Meadowhawk Dragonflies

Foraging and perching dragonflies are an entertaining – and valuable – component of wetland landscapes in summer. Meadowhawks like this one (Sympetrum spp.) are smallish and very common, but a male under magnification is a thing of beauty. The mosquito population has exploded during this wet summer, so I hope to see lots of plump, well-fed dragonflies in my travels!

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Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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Tree Snags for Wildlife

This is a story about the management of a landscape tree in decline, management with an underlying theme of benign neglect.

Last summer I heard the unmistakable sound of a Pileated Woodpecker hammering on a large old white pine tree near the edge of the lawn. I was thrilled to see our largest woodpecker so close to home, but also knew that its presence was a sign of a tree in trouble. Sure enough, there was advanced decay at the base of the tree and the Pileated was foraging on carpenter ants. The probability of tree failure and subsequent damage to nearby targets was high. The White Pine was a “hazard tree” and had to be removed.

My contract with a professional arborist for removal included an unusual request. I wanted to minimize the hazard – but leave a large snag for wildlife.

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The decision to create a snag payed dividends almost immediately. A Pileated Woodpecker is a frequent visitor, foraging around new wounds as well as old ones.

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Pitch oozing from the fresh wounds on a warm day provided an unplanned photo opportunity and aesthetic experience. The fascinating world of magnified pitch droplets kept me busy long after the woodpecker had left the scene!

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Pine pitch droplet, fly and spider; the droplet is about 1/8th inch across

 

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Goldenrod Meadows and Summer’s End

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Goldenrod honey in the making

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White Admiral

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Cabbage Whites planning ahead

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A Cabbage White butterfly caught in the web of life; one of two

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Monarchs: a species at risk; one of two

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Swamp Rose Visitors

I follow the bloom of a group of wild swamp roses along the edge of a swamp. They appear to be thriving in several inches of water and muck, their feet wet year-round; an incredible display of site adaptation and tolerance.

Bees swarm the blossoms, presenting a target-rich environment for my favorite Arachnid: the Flower Spider. Also called Goldenrod Spider or Crab Spider, they’re an impressive ambush predator with a deadly toxin that immobilizes prey instantly. Bees are common prey, but I’ve photographed Flower Spiders with kills as large as the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly and Hummingbird Moth (Clearwing) in their grasp!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Nesting Wrens

As we approach the summer solstice the House Wrens that occupy a nest box on my garden fence are working overtime to feed their young. They flit about in shrubby thickets and weedy patches snatching up all sorts of insect life – bees, crane flies, caterpillars – anything goes for these bug-eating machines!HouseWren18June16#0468E2c8x10

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When I move too close to the nest box, I get scolded with nervous chatter and a fluttering posture before the meal is delivered!

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I hope everyone gets fed well because I’m looking forward to seeing  little fledglings escape into daylight!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Late Spring Scenes, 2016

Becoming immersed in the continuum of spring scenes from March to June is a bit like viewing a blog post that features an endless gallery of world-class images. Each phase of spring has exceptional, defining visual qualities and it’s virtually impossible to pick favorites.

Young Red Squirrels are maturing rapidly, but still show the fearless curiosity of a juvenile.

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Buttercups are in full bloom…

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As are the Dame’s Rockets…..

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Tiger Swallowtails, our most common, large butterfly, liven up the June landscape as they follow the sequence of bloom.

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Tiger Swallowtail on hawkweed

And it’s not all about youngsters and flowers: large herbivores seize the moment, feasting on succulent new plant growth (throughout the day if undisturbed).

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A young doe (yearling) foraging in a brushy meadow

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Meadowhawks

Patrolling the airways with uncanny maneuverability and precision, foraging dragonflies provide entertaining insights into the world of insect predation throughout the summer and early fall.

Warm, sunny afternoons in August and September are prime time for Meadowhawk (Sympetrum spp.) activity. This one, perched on the tip of a blackberry cane, darted away so quickly that I couldn’t follow its flight. In a second or two it returned to the perch, munching on a tiny winged insect – in all likelihood a mosquito.

Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.