I know I am not alone in being grateful for all the little moments of beauty that nature provides us on a daily basis. I have always felt that the transitions of autumn are particularly beautiful and so am taking this moment to share one more picture from the Native Plant Society plant walk. I imagine these milkweed seeds flying off into the field to find a space to settle down in the soil, wait out the winter and return to bloom next year.
There are many reasons you should take this month's virtual plant walk sponsored by the Jefferson Chapter of the Native Plant Society. Not the least of which is the opportunity to see the sunlight hit a patch of Little Bluestem grass at the top of the North Field. It is a truly beautiful view this time of year between the grasses and the blackberrry vines and the various seedheads of past blooms. You can access the walk on your home computer here. But do consider coming to ICNA and walking the North Field trail. You can download the free IZI. travel app on your phone and have Ruth Douglas be your virtual guide. Or download the plant list from our website and come with just your binoculars and guide book.
I was out with Ruth Douglas and Dede Smith recording the latest Virginia Native Plant Society walk yesterday and while we walked we found many examples of "tree rubbings", indicating the likely presence of male deer (bucks) who often rub their antlers on young trees this time of year. This happens more during the fall and winter as the bucks' antlers harden and they rub off the velvet covering that has been there all spring and summer. This rubbing is also a way that bucks will leave pheromone traces and fall/winter is rutting season.
As we walked the trail to the east side, near Earlysville Road, we stopped to admire a beech tree still laden with beautiful rust colored leaves and saw this buck through the trees. He minded us not at all, continued his foraging and eventually headed north up the trail as we made our way back to the barn.
Thank you to Bob Gore for another beautiful photograph.
Sparrows have been on my mind with the return of the white-throated sparrows' song to the early morning wake-up call outside my bedroom window. I love this song and I love how it signals that winter is coming (even while the weather outside is not so sure). Unlike the white-throated sparrow, the chipping sparrow is a year long resident around here. I found this one in the woods along the green trail the other day. They lose their bright rufous crowns during non-breeding months so are not quite as distinctive as in March-August. This one was happy to pose for a moment.
Bob Gore sent me this amazing photograph of a mushroom being parasitized by another fungus. The fungus on the fungus is known as bonnet mold.
The woolly bear caterpillar is the larvae of the Isabella Tiger moth. I found this one in the grass near the Education Building. Woolly bears (also sometimes called hedgehog caterpillars due to their tendency to curl up in a ball when threatened) will spend the winter as caterpillars and can survive even in arctic winters. I can never remember what folklore says about predicting winter by woolly bear bands. It turns out that different species of woolly bears will have different markings and as the caterpillars go through molts they become more brown/orange and less black. A browner woolly bear is an older woolly bear.
And here is an even better picture of what appears to be a male painted turtle at Ivy Creek. Thanks to Bob Gore.
I found this painted turtle catching some rays of sunshine and was impressed with the length of his foreclaws. The length of the foreclaw is one way to tell a male painted turtle from a female. Males have longer ones (which they make use of during mating) and so this one, I assume, is a "he". It is often painted turtles that we see congregating on the logs in the reservoir and soon they will escape the cold by heading underwater where they have multiple adaptations that allow them to survive.
Earlier this week I had the privilege to walk with Phil Stokes to record the new virtual plant walk being offered by the Jefferson Chapter of the Native Plant Society. This month's walk focuses on trees and it turns out that Phil and I both have a soft spot for the persimmon tree. I imagine that many of you do also. My soft spot comes from memories of working on a farm and going out in the fall with our farmer to the bottom of a lake field and being raised up in the bucket of the tractor so we could pick persimmons. This would be in the later autumn, once the weather had turned and the fruits had lost their astringency. A friend of mine would spend hours processing the persimmons to make bread to share. It was a true labor of love that baking but made all the more precious by the fun we had collecting the fruit.
To learn more about the trees of Ivy Creek, take some time before the end of the month and "walk with Phil".