It seems I'm a little behind on all my projects this year... but everything will be accomplished in its own time right? Here's the first half of August.
Have you noticed the leaves falling? No not the big abundant leaves. Beginning in late July the trees that hold many tiny leaves begin releasing the excess, slowly the leaves have been getting larger, we're now seeing wild cherry sized leaves falling. This is a whole new thing for me, everyone knows and is in awe of the large fall leaves and the colors involved, who even knew it begins so early.
This year we've been taking a nature journaling class through the Wilderness Center. It has been awesome and a great opportunity to see things differently. However, I've been paying more attention to that than my blog here, sorry guys! So to make up for lost time, you can see my July pages below! Enjoy!
If you've been following me and Noah on instagram or facebook you've seen that we've been raising a pair of black swallowtails, Gregor and Lucille. For those of you who aren't on social media (good for you!) let me fill you in on this incredible experience.
July 17, 2019
While planning some cool park signs, my friend Cathy told us all about a caterpillar she had found on a dill plant at Lowes that was getting ready to be tossed (because Lowes gets really excited about getting rid of old plants, it's a great place to find plants to nurture back to health - just add sun and water). So she bought the plant with the caterpillar (she only noticed one at the time of purchase) of course. Already raising many a number of caterpillars she offered up the plant which I graciously accepted. It's been years (maybe since kindergarten?) since I've done anything like this so I was pretty excited to do so with new more observational eyes. When I got the plant is when we noticed a teeny tiny second caterpillar. I took them and the plant home and excitedly showed Noah, he too was pretty excited.
As they were happy to just hang out on their plant and didn't seem at risk for venturing any further, we just let them enjoy the plant out in the open in a sunny window of our kitchen.
July 18, 2019
We wake up the next day to find they're starting to change. The little one named Gregor is still in the first instar stage - orange and pointy, about 3/8 in. but Lucille has turned black with orange spots and a whiteish-green 'saddle' - the second instar, she's measuring about 1/2 in.
The following day Gregor grows into the second instar, Lucille is much larger and beginning to show green under her skin.
As they progress through each instar stage they shed their outer layer of skin allowing them to grow larger. After the layer is shed they will eat the old layer.
July 20, 2019
Everyone knows caterpillars are very hungry (thanks author Eric Carle) and these two are no exception - eat, eat, eat! Lucille eats ravenously de-leafing entire branches then eats the branches themselves. Gregor is more modest and timid eating when we're not looking and just staying still when we're around. Both have grown so big so fast. They are now in the third instar stage.
One thing people don't tell you about when raising caterpillars is boy do they poop! Caterpillar frass (official name of caterpillar poop) has made it so we had to move these free range guys out of the kitchen (because, ew) and it's stinkier than one might expect, although dill alone can be pungent so it makes sense. Watching them we estimated they release frass once every 6 minutes!
July 21 - 24 2019
Eat and grow, eat and grow. Their first plant got chewed down to a nub so I had to dig up some dill plants we had growing along the driveway so they'd have food.
At this stage they've both got the beautiful green and black striping with yellow spots. Lucille has a larger face than Gregor, it's about the only way we can tell them apart. They're growing has slowed down to about 1/16th of an inch per day toping out at 1 3/4 of an inch
July 25,26, 2019
And then something happened... Lucille was gone!
There was an extraordinarily large blob of frass at the base of the plant... did she get scared? did the cat eat her? did she climb up into the Hoya plant that was holding up the potted dill stem? We moved furniture, looked through houseplants, moved curtains, interrogated the cat, all to no end. We just have to hope she's safe somewhere.
In the evening Gregor started acting strange, was he missing Lucille? He stopped eating the plant that by then had gotten pretty wilted (dill does not transplant well) so I picked him some fresh - no interest. He just kept wandering from stem to stem. So I let him be and start in on a project. Out of nowhere I smell this terrible smell (cat was next to me, did she fart?) and hear a squishy thud. I look to the dill plant and Gregor too is gone! Quickly I drop to the ground and find him cruising around under the plant stand. I pick him up and put him back on the plant and he does it again. So I gather the fresh dill from the garden, put it in a tall clear plastic soup container, add Gregor, poke air holes in the lid and let him be. He tried to climb out for quite some time but eventually settled down and got into the pupal position.
Upon reading into caterpillar behavior, just before they pupate they will release all the excrement from their bodies in a giant smelly green gob (the smell was not from the cat!) then they run around like mad looking for a proper place to be still while they transform for a couple of weeks.
July 27, 2019
Just like that, overnight Gregor shimmied out of his caterpillar skin exposing the chrysalis that will hold him as he changes into a butterfly. If you look closely you can see a fine thread loop he used to hold himself in position. At the bottom of the container rests the shed skin, his sweet little caterpillar face looking up.
July 27 - August 4, 2019
August 5, 2019
8:43am I hear a sound like tissue paper ripping, followed by a "pop". I look over to Gregor's container (now without the top on so he wouldn't get too hot) and this dark long-legged creature pulls itself out of the shell of the chrysalis and frantically begins climbing (and falling) finally making its way up the clothes pin clipped to the container. Bit by bit the wings begin unfolding. In the span of 30 minutes, the wings are fully stretched out and early flapping attempts are beginning.
With the wings open we can finally tell, Gregor is a female!
As I watch Gregor in awe, the entire process is just amazing, I hear a sound from the curtains. The sound is like that of a fly or a bee trying to get through a closed window. So I cautiously pull back the curtain, unsure of what I'd find, and tucked in a far back fold was Lucille!!!! She immediately climbed to the top of the curtain rod flapping her wings proudly, building her strength, getting ready for takeoff.
I run outside and gather some blooming flowers and some branches and vines and put them in a large container, carefully I coax both butterflies into the container and put a screen over the lid.
True to form Lucille is still the outspoken one, fluttering about, showing off her wings. Gregor finds a great branch and just relaxes there, she's had a big morning! At 3pm Noah gets home from work and we take Lucille and Gregor out to an area that has many of their host plants. We warn them of the dangers of birds and praying mantises, promise to come visit, then we open the container... They don't hesitate a second, a great breeze drifted by and they were up and out soaring along. We watched one find a tree to rest in, the other was out mingling with some friendly local monarchs, we can only guess who was who but it seems pretty clear.
Marchantia polymorphs - AKA Common liverwort AKA Umbrella liverwort can be found in a wide variety of habitats - this particular patch was found at the edge between a small creek and prairie.
The umbrella-like structures are known as gametophores, which contain the female reproductive structure.
Happy Solstice one and all!
What better way to make the most of the longest day of the year than to spend it out in the glorious sunshine with your favorite person. In total we covered about 4.5 miles over the span of 5 hours (yes, hiking with us involves a lot of stopping and looking and I wouldn't have it any other way)! Along with everything in the slideshow below we also watched or heard peewees, phoebes, scarlet tanagers, blue gray flycatchers, yellowthroats, red-eyed vireo, tiger swallowtail, red admirals flying and darting around.
It's just after 8pm and here I am still sitting in the glorious sun. What an excellent day for all the rains to finally subside.
Beautiful Wood-Nymph - Eudryas grata
This moth mimics bird droppings as a form of camouflage. It can be found during the day everywhere from forests, meadows and gardens, often on vines. They don't eat and reserve all their energy for finding a mate and reproducing. As a caterpillar they feast on Virginia creeper, grape, and other similar vines.
Found today at Wooster Memorial Park
We're in the space between big blooms - spring's grand entrance and summer's meadow/prairie show, but that doesn't mean it's quiet out in the woods. The slideshow below shows some of the early-mid June blooms that you can spot now before the big prairie bloom begins!
Sometimes an adventure, an exploration, can be so much more than that which is on the surface. A meditation, a recalibration. It's been a few years since exploring this trail, it's beautiful. Following the forest through scent is a curious approach and perhaps it was the freshness of the leaves mixed with the sun and warmth of the day that made it possible but it was pointed. The hay scented ferns (most amazing scent) lead to a hemlock - beech forest which eventually changed to sunbaked white pines that lead to the sweet scent of the maple dominant woods.
Sedges, rushes, snake, turtle, swallowtail, and tulip tree blossom. We're in that beautiful fine line between spring and summer.
A heavy green blankets the forest holding firm the warm musty morning air. Cinnamon fronds rise up orange on green. At the opening, where the floating sphagnum begins and the forest ends, the damselflies dart, the breeze adding scents to the air. The twisted fronds of the cinnamon fern (frozen as they grew in early spring) still twisted, kinked, have unfurled into a mass of unruly green. The dragonflies on the boardwalk dance their acrobatic routine snatching unseeable insects from the air. The rains come and I leave.
A bounty of toads, blooming oriental bittersweet, sensitive ferns turning fertile, interrupted ferns, sedges, and Solomon's plume.
Wooster Memorial Park
Prairie flowers are rising up, grasses are blooming, and beetles and bugs are enjoying the warmth.
While I do enjoy our Wayne County parks, it makes me so happy to return to Summit County and catch up with old friends - some of those old friends being parks.
Noah and I had some time to spare before meeting (people) friends so we decided to take a stroll at the Meadows of Munroe Falls. It had been quite gusty all day so the open field was a safe route instead of potentially dodging falling trees/limbs/ whatever. A storm was brewing but it looked like we had plenty of time. I should have known better as I've been caught out in that field on numerous occasions trying to out hike the weather.
Alas, we got poured on!
But it's still a treat to revisit old haunts.
Enjoy some photos from the day!
This first half of may has brought some dynamic changes. From flowering to full green leaves the trees are reaching their summer glory. We're on what I call bloom stage 3 of spring wildflowers:
Flip through the slideshow to watch as things progress over 2.5 weeks!
"The world's favorite season is the spring.
All things seem possible in May."
-Edwin Way Teale
How very true it is. The miracle of spring is all around and it leads us to believe anything is possible. I don't know about you all but for me, these spring months are when I set my ambition drive to full power. Currently I'm planning my wedding, taking classes and teaching myself Microsoft Office and Adobe InDesign (re-learning and working my way to certification), I've planted another garden this year - even bigger than last, and still work at the cute little bookstore! I must admit I do feel guilty not keeping this updated as often as I had, and for not getting outside as much as I'd like to, but it's important to keep it all in perspective, I still get to go outside, and write, and cherish and embrace the changing seasons. It's all good.
Do your best and let the guilt go.
April began cold and snowy but quickly warmed up. The colt's foot and hepatica blooming in the first few days of the month. Soon after, with the abundant sunshine and warmer temperatures the grasses turned bright green, the trees began flowering, and the first of the spring wildflowers emerged from their winter slumber.
Mid month we had blooming hepatica, spring beauties, bloodroot, plantain-leaved sedge, and colt's foot; in bud still were dutchman's breeches, large trillium, two leaf toothwort, purple cress, and blue cohosh.
Mid-late April, all of those previously in bud opened into full bloom along with violets, dandelion, wild ginger, and trout lily. The maple trees have begun forming their 'helicopters' aka samaras.
Late in the month a cold front swings through from the 19th to 22nd. The cold and dark seemed to have complimented the flowers in full bloom, preserving and extending the viewing time!
By the end of the month the next round of bloomers are coming into bloom - bluets, kidney leaf buttercup, jack in the pulpit, white violets, rue anemone, pussy toes, creeping Charlie, yellow rocket cress.
Just outside of Wayne Co. in neighboring Ashland Co. things progress at a different rate, there you have blooming: common blue violets, spring beauties, blood root, swamp buttercup, yellow violet, purple rue anemone, lesser Celandine, Solomon seal, blue cohosh, cutler toothwort, wild ginger, trout lily, wood anemone, wild phlox, harbinger of spring (still in bloom!), gw trillium, drooping trillium (in bud, this is a species we don't have at all in Wayne Co.), hepatica, wild geranium, Perfoliate bellwort, dutchman's breeches, false mermaid, and dwarf ginseng! This is a really incredible area for observing wildflowers!!
Check out the slideshow for the highlights!
For the past few posts I've alluded to new one year studies I've been working on, while if you look closely enough you can find subtle changes through winter it's all pretty much the same from a wide photographic standpoint. But here we are in April, what a month April is, the bringer of changes, and flipping through the photos it becomes apparent just how abrupt those changes are. The last two photos in the first slideshow are just under a week apart! Both series are taken from the same spot, just facing different directions, the names are for the trail that they're facing.
Taken at Barnes Preserve from the Pollinator Sign Post. Enjoy!
Pollinator Post Short Loop
Just to the right of the image is the ecotone - the transitional area between the woods and the meadow. This area is more active with wildlife and is more protected from the elements of the open meadow.
Pollinator Post Long Loop
This area shows the vast open meadow that is undergoing natural succession - where trees and shrubs move into an open area by way of wind, animals, and humans transferring seeds. The open-ness of the area allows new plants to take hold due to lack of competition.
Things are really happening outside these days! The peepers have sang their lovely spring song, the birds too have changed their tunes, and slowly but surely the ephemerals are opening up and blooming!
Here in our neck of the woods I've found two blooms so far (but I wasn't able to get out this weekend, with the temps and sun I'm sure to be greeted by more flower friends next time I'm out) Colt's Foot & Sharp Lobed Hepatica!
Something I've been noticing more this year, the trees, not only are the buds buds but some also flower at the same time! Sure, dogwoods put on a big flower show as do locust and cherry, but the others, the trees I've labeled default trees offer a very subtle flower early spring. That'll teach me for shrugging the trees off!
In like a lion, out like a... well, lion. High winds blew down more trees this month, loosened from the thawing, saturated soils. March 10th brings the waterfowl migration through the area. The end of the month we have the start of the ephemeral blooming season with the first bloom - Hepatica.
I am happy to say there are many very well known female naturalists (Rachel Carson and Beatrix Potter to name a few). But there are two others who have personally inspired me and what I do: Edith Holden and Gene Stratton-Porter.
Back in 2016 after returning to Wooster I set a goal for myself to find the first blooming trillium of the year, this led me to hike the same trail every day for over a month (see the Trillium Hill one year study). While in the midst of this project I came across a book in the local used bookstore "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady", I was floored, 110 years previously someone was doing and seeing similar things as I was (granted hers was a written nature notebook and mine was this blog... the media may change...) 2016 in Ohio compared to 1906 in Warwickshire were eerily similar! Along with her observations there are poems, sayings, and beautiful illustrations and paintings (as were the trend at the time).
The following year (at the same cute little bookstore) someone recommended the author Gene Stratton-Porter... now I'm pretty particular when it comes to reading material and her books are labeled very loosely as "romantic" so I was hesitant to look into it, but the emphasis on nature tones intrigued me enough. I found a copy of "A Girl of the Limberlost" and I was floored, you could feel the swamps, hear the crickets, you fell in love with the characters, and there was very little to do with romance but lots to do with logging, moth collections, conservation, and life in the Limberlost.
After that I dove into "The Keeper of the Bees", beautiful, this one was a little more romantic (early 1900s romance = more chivalrous than sappy), but goes on to elaborate on beekeeping in a way, is almost an adventure story, okay it's hard to explain but it's stunning.
Her books mainly have to do with various aspects of life in the Limberlost area of Wabash County, Indiana where she was raised.
While all that is fine and dandy (it's always good to have a good book to read), what is really cool about her is:
1. She was one of the first women to found her own silent-era movie production company.
2. With all of her profits (she was a big deal with both her books and the movie industry) she fought fearlessly to conserve what remained of the Limberlost Swamps and other wetlands in Indiana. Her homes in Indiana are now State Historic Sites (and on my to visit list).
Slowly the earth is changing. From an ice covered tundra to a soggy ground ready for plants to start bursting out! Many subtle signs of spring are out there - have you noticed the morning birds have switched to singing their spring songs? The backyard squirrels have been mating this month, soon the little bitty squirrels will be running about and learning what a feeder baffle is.
CVNP Beaver Marsh & Bath Nature Preserve
Wooster Memorial Park
Wooster Memorial Park
Chuckery - Summit Co
Have you noticed, the past few days, while walking outside, the ground seemed a little more, crunchy (even in the areas without snow)? Perhaps you've noticed it looks as if the soil has been stirred up. These crazy temperatures and the vast amount of precipitation we've been having have created the ideal conditions for a phenomenon called Needle Ice!
Needle ice is a natural phenomenon which occurs when the temperature of the soil is above freezing and the surface temperature of the air is below freezing. The subterranean liquid water is brought to the surface via capillary action, where it freezes and contributes to a growing needle-like ice column.
While growing, they may lift or push away small soil particles. On sloped surfaces, needle ice may be a factor contributing to soil creep.
Next time you're out and the ground feels extra crunchy, look down, lift a few leaves, needle ice is a really beautiful phenomenon that only occurs here this time of year!
What an odd month it's been, I mean starting the new year with temperatures in the 50s then heading down into the negative degrees. It was quite a trying but beautiful month. Let's look back at how it changed...
Jan 1st 57° to 34°
Jan 8th 54° to 58°
Jan 9th 23°
Jan 13th 30° to 17° 3in snow
Jan 14th 7°
Jan 19th to 20th 10in snow (measured from the center of our backyard) 20° to 2°
Jan 21st 0°
Jan 30th -4°
Jan 31st -3° up to 9°
January 1st - Dundee Falls
Starting the new year with a hike (as per our tradition), the temperatures had started heading back down by the time we made it out to the falls. The witch hazel was still in bloom (one of the few cold weather bloomers around here).
January 7th - Walton Woods
At last the deer didn't chase me out of the woods and I was able to roam back to where the invasive bittersweet has thoroughly taken over a large section of woods (the section without the burning bush unfortunately). Although it creates a really great hiding bird habitat, the poor trees are being twisted and sinched in all sorts of uncomfortable ways. The garlic mustard was looking quite robust, as was the woodland sedge. Still clinging to a few of the shrubs, the berries of the burning bush were still holding tight.
January 8th - Barnes Preserve
Sometimes you go out not knowing what you'll find. This was one of those oddly warm days where I knew I needed to get out but didn't have any goal in mind (except to get to work shortly after the hike). I was plesantly surprised by not only very interesting berries, fungi, and lichens but also the appearance of the Eastern Comma Butterfly! They do overwinter here, often hiding under tree bark or among leaves. What a brilliant surprise though. :)
January 16th - Barnes Preserve
And just like that, we're thrown right back into winter (any Monty Python fans out there - "Winter changed into spring, spring changed into summer, summer changed into winter, and winter gave spring and summer a miss and changed back into fall"). This was the day the ice settled over everything overnight giving the snow that extra crunchy sound. The pileated was chattering at me this whole hike and near the hiker entrance the mocking bird was flashing its beautiful tail.
January 27th - Barnes
Really taking in the details. This trek my mission was to find true and false turkey tails for the previous post. Successful mission and a quite nice stroll. Also, I've finally landed on one location for the next "one year study" - the succession area from the monarch station looking down the short loop path. It'll be an interesting one to examine for years to come as succession is moving right along. This will also be the second bi-year (year one it's a low rosette, year two it grows quite large and blooms) for the queen anne's lace, I'm also hoping to monitor if it's as overwhelming in its fourth year as it was in its second year, we'll find out in August. Stay tuned!
One of the most common fungi is the Turkey Tail. It is easy to identify by its highly zonate (separate concentric color zones) patterning... or so you may think.
Below we'll go over the characteristics of the True Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), as well as five others that look quite similar but are in fact completely different!
The photo above shows a scene of lush greens after a rain... what it doesn't show is that this photo was taken in early January (last year) and all the trees except the Eastern Hemlocks are bare! What an incredible scene it was to come across, especially in the dead of winter when (here in NE Ohio) one tends to forget what lush green scenes look like.
A member of the pine family, this coniferous species can be identified by its unique qualities -
Prefers growing in cool, moist areas. Often found in gorges along sandstone cliffs where cracks in the rocks release cool air from deep underground. A native from Canada, these trees were brought to the area thousands of years ago when the glaciers moved through the area.
Important resource for food, nesting, and shelter for many animals including - barred owl, white-tailed deer, turkey, grouse, rabbits, porcupines (not around here), and others use as places to live. Squirrels, mice, and voles eat the seeds.
Hemlock Wooly Adelgid
"Eastern hemlocks are currently under attack by an exotic sap sucking insect that originated from Asia. The hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) is a serious pest in Shenandoah National Park that threatens to eliminate all eastern hemlock stands. First observed in 1988, it has since been found in all sections of the park, at all elevations, and on all aspects where surveys have occurred. Hemlock woolly adelgid has caused significant decline in hemlock crown health and tree mortality has increased Park-wide. Without intervention, there is a very real possibility that this insect pest could directly or indirectly eliminate eastern hemlocks from Shenandoah's ecosystem. Efforts to extend the lives of our remaining healthy hemlocks in 2005 will be accomplished through soil and stem treatments with a systemic pesticide that remains at effective levels to kill adelgids for over a year. Some vehicle accessible areas will also be sprayed with an insecticidal soap. The battle to save a lasting remnant of Shenandoah's hemlock gene pool for future generations continues."
Different from the herb poison hemlock (completely different species).
The bark has been cut and used for its tannin to aid in tanning leather.
As the forecast keeps warning about the snowstorm en route, I can't help thinking about the most interesting wildflower who is probably laughing at the thought of being covered in snow. "Haha," it says, "I shall use my unique ability to cut through whatever snow and ice may come!" Because, you know, plants laugh at our silly human worries.
At any rate, if you're not familiar with this unique plant, read on, it's one to know!
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
Beginning in late winter, the skunk cabbage is the first life to emerge from the cold snow covered ground. Through its rapid growth, its cellular respiration actually melts the snow around it reaching up to 60 degrees fahrenheit! The skunk cabbage gets its name from the smell emitted from the spathe generally after disruption or bruising. This smell is important as it attracts the flies that will then pollinate the spadix. By late spring, a tight roll of bright green leaves emerge from next to the spathe, slowly unraveling into huge green cabbage-like leaves that will blanket the wet and wooded area in which it lies.
Discover new and interesting things about the world around you.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who spends her time exploring and learning about the unique history and nature in North East Ohio. She lives with her fiancé and cat in Wooster where she also works at a bookstore and grows and cans her own vegetables. When she's not doing that, yoga and embroidery (not at the same time) are other things she enjoys.