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.