Happy New Year, 2016

I led the 14th annual New Years Day Hike today!  This year we went into the Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area.  The weather was beautiful, the Lake wonderful, and the group very fun!  Click on the picture for an expanded view.

Fitzgerald Lake

Fitzgerald Lake

Ready to hike!

Ready to hike!

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Of Wood Frogs and Fairy Shrimp

IMG_8161 hike group dry summit vpI had the pleasure of taking some great hikers up into the Sawmill Hills of Florence, Massachusetts over the weekend.  We had a lot of fun!  The weather was incredible and the Hills never disappoint!  The vernal pools were dry as a bone, waiting or the fall rains and the spring runoff to once again fill up with water and become the wonderfully productive breeding pools for many organisms.  Many people on the hike shared that they never saw a fairy shrimp or wood frog.
So, I pulled together some footage I have.  Part of it was the amazing wood frog migration I ran into last spring at Mount Tom.  If you remember, we had a cold, cold winter that lasted well into April.  Well on the first sunny warm day, all, I mean all, the wood frogs on Mt. Tom warmed up and hopped to the vernal pool.  There was still ice and snow on the ground but that didn’t stop them!:

Here’s a music video I created a while back, vernal pools are just so awe-inspiring to me:

Oh by the way, visit my new photographic store on etsy:    Click Here!

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Of Mantis and Mondarchs!

Finally the wait (and worry) is over.  There seems to be a number of newly flighted monarchs in the Northampton Community Gardens.  They are beautifully intact and colorful leading me to believe they have just come out the chrysalis and will be heading to Mexico some time soon!

I also had a great look at an Eastern Tailed Blue in Tom’s Verbena patch.  They are so delicate but striking in their colors.  Take a look, the eye spots in the rear resemble eyes while the “tails” look like antennae.  Scientists think that these distract predators away from the head and the butterfly can escape more easily!

And then when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, a fellow nature nerd, Nasir, was releasing a huge praying mantis that got stuck in his hallway.  What an incredible creature!  His daughter named it Caroline!

Did you know that they have two large compound eyes but only one ear?

“A praying mantis has two large, compound eyes that work together to help it decipher visual cues. But strangely, the praying mantis has just a single ear, located on the underside of its belly, just forward of its hind legs. This means the mantid cannot discriminate the direction of sound, nor its frequency. What it can do is detect ultrasound, or sound produced by echolocating bats. Studies have shown that praying mantids are quite good at evading bats. A mantis in flight will essentially stop, drop, and roll in midair, dive bombing away from the hungry predator. Not all mantids have an ear, and those that don’t are typically flightless, so they don’t have to flee flying predators like bats.

If you want some more cool facts about praying mantids (yep,  that’s the plural of mantis) click on 10 interesting facts.

Here’s some more pics, click on them to make them bigger:

Coming soon, I promise…

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Butterflies are still Flyin’

IMG_5163 groupI ran into my friend Tom Gagnon at the Northampton Community Gardens as he was leading a Butterfly Walk sponsored by the Arcadia Sanctuary of Mass Audubon.  So I tagged along since any time out in the field with Tom is a wonderful trip!  And gosh were the butterlies a flyin’!     Remember, to enlarge the picture, just click on it.

First up, the Ocola skipper.  Tom thinks this may be the first siting of it in Massachusetts this year.

First up, the Ocola skipper. Tom thinks this may be the first siting of it in Massachusetts this year.

Here is the very subtle but very fabulous Dusted Skipper.

Here is the very subtle but very fabulous Dusted Skipper.

Here's another skipper, very small, called a Pecks Skipper.  Also sometimes called a yellow patch skipper.

Here’s another skipper, very small, called a Peck’s Skipper. Also sometimes called a yellow patch skipper. Roughly one third of all butterflies in North American belong to the Skipper family!

Another view of our Peck's Skipper.

Another view of our Peck’s Skipper.

IMG_5130 least skipper

Here’s a least skipper. I think if I was a “least” skipper, I’d go by my greek name: Ancyloxypha numitor!

Probably my favorite of the Day, The American Lady.  The two eye spots on the underside of the wing is what distinguishes it  from a Painted Lady which has four spots.

Probably my favorite of the Day, The American Lady. The two eye spots on the underside of the wing is what distinguishes it from a Painted Lady which has four spots.

Here is the American Lady when its open.

Here is the American Lady when its open.

And here is the striking American Copper.  It belongs to the Gossamer Winged Family!  Very cute!

And here is the striking American Copper. It belongs to the Gossamer Winged Family! Very cute!

IMG_5161 yellow tiger tail

Here’s an Eastern tiger swallowtail, showing off for the camera!

Show off all you want baby!!!

Show off all you want baby!!!

Just as large and stunning is the Swallowtail, the Eastern tailed blue is diminutive (as small as a dime) but if you can catch a glimpse, it too is eye-catching!

Just as large and stunning is the Swallowtail, the Eastern tailed blue is diminutive (as small as a dime) but if you can catch a glimpse, it too is eye-catching!

These wonderful butterfiles actually have 3 generations within one summer in Massachusetts.  Third generation caterpillars then over winter, often in pods of plants.

These wonderful butterflies actually have 3 generations within one summer in Massachusetts. Third generation caterpillars then over winter, often in pods of plants.

Here's a clouded sulfur.  You can see them bebopping all over the gardens, very restless.

Here’s a clouded sulfur. You can see them bebopping all over the gardens, very restless.

Another butterfly we all see around is the cabbage white.  Cool eyes!

Another butterfly we all see around is the cabbage white. Cool eyes!

What I think is the best name for a butterfly:  The Great Spangled Fritillary!  This one is a bit beaten up from the summer but still showy!

What I think is the best name for a butterfly: The Great Spangled Fritillary! This one is a bit beaten up from the summer but still showy!

and of course, royalty,  The Monarch of the garden made an appearance right at the end...

and of course, royalty, The Monarch of the garden made an appearance right at the end…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dragonflies, Damselflies, Wood Nymphs…Oh My!

I think I'm love with wood nymphs!

I think I’m love with wood nymphs!

I had the pleasure of going out looking for Dragonflies with naturalist Josh Rose as part of a Kestrel Land Trust Walk and Talk.  We had a wonderful time, loads of great critters to see and Josh was just marvelous as a guide!  Take a look at his great shirt, “Stay Calm…and let the Entomologist handle it”

Here’s some pictures too.  If you want to examine them more closely, just click on them to expand:

What is THAT!

What is THAT!

Katydid

Katydid

A Slaty Skimmer

A Slaty Skimmer

A Fragile Forktail with the two exclamation points!!

A Fragile Forktail with the two exclamation points!!

A Dogbane Leaf Beetle.  Check out its nose!

A Dogbane Leaf Beetle. Check out its nose!

An Emerald

An Emerald

A Pickerel Frog

A Pickerel Frog

An Eastern Forktail

An Eastern Forktail

 

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