An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for June, 2010

Painted Turtles Laying Eggs – 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.

PAINTED TURTLES LAYING EGGS

Painted turtles are aquatic and rarely seen on land except at this time of year, when females leave their ponds and travel over ground to soil sandy enough to bury their eggs in. I followed this individual across a road and into the woods, hoping to see her laying her eggs, but she chose to plow head first into the leaf litter where she remained half buried and motionless until I had to leave. Notice the hitch-hiking slug on her neck. Hopefully (for the slug’s sake) it didn’t glide too near the turtle’s mouth. Although toothless, like all turtles, this painted turtle might have considered the slug a tasty snack and snapped it up with her horny beak.


Floating Bullfrog – 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.

FLOATING BULLFROG

If you know a better way to spend a hot, humid day in June, let me know! This bullfrog has it all figured out.


Forget-me-not – 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.

FORGET-ME-NOT

I find it interesting that even though forget-me-not flowers are capable of self-pollination, they are also designed to encourage cross-pollination. When the flowers first open, the female structures, or pistils, on which pollen must land in order for pollination to take place, stick out and above the central opening of the flower. The male reproductive parts, the pollen-bearing stamens, are recessed down inside the hole. This arrangement increases the chances that a visiting insect will brush against the pistils first, depositing pollen on them that it’s been carrying, before seeking nectar or pollen down inside the hole. Eventually, as the flower develops, the stamens are pushed up until they touch the pistils, thereby allowing self-pollination to take place, in case cross-pollination hasn’t.


Slugs -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.

SLUGS

A slug is basically a snail that lacks or has a greatly reduced (internal) shell. Because of this, slugs tend to dry out quite easily and thus inhabit mostly moist environments, retreating to damp hiding places when the weather is dry. A close look at a slug reveals two pairs of tentacles on its head. The upper pair senses light and the lower pair has the ability to smell things. Both pairs are retractable, and can be regrown if damaged. A slug’s sexual organs (they are hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female parts) are located under the saddle-shaped mantle behind its head. When open, the hole through which respiration takes place is visible on the side of the mantle. In the right light, it is possible to see the layer of mucus, or slime trail, that slugs secrete and on which they travel. This mucus protects the foot of the slug and also contains fibers which prevent the slug from slipping down vertical surfaces. Anyone who has picked up a slug knows that they also coat their own body with slippery mucus, which not only keeps it moist, but helps it elude the grasp of predators.


Orange Hawkweed – 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.

ORANGE HAWKWEED

Orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum), also called devil’s paintbrush, is a perennial in the Aster family, found largely in open areas with poor soil. The seeds of this flower develop without pollination, and thus the resulting plants are exact clones of the parent plant. It also reproduces from horizontal stems that creep along the ground as well as under the ground. Thus, where you find one hawkweed, you usually find many. You often find ox-eye daisies growing alongside hawkweed, as well as several species of hawkweed that are yellow. Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies often visit hawkweed for its nectar, even though very little is produced by the plant.


Spider Silk – 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.

SPIDER SILK

All spiders spin silk – they use it as a safety line when climbing, to wrap their eggs as well as prey in, to disperse when young (it catches the wind and they “balloon” off into the air) – but only certain species of spiders use it to make a trap, or web, in which to catch their prey. Wolf spiders are hunters, as are the crab spiders and jumping spiders that hide in flowers and other locations that are attractive to insects, waiting to surprise and pounce upon their prey. Some spiders, however, spin sticky, silken webs into which unsuspecting insects fly (such as the pictured fly), thereby usually sealing the insect’s fate.


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

The fruiting bodies of this type of fungus are erect, branched and often clustered together, giving it the appearance of aquatic coral – hence, its common name. Spores are located on the sides of the branches. Different species of coral fungus are often bright yellow, orange or red, although white, pink, tan and purple coral fungi are also quite common. Some species are edible; however, some have a laxative effect, so check with a mycologist before eating!

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.

CORAL FUNGUS