Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Rainy Ruby

It was a rather cool morning for mid-August, and raining. The woods were soaked and so was I after spending several hours searching for fungi and other subjects to photograph. After changing out of my wet boots and clothes I was preparing to eat lunch and happened to look out the kitchen window.

On a branch of a dead tree was a ruby-throated hummingbird, also quite wet –

This was a female or, more likely, a juvenile bird. Every thirty seconds or so it would fluff its feathers and shake in an effort to get rid of the still-falling rain –

The bird flew over to the feeder hanging from the eave of the house and fed for a while, then back to the dead limb. Meanwhile I’d moved a bit to get a better view.
When it again landed on the limb  it was facing me, still bearing droplets of rain on its beak –

Back to the feeder again 
it takes a lot of fuel to keep that little body warm in cool wet weather. And then back to the branch –

The back and forth trips continued until the hummingbird flew up and over the roof of the house.

Two hours later the rain had stopped and the hummingbird had returned to the dead branch. It looked up into the woods behind the house and raised its hackles, perhaps it had seen another of the hummingbirds that visit the feeder –

To the feeder and back and then to spend a long time preening –

This bird was especially tolerant of a close approach which is what led me to conclude, perhaps incorrectly, that it was a young bird rather than an adult female – although, on previous occasions, I’ve sometimes been able to closely
approach adult ruby-throats.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Across the Log Bridge

The first six months of the year the camera trap at the log bridge yielded some interesting videos, but it was also a great disappointment. The camera failed in January and February and only got a handful of videos in March and April. Each time the rechargeable batteries were dead when I checked the camera. They’d shown as fully charged when removed from the charger – what was going on?

Eventually I traced the problem to the charger which showed as “Charging” for the normal time it took to charge a set of batteries and then showed that they were fully charged  but they weren't. I'd put them in the camera, after which they might have enough power to take a handful of videos – or none. I finally solved the problem after substituting another camera with different batteries, one that coincidentally has a wider field of view and yielded an abundance of videos.

Here’s the log bridge –

And here are the videos –

Did you notice the porcupine scent marking while crossing the log? They do that by rubbing and urinating on prominent objects as they walk.

For those of you that use camera traps (trail cameras), if you think the camera’s failed it may not be the camera, it may be the charger you use for rechargeable batteries – or your alkaline or lithium batteries, which
can be dead right out of the package.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Fungus Among Us

Spring and early summer were exceptionally dry, therefore many fungi didn’t fruit. Then in mid-July thunderstorms began moving through, including one that dropped almost three inches of rain in 45 minutes. That changed things and there seemed to be mushrooms everywhere.

Into the Big Woods I went, camera in hand with its macro lens attached, to look for photogenic fungi. The fruiting bodies of fungi come in a multitude of shapes and colors – some quite beautiful, some tiny or nondescript, others grotesque. Way back when – when I was in college, fungi were considered to be plants. Now they’ve been placed in their own group; like plants they can’t move but like animals they eat other things.

The fungi are a diverse bunch, it’s been estimated that less than ten percent of the existing species have been described, and they're extremely important to the way this world functions. Fungi are the primary agents that break down dead plant material – fungi feast where dead things are – and recycle nutrients.

Most trees and many other plants are dependent on mycorrhizal fungi that attach to the plants' roots and supply the plant with soil nutrients and water while the plants supply the fungi with carbohydrates in the form of sugars and starches. This is a classic symbiotic relationship.

Here are some of the fungi I found during two mornings spent wandering in the Big Woods. My ability to identify fungi is very limited, and the names are just my best attempt at identifying them. Others are beyond my ability to identify. Many fungi have a number of common names, there are many look-alike species, and I’m not an expert mycologist by any means.


Don’t hesitate to bend a knee and take a closer look at the fungus among us  remember, don't eat them.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

A Hot Morning's Walk

The photographs of the hummingbird clearwing moth that I’d gotten earlier could have been better, so I decided to visit another area where wild bergamot grows in hopes of finding more clearwings. The forecast was for a hot afternoon, so first thing in the morning was the time to get on the road; by the time I walked the mile and a half to where the bergamot grows, all the while taking photos of other things, the clearwings would be flying.

Walked an old road where a couple of common wood nymphs flushed from grass wet with dew –








As did a small day-flying moth, an orange-spotted pyrausta –

While photographing them I found an eastern forktail damselfly on another blade of wet grass –

Further on there was a large patch of common milkweed; almost every plant was host to a few red milkweed beetles, many of which were going about making more of their species –

My route took me past a small pond and its shady outlet where two more species made an appearance, first an eastern pondhawk dragonfly and then an ebony jewelwing damselfly –

Then the route was down a wide mowed swath through another old field where a white-tailed deer stood staring in my direction until she and her previously unseen fawn headed for the woods beyond –













A small butterfly flew up, another of those difficult to identify skippers, this one probably a dun skipper (what an appropriate name) –

With that I came to the large area of wild bergamot and there they were, almost a dozen hummingbird clearwing moths feeding at the tubular flowers –

The clearwings weren’t the only insects feeding from the bergamot, there were also several silver-spotted skippers –

And a spicebush swallowtail butterfly –

It was getting hot and time to leave.