Sunday, April 20, 2014

"I Know I Left It Here, Somewhere!"

Have you ever walked out of the mall, looked at the parking lot and thought "I wonder where I parked the car!?".  20 minutes later and after numerous presses on the car remote you discover that it was right where you parked it.
Photo by Tim Ormiston,  Harmar Township, PA.    6-12-2013
If you have, you can appreciate the dilemma every time a mother Killdeer returns to the spot on the stones and gravel where she makes her nest and has laid her eggs.  There are 4 eggs in this picture, can you locate

Photo by Steve Parsons, Harmer Township, PA   7-1-2013

This mother killdeer has found that if you  lay your eggs next to a brightly colored terra-cotta shard it can make life a whole lot simpler. Killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) are members of the plover family and thus technically shore birds.  They are unusual in this group because they build their nests ("scrapes") in the open, far from water and only
 re-arrange nearby rocks for their nest.

Because Killdeer live so closely to humans, occasionall,y the newly hatched chicks may need a little help in staying clear of people feet and rotating car tires.  Mother Killdeer was close by when this chick was moved out of harm's way and quickly re-grouped her brood.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

When I made yesterday's post of over wintering butterflies I had not yet been able to capture a photograph of a Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa).  This afternoon, while walking the trails of Metea County Park, I saw a M. Cloak on the pathway.  Like the Red Admiral Butterfly, Question Mark Butterfly, and Eastern Comma Butterfly, the Mourning Cloak over winters as an adult by finding shelter under tree bark and tree openings and enter a state of frozen hibernation until the warm winds of spring.
This butterfly made four or five flights while I was taking pictures but always returned to the same area of the trail even with me standing within a few feet of it's resting spot.

As I continued my walk the butterfly flew ahead a few yards and was joined by another Mourning Cloak and together began an upward, spiraling flight typical of the aerial courtship prior to mating.  The last time I saw the butterflies they were about 50' above the trail flying together.
#FieldNotesFriday         Photograghs: Metea County Park, Allen Co., IN     4/18/2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Worn But Not Worn Out

Notice the ragged edges of this Eastern Comma  (Polygonia comma) indicating this is an overwintered adult - 04/17/2014
We've waited patiently, in Indiana, for a reluctant spring to appear.  This week's snowfall put another damper on our expectations, but today spring returned with a bright sunny day and nature resumed her march toward renewal.  The wildflowers are emerging, in force, with the skunk cabbage leafing out and Blood Root blossoms bright against the dry leaves of winter. One week ago we had temperatures in the mid-70's and I saw my first butterflies of the season.  Today the butterflies were again flying and sunning themselves on the bark of several trees.  These two butterflies were within a few inches of each other on the same tree.

This Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) also shows the worn wing margins of an overwintered adult -  04/17/2014
Some butterflies overwinter as adults buy hibernating in the hollows and bark of trees.  The advantage of this is that their caterpillars are then able to take advantage of the abundance of vegetation in the spring time.
Some of these butterflies are the Mourning Cloak, Question Mark, Eastern Comma and Red Admiral.  All of these butterflies are now visible in the woodlands of Fox Island Park.

The Hermit Returns

The Hermit Thrush is the state bird of Vermont and a regular visitor to the woodlands of Indiana. This thrush winters in the southern United States and returns north as the temperatures warm in the spring. Thrushes are ground feeders feeding mainly on insects, berries and worms.  A group of thrushes is called a "hermitage".

Photograph: Fox Island east Tree Trail, 4-17-2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why Are They Called Wood Ducks?

Maybe because 3 pair of these beautiful waterfowl were perfectly comfortable perched 60'off the ground in the tops of trees.

Fox Island Co. Park Nature Center Wetland 4/10/2014.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Munching on a black walnut left over from last year's crop, April 2014
The Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is one of Indiana's four tree squirrels.  Other tree squirrels are Fox Squirrel, Gray Squirrel and Southern Flying Squirrel.  Red Squirrels, also known as Pine Squirrels or "Pineys" are found mainly in central and northern Indiana. Red squirrels prefer the seeds of pine cones from conifer trees but are found in the hardwood deciduous forests of the state also. Black walnuts seem to be a favorite of Fox Island's Pineys.  Red squirrels can be extremely destructive to a home owner's property but are very beneficial as foresters by burying large numbers of nuts and seeds.