Cloud Watching

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Evening clouds apparently captivated this dragonfly.

Camouflaged!

Are you impressed with my picture of this small branch off an ash tree?

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It even includes a caterpillar.

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This is the other end of the stick with another caterpillar on it.

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The head end of the caterpillar resembles a bent stick.

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The caterpillar shows better here with its hairs raised from the broken twig.

It’s a caterpillar of a dot-lined white moth (Artace cribraria) which grows to two inches long. They feed mostly at night and rest on the bark during the day. Their host plants include cherry and oak trees, roses and other woody plants. They overwinter in the egg.

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Years ago my Mother and I were having a picnic at Bell Smith Springs in the Shawnee National Forest (in southern Illinois). The caterpillar dot-lined white moth above joined us at the picnic table. It didn’t blend in with the table as well as it thought it did.

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It didn’t like her attention and “eyes” opened on the back of its thorax in an attempt to scare us.

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Then to get its point across, it raised into a cobra position and swayed back and forth from one side to the other.

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It refused to be intimidated!

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Its fake head resembled that of a cobra’s head.

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Tussock Moth Caterpillars and a Moth

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It’s obvious this caterpillar is called a tussock moth caterpillar.

(Euchaetes egle)

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A common milkweed grows beside an old garage on the north side of our yard. There were caterpillars scattered around the plant. They were on top of the leaves

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and on the underneath side too. The milky sap from the plant makes them toxic to predators, the same as it does for the monarch butterfly caterpillar.

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It also makes the moth toxic too. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to see this milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle). It didn’t cooperate for me to change the camera setting for a better picture. The orange of its body is usually darker than it looks in the picture.

Relive a Memory

The words, “Relive a memory” came to mind. How odd?

My mind started wondering and ended up with when I wrote nature articles for the Saturday edition of several local newspapers. This was in the 90’s. I illustrated every article with an ink drawing.

It didn’t take long to pick out the memory I wanted to relive.

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Bell Pond, a remote cypress swamp.

My son, Keith, went with me. He was 15 years old.

Intermittent rain fell. There were no trails as we followed the water’s edge. Every step was a slurp. One of the first things I saw was a water moccasin. My little red umbrella almost kept my sketchbook and field notebook dry. A bullfrog called. A long dark snake swam effortlessly along the water’s surface. Another snake rolled off a log into the water.

The sky darkened again. This time dark-dark. Thunder was nearing. We picked up our pace as we followed an animal trail, the only trail through here. Suddenly we were in a heavy downpour. I hurried to the water’s edge, not wanting to miss a thing. The area was open with dead trees scattered about and a thick undergrowth of buttonbush. All was grayed by the angled sheeting rain. Occasional lightning  and rolling thunder added to the experience.

We heard bullfrogs. Deer flies found us. Fallen sticks, logs and patches of dense vegetation made walking difficult. Some areas smelled fishy from all the crawdads. The rain finally stopped. I was soaked!

The word dismal must have originated with someone trying to describe a swamp on a rainy day. After 3 1/2 hours of hiking, we were tired and very exhilarated. We couldn’t have had more fun if we had tried.

The swamp was an amazing, intriguing, eerie place for a visit. The weather added even more drama to the wildlife packed wetland community.

I was just glad I didn’t call it home!

Almost Neon

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An eastern pondhawk dragonfly looked almost neon in the morning light.

(I posted this blog early this morning. I just realized the wrong dragonfly picture was in the blog … not the one I posted. I have no ideas how that happened. This one definitely looks more neon.  Hope this post works!)

 

Dragonflies in the Evening

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  I find myself making evening rounds of the backyard, photographing dragonflies.

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 They don’t know what they are, so why should I worry over knowing what they are?

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I come from an artistic family, and I find myself enjoying the lights and darks, the contrast and colors,

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plus the overall design.

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The abdomen on this one looks like it didn’t emerge correctly.

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I concentrated on having two dragonflies in the same picture.

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This picture has contrast and an abstract design too.

Now I wonder what I’ll find tomorrow night?

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great spangled fritillary … sounds like royalty, doesn’t it?

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It’s a common butterfly here in southern Illinois … except for this year after a harsh winter.

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They’re a large butterfly, measuring from 2.6 to 3.5 inches. They also go by the scientific name Speyeria cybele cybele.

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The silver spots on the underside of their hindwings are quite distinctive.

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There’s a single generation of them a year, and the adults fly from mid-May to early October.

Now here’s the interesting thing … the caterpillars feed only on violets. The adult lays an egg near a violet plant. The egg hatches, and the teeny caterpillar burrows into the ground. It stays there all winter without eating. The caterpillar comes out of hibernation in the spring, and then it starts eating on the young violets.

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The variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)  is much less common in southern Illinois. They start migrating north in April. They also feed on violets, pansies, passion-flower and maypops.

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