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

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 29

Things have been hopping around the preserve this week. We have been busy with visitors and catching up on outside projects since the rain has held off. The Green frog above is enjoying a sunny basking moment.

One of those outside tasks was the annual removal of Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) from the pond and wetland areas. When I first approached the specimen below, I noticed something odd on the lower stem. 

Closer examination revealed the mystery...Potter's wasp nests. This may be the work of Eumenes fraternus. The nests are made from coarse mud and grouped a fraternity. Notice the flared lip on the "pot." The female wasp stocks the pot with food (caterpillars, sawfly larva, leaf beetles) then lays a single egg and closes the pot with a final daub of mud. When the egg hatches it will feed on the stored food supply.

Another unusual creature, seen below, is probably the larva of one of the green lacewings (Chrysopidae). The larva disguise themselves with bits of lichen and other debris and sometimes referred to as "trash carriers."

On the flower front, the Red or Swamp Milkweed (Ascepias incarnata) has replaced the orange milkweed and common milkweed as the dominant flowering milkweed. As the name implies, it is found in very moist environments. 

Another wetland plant is Branching Bur Reed (Sparganium androcladum). This plant has male at the top and female flowers below. 

Back in the woods, the sixth native orchid is blooming. The Green Wood Orchid (Habenaria clavellata)  grows in the moist edge habitats along the trail.

The next and seventh orchid, just beginning to bloom, is  Cranefly Orchis (Tipularia discolor) seen below. Like the Green Wood orchid above, Cranefly blooms from the bottom up. The insect, cranefly resembles a large mosquito, and the plant's name is reference to its wispy look. Like the Puttyroot orchid that bloomed earlier in May, Cranefly's single distinct leaf has withered away, leaving a naked flower stock. 

Fungi continue to thrive in the moist woods. One of the coral fungi below gets its name for obvious reasons!

Off to take advantage of another sunny day!

Posted by Tom

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Day in the Life... Part 28

The native rhododendron is finally done blooming for another year, but the rains keep falling. I am thinking about shifting my priorities and starting construction on an ark in Lake Odonata!

Despite the wet weather, life goes on. This little fellow below is none the worst as he always has a shelter handy. The Box Turtle was working his way from the pond, across the gravel driveway, towards the wet meadow.

Being the curious sort, I had to turn the terrapin over and check its plastron (bottom shell). The shallow indentation confirmed that this is a male. Females would have a nearly level plastron.

I returned the turtle to the upright position. By now his plastron and carapace (top shell) were tightly closed. A survival instinct and adaptation that have serve the box turtles well.

Earlier in the week, Nora had asked me if I had put a dragonfly in the Spring Peeper tadpole tank. To which I replied, "no?" When I want over to look, I discovered that a Shadow Darner larva had been living in the aquarium and no doubt feasting on the small tadpoles. It was probably brought in with a clump of algae that provides food for the developing tadpole.

The adult had recently emerged from the exuvia (the larva exoskeleton). I took the lid of the aquarium outside so that once the insect's exoskeleton had hardened it would be able to fly on its way in search of all manner of other flying insects to munch on.

Our sixth native orchid is now in bloom. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens). This is one of our more common orchids and is the only one at Wahkeena that has evergreen leaves. The white net-veined leaves form a rosette at the base of the flower stock.

The abundant moisture and warmth continue to "feed" the fungi population. Below, the White Pine Boletes (Suillus americanus) are popping up wherever there are White Pine trees.

Back in the woods, what few flowers are blooming are very small in blossom size. Below is Lopseed (Phryma leptostachya). The species name refers the the slender flower spike. Once the flower is pollinated and as the seed matures, they begin to "lop" over (down).

But the biggest attraction at Wahkeena this week has been the Hummingbird Moths. This moth is also known as the Clearwing or Hummingbird Clearwing, and is a member of the Small Sphinx Moth family.

(Photo by Nora Steele)

The moths have been necturing on the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) at the beginning of the gravel driveway that leads to the nature center. Hundreds of photographs of these moths have no doubt been taken as every visitor must pass this spot. One visitor was almost moved to tears at seeing her first ever Hummingbird Moth! (Hi, Lynn). Check out the Wahkeena Facebook page for a short video.

Well, time to get back to ark building.

Posted by Tom

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 27

Happy Independence Day everyone. Been another week of rain, rain, rain. But today was a beautiful Saturday to be out and about and a busy day here at Wahkeena. So busy that a post started at 9 AM is finally being written at 6 PM!

The fifth native orchid to bloom at Wahkeena is the Green Adder's Mouth Orchid (Malaxis uniflora) seen above. This one is really easy to miss and the plants this year are, on average, 3-4" tall. This is another one of those flowers that might evoke the phrase, " When will it be in bloom?"and the answer is yes that's it.

While the woodland is mostly green now, there is color to be found in more unusual places and things. On a quick trip around the trail this morning I encounter the fungi pictured below.

 Green is not a color that most folks would associate with a fungus...but here it is.

Light lavender can also be found.

And bright yellow can be found in several species as seen above and below. Above is a jelly fungi that grows on dead conifer trees. While below is one of the gill mushrooms.

Another of the gill mushrooms is the red variety seen below

Hiding in the shadows of the stone steps to the shelter is the yellowish-brown Bolete, one of  the sponge or fleshy pore fungi.

So as you can see from this small sample, now is a good time to explore for fungi. One of the benefits of warm rainy weather.

The flower of our  third blooming orchid, Puttyroot, is long gone, and the plant is now putting all its energy into seed production. Large green pods now appear where the pollinated flower once protruded from a naked stem.

Nature's "fireworks" may not be as dramatic as aerial explosions, but they still awaken the senses none the less.

Post by Tired Tom 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rhododendron Update... Part 2

If you thought you missed it... You haven't! The Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) is in its finest peak bloom right now. We are expecting it to last through this weekend and into next week. 

We think that this is one of the best blooming years that Wahkeena's Rhododendron has ever seen!


Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 26

The lead story is still the native rhododendron. The picture above is just steps away from the nature center back by the old guest cabin. Lots of flowers in full bloom, but still more to come. This appears to be a particularly good year and the recent cooler weather has helped to preserve the blooms for a longer time. They also seem to be holding up quite well in spite of all the rains....and we have gotten a lot!

The borders of Lake Odonata are now ringed with Lizard's Tail (Saururus cernuus) an emergent aquatic plant. The common name comes from the long curving white flower that to someone resembled a lizard's tail.

The young Canada geese now resemble their parents more and more each day. Above, the three young are flanked by the parents.

The Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is blooming and attracting many butterflies and other insects as well. The flowers offer a somewhat lilac scent to passersby. 

Another wonderful butterfly plant are the Monardas. Above is Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).
Below is the brilliant  Bee Balm or Oswego Tea (Monarda didyma). 

 The genus name of these members of the Mint Family honors Nicolas Monardes, an early 16 century physician and botanist. The other common name " Bergamot" is derived from the town of Bergamo in Italy.  Some of the species, like Bee Balm, are considered "garden escapees". I always envision a moonlit night with the garden gate left partial open...and all the cultivars running for their lives! 

So keep those gates tightly latched.

Posted by Tom

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rhododendron Update

We promised an update, and here it is... The native Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) is now in peak bloom. Bloom time will probably last for at least another week, depending on the weather. 

The bursting flower bud, seen below, typically goes under appreciated but it rivals the flower in beauty.