Sunday, December 4, 2011

Still Here

This afternoon, we drove past 6 sandhill cranes in a farm field.  I haven't seen them for weeks, and assumed I wouldn't see any until spring... but they're quite unmistakable.  Perhaps, with the warm weather we had for most of the weekend, they migrated back? :) jk.  (Most of the weekend was unseasonably warm, and rainy, but the mercury is falling now!)

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Thin Blanket

We woke up this morning to a thin blanket of snow that, though not deep was persistent through quite a lot of the day.  And while we didn't get that much snow, the students were very excited and it was actually quite lovely.
Drips of Ice Frozen onto Indian Grass Seed
Snow Caps on Milkweed Seed Pods
Goldenrod bends under the weight of the snow. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some Drawings

Am. Hornbeam Seeds

Am. Cranberrybush Viburnum Fruits

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Adventure!

Looking down at the accumulated hail-snow. 
So this afternoon, I set out for the homestead site (an original farmhouse ruin that's about 1/2 mile away from school) with a class of 3rd graders.  The first notable phenology event of the afternoon was that most of the kids in the class had snowpants, so the getting-ready time tripled from what it was yesterday.  And they needed those snowpants, too... if not for the snow, for the cold, which felt extreme.  It's currently 36 degrees, but with a windchill that makes it feel below freezing.  It's very windy.  I know that because these little ice pellets were being propelled straight into my face by that wind... and all those 3rd graders' faces... to the point where we truly could not even look up to see where we were going so we just had to stumble around with our hands protecting our faces.  Which froze even the most protected of fingers, and many of the tiny fingers weren't well-protected.  Seriously, OW!  I dressed properly so I really wasn't cold but I can still feel the pinpricks on my face!  Add on top of that the excitement factor that the first snow has for children, and let me tell you something.  These are not ideal conditions for teaching.  They are not ideal conditions for learning.  Ah, well.  It was an adventure!


Frozen Oak Leaf
In addition to crystallized puddles from last night's sub-freezing temperatures, this morning is graced with the season's first snow flurries.  Caught in wind tunnels, they spin and twirl, up down and around, never seeming to land... but they're definitely out there.  Mark it down.  11/10/11, first snow (flurries).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wormy Day

Though we're into November and we'd expect the earth worms to be digging in and entering estivation some time soon, today's soil-saturating rain has them coming out!  Just like on a spring day, the sidewalk is covered with worms this morning.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Today, an Observer

Despite my ramblings last week, when I went this morning to run in the same place, I took my camera. While I know it's not the case, there's a part of me that doesn't think things are quite as valid if I don't have PROOF that they happened. And I had to make a deal with myself... the camera was WOW! moments, not for stopping to take a picture of the wooly bears that are everywhere right now, or a milkweed seed pod whose fluff caught the morning sun in a special way. (You could argue that those are WOW! moments, too, but... you know what I mean.)

Sandhill cranes at the edge of the water. 
Anyhow, I did see sandhill cranes again, but the experience was not quite the same as last week's. I came upon a pair of them at the edge of a pond during a part of my run that was relatively crowded -- me, another runner, and a pair of walkers, all going at different speeds, all converged at this spot at the same time. Whether it was this or something else, the pair of cranes didn't stay long. Shortly after I snapped their photo, they spread their wings and took flight across the small pond and into the field, where they joined 4 other cranes. The six of them, presumably the same six birds from last week, jumped around for a few moments, called their primeval call, but they were far from me this time. Then two took off flying, and I ran on. I got an OK picture. I didn't get a connection, I didn't get to be a crane this week.

Almost more arresting were the geese. This morning was a goose morning. Geese really aren't a phenological harbinger of seasonal change the way they once were. In A Sand County Almanac, Leopold brilliantly described, in 1948, the Return of the Geese as an early sign of spring to which he looked forward every year. Now, geese pretty much stick around year long. It is my understanding that there is a small non-migratory population that sticks around all year, and then a larger migratory group. However, we have summer residents that migrate away, and I suspect we also have winter geese that send their summers way up in Canada and come here for the relief of aerated office park ponds than never freeze. Geese are so common that they've become pests... I wonder how Leopold would feel about the businesses that have sprung up whose sole purpose is to chase the geese away?!?
A flock of Canada Geese heading south.

Still... around this time of year and also in March, there is a whole lot of goose movement. On Friday night, I watched and listened as hundreds of them flew over in several groups, in front of a really spectacular backdrop of sun setting with a unique cloudscape. Unfortunately, I was observing from the parking lot of a Chase, with powerlines and a BOA in the foreground... so not so much a photographic moment. I'm not that good with photoshop. (I don't even have photoshop).

This morning, I saw similar numbers of geese in large groups heading in a generally southerly direction. Their calls are certainly not as eerie and haunting as the crane's, but in the numbers that they were in, it seemed to surround me. So that was kind of neat, too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm ready...

... for daylight savings time to end!

The short days are becoming more oppressive.  This morning -- and please note, it was not an unusually early morning, I arrived at work at around 7 am same as always -- we drove to work in complete darkness.  It felt like the middle of the night.  At 7:30, it's only just beginning to lighten up behind the thick, low layer of clouds.  I know that this weekend's Fall Back means I'll be coming home in the dark, instead.  I'd rather just have longer days :) but given the latitude... If I have to choose, I'd choose to leave work at night, not arrive there at night!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Grebe Games

The lake this morning has its usual seasonal complement of mallards and geese.  But among them, several grebes swim.  Watching diving ducks is one of my favorite passtimes.... they go down, the circles of wake quickly disappearing, and leave the lake flat, undisturbed, as if they never were... and then they pop up! in a totally different spot.  Try as I may, I can never predict where they will emerge.  It's like a game (that most people don't think is fun).

Nipping at my Nose

After some early threats in September, our first hard frost hit last night.  I kinda feel a little bit sad for the monarch butterfly we saw yesterday while on our tree-checking route.  I suspect it had a rough night... but that's how nature works!
Already as the sun peeks over the horizon this morning, the frost is disappearing... sublimating into a low fog that covers the fields, and collecting in pregnant drops at the tips of remaining leaves until, heavy, the drops fall to the ground.
A pool collects in an indent on a remaining sumac leaflet. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I was a Sandhill Crane

My regular readers, if there still are any at this point, have surely noticed my lack of blog entries despite October being a phenologically interesting time of year.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is the class I'm taking.  It's on Trees and Shrubs, and one of our major assignments is to keep track of the peak color dates and colors of at least 40 species of tree/shrub.  In other words, it's a phenology project.  In some ways I like the assignment because a) I think phenology is a valuable pursuit, and b) this makes a lot of new people try their hand at phenology.  However, it has taken a lot of the art and poetry out of phenology for me and made it a data keeping exercise.  (When it's done I'll post it so you all can see that I have still been noting phenophases, if not in the internet.)  I guess my mind can't handle 2 phenology projects at once.  After I've gone all over with my spreadsheet looking at every tree and noting its progress, I'm in no place to take pictures or draw one of them.

The second reason is my recent fitness commitment.  There's a limited amount of time in anyone's life... so some of the time I used to spend meandering slowly with a camera at the ready I now spend jogging, too fast and focused to stop and make observations.  This isn't better or worse -- or, it's better for some reasons and worse for others -- but there you have it.  I do see things when I'm running, but most of them, with no photographic evidence, don't seem worth writing about when I get home.  (Two weeks ago: lots of garter snakes, for example.)

Not the case today.  First thing this morning, after starting laundry and fueling up with Kashi and Morning Edition, I went to Rollins Savannah.  At this point, the sun just coming over the tree line in the east, it was quite chilly, and I set out on my chosen 4-mile route, ear buds in place.  I was aware of the low light and the long shadows, the way the sun's rays caught the morning dew and made the plants sparkle.  I was aware of the crispness in the air.  But really, I wasn't paying that much attention to things external to me.

Running, to me at least, is a selfish pursuit.  It's not selfish in a bad way, not greedy, not taking anything away from anyone or anything else.  It's just... self-focused.  I think about the my rhythm, my goals, my life, my issues.  I listen to my music that no one else can hear.  I'm in my own head.  And that's where I am on this clear sunny morning when I feel a shadow cross over me, and I look, and there are four sandhill cranes flying overhead.  Like, right overhead, probably 20 feet in the air, and getting lower, and they land in a recently mowed field where two others await them.  I continue to jog along the trail toward them and I realize that, if I don't scare them, I am going to be among them.  I slow, and remove my earbuds... somethings are more important than my self... and they let me enter their midst.  The cranes are on both sides of the trail.  To my right, five of them walk parallel to the trail, the closest just 15 or 20 feet from me.  And to my left, the sixth bird is about 10 feet from the trail.  I take their pace, unconsciously start lifting my feet higher to walk as they walk.  I am just among them, part of them, one of them.  They don't seem to care.  We stay this way for a while, a flock of seven... maybe it was only a minute, maybe it was ten, I don't know... if I had been carrying my camera, I could have gotten a close up of their faces, their red heads.  I could have shown you the strands of their feathers, a few black ones poking out from under the gray tails, their whole bodies grey, not the brown of the mud with which they sometimes cover themselves.  But if I had had a camera, I might have scared them off.  And even if not, I would have made myself separate, an observer.  I wouldn't have been one of them, for a moment, a crane.

They stopped walking, threw back their heads, and called their haunting call.  Eventually, I ran on, still hearing, occasionally, their prehistoric calls piercing the air.  The rest of my run, I saw flickers and juncos, heard red-winged blackbirds calling their plaintive call that makes me thing of spring.  I got pretty close to them, too, maybe because this morning I was a crane, so I wasn't scary anymore.

So that was my larger moment with the world, born of my time with myself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A rainbow lights up our rainy week.
I spent last week on a school trip in Northern Wisconsin, which is a lovely place to start fall (and is the reason for my lack of equinox posting).  During all four days I was there, the weather could not make up its mind... did it want to rain?  be cloudy?  sunny?  Uable to make up its mind, the weather changed every five minutes.  The weekend back home was more of the same... downpour, followed by blazing sun, and lovely, changing cloudscapes... with a few really rainy days sprinkled in there.  The reward of this MPD weather pattern is that this is the third rainbow I've seen in the past few days (and the only one I got a picture of). It arced fully across the sky as the sun shone through the gently falling raindrops.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Yellow-legged Meadowhawk
A smallish, almost completely red-abdomened beauty rests on my fence.  He's pretty, no?

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Kinda Creepy Moment

So this morning, I'm out using an insect sweep net to show a class of kindergarteners some cool bug critters.  We found a lot -- I was worried after yesterday's cold, but it's a lot warmer today and the arthropod world seems as active as ever.  So I empty a net onto a white cloth and there are some little beetles crawling around and ants and I want to sort of clear the debris so we can really take stock of what critters we have.  I reach for a round ball that I thought was some sort of seed head, and pick it up... and it's really mushy.  Because it's a ginormous spider, curled into a ball out of fear.  (A defense mechanism, it should be noted, that almost worked!)  I had to work on NOT screaming "EEK!" like a cartoon person who discovers a mouse.

The kindergarten kids, a lot of them haven't learned fear yet.  It's great, they take crab spiders and hold them in their hands, they let caterpillars crawl all over them, they pet the true bugs and touch the ants and everything.  Older kids, a lot of them won't do that, especially with the spiders.  I assume this is at least in part because they see adults like me react with an "EEK!" when we encounter spiders.  And I actually like bugs pretty well, especially outside of my house, but still.  They "EEK" reaction when I touch it is just some sort of natural response, no matter how fascinated I am two seconds later when I've gotten over it all.

The ball of a spider, who stayed tightly tucked up for at least 10 minutes after I put her in a magnifying box for closer viewing, was an aptly-named Marble orb weaver.  Her mushy abdomen was about the size and shape of a marble. White splotches mottled its tan surface.  When she eventually stretched out to walk around, her legs were zebra-striped, black and white, and somewhat hairy.  And long.  She was really quite lovely, if you can get in the mindset where spiders can be lovely.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to snap a photo of her -- total oversight on my part.  I sent her away with a different class of kids, who released her back into the wild... where she apparently immediately started spinning.  That sort of makes me feel guilty about the web she must have worked hard on previously, only to have me inadvertently destroy it... but it wasn't on purpose, so what can I do?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


What that is, there on that rooftop, is frost.  It was a patchy frost -- really patchy... in fact, the rooftops at school seem to be about the only frost I see, but still, it's frost.

Last year's first patchy frost was Oct. 4.  In 2009, it was Oct 1.
It's Sept 15... It was in the 30's when I woke up.  Wow...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Today's phenology event is:  Socks.   May not sound like one, but... today is the first day since spring that I have had to wear socks all day (in this country).  I am less than thrilled about it.  Winds from the north brought yesterday the disturbing smell of the north woods burning, and today a distinct chill.  The kind of chill that doesn't abide sandals.

And in case the weather wasn't enough to make me realize what was coming our way, I got hit over the head with it at Ace Hardware this morning.  In addition to mums, their outside display area now contains shelves and shelves of... you guessed it... pumpkins!  We must actively try to remember that we're still over 2 week away from October, people...

Friday, September 9, 2011


Not the season's first, and won't be the last, but the monarch caterpillars are pretty common right now, as monarch caterpillars go. I found 3 in one small patch of milkweed. And I could look at them forever, even though they don't do much but slowly munch...
(quick sketch... a bug that doesn't move too fast to draw!)
(Portrait of the munching end)
(The whole thing.)
(A much earlier instar on a neighboring plant)

Thursday, August 25, 2011


A sure sign that summer's giving up the fight... huge argiope spiders sitting in perfect orb webs, sewn up the middle, all over the prairies. Or in this case, right smack dab in the middle of a window, which is pretty cool for the class inside that can watch any wrapping and snacking that occurs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Plant and New Bird

I learned a new plant today, the Wild Senna. I almost weeded it, but then thought better, and I'm glad I didn't. Apparently it's rare-ish. And useful as a laxative, in case anyone's looking.

This little waxwing apparently fledged too early. He's so cute; I hope he makes it!

Friday, August 19, 2011


Thinking of Spartina makes me think of my time in the salt marshes on the Georgia coast, but prairie cordgrass is a Spartina sp. also. It is one of the tallest prairie grasses. Though I find it quite beautiful and subtly striking, if that makes sense, I'm glad it's not too common in these parts. Its leaves slice the hands of those who unsuspectingly like to touch all the plants they pass by. (Not that I know anyone like that.) At this moment, pale pink flowers dangle from its stiff, branching seed spikes, blowing in the wind, getting tangled with each other...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wild Petunia's one of those native plants that I don't think I've ever seen growing native, but it does have a nice pop of mid-summer color (lavender) in a low plant that's good for edges... we don't have any in our yard but plan to get a bunch when we do the side yard next year.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Page of Prairie Dock

The notes read: "Flower stalks of the prairie dock rise high above their leaves, which are enormous, rough, veiny, cool. In the early morning, the buds still lean towards the setting sun of yesterday afternoon. Already, as I finish they begin turning their hears toward the east... The leaves are tipped in red, translucent and deeply shadowed with the morning sun... Still rolled tightly, terminal buds hold the promise of yellow.... Grasshopper rests on a leaf, hops when I touch him... Leaves clasp the stems -- the lower down on the stalk the longer the leaf's stem, like increasingly evolved giraffe necks [getting only so long that they can effectively reach food without giving up the ability to hold up the food grabber; leaf in this case, head in giraffe's]. Higher up, the "necks" are stubby, short, even absent at the top. Leaf teeth also get larger the further down the leaf is on the plant."

I am thrilled to have these stalks to draw in my yard. See, I planted this prairie dock, and 2 others, at least 6 years ago. They've done well enough, coming back the first couple of years with a few leaves and the last several years with huge leaves, many of them, looking robust and healthy. But this is the first year I have gotten the flower stalks. There are 8 of them total. I used to fear that my plants were somehow not happy, didn't like their places although the leaves were large. Now I think they were just children, and they have finally reached adolescence and started to grow tall. Next week, perhaps, the first yellow flowers will bloom upon them.

That reminds me... I saw this other phenology blog (I know, right?) that used a really neat method to convey a lot of information really fast. It listed plants and then weekly progress reports, as in:
Prairie dock:
last week -- flower stalks about 3-4 feet tall
this week -- flower stalks 5-6 feet tall, still no flowers
last week -- the first, bright purple flowers opening
this week -- full bloom
Etc. I love this idea... and, although I don't like the idea of copying another person... well, no ideas are really original anymore, right? And this format would allow me to go back to making more scientific phenological observations and recordings, which I haven't really been doing lately. I've just been profiling a few plants as they catch my eye enough, at some point in their life cycle, for me to want to draw them. Well. We'll see. (Opinions welcome.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Jewel Among Flowers

My long term followers may recall my ongoing plot to take over part of my side yard with jewelweed. Two years ago, I dug up 3 plants from my mom's house, where they are plentiful, and I watered and cared for them. I didn't think they'd make it, as every day they wilted as though they'd been transplanted to the Sarah, rather than a shady patch of yard near where they started. But they survived and flowered and popped their seeds all over and last year I had many jewelweeds emerge and go through their entire life cycle with no help from me. This spring, the seedlings were so plentiful and had spread so far that some had to be annihilated due to their pathway location.

However, the long hot and dry spell was not good for my jewelweeds. I had pretty much taken to ignoring them, and their whole part of the yard, which is overgrown but generally takes care of itself well enough. When I noticed that many of the jewelweeds weren't faring well, it was already too late for many of them. (The fern area right next to the jewelweed area suffered a similar fate, for the first time in 8 years...) Anyhow, a few of them did survive to flower, but not that many. Not as many as last year. So we'll see how things go. Meanwhile, they are still going strong at my mom's house, where the flower sketched above from many angles grew.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

To Honor and Obey

Obedient plant is named for the fact that, while the flowers come off the stem in a severely square arrangement, you can move them around and they will stay at the new angle. (My specimen appears to have that same quality in its stem! Or some random mutation that caused a kink to the side...) The flowers have a lovely pinkish hue, turning to white, decorated with deep purple spots that seem to be very effective at calling insects in. I watched many crawl into the tube-like flowers as I sketched them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cuppa Joe

Another whorl-leafed flower currently in peak bloom, Joe Pye weed. This particular stem had an oddity of some of the leaf whorls having one removed by an inch or so... Joe Pye weed has become, well, as weed in my yard, and it's one of those things that I sought out and planted and cared for and now am pulling out in the randomest of places. And because it's so tall, it looks pretty bad if I don't get it. Oh, well. You live, you learn. (Not that I wouldn't have planted it, but...)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Pull of the Pencil

It has been so long since I've blogged, I almost couldn't start up again. In the end, after a month of watching first and last blooms, after seeing the earth thirst for water in hundred degree heat, and then soggy from many days of 2-inch rainfalls, I finally sat down with my sketchbook and that brought me back. (And speaking of back, mine got sunburned, despite my religious daily application of sunscreen. I may have sweated it all off, as it topped 90 degrees today and we took a long bike ride before stopping to draw/read.)

Culver's root has been blooming for a while now, the delicate white flowers opening first at the bottom and progressing towards the sunshine, the sky, the tippy top of the plant. At this point, most of them are getting close, but the top of each stalk still has buds on it... but I chose to focus, instead, on the whorled leaves in this sketch. Five toothed leaves shoot out in irregular stars, getting smaller toward the top of the stem.

What else is noteworthy right now?
The prairies are jeweled with coneflowers, both yellow and purple, and with blazing star. Compass plant blooms everywhere but in my yard, oddly enough, where queen of the prairie is still holding on to its pink color. Ironweed blooms, some coreopsis still hold on.

In the wooded areas, it's not the most exciting time... sort of ironic, that the summer is really the prairie's season to shine, but all that shining... of the sun, that is... makes enjoying the prairie's colors difficult... BUT the Campanula's purple flowers are blooming and are quite a treat.

Hey, not to be totally random, but that reminds me of a little anecdote... my dad kept talking about the bluebells in England in the spring, and we had all these long conversations about the bluebells that carpeted the woods there and in my mind, there are Mertensia, but his bluebells are actually a Campanula (though not the americana that is blooming here), which I didn't figure out until eventually we saw some still blooming in Scotland. And which genus I generally call a bellflower. There's a lesson there about the danger of using common names... and yet I will persist in doing so, despite being plenty versed in the scientific names as to be able to use them.

And speaking of our trip to England and Scotland. I think that may have been one reason why I stopped writing. It was too much, too overwhelming. I have hundreds of pictures of plants. Almost a hundred just of heath orchids, which I found to be so beautiful and yet so... subtle, with their small size. I thought about writing an entry for each day, but honestly... that's not really the purview of this blog, it's not phenologically relevant and it STILL seemed overwhelming. But here are a few of my thoughts:

England is nice. That seems like a bland statement and also a silly, not-at-all-deep-thought statement, but that may actually go along with what I mean. It's so mild, with warm, pleasant summers and, though I have not been there in the winter, I believe those are also absent of the weather extremes that we experience here. (Although, global climate change may, um, change all that. Or submerge it. Whatever.) And while pleasant may not seem exciting, there is something alluring about pleasant. That religious persecution must have been really bad, only I wouldn't want to leave the English countryside to avoid it. (Please read as tongue-in-cheek!)

It's a personality match thing, I guess. As we hiked the Scottish highlands, Chris brought up Scottish-born American naturalist John Muir. Upon returning to his birthland in old age, after a lifetime of bagging peaks in the US West, he proclaimed Scotland to be inferior, and not just a little bit so. His must have been a personality that thrived on ruggedness and stark grandeur, as many are. And others of us want to be cradled in something... nice. Like an English garden.

Here's the thing. There is something deeply ingrained in us about the aesthetic of English gardens. Believe you me, I have tried to break myself of this. I plant native plants and I recognize that turf grass is ecologically horrible (at least here) and I really, really try not to see its appeal. Anyone who's been in my yard knows that straight lines and order are NOT how I roll. And yet. And yet... culturally, embedded almost as deeply as a biological truth are the ordered landscape of a lawn and an ornamental garden. The well-planned natural meadow that has been tamed for centuries in a way that things here just don't seem to be tamable. I don't know.

Although I will say, it was hard to get over the nativeness of some things that here are terribly invasive weeds. Funny, how things program themselves in my head to be desirable or not based not on pleasing looks (or lack thereof) but on what I know about them. Because some of them are quite lovely...

Well, that's enough for now. Perhaps tomorrow I will decide to draw some more...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

We're Back

We're safely back from the UK with loads of pictures... so many that the task of choosing them and blogging them seems terribly daunting. I will get around to it soon, though!

Here, coreopsis and spiderwort are still blooming, and a few foxglove beardtongues, but the primroses seemed to have finished while we were gone. Bergamot is at "almost" and butterfly week and queen of the prairie are just about to get started, too... Puple coneflowers are also flowering.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer!

Today at 12:16 local time, the sun hit its northern-most point, thus officially beginning summer 2011. Or more accurately, the sun didn't do anything out of the ordinary, if you consider the sun's daily activities of creating enough energy by nuclear fusion to power our planet as a side job, and anchoring the solar system, etc., ordinary... but the earth, in its annual tilted orbit, hit the point when the north pole was tilted as much toward the sun as it gets. That makes this the longest day of the year for this particular location, and any other northern one.

Since we're traveling to Scotland (EXCITING!!!), we'll get some longer days... also some computer-free days, so expect another absence, followed by some prolific blogging...

Happy Solstice!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vertebrates of Devil's Lake

The nine group camp sites at Devil's Lake form a semi-circle. In the center of the circle, next to the shower'bath house facilities, is a stand of pine trees that, for as long as I remember, is home to a great blue heron rookery. I've no idea how many birds nest there, but they are constantly coming and going. Their warbles and cackles are the white noise of the sites, and their occasional screams pierce the air in a most disconcerting way. It keeps things from being dull, that's for sure.

This little fellow decided to fledge a bit early. It wasn't injured, as far as we could tell, but it managed to wander itself right into the bathroom complex. And it was ferocious. Though not even close to its full adult size, its feet and beak, overlarge for its stature, may have been their size. And even if not, they were imposing. It made a racket when someone approached, both by calling and by clicking its beak. Chris did manage to rescue it and return it to the grove of pines where the nests are, and when we went to check on it, it was gone. I hope that it survived...
In addition to herons, we saw these Sandhills several times. They seemed to inhabit a farm field near the park, and enjoy wading in this pond which was across the road. At one point, we actually ran across -- though happily not over -- the pair in the road. Here, we saw them dancing in the water right close to us... but by the time I was picture-ready, they had moved across the pond.
Fox snake getting ready to strike (right in the middle).
This turtle is burying eggs (or,digging in preparation to lay them). We saw another crossing the road, probably to find a nest site, and we saw a HUGE snapper moving away from the water, presumably for the same reason.
Little red squirrel. They are so much cuter and feistier and chirpier than the grey ones we see here. I just love them.

Plants of Devil's Lake (and a Fungi)

Obviously, I saw thousands of plants in five days. And many, many of them were doing something phenologically interesting. I limit, therefore, my reporting, to a few that are new to me, or special, or just pretty.
This pale corydalis was new to me, and not the easiest to identify, either. Its leaves are similar to Dutchman's breeches -- feathery -- and its irregular flowers have striking color changes, though, which gave it away once I figured it out. It seems to prefer growing in rocky areas.
Native honeysuckles, of which we saw a few, including this hairy honeysuckle, are always exciting. They provide a nice contrast to the evil invasive things that out-compete native trees and shrubs that we usually refer to when talking about honeysuckles.
I did get to see my hoary puccoon at the Shack after all... just a month later.
I did not know that the foxglove beardtongue, quite common and blooming all over right now, had a native sibling, the large-flowered beardtongue -- Penstemon grandiflorus. The pale purple flowers are really very lovely, and I want one badly. Next native plant purchasing season, this will be my quest. They will look lovely in our side yard, which is next year's major project...
The squawroot or cancerroot was a mystery plant last year (see entry on May 21) and I was happy to remember it and its habits this year... though I did have to look up its name again!
These fungi had such a neat purple color...

See people? I really edited myself on the plants.
Next: Vertebrates, and then we're done with the trip!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Creepy Crawlies of Devil's Lake

During five days spent at Devil's Lake and the surrounding areas, I encountered many fascinating arthropods. Happily for the reader, many of them moved way too quickly for me to capture with my camera, so you are spared the details of clubtails and saddlebags and bluets and many varieties of odonata. With lepidoptera, my camera and I did a little bit better. The swallowtails pictured above must have found some sort of desirable mineral deposits, because they clustered at the water's edge, and allowed me to get close enough to see the wing scales that give their order their name. Eventually, our proximity did alarm them, and a cloud of yellow butterflies fluttered in every direction around us, which nearly made me laugh out loud...
I also captured on film this pearl crescent and, from very far away, this luna moth.
Despite much trying, I was unable to get a picture of a black butterfly, 2-3 inches, with blue in its lower wings, possibly an admiral? We also found a fat-bodied, pink-winged cecropia moth, hanging out under the lights of the campsite bathroom (silly me, I didn't think to bring my camera to the toilet at night. Now I know.) (And of course, we saw a number of sulphurs and skippers and plain moths that didn't get their picture taken.)

By far the most common insect we saw were the larval form... caterpillars were everywhere. Smooshed on the trails because you couldn't avoid them, hitchhiking rides on our shirts because we accidentally walked into them as they hung from silken strands, and slowly munching their way through leaves galore. The tent caterpillars (eastern and forest, respectively) were the most common.
But we did see a lot of these, which I will call inchworms because that's what we called them as kids. I guess it's really a geometer. Whatever. That sounds like a tool for measuring shapes, or something. Inchworm sounds like a charming song, like childhood. Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds, seems to me you'd stop and see how beautiful they are...
This delicious-looking (think like a bird, dear readers... it's chubby and not at all hairy... yum...) specimen remains unidentified. It was removed from its host plant by a child who was carrying it in her pocket and proudly showing it off to hikers traveling in the other direction, which means my hopes of ID are pretty much shot.

One last larva -- a saw fly chewing up Solomon's seal.

Some other notable insects...
to the left is a fat fuzzy bumble bee snacking on a legume of some sort. To the right is a beetle, which I have absolutely no hope of identifying, but which I initially passed, thinking, "There's a bee on the trail," and then, "wait a minute, that's not a bee..."

This spider was HUGE. Chris described it as the size of a saucer. That may be a slight exaggeration. But only slight.

A centipede crawls around on the wet rocks.

And there ends the bug tour of Sauk County. I should have taken a picture of the deer tick that was on me. It was the smallest darn thing, very creepy.

Up next: Plants.