Sunday, November 26, 2023

Last of November

It's the last week of November already! Click to enlarge.
In the blink of an eye, we went from this...

To this...
And now -- to that feeling of being watched. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Getting Ready


Click to enlarge.

In the light of the big holiday that is coming up this week, I'd like to ask if everyone knows how Thanksgiving always ends.

        It ends with a "g" !

And have you heard this one? 

    Knock knock!

    Who's there?

    Norma Lee. 

    Norma Lee who?

    Norma Lee I don't overeat at dinner! 


Knock knock!

Who's there?


Happy who?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 12, 2023

After Halloween


Halloween is over for the humans, but the squirrels are still celebrating. Decorations are on the menu. Click to enlarge.

Mmm Indian corn. 

And.. the all-you-can eat pumpkin buffet is open for business.

Lots of leftovers for later. :-)

Sunday, November 5, 2023

One Last Gentian


This could be the last pine barrens gentian flower of the year in our area. Click to enlarge.

Pine barrens gentians are rare. I have only ever found them in one location in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Because I was near there a few days ago and because they bloom from early September through early November, I hiked over to search in my secret spot. I found this one lone flower.

And a very pretty one it was. See you all again next September, gentians.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Happy Halloween


I was taking photos of my Halloween pumpkin face and... got photo bombed by a black cat. Upper right. Click to enlarge. That's a lucky omen, right?


Sunday, October 22, 2023

Gulf Fritillary


I was in North Carolina recently and I saw a butterfly that I don't see up north -- this gulf fritillary. It was flitting along a sandy beach and would not stop to pose, so these few photos are all I saw of it. But I did get to say "flitting fritillary." :-)

I love how the sun shines through it like stained glass. Note the fancy black dots with white centers near the front edge of the wing. Click to enlarge.

And its long October shadow.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Buckeye Butterflies


A buckeye butterfly sitting on a puff of white asters. Click to enlarge.

The buckeye gets its common name from big spots on its upper wing surfaces. They are called eyespots, and are thought to scare away predators. The butterfly performs a famous "startle display" -- rapidly opening its wings to flash those big false eyes. Boo!

Also check out its pretty orange bars and bands. Buckeyes have a wingspan of about 2.5 inches and are found throughout North America.

They move south this time of year to avoid the cold weather.

I have seen a lot of buckeyes this week. Even this pair, mating in the middle on the path in the warm autumn sunshine. I wish them all a safe journey to warm places.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

A Barn Spider in the Swamp


While traveling in Virginia this week I encountered this spider in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. It's almost an inch across. Big spider! It's a spotted orb weaver also called a barn spider. This is the top. Click to enlarge

This is the underside. The web was about two feet across. I cannot tell you how glad I was that I saw the spider before I accidentally walked into the web.

Here are a few cypress trees at the edge of Lake Drummond. Does not look all that dismal on a sunny day. 
And here is a spider poem by E. B. White called Natural History

"The spider, dropping down from twig,

Unfolds a plan of her devising,

A thin premeditated rig

To use in rising.

And all that journey down through space,

In cool descent and loyal hearted,

She spins a ladder to the place

From where she started.

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do

In spider’s web a truth discerning,

Attach one silken thread to you

For my returning."

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Punctuation Butterflies !!

October is off to a good start here. It's cool and sunny and there are patches of goldenrod.

This angle-wing butterfly was flitting between asters and a white butterfly bush. Can you guess why it's called an angle-wing? (It's the jagged wing edges.)

There are a few kinds of local angle-wings. This is an Eastern Comma. It is similar to one called the Question Mark butterfly. Together they are the punctuation butterflies.

Here's why -- that little silver comma-shaped mark on the hind wing. Click to enlarge. Also note that it looks like a different butterfly with its wings closed, dark and drab.

Here's a question mark butterfly for comparison. Check out the punctuation on this guy.

Amazing, right?

Sunday, September 24, 2023


Autumn arrived yesterday afternoon. More precisely, astronomical autumn arrived in the northern hemisphere, with the autumnal equinox. By the reckoning of meteorologists (who divide the calendar into three-month quarters) autumn already started at the beginning of September. Either way you reckon, autumn is here. Bring on the pumpkins, the cool nights, and the colored leaves. Click to enlarge.

As Raquel Franco wrote: "...the sun took a step back, the leaves lulled themselves to sleep, and Autumn was awakened."

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Annual Gentian Search


Every year in mid-September I mount an expedition to the New Jersey pine barrens to search for a rare and lovely wildflower -- the pine barrens gentian. The scenery is its own reward. Click to enlarge.

There is the smell of sun-baked pines.

And tranquil quiet. And then...

The first blue flower sighting!

Find one and there are usually others scattered nearby. This one just beginning to unfurl.

This one fully open.

This one with the sun shining through it.

All beautiful inside with spots and dots and sprinkled stars.

All slightly different shades of blue and green.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Black and Yellow Garden Spider


A black and yellow garden spider is currently spinning webs and trapping insects in my yard. Click to enlarge.

She is very pretty, right? She's also very BIG; I estimate just over and inch long. The web she's on is more than a foot across.

The web has a zigzag design on it that is called a stabilimentum. Black and yellow garden spiders are famous for it, though its purpose is disputed. It may be to increase the visibility of the web so that birds (and photographers) do not accidentally crash through and wreck it. These spiders work day and night, so that makes sense. Others think it conceals the spider in the center. Some think it attracts insects.

Let this be a reminder that fall is coming. That Halloween is around the corner. That spiders have been working all summer and have grown large! Here's a disturbing little poem to celebrate.

The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly

by Vachel Lindsay

Once I loved a spider

When I was born a fly,

A velvet-footed spider

With a gown of rainbow-dye.

She ate my wings and gloated.

She bound me with a hair. 

She drove me to her parlor

Above her winding stair. 

To educate young spiders

She took me all apart. 

My ghost came back to haunt her. 

I saw her eat my heart.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Skippers on Zinnias


I'm not the only one who likes zinnia flowers. They really attract skipper butterflies.      Click to enlarge.

Skipper butterflies are sometimes mistaken for moths. They are small and usually drab.

At rest they hold their wings open and angled up or spread in various jaunty ways.
By butterfly standards they have stocky bodies and big heads.

The name skipper comes from their habit of skipping rapidly between perches.

So plant some zinnias. You'll get skippers!