Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17, 2012

This weekend was cool for June, but it was bright and dry.  I'm still not seeing a lot of animals, but the plants around Lake Wicwas are taking full advantage of the long summer days.  On a kayak trip, I found a lot of Sheep Laurel blooming all around the aptly named Sheep Island.  They grow with the huckleberries and blueberries on the shoreline, and their blossoms are small, and easily overlooked from a distance, but they are beautiful flowers.
Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)
 Also growing along the shoreline are the Larger Blue Flags, a wild iris.
Larger Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)

Back on shore the Orange Hawkweed have joined the wild daisies. Their colors are so intense in the bright sunshine.

The honeybees are taking advantage of their pollen, buzzing in and around and building large yellow balls of pollen on their legs to bring home to make our honey.  Good thing they are not allergic - they are covered with pollen - eyes, antenna, and hair.

Other insects that thrive on plant juices are butterflies.  This White Admiral was flitting around this weekend, complementing the Red Admiral that I saw back on May 6th. 
White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis)
At one point, when I was trying to get close for a picture, it landed right on my finger.  I got a good look at it, but it was not conducive to photography!

Unlike the Red Admiral, the White Admiral doesn't migrate.  They will mate in summer, lay eggs that hatch into caterpillars that will feed for the summer and hibernate over the winter.  In late April each caterpillar will feed some more before it forms its chrysalis where it transforms into an adult butterfly.

I've seen these foam bubbles on blades of grass for many years, and have never been sure what they are - the rumor is Spittlebugs. 
Spittlebug Protective Bubble
So I did a little research and in fact that's what it is.  Spittlebugs are tiny, aphid-like insects that feed on the juices of plants.  They build this bubble home to protect them from predators, and to keep them from drying out.  They are expected to appear around the summer solstice, so this one is right on schedule.  The foam is harmless, and even the insects rarely are a problem to the host plant.

Back in the lake, I noticed this trail through the weeds that the beavers have worn by passing to and from their lodge.  First they cut down trees within the protected 50 foot zone, then they dredge the lake to put mud on their lodge, and now they are forming channels through the marsh.  Someone better call the DES!

I'll finish this with a couple more bright examples of nature's artwork.  A bright yellow fungus, and another Orange Hawkweed.

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