Herons are patches of special down feathers. These feathers grow continuously and are never molted.  When combed with the fringed, or pectinated, claw on a Great Blue Heron’s middle toe, the tips of these feathers break down into a dust the consistency of talcum powder.  The heron collects some of this “powder down” and applies it to its feathers which protects them against fish slime and other oils. (BirdNote)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Praying Mantis Well Equipped For Predation

A praying mantis is a formidable predator to all sort of insects and even an occasional hummingbird. Its forelegs are lightning fast – it takes a mantis only 50-70 milliseconds to strike out with its foremost pair of legs and grasp its prey.  Look closely and you’ll see rows of spines on these legs that help a mantis grasp its prey while it eats it.  However, even these adaptations don’t always guarantee a meal.  Seconds after being caught the wasp (in the inset photo) quickly slipped the mantis’s grip and flew to safety.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Giant Swallowtails Resident Species In Northern New England

Those of us who live in northern New England are enjoying being able to spot the largest butterfly in North America living among us.  With a 5 ½” – 7 ½” wingspread, the Giant Swallowtail’s (Papilio cresphontes) common name is very apt.  This butterfly has experienced dramatic range expansion in the last decade or so, as it was formerly found only as far north as the mid-Atlantic.  Now it is a regular New England inhabitant, primarily due to increasingly warm temperatures, and a common visitor to flower gardens at this time of year.

The larval stage of the Giant Swallowtail is as impressive, or more so, as the adult butterfly. Its defense mechanisms include resemblance to a bird dropping and a forked appendage that emits toxic chemicals (see https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/giant-swallowtail-caterpillar-defenses/).

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Nictitating Membranes

Sometimes referred to as a “third eyelid,” the translucent nictitating membrane visible across this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron’s eye serves to protect it from foreign objects and to moisten the eye while at the same time allowing the bird to retain some degree of visibility. It extends from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner, and is drawn across the eye much like a windshield wiper.  The membrane is thinner and more transparent than the fleshier upper and lower eyelids and is used periodically by birds when foraging, flying, diving, feeding young, gathering nesting material, etc.  In this case, the heron’s nictitating membrane was drawn across its eye seconds before it plunged beneath the surface of the water to capture a crayfish.    

Birds aren’t the only animals that possess nictitating membranes – it’s relatively common in fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals (but they are rare in primates).

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

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