Sunday, September 21, 2008

Milkweed Tussock, Spicebush Berries

The last day of summer is beautiful--sunny with temperatures in the 70s. Yesterday, I went looking for caterpillars and found just one.

Sept. 19, 2008

This Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar is one of the prettiest I have seen. That almost makes up for not seeing any Monarch caterpillars this year. The yellow color of the milkweed leaf owes much to the relative dryness of September. We have had very little rain for two months. The only rain we have had came from the remnants of Hurricane Fay who gave us 2 inches while all the other hurricanes passed us by.

Sept. 19, 2008

Berries of the Spice Bush shrub have turned red while leaves are already turning yellow. These berries hold on for most of the winter. I guess the birds find better tasting food before they turn to these. Last spring, I wrote about the flowers of the Spice Bush on my blog.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Today, I drained the water in our wood-fired redwood hot tub and found a nice surprise.

Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus) was easy to identify because this one is a juvenile. In this stage, they have bright blue tails and the five lines are quite prominent. Actually, the blue seemed brighter to me than this photo indicates. As the skink ages, the lines are less conspicuous and the tail turns a dull gray.

I caught the skink with a minnow net (after much frustration trying to catch with my hands) and transferred him to our waterfall. After posing for a minute, he or she quickly disappeared into the rocks, a more preferred habitat for this lizard than the water. Then, I got out my field guide and quickly learned that I shouldn't have tried to catch him with my hands since they bite. And, the tail will break off easily.

This skink is terrestial, preferring moist habitats like piles of rocks or damp wood piles. This might explain why he was in the hot tub--it is moist and was only about half full at the time. There were lots of mosquito larvae and other aquatic insects--maybe he was feasting on them.