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."