Posts Tagged 'Virginia'


At Berkeley, the Harrison’s plantation on the James River, we thought we had an Monarch among the ghosts of Declaration of Independence signers and presidents.But looking closer, we discovered the famous Monarch mimic, the Viceroy (Limenitis archippus). The black band across the hindwings is the tell. And the diminutive size compared to the big orange royals.Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus). These do not get this far north. Pawpaw is major larval food plant for these.This is the spring form.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucous).There is a dark, intermediate form of females of this species as well as a yellow. Here’s the dark.


Red-headed Excavations

This Red-headed Woodpecker kept going in head-first and emerging tail-first to toss wood scraps away. This was in Virginia. It’s unusual to see one of these in NYC, although sometimes juveniles will show up — they don’t have the flag-like color blocking. During the winter of ’13-’14, a juvenile spent the winter in Green-Wood and by April was showing some adult plumage.So these Virginia examples are the first I’ve seen in full adult plumage. Wish I was closer…

Under the corrupt maggotry of Trump, the fundamentalists are running riot. The extraordinarily punitive anti-woman legislation in Georgia, Ohio, and now Alabama, and the salting of the federal judiciary from SCOTUS on down with radical reactionaries, suggests it’s likely Roe will be a thing of the past in some states. Here is a primer on how to protect yourself when abortion is illegal. Support the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Don’t forget, all birth control is on the Republiban (Republican-taliban) hit-list. Yet maternal health and infant mortality, curiously enough, are not on the GOP agenda. The states with the strictest anti-abortion laws have the worst infant mortality rates. From supporting the death penalty to pouring out more pollution, from supporting for-profit medicine to arguing that dead school kids are the price we must pay for the “rights” of gun manufacturers and lunatic gun nuts, the “pro-life” crowd is anything but.


We were hoping this Northern Watersnake would keep coming, passing under the boat launch dock we were standing on.But this Nerodia sipedon wasn’t playing. Instead it took shelter in these rocks, amid crabs, oysters, and periwinkles, peeping out occasionally to see if we were still there. Can you spot it?Here’s what we thought was a big Ratsnake (Pantheropphis obsoletus) soaking up the rays off the path. The cloudy eyes means this one is getting ready to shed.As you can see from the duckweed and young damselfly, these Acris genus cricket frogs are small, around an inch or so from bow to stern.But they pack a big voice. May not have noticed them if not for that, and the splashing.Tried to get a picture of their throats extending like pale balloons as they called, but no such luck.

All in southeastern Virginia.

A Behavioral Note

There are no points for brains when it comes to testosterone. During breeding season, some male birds repeatedly attack their own reflections. They think the reflections are other males. I’ve seen a Rudy-crowned kinglet go after himself in a highly reflective sculpture.Towhees are known for it this, too. This one did it to a line of half a dozen parked cars. This bird was probably nesting or wanting to nest nearby and so wanted all the rest of the Towhees out of the way. Interestingly, he repeatedly flew in from the front end of the vehicles, one after another. The mirrors are pointed backwards, of course, so the bird must have known that it would find “other” birds there. He was particularly obsessed with our car, which had its rear-view mirrors turned inward for parking, NYC-style. There was’t much space in there, and the reflection was pointed inward, yet again and again he flew into the gap.It was hard to get a perch on this weird, shiny, blue towhee…This amok-time is brief, thankfully, since it can be dangerous for the bird. Some things to do about it.

And another milestone: on May 11th, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere went about 415 ppm for the first time in human history. “Human history” here is not just the few thousand years of written history, it is the history of Homo sapiens. Human beings didn’t exist the last time there was this much CO2 blanketing the planet.


Three species of Plestiodon skinks are found in southeastern Virginia.Juveniles of the Common Five-lined (P. fasciatus) and Southeastern Five-Lined (P. inexpectatus) have these amazing blue tails.Adults are harder to ID if they’re not in the hand. I originally thought this one might be a Broad-headed (P. laticeps) because of the red in the head, but all the males of these three species seem to get this coloration during mating season. (There’s a tick crawling on this one’s head.)“Skink” comes from the Greek skigkos which made it to Latin as scincus, “a small N. African lizard (Scincus officinalis), formerly used in medicine” (OED). Tail of skink? We found ’em in three separate locations. It’s a skinky state.We watched this one scout every nook and cranny in this rotting log.

Raptor Wednesday

The #BrooklynKestrels female having a sip of roof water.They will bathe in such puddles as well. These were taken April 20th. May 2nd found them both in a London plane one block from the nest site. Spotted the female yesterday. A Common Grackle was buzzing her.Now that the trees have come out, it’s harder to see birds.Woodlawn Cemetery doesn’t have all that many squirrels. And one less, now.On our trip to Virginia, we saw about twenty Osprey. There were three or four Bald Eagles. This is one of them.From the road: a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks across a long southeastern Virginia farm field. One of these had flown across our bow with prey in talons towards this tree, and when I got the camera on the scene, there were two!

Time For Some Greens

A jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) wonderland. But shouldn’t they get darker, more stripey? Or does that come with age?The smell of the flowers of Liriodendron tulipifera incites reveries in my smell-brain. Where do I know that smell from? The ants, too, are intrigued. Wonder what they think when they fall out of the sky?While we’re on the subject of the Magnoliaceae, will you look at these dinosaur plants? Umbrella magnolias, Magnolia tripetala, an understory tree.I’d never seen these before.En garde!Another understory tree along the same path: pawpaw (Asimina triloba).Flowers of. Now, I have seen these before, but only in botanical garden and arboretum settings. Here in Williamsburg, VA, they were all along this path, like the jacks, tulipitrees, and magnolias. Funny thing: we found this woodland path via the hotel book; they recommend it for joggers — good gravy, think of all they miss as they stomp through!

Ferns and pines elsewhere in the state.

Time to say goodbye to the lawn.

The Mother of Her Country

In the garden at the Geo. Washington Birthplace Monument in Virginia, I was delighted to discover this queen Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamose).Here she shows how she gets that pollen on the top of her thorax.The workers of this species are more traditionally yellow and black, so this big orange queen must really stand out among them. But that’s not all. A “facultative temporary social parasite,” she may set up her own nest or, more likely, she will usurp a nest of Eastern Yellowjackets (Vespula maculifrons). She kills the host maculifrons queen and adopts or enslaves the workers, who then raise her squamose young. V. vidua and V. flavopilos have also been known to be parasitized in this way by these queens. As the host species ages out/dies off, the squamose take over the nest completely.

The species doesn’t seem to range up here to NYC, but it does extend as far south as Guatemala. In tropical climes — including Florida — the nests can be perennial, much larger, and have multiple queens. The species is vigorous in defense of their nests. They’re also carnivores, but the queens will take nectar.


We stumbled upon a patch of Pink Lady Slippers (Cypripedium acaule), more than we’ve ever seen in one place by a long, long shot. There must have been close to a hundred visible from the path in a pine woods, especially in the parts recovering from burning. (Fire is so important to so many plants.) And the path was only a third of a mile long. What fortuitous timing! This one was the anomaly. A color morph? Past it’s prime? Premature? Something else?And while we’re on this orchid kick, here’s another in the same area.

And the Damsels

Still in Virginia: Female Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) depositing eggs.Furtive Forktail (Ischnura prognata) male, a first for me. Such a challenge to photograph these wee critters!And then to ID them! Immediately above and below, a female Familiar Bluet ((Enallagama civile)). (My best guess: iNaturalist and bug haven’t come through.) The females of this species come in three color forms!Here’s a Familiar Bluet male (above & below).


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