Sunday, October 27, 2019

Happy Halloween

I guess owls are associated with Halloween because they are nocturnal and make spooky sounds in the dark. They can startle you, too, if they suddenly swoop past on silent wings.
The eastern screech-owl, Megascops asio, pictured above, is tiny -- only about the size of a robin, but it can definitely make spooky sounds. If you live in a shady suburb or near a city park -- any place in the eastern US where there are big trees for sitting and open areas for hunting -- you might have screech owl neighbors and not know it. UNTIL you are dozing off on a summer night with the windows open and hear their weird warbling whinny sounds outside. Click here to listen to recordings from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 
Eastern screech-owls come in two colors, the gray shown here and reddish brown. Regardless of color the patterns of both look like tree bark and are excellent camouflage. Click on the photos to enlarge.
The owl model for the photos above is a resident wildlife ambassador at the Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford, New Jersey.  I took the photos during one of the occasional raptor photography sessions they host. Click here to visit the refuge's website to learn about the good work they do.
The owl is so small it fits perfectly on its handler's gloved index finger. Darned cute.

Sunday, October 20, 2019


Autumn is my favorite season. Here is an autumn poem by one of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from German by another of my favorite poets, Robert Bly.

October Day

Oh Lord, it's time. It was a great summer. 
Lay your shadow now on the sundials,
and on the open fields let the winds go! 

Give the tardy fruits the command to fill;
give them two more Mediterranean days,
drive them on into their greatness, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine. 

Whoever has no house by now will not build. 
Whoever is alone now, will remain alone,
will wait up, read, write long letters,
and walk along sidewalks under large trees,
not going home, as the leaves fall and blow away.  

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Going to Miss the Butterflies

As autumn begins and the days grow cold, butterflies disappear from the north. Some migrate away, some pupate to emerge next spring, others leave eggs, and some overwinter as dormant adults. I'll miss the butterflies; they are one of the best things about summer. Here are some of the beautiful butterflies of the summer of 2019. Click to enlarge, a monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus.
An orange sulphur butterfly, Colias eurytheme.
A buckeye, Junonia coenia.
A summer azure, Celastrina neglecta.
A black swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes -- the state butterfly of New Jersey!
A variegated fritillary, Euptoieta claudia.
An American lady butterfly, Vanessa virginiensis.
A spicebush swallowtail, Papilio troilus.
An eastern tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus.
A red-spotted purple butterfly, Limenitis arthemis, hanging upside down from a butterfly bush blossom showing off the red spots on its lower surface.
Bye butterflies! Turning my attention to the anticipation of the pretty things of autumn.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Stinging Rose Caterpillars

This is a stinging rose caterpillar, Parasa indetermina.  It's one of the fanciest and prettiest caterpillars ever. I saw a few of them on bayberry bushes by the side of a path at Cape May Point, New Jersey, last week. Click to enlarge. 
The last time I saw a stinging rose caterpillar was almost exactly nine years ago to the day and in the exact same spot at Cape May Point, and on bayberry leaves. Stinging rose caterpillars come in green, yellow, and orange; the ones I saw that time were all orange. I wrote a blog about it then.  Click here to read it.
This time I saw only yellow ones.  If this is a trend, I guess I can expect to see a group of green ones in that spot in 2028. They are very pretty in any color and exciting to find. If you see one, or pretty much any caterpillar covered with spikes and spines, don't touch. They don't call them stinging rose caterpillars for nothing.