Saturday, November 9, 2019

Fall Foliage 2019

Fall seemed to come a little late this year with the peak around Oct. 28 (rather than Oct. 22 in earlier years). We thought we would not get much color because we had a severe drought in this part of southwestern Virginia.  Six inches of rain fell in October alleviated much of the drought and may have helped the color.  Nonetheless, the yellow poplar trees turned brown in late September rather than yellow.  Only some of the dogwoods showed color too.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Another Turtle Visits Us

For the last 3 days, we had another eastern box turtle visit us or more accurately, our puddles in our driveway.
 This turtle had buried himself partially at the edge of the puddle.  He still had mud on top of his shell when I took this photo.

I washed the mud off to get a good photo of the shell patterns, the way to identify this individual. Also, I estimate his length to be only about 4-4.5 inches.  I put him to the side of the driveway and found a few blackberries to feed him. 

The next day, he was still in the puddle. I watched him walk pretty fast to get to the other side.

 My husband set up this warning flag so we would remember to stop and move the turtle to the side when we drove out or when returning home.

The second morning my husband found the turtle upside down and these tracks right next to him. Even though box turtles can right themselves if turned upside down, this one was stuck to the mud so my husband put him upright. I think the  tracks are from a raccoon who tried to eat the turtle without success. 

Today, the turtle was still in the puddle so we will keep looking out for him. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Turtles Back to Eat Blackberries

Every year, box turtles come back to visit our yard and eat the blackberries when they are ripe.

 This one appeared on July 11, about one week after the blackberries started to ripen.  I had seen one earlier in June but he was too early for blackberries.

I fed him some blackberries and he gobbled them up!

 Another photo for the record--you can identify box turtles by their pattern on the shell. It does not change and is distinctive for each turtle.

Here he is readily eating the blackberries. 

Another male box turtle visited today, July 18. He has a strikingly different pattern than the previous one.  He also gobbled up blackberries I put in front of him. The blackberries are about done. I will leave the rest for the turtles and birds.  

Butterfly Plant with Butterflies

 Every year, the butterfly plants attract many butterflies.

I planted this butterfly milkweed plant 20 years ago but it has not spread that much. The most butterflies I saw were about 9 at one time, all fritillaries.

 This swallowtail was flying around but did not land on the butterfly milkweed.

 This common milkweed came up volunteer.

I am not sure what kind of butterfly this is or the small bee.  In the past, I have noticed the common milkweed attracts small moths in the evening.

I have not done an inventory of butterflies but it appears there are fewer this year although still a good variety.  Perhaps the wet weather earlier in the spring hampered the growth of caterpillars.  Or, maybe the many birds we attract to our yard with our feeders is cutting down on caterpillar production.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

2019 Mt. Rogers Rally pre-hike

Every year, a friend and I attend the Mt. Rogers Naturalist Rally which is held Mother's Day weekend.  Like last year, we hiked from Elk Garden to beyond the Lewis Fork Wilderness Area on the Appalachian Trail.

Ponies graze the hill so not many trees grow on the first part of the hike. 

Instead, bluets and dandelions dot the mountainside. 

And, fringed phacelia flowers blanked the forest floor like a light dusting of snow.

Here is a closeup of the fringed phacelia.

We usually stop our hike here but since the trout lilies had already bloomed here we decided to go beyond the sign.

Instead of trout lilies, we found trillium. This red trillium is called wake robin (Trillium erectum).

This is the same wake robin species but with a yellow flower. 

That night, a man terrorized thru-hikers on the trail probably 20 miles north of where we hiked.  He killed one man and injured a woman.  Thankfully, they arrested him Saturday evening.  But, he had  terrorized hikers several times in the previous months and should have been in jail or committed to a mental institution.