Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm Back...

Butterfly weed sketch and queen of the prairie starting to bloom.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Updates Part (Whatever)

Purple Prairie Clover
Besides the vibrant purple of the prairie clovers, here are some other observations from today:
Red baneberries are now, indeed, red berries.
Culver's root has the very first flowers at the bottom of the stalks.
This picture didn't really capture very well the lovely orange color of the flowers on the little bluestem, but let it act as a prompt to go outside and seek some... their tiny blooms -- which most people never notice at all -- are really quite special and colorful.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Ohio spiderwort to commemorate our Ohio trip. Spiderworts seem to just keep going and going, which is, of course, a good quality for a flower to have... So, here's some notes from our travels.

We took a ferry to Kelley's Island to see these -- some of the largest (and most accessible) glacial carvings in the world. This exposed groove is over 400 feet long and 35 feet wide -- and apparently was dwarfed by some of the ones that were quarried a hundred years ago. (That's a shame, no?) They were completely fenced off, which was sad because they looked fun to climb on and slide down, but good, because tons of people climbing and sliding on them would wreck them eventually. In terms of geology and really old things, Kelley's Island is also a great place for finding marine life fossils... and I found tons!
Speaking of tons... these mayflies were everywhere, although I think they were near the end of their emergence. Last year, I recall, there were many, many more living ones. This year, we saw piles of them on the ground, where I guess people cleaned the dead ones using shovels. Crazy. Lake Michigan has no such thing, but I guess Lake Erie is warm enough...
Aren't these baby swallows cute???

In addition to Kelley's Island, we also went to Cleveland and went to the botanic garden there. It was a nice garden, not too big. It had several very small gardens that were actually neat in their diminutiveness because you could really see how you could do that in your own yard. But there were a few gems at the garden. First was the indoor greenhouses, one of which was a butterfly house, and a really good one. The second was the children's garden. I am not a child, but I could have easily spent all day there. How could you go wrong, inspired by this quotation, "Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets, and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education."-- Horticulturist Luther Burbank? It is the type of installation that I just wish our school could have... magical, educational, fun... I recommend a visit if you're stopping in Cleveland.

AND, they even do phenology there!
I have discovered that blue dashers like water gardens at botanical gardens all over the midwest. (I also saw twelve-spotted skimmers, some huge darners that looked like helicopters, and some damselflies, but this is the only fellow I got a picture of.)
I just liked the color and pattern in this coneflower.
And I photographed the dogwood because we don't see flowering dogwood too much this far north.

Guess I Scared It

But I got pretty close...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Today's Discoveries

We had a lovely day at the gardens today, hot and summery but not unbearable, before the late afternoon storms swept through.

Water lilies are in full bloom, where they have them in all sizes and shapes and colors -- purples and yellows, peaches, pinks, whites. The insides fascinate me, they seem to transition from petal to stamen gradually, as though some petals are made of pollen.

Blue dashers were everywhere today, but they didn't especially want to be photographed. They still sat better than all the other odonata we saw, which I didn't stand a chance of capturing with my point-and-shoot.

Rattlesnake master... the plant with some of the most interesting leaves in the prairie, makes up for it with some of the most boring flowers...

Purple flowering raspberry is a lovely color and has fascinating fuzzy stems and buds. It also shows quite clearly how raspberries are, indeed, members of the rose family. But is sure seems a shame to have these huge raspberry bushes that don't produce edible berries!

Pipevine is pretty neat, no? I wonder if I could get some, put it in my morning glory fence instead of them?... Then I could get swallowtails, too, maybe...

This coneflower has just the oddest curly petals, I quite enjoyed looking at it. Like ringlets.

Playing Catch-Up

Last Friday -- yes, a full week ago, we went to the beach... and now, I am finally catching up on writing a little about it. Here are some of the flowers that grow there that we don't see too many other places... Flowering spurge, a diminutive flower atop a green leafy plant... you'd miss it if you weren't looking.

Prickly pear would be hard to miss.

Hoary puccoon.

And, at school, a very early rudbeckia shows its colors...
And butterfly weed is starting to bloom.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Jewelweed Forest

First, I would like to say that my plot to take over my side yard with jewelweed is coming along quite nicely. I have many plants and they are starting to flower, as shown here. What I especially love about this photo, though, is the mosquito perched on the flower. I like that because that is one mosquito that was not perched on me as I was trying to take pictures of the flower. Because it seemed as though the rest of them were. Really annoying. I can still hear the buzzing in my ears...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Blahs, Already

I've been absent for a while. There are a couple of reasons. First, my back went out this weekend. I know, that makes me sound old, but I have a bad back (genetic, I guess) and every once in a while this happens to me. With that, just normal stuff -- and that's normal summer stuff, so it's pretty relaxed anyhow -- has been a chore. Today I am mostly better but not 100%.

Also, summer seems to have stalled before it's even begun. Every day, it's been in the 70s at the most and raining. Some storms, some steady rain, but every day, rain. And when it's not rain, clouds and general haze. This has added mental laziness on top of my physical malady.

That said, things have happened. Butterfly milkweed opened, in some places, and purple coneflower, in some places, and even a very early black-eyed susan. One of these days, I"ll get around to downloading pics. Probably.

So that's me, I hope the rest of you are better than me, not that I'm pitying myself. Things could be a lot worse. And it's good not to have to water anything while I'm under the weather, so that's a bonus.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


This fat fellow -- a black swallowtail caterpillar, is munching on some dill. Delish!
Primrose blossoms are making lovley lemon yellow splotches all over...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dragonflies, Etc.

This common baskettail (I think) sat calmly on a lupine while I took her picture. She was hard to ID, and, if we're correct, she's a new one for me!
Eastern forktail, above (not a new one) and orange bluet (also not new) below. What a contradictory name...
These caterpillars were just decimating the Somonon's seal on which they lived.
An early false sunflower, this one without aphids.

Monday, June 7, 2010

OK, I've finally gotten around to sharing the discoveries from my last school campout (June 1-3). Actually, I wrote this entry before, and then blogger crashed, erasing much of the work and also kicking me out for about 24 hours. So this isn't as wordy as the original, but it's plenty, I think... Anyhow. One of the trip's coolest moments was watching two smallish pileated woodpeckers dance around a tree trunk about 20 feet from us. I didn't get a great picture, but you can clearly see the pileated silhouette:

Our other avian friends, the wild turkeys, invaded our campsite. These two birds were so close to tents that if kids had come out at the right moment, it could have been very entertaining. But alas...
We saw two snakes... this tiny garter snake...
and this ginormous norther water snake. The previous week, if you recall, we saw a baby swimming... hard to believe it will end up like this guy, who was easily 5 feet long and a few inches in diameter. (It was ID'ed by some other hikers with a lot of scientific equipment, so I'm choosing to trust them...)
Also in the herpetology realm,several of these (some sort of true frog, don't ask me) sat near a wetland, happy enough to let us look and photograph, but disappearing as fast as a shot as soon as a 5th grade hand reached out to grab.

We saw, also, many interesting, colorful spiders. If I had been alone, I may have focused on them more, but I wasn't. So all I have is these guys:
Transitioning to arthropods people prefer, these damselflies -- either female blue-fronted dancers (brown form) or eastern forktails (immature females) -- kept landing on kids.
As did these butterflies (azures?), which I believe were going for the salt form our sweat. You could sit and watch their proboscises probing. Here, it is eating something else entirely...
These galls shall provide our transition from animal to plant... on serviceberry leaves, I just thought their colors were fantastic.
This poke milkweed (which I think I mid-identified last June 25)-- clearly asclepias -- is just a little bit different than other milkweeds, with its loosely clustered flowers in subtle shades of lavender and green. It's really quite pretty.
A catchfly?
And now for some fungus observations... there are lots of cool fungi at Starved Rock, though not as many fruiting bodies as I saw last June, but I am showing only these three...
this eyelash cup because of its bright orange color and the eponymous "eyelashes"...
this polypore because of its lovely colors of purple and orange and brown...
and this little fellow because of the neat ridges on its cap.