Friday, September 30, 2011

Black Beauty.

Oh, yeah. That's exactly what you think it is.

I was so excited over finding my second black widow that I didn't even think to take her picture before moving her away from the nature center's front door (and safely relocating her to a big log in the woods well away from the building)--she was hanging out with an orb weaver who had staked claim to that particular wall the week before. Most unusual in that the widow was out in the open and that two large predators were less than three inches apart and leaving each other alone.

Shiny black, distinct shape (doesn't get more Halloween-y than that, eh?) and, of course, the hourglass. (I'm told we have two species here, Northern and Southern Black Widow. Southern's hourglass is typically one marking, Northern is made up of two separate triangles. This one sort of hits middle ground. I don't care: it's a black widow.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hooded Warbler.

A number of the previous warbler photos were lightly tweaked for sharpness and exposure (I was shooting with slightly-above-basic equipment, and am thrilled with what I did manage to capture) but sometimes it takes a filter (here, Photoshop's "Watercolor") to save a photo that doesn't quite make the grade on its own no matter how much you twiddle... Adult male Hooded Warblers really do look like this; the filter simply changed the texture of the photo.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You say "PAR-ooh-la"…

I say "pah-ROO-la"!

You say "wahb-ler", I say "WAR-bler"…

Oh, let's call the whole thing off.

[Northern Parula. Sept. 16, 2011, Cape May Point, New Jersey.]

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Black and White Warbler.

Not typical behavior for a black and white--they like to run up and down tree trunks and branches in their search for bugs to eat--but the warblers were bouncing around everywhere after a cold front brought them to Cape May in mid-September.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Black-throated Green Warbler.

A young one, neither black-throated (not quite yet, anyway, but you can see it coming in) nor exactly green.

Cape May Point, New Jersery, September 16, 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

First order of business: Eat.

A Blackburnian Warbler the evening after its overnight arrival at Cape May Point.

Gonna get me a--whoops.

Any bugs here?

Is that a bug?

Hello, buuuug…?

The warblers were feasting, stuffing their faces and doing so quite acrobatically at times, fueling up to continue their journey south. Cape May County's insane insect populations do have their uses...

Sunday, September 18, 2011


The world's now most-photographed Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Maybe; doubts have been raised. It's definitely a flycatcher. As Susan so succinctly puts it: Not a Phoebe. The birds in town over the weekend of September 16-18 stuck around in certain locations for hours, providing unparalleled photo opportunities for pretty much anyone with a camera--including me!!!

Cape May Point, New Jersey, September 16, 2011.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sorry. More spiders.

They're everywhere!

Another yellow garden spider, this time not in her web. The truck spooked her when I pulled into the drive; she bolted for cover and the movement caught my eye, else I'd have overlooked her. 

(You would think it would be difficult to overlook a two-foot tall web, wouldn't you?)

I made it home without disturbing her the third day after discovering her; she was even calm enough to let me take a bunch of photos.

Here is another lovely; best guess is Spotted orbweaver, Neoscona crucifera (note the cross--upside down here--on her back):

What a stunningly beautiful creature… Furriness makes spiders cuter, right? (Ok, tweaking the black and white levels to adjust the exposure did bring up a bit more color than shows naked eye. They're somewhat dusty looking in person.)

See? Bit drab. Here she is tucked up in the window frame where she spends most of the day.

And out again about an hour after sunset… (Have I mentioned lately how much I love my camera and image editing programs??? She glows!)

I nearly walked into another orbweaver's web at the end of my drive while taking pictures of the garden spider. Can you see her, in the purposefully curled-up the leaves at one of her web's anchor points? That's textbook behavior. (And ooh, was she unhappy when I lifted a leaf to peek in at her!) See above comment regarding image editing programs…

Found this wee thing when I was shooting the yellow garden spider. That unusually circular stabilimentum (zigzagging stuff in the middle of a web) caught my eye. (For scale, it's a little smaller around than a pencil eraser.) Book says young orb weavers will sometimes spin a circular stabilimentum. CORRECTION: Lined Orbweaver. Tracks and Signs of Insects... has an exact description (and nearly identical photo) of this wee one and her web. She's set up house just below the garden spider's web; I sure hope mum doesn't eat her!

The same little one on a different day. She's really having fun with this web-building thing.

Augh! Too. Much. Cuteness...

Found this itty bitty crab spider under the rim of my smoothie cup, of all places. It was rescued and placed on a goldenrod in my front garden.

Be glad I'm not taking photos of the seriously creepy spiders that live in the house.

[UPDATE: Both large orb weavers have disappeared. :o( ]

[UPDATE to UPDATE:  Found the garden spider again. :o) ]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Before, Between (and some After).

 Buckeye before.

 Buckeye after.

Black Swallowtail before.

Black Swallowtail getting ready.

Black Swallowtail in between. (Simply had to show a close-up of the shed skin.) [Argh. Somebody or something disappeared the chrysalis. Rats. Was hoping for a good emergence series. Phooey.]

See the new blog header for the adult black swallowtail. ;o)

Monarch caterpillar.

Monarch getting ready--spinning a silk anchor pad (the bit to the right).

Monarch getting ready.

A monarch getting ready, and one waiting.

(To be continued...)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Looks lovely. Smells...

Well, not so lovely. It's sea-lavender (Limonium species). Found in salt marshes. Smells like it too, I recall from when we'd bring some home in late summer when I was kid.

Below, Salicornia (pickleweed, saltwort, glasswort) also adds color to the autumn saltmarsh. Here it is in late August, just starting to turn red. [Huh, who knew? It's a flowering plant. Not that it has flowers that you'd notice, but the wildflower book says it does have 'em. The succulent nature of the plant is a mechanism it uses to deal with living in a high-salinity environment.]

Friday, September 9, 2011

Muckin' in the Marsh...

The only way to navigate the marsh trail at the Wetlands Institute a few weeks ago was barefoot. (I happen to love the smell of marsh mud, but it can really stick with you. Wouldn't have been so bad had I thought to rinse inside the cuffs of my jeans…)

The puddle held its bitty wee tiny minnows (marshland = nursery) and the creeks on a low tide held mud snails. Lots and lots of mud snails, most following the water down the banks to concentrate in what little water was left when the tide ebbed. [Click on photo to see 'em.]

Some beastie had a successful crabbing trip, but after eating out the entire body left the best parts! Guess they didn't have claw crackers. (No need to ask why they are called blue claw crabs, eh?)

A lifetime picking and eating these and I hadn't really paid attention to the two different types of teeth. The one claw looks like it has molars!

A familiar sight in the high marsh: fiddler crab burrow.

Uca pugnax! Okay, so I try not to overwhelm my readers with scientific names but I've loved this one (along with Uca pugilator [sand fiddler] and U. minax [red claw fiddler]) from the moment I learned them. That over-sized claw on male fiddlers helps attract the ladies and fend off other males. (It also means that they have only one claw with which to eat.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday.

Yeah, I know. It's Thursday.

(And this is a Blue Dasher.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monarch Caterpillar Courts Disaster. (video)

Bet you think this won't end well...

Hah! Wasn't what I expected, either. The only slight of hand in this video is that you can't see the glass aquarium that held up the leaf tip--temporarily, anyway; it did fall a minute or two later, taking the caterpillar with it. Poor wee beastie appeared a bit shaken after it had booked across the bottom of the tank, so I returned it to another milkweed leaf.

Be sure to check out Cape May Bird Observatory's Monarch Monitoring Project! (See also the project's official website and their monarch blog.) They are maintaining monarch caterpillar tanks again this year at CMBO's Northwood Center to allow for easy, up-close viewing of caterpillars, chrysalises and emerging butterflies. Team members will also be giving monarch butterfly tagging demos at Cape May Point State Park starting in mid-September.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Clean-up Crew. [Warning: slightly grisly photos]

It has been estimated that most young living things have a pretty lousy chance of surviving their first year. (Roughly 10-50% depending on who and what is calculating/being calculated.) The odds go up significantly if you can make it through that first critical year, and often increase with increasing experience/age.

This young laughing gull wasn't one of the lucky ones. (That's ok; with the world's largest breeding population of the lovely, if annoyingly loud and behaviorally obnoxious--they never stole pizza off your plate when I was a kid!--birds right here in our very own backyard, we won't miss a few.)

But this school of mummichogs (big, fat, mud-colored minnows that the young fishing-with-grandpa girl in me still thinks of as "bait" and the biologist thinks of as adorable-in-their-ugliness little fish) won the lottery.

Marshland is a marvelous place. Everything is sooooo interconnected, from the moon to the mummichogs. Dead bird in high marsh, tide comes in and floods what was once dry (relatively speaking) ground, little fishies get to eat, clean up the mess, and continue the cycle. Awesome.

[Click on photos to enlarge a bit. Check out the fishy with the tidbit in the last shot and its neighbors, wondering if they can snitch it for themselves.]