Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A twenty-acre ramble

Last Saturday - the day before Kite Day - a bunch of us got together in Adams County, and visited the twenty-acre property of Ned Keller and Kathy McDonald. It is a beautiful tract, carpeted with woods, open barrens, cliffs and steep slopes, and even a pond. We spent a few hours traipsing about, and following are a few photos documenting some of our finds.


We hadn't gone far when I spotted a spicebush leaf rolled up like a cigar. Upon inspection, we discovered it was the shelter of the spectacular spicebush swallowtail caterpillar. Their fake "eyes" are beyond fantastic.

These puffs of hair were far more conspicuous and we saw many. It is an early instar of the black-waved flannel caterpillar. The adult is a rather a plain jane brown moth. If you carelessly handle one of these, you'll regret it. The long setae conceal warts bristling with stinging spines.

Silvery checkerpsots (thanks to Janet Creamer for the ID!) are one of our most numerous butterflies, at least locally/seasonally, and they put on a nice show.

This butterfly is conspicuous as can be when flying about, but nearly vanishes when at rest, as on the trunk of this red cedar. It is a common wood-nymph.

We saw scores of plants - Rick Gardner recorded 190 species from our brief foray. This downy rattlesnake-plantain orchid in full flower was a definite botanical highlight and a real crowd pleaser.

Wherever there are flowering plants, there will be insect pollinators. And things that want to kill and eat the insect pollinators. This is a red-banded crab spider lying in wait on a black-eyed susan. The next bee or skipper that alights is doomed.

This is the same species as above, believe it or not. Red-banded crab spiders are like chameleons in that they can change color to match their backdrop. In this case, the spider is lurking in the pale lavender blooms of mist-flower, and it has morphed into suitable colors to match its surroundings.

Maybe no one else was, but I was quite pleased to encounter this excellent specimen of a large jumping spider ( a male Phidippus clarus; thanks to Rich Bradley for the ID). Jumpers are intriguing. They have outstanding vision - eight eyes helps - and often watch the watcher carefully, even turning to remain face to face if you move. Note the spider's emerald-green fangs.

This millipede, possibly a species in the genus Narceus, was enormous. They look scary but nearly all millipedes are herbivores and graze on decaying plant matter and such fare. Beware, though - this species and others secrete noxious chemicals as a defense when handled. Fortunately, Lucy Miller was holding it, and not your narrator.

Finally, we caught this male eastern box turtle in the act of chewing on this mushroom. Box turtles can chow down on toxic fungi that would put a real hurt on you or I if we tried to eat the stuff. I think the one that our turtle was snacking on is a Russula, and some species are quite nasty.

Not a bad little hike on a hot August afternoon.

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3 comments:

Jack and Brenda said...

Lots of great finds on your ramble! That caterpillar is awesome!

Vincent Lucas said...

You might want to read this about crab spiders:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/11/spider-color-changing-mystery/

Jim McCormac said...

Interesting study, vince. According to those guys, crab spiders don't change color to mask their presence from prey, or predators. Hmmm... I will await other studies.