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

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

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The end of migration, now it's time to reproduce!

   Bird migration was really great this year. I had 2 lifers in one field in New Hampshire, a Ruff and a Red Phalarope. The phalarope spends most of the year out at sea, so an inland visit is quite rare. The ruff (it was a female so she's a reeve) is an Eurasian bird, so she too, was well off course. Unfortunately I left my camera at home (I was in such a rush to see the birds).

   Two sandhill cranes were in a still-flooded field in Vernon, VT. What a rare treat that is. Cranes are ancient birds, a 10 million year old fossil was found in Nebraska! In 2007, a pair successfully fledged a single chick in Vermont. So what will happen to this pair, the sexes are hard to determine, will they stay and nest or will they move on north?  Here's a very interesting link to an article about them cranes in VT
      At Herrick's Cove in Rockingham this morning, two snapping turtles were laying eggs in holes they dug near the side of the road. Don't mess with one of these turtles, they have vicious dispositions.

   Last night, two beautiful Rosy Maple Moths, were hanging out under the front porch light. As the name implies, she lays her eggs on maple leaves. Rosy-maples are one of the most widespread moths in the East.

   Around our house, besides this Eastern phoebes nest (pictured above), we have nesting bluebirds, tree swallows and house wrens. I'm sure there's more nests that I just haven't stumbled upon. Later in the summer, juvenile chipping sparrows, rose-breasted grosbeaks, northern cardinals, ruby-throated humminbirds and eastern towhees (to name a few) will be out and begging for food!