Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blooms and Bugs

This is turning out to be a very flower-filled week, with far-flung excursions planned for the rest of it.  So yesterday and today I hurried off to catch up on some of my favorite places close to home.  My first stop yesterday was Woods Hollow Nature Preserve in Ballston Spa, where almost as soon as I stepped from my car, I was nearly bowled over by the beauty of this meadow chock full of snowy Oxeye Daisies and pretty pink Crown Vetch.

That sunny meadow was so full of just those two flowers,  I had to really search to locate the one I had come to find.  But find it I did:  Spiked Lobelia.

The air over the meadow was filled with darting and dashing dragonflies, and I couldn't believe my good luck when this Widow Skimmer sat still for its portrait, the sun glinting off its gossamer wings and touching its body with gold.

These two flower beetles were too wrapped up in each other to pay me the slightest mind, as I poked my camera into their intimate space.

There were several species of tiny hoverflies zipping in and out of the Common Milkweed flowers, and this tiger-tailed one took a moment to rest on a blade of grass.

As the mid-day heat bore down on my head, I was glad to seek the shade of the pine woods that makes up much of Woods Hollow.

It's under these pines that I know to look for the elusive Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain.  I always find the distinctively patterned basal leaves of many plants, but finding a flowering stalk is not always a given.  This year, I found but two flower stalks among some 20 plants in one area.  Sometime in the next few weeks, those tight green buds will open into tiny white orchids.

Sharing that same pine-needled forest floor were many Pipsissewa plants, easily seen, with their glossy evergreen leaves.  And as with the Rattlesnake Plantain, not so easy to find are the occasional flower clusters.

Tiny flies have no problem finding these flowers.  I don't think I have ever turned over one of these waxy pink blooms when I didn't find it crawling with little black flies.

When and where Pipsissewa blooms, it's almost a guarantee  that Shinleaf Pyrola will not be far away.

I see I wasn't the first one to find this lovely fat boletus mushroom with the rusty brown cap.

I next headed down to the pond that forms the heart of Woods Hollow Preserve, so cool and green and shady on this hot summer day.

There's a sweet little brook that flows into this pond, and its water (which must be spring-fed) is always icy cold and refreshing to my hot dusty feet.

I didn't have to wade far to find American Brooklime with its dainty little blue flowers, one of our native Speedwells.

 *  *  *

Well, today was even hotter and muggier than yesterday, and I really thought twice about visiting Bog Meadow Nature Preserve just outside Saratoga, a beautiful trail but which is more infested with Deer Flies than any other place I know.  Ah, but then I remembered my Tred-not Deerfly Patches, which, as this photo reveals,  saved me from being bitten by these 18 flies.

But not all the bugs along this trail are the kind we dread.   This butterfly eluded me for the longest time, but eventually it lit on a leaf and spread its glorious wings.   If it had closed its wings, it would have looked more like a dead brown leaf.  But then I could have determined if it was a Question Mark or a Comma, according to little white marks that can only be seen on the underside of the wings.  One thing I can say for sure is that this is one of the angel-winged butterflies, a species that will winter over as adults.

Update:  A loyal reader has left a comment positively IDing this butterfly as an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma), noting the three dark spots across the middle of the forewing.  A Question Mark Butterfly would have a 4th spot that looks like a dash.

This little guy, on the other hand, has underwings  that are showier than the top.  I believe that this is an Eastern Eyed Brown, but there are several brown butterflies that look very much alike, and this one was not about to let me examine it closely.  It's a wonder I even got this close to it.

I hope this little Candy-striped Leafhopper is not some dreaded pest, because I am always delighted to see one.  Have you ever seen a little bug more colorfully attired?

It even sat still long enough for me to get a side view, so I could see its vivid yellow underside.

This tiny blue leafhopper, species unknown, did not sit still for one moment, so my camera had to keep chasing it as fast as it ran away.  It was quite a vivid blue, and if it had not been so colorful, I never would have noticed it.

And if I hadn't been chasing that little blue bug all over the leaves, I never would have turned this leaf over to find this little green caterpillar all snug in its silken hammock.  What a lovely sheer veil it has spun for itself.  I wonder if it's just resting in there, or is it getting ready to undergo metamorphosis?


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

Wonderful post, Jackie! I sure do hope those checkered rattlesnake plantains are blooming by the time of my arrival :)

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

Oh my, how beautiful! How beautiful all!

I especially love the Dragonfly. And the photos of the pond and the spring-fed brook. -oh happy sigh-

Gentle hugs,

happyone said...

Oh I just love your blog. Your photos are magnificent. Auntie told me about your blog and I'm sure glad she did. : )
That certainly is a beautiful colored bug!

squirrel said...

Amazing photo of the candy striped leaf hopper. They are not ones to stand still for long. You angle wing is an Eastern Comma, Polygonia comma. You can tell by the fact that it has 3 dark spots going across the middle of the forewing. The question mark has a 4th one that looks like a dash. It's like the question mark has an addition mark on the top just as it has an additional mark on the bottom to make the dot of the "?". Hope that makes sense. If you compare the tops of both species you will see what I mean and for ever be an expert in "?" vs "," debate. Have fun.

suep said...

As usual, a lovely post and full of beautiful photos of some difficult-to-see creatures !
And thank you squirrel for teaching the difference between the question marks and the commas -one doesn't always get to choose which side to look at -eh

Elizabeth said...

Those Deer Flies are terrifying! Fantastic pictures of some really cool creatures! :D

June said...

These are such treasures . . . the photos and the subjects! I think a child must have designed those Pipsissewa flowers! They look like candy flowers!
And the candy striped leaf hopper!
And the dragonfly! And the moths!

When I got to the photo of the pond, I actually shivered, thinking of how chilly the water probably is . . . as I sit here in the 79* at 10pm...

Ellen Rathbone said...

You got some truly exquisite photos! Nicely done.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Dear readers, I do thank you for all your kind comments. And special thanks to squirrel for the ID of the Eastern Comma Butterfly.

hikeagiant2 said...

What an improbable outfit the candy striped leaf hopper has on! :-) Great photos, as always ... I love coming on hikes 'with' you! Thanks