Serendipitous Summer Stew

July 01, 2021  •  1 Comment

Whereas most of my previous blog posts have been on focused topics, early summer is so rich with life happening that the best way I can think of to update my photographic adventures is to throw a little bit of everything into a kind of serendipitous early summer stew.  If this stew needed a name, it would be squirrel stew as a litter of unusually tame red squirrels has been dominating the action around the Big Creek Homestead with their explorations and acrobatics.  The fearlessness of the squirrels seems to have spread to the cottontails.  Maybe that explains why there seems to be only one young bunny left.  There are more deer here now than any time in the 30-plus years we’ve been here, although fawns and bucks are seldom seen.  This year, there have been fewer fox sparrows and rose-breasted grosbeaks than usual, but lots of purple finches and more goldfinches than ever. While I haven’t devised a good way to photograph these species yet, I have found a good place nearby to photograph swallows.

In the invertebrate realm, our milkweed patches continue spreading, and monarch larvae are abundant. Yesterday, I photographed (and videoed) a stink bug sucking the last life out of a monarch larva.  Hopefully, these bugs are not abundant! However, one website reports that only 5% of monarch larvae survive to pupate.  Although our homestead isn’t a great place for finding spider webs, perhaps due to its poor sandy soil, sheet webs are not too hard to find on dewy mornings.  Sheet webs are like deadly hammocks. They consist of a dense mass of threads with a maze of crisscrossing trip threads strung above the sheet. An insect flies into a thread and is knocked off course into the net below.  Spiral orb webs provide classic compositions for photographers, but finding ones with good backgrounds and no wind is a real challenge.

For the vegetables of the stew, I threw in pinesap (Monotropa hypopithys) and some skunk currant berries (Ribes glandulosum). Sounds tasty! Like its more familiar “cousin” (congener), Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora), skunk currant is an achlorophyllous mycoheterotroph, meaning it has no chlorophyll and gets its nutrients from fungi associated with its roots. Skunk currant gets its name from the disagreeable odor given off by the ripe fruits. Flowers, peduncles (fruit stalks) and fruits are all covered with glandular hairs, from which it gets its specific epithet (glandulosum). Although the dark red berries begin to smell bad as they age, they are quite tasty when ripe. However, cultivation of this shrub is not recommended, as it carries white pine blister rust, which can kill pine trees.  A complexly flavored stew indeed!

Chickaree's SaladChickaree's SaladJuvenile chickaree (red squirrel) trying out some quack grass. Please eat it all! Unwary BunnyUnwary BunnyThis young cottontail was apparently the only survivor of its litter & it seemed to be too trusting.

Tree Swallow BrakingTree Swallow BrakingMale tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) coming in for a landing. Monarch MunchingMonarch MunchingMonarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) larva eating common milkweed.

 

 


 

 

 

Stinkbug Draining Monarch LarvaStinkbug Draining Monarch LarvaOnly about 5% of monarch butterfly larvae make it to the pupal lifestage due mostly to invertebrate predators and parasites.
 

Sheet Web No. 1Sheet Web No. 1Sheet webs are like deadly hammocks. They consist of a dense mass of threads with a maze of crisscrossing trip threads strung above the sheet. An insect flies into a thread and is knocked off course into the net below.

Pinesap No. 3Pinesap No. 3Pinesap (Monotrpa hypopithys), also called Dutchman's pipe, false beech-drops, and yellow bird's-nest, is an achlorophyllous mycoheterotroph, meaning it has no chlorophyl and gets its nutrients from fungi associated with its roots.

Skunk Currant BerriesSkunk Currant BerriesSkunk currant gets its name from the disagreeable odor given off by the ripe fruits. Flowers, peduncles and fruits are all covered with glandular hairs, from which it gets its specific epithet (glandulosum). Although the dark red berries begin to smell bad as they age, they are quite tasty when ripe. Calico Spider WebCalico Spider WebDewy orb web reflecting morning light.


Comments

Tim Irish(non-registered)
Fine photos Chris. I'm recalling quiet, dark nights at Big Creek, spotting satellites as they slowly floated through the stars.
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