Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Rare Butterfly and Clouds of Azure Bluets

Today I found a few hours to walk along our road and check out the Ox-eyed Daisies, hoping for some good butterflies. I was lucky enough to find an Pepper and Salt Skipper which is one of the roadside skippers. This was likely the third one found here in 12 years. They are tiny and easily overlooked.

Pepper and Salt Skipper on Ox-eyed Daisy

My other good find a Juniper Hairstreak on Ox-eyed Daisy, in all I found three of these today, and junipers the host plant were very close by too.

American Lady on what I think is either Pearly Everlasting or Pussytoes laying eggs.

Below is an Hoary Edge skipper it can be mistaken for the much more common Silver-spotted Skipper. Hoary Edges are uncommon skippers yet around my place they are common.

Below is a male Skimming Bluet, Enallagma geminatum they showed up today on the pond I have been finding them here for about a week each year for the past 3-4 years. You have to watch carefully to tell them from the Azure Bluets. They are smaller about 1 1/4 inch and they tend to perch on waterlily pads.

OK I wandered off the road onto an adjacent tract and found a pond I didn't know was there. The pond is about 4 times bigger than mine and it had clouds of Azure Bluets over the open water! I'm sure there were at least 500 Azure Bluets if not a 1000 or more. Now I know where mine came from.

Both of these photos are of mated Azure Bluets. This type of mating is called a "wheel" as you can see the male attaches himself to the back of the female's head and she attaches to the male's abdomen to fertilize her eggs. If you see damselflies flying together or resting with the male attached to the female's head it is called a pair in tandem, they are not mated.

I also came upon a Black Racer snake intent on catching frogs. It never moved from its position about 3 foot from me when I found it. I also never seen so many Bullfrog tadpoles as I did today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

White Milkweed and daily odes

White Milkweed, Asclepias variegata is common along our road and usually when it blooms one can find their first Great Spangled Fritillary of the season on or near it, no luck yesterday. It seems that the White Milkweed on the early sun side of the road is doing terrible because of our cold and wet weather and due to the fact that the highway mowing crew timed poorly and the trees are chest high where the milkweed is. I did see fresh American Ladies and Summer Azures on it.

The weather here has been chilly (64 degrees) and windy not the best for finding butterflies yet I did OK yesterday on my 1.5 hour walk up the road.

My friends Jeff and Will were over on Saturday night Jeff remarked that he'd never seen an Azure Bluet before. Well my yard is the only location in the state of North Carolina I have seen the species before. I have found it in KY and PA on DSA trips.

Both these Azure Bluets, Enallagma aspersum were found where Jeff parked his car on Saturday. The above photo is the female which was very hard to get to sit still for a photo. The lower photo is the male Azure Bluet. In all yesterday I saw 7 of them.

Below is a Common Green Darner with its exuvia freshly emerged in our pond with a waterlily behind it! Normally these guys emerge after 10PM and can fly by midnight. Guess the cool damp days have changed that as we also saw one emerging Saturday afternoon in the pond.

Below is my first of the year female Slaty Skimmer. I've been told by dragonfly collectors that this bug has the worst bite of any dragonfly they have ever handled. I've never had any bite me and I have handled a few of them. Last week I touched my nose to a Common Whitetail on our porch railing!

This photo below is a teneral male Eastern Pondhawk, Erythemis simplicicollis. The males start out green like the females then with age the males turn blue

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Waterlilies and the garden update

Last Saturday I got out in the solo canoe and trimmed out the willow trees that had fell into the pond to clean it up some. Sadly it was the last time we saw the pair of Mallard ducks in the pond. But the next day exactly a week ago, the waterlilies came out, only 3 but a start. Below is 2 of the 3.

I planted the waterlilies 6 or 7 years ago, they now cover 3/4 of the 70- 80 foot diameter pond. In a few years I'll likely have to do a major thinning to keep them under control. We also have several nice clusters of Pickerelweed in the pond.

Today a portion of thew waterlilies in the pond.

This iris is either an Louisiana Iris or a Siberian Iris, the blades seem too thin to be a Louisiana, could it have crossed with the Siberian nearby?

This is an Louisiana Iris for sure and only a few feet for the other iris.

One of my seedling tomatoes in the garden, we have had a terrible year for growing seedlings.

This was last Sunday nights dinner Swiss Chard from the garden finally. The next morning Meg found a pile of chard leaves on the deck that I must have dropped.

Beets and carrots growing in the garden today.

You know I'm legally colored blind, only greens and reds. Meg pointed out to me that this spiderwort was a bit pink and not blue. I stopped at a garden club plant sale yesterday, the garden they had the sale in was full of all kinds of spiderworts and none for sale. I did get 6 plants including a cultivated goldenrod, exciting.

Lemon Cucumber for this morning in our garden. we have an old fashioned tripod set up over it to grow on.

The upper half of the clematis growing along our walkway I featured last week on my blog entry.

The latest project here, Meg wanted dog protection for her batchler buttons. I made the lattice from scraps left over from a customers recent project. Each panel is removable too.

Friday, May 08, 2009

CSA First of the Season

Below is our first CSA it contained arugula & salad greens, green garlic, kohlrabi, black seeded Simpson lettuce, parsley, radishes, strawberries, sweet potatoes and tatsoi. Each week we also get a menu plan and shopping list to help us figure out how to eat our box of veggies.

We cooked the half the tatsoi and green garlic last night using my standard greens recipe. Greens (Swiss Chard or what ever) add minced garlic and minced ginger to taste to the cast iron skillet with olive oil. Add greens cook until wilted, add soy sauce to taste and cook another minute.

Even though we have a garden, Meg and I decided this winter we'd sign up for a CSA. For those of you that don't know what a CSA is it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You sign up and pay in advance of the growing season for a box of vegetables every week picked up at an assigned location every week (ours is 22 weeks). Our CSA is provided by Harland's Creek Farm they are a certified organic farm that has been providing CSAs for years. We buy organic when ever possible anyway.

One of our clematises planted 3 years ago. this one is growing very well. Lost the tag so I don't know which one it is.

Years ago I bought this spiderwort, it has been neglected for years. Two years ago we gave it a new home in better soil. It is very happy now!

OK any guesses on what this is? it is an exuviae from the larva of the Common Green Darner dragonfly. Must have emerged from the pond last night. In the next few weeks after 10PM (usually) these larva will climb our of the pond and cling to blades of grass or whatever and emerge into an adult dragonfly, this takes about an hour. An earlier post here shows the dragonfly breaking out of the exuviae it is the second photo.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Peas and new lattice

Super Sugar Snap Peas our first harvest this year. There was a bit more but I ate a few right off the vine. Meg is in CA and is missing her own pea harvest, maybe she'll be back before I eat them all... There is plenty more peas out there to fatten up and we've been getting rain since last night.

Here is the custom lattice I'm making for the deck and screened porch. The holes are 5 x 5 inches, I might add a 1 inch wide lattice strip vertically down the middle of the existing 5 x 5 holes to make it more of a screen. If I did that the openings would be 2 x 5 inches. What do you think would be best? I have a lot of 1 x 6 scraps that I can make the 1 inch lattice strips out of too.

Below is the corner of the screened porch and once the snow peas are done we'll be planting heavenly blue morning glories and moonflower vines in that corner.

The flowers below are Lupine diffusus that we found in the Sandhills Gamelands last weekend. This plant is biannual and seems to move about in the gamelands from year to year. Some places where you find a lot of it might have next to nothing in a few years. The gamelands management in the past few years has been cutting out huge numbers of pines and scrub oaks making quail habitat all over the gamelands. It hurts to see such a beautiful native habitat being destroyed to bring in hunters from all over to hunt Bob White Quail, we heard one quail all day on Sunday.

Lupne diffusus is one of the Frosted Elfin butterflies host plants. We searched about an acre of flowers and as expected did not find any elfins. We did however see a rare Confused Cloudywing and several Northern Cloudywings and Southern Cloudywings. Finding all three of our cloudyings together in one spot does not happen very often and these were my first cloudywings of the season too.

Sadly in a week or so these blooms will be gone until next year.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Dragonfly Safari in the Sandhills

Today my friend Roger and I ventured out to the Sandhills Gamelands and checked out some wild ares including 17 Frog Pond, the annual burn site and a pond I forgot the name of. The weather was windy and warm with mostly cloud cover, not the best day to find butterflies, but a decent day for odonates (dragonflies and damselflies).

The Damselflies

Above is a Cherry Bluet (Enallagma concisum) male they are about 1 1/4 inch long.
one of my favorite damselflies. This photo does no justice to the really red color. We found two of these after trekking back to the car they were not seen on the first pass through. We are at the northern edge of the range for the Cherry Bluet.

Sandhill Bluet (Enallagma davisi) male they are about 1 1/4 inch long.
we found maybe 30 of this spring flying damselfly today. In years past we just missed finding these as you have to look out on the edges of sandhill ponds on twigs and stems in knee deep water. The Cherry Bluet likes the same habitat as well.

Atlantic Bluet (Enallagma doubledayi) male they are about 1 1/2 inches long.
17 Frog Pond had at least one hundred of these guys, I say guys as only one female was seen. We observed several of the males catching and eating Citrine Forktails.

This one is teneral, meaning immature. I'm certain it is a bluet but which one?

Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata) male
17 Frog Pond had likely 1000 Citrine Forktails at least. These damselflies are very tiny only 3/4 inch long!

Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata) orange female

Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis) male they are around 2 inches long.
17 Frog Pond we saw maybe 20 of these spreadwings. We also saw the larger Swamp Spreadwing but were not able to get close to any of them.

The Dragonflies

Common Green Darner (Anax junius) these are about 3+ inches long.
I saw 3 of these at 17 Frog Pond, this one is teneral and had likely just taken it's first flight just before I took this photo.

Elfin Skimmer (Nannothemis bella) female the smallest dragonfly in the US!
These are rare unless you have lots of sphagnum in your pond. The male of this species is bluish black. Only 3 of these were seen today.

Ornate Pennant (Celithemis ornata) male these are about 1 1/4 inches long.
They used to be called Faded Pennant because when they age all that mantling one the wings fade away. There were loads of these today maybe a 100 and every last one of them were nervous as can be.

Diminutive Clubtail (Gomphus diminutus) these are about 2 inches long.
Rare mainly found in the Carlinas Sandhills and a few records in Georgia. I've know about this site for these for years.

Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata) male these are about 1 3/4 inches long.
One key to learning these they are early spring fliers and always perch on the ground or on logs like this one did.

Other dragonflies we saw were: Comet Darner (Anax longipes), Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata), Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia), Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa), Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis), Little Blue Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax minuscula), Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) and Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina). Pretty good day if you ask me.

I realized today that if I ever moved away from NC I'd miss this place. Yep that is 17 Frog Pond, it is said that the name 17 Frog Pond came about because one knowing their frogs and toads could on a decent night (after a good rain) identify 17 species of frogs and toads by ear. My best attempt at this is 11 or 12 species. Notice the pond appears to have no water, it does dry up and for that reason it has no fish. Today the water was about knee deep it does fill up all the way to that stump some years.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Clematis Henrii and More!

The Clematis henrii is just about in full bloom! If I'm right there are around 35 flowers on my 12 year old plant. A few days ago it was 21 flowers, still more to open too. Some of the blooms are a full 8 inches across. If you want to try a clematis this is the one to try. With all this plant has been though, it still overwhelms me each year with flowers. It has been moved several times and to be honest I have no clue were the plant is in the garden.

See what a few days does the photo below was taken on Thursday morning.

Another moved plant from my old place a dark blue Siberian Iris. Neglected on the hill below the peas, it still blooms. If I'd replant these and give the roots a little air I'm sure I'd have one heck of a patch of them.

New plant in the garden it is called Baptisia Carolina Moonlight. I like the native Baptisia tinctoria better and it is known to be a food plant for the Wild Indigo Duskywing. We also have Baptisia australis better known as Blue Wild Indigo and have found Wild Indigo Duskywing eggs on it after a female visited it and the caterpillars did come later. Moving my Blue Wild Indigo to a dried shadier location a few years ago did not help it.

Here is an update from this morning on the Super Sugar Snap Peas. I'll be picking some in the morning most likely.

On the screen on the porch on Thursday evening, I took this dragonfly photo on Friday morning. That dragonfly is a Common Whitetail, we have maybe 20 of them just in the front yard right now, a huge number for such a small space.

And one last item. Today I spent the day making and installing custom lattice around our deck and porch. I made the lattice with really good knot free treated pine 2 x 10s purchased at the big box store. I got 4 big sections made using 4- 2 x 10 x 8 cut into 7/16 inch strips. The pile of treated pine sawdust is huge, I'll have to haul it away. I'll be posting photos of the custom lattice soon.