a blog about what interests me! birds, baskets, butterflies, moths, biking.............

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Red Fox and Cat

    I was upstairs in my sewing room, near the window, when I saw movement and something big and red out of the corner of my eye. Looking down towards the yard, I saw a red fox by the dog house. Then he jumped onto the roof. I ran out of the room, flew downstairs and grabbed my camera. Looking out the kitchen window, I took this picture.

   He's standing on the roof of our large dog house (it's large in size and we had 4 large sized dogs when Gerry built it). And yes, they have a deck. Back to the fox.........

   I noticed he was looking at something. That's when I saw the neighbor's cat. So the cat chased the fox and now there was a stand-off. Shouldn't it have been the other way around?!

   Trying to get an even better shot, I opened the door to go outside. Needless to say, the cat took off in one direction and the fox in another. I'm not sure what would have happened, but that's one brave cat!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Good Day of Birding!

Savannah Sparrow

   Most birders check www.birdingonthe.net each day. This is a great site that posts bird sightings in every state. I regularly check Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and of course, Vermont. Last Sunday there was a post that a red-necked phalarope was spotted in Brattleboro (not too far away). Of course, this doesn't mean the bird is still there, but there's always a chance. So Monday morning I went to Brattleboro and checked the area around the Retreat Meadows (where the West River meets the CT River). No luck on the target bird but a walk around the cornfield served up lots of sparrows. Sparrows, aka "little brown jobs", are a tough group to identify especially when they fly quickly down into the grasses! Even in plain sight, they can vary in their plumage. The first picture is a typical Savannah Sparrow, one of the identifying marks is the yellow lore (the line between the eye and the bill). The next picture is also a Savannah, note the yellow lore, but the coloring is different.

Savannah Sparrow
   These two were sitting on the same branch so the comparison was easy; same size, same shape, bill color, streaking on the breast and sides, shape of head, length of tail...........................all combine for another Savannah.

My birding friend Snickers, rests quietly while I bird!
   Heading for home, I decided to stop at another cornfield, hoping there might be some shorebirds. We've had so much rain lately, there were lots of big "puddles" in the newly harvested cornfields in the area. Geese, crows and shorebirds love these areas.

Stilt and White-rumped Sandpipers (photo credit Don Clark)
   When I got to the cornfield, my birding friend Don was there with his scope and camera! I thought "something's good here" and there was! Shorebirds galore! Stilt, pectoral, white-rumped and semipalmated sandpipers, black-bellied, semipalmated and American golden plovers, killdeer and a dunlin. We hit the jackpot. And the best part was the "puddle" was pretty close to the road so we had great views. It made for a great day of birding, especially since the Stilt Sandpiper was a lifer (I did my lifer dance)!!

Semipalmated Plover (photo credit Don Clark)

American Golden-Plover and Black-bellied Plover


Stilt and Pectoral Sandpipers

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Berkshire Crafts Show, August 12 to 14

Bell Flower Frond
   I am getting ready for the Berkshire Crafts Show, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Friday August 12th through Sunday August 14th. Hours are 10 to 5 at the Monument Mountain Regional High School on Route 7, and it's air conditioned!! Click on berkshirecraftsfair for directions and a list of the 89 artists.

Blue Bud
    I've made three new pieces since I updated my website www.joannerusso.com  As soon as I get some time I'll have Rachel Portesi professionally photograph them, but for now my own attempts will have to do.

Flower and Buds
   This is the first time I've exhibited at the Berkshire Crafts Show. It's been around for 38 years and looks to be a very high-quality show. I'm excited to be going to Great Barrington and I hope to see you there!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Biking the Coast of Maine!

      "Explore Maine by Bike" is a fantastic spiral-bound book of 33 loop bicycle rides. You can pick up a free copy at any Maine information center along the highway, it's published by the Maine DOT.
   My bicycling friend, Rose and I started at Portland's Back Cove at 6:30am. We started along the Eastern Trail but missed a turn and ended up riding through the streets. The trail signage is small and some signs were faded but it was early enough that the traffic was negligible. We were following Tour 14 - Portland-Cape Elizabeth- Lighthouses, about a 52 mile loop.

We rode around the Eastern Prom, then over the Casco Bay Bridge and out to our first stop at Bug Light.
Onto Portland Head Light, it was pretty foggy so not much of a view, the tolling of the bell was pretty loud.
All along the way we had great Maine coast views.
On the way to Prouts Neck, we saw this amazing stone house.

Looks right out of a Winslow Homer painting.
Tri-colored Heron (taken in Florida)
    At the point where we would have looped back north to Portland, we side-tracked to the Scarborough Marsh (I always pack my binoculars). Lots of shorebirds (forgot to take pictures) in the marsh along with a tri-colored heron, a bird not usually seen there.

    We continued to the Portland Greenbelt biking/walking paved trail. This took us back and we recrossed the Casco Bay bridge into Portland. Here we found the Eastern Prom Trail that had eluded us on the way down. We followed this back to the Back Cove.

   Another biker on the trail told us that rte 1 north had a wide breakdown lane and that would take us to Falmouth so we kept going. We stopped at Maine Audubon's Gilsland Farm for a break.

Bedstraw Hawkmoth caterpillar was crossing the driveway at Gilsland Farm.

     We kept going along route 88, which took us through Falmouth Foreside, then turned back to our friends house in Portland. We rode 65.5 miles and stopped at Beal's for a frozen treat!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Biking Northampton's Rail Trails; Norwottuck and Manhan

   My friend Rose, an avid biker, and I decided to ride the "rail trails" around Northampton, Mass. We parked at the Damon Road parking area in Northampton which puts you right at the hub of the trails. The Norwottuck trail goes east to Amherst, it's about 11 miles. Go west, and the trail goes thru Look Park in Northampton and north to Leeds. Go south and the trail leads to Southampton and there is another spur that goes out to Holyoke and the CT river.

   One of the picturesque stops along the trail going towards Leeds, it's an old dam. The stonework was pretty amazing.

   We followed this trail to the end, turned back and biked around Look Park, a very nice place for a picnic! Heading south, we biked down to Easthampton. We crossed the newest section of the trail, which is a bridge that linked the Norwottuck Trail to the Manhan Trail (the southern sections). Here's the story: new bridge
There are kiosks on the Manhan Trail that display a large map of the trail as well as maps for the taking. It's a very well paved, pretty ride.

double pink echinacea

   At the end of the trail in Easthampton, you can see where the trail will eventually continue, right now it's under construction. According to a source online, the trail will go all the way to New Haven, CT and it's 72% done! Won't that be a great ride!!

A victim of  "yarn bombing"
   We headed back and took the spur to Holyoke, it comes out on Rte 5 but we decided to return the way we came. Back in Northampton we stopped for some cold drinks and a rest before continuing on the trail back to where we parked and onto Amherst.

Northern Water Snake
   This trail goes over the CT River, is very picturesque but is older and has some bumpy sections. It's a really pretty ride, especially the part that  goes through the Lawrence Swamp. Last year when we rode this way, we saw Great Egrets, this year it was a big, black snake!

   Since I'm not up on my snake identification, I didn't get too close to take her picture. I sent it to the Mass Wildlife and New England Herp society sites to get an ID. It's a northern water snake and most likely a female.
  All in all, we rode 52 miles. The weather was perfect, the trails are very interesting and surprisingly, not many people were out on them. Of course, we did go on a weekday, I imagine on weekends the trails are busier.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pitcher Plants at the North Springfield Bog

   This morning we visited the North Springfield Bog, a type of wetland characterized by a thick mat of partially decomposed plant material and highly acidic water. The North Springfield bog is a boreal, kettle bog, a remnant of the last glacial age, 10,000 years ago.

   Bogs have poor drainage and no supply of fresh water other than rain. A wide range of plant and animal species are adapted for bog living, including carnivorous plants! This particular bog is known for its carnivorous pitcher plants.

   The Northern Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) has pitcher-like leaves that collect rainwater and excrete digestive chemicals. When insects, attracted to the colored lip of the leaf, walk into the structure, they become trapped and eventually drown. The bacteria and enzymes digest the insects and the plant absorbs the nutrients. Like all carnivorous plants, they grow in locations where the soil is too poor in minerals and too acidic for most plants to survive.

   A pitcher plant will produce a single flower that has 5, red petals that quickly drop off, leaving the seed pod.

   The Ascutney Mountain Audubon Society constructed a boardwalk through the bog for great viewing. More information including directions, can be found on Ascutney Mtn's website: ascutney mountain audubon society

Monday, June 27, 2011

Moths are attracted to lights, I am attracted to moths!

Luna Moth
    When I was young and learned about the 4 stages in the life of a butterfly or moth, I thought "now that is really science fiction!" What a transformation; from egg to caterpillar to pupa to adult. The caterpillar stage doesn't even come close to resembling the adult. This is a cecropia caterpillar I found on Putney Mountain last September.

    Look at those spiky horns and those orange and yellow round nubs with black dots. Now here's the adult cecropia moth. They don't look the least bit related. I would have imagined a green moth.

   Here's another example. A Virginia ctenucha caterpillar I found this spring in the leaf litter along the road.

   And here's the adult moth. Except for the antennae, it hardly looks like a moth.

  I've been having fun finding moths. I leave the porch light on at night and in the morning, there's a good variety on the walls. Moths are mostly out at night but there are varieties that are out in the day like this one, the Nessus sphinx. This moth resembles a hummingbird in size and manner as it takes nectar from flowers.

   The caterpillar just eats; the adult moth mates and lay eggs. Some moths don't even have mouths to eat, like the Luna Moth. The ones who have do eat only drink nectar through a proboscis. Most moths only live a brief time, just long enough to mate and lay eggs on the host plant. This is important so when the eggs hatch, the caterpillars have their specific food to eat.

   Here are some pictures of some of the moths I've seen this month. Certainly not what you think of when you picture a moth. Their patterns and colors are amazing!

Hickory Tussock Moth

Northern Pine Looper

One-eyed Sphinx

Rosy Maple Moth

Walnut Sphinx