Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 35

This last week of August has been quite nice, with cool temperatures and low humidity it has felt more like October. But all of the wildflowers in bloom are typical of last summer- like the Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) seen below. The tall purple plant has an extremely strong stem which may have contributed to its common name.

Joining Ironweed is  the white Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). The species name "perfoliatum" refer to the fact that the stem pierces or perforates the leaves. The common name is reference to the past medicinal use of this plant to treat Breaks Bone Fever.

 The Jewelweeds or Touch- me-nots are also well into blooming stage. Below is Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) with bright orange-red flowers. Notice how the dew beads up on the leaves like little "jewels".

A larger relative, the Pale Jewelweed ( Impatiens pallida) with larger yellow flowers is seen below.

When the seeds of both plants mature, they explode at the slightest touch expelling the seeds- thus the name Touch-me not.

Joining its cousins Cardinal Flower and Indian Tobacco is our third Lobelia- Great Blue Lobelia    (Lobelia syphilitica). The species name of this plant is reference to its use to treat venereal diseases!

In stark contrast to the showy flowers above  is the Autumn Coral-root (Corallorhiza odontorhiza) seen below.

This is our last native orchid to bloom and it can take a keen eye to spot it in the woodlands. This year we have a large patch, with several dozen plants, right next to one of our main hiking trails. The coral-roots are saprophytic plants that get their energy from decomposing organic matter in the soil-thus they have no leaves. 

And finally, it's Tussock Moth caterpillar time. These hairy caterpillars will be quite numerous over the next couple of months and can be seen crawling on the ground, on plants and dangling from silk threads. 

Posted by Tom

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 34

The insect theme continues this week at Wahkeena. While walking the Shelter Trail I noticed a tell-tale sign on the forest floor. The grayish stain was an indication of activity in the tree above.

The stain is the droppings from an active colony of Woolly Aphids who are busily sucking the sap from the branches of an American Beech tree.

Even at this young stage the aphids are completely covering  many of the lower branches of the tree creating a white mass.

On closer inspection one can see the individual aphids huddled close together in the photo above.  

Below, gently disturbing the mass of insects sets them all a quivering, fluffing up their cottony covered abdomens as the entire mass moves in unison. This may serve as a distraction to would be predators.

Not much is blooming in the woods at this time of year, but I did come across Hog Peanut (Amphicarpa bracteata). This member of the Pea Family climbs over other plants to get its share of sunlight energy.

And jumping back to insects... the ones below like to hang out at the old stone  barbecue. These are Camel Crickets.  Also referred to as long-horned crickets because of their long antennae. They prefer dark secluded places. Their large hind legs give them powerful jumping ability and along with their color contribute to the camel name (as in two humps).

Posted by Tom

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Day in the Life... Part 33

I feel like my week could be a passage from Eric Carle's book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar
They eat, and eat, and eat some more, I've been sure to check their food supply, Wild Black Cherry leaves, a couple times a day! Just like the caterpillars from Eric Carle's book, I'm sure they would eat an entire picnic if I gave it to them!

Hungry Cecropia Moth Caterpillars at the end of a long day
A caterpillar has just one job, to eat. Since adult Cecropia moths do not have mouth parts, these caterpillars must consume enough food to supply themselves through adulthood. Without proper nutrition a caterpillar might not have enough energy to undergo metamorphosis and reproduce. Once the caterpillar is ready it will spin a tough cocoon. Inside, it will complete metamorphosis and emerge early summer of the next year. Below is an adult Cecropia:

Also in the realm of caterpillars, I found a Luna moth caterpillar earlier this week. It gave me a little confusion at first, because the caterpillar was an orange/pink color rather than the typical lime green,  it seems that the larva turns a brighter color once it is ready to pupate.

Luna Moth Caterpillar

Our Monarch caterpillars are growing quickly, take a look below:

Monarch Caterpillars

While out gathering milkweed for them I came across another curious caterpillar, or should I say a bunch of curious caterpillars. I identified them to be Milkweed Tussock Caterpillars (Euchaetes egle) They had completely defoliated a small milkweed plant, leaving only the bare stems. 

And finally, here is a gorgeous female Monarch on some Ironweed.

I'm off to feed some more hungry caterpillars!
Posted by Nora 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Earring Update

For those of you we told about newest the additions to our Nature Center, this post is for you! The Jabebo Nature Earrings are in, and on sale for $10.00 a pair!

Here are a few examples:

Stop out to see the rest in our Nature Center!!

Link to The Jabebo Earring Website:

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Day in the Life... Part 32

*'Tired Tom' is pretty swamped, so I will be taking over the blog for the next couple weeks.*


A new plant in bloom is Ironweed, a favorite nectar plant for butterflies.

As bright as the flowers are, you would never expect the pollen to be white! This time of year we often see bees entering the observation hive inside the Nature Center with plenty of white pollen attached to the corbiculaes, or pollen baskets, on their hind legs. As seen in the video below... 


A single bee can carry around half of her weight in pollen, collected on a single excursion. Honey bees usually only visit one type of flower on each trip, this is one of nature's ways of ensuring that plants are cross pollinated. 

Bees are not the only ones that enjoy the Ironweed. It is also a favorite of many butterflies, such as this Tiger Swallowtail.  

Speaking of butterflies, earlier this week I witnessed a Monarch butterfly necturing and laying eggs on some Common Milkweed. Later on, I went back to collect the eggs.

 So far, two of the caterpillars have hatched, and are happily munching on some milkweed. Can you find them in this photo? They are (very, very, very) tiny!

If you need some help, look near the holes in the leaf. This is where the Monarch caterpillars have already chomped their way through to the other side!  

And finally, here is a newly emerged Spring Peeper that I just released today. You can still see the remains of a long tail from when it was a tadpole. 

Posted by Nora

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 31

Creatively altered photo by Nora

Sunny edges and deep shade typify the landscape at Wahkeena as we enter August. In those sunny areas the Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is bursting into full splendor. I had to put on knee boots and wade out into the swampy area of the boardwalk (pictured above) to get some photos.

 Today I was in the right place at the right time, as I was setting up the tripod a Black Swallowtail butterfly flew in and began necturing on the brilliant red flowers. 

Another lobelia that has been in bloom for a while is Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata)  which can be seen below.

"Inflata" refers to the expanding seed pods that develop once the flower has been pollinated. The typical arrangement of the flower in the lobelias is two petals above and three below.

A plant with a fun name that is found in the drier wooded areas is Naked-flowered Tick Trefoil (Desmodium nudiflorum). The leaves and flowers of this plant are borne on separate stems- thus the flower stock is "naked," having no leaves. The tick trefoils typically has leaves in threes. But you can also see a reference to three in the triangle shaped seeds. Many a hiker has come home with these hitchhikers clinging to their clothing- a clever strategy that the plant uses to disperse its seeds. 

And finally, sometimes creatures in nature can be elusive. But often signs are left behind to mark their presence in an area. Below a freshly molted turkey feather lays nestled on a bed of pine needles.

Posted by tuckered out Tom

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 30

It's always nice to be greeted by a friendly face first thing in the morning. It had been a good year for the Eastern Cottontail rabbits at Wahkeena. The bunny below and his siblings are seen frequently around the nature center.

The Hickory Tussock moth caterpillars are also quite numerous at this time of year and many can be seen clinging to the screens on the porch. 

 Their abundance is no doubt due to the walnut trees that surround the nature center and are a favorite food plant of the caterpillar.

This morning I also discovered this pair of Large Milkweed Bugs appropriately procreating on a Swamp Milkweed in the wet meadow.

Other plants in bloom in the sunny wetland and pond areas include the Swamp Rose Mallows (Hibiscus palustris) seen below.

The mallow occurs in various shades of pink and red and are found around the edges of Lake Odonata.

Another plant found along the edges of the pond is the parasitic Dodder (Cuscuta gronovii). The orange stems look like the silly string that comes in a can. Dodder wraps around a host plant and pierces the stem of the host to get the nutrition it needs the grow. Because of this tight embrace, Dodder is also known as Love Vine! 

 Monkey Flower, seen below, (Mimulus ringens) is blooming in the moist meadows. 

The dominant flower in the wet meadow is the Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) a member of the Mint family. 

As with many plants, this is a bottom of the spike to top bloomer.

And if you use your imagination you may also see the other name for this plant - False Dragonhead.

And finally, the Catalpa tree flowers that were shown in bloom back in Part 22, have by now developed into long cigar-shaped seed pods.

And topping the news...four of our native orchids- Cranefly, Green Adder's Mouth, Green Woodland and Downy Rattlesnake Plantain are all still in good blooming condition.

Posted by Tom