Friday, March 27, 2015

Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea): First Butterfly Photograph Of The Year

March 18th. Not the first butterfly I’ve seen this year, but the first to stay still long enough for me to photograph. This is a male; the females don’t have the orange on the tip of the wing. The underside of the wing has a gray-black marbled pattern.

Identification resource:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

White-breasted Nuthatches: Back To The Woods For The Summer

March 25th, 2015. I saw the White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) in mid-February, 2014. A pair were working a pine snag in the woods beyond the bird feeders. They were shy and ‘sneaked’ in late in the afternoon to get seed from the log feeder or a kernel of corn that had been left by the squirrels on the feeder that held an ear of corn.

What a difference this year. They arrived earlier in the season and, instead of sneaking in late in the day, they would start coming in the morning. I watched one morning and them – probably one or other of them – make a total of 10 visits to the feeders in the space of 30 minutes. They would come throughout the day and feed at the feeders for some time rather than grab some food and leave. On several occasions, they came to the feeders together. 

They are resident in this area year-round and have returned to the woods. I’ve only seen them once, on a cool wet day, recently. I suspect I won’t see them again until next Winter.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pine Siskins (Carduelis pinus)

March 23rd, 2015. The Winter bird season is winding down fast now. The number of American Goldfinches and Chipping Sparrows coming to the feeder has decreased to a handful of each compared with the flocks we had a couple of weeks ago. A few Purple Finches still come to the feeders but they’ll be off north soon as will a few Yellow-rumped Warblers that still come by several times each day. 

Pine Siskin, Top and lower left; female Purple Finch, lower right 

Pine Siskin, left; female Purple Finch, right 

The Pine Siskins (Carduelis pinus) made their first appearance at the sunflower seed feeders in late January this year. At first I didn’t really notice them. They’re somewhat similar in pattern and color to, but slightly smaller than the the female Purple Finch. In addition, the Pine Siskin lacks the distinct white ‘stripes’ above the eye and on the cheek that are present on the female Purple Finch. Both the Pine Siskin and the female Purple Finch have streaked breasts. 

Pine Siskin, upper left and bottom; American Goldfinch, upper right 

Pine Siskin, right; American Goldfinch, left
The Pine Siskin is about the same size as an American Goldfinch. 

This photo shows all three species. Pine Siskin, upper and lower left; American Goldfinch, upper right; female Purple Finch, lower right. 

Pine Siskins. The bird on the right shows the cream-colored feathers that are muted in the non-breeding season but which are much brighter in the breeding season.
The Pine Siskins winter in this area but will fly north into Canada and New England to breed. 

It's interesting that we didn’t see any Pine Siskins last year but All About Birds comments on the fact that these birds are nomadic and erratic in their distribution across their wintering grounds in search of seed. Thus, the fact that we didn’t see them last year is not unusual. I wonder, now that they know where we live, if we will see them sooner next Winter.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Out With The Old; In With The New (Part 2)

March 12th. (Continued from… ) When I visited Fort Yargo State Park in mid-February, there were few signs of Spring. The only plants that were the leaves of Cranefly Orchids (Tipularia discolor) that I found in many places. I made this visit to walk the beach but, when that didn’t work out, I decided to walk the trail again to see if there were any signs of Spring. 

The route…  

Branches from pine and deciduous trees lying beside the trail. I had thought that the park staff had trimmed branches but, it was when I saw these branches, that it occurred to me that they had been brought down by ice that accumulated on them during recent rains.

That’s when I thought to look at the end of the branches. It was clear that they had been torn off the tree and not sawed. I’m still getting used to the amount of damage caused by the recent accumulation of ice.

The trail a little further along was strewn with pine cones, also brought down by the weight of ice.

A sign of Spring. Leaf buds of the Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) had emerged since my last visit. 

Another sign of the ice damage. These very long branches ‘blocked’ the trail. Since this trail is not on the official park map, the trail hadn’t been cleared.

The only wildflowers in bloom. Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) plants were blooming in open areas along the outer trail down to the dam.

A close up of the blooms.

The Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) plants are looking decidedly more healthy that when I saw them on my previous visit.

Leaf buds are developing on a Sweetgum (Liquidamber styraciflua) tree.

I made my way out to the shoreline and found these berries on a vine with thorns that was growing through a small shrub. I think these are berries of a Greenbriar (Smilax sp.) vine.

Elliott’s Blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii) bushes are starting to bloom.

Looking along the shoreline, I could see a pink tinge on some of the deciduous trees; a sure sign of blooming Red Maple (Acer rubrum) trees.

Red Maple flowers on the trail.

I found another nice specimen of the brown Jelly Ears near the end of my walk. This branch had fallen since I had passed this point when I set out.

Related posts:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Out With The Old; In With The New (Part 1)

March 12th. When I visited Fort Yargo State Park in mid-February, there were few signs of Spring. The only plants that were the leaves of Cranefly Orchids (Tipularia discolor) that I found in many places. I made this visit to walk the beach but, when that didn’t work out, I decided to walk the trail again to see if there were any signs of Spring. 

The route… 

I love this view looking northwest just after crossing the bridge from the parking lot.

Branches of pine trees had fallen after being coated with about an eighth to a quarter inch of ice a few days previously. At first I thought the park staff had been trimming trees - in some cases they had – and it took a while before I realized that most of the branches had fallen under the weight of the ice. 

I found some treasures on some of the fallen branches. 

This branch had some small brown jelly ears (Auricularia sp.). 

Another branch was colonized by two different shield lichens. One had fruiting cups with green inner faces, and… 

a second lichen whose cups had brown inner faces. Both are probably Parmotrema sp. It’s not unusual to find lichens on fallen branches; it is unusual to see fruiting bodies on lichens on these branches. 

Most of the Cranefly Orchid leaves were still healthy and green. A few were showing signs of age, and some had turned purple. The leaves will die back before the orchids bloom in July. 

The best find on this walk was a fallen branch – about six feet long and up to 3 inches in diameter - with five to six different lichens. 

A lichen with ‘wrinkled’ cups… 

The small group of cups in the upper right are similar to the cups in the previous photo. The lighter cups may be a different lichen. 

An Old Man’s Beard (Usnea sp.). This specimen seems more compact that most I’ve seen. 

I think this is another lichen. 

This lichen may be the same as the first lichen with green fruiting cups. 

The black spots in this photo are fruiting cups of yet another lichen. 

I’ve never seen so many different lichens on a single branch. I put the branch away from the trail where I can check on it periodically. 

To be continued...

Related posts: 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Well… So Much For Walking The Beach

March 12th. When I visited Fort Yargo State Park in mid-February, the water level in the reservoir had been lowered. In the past, I’ve taken the opportunity to walk a beach created by the lowering of the water level. 

I would drop onto the beach at the east end of the trail and walk west to the point marked (dark blue trail) on the map and then returned to the trail before it headed back inland to avoid the drainage into the inlet which was usually soft and difficult to cross. If I could cross I could hike the beach to the bridge to the parking lot. This beach walk gives unique access to the shoreline and wildflowers and shrubs that are difficult to access when the reservoir is full. 

When I drove into the parking lot, I knew immediately that I had left it too long. The reservoir was full. I didn’t think we had gotten that much rain. Barrow County often gets more rain than we do – we live about six miles southeast of the park – and the reservoir also receives water from springs west of the park. 

I walked the trail and photographed sections of the shoreline that I’d photographed in mid-Febuary. 

Location 1. These were taken looking west from the pedestrian bridge from the parking lot to the trail. 

Location 2. This photo was taken look east from the point where I would leave the beach and rejoin the trail if I couldn’t walk through to the bridge. 

This is how it looked on March 12th. The water was only six inches deep, but no getting out to get a matching photo. 

Location 3. These were taken looking northeast just as the trail went inland to climb the hill. 

Location 4. These were taken from the north side of the dam. The water level had risen from just over 21 feet to almost 24 feet. 

Location 5. These were taken from the south side of the dam. The water is low and almost still in the first photo. In the second photo, the water level is higher and roiled by water from the overflow which is much more obvious in the third photograph. 

Location 6. These were taken from the west end of the dam looking north.

Location 7. This is where I would drop onto the beach to begin a walk. The water would be two to three feet deep. No beach walk this day. 

Location 8. Looking north across the reservoir to the island. In the first photograph, the beach around the island it clearly visible. In the second, the island is clearly and island again, surrounded by water. I could hear Canada geese calling near the island. A pair of geese usually nests on this island and it’s about that time of year. Interestingly, when I got back to the parking lot, I could see three geese; one was chased away by one of the pair. So, nesting time is near. 

Location 9. On the final approach to the bridge. The beach was really wide here in contrast to the previous time the water was lowered and when the beach here was narrow and steep. 

I’m a little sad that I missed the opportunity to walk the beach this time but it was interesting to see the comparison between the shoreline when the water was high and low. Next time the water level is lowered I mustn’t wait so long to walk the beach. 

Related posts: