Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Blue-eyed Mary, en masse, with pink-flowered variant

As always, click the image to enlarge

The weekend past, Shauna and I visited Washington and Monroe counties (Ohio), primarily to engage in fish work. I'll hope to post some of our piscine captures later. Our hosts were David and Laura Hughes, indefatigable explores who have lived in rural Washington County for years now and know the natural history of the area like no others.

Sunday morning, we decided to take a backroads path to the meeting spot where we'd be doing fish work. That decision proved fortuitous. A rural lane took us into a richly wooded narrow valley that was carpeted with Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna). The image above was taken in the heart of the largest "patch", which blanketed the woods on both sides of the road, for probably the better part of a half mile.

Blue-eyed Mary is a winter annual, and as such, is one of our few annual spring wildflowers. Where it occurs, it is often present in large numbers but still, I don't think I've ever seen the numbers that we saw here.

On the wooded banks of a small stream where we were sampling fish, there were more Blue-eyed Marys. Sprinkled among their ranks were a very few pink-flowered variants. They were quite striking, and the plant above aided our comparison by growing adjacent to a "normal" color form.

While I've seen thousands of Blue-eyed Mary flowers over the years, I'd never clapped eyes on pink ones. An admittedly less than thorough internet search would indicate that it is a rare variant. I did drum up one or two references to it, but if such a thing were widespread, I'd imagine there would be far more information out there. The flowers also rarely can be completely white.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Northern Flicker, violets, and ants

This male Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) spent much time foraging in my lawn yesterday afternoon, April 10. Ground-bound flickers are often hunting ants. It may have been no coincidence that he was particularly interested in the patches of Common Blue Violets (Viola sororia) which, of course, I let run rampant (no chemicals here). Ants are a big food source for flickers, and ants are also major dispersers of violet seeds. I suspect that my feral native violet colonies have abetted the formation of ant colonies, thus helping to feed this flicker. A "wild" lawnscape attracts much more in the way of wildlife than neatly manicured lawns dowsed with chemicals. A beautiful Fox Sparrow recently graced my backyard for the better part of two weeks, and I was treated to his lovely, whistled song daily, and scores of Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows overwintered. The Eastern Cottontails are in full courting mode, the local Red Squirrel, as always, tries to exert his dominance over the much larger Eastern Gray Squirrels, and Carolina Chickadees and Eastern Bluebirds are busily investigating my nest boxes. Not bad for a suburban lot!

Monday, April 8, 2024

A white Eastern Gray Squirrel

One of the white (leucistic) Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) that can be locally common in parts of SW North Carolina. While the town of Brevard is famous for their white squirrels, they're elsewhere and this one was imaged near Tryon, about an hour to the east. I wanted to photograph one of these beasts on my recent trip to North Carolina to speak at the amazing Gardening for Life Festival. Thanks to Vivian and Bill for allowing to visit their property, which has melanistic (black), normal gray, and white squirrels! March 30, 2024.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Yellow Trillium, and lots of it!


An amazing stand of Yellow Trillium (Trillium luteum) blankets a rich forest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. This morning.

I'm working my way back north following a wonderful time at the Gardening for Life festival in Tryon, North Carolina. I was there to speak about moths. This region is a botanical hotspot and I've been soaking up the early spring flora, but have also seen bear, elk, and many other interesting things.

More on all this later, when time permits.