An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for September, 2010

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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

MATING GRASSHOPPERS

Insects have adapted to winter in a variety of ways – some migrate and most overwinter as eggs, larvae, pupae or adults. Grasshoppers mate this time of year (note smaller size of male on top), and then deposit their eggs in the earth before dying. As this photograph demonstrates, their drive to procreate is so strong that even handling them does not cause them to separate from each other. (Please excuse my dirty finger.) I am spending the next week in the Canadian bush – blog entries will resume upon my return!


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

PORCUPINE

This afternoon I happened across an ailing porcupine in the woods and I had the privilege of approaching it within just a few inches. At one point this prickly rodent yawned, allowing me to see its four large incisors. Because it wasn’t feeling up to snuff, the porcupine tolerated my scratching its nose, the only place besides its belly where there are no quills.


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

WOOD FROG

It’s not unusual to run across wood frogs in the woods during the fall. In the next month or so they will be disappearing under the leaf litter as well as under logs and rocks where they will hibernate through the winter. Wood frogs are one of four frogs in New England (spring peeper, gray treefrog and boreal chorus frog are the other three) that can survive being frozen, thanks to the production of glucose which acts like antifreeze. When the temperature rises they simply thaw out and their metabolism increases.


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

BOX ELDER BUGS

If you make a habit of looking at the base of box elder trees this fall, you may be rewarded with the sight of hundreds of box elder bugs (Boisea trivitatta) congregating prior to hibernating. While these insects feed on a variety of plants, box elder seeds are their food of choice (very little damage is done to the trees). Various developmental stages of box elder bugs can be found at these hibernation sites, including the immature red nymphs as well as the black adults. In addition to gathering at the base of box elders, these bugs also seek shelter inside cracks and crevices of exterior house walls. If these allow access to the inside of a house, the bugs will enter. Even though they are harmless, box elder bugs are considered a household pest by those whose domiciles are invaded – be forewarned that they will stain red and produce a foul odor if squashed. Several successive warm winters has resulted in a high population of these insects.


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

BEECHNUTS

This time of year American beech trees are dropping their prickly fruit on the forest floor, where their husks lay open, revealing one or two triangular nuts. Beechnuts are edible, though humans find them quite bitter (not as bitter as acorns, however). They are an important source of food for many birds and animals, including wood ducks, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, blue jays, tufted titmice, black bears, porcupines, flying squirrels, red and gray squirrel and eastern chipmunks.


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

Ravenel’s stinkhorn fungus (Phallus ravenelii) is aptly named for the foul odor it exudes and its horn-like shape. For obvious reasons this fungus belongs to the order Phallales and genus Phallus. Henry Revenel has the dubious distinction of having this phallic growth named after him. Your nose will let you know when you are near one -- its odor can be likened to decaying flesh or feces. Although it repels humans, the fungus’s odor attracts flies and other insects. The brownish head consists of spores; when the flies land on the head, the spores stick to their legs and are subsequently dispersed.

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

RAVENEL’S STINKHORN FUNGUS


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

WILD TURKEYS

You usually see wild turkeys walking in a field or through the woods as they forage for food. If they are in a hurry, however, they are adept at running. If they sense danger or are threatened, male turkeys, or toms, usually run away, whereas females, or hens, tend to escape by flying. The maximum distance a turkey can fly in a single flight is one mile, and their maximum flight speed is 60 miles per hour.


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

SPIDER EGG SAC

This is the time of year when spiders are mating and laying eggs. The female black and yellow argiope (large orb web spinner) deposits her eggs on a square piece of silk she spins. She then pulls the four corners together, forming it into a ball, which she then attaches to vegetation or a more solid structure. The female then dies; the eggs will hatch this fall. The spiderlings overwinter inside the egg sac, remaining more or less dormant during the cold weather, but becoming more active during warmer days. Because this activity demands energy, and there is no food available inside the egg sac, the young spiders resort to cannabalism. The surviving spiderlings will emerge from the egg sac come spring.


NATURALLY CURIOUS–THE BOOK–WILL BE HERE SOON!

I am delighted to be able to share the good news that you can now pre-order my book, Naturally Curious!  I’ve just seen an advance copy, and the printer did a wonderful job with the photographs, and Trafalgar Square did an equally eye-catching job on the layout – I can truly say I am delighted with the end product of a lifetime of photographing, observing, collecting and researching natural history.  How lucky can one get to have the opportunity to put what one treasures most between the covers of a book?   Naturally Curious will be out October 18th.  If you’re in need of a Christmas present for someone, it might be just the ticket!

I’m offering my blog readers the opportunity to pre-order signed copies of Naturally Curious at a special discount price of $35.00 from my publisher’s web site. This offer is only good until October 15, 2010, at which time the regular retail price of $39.95 will apply. CLICK HERE to take advantage of this special offer!


Jack-in-the-Pulpit Fruit – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT FRUIT

After the spathe (hood) dies back, Jack-in-the-pulpit fruit is more obvious, especially as the green berries turn brilliant red this time of year. The tissues of Jack-in-the-pulpit, particularly the roots, contain high toxic levels of oxalic acid. The berries, if eaten, cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat due to physical cuts caused by the crystals of calcium oxalate. Even so, white-tailed deer heavily browse on it. Drying and roasting supposedly removes these toxins from the plant, and although I wouldn’t advocate doing so, some people peel, grind, dry and roast the root in order to make a bread or cereal that has a chocolate flavor. Sliced, roasted root “chips” are said to make delicious chocolate-flavored wafers.


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

MILKSNAKES

Some snakes lay eggs, while others give birth to live young. Milksnakes belong to the former group and this past June or July female milksnakes were busy laying 3 to 20 eggs beneath logs or in compost piles – locations that offered protection from predators and cold weather. Those eggs are now hatching, and 7”-10” milksnakes are emerging. Newly hatched milksnakes have especially vibrant colors as well as an egg tooth (no longer present on the young milksnake pictured) at the tip of their snout, which enables them to slice out of their egg.


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

I was walking behind my house this afternoon when my dog alerted me to the fact that there was a black bear about 30 yards away from us. A mother and three cubs were spotted on my road recently, and last week I found scat on my driveway, so it was not a total surprise that we crossed paths with one. Still, it’s always a thrill to confirm firsthand that you are actively sharing woodlands with such a magnificent animal. I have a number of photographs I’ve taken of black bears in the wild, but the one I’m posting today is of a bear in captivity (Squam Lakes Science Center, Holderness, NH). I’m hoping its pose amuses everyone as much as it does me.

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

BLACK BEAR


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

JUVENILE COMMON LOON

Remember that 3-ounce black ball of fluff riding on its parent’s back in the beginning of June? In the past 11 weeks loon chicks have grown to resemble their parents in size (if not in plumage), and are well on their way to total independency, if they haven’t reached it already. At about this age juveniles learn to fly, and soon will catch all their own food. Most parent loons will leave their young within the next month and congregate on larger lakes prior to migrating to the New England coast, where most are thought to overwinter. One to three weeks after the parents leave, juveniles will begin their migration.


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

VIRGINIA CTENUCHA MOTH

The Virginia ctenucha moth, a day-flying moth, is quite common in New England. During its larval stage the spiky caterpillar feeds primarily on grasses, irises and sedges. The wings of these mating ctenucha moths are covering the most impressive part of their bodies – their metallic blue abdomens. As is typical with moths, the male, on the left, has more elaborate antennae than the female ( it uses them to detect the female’s pheromones).