Saturday, September 25, 2010

The changing seasons

We have now had 90 days this year with 90 degree temps, it is getting real old. It might be over, the past 32 days we have had .13 inches of rain, it looks bad here. Summer gardening seems useless.... We have some rain on the way in the next 4 days of forecasts, lets hope it actually gets here.

Many of you might recall our getting a bunch of hellebores and a cyclamen last fall. Well the cyclamen has 2 blooms on it, the first in our garden. We suffered a good number of plant casualties this summer including Yuletide Camellia, 2 of the 3 discount camellias from Home Depot, 2 hellebores from Pineknot Farms and several other perennials.
Cyclamen hidden in our garden!
This Night Blooming Cereus from our porch two nights ago. It is a tropical catus Meg's daughter got in a yard sale for 15 cents over 12 years ago. We have had 2 other nights of blooming earlier in the season, this night we had 2 blooms. The blooms only last one night by the way. These photos were taken at 11 pm with my Canon G11 set to manual using the camera flash.
Pretty amazing this 8 inch very fragrant flower isn't it?
This is a Sleepy Orange caterpillar on Sicklepod. I found this last week while on a hike. The 10 x 10 patch of Sicklepod was pretty eaten up, in all there were at least 10-12 cats  there in various stages.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not the normal diet for this one!


I have been watching and photographing butterflies for 13 years now. Only once before have I seen a Tawny Emperor nectaring on flowers! The first one was a female and the field guide I was carrying at the time did not show the female which is slightly different than the male. Notice the rounded hindwings, the males hingwings curve in slightly. Another field guide I have has a female and male photo, but it notes it as a variation in the species, not as a male and female. A beginner might mistake the Variegated Fritillary from above for this female.

Tawny Emperor, Asterocampa clyton nectaring on bidens from Sunday!
The normal diet for these butterflies  is tree sap, rotten fruit, carrion and dung.
This species is perhaps uncommon most of the time, some years it is common here. This year seems to be the second best year for them in the time I have been seeing them.

I also wanted to share the list of butterflies I found on a 2 hour walk on Sunday at the Flat River Impoundments in Durham, NC. Right now there is more than 20 acres of bidens in bloom and the butterflies are hopping!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail 6
Spicebush Swallowtail 1 fresh
Cabbage White 1
Colias albino 1
Cloudless Sulphur40
Sleepy Orange 25 and maybe 20 cats on sicklepod
Eastern Tailed Blue 5
Summer Azure 1
Variegated Fritillary 14
Great Spangled Fritillary 1 very worn
Pearl Crescent 40+
Question Mark 2
Red Admiral 2
Common Buckeye 80+
Red-spotted Purple 8
Viceroy 30+ seemed to be everywhere!
Hackberry Emperor 30+
Tawny Emperor 8
Carolina Satyr 6
Applachian Brown 1
Monarch 24 mostly on bidens
Least Skipper 3
Zabulon Skipper 2 males

Friday, September 17, 2010

Melon rinds and butterflies!

This past week I had dropped a water melon rind next to the big Miss Huff lantana bush.Most of our melon rinds either go out the back door or into the compost bin. Anyway I dropped this rind in hopes of getting butterflies on it. You see below the results.

The orange butterfly is a Viceroy and the other is an related species the Red-spotted Purple. This brought me a lot of excitement and even though we have lots of willows (the host plant for both species) we rarely get Viceroys here. This also brought to mind that just over a year ago in South Carolina I saw a hybrid Viceroy, Red-spotted Purple with half the wings being like each species. I did not get a photo as the camera was 50 ft away in the car....

Here is the Viceroy again, you can see my page on them here. She posed nicely and I was able to get a few inches away with my little G11 camera.
More of the Red-spotted Purple with a Tawny Emperor (above). The camera flash kind of enhanced the ventral view a bit don't you think? The record here stands at 22 Red-spotted Purples on a half papaya that I got form the grocery for a quarter since it was nearly past prime.  See my page on Red-spotted Purple.
Below is an Hackberry Emperor, I had two of these landing on the single melon rind along with 3 Tawny Emperors (a record number here BTW), the Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, Question Mark, Gemmed Satyr and Carolina Satyr!

OK below is a dragonfly that I got photos of in Southport, NC, the last time I got photos of this one was in 2003.
This is a Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) they can only be found near brackish water, so you have to be along the coast to find them. Getting the ID is easy as it is the only dragonfly you will encounter along the coast with all white stigmas on the wings.

We found about 7-8 of these along a sand bar along with a small breeze. The last time I found one of these I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes  in a still place with only one very uncooperative Four-spotted Pennant.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Coastal NC Wildflowers

Last Sunday my friends and I did the Southport Butterfly Count. With exception of the Cloudless Sulphurs flying everywhere it was as quoted "Never seen so many great butterfly wildflowers with so few butterflies, surely it could not be worse". Anyway 4 parties managed to get 42 species (my group two weeks earlier got 44 species in Durham).

We were assigned the Boiling Springs Lakes area. never been there before. My take was the developers created all these lots and the roads to go with them and most were not sold. So we drove down abandoned roads that lead nowhere. I was driving and saw these White Fringed Orchids and we stopped to check them out. 

 White Fringed Orchid

Platanthera blephariglottis (Habenaria blephariglottis) As we (4 of us) were photographing these orchids Will noticed we were nearly stepping on Venus Flytraps!

I've only seen Venus Flytrap, Dionaea muscipula a few times in the 25 years I have lived in NC.
This one has a grasshopper it caught! I'm sure most of you know that is a carnivorous plant that catches and digests animal prey—mostly insects and arachnids.
These plants were growing quite well in a boggy spot on one of the Boiling Springs Lakes lots with a for sale sign in front of it. Back in 1992 it was determined  that only 35,800 Venus Flytraps  remaining in nature as they are found growing native in only 2 counties in NC and one county in SC. Back then it was also estimated that 3-6 million plants were growing in cultivation though.
Lots of baby plants growing under the bigger plant. Notice the stalk from the flower, I have seen these in bud but not in flower.

Loblolly-bay, Gordonia lasianthus
These plants are rarely seen in bloom so we were delighted to find this fragrant fresh bloom. Thanks to Will Cook for knowing what is was, he is an expert on woody plants. It is related to the camellia so I was thrilled to get a photo.
Meadow Beauty, Rhexia alifanus We saw lots of of Meadow Beauties. I keyed this out in Radford, according to Radford's there are 5 different meadow beauties in the area we were in.

Rattlebush, Daubentonia punicea
This was new for me or I was having a senior moment! I found on the web that this plant is toxic to humans and that you can by this invasive plant for your garden, duh!! Below is the seed pods which will turn dark brown very quickly.