An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for April, 2011

Polyphemus Moth Cocoon and Adult

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polyphemus moth is one of our giant silk moths, with a 5 ½” wingspan and an
eyespot on each of its four wings.  The
caterpillar, or larva, is bright green and quite fat, with red and silver spots
along its sides.  When mature, the
caterpillar wraps itself in a leaf and spins a silk cocoon, about 1 ½”
long.  Once inside the cocoon, the larva
pupates, and spends the winter as a pupa. In May the adult female moth emerges,
and after attracting a mate with her pheromones, mating takes place and eggs
are layed.  Polyphemus moths live for
such a short time that they don’t even eat, and therefore have no mouth parts.

Quaking Aspen Flowers

Quaking or trembling aspen, also referred to as popple in northern New England, flowers early in the spring, before its leaf buds begin to open. Male flowers and female flowers are borne on separate trees, in the form of pendant catkins(photograph is of male, or staminate, flowers) . Their hairy seeds will be blowing everywhere once they mature in May, looking like little puffs of cotton floating in the air. Even though there are millions of them, poplar seeds need very specific conditions in which to germinate. Thus, reproduction is largely accomplished by root sprouting, which forms clones, or clusters, of trees which are all connected underground.

Red Fox Kits

For the first month of their life, red fox kits have a dark gray coat. Just about the time they come up out of their den and start spending time above ground, a sandy-colored coat grows in (great camouflage for a sandy den), which will eventually be replaced with an even redder coat. The litter in this photograph must be about four weeks old, as they are just starting to lose their gray coats. If you look closely, you will find eight kits – although red foxes can have up to ten young, the average litter size is five.

Wood Frog

One of the first amphibians to appear in the spring is the wood frog – and they were out in force last night, migrating from the woodlands where they live and hibernate to the ponds where they breed. Thanks to their paired vocal sacs, which act as resonating chambers for their duck-like calls, they can be heard far and wide. You can both hear wood frogs and see their sacs inflating by going to .

Great Blue Heron

After many minutes of standing stock still, eyes fixed on the water beneath him, the great blue heron slowly stretched his neck forward, paused and then suddenly thrust his beak into the water.  If you look very closely, you’ll see that he came up with more than a mouthful of aquatic vegetation.

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Mystery Photo

Carlene Squires, from Jonesville, Vermont, submitted this photograph of a mysterious substance that presumably a red squirrel had stored inside of a hollow tree. Neither I nor any of the naturalists I’ve consulted has been able to identify exactly what this midden consists of. One suggestion was ash seeds that have had their wings removed, but I can’t believe every seed could be so uniformly stripped of its papery wing. Any and all suggestions will be considered and appreciated!


Coltsfoot, one of our earliest wildflowers, is in bloom! These roadside-loving plants bear a remarkable resemblance to dandelions. Both are in the Composite family, and thus, what looks like one flower is actually a cluster of many small flowers (florets). Dandelion florets are all strap-like “ray” florets whereas the center florets of coltsfoot are tubular “disk” florets, surrounded by ray florets. In addition, coltsfoot blossoms well before its colt’s foot-shaped leaves emerge, while dandelions produce flowers and leaves at the same time.