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Archive for the ‘Arthropods’ Category

maple buds in spring

Canadian maple buds.  Check. 

coltsfoot in bloom

Coltsfoot.  Check.

junco attacking car mirror

Mating-crazed junco obsessed with its reflection in my car’s mirror.  Check.

chickadee and mourning dove calling from treetops

Chickadee and mourning dove calling from the treetops.  Check.  Check.

crawly creatures under rocks

Creepy crawlies under the garden stones:  Millipede, earthworm, beetle, salamander.  Check.  Check.  Check.  Check.

Nova Scotia slug

Slug.  Check.

red squirrel defending its territory

Red squirrel defending its territory.  Check.

snowshoe hare in april

Snowshoe hare on the lawn.  Check.

periwinkle or myrtle

The first periwinkle of the season.  Check.

Hope rekindled.  Check.

 

 

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You may already be aware that nature inspires and refreshes our spirits but did you know that it also influences our speech? Here are a few idioms (words and phrases that hold a special meaning in a given language) that have their roots in the natural world:

A hornet’s nest <Potential trouble> ~ I don’t think anyone would care to poke this nest, even with a ten foot pole.

All that glitters is not gold < Attractive appearances can be deceiving> ~ In this photo of rocks found along the Salt Marsh Trail, it’s pyrite aka fool’s gold.

To mushroom  <To grow or develop at an exponential rate> ~ This enormous shelf fungus seems to be growing more quickly than normal on a decaying tree in my yard.  It’s about a foot in width, an unusual find in my neck of the woods.

Thanks to Karma at Karma’s When I Feel Like It Blog  who challenged her readers to use photographs to illustrate three idioms from the English language.  A photo showing ‘Hallowe’en’ was also part of her request.  To me, Hallowe’en implies something scary, and to many people, next to death and public speaking, the scariest things on the planet are spiders. 

Living near boggy woods, we have a lot of spiders near our home, especially around Hallowe’en.  Sometimes they cross the threshold uninvited and visit us indoors.  This one  is probably the biggest I’ve ever found in the house.  After the photo shoot, it was promptly sent on its merry way outdoors while I cleared out the cobwebs.

If you’d like to participate in Karma’s idiom challenge, you have until October 31st 2011 to do so.

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Some days just seem to crawl along don’t they?  So little progress is made towards our intended destination that it’s difficult to stay motivated and enthusiastic about the task set before us.  Take heart.  The caterpillars are here to shed some light on a situation that befalls us all at times.

The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.
~  Oliver Wendell Holmes

Though we’re already well into the fall season, caterpillars can still be seen roaming the trails.  They seem more determined than usual as they motor along.  Yet compared to us humans, their speed is still painfully slow.  Don’t they get discouraged?  How do they keep their sense of direction intact while crossing such wide expanses? 

Don’t they ever second-guess their goals as they plod along, and wonder if it’s all worth the tremendous effort?

Sometimes thinking too much can destroy your momentum.
~  Tom Watson

No, I don’t think they dwell on the length of the journey or sink into spirals of despair at their slow progress.  They know deep inside that they’re called to a higher purpose.  Their butterfly heart tells them this with each small step they take.

sulphur butterfly

They trust that there will be time enough to fly at the speed of light later. For now, their focus is on the next step, however small it may be. 

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It’s always a bit sad when beloved houseguests leave.  Time flies as you enjoy one another’s company and then, before you know it, they’re gone, and their parting makes the house seem even emptier than it was before their arrival. 

A butterfly that stayed with us since it was discovered in late winter by my grandson was let outside today in the warm  spring sunshine.  Before it left, it unfurled its proboscis to offer a parting kiss.  Well, at least it seemed that way.

Butterflies don’t have mouths.  Instead they have a proboscis that they keep coiled until they find something edible.  Then they unfurl it and sink the end of their proboscis into nectar or whatever else they might consider worthwhile consuming.

Butterflies taste with their feet.  Perhaps this one thought there was something worth checking out further on my hand.

Moments later, the butterfly had taken flight and was on its way. Hopefully it will find a mate soon.  I’ll miss hearing it flutter in the terrarium on sunny days, but will look forward to seeing more of its kind outdoors in the summer months ahead.

All the precious time,
Like the wind the years go by.
Precious butterfly, spread your wings and fly.

~  Bob Carlisle,   Butterfly Kisses

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Although seeing a butterfly in springtime is always a joy, seeing one in winter is sure to set anyone’s heart aflutter. 

These fragile creatures, known for their marvelous ability to transform themselves from caterpillar to winged wonder, have often been employed as symbols of the soul, hope and renewal.

In late winter when there is still the threat of harsh weather, one doesn’t expect to find such a delicate creature in the woods. My grandson was turning a log over in the forest to examine a shelf fungus more closely when he caught sight of the butterfly. 

 Though its wings appeared frosted and stiff, we brought it indoors to have a closer look.  We were quickly able to identify it as a Mourning Cloak  (Nymphalis antiopa), a species that can convert glucose into antifreeze in order to survive the cold.  When its wings are closed, showing only the dark undersides, it’s also extremely well camouflaged in dark woods.

What is unsought will go undetected.
~ Sophocles

Too often, we only see what we expect to.  Adults usually don’t expect to see butterflies in winter.  But a five-year-old wouldn’t have such set expectations, so his eyes would not so easily dismiss the shape of delicate wings for dried leaves.  I wondered how many Mourning Cloaks I had missed seeing in the winter woods over the years.

Within minutes of being indoors, the butterfly was opening its wings.  Though it looked a bit ragged, it was still alive.     

The older we get, the better we learn how to manage expectations.  We don’t like to disappoint others and we especially don’t like to disappoint ourselves so we get into the habit of expecting less of everything around us.  Yet, surely there’s something to be lost in lowering expectations in order to avoid disappointment.  Besides butterflies in winter, what else might we be missing?

High expectations are the key to everything.
~  Sam Walton

Thank you to Joseph Belicek of Edmonton Alberta for identifying this butterfly’s subspecies as hyperborea.

Scott over at Views Infinitum is offering a macro photography challenge to all who are interested.  Deadline for submissions is March 23rd.  The close-up images shown above were made by using the macro mode on the Nikon Coolpix S8000.

 

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Some of my spruce trees are looking bad.  I’m not sure what’s causing the reddening of the buds or the needle damage.  Are these trees being damaged by insects or a fungus?  This would be an ideal time to be able to summon Doctor Bombay for assistance in finding a cure.  As I recall, he was able to cure a weeping willow on one episode of Bewitched and was quite an expert in his use of unconventional methods.

Calling Doctor Bombay!  Calling Doctor Bombay!  Emergency!  Come right away!

One of the spruces is especially affected.  I first noticed a few reddened buds a couple of years ago, but it’s looking worse and worse.  A few other spruces in the yard are affected as well.  Some of these trees also have twigs that are bared of their needles.  Once a tree is damaged in some way, it becomes vulnerable to a host of other diseases.

Could the culprit be the dreaded spruce budworm?  It attacks both firs and spruces throughout North America, damaging whole stands in the process.  First documented in Quebec in 1704, the spruce budworm follows a 35 year cycle.  It last peaked in Nova Scotia in 1976, which means that we’re due for an infestation. 

Forests are usually treated for spruce budworm with spraying.  However, if it is indeed worms that are attacking these buds, I’m wondering if there might be a more natural solution to the problem.  There must be birds that would find these worms tasty.  Also, the grey moths that are the adult stage of the pest are active in the evenings.  Could bats be helpful in controlling them? 

During the winter, the larvae hibernate in crevices on the twigs, waiting to awaken to a scrumptious breakfast of fresh new green buds in the spring.  I’ll be waiting for them.

Reference:  Natural Resources Canada 

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