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)