I was in the Ivy Creek Pollinator Garden the other day with the sun just perfect for viewing the disk florets on the Cup Plant, Silphium perfoliatum. It is understandable that the flowers of this plant would be a favorite of bees and butterflies. To learn more about the cup plant and other plants in the pollinator garden, take this guided tour, put together by our volunteer gardeners.
This morning I walked the red trail along the reservoir (picking up the flags from the Native Plant Society's July fern walk). It was a classic, August morning. The air was thick and heavy; the sun was out; the cicadas were making themselves known and the dragonflies were everywhere. One of the things I have missed most during this time of quarantine has been live music and the green frogs seemed to be taking this seriously and "playing" their hearts out, with their "banjo string" songs twanging all along the walk. One of the main stars of any August walk along the reservoir is the cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis. I did not have my camera with me today but have this great photo from Diana Foster to share. Just imagine the green frogs singing in the background.
Bob Gore has reminded me that now is a good time to look for evidence of leafminers. Leafminers tunnel between the tough outer layers of a leaf, eating their way through the tender inner portions and can be the immature stage of any variey of insects--flies, moths, beetles, etc . There are different "mining" techniques and it looks like this is evidence of a serpentine leaf mine. As Bob says,
Notice that the little tracks tell the story of the larvae from egg to the next life stage, often pupae. The narrow ends of the tracks show where the eggs were inserted and later, as the tracks progress, when the larvae were small. As they grew you can see the increases in size in the width of the tracks as they ate more and grew larger. Finally, on the opposite end the larvae emerged.
One of the great benefits of my job is that I get to receive lots of trail updates from Bob Gore in the form of photos, videos and written observations. I look forward to them and share many of them with you all here. In mid July, Bob sent me notes that there was some rattlesnake plantain about to bloom and then followed up with this photograph. Rattlesnake plantain is a summer blooming member of the Orchis family. It's leaves form a distinctive white/green patterned rosette. If you have energy in this hot weather, take a walk on the red trail near the junction of the green trail and keep your eyes out to see if the blooms are still there.
Fall webworm larvae, a north american native, can be seen these days on the Black Walnut trees near the barn of Ivy Creek. Their silky nests are teeming with caterpillars but, while they look like they are being incredibly destructive, they really won't harm a healthy tree. These caterpillars can be distinguished from tent caterpillars by the timing of their appearance (tent caterpillars appear in the spring) and the placement of the nests. Look for the webs of the fall webworm larvae at the ends of branches.
Bob Gore shared this image of what is likely a juvenile barred owl--perhaps one of the young ones we saw in the spring?
I caught a tender moment yesterday just outside the Education Building.
At Ivy Creek, we are deeply committed to the process of experiential learning that happens when people are together in person with an expert. We hope to be able to safely offer guided tours and programs to you in the future. It is who we are and what we love. In the meantime, we are feeling creative and are adding a series of virtual tours to our repertoire of ways to share information with you. These virtual tours are a tool for the times and we are excited about them. The latest tour focuses on ICNA's magical pollinator garden and will "walk" you through a handful of the plants that you can find there. Download the free app and walk the tour on your own at Ivy Creek or "walk" it from home. This is the first in a series of tours that we call Plants of the Ivy Creek Natural Area and that share knowledge from some of our learned naturalists. You can find all the audio tours for Ivy Creek at this link. To access the Pollinator Garden tour, click on Plants of the Ivy Creek Natural Area.
I was recently talking with a friend about dragonfly larvae so I had dragonflies on my mind as I walked the red/brown trail today. I don't know a great deal about these beautiful creatures but I find them captivating. They spend the majority of their lives in water as nymphs (up to four years) and only a brief time as adult dragonflies (up to six months). They are voracious predators in both stages. This dragonfly decided to stop and pose for me along the field. I always have to use a guide to identify dragonflies and this one had me perplexed. The body seems very much to be a female common whitetail but the wings are for the male of the species (which has a very distinctive white abdomen). This led to an enjoyable journey to discover that there is an immature stage of the male's development when they have the body markings of a female but the wings are distinctively male. So I believe this is an immature male common whitetail dragonfly. I stand ready to be corrected and learn from my mistakes if there is an expert out there who has a more accurate identification. Either way, I hope this dragonfly is making the most of it's brief moment in the sun.
Dan Nissen found this female box turtle laying her eggs in the Quiet Area a few days ago. She is excavating a shallow nest with her hind legs and will lay between 3-8 eggs which will hopefully hatch sometime later this summer or early fall. Sometimes the hatchlings will overwinter still in the nest. Just another reminder to us all to remember the life that is trying to survive under our feet. This turtle had a guardian angel in Dan who was able to alert the wonderful CATS volunteers mulching the trees in the area (THANK YOU!!) and not only were the eggs protected from being stepped on but got a little extra layer of mulch protection. It takes a village!