An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for June, 2010

Dogbane Beetle – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

DOGBANE BEETLE

Dogbane beetles rank right up there in my list of favorite insects. Like all beetles, they have specialized, hard outer wings, or elytra, which provide a protective covering for the more delicate inner pair of wings. The iridescense of the elytra has to be seen to be believed. When looked at from different angles, their metallic colors change, due to the microscopic crystals in the surface of the elytra, which split and refract light like miniature prisms. Adults feed strictly on dogbane leaves, the larvae on the roots of dogbane.


Skippers – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

SKIPPERS

Skippers are a group of butterflies named for their quick, darting manner of flight. Group characteristics include antennae clubs which are hooked backwards, relatively stocky bodies and comparatively large eyes. Telling the different skipper species apart can be very tricky – many are a rather drab brown or gray color -- even lepidopterists have trouble identifying them in the field. Some species produce more than one brood a summer.


Common Loon Chicks Hatching – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

COMMON LOON CHICKS HATCHING

After being incubated for 28 or 29 days, common loon eggs are hatching, barring any predation or flooding of the nest. The downy chicks (often two but sometimes only one) are up and out of the nest within a day of hatching, at which point they are capable of swimming and diving. They cannot, however, regulate their temperature for several days. During this time, the chicks often climb up onto their parent’s back and crawl under their protective wings, sometimes popping out to be fed, to enjoy the view or to swim next to their parent.


Toadlets – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

TOADLETS

If you know of a pond where you heard American toads trilling three or four weeks ago, now is the time to revisit it, as toad tadpoles are transforming into toadlets – very tiny toadlets – and coming onto land. It’s easy to miss them – you could fit two or three of them on a dime – but usually their numbers are so great that if you’re looking for them, you’ll see them. In a pond where toads have mated and layed eggs, you’ll now see hundreds of tiny, dark toadlets in the vegetation around the pond, where they may linger for days or weeks before moving away. Look very closely and you’ll see remnants of a tadpole tail and the beginning of their mottled adult coloration.


Cattails Flowering – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

CATTAIILS FLOWERING

While cattails reproduce vegetatively, forming clones by sending up shoots off their creeping rhizomes, or horizontal stems, they also reproduce sexually, developing seeds. Separate male and female catttail flowers form in cylindrical spikes located at the tip of a stalk, with the female flower located directly below the male. Timing is such that the male flowers tend to mature and produce pollen (which rains down on the female flower below) sooner than the females flowers are fully developed and receptive to it, thus discouraging self-pollination. However, the timing of their maturity often overlaps, so that most cattail flowers are self-pollinated (resulting in only a 50% seed success rate). Approximately 220,000 seeds per spike are produced. The male flower spike dies soon after producing clouds of pollen, leaving the seed-laden, sausage-like female spike below. Each seed has tiny hair-like appendages which aid in its dispersal. These hairs form on the outside of the spike, giving it a felt-like surface.


Red Fox Pups – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Red fox pups are roughly 6 to 8 weeks old now, and are at their most playful and curious stage. If you are lucky enough to know of a nearby den, with patience you may be able to observe some of their antics. While the parents are off hunting for food for them, the pups are interacting with each other – pouncing on, playfully nipping and chasing each other, usually within feet of the den’s entrance hole (in case a speedy retreat is necessary). They are just beginning to accompany their parents on foraging trips so that they can learn how to procure their own meals. The pup on top in the photograph is the runt of the litter, who holds his own quite nicely, as you can see.

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

RED FOX PUPS


Red-shouldered Hawk Nestlings are Fledging – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK NESTLINGS ARE FLEDGING

Red-shouldered hawk nests are usually located in mixed deciduous-coniferous woods, below the canopy but more than halfway up a tree, in a crotch of the main trunk. In addition to sticks, leaves and bark, the nest usually contains living sprigs of conifers. The easiest way to detect a red-shouldered hawk nest is to look at the forest floor; as early as five days of age the young birds of are ejecting their droppings out over the edge of the nest, and the ground surrounding the nesting tree usually appears to be white-washed. At around six weeks of age, young red-shouldered hawks leave their nest, but continue being fed by their parents for another 8 to ten weeks.