Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Insect Week 2024


Britain's Royal Entomological Society has designated June 24-30 as Insect Week 2024. Insects have been described as “the little things that run the world” and indeed in many ways they do.

They’re the chief pollinators of flowering plants, including many plants that we depend upon to feed us. They’re also some of the most important decomposers of things dead, helping to keep the surface of the earth from being covered with the corpses of formerly living plants and animals. Few songbirds, including species that are primarily seed eaters, could raise their young without the protein derived from the insects that nestlings are fed.

Hopefully you’re not one of those people who lump all insects as “bugs” fit only for spraying with an insecticide or squashing beneath your foot.

Unfortunately insects populations appear to be declining rapidly (including here at our place) for reasons as yet unknown, although there are a number of suspects. To celebrate Insect Week, here are a few of the many insects I’ve photographed over the years –

So give thanks for the insects that pollinated your apples, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries and coffee; the insects that fed the bluebirds and chickadees; and the insects that helped dispose of that road-killed deer.

 But go ahead and swat that mosquito.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Colors of Spring

Spring comes with a profusion of spring flowers, the first butterflies and moths and birds in breeding colors.

What a joy it is to wander through the Big Woods observing the ephemeral spring flowers that bloom before trees’ leaves emerge. In fields and woodland openings we can see butterflies; in those and in other places birds are courting, their bright colors gleaming.

A few of those colors of spring – 

Spring's over now, summer's here with extreme temperatures, but we can all anticipate the return of the colors of spring next year.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

One Morning in May

One morning in late May I decided to head for the hills – the Muncy Hills that is. I’ve written about the Muncy Hills in previous posts, specifically this one from last year about a search for pink lady’s-slipper.

It was time to search for those beautiful orchids once again in the area where, in June 1978, I’d found a huge colony of pink lady’s-slipper –

Up through the remnants of the old red pine plantation and into a stand of black birch and red maple. There was the first lady’s-slipper plant, two leaves, but no flower

The search continued until 11 plants
had been found, but only two had bloomed. One of those plants had a dried-up/wilted flower, the other had a year-old seed capsule side-by-side with this year’s dried-up/wilted flower –

From hundreds, perhaps thousands, of plants in bloom on June 8, 1978 to only 11 plants of which only two had bloomed in early May in 2024. Old records indicate that many plants are blooming a couple of weeks earlier than they did 150 years ago, here we had pink lady’s-slipper blooming a month earlier than they did a mere 46 years ago – thanks climate change!

So down the hill I went until – from almost beneath my foot burst a female ovenbird, the small warbler that looks like a miniature thrush. She went into a broken-wing act –

Ovenbirds build a well-camouflaged domed nest resembling an earthen oven on the ground. This is one I found several years ago –

I cautiously looked for the nest, being careful to only step in open spots where the ground was flat, but couldn’t find it among the fern, crowsfoot and fallen leaves. Taking a seat against one of the birch trees with good view of the area where the nest was located ...

... it was a matter of
waiting to see if the female would return; so I donned a camo face mask and draped a sniper’s veil over my shoulders and arms. Twenty minutes later there she was, having flown into the lower limbs of a small hemlock –

After flitting from branch to branch, she moved to one small birch and then to another –



The ovenbird was very cautious and wary, but eventually descended to the ground where she was hard to see among the ferns and crowsfoot. I had but one glimpse of her before she vanished –

Now that she was back on the nest, it was time to quietly pack up and head back to the car.