Sunday, October 25, 2020



It's Halloween week!

An excellent time for long leaf-kicking walks.

Wildlife raids on decorations. Click to enlarge.

Suburban turkey sightings.

And other fun stuff.

Celebrate safely, my friends!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

2020 Amphibian and Reptile Review


I don't have the well developed sensitivity for spotting reptiles and amphibians that I have for birds, so I don't see nearly as many. Their ability to evade detection by sitting still and the use of outright camouflage probably also helps them avoid me. Exhibit one is the above photo of a deftly concealed leopard frog. Click to enlarge.

Then there are Fowler's toads that are abundant in New Jersey and that I suspect see me much more often than I see them. They blend in and sit still. Do you see one in this photo?

See it now?

Well played, hidden toad!

Adding to my roundup of amphibians and reptiles I've seen this year that haven't yet made it into a blog, I give you the red eared slider turtle. I often see them basking in the sun like those above. Basking is good for them: it helps them regulate their body temperature; make vitamin D; and dry their shells, which wards off problems with fungi, algae, and parasites.

Here's a painted turtle that I met on a sandy path in the pine barrens. I've been known to pull off a road when I see one of these trying to cross, and go back to pick it up and carry it safely to the other side.

Lastly, this week I was working in the yard on a sunny day and made a pile a leaves. When I picked up the pile later this little garter snake had crawled underneath. What a perfect spot for a snake: concealed, damp, and warmed by the sun.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Autumn Leaves

"How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days." ------- John Burroughs

Autumn is awesome. Click to enlarge.

What the heck -- one more. :-)

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Pine Barrens Gentian

This week I made my yearly September trip to the New Jersey pine barrens to look for rare and beautiful pine barrens gentians. Found them.

The buds remind me of Tiffany vases.

Click to enlarge.

There's a caterpillar on this one. I think it's a yellow-striped armyworm. It was not eating and seemed to be trying to get down. Here's hoping it dislikes gentians and goes off and finds itself a tasty invasive plant.

Pine barrens gentians bloom from September through mid-October in New Jersey, depending on local conditions. One more reason to take a long walk in the pinelands.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Autumnal Equinox on Tuesday

Meteorologists consider September first the beginning of autumn. Astronomically, autumn begins at the autumnal equinox; that's will happen this coming Tuesday. Either way you look at it, it's autumn. Let's hope for a season like the poet John Keats called "a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" with all the peace and harmony that image evokes. Click to enlarge the photo.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Praying Mantis


My pot of begonias is looking good. Click to enlarge.

Wait. What's that?

A trap! There's a mantis lurking in there!

This Chinese mantis picked a lovely spot to sit and wait for unsuspecting begonia-visiting inset prey.

I didn’t notice the mantis until AFTER I watered the flowers. Oops. Sorry. See the water drops on its face and back? Does it look mad?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Poison Ivy


I've had an annoying case of poison ivy through most of August. During weeks slathered with salves and lotions, I learned a few things about it, which I will relate. To begin with, as shown in the photo above, poison ivy has a compound leaf with three leaflets, giving rise to the warning: Leaves of Three -- Let it Be!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Silver-spotted Skipper Butterfly


The silver-spotted skipper is a fast-moving little butterfly that ranges over most of the United States. They are abundant right now near me in southern New Jersey near Philadelphia, PA. The mostly brown butterfly has a white patch on the underside of the rear wing that makes it easy to recognize. Also look for gold spots on the forewing, peeking out in the photo above. They typically hold their wings folded up except when flying. The wingspan is about two inches. Click to enlarge.

According to the website Butterflies and Moths of North America (click here to visit the site), silver-spotted skippers rarely visit yellow flowers, going more for the pink, purple, red and blue ones. Having heard that, I'll be keeping my eyes open for rogue silver-spotted skippers defying expectations to dine on yellow flowers. Watch here for photo documentation if I find any.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Wild Orchids


I found this wild rose pogonia orchid on the shore of a lake where the water reflects white clouds. I'm just now getting around to bragging about my sightings of these summer orchids. They bloom in the New Jersey pine barrens from mid-June through early July.

Here's one close up. The lower lip is bearded with a colorful fringe. It is easy to understand its common name of snake mouth orchid.

Sunday, August 9, 2020



I was up early yesterday. Apparently earlier than raccoons settle down to sleep for the day, as I spotted this one gazing out of a tree near me. After taking this picture, I ducked away to watch, and then...

Sunday, August 2, 2020


Before Dumbledore was the famous surname of the headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it was a British dialect word for bumble bee. According to, there are 46 species of bumble bees in North America. This one is a common eastern bumblebee, Bombus impatiens.
This is one of my favorite "dumbledores," a golden northern bumble bee, Bombus fervidus. Click to enlarge.
In the 1866 book Description of the Habitations of Animals, Classed According to Their Principle Construction, the author, John George Wood, says: "Any Humble-bee, no matter what species, is known as a Bumble-bee, a Foggie, a Dumbledore, or a Hummel-bee, according to the peculiar dialect of the locality." This is the brown belted bumble bee Bombus griseocollis.
J.K. Rowling said, during an interview on WBRU Radio in 1999: "Dumbledore is an old English word meaning bumblebee. Because Albus Dumbledore is very fond of music, I always imagined him as sort of humming to himself a lot." This is the two-spotted bumble bee, Bombus bimaculatus.
There are dumbledores in J.R.R. Tolkien's poem "Errantry," first published in 1933. An excerpt from the longer poem that describes the events of a hero's jouriney is below, and two more common eastern bumble bees in a rose, above.

"He battled with the Dumbledors,
the Hummerhorns, and Honeybees,
and won the Golden Honeycomb;
and running home on sunny seas
in ship of leaves and gossamer 
with blossom for a canopy,
he sat and sang, and furbished up
and burnished up his panoply." 

And, in honor of the onset of hot buggy August nights -- this guy, not a dumbledore but a humble fly, reenacting a line from yet another old poem that mentions a dumbledore. Below is "An August Midnight" by Thomas Hardy, published 1901.

"A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter -- winged, horned, and spined
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While 'mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands... 

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space,
-- My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
"God's humblest they! I muse. Yet why?
The know Earth-secrets that know not I."

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Insects Close Up

The hot days of July are great for photographing insects. This bumble bee seems to be posing on the aster blossom, doesn't it?
I like to get close enough to imagine being enfolded in the pastel landscape of the flower, to be in the insect's world.  Click to enlarge.
See how the stamens seem to float in the center of this red daylily?
When a green sweat bee lands ...
It can look surreal.
Sometimes a photo reveals a lurking arthropod surprise. I was taking pictures of wild rose pagonia orchids like this one in the New Jersey pine barrens.
I was about to delete this shot because it's not sharply focused when I noticed that yellow blip on the petal.
Zoom surprise! The yellow blip is a crab spider.
And surprise within surprise! The spider is holding a tiny captured insect.
Uncomfortable weather for us out there right now. Good times for the insects.