Archive for March, 2014

A Naturalist Learns …..

I always find it more fun to learn from observations than from a book. The information stays with me much longer when I have the memory and the direct observation.

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Some caterpillars, like this red-spotted caterpillar, mimic bird droppings.

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 I doubt if this would appear very appetizing to a bird.

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The caterpillars of the red-spotted purple and viceroy butterflies closely resemble each other. I don’t understand why this one is red.

Red-spotted purples lay their eggs in wild cherry, apple, and willow trees.

Viceroys lay theirs in willow, wild cherry and poplar.

The adults of both species feed on flowers and also at sap flows, decaying fruit, carrion and animal droppings.

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Both species overwinter as partially-grown caterpillars. The 4th instar caterpillar cuts off all of a leaf except near the base and spins silk back and forth across the top of it. As the silk dries, it curls the remaining leaf into this tube.

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The half-inch caterpillar spends the winter in diapause (a pause in its development). It might come outside the tube on an overly-warm winter day.

(I wrote this blog  in the fall. Predators got the caterpillars, so, I didn’t get to see if any survived winter.)

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This red-spotted purple emerged from its chrysalis (which I didn’t witness).

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 Apparently, it couldn’t, or didn’t get in an upside-down position so its wings would fully open before they dried. It kept trying.

It must have flown off, because I didn’t see it again.

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Viceroy butterflies mimic the monarch butterfly. They have an extra black band on their hindwing that the monarchs don’t. Monarch are bigger, and their wings are shaped differently.

Icy Lichens

Rain, freezing rain and LOTS sleet fell most of one day in February, and was expected to continue overnight.

So … once again, I planned to blog ice. This time it was ice-encased lichens.

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 I made a slow loop around the yard, checking all the tree trunks and limbs that I knew had lichens on them.

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  They didn’t know their names. So, why should I worry about identifying them.

I planned to just enjoy the experience.

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Of course, the ice complicated focusing the pictures. This grouping was on a horizontal limb in my dawn redwood tree.

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I wouldn’t even want to try to identify this many in one day anyway.

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Besides, the ice and reflections distort details.

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 Being out in today’s weather was quite an enjoyable adventure.

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Bang, my high school Girl Scout leader, often said (when I was a GS leader) that if everything went well, then there wouldn’t be as much to remember.

I took my senior troop winter camping. We stayed in the lodge at Girl Scout Camp Cedar Point, and the furnace quit running the night. My youngest daughter looked down right miserable in her sleeping bag. The woman assisting me with the trip, turned her radio on  … the temperature was  -18! The girls heard that, got real excited, cooked our usual breakfast, got suited up, went out and sledded down the hill by the lodge. That was definitely one trip that’s still talked about almost 30 years later.

Saying “Hi.”

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I just wanted my followers to know that I was in a wreck. I’m fine except for some nasty bruising  on my lower left leg, and other smaller ones scattered around my person. Nothing is broken. Buffy’s fine, just confused over the whole event. My truck was totaled.

I miss you all and will be back as soon as I can.

Kathy

A Fossilized What?

A fossilized what?

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Yes, two fossilized pearls from the Niobrara chalk of western Kansas. My son found them and gave them to me. The small one measures 4 mm diameter and the larger 8 mm.

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Giant clams lived in the inland sea that divided north America during the age of the dinosaurs. They grew to five feet in diameter.

The small one on the right measures 11 x 9 inches and the piece of a larger one 7 x 15 inches.

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Oysters crowded together on the giant clams.

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Fossilized clams and oysters are common. Fossilized pearls are rare.

First Bloomers

The last little bits of ice finally melted today.

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Flowers starting to bloom in the maple by the barn.

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Two crocus grew near the large oak at Ingram Hill.

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 They were such a pleasant surprise!

Here’s Hoping

Here’s hoping the fox family returns to den under the barn.

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 I noticed lately that Buffy had been sniffing around the same part of the barn. The dirt here definitely looked like there’d been some coming and going. According to my Mammals of Illinois book by Donald F. Hoffman, red foxes breed the latter part of January and through February. Since we’re in southern Illinois, I figure they’d breed earlier here. Gestation lasts 51 days.

They were under the barn only a few days last year. So, I’m hoping they will like our accommodations again.

Let’s all hope they return to our barn, and we can watch their early “childhood.”

Darn, false alarm … a groundhog feeds in the backyard now.

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My hopes are up again!

Rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow fell in a 24-hour event. I took advantage of these conditions and made a loop around the yard to see what wildlife visited  during the night.

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Accumulation added up to three or more inches.

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Fox tracks can be distinguished from dog tracks by perfect-stepping and the lack of foot drag.

The foxes went under the barn along the open space toward the back corner. The adults used the “square” as a lookout.

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  This picture also shows the distinctive chevron shape of the back pad. Continued snow fall altered the track somewhat.

The following pictures were taken in 2012.

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Sibling rivalry?

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There were 4 in the litter.

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Play time.

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Dad bringing in a meal.

I hope my wishful thinking just might manifest them coming back to den under the barn.

My fingers are crossed.

Are yours?

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Buffy and I went out this morning. The groundhog ran under the barn when it saw us. I walked down to check for its tracks, and smelled skunk.

I should charge rent!

A Yard Surprise

I took my first-ever picture of a pileated woodpecker this afternoon …

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in my backyard!

We’ve lived in this house 40+ years. I’ve only seen one other pileated in the yard, and that was 3 weeks ago.

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Please excuse the quality of the pictures. They were taken through a double-pane, not-so-clean picture window.

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Not to mention that the pileated was hungry and aggressively hunting for “supper.” They eat mainly carpenter ants and beetle larvae.

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This sweet gum tree grows roughly 20 yards from the house.  It’s health isn’t that good.

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 So, yes, I took these pictures from my computer chair.

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The 3:30 p.m. sun was just right for the circumstances surrounding this experience.

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It was aggressive in its hunting/drilling/chipping.

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The pileated drilled all these holes during the 30 minutes I watched it. Not all show in the picture.

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I’m hoping it returns often, now that it knows the sweet gum is a good food source.