Sunday, October 27, 2013

Giant Leopard Moth

Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar (Hypercompe scribonia).   This black, bristly, 2 1/2"caterpillar is a member of the Wooly Bear family of caterpillars and shows red bands under the bristles when it rolls up into a ball when disturbed.  The adult moth from this caterpillar is white with black spots, has a 3" wingspan, and is nocturnal so it is seldom seen.  More common in the eastern and southern United States this caterpillar was hiking on a trail at the ACRES LAND TRUST Dustin Nature Preserve in Allen County, Indiana.  After being removed from the trail it was last seen, curled in a tight ball showing it's bright stripes.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Wrath of Grapes

Each fall a bird feeding frenzy begins, in my back yard, coinciding with the ripening of wild grapes on the numerous vines clinging to the trees.  Todays activity was intensified buy the approach of a cold front that made a consumption of calories necessary in the coming days for our feathered friends. Cedar Waxwings joined the American Robins in a tussle for the purple prizes.
It's never wise to walk beneath the trees at these times of mass grape feeding due to the digestive tract of the birds being at maximum throughput.
Waxwings are very good at standing on their heads to reach every possible grape.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Butter Butts and Buzzards

Members of Indiana's Stockbridge Audubon Society participate in "The Big Sit" bird count at Fox Island County Park Sunday, October 13, 2013.  35 species were identified including Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Turkey Vulture, and Bald Eagle.

Yellow-rumped Warbler ("Butter Butt")
Setophaga coronate

Turkey Vulture ("Buzzard")
Cathartes aura

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fungi - Plant or Animal

Gem Studded fungi

Each spring many Fox Island Co. Park visitors appear, in the woods, to hunt for the elusive Morel, a member of the Ascomycetes Group of fungi.  At the end of each summer park visitors are treated to a display of fungi in many other forms, some edible, some not.  While traditionally fungi have been classified as plants, they did not contain chlorophyll necessary for the process of photosynthesis. Fungi are like plants in that they cannot move about but are similar to animals in their source of nutrition.  While green plants are "producers", fungi are "consumers" and get their nutrition from dead or living organisms.

Giant Puff Ball
 Fungi also do not have cellulose as the main component of their cell walls, as do plants, but a substance called "chitin" which is also the main component of insect exoskeletons.  Fungi cells also are not distinct individual units but rather incomplete or missing making the cytoplasm continuous throughout the organism.  In the forest fungi play a major role in the decomposition and recycling of plant material. 
Turkey Tail Fungi
Were it not for fungi the forest floor would be piled high with downed trees and leaves
Photos: Fox Island Co. Park, Upper/Lower Dune Trails
Allen County, Indiana 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Robber Fly

Female Promachus hinei (Robber Fly)

A member of the family Asilidae, Robber Flies are widely distributed worldwide.  Also called "Bee Killers", these predators help maintain a healthy balance of insects in their habitat.  Asilidae capture their prey in flight using legs covered with barbs and injecting a neurotoxin and enzymes which immobilize and dissolve the insides of their victims.

Photo taken at Fox Island Co. Park Marsh Observation Deck Oct. 1, 2013.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Got Nectar?

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are feeding heavily right now, adding weight for their flight south.  Ruby Throated hummers weigh less than a nickel and 1/2 of their weight is in the pectoral muscles of their breasts which are the muscles needed for flight.  While Hummingbirds frequent backyard feeders they prefer natural sucrose and small insects. It takes them about 20 minutes to digest the sucrose and they are 97% efficient at converting the sucrose to energy. Hummingbirds do not suck nectar through their beaks but lick the nectar with their raspy tongues.  Males begin the migration a few days before the females in order to establish their territories in the wintering and breeding sites.
Female Ruby Throated Hummingbird feeding in Jewelweed

Friday, September 13, 2013

Twin Girls!!

 The 2nd caterpillar became a female adult today in this series of photos by Sue Peters, Indiana Master Naturalist.  This Monarch will now begin the trip to the OYAMEL FIR TREES in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.  After wintering on the fir trees, the Monarchs will begin the trip north where, in Texas, they will mate, lay eggs and die as the generation they began continues the trek north.
God speed, little ladies! 


Thursday, September 12, 2013





It won't be long now!

While the Monarch caterpillars formed their chrysalis within a few hours of each other they are at different stages of development at day 10.  It looks like they are on schedule to soon make the flight to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.  The black crumb climging to the left chrysalis is the remains of the caterpillar skin after the formation of the chrysalis.
Photo:  Sue Peters

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Is it FALL yet?"

When it is 95 degrees F. and the dew point is over 70 degrees how do you keep cool when you just can't get to air conditioning?  If your a Fox Squirrel you just find a shady branch on a Mulberry Tree and hang out. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On the Way to Adulthood


Huey caught up to Louie about 3 hours later.  About 14 days from now we should see the emergence of the adult Monarchs.
Photograph:  Sue Peters

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Growing Up On Milkweed

On 8-28-13 Jody Heastman, DNR Indiana Master Naturalist Program Coordinator, Ouabash State Park, held a class on the plight of the Monarch Butterfly.  After the class people were allowed to take some of the Monarch Caterpillars home to raise to adulthood and release at the appropriate time.  This is the story of two of those caterpillars taken by Ind. Master Naturalist Sue Peters.
As received 8-28-2013

In "J" position, 10:24 am, 9-04-2013
                                                   Louie, on right, made a chrysalis! Huey, on left won't be far behind 
                                                                              9-4-2013, 6:05 PM
                                                            Photos by Sue Peters, Allen Co., Indiana


A Room With A View

Humans provide many opportunities for our feathered and furry friends to lead a more comfortable and productive life.  Bird feeders are just an example of out attempts to entice song birds to our backyards for the simple joy of watching birds eat and just live life.  On the down side, bird eating raptors find well stocked bird feeders an open buffet with a great selection.  On the plus side, some members of the wildlife community find the feeders cozy and welcoming.  Some designs work better than others.

The only problem here is that "Rocky" seems to be sitting in his dinner plate.

Photo by:
Jonathan Ormiston
Noble Co., IN

This design seems to work well for raising a family also.
 This female Flying Squirrel is raising two youngsters where all the world can see.

Deer Run - Allen County Parks
Allen Co., IN

Flying Squirrels, in Indiana, are not often seen during daylight hours. While a more correct term would be "Gliding" Squirrel, they have developed an excellent way to move about the forest expending the least amount of energy.  This mother seemed very calm about having visitors as she groomed and cared for her naked young.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Carpenter Bees are often mistaken for Bumble Bees but their black, shiny, abdomens give them away.  Carpenter Bees, like Honey Bees and Bumble Bees, are important pollinators and help with Swamp Milkweed propagation at our wetlands.

Eagle Marsh, Allen Co., Indiana

Female Carpenter Bees establish nests by boring into wood and forming a tunnel system.  Male Carpenter Bees cannot sting (no stinger) and females have to be severely provoked before they will sting.  The extra long tongue of this Carpenter Bee aids it's ability to reach nectar in the blossoms of this Butterfly Bush.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This gall houses only one larva that is able to overwinter in the gall because the larva's circulatory system pumps an anti-freeze type liquid that keeps the larva from freezing .solid

Bowman Lake, Fox Island Co. Park
Allen Co., Indiana

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Always Look Both Ways!

While walking at Bowman Lake, a young White Tailed deer crossed the path ahead of me unconcerned that there were several park visitors just a few yards away.  This deer was headed towards the west end of the park.
About 1 1/2 hours later, as I was passing the west boundary of Fox Island Park a young deer crossed the road ahead of me and entered a large soy bean field and proceeded to wade through the beans that were often over it's head.  I pulled off of the road to take pictures when I noticed a second deer crossing the roadway. As I started to snap pictures of the second deer I heard a car pass behind me headed towards the deer which had stopped to look in my direction.

For some unknown reason the young deer decided to go back across the road as the car approached.  In it's haste to clear the road the deer was loosing footing at each lunge forward.
After about three strides the deer began to gain footing and I could hear the car's breaks being applied in order to avoid what appeared to be a certain collision.

I could hear the clattering of the deer's hooves on the pavement and see the hood of the car dive towards the asphalt as the driver continued his panic stop.

Fortunately, the observant driver was able to stop in time, avoiding what could have been a very bad outcome.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dragonflies are excellent fliers and none better than the Green Darner.  With landing gear retracted this male was patrolling the western half of Bowman Lake, Fox Island Co. Park. Females oviposit on floating vegetation and Common Green Darners are found in every state of the Union including Hawaii and Alaska

Monday, August 5, 2013

Female Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
Noble Co., Indiana
Photography: Michelle Ormiston

Pileated woodpeckers are one of the most striking birds of the U.S. woodlands.  Nearly the size of a crow they are hard to mistake with their long necks, red head crest and slow, powerful drumming.

While Carpenter Ants are the main diet of the Pileated Woodpecker they can also be attracted with suet.


 Male Pileated Woodpeckers have a red cheek stripe and red head patch from the base of it's bill to the head crest.   Females have a black cheek stripe and red crest only.

Nest holes are generally round while feeding holes are more rectangular.