Orchid season is here!

The 2021 season has started with great success. The following orchids were found in Stoddard County on a trip with Pete Kozich, Casey Galvin and Stephen Dilks. Many thanks to all of you for your parts in finding these and several other fascinating plants on this day. It was a pleasure botanizing with you.

Worm-eating Warbler – April 2021

This spring has been flying by. With great cool and wet weather, the spring ephemeral wildflower season has been one of the best I’ve experienced and in the past two weeks the bird diversity has been on the rise. Just today, I had a Wood Thrush, a Cooper’s Hawk and a Barn Swallow from my suburban yard alone! This morning I found a Sedge Wren in the grasses at Beckemeier Conservation Area among about half a dozen warblers.

I hope you are getting out to enjoy some of this action and I want to share a few photos of one of my many favorites, this Worm-eating Warbler that is already setting up territory at Bush Wildlife Conservation Area.

Thank you for visiting!
-OZB

Ozark Spring Beauty (Claytonia arkansana)

Originally described in 2006 as Claytonia ozarkensis, this plant was considered a near-endemic to the Ozarks, being found in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Yatskievych et al. (2013) further defined this form and re-described this as C. arkansana. This species is known from only three counties in Arkansas and is classified as G2, or globally imperiled due to its required specialized habitat. C. arkansana is only found on sandstone bluffs and ledges. An interesting adaptation this plant has required to ensure its offspring remain in this required habitat is by negative phototropism of the pedicle after flowering. As the fruits develop, the pedicle turns away from light so that the seed may be dispersed in the cracks and bluff ledges where they need to germinate.

I want to thank Casey Galvin and John Oliver for helping me find this fascinating plant!

Yatskievych, G., R.J. Evans, and C.T. Witsell. 2013. A reevaluation of the Ozark endemic Claytonia ozarkensis (Montiaceae). Phytoneuron 50: 1-11.

Spring Ephemerals at Beckemeier C.A. – 2021

In my 15 or so years of paying attention to important things like this, I have never seen spring ephemerals having a better year than this one. Places within the St. Louis metro area, such as Englemann Woods Natural area and Beckemeier Conservation Area are loaded with wildflowers right now. Whether this is because of the cool and mild spring we have been having so far, or some other reasons, I don’t know. Here are a few photos taken this week at Beckemeier C.A. I hope you get out to enjoy these yourself.

Frosty St. Francois Mountains

A bluff face covered in ice along the the Little St. Francis

A few images from our recent deep freeze. Casey and I visited the St. Francois Mountains and collected some images along the Little St. Francis River and Little Rock Creek.

Nice shelf ice formed along the river. Hip boots and metal cleats, along with thinking about where you step, are all recommended.

Looking down river

Looking upstream, the ice-shrouded bluffs (~125 feet tall) can be seen through the trees.

A close up look at the frosted bluff face of this rugged river bed.

Finally, a small, ice-crowned shut-in along Little Rock Creek. More interesting shut-ins are found further upstream but those will have to wait for another day.

-OZB

White-tailed Deer of 2020 – Part Three

A buck with small, deformed antlers. Antler growth like this is usually caused by injury or poor nutrition.

Tonight I’m finishing off the neighborhood deer photos from 2020. This buck pictured in the first two photos was a bit odd. Not just because of the aberrant antlers, but he also did not mind my close approach or my following him as he browsed.

Same oddball buck stretching to reach wild grapevine.

A young buck in velvet.

A forky at dawn.

The curious fawn, never too far from mother, browsing in the background.

A velvet IN fog.

A young doe giving attention to her tarsal glands.

On the first of September this fawn still looks to mother for reassurance.

-OZB

White-tailed Deer of 2020 – Part Two

A fortunate position led to a rather regal portrait for this suburban prince.

A few more white-taileds from August. Have a look at the next three images. I’m hoping someone with some knowledge in the genetics of these guys might have some idea what is going on with the buck on the right. With his rack and size, he obviously has the genes, but he looks so different from what I think we would agree is a more typical buck next to him. In addition to the shapes of their heads and faces, their coats are vastly different as well. Thanks for sending any thoughts you might have about what these difference might be caused by.

A couple of different bucks. These are the largest and most impressive of the lot that I found in the neighborhood this year.

Another look at these juxtaposed bucks.

Another look at the contrasting colors and facial shapes of these two buddies.

A white-tailed fawn.

A younger buck in velvet.

See you next time!

-OZB

White-tailed Deer of 2020 – Part One

A brave white-tailed deer fawn stands on its own, not concerned by the photographer.

2020 was a decent year for me in finding and photographing white-tailed deer. It started in the summer a I walked the high-voltage line cuts that run through our neighborhood. These turf fields, the wood lots and scrub fields that run along this area and our yards are home to a good size population of these deer. As I get more into landscaping our yard with native plants, I’m sure I’ll develop issues with these guys, but they are a lot of fun to watch and photograph.

Four bucks and a baby.

Typically, summer bucks in velvet are not easy to see in the daytime. They typically stick to a small area, eat the abundant greenery and try not to damage their sensitive new headwear. Suburban bucks are different. In fact, I had much easier times finding bucks this summer in the neighborhood than I did during the rut season when they are typically easier to find and get close to.

I came across this doe early one morning when walking up this gravel trail.

I tell them its not polite to stare but they never listen.

Great light for a portrait.

The back-lighting here causes the velvet of this buck’s developing antlers to glow.

This curious fawn, photographed the same morning as the previous image, actively pursued me and eventually got closer than the minimum focusing distance of my lens!

I found these three in the turf fields later in the day and the season than the rest of their herd. I imagine mom wanted to refuel for as long as she could before heading to the woods.

That’s all for this set. Stay tuned and check back later to see more from the neighborhood this summer as well as images I took during the rut.

-OZB

 

2020 Insect Wrap-up

This hag moth, or monkey slug caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium) was found on a pawpaw along the Meramec River at Shaw Nature Reserve in early September.

As it seems I say every year, I did not find the time to go out looking for insects as much as I had hoped for in 2020. Here are a few of my favorites from this past season. As always, please correct any inaccurate species identifications if you are in the know. I try my best, but can always be wrong. Thanks.

This punctured tiger beetle (Cicindelidia punctulata) provided quite a lighting challenge for Casey and me.

We found this crane fly in late April. It makes a nice compliment to the early oak leaf.

I tried capturing this greater bee fly (Bombylius major) in mid-air, but failed in that attempt. A portrait shot would have to suffice.

This monarch caterpillar was found feasting on the leaves of swamp milkweed that was in a planter near the SNR visitor’s center.

Sarah and I found this hanging thief robberfly (Diogmites sp.) feeding on a German wasp (Vespula germanica) on the side of our house in July.

While looking for cats at Weldon Spring CA one evening, I was thrilled to find this saddled prominent (Heterocampa guttivitta) that had been parasitized by braconid wasps. This particular species of parasitoid changes the chemistry of the host’s brain so that after the was larvae emerge the caterpillar spins its own silk around the developing pupae and stands guard over them. When touched, the caterpillar thrashes and hisses, guarding them until it starves.

One of my favorite cats to find is Apatelodes torrefacta (spotted apatelodes). They can be found in yellow, or this white form. One day I’ll have to track down an adult to photograph.

A White-blotched Heterocampa (Heterocampa umbrata) shows off its incredible camouflage that allows it to eat as it becomes one with the leaf.

A waved sphinx (Ceratomia undulosa) that has been parasitized by numerous braconid wasps.

In September, I found this nice specimen of a fungus in the Cordycipitaceae family that had attacked a spider. This is most likely Gibelulla leiopus, an obligate parasitic fungus that preys on spiders with an almost worldwide distribution.

Of course I did a little slug moth caterpillar hunting this season. Here I photographed this crowned-slug (Isa textula) catterpillar by using the flash behind the leaf, showing the delicate patterns of the insect.

The highly variable stinging rose slug (Parasa indetermina) is always a welcome find.

The same species pictured above, here showing its bright red underbelly.

I found this spiney oak slug (Euclea delphinii) by searching the undersides of oak leaves at Babler State Park in mid-September.

The skiff moth (Prolimacodes badia) cats are highly variable, ranging from nearly a complete uniform green to being more decorated like this individual.

Here is the same individual as above, showing more of its interesting “senescent leaf” patterning.

A very common site while looking for slug moth cats, this Nasan’s slug moth (Natada nasoni) caterpillar has the egg of a tachinid fly on it. Most likely a death sentence for the caterpillar if the egg does hatch and the parasitoid larvae invades its host.

Only my second find of this species, this inverted-y slug (Apoda y-inversum) was found at Weldon Spring CA in mid-September.

Thanks for the visit and wishing you a great 2021 filled with more insects!
-OZB