Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer winds down

The sun’s angle is shifting and along with that there are some other signs of the waning summer. Ghostly reams of silk of the fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) hang from a branch of the gray birch. Fortunately this infestation is isolated to just a few branches of the tree and will not cause too much harm. The adult is an inconspicuous small white moth native to North America.

Marasmius rotula

Mushrooms appear on woody mulch, rotting tree stumps and along shady pathways. Some are bright orange and resemble chanterelles. But I am not expert enough to ID these and throw them in a pan for a tasty treat. Clusters of the tiny pinwheel mushroom (Marasmius rotula) provide a brief glimpse of fairyland.

Common true katydid 
Pterophylla camellifolia

The evening chorus of stridulating insects has risen to the season’s crescendo. Every now and again I get a closer look at these amazing insects. This one, most probably a late juvenile male was found perching on a sunflower leaf.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mighty Joe Pye

Several Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum) plants are providing an impressive 8-feet tall screen along the back fence. They have grown from tiny seedlings, which I bought in a six-pack from LINPI (Long Island Native Plant Initiative) a summer ago. The dusty pink blossom is a nectar source for bees of all shapes and sizes. The yellow tiger swallowtail butterfly seems to be particularly partial to this towering plant and I have also seen black swallowtails, Monarch butterflies, skippers and cabbage whites flutter and sip from the large round clusters of florets.

Yellow Tiger Swallowtail on Hollow-stemmed Joe Pye weed

Monarch butterflies also visit the seedlings of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Their distinctive, striped larvae have been seen eating the leaves, but for some reason they do not stay on the plant long enough to pupate. The same is true of the Laugher or Marbled Tuffet Moth (Charadra deridens) larvae, which are fuzzy with long, pale hairs. I have found them on the underside of the leaves of sunflower and canna lily, although their preferred food source is beech and oak.

A flash of yellow and sweet mellifluous chirping alerts me to goldfinches in breeding plumage pecking at Echinacea seed heads. Now for a sighting of the ruby-throated hummingbird! They must surely visit the fuchsia and cardinal flower when I am not around to see them.