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!