Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gardening at Last!


Finally I can get out in the garden! Between many snow covered weekends and cleaning up Meg's house to go on the market TOMORROW today will be the first day (well half day) to actually work in the garden.

We dug one giant hellebore, a trillium, and two asters from here place and I hope to plant them today. I need to get some good dirt to add to a new bed I want to build next to the house, that will have to come another day when I can go pick it up with my trailer and unload the trailer as we have not enough parking spots when the trailer is in the way.

March is tomorrow and I have not seen a butterfly yet (in the US) usually by the first of February I see some kind of butterfly. Meg saw a Cabbage White at school yesterday.  Usually by March 15th we see about 10 species of butterflies and 1-2 different dragonflies, doubt that is going to happen this year.

One other note I have a new software to play with! Thayer's "Birds of North America" Gold Edition DVD. I had used Thayer's birding software back around 1995 when it came on floppy discs. These DVDs cover everything you need to know about 957 species of birds found in North America including the calls, range maps and even quizzes. Tried the bird identifier with the Northern Mockingbird, gave it the info and sure enough it pointed to the Northern Mockingbird.

I'll give a more in-dept review later once I dig into what is inside. What I'm most interested in is the my quizzes section where I can create my own butterfly and dragonfly quizzes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sounds like spring to me!

Have you been out in the garden and heard a funny sound like someone dragging their fingers over the teeth of a hair comb? It is our first spring frog to call the Upland Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseria. Listen to the call here at Herps of NC. These are in fact tree frogs, only tree frogs have the sticky toe pads. There are several species of chorus frogs depending on where you live.
Impossible to find, so feel good just to hear them calling. Wanting to get your own photo? Good Luck :) It took me at least 10 years to find and photograph them, sorry I can not divulge my secret to photographing them. Anyway these photos were taken in 2004 in the back yard and along our pond.

These are razor sharp images, shame Blogger degrades them when I upload them.

Male calling for a female
This male seems to have a call the female liked!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Julia's Hellebores

Here are some of the hellebores blooming at Julia's garden right now. I have been building a big deck and screened in porch all winter. Just a bonus to be there when these are blooming. These photos are of about 1/3 of the hellebores she has the others have not came out yet. She has promised me a few babies of these plants so I'm pretty excited.

One thing I wanted to bring up. Several people have mentioned that hellebores can sulk a year or so after transplanting them. This time last year we did not have any hellebores in this garden. I bought 3 expensive one gallon plants at the local nursery and they are getting ready to bloom. The other 10-12 plants we have were given to us and dug up  from two different gardens, all so far show signs of blooms in the future. Half out dug up plants were planted in the summer the other half were planted in the fall.
This one we dug a footer right up to it and it was partially covered with dirt for a short time, no harm done. This plant is almost 3 foot around. Likely my favorite.
Look at those pointy petals, oh my!
Very red, lots of blooms on this one!
This one was a sport I think all the other flowers around it were red. She says many of her hellebores are much redder than normal.
Many of these in one big cluster. We are planning in visiting Pine Knot Farms the local hellebore growers on March 06th during their Hellebore Festival 2010. Anyone wanting to join us in southern Virginia during the open house please let us know. We were planning on going on February 27th but figured since we have had so much unusual cold weather this year.

Testing out the macro capabilities of Meg's new camera (Coolpix S70). This is a daphne close up from the plant next to her front door. Just a few blooms so far so not aroma yet. This photo was taken from 5mm at 28mm 5mm set to 1/98 sec, f/3.9 at ISO 400.

Here is the porch I'm building there. The deck is 14 x 30 and the porch is 14 x 20. I built a shed under it as well. As you can see we still need a beaded board ceiling that will be painted haut blue and screen. The electrician was supposed to start today and the rest of the week will be too cold to paint the ceiling boards before installing them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Crocus, Hellebores and our first year on the blog!

Well the blog has passed its first year (February 15th) and I forgot!

Here are some garden photos from today.
Meg got a new camera for Valentines Day, a Nikon coolpix S70 and these are some photos taken with it. It has a 3.5 inch view screen with takes the entire back of this tiny 12 mp camera. Everything is touch screen  making it a fun toy, but hard to hold with my big hands.

Our first crocus blooms

Hellebores from Meg's house we are putting up for sale in the next week. Should I take the shovel over there? 5-6 huge plants like this and lots of babies.
Stinking hellebores from our garden, this plant was given to us this past fall, they are nearly 2 ft tall. I counted in our garden 5 plants with a single bloom coming out, 3 plants with 3-4 blooms and one plant with 5-6 blooms.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Belize Butterflies!

Still have more unpublished photos from the trip to Belize. 16 more species of butterflies.

First the metalmarks a very hard group of butterflies.

White-banded Metalmark, Hypophylla sudias Male, the female has the white band. This little metalmark would fly around flashing that brilliant blue and land under leaves to hide. This photo was taken from the ground up with flash to fill in the colors.
Saw just this one at Rio on Pools.

Above and below
Barnes Metalmark, Detritivora barnesi also called the Cloaked Scintillant depending on where you find the common name. We saw lots of these they liked sunny spots in the forest and would land in the sun after chasing each other.

Fire-banded metalmark, Panaropsis elegans
Saw just this one at Rio on Pools.
Red-bordered Pixie, Melanis pixe
I;ve seen these gems in Southern Texas, well worth the search for them.
Found this near Blue Hole in an orange grove next to a river,

One of the whites we saw
Common Melwhite, Melete lycimnia isandra
We found a weedy yard full of these on these flowers.
Above and below
Gaudy Checkerspot, Chlosyne g. gaudialis
There were 3 of these all fresh like this one. In the orange grove near Blue Hole.
 Guatemalan Crescent, Tegosa guatemalena
We saw lots of these orange beauties.
Flag Skipper, Moeris striga stroma
Saw two of these little beauties!

Turk's-cap White Skipper, Heliopetes macaira
They have these in Texas.

Least Heliconian, Euiedes aliphera
Also called Juliette, the larger ones in the USA are called Julias. 
Veined White-Skipper, Heliopetes arsalte
Tiger Heliconian, Heliconius ismenius
These gave us quite the show!
Queen, Danaus gilippus
These are common in the southern US 

Above and below
Guatemalan Catone, Catonephele mexicana, 
Above and below
Smooth-banded Sister, Adelpha cytherea
One of my favorite group of butterflies!
And the last one.

Pale-tipped Flasher, Astraptes phalaecus also called Yellow-edged Flasher. The field guide and sites on the internet do not have a live photo, only pinned specimen photos.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Butterfly larval host plants: Gray Hairstreak

Kind of consumed with the Winter Olympics currently.

I had Jean ask if we had hairstreak butterflies in the US. Yes we do somewhere around 70 different species of Hairstreaks and Elfins. In the Eastern US the number is around 20 species. Anyway I'll create a post on the plants used as host plants of the more common hairstreaks.

This is the Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus on Red Clover, Trifolium pratense it might be a  host plant. These are the most common hairstreak we have in the US. It has 3 broods and can be found flying during most of the butterfly season depending on where you live.

Larval host plants for the Gray Hairstreak are: Mainly in the families of Legumes Fabaceae, mallows Malvaceae. Including clovers Trifolium spp., bush clovers Lespedeza spp., tick-trefoil Desmodium spp., mallows Malva spp.,and vetches Vicia spp. About any weedy meadow or field nearby can support a population of this hairstreak.

Gray Hairstreak in March on a wild plum tree!

On Verbena on a stick

On Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa

More on the Gray Hairstreak at my web site  

News from the garden, we still have a little snow left over from over 2 weeks ago. It sleeted a short while ago. Our normal high temperature for this time of year is 53 degrees, not seen any 50s in at least three weeks,  every night we are getting down in the mid 20s. Saturday we expect a high of 52 degrees! 
The crocuses are up but have not opened yet. Hellebores not showing much yet. We have not turned up any soil in the garden yet or planted any seeds....

Monday, February 08, 2010

Hairstreak Butterflies from Belize


Getting to the really hard butterflies! These are hairstreak butterflies and there is so many to choose from in Central America. Note none of these butterflies are as big as a nickle.

I'll start first with a hairstreak that is considered rare by the books I have. No place we looked had  an actual live photo of it, just pinned specimens. This is one reason we do this!
The Ambrax Hairstreak, Strephonota ambrax In flight it displays a brilliant blue. We found it
next to the Xunantunich Mayan ruins in Belize!

Here is a tiny confusing Butler's Midistreak  also called the Crolinus Hairstreak good thing the scientific name is the same Tmolus crolinus  It was found along the trail at Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve in Belize. The flower reminds me of Heal all. Below is a photo of what it looks like from above, the photo indicated it is a female.
The Pale Ministreak, Ministrymon una these are considered rare too.  I found this little butterfly near the Belize Airport just before we had the depart Belize....

Here is another one with several common names. Some call it the Togarna Hairstreak and others call it the Chiapas Stripestreak, the scientific name is  Arawacus togarna. Roger showed me a killer photo of this and said I missed three of them. Later I took a walk further into Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve and found three of my own in three levels of wear, this was the freshest one I saw.

Here is another rare hairstreak, the field guide had only a pinned specimen photo! The Heraldica Hairstreak, Nicolaea heraldica

That is all the photos of the hairstreaks I saw. Roger got two more a Oppia Hairstreak, Thereus oppia and the Red-spotted Hairstreak, Tmolus echion echiolus below.

We suspected seeing the Dusky-blue Groundstreak several times but never got a good look at it, I have seen this in southern Texas many times.

Above is an Ceraunus Blue, Hemiargus ceraunus which is common in Florida and we saw it lots of places in Belize. The most common blue we saw in Belize was the Eastern-tailed Blue which is plentiful in my North Carolina backyard during the summer.

A tiny note from our garden. It looks like we have 2 yellow crocus ready to bloom, I'll check in the morning.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Satyr Butterflies from Belize

Butterflying in a new part of the world has its challenges. My camera and lens both were not the best companions. The 20D camera is getting old and fussy. My 180mm macro lens needs repair, it now close focuses to 24inches not the 10 inches it used to do, a real bummer when shooting butterflies.

Here is a start of the butterflies we saw the satyr family. In all we had 8 species of satyrs in Belize! The most common butterfly seen one was our Carolina Satyr seen right here in our NC backyard, we see 6 species in our backyard so seeing 8 species in Belize at an off time of year is still pretty good.

White Satyr, Pareuptychia ocirrhoe saw this at three locations. When it flies you see mostly white.
This Westwood's Satyr, Euptychia westwoodi looks a lot like the White Satyr with subtitle differences. I only saw one of these and it was gone before Roger caught up to me. I also saw and photographed a Confused Satyr, the photo of it taking off allowed an ID, but not worth posting here.
This White-banded Satyr, Pareuptychia ocirrhoe was the only one of these we saw.

This Blue-gray Satyr, Magneuptychia libye was not in our book "Butterflies of Mexico and Central America" I got the ID from This was the only one seen and it would not come out from under a palm bush for a better photo.
Above and below is the Plain Satyr, Cissia pompilia we saw it many places.
Carolina Satyr, Hermeuptychia sosybius the most common butterfly seen in Belize. Some websites gave this one a different name altogether. We see this butterfly in my backyard and is the only satyr of this type that nectars flowers, we saw it on many flowers as well in Belize.
Above and below the Moon Satyr, Pierella luna this was huge for a satyr at about 2 1/2 inches tall, the others shown above are mostly around an inch or less. These photos were taken from about 6 foot away and it left town before I could get close. It was my big mystery butterfly and the angle I took in these photos do not show the unusual shape very well.
OK, you suffered through the satyrs we saw. I just enjoy this family mainly because they bounce as they fly and they are out in the shady forest even on days when it is not sunny.

Below is not a satyr
Little Banner, Nica flavilla we found it along the trail at Blue Hole. Took lots of photos and we wanted to see it fly. Roger touched it with his finger and it just moved away, tried over and over and it just still moved away. We left it on the leaf, never ever had a butterfly do that.