Sunday, June 30, 2019

Milkweed World

A monarch butterfly on a milkweed flower. It doesn't get more summery than that. 
There's always something interesting to see on a milkweed plant. Click to enlarge.

I always check milkweed stems and leaves for monarch caterpillars. Here's a beauty.
The last time I looked under a milkweed leaf I found this milkweed beetle couple. 

This is a milkweed tussock moth caterpillar. When I see one of these, I usually see more.
They can eat a milkweed leaf in short order.
There's always a chance to see some interesting butterfly like this coral hairstreak.
And there are always a few milkweed bugs like these. There's an immature one on the right. They have a band across the middle as adults and are called large milkweed bugs because of...
The small milkweed bug, which has a heart-shaped black spot on its back.
There are always lots of interesting bees on milkweed flowers at human eye level, ready for their close-ups. There are even more milkweed visitors to see. Stop and study one. Plant some if you can.

Sunday, June 23, 2019


It is officially summer! The solstice was on Friday, June 21. It's an easy time of year to find blog subjects. I just have to walk outside. Here's a few things I've seen since the season started. First, a curious catbird keeping an eye on me from the bushes. Click to enlarge.
Wild orchids blooming in the New Jersey pine barrens.
A milkweed beetle ready for action.
There are lots of green tiger beetles out hunting. It always surprises me when I get too close to one of these shiny beauties and it takes off flying. Looks more like a runner, doesn't it?
Don't fail to admire the attractive spot pattern.
And here's a great find. A chrysalis. I think it's a black swallowtail. I'll report back when it emerges.
A dragonfly resting on a flower. There's so much going on out there!
Butterfly bush beginning to open.
Milkweed flowers are open and are doing a great business in bees and butterflies. Check out the striped legs and antennae on this lycaenid butterfly.
I saw this barn swallow having a still moment.
Until it noticed me. It was gone the very next moment.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father's Day!

"The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature."

                               -- Antoine-François Prévost

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Closer Look

I saw this leopard frog beside a pond in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and snapped its picture. When I looked more closely I noticed that it was sitting on sphagnum moss and its right front paw is touching a carnivorous spoon-leaf sundew plant, Drosera intermedia.
Click to enlarge.
A spoon-leaf sundew. Those shiny droplets are sticky and insects get trapped in them and slowly digested to supplement the plant's diet. I wonder if the frog's foot got sticky.
There were other carnivorous plants around the pond including the purple pitcher plants pictured here, Sarracenia purpurea.

I took a photo of this rain-filled pitcher. Insects are attracted to the plant, slip into the water, and cannot get out because of downward facing hairs. They are eventually digested and supplement the plant's diet.
When I looked more closely at the photo I saw some insect trapping going on.
The ant on the left is in a dangerous spot. Those on the right have already been trapped.
Speaking of small things, I also saw this small, rare, and hard-to-find plant: the Little Curly Grass Fern, Schizaea pusilla. It's been called the most famous plant in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. I attest that you have to be on your hands and knees to find it. The plant rarely gets higher than about three inches. The curled green grass-like leaves are sterile. The brown upright leaves are taller, fertile, and produce spores from a comb-like structure at the top (there is one in this photo). The things you see when you take a closer look!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

More Wild Orchids

Pink lady's slipper orchids, Cypripedium acaule, bloom in the New Jersey Pine Barrens from early May to mid-June. That's now! Here are a few I saw on May 18th.                    Click to enlarge.
They are also called moccasin flowers.
They grow in association with a fungus that enables germination and provides nutrients to the plant. Once the plant is established it returns the favor by providing nutrients to the fungus.
Individual plants can live for 20 years and longer in the wild.  Once you find some, you can visit the same spot every spring to see them.
The lady's slipper flower smells good to bees and the big pouch has a slit in the front that allows a bee to enter. Once inside, hairs direct the bee to an upper exit that requires squeezing past a pollen mass. Tricky!